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4th Century – The Lycurgus Cup (Rome) represents one of the most outstanding achievements in ancient glass industry. It is probably the oldest and most famous example of dichroic glass. Dichroic glass is the term used to describe two completely different types of glass which undergo a color change in certain lighting conditions. This means that the Cup have two different colours opaque green in reflected light  translucent red in transmitted light.

9th-17th Centuries – That was the period when unique luster ceramics were produced first in the Islamic world and later on in Europe. They contained nanoparticles of silver, copper and other metals which made them glitter in a special way.

6th-15th Centuries – unique stained glass windows all over the European cathedrals which owed their rich and vibrant colours to gold nanoparticles as well as nanoparticles of other metal oxides and chlorides.  Gold nanoparticles are also known to act as photocatalytic air purifiers.


13th-18th Centuries – Damascus” saber blades – probably one of the most famous examples of nanostructures used centuries ago. They contain carbon nanotubes and cementite nanowires—an ultrahigh-carbon steel formulation which gave them strength, resilience, the ability to hold a keen edge, and a visible moiré pattern in the steel that gave the blades their name.

19th Century

1827 – Photography is the first modern example of nanotechnology which depends on silver nanoparticles sensitive to light. Many photographic attempts have been made at the beginning of 19th century but it was the year 1827 and Joseph Niepce who made the first successful photograph.

1857 – the discovery of golden colloids made by Michael Faraday. Colloids are tiny particles which suspend in a solution. Those particles are known for their unique optical and electronic properties which makes them one of the most interesting nanoparticles. It demonstrated how gold nanostructures produce variously coloured solutions under certain lighting conditions.

20th Century

1931 – The German scientists Max Knott and Ernst Ruska created the first electron microscope which at this time was an entirely new and innovative type of microscope.

1936 – Erwin Müller, working at Siemens Research Laboratory, invented the field emission microscope, allowing near-atomic-resolution images of materials.

1947 – the discovery of the transistor by William Shockley, Walter Brattain and John Bardeen. The three men eventually won the Nobel Prize in physics for their work in 1956.

1951 – Erwin Müller pioneered the first field-ion microscope which made it possible for individual atoms and their arrangement on the surface to be seen.

1953 – the discovery of DNA

1959 – Richard Fayman is the scientist who was credited for predicting the potential of nano-sized particles. In 1959 he won the Nobel Prize in physics and during his speech he declared that:

“What I want to talk about id the problem of manipulating and controlling things on a small scale.”

1974 – That was the year when the term “nanotechnology” was first used.

1981 – the discovery of the tunneling microscope which allowed scientist not only to observe particles at the nanoscale but also to control them.

1986 – The discovery of the atomic force microscope (AFM)

1988 – Dr Louis Brus together with his team of scientists made a huge contribution to nanotechnology with their discovery of the quantum dots – nano-sized crystal semiconductor materials made from the same substance which showed strikingly different colours.

1991 – It was Sumio Iijima from Japan who discovered a new form of carbon which was called carbon nanotubes, consisting of several tubes within each other. Nanotubes can play a leading role in the development of nanotechnology since they have better electrical and mechanical properties than other well-known metals.

21st Century

2000 – The National Nanotechnological Initiative was established in order to coordinate international scientific work on the nanoscale.

2004 – SUNY Albany launched the first college-level education program in nanotechnology in the United States, the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering.

2006 – James Tour and colleagues at Rice University built a nanoscale car.

2007 – Angela Belcher together with her colleagues at MIT USA created a lithium-ion battery with a common type of virus that is non-harmful to humans. These innovative batteries have the same energy capacity and power performance as the other rechargeable batteries being considered to power plug-in hybrid cars, and they could also be used to power personal electronic devices.

2008 – The first official NNI Strategy for Nanotechnology-Related Environmental, Health, and Safety (EHS) Research was published. This strategy document was updated in 2011, following a series of workshops and public review.

2011 – The NSET Subcommittee updated both the NNI Strategic Plan and the NNI Environmental, Health, and Safety Research Strategy.

2012 – The NNI launched two more Nanotechnology Signature Initiatives (NSIs)–Nanosensors and the Nanotechnology Knowledge Infrastructure (NKI)