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What is nanotechnology?

Nanotechnology is a relatively new field of science, engineering and technology which is conducted at the nanoscale. Or in other words, this is the science of very small things.

But how small is “small” and what does “nano” mean?

A nanometer is one billionth, or 10−9 of a meter. This is a scale much tinier than the one which scientists have been researching until very recently. It is pretty hard to imagine how small this scale is. And to give you some perspective, there are 10 000 000 nanometers in one single centimeter. Most cells in the human body are hundreds of nanometers.

Nanotechnology is a science which can be used across all other scientific fields such as chemistry, medicine, engineering, biology, material science. What nanotechnology does is to control and conduct the individual particles – atoms and molecules, instead of controlling the material itself. At this scale the things we think we know and take for granted act in a completely different way. Even the microscopic particles look huge and even the well-known substances have different properties – higher strength, increased durability, lighter weight, flexibility.

However, a particle with the size of an atom is impossible to be seen with the naked eyes. What is more, it is difficult to be detected even with a light microscope. The microscope which is able to observe particles at this scale was invented about 30 years ago and it marked the rise of nanotechnology as a separate science.  When was nanotechnology born? Although it is a relatively young discovery, nanoscience can be considered not a modern, but much older “science”. People have been using nanoscale materials without realizing it centuries ago, thus creating works of art, weapons and medieval painted glass.

Nowadays, nanotechnology and nanoscience have the potential to affect and change in a positive way every sphere of our lives including medicine, cars, computers, and fashion industry. Undoubtedly, they have a key role in the overall technological progress for the 21st century.