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Nanotechnology: Definition, Applications & Examples

Instructor: Lyna Griffin

Lyna has tutored undergraduate Information Management Systems and Database Development. She has a Bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering and a Masters degree in Information Technology.

In this lesson, we will learn about nanotechnology. We will define nanotechnology and what makes this technology so revolutionary. We will also examine some applications and examples of nanotechnology.

What is Nanotechnology?

Nanotechnology is also known as molecular manufacturing. The dictionary definition of 'nano' means - small or minute. When we hear the word molecule, we think of something so small that the naked eye cannot see it. Nanotechnology or molecular manufacturing is a branch of engineering that is geared towards the design and manufacture of extremely small (molecular dimensions) electronic devices and circuits within 0.1 to 100 nm (nanometer) dimensions. A nanometer is a billionth of a meter. That's really tiny. To put this into perspective the average thickness of a sheet of paper is about 100,000 nm. Just the thought of designing machines that can create objects that are a 1000th the thickness of a sheet of paper is overwhelming.

Nanotechnology Applications

Nanotechnology has changed our lives in more ways than we can imagine. The quest for reducing the sizes of technological devices is obvious. The very first computers occupied entire floors of buildings. Today we have hand-held computers with considerably more capacity and power. There are examples everywhere all around us of technological improvements and size reductions.

Today nanotechnology is being applied to every area of our lives. Let's look at a few of these areas.

Medicine

Nano-sized particles are being developed in the medical field that could serve as delivery mechanisms for drugs into the human body. These particles have a higher delivery accuracy to diseased cells, reducing the damage to otherwise healthy cells that occurs in the broader administrative mechanisms common today for treatments such as chemotherapy.

Food

Today a lot of seeds and food that is grown has been modified using nanotechnology to improve taste, safety, and the health benefits of the food.

Batteries

Nanotechnology is being used to both reduce battery size and improve shelf life. As such, a battery which has stood on the shelf for a number of years could have the same capacity as a new one.

Space

Launching material into space is no easy task. The main the battles in space engineering are weight, durability, and efficiency. Nanotechnology has been used to revolutionize the materials used in space engineering, to reduce their weight while maintaining or improving durability, effectively reducing fuel consumption.

Clean Water

Clean water is all about eliminating germs, harmful chemicals, and particles. Remember nanotechnology deals in microscopic dimensions. Normal water filters are known to filter water, but not down to the cellular level. Nanotechnology has been used to create filters which could remove even virus cells from water.

Nanotechnology Examples: Information Technology

Computer and electronics have experienced the most newsworthy developments using nanotechnology.

Transistors

There are the basic switches that have been miniaturized and are partly responsible for the downsizing of modern equipment. Those huge heavy television sets are history now thanks to the evolution in transistors. Remember, there was a time when a computer occupied a whole floor but now it can now be held in your hand. Transistors are now as small as 14 nanometers. Recall that the thickness of a sheet of paper is about 100,000 nm. In 2016 Berkeley Lab announced their creation of the smallest transistor ever, with a thickness of 1 nm.

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