Nanotechnology Lesson for Kids: Definition, Facts & Examples

Instructor: Suzanne Rose

Suzanne has taught all levels PK-graduate school and has a PhD in Instructional Systems Design. She currently teachers literacy courses to preservice and inservice teachers.

How would you like to have a backpack that could also charge your phone or your handheld video game? Scientists working with nanotechnology can make that, and much more! Read on to find out more about nanotechnology.

Atoms and Nanotechnology

Everything is made up of atoms, which are like tiny building blocks. Atoms are put together to make molecules, which make up people, rocks, trees, paper, water - our world is made up of atoms. You can't see them because they are extremely tiny. There are 7 octillion - that's 7,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 - atoms in an average-size person!

Believe it or not, some scientists have found ways that they can manipulate even smaller parts of those tiny atoms! Nanotechnology is a branch of technology in which scientists study extremely small pieces of atoms to find out how they can be combined and changed so that we can make them do really cool and helpful things. These scientists, called nanotechnologists, experiment with these building blocks of atoms to make new products to help people.

A nanotechnologist

Microscopic Particles

Have you ever looked in a microscope? Regular microscopes use light to magnify the item that you're looking at so that you can see it very close up. It makes the object you are looking at appear to be much larger, and lets you see things you can't see when you just look with your eyes.

In nanotechnology, scientists use a different kind of microscope, called a scanning electron microscope (SEM), to look into the parts of atoms. They need a special microscope to do this because the parts of atoms are so small. The SEM makes the atoms look thousands of times bigger than they really are. Scientists can look so closely at the parts of an atom that they can see many details that can't be seen in any other way.

A scanning electron microscope sends images to a computer to be viewed.


Just how small are these parts of atoms? They are as tiny as one nanometer, which is a unit of length. Have you ever seen a meter stick? A meter stick is used for measuring, and is just a few inches longer than a yardstick. Can you guess how many nanometers could fit in one meter? A million! That's how small a nanometer is!

So, scientists using a SEM to look at atoms are looking at incredibly tiny pieces of the building blocks that make up atoms.

Amazing Inventions Using Nanotechnology

Why are these bits of atoms important? Nanotechnologists can change them so that the new atoms they make are stronger or have special properties.

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