What is nanotechnology

The concepts that seeded nanotechnology were first discussed in 1959 by renowned physicist Richard Feynman in his talk There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom, in which he described the possibility of synthesis via direct manipulation of atoms. The term "nano-technology" was first used by Norio Taniguchi in 1974, though it was not widely known.


Inspired by Feynman's concepts, K. Eric Drexler used the term "nanotechnology" in his 1986 book Engines of Creation: The Coming Era of Nanotechnology, which proposed the idea of a nanoscale "assembler" which would be able to build a copy of itself and of other items of arbitrary complexity with atomic control. Also in 1986, Drexler co-founded The Foresight Institute (with which he is no longer affiliated) to help increase public awareness and understanding of nanotechnology concepts and implications.


Thus, emergence of nanotechnology as a field in the 1980s occurred through convergence of Drexler's theoretical and public work, which developed and popularized a conceptual framework for nanotechnology, and high-visibility experimental advances that drew additional wide-scale attention to the prospects of atomic control of matter. In the 1980s, two major breakthroughs sparked the growth of nanotechnology in modern era.


First, the invention of the scanning tunneling microscope in 1981 which provided unprecedented visualization of individual atoms and bonds, and was successfully used to manipulate individual atoms in 1989. The microscope's developers Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer at IBM Zurich Research Laboratory received a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1986.[6][7] Binnig, Quate and Gerber also invented the analogous atomic force microscope that year.

Graphene is an allotrope of carbon in the form of a two-dimensional, atomic-scale, honey-comb lattice in which one atom forms each vertex. It is the basic structural element of other allotropes, including graphite, charcoal, carbon nanotubesand fullerenes. It can also be considered as an indefinitely large aromatic molecule, the ultimate case of the family of flatpolycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.


Graphene has many extraordinary properties. It is about 100 times stronger than the strongest steel with a hypothetical thickness of 3.35Å which is equal to the thickness of the graphene sheet. It conducts heat and electricity efficiently and is nearly transparent. Researchers have identified the bipolar transistor effect, ballistic transport of charges and large quantum oscillations in the material.

A fullerene is a molecule of carbon in the form of a hollow sphere, ellipsoid, tube, and many other shapes. Spherical fullerenes are also called Buckminsterfullerenes (buckyballs), and they resemble the balls used in football (soccer). Cylindrical ones are called carbon nanotubes or buckytubes. Fullerenes are similar in structure to graphite, which is composed of stacked graphene sheets of linked hexagonal rings; but they may also contain pentagonal (or sometimes heptagonal) rings.

The first fullerene molecule to be discovered, and the family's namesake, buckminsterfullerene (C60), was prepared in 1985 by Richard Smalley, Robert Curl, James Heath, Sean O'Brien, and Harold Kroto at Rice University. The name was a homage to Buckminster Fuller, whose geodesic domes it resembles. The structure was also identified some five years earlier by Sumio Iijima, from an electron microscope image, where it formed the core of a "bucky onion". Fullerenes have since been found to occur in nature. More recently, fullerenes have been detected in outer space. According to astronomer Letizia Stanghellini, "It’s possible that buckyballs from outer space provided seeds for life on Earth."

The discovery of fullerenes greatly expanded the number of known carbon allotropes, which until recently were limited to graphite, graphene, diamond, and amorphous carbon such as soot and charcoal. Buckyballs and buckytubes have been the subject of intense research, both for their unique chemistry and for their technological applications, especially in materials science, electronics, and nanotechnology.

Silver nanoparticles are nanoparticles of silver of between 1 nm and 100 nm in size. While frequently described as being 'silver' some are composed of a large percentage of silver oxide due to their large ratio of surface-to-bulk silver atoms. Numerous shapes of nanoparticles can be constructed depending on the application at hand. Commonly used are spherical silver nanoparticles but diamond, octagonal and thin sheets are also popular.

Their extremely large surface area permits the coordination of a vast number of ligands. The properties of silver nanoparticles applicable to human treatments are under investigation in laboratory and animal studies, assessing potential efficacy, toxicity, and costs.

Silver nanoparticles can be synthesized by several methods. They can be divided into three broad categories: wet chemistry, ion implantation, or biogenic synthesis.

Nanocellulose is a term referring to nano-structured cellulose. This may be either cellulose nanofibers (CNF) also called microfibrillated cellulose (MFC), nanocrystalline cellulose (NCC), or bacterial nanocellulose, which refers to nano-structured cellulose produced by bacteria.

CNF is a material composed of nanosized cellulose fibrils with a high aspect ratio (length to width ratio). Typical lateral dimensions are 5–20 nanometers and longitudinal dimension is in a wide range, typically several micrometers. It is pseudo-plastic and exhibits the property of certain gels or fluids that are thick (viscous) under normal conditions, but flow (become thin, less viscous) over time when shaken, agitated, or otherwise stressed. This property is known as thixotropy. When the shearing forces are removed the gel regains much of its original state. The fibrils are isolated from any cellulose containing source including wood-based fibers (pulp fibers) through high-pressure, high temperature and high velocity impact homogenization, grinding or microfluidization (see manufacture below).

Nanocellulose can also be obtained from native fibers by an acid hydrolysis, giving rise to highly crystalline and rigid nanoparticles (often referred to as CNC or nanowhiskers) which are shorter (100s to 1000 nanometers) than the nanofibrils obtained through the homogenization, microfluiodization or grinding routes. The resulting material is known as nanocrystalline cellulose (NCC).

Quantum dots (QD) are very small particles, so small that their optical and electronic properties differ from those for larger particles. This phenomenon is prevalent in semiconductors. QD's are a central theme in nanotechnology. In the language of materials science, nanoscale semiconductor materials tightly confine either electrons or electron holes.


Quantum dots are also sometimes referred to as artificial atom, a term that emphasizes a single object with bound, discrete electronic states, as is the case with naturally occurring atoms or molecules.

Quantum dots exhibit properties that are intermediate between those of bulk semiconductors and those of discrete molecules. Their optoelectronic properties change as a function of both size and shape. Larger QDs (radius of 5-6 nm, for example) emit longer wavelengths resulting in emission colors such as orange or red. Smaller QDs (radius of 2-3 nm, for example) emit shorter wavelengths resulting in colors like blue and green, although the specific colors and sizes vary depending on the exact composition of the QD.

Because of their highly tunable properties, QDs are of wide interest. Potential applications include transistors, solar cells, LEDs, diode lasers and second-harmonic generation, quantum computing, and medical imaging. Additionally, their small size allows for QDs to be suspended in solution which leads to possible uses in inkjet printing and spin-coating. These processing techniques result in less-expensive and less time consuming methods of semiconductor fabrication.

Colloidal gold is a sol or colloidal suspension of submicrometre-size nanoparticles of gold in a fluid, usually water. The liquid is usually either an intense red colour (for particles less than 100 nm) or blue/purple (for larger particles).


Due to the unique optical, electronic, and molecular-recognition properties of gold nanoparticles, they are the subject of substantial research, with applications in a wide variety of areas, including electron microscopy, electronics, nanotechnology, and materials science.

The properties of colloidal gold nanoparticles, and thus their applications, depend strongly upon their size and shape. For example, rodlike particles have both transverse and longitudinal absorption peak, and anisotropy of the shape affects their self-assembly.

Self-Organization of Helical Assemblies

Organisms in nature can assemble themselves into highly functioning structures.  Understanding the unique architectural principles that prompt this self-organization offers important clues into economical ways of solving complex material and design challenges.

The polymer nanobristles in this image were covered in liquid. As the liquid evaporated, the process was controlled so that polymer bristles formed highly ordered helical clusters in which the bristle hairs wound around each other like embracing arms or gently entwined fingers.