WHAT IS NANOTECHNOLOGY?
Nanotechnology—often referred to as ""the next industrial revolution"—has the potential to profoundly impact our society. It is the science of creating functional systems at the atomic or molecular scale—an almost inconceivably small dimension that is 100,000 times thinner than the width of a human hair.
The concept of nanotechnology was introduced in 1959 by Dr. Richard Feynman during his famous speech, "There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom." Professor Feynman captured the world's attention when he was the first to envision a process for manipulating individual atoms and molecules.
"Nano" means one-billionth. When materials are observed at the nanometer level (one-billionth of a meter), they often display unique properties. Today, researchers use advanced tools, such as the atomic force microscope, to measure matter at the nanoscale as well as to build entirely new materials, devices, and systems molecule-by-molecule.
Nanotechnology's potential for creating novel products is vast, imagine—
- medicine with targeted delivery to a precise location in the body
- fabrics that change color in response to light
- ultra-thin coatings on ships and airplanes that are wear-resistant
These remarkable items, and many more, are quickly becoming a reality. Nanotechnology researchers are creating products to improve quality of life in a wide range of areas, including health care, information technology, agriculture, energy conservation, and environmental sustainability. We are only at the beginning of a surge of scientific advancements in nanotechnology that—over the next few decades—has the potential to revolutionize our society.