Nanotechonology is one of the current buzzwords of science today, and deals with technology on the 'nano' scale. What's the nano scale!? The nano scale is small that you can't see it with a regular microscope; in fact, a nanometre is one-billionth of a metre. A regular atom is about one-tenth of a nanometre in diameter.
At this scale, scientists are able to manipulate atoms themselves, and that leads to the creation of all sorts of fascinating and interesting materials. One prime example is that of a carbon nanotube, which is made my rolling a sheet of graphite molecules into a tube. The right combination of nanotubes can create a structure that is hundred of times stronger than normal steel but only one-sixth the weight. This is just one example of the practical use of nanotechnology.
A concise actual definition for nanotechnology, found here, is: "The design, characterization, production, and application of structures, devices, and systems by controlled manipulation of size and shape at the nanometer scale (atomic, molecular, and macromolecular scale) that produces structures, devices, and systems with at least one novel/superior characteristic or property."
What is nanotechnology used for?
Nanotechnology, whilst still being researched and developed, has actually been around for longer than most people think, and is used in many every day products.
The aluminium oxide that absorbs the Sun's UV rays actually degrades when mixed with sweat and other molecules. The oxide is mixed with a 'nano-emulsion' that protects the aluminium oxide and keeps your skin safer for longer.
A firm called Pilkington makes something called Activ Glass, which employs nanoparticles to make the glass surface both hydrophilic and photocatalytic. The hydrophilic properties make liquids spread evenly over the surface and the photocatalytic properties allows UV radiation from light to break down and loosen dirt.
Yes, believe it or not, most plasters now have nano silver ions that help kill harmful cells and protect from infection.
Case Study: How nano-coating is waterproofing smartphones.
But how can it be used in the future? And what about more technological uses?
Go the next page to find out...