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Potential of nanotechnology

Monday, March 31, 2014
Science and Society

On December 29, 1959, the famous American physicist Richard Feynman, in a talk at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) indicated “There is a staggering small world below”. He was referring to controlling matter at the atomic and molecular level. This led to the birth of nanotechnology.


So what is nanotechnology? It is science and engineering at the nano scale. One metre is 39 nine inches. One nanometre is one billionth of a meter. To give some perspective to the size of the technology; the diameter of a hydrogen atom is one tenth of a nanometre, typical viruses range from 20 to 400 nanometres and the thickness of human hair is approximately ten thousand nanometres. The typical scale of the technology is less than 100 nanometres.



This technology can be found in many commercial products including boat hulls, sporting equipment, automotive parts, sunscreen and cosmetics. As the products entering the market increase, wide ranging industrial and social impact is anticipated. Some estimate that the value of the industry will exceed two trillion US dollars by next year.



In the field of electronics and sensors, there is great excitement as nanotechnology is proving to be a significant game-changer. This comes about as a result of the ability to change and create new and improved properties of materials through manipulation at the subatomic level.