A Tiny Primer on Nano-scale Technologies ...and The Little BANG Theory

What is nanotechnology?

Nano-scale technology is a suite of techniques used to manipulate matter at the scale of atoms and molecules. “Nano” is a measurement – not an object. Unlike “biotechnology,” where you know that bios (life) is being  manipulated, “nanotechnology” speaks solely to scale. A “nanometre” (nm) equals one billionth of a metre. One human hair is about 80,000 nanometres thick. It takes ten atoms of hydrogen side-by-side to equal one nanometre. A DNA molecule is about 2.5 nm wide. A red blood cell is vast in comparison: about 5,000 nm in diameter. Everything on the nano-scale is invisible to the unaided eye and even to all but the most powerful microscopes. Key to understanding the unique power and potential of nanotech is that, at the nano-scale (below about 100 nanometres), a material’s properties can change dramatically – these unexpected changes are called “quantum effects.” With only a reduction in size and no change in substance, materials can exhibit new properties such as electrical conductivity, elasticity, greater strength, different colour and greater reactivity...