What is Nanotechnology

Nanotechnology is the fabrication of devices and systems through the synthesis of structures with dimensions of molecules, the control of matter at this level, exploiting the fact that the behavior structures changes at nanometer scale dimensions. Nanotechnology is the interdisciplinary field that enables advances in almost every technology sector. Innovations in medical diagnostics, therapeutics, communication systems, computation, consumer electronics, energy efficient lighting and display technology, low power energy saving electronics, etc. rely on advances in nanotechnology. In order to contribute to this dynamic field, a core knowledge that spans several academic disciplines is necessary.

Nanotechnology & Innovation

Understanding how to design, fabricate and control devices with nanoscale dimensions will drive innovation in almost every technology sector. Advances based on phenomena at the nanoscale impact technology through two pathways. Evolutionary advances result in significant improvements in existing technology as nanostructures are incorporated. Examples include computer processor chips, coatings for buildings and components in cell phones. Revolutionary advances occur when the ability to control nanoscale phenomena enable new technology solutions. Examples include targeted drug delivery, chemical sensors, micro electromechanical machines, light emitting diodes in display screens.

It is estimated that nanotechnology innovations will eventually represent ~$2 trillion of the gross domestic product.

Nanotechnology & Energy

Nanotechnology plays a critical role in both alternative energy generation and energy conservation. As a consequence the US Department of Energy has five ‘center of excellence’ lab in various aspects of nanotechnology.

Many strategies for alternative energy generation involve nanoscale phenomena. Efficiency of solar cells, lifetimes of batteris and effectiveness of fuel cells depend on the control and optimization nanoscale interfaces with these devices. Self cleaning coatings are required for continued performance.

Energy conservation can have a tremendous impact on global energy requirements. The miniaturization in electronic devices enabled by nanotechnology advances yield lower voltage and lower power consumption. The result is energy savings in consumer electronics. Optical quantum dots and other nanoparticles are the basis of high brightness energy efficient lighting.

Nanotechnology & Heath Care

Innovation in the delivery of health care will be forwarded by nanotechnology on many fronts. The digitization of medical information will rely on a variety of new and existing digital devices. Advances in electronics and wireless communications will be the foundation of these advances. Bedside diagnostics require new strategies for sensors and analyzers that can be integrated into handheld devices. Rapid and local gene/ protein sequencing will be the basis of personalized medicine … strategies involve mass fabricated nanoscale sensors. The first of the new approaches to targeted treatment of cancer based on nanoparticles are entering clinical trials… and other drug delivery strategies are in the pipeline. Drug discovery is facilitated by array devices based on nanoscale components.

Nanotechnology & Communications

Nanotechnology has been at play in the development of electronics for nearly a decade. Minimum feature sizes in computer chips today are on the order of 50 nm. However exciting advances in this arena are leading to revolutionary strategies for electronic devices. Flexible circuits are folded up into the interior of digital cameras. A new field has arisen in which light is used as the basis of ‘plasmonic’ devices. Tiny resonating nano machines may be incorporated into future wireless phones. And the entire concept of how a computer ‘computes’ is being questioned with the potential of nanotubes, nanowires, and nanofibers and possible electronic components.

Nanotechnology & the Environment