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About Nanotechnology

New Nanotechnology Brochure Now Available

Big Things Tiny WorldThe world of nanotechnology can be difficult for a non-scientist to grasp, and few publications for general readers exist. Now, the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office (NNCO), with assistance from scientists in the 25 agencies of the National Nanotechnology Initiative, has produced a brochure that is geared to a broad public:

Nanotechnology: Big Things from a Tiny World.

Applications and Products: Putting Technology to Use

Over the past two decades, scientists and engineers have been mastering the intricacies of working with nanoscale materials. Now researchers have a mucher clearer picture of how to create nanoscale materials with properties never envisioned before.

Products using nanoscale materials now available:

  • Anti-bacterial wound dressings use nanoscale silver.
  • A nanoscale dry powder can neutralize gas and liquid toxins in chemical spills and elsewhere.
  • Batteries for tools are being manufactured with nanoscale materials in order to deliver more power more quickly with less heat.

Cosmetics and food producers are "nano-sizing" some ingredients, claiming that improves their effectiveness. Sunscreens containing nanoscale titanium dioxide or zinc oxide are transparent and reflect ultraviolet (UV) light to prevent sunburns. Sun GlassesScratch- and glare-resistant coatings are being applied to eye glasses, windows, and car mirrors. Entirely new products could result from nanotechnology too. Research in nanomedicine, for instance, is focused on finding new ways for diagnosing and treating disease. Looking farther into the future, some researchers are working toward nanomanufacturing and a "bottom-up" approach to making things. The idea is that if you can put certain molecules together, they will self-assemble into ordered structures. This approach could reduce the waste of current "topdown" manufacturing processes that start with large pieces of materials and end with the disposal of excess material.

Drug DeliveryDrug-Delivery Techniques

Dendrimers are a type of nanostructure that can be precisely designed and manufactured for a wide variety of applications, including treatment of cancer and other diseases. Dendrimers carrying different materials on their branches can do several things at one time, such as recognizing diseased cells, diagnosing disease states (including cell death), drug delivery, reporting location , and reporting outcomes of therapy.


Different nanoscale materials can be used in thin films to make them water-repellent, anti-reflective, self-cleaning, ultraviolet or infrared-resistant, antifog, anti-microbial, scratch-resistant, or electrically conductive. Nanofilms are used now on eyeglasses, computer displays, and cameras to protect or treat the surfaces.


Nano TubesCarbon nanotubes (CNTs) are used in baseball bats, tennis racquets, and some car parts because of their greater mechanical strength at less weight per unit volume than that of conventional materials. Electronic properties of CNTs have made them a candidate for flat panel displays in TVs, batteries, and other electronics. Nanotubes for various uses can be made of materials other than carbon.



Nano TransistorsNanoscale Transistors

Transistors are electronic switching devices where a small amount of electricity is used like a gate to control the flow of larger amounts of electricity. In computers, the more transistors, the greater the power. Transistor sizes have been decreasing, so computers have become more powerful. Now, the industry's best commercial technology produces computer chips with features as small as 45 nanometers

Solar Plastics

Thin, flexible, lightweight rolls of plastics containing nanoscale materials are being developed that some people believe could replace traditional solar energy technologies. The nanoscale materials absorb sunlight and, in some cases, indoor light, which is converted into electrical energy. Thin-film solar cells paired with a new kind of rechargeable battery also are the subject of research today. This technology will be more widely used when researchers learn how to capture solar energy more efficiently.

Water-Filtration Techniques

Water FiltrationResearchers are experimenting with carbon nanotube-based membranes for water desalination and nanoscale sensors to identify contaminants in water systems. Other nanoscale materials that have great potential to filter and purify water include nanoscale titanium dioxide, which is used in sunscreens and which has been shown to neutralize bacteria, including E. coli, in water.




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