What is nanotechnology?

A nanometre is one billionth of a metre, or around 80 000 times smaller than a human hair. Nanotechnology involves the manipulation of matter at these very small scales where properties and phenomena emerge that differ from the bulk material, and also from that of atoms and molecules.

Nanotechnology can also provide the means to investigate how very small particles interact with biological systems, in particular particles that are inhaled, ingested, and those that enter through other biological pathways. Some of these very small (nano) particles exist naturally in nature but nanotechnology allows engineering of nanomaterials for specific applications.

Nanotechnology has the potential to influence many aspects of life, including by providing new drug delivery systems, faster and cheaper manufacturing processes, cleaner and more efficient energy generation, advanced materials, clean water and next generation computing devices. Currently engineered nanomaterials are commercially available in a range of products such as toothpaste, sunscreen, stain resistant fabric, paints, motor oil and antimicrobial treatments.

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