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Introduction to Nanotechnology 12 June, 2013

Dr. Soney C. George, Prof. of Chemistry, Amal Jyothi College of Engineering, Kanjirappally led the weekly discussion on 20th June 2013 with his talk on “Introduction to Nanotechnology”.

Nanotechnology has some great offerings to the world of science and technology in the form of cancer treatment, nano shoes – shoes made of nano materials which is capable of repelling a whole lot of chemicals, grapheme – a material as thin as paper and almost 100 times stronger than paper etc.

What is nanotechnology?

Nanotechnology is the art of manipulating and rearranging individual atoms and molecules to create useful materials, devices and systems. This is an interdisciplinary field where science and engineering interconnect.

Nano Science refers to the chemical and physical properties of nanomaterials and Nano Engineering refers to the development of new products and technologies using nanotechnology.

“Nano” in Greek means “dwarf”. One nanometer is 3 atoms long. Human hair is about 60,000 to 80,000 nanometers wide. The smallest man made devices meet atoms and molecules of the natural world.

Why is small good?

Small or nano sized particles are good because they are faster, lighter, can get into small spaces, cheaper, more energy efficient and have different properties at very small scale. It is estimated that by 2015, 2 million people around the globe would be working on nanoscience and nanotechnology. The size of this industry would be almost $3 Trillion in 2015.

Nano in nature

  • Nano airborne particles cause water to condense and form raindrops (100 - 1000 nm).
  • Planktons (1 - 100nm) are marine bacteria and virus which form the base of the ocean’s food chain.
  • Lotus Leaf repels water due to nano sized molecular structure of the leaf.
  • Gecko frog is able to walk upside down on glass ceilings due to nano sized hair on its feet.

History of Nanotechnology

  • 1956 - R. Feynman delivers "Plenty of room at the bottom"
  • 1974 - First molecular electronic device patented
  • 1981 - Scanning Tunneling microscope
  • 1986 - Atomic force microscopy invented
  • 1987 - Fiurst single - electton transistor created
  • 1991 - Carbon nanotubes discovered
  • 2000 - US launches national nanotechnology initiative
  • 2002 - ITRI Nano research center established
  • 2004 - Grpahene nanosheets developed

Challenges to nano size scale

Nano size materials are too small for direct measurements, too difficult to current theoritical and computational methods, exhibit too many fluctuations to be treated monolithically in time and space and are too few to be described by a statistical ensemble

There are also public health and toxicity concerns to nanotechnology. Inhaling nano particles are harmful and they also cause pollution and destroy food chain. They also make very powerful weapons


As things get smaller, they take on new properties and surface area increases to a great extent. Material defects reduce strength of materials increases at nano scales.

Due to properties peculiar to nanomaterials, they have found application in several fields:

  • IT
  • Electronics
  • Nanomedicine
  • Energy
  • Consumer Goods
  • Construction Industry
  • Textile industry
  • Cosmetics
  • Biotechnology

Future scope

Nano technology can change the way we look at our world. For instance, the following are some applications of nanotechnology:

  • Nano surgeons will do surgery without a wound inside or outside the body
  • Ageing will be reduced
  • Components of a huge factory accomodated in a brief case
  • New computers will be composed of molecules instead of silicon chips
  • Waste water treatment conducted on its own.