The following is excerpted from the National Nanotechnology Initiative: The Initiative and its Implementation Plan
Definition of Nanotechnology:
The essence of nanotechnology is the ability to work at the molecular level, atom by atom, to create large structures with fundamentally new molecular organization. Compared to the behavior of isolated molecules of about 1 nm (10 -9 m) or of bulk materials, behavior of structural features in the range of about 10 -9 to 10 -7 m (1 to 100 nm - a typical dimension of 10 nm is 1,000 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair) exhibit important changes. Nanotechnology is concerned with materials and systems whose structures and components exhibit novel and significantly improved physical, chemical, and biological properties, phenomena, and processes due to their nanoscale size.
The goal is to exploit these properties by gaining control of structures and devices at atomic, molecular, and supramolecular levels and to learn to efficiently manufacture and use these devices. Maintaining the stability of interfaces and the integration of these "nanostructures" at micron-length and macroscopic scales are all keys to success.
New behavior at the nanoscale is not necessarily predictable from that observed at large size scales.
The most important changes in behavior are caused not by the order of magnitude size reduction, but by newly observed phenomena intrinsic to or becoming predominant at the nanoscale. These phenomena include size confinement, predominance of interfacial phenomena and quantum mechanics. Once it becomes possible to control feature size, it will also become possible to enhance material properties and device functions beyond what we currently know how to do or even consider as feasible. Being able to reduce the dimensions of structures down to the nanoscale leads to the unique properties of carbon nanotubes, quantum wires and dots, thin films, DNA-based structures, and laser emitters. Such new forms of materials and devices herald a revolutionary age for science and technology, provided we can discover and fully utilize the underlying principles.
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