Nanotechnology is about the preparation, assembly, manipulation and study of matter on the nanometer (nm) scale. A nanometer is one millionth of a millimetre. By comparison, a human hair is about 80,000 nanometers. The nanometer scale is the scale of atoms and molecules.
Perhaps the first scientific vision of nanotechnology published was Richard Feynman's famous talk to the American Physical Society in 1959 entitled "There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom" (to read the talk, click here). The demonstration in laboratories followed substantially later, with the development of new techniques such as tunnelling microscopy, short-wavelength lithography and molecular self-assembly techniques, and advances in chemistry, physics and engineering.
Nanomaterials have special properties because of their small size or length scale. A particularly old example of the use of nm-sized gold particles to colour church windows red in the Middle Ages, even if no one at the time knew they were using nanomaterials. The special properties of nanomaterials result from such properties as quantum size effects, enhanced surface area and interpenetration of different materials on small length scales. Some examples of nanomaterials include
Another key aspect of nanotechnology is the development of new ways of structuring materials. Current "top down" manufacturing methods, e.g. in electronics, are in a way comparable to creating a statue from stone by carving away what is not needed. New self-assembly techniques use intelligent chemistry and an understanding of how nature assembles complex structures to build materials and systems from the "bottom up". Some examples of these are the self-assembly of nanoparticle arrays using molecular recognition, the assembly of complex structures in block copolymers by controlling interaction between the blocks and the creation of synthetic opal structures by controlling a polymerisation reaction.
Although products based on nanotechnology are only beginning to enter the market, the market is expected to become billions in the near future, and nanotechnology is commonly identified as one of the key technologies for the 21st century.
For more on nanotechnology, one good link can be found here.
New Display Technologies