Nanotechnology Applications

Nanotechnology involves the understanding, manipulation, and control of matter at dimensions of roughly 1 to 100 nanometers. Nanotechnology encompasses science, engineering and technology and involves imaging, measuring, modeling, and manipulating matter at the nanoscale. The development of unique nanoscale structures has the potential to revolutionize industry, including electronics, medicine, and consumer products.

Examples of materials developed with nanotechnology include the following engineered nanomaterials:

  • Carbon buckyballs or fullerenes;
  • Carbon nanotubes;
  • Metal oxide nanoparticles (e.g., titanium dioxide); and
  • Quantum dots, which are nanoscale semiconductor materials (e.g., cadmium selenide).

Although the development and application of nanotechnology is primarily still in the research phase, some engineered nanomaterials are produced and used in commercial applications today. Examples of products that are produced currently using nanotechnologies include:

  • Sunscreens and cosmetics;
  • Longer-lasting tennis balls and light-weight, stronger tennis racquets;
  • Stain-free clothing and mattresses;
  • Polymer films used in displays for laptops, cell phones, digital cameras;
  • Coatings for easier cleaning glass;
  • Bumpers and catalytic converters on cars; and
  • Protective and glare-reducing coatings for eyeglasses and cars.
Informational Resources

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Department of Commerce (DOC). NIST, a non-regulatory agency created to promote U.S. industrial innovation and competitiveness, enables science and industry by developing measurement methods, instrumentation, standards, and data to support all phases of nanotechnology development. NIST's Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology operates the Nanofab, a shared-use facility providing economical access to state-of-the-art nanotechnology-measurement tools and nanofabrication, and a research program. The NIST nanotechnology webpage contains information on nanotechnology activities, news, developments and accomplishments, including the work of the Center.

A Nanotechnology Consumer Products Inventory. Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars maintains an inventory of nanotechnology-based consumer products currently on the market.

National Cancer Institute (NCI), Exploring Nanotechnology in Cancer. This webpage includes information on the use of nanotechnology in the fight against cancer, including the use of nanotechnology in developing unique approaches to the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

The Institute for Nanoelectronics and Computing. The Institute, created by NASA, is an engineering, technology and research center developing new devices for computation and sensing as well as new assembly and systems for NASA missions. The Institute's webpage provides information on workshops and programs, presentations, and the latest news on nanoelectronics.

Communication from the Commission - Towards a European Strategy for Nanotechnology. Commission of the European Communities (December 5, 2004). The communication describes a strategy for responsible development of nanotechnology, including potential uses of nanomaterials, worldwide research and development activities, investment in nanotechnology, and the need to integrate public and environmental risk assessment into research and development activities.

Opportunities and risks of Nanotechnologies. The Allianz Center for Technology and Allianz Global Risks, in cooperation with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) International Futures Programme, has reviewed the likely economic impact, investment possibilities, and potential risks of nanotechnologies from their perspective. The report includes a discussion on present and future areas of nanotechnology application as well as nanotechnology market prospects and opportunities in areas such as medicine, food and agriculture and energy.