Nanotechnology has a wide range of definitions and a global agreement has not yet been achieved. But the most widely used definition describes the manipulation of matter on an atomic, molecular or supramolecular scale. A US federal government programme, the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI), has stated that:
“Nanotechnology is the understanding and control of matter at dimensions between approximately 1 and 100 nanometres, where unique phenomena enable novel applications…. Encompassing nanoscale science, engineering, and technology, nanotechnology involves imaging, measuring, modelling, and manipulating matter at this length scale.”1
This upper size limit of 100 nm may appear rather arbitrary, but it has its roots within the inorganic study of small particles as it essentially outlines the size range at which there is often a transition between bulk and non-bulk properties2 of metals and metal compounds. New behaviours such as superparamagnetism and surface plasmon resonance (SPR) are observed at very small sizes and these have been the focus of many global research programmes.
- Ramsden JJ, Julie F. The Nanoscale. Nanotechnology Perceptions 2009;5:3-25.