Basics of Nanotechnology [Mechanical engineering]

Basics of Nanotechnology

Feynman speech 1959It uses a basic unit of measure called a "nanometer" (abbreviated nm). Derived from the Greek word for midget, "nano" is a metric prefix and indicates a billionth part (10-9).

There are one billion nm's to a meter. Each nm is only three to five atoms wide. They're small. Really small. ~40, 000 times smaller than the width of an average human hair. (See How small is one-billionth of a meter?)

One aspect of nanotechnology is all about building working mechanisms using components with nanoscale dimensions (MNT), such as super small computers (think bacteria-sized) with today's MIPS capacity, or supercomputers the size of a sugar cube, possessing the power of a billion laptops, or a regular sized desktop model with the power of trillions of today's PC's.

Some of the most promising potential of nanotechnology exists due to the laws of quantum physics. Quantum physics laws take over at this scale, enabling novel applications in optics, electronics, magnetic storage, computing, catalysts, and other areas.

Regardless of the diverse opinions on the rate at which nanotechnology will be implemented, people who make it a habit of keeping up with technology advances agree on this: it is a technology in its infancy, and it holds the potential to change everything.

Read this great Introduction from the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology for a better understanding of what nanotechnology is and is not, the social and business implications, and some steps being considered to control misuse.

Related and interwoven fields include, but are not limited to: Nanomaterials, Nanomedicine, Nanobiotechnology, Nanolithography, Nanoelectronics, Nanomagnetics, Nanorobots, Biodevices (biomolecular machinery), AI, MEMS (MicroElectroMechanical Systems), NEMS (NanoElectroMechanical Systems), Biomimetic Materials, Microencapsulation, and many others.


Let's start BIG, with something you can get your hands on (so to speak):

A meter is about the distance from the tip of your nose to the end of your hand (1 meter = 3.28 feet).

One thousandth of that is a millimeter.

Now take one thousandth of that, and you have a micron: a thousandth of a thousandth of a meter. Put another way: a micron is a millionth of a meter, which is the scale that is relevant to - for instance - building computers, computer memory, and logic devices.

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How do I study the basics of nanotechnology?

Work related to nanotechnology falls into two broad areas: the study of nanotechnology itself (which will remain theoretical, for the time being) and research on enabling technologies leading toward assemblers and nanotechnology (which can be theoretical in part, but which also have an experimental, developmental component).

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