What is nanotechnology?

Nanotechnology refers to the field of study and manipulation of matter at the atomic and molecular levels. Designing, synthesizing, characterizing, and applying materials, devices, and systems with at least one dimension in the 1–100 nm range is part of this field (nm).

Materials’ nanoscale properties may vary widely from their bulk equivalents, allowing for the design of novel materials with novel and useful characteristics. Nanotechnology can be used to improve many different industries, such as the medical, electronic, energy, and materials sciences.

Nanoscience delves into the realm of matter between 1 and 100 nanometers in size. Nanotechnology, the field that deals with the creation of new objects at this extremely small size, is one of the most interesting and rapidly developing fields of modern science and technology. As an enabling technology, nanotechnology is being put to use in fields as different as biology and aerospace.

History of nanotechnology

The concept of nanotechnology was first proposed by physicist Richard Feynman in a talk he gave in 1959 called “There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom”. In this talk, Feynman described the possibility of manipulating individual atoms and molecules to create new materials and devices.

In the 1980s, however, as improvements in microscopy and other techniques made it possible to study and manipulate materials at the nanoscale, nanotechnology became a distinct field of study.

In 1986, the term “nanotechnology” was coined by K. Eric Drexler in his book “Engines of Creation: The Coming Era of Nanotechnology”. Drexler’s work helped to popularize the idea of nanotechnology and its potential applications.

Funding for research and development in nanotechnology was boosted by the United States’ announcement of the National Nanotechnology Initiative in the 1990s. Since then, nanotechnology has exploded in popularity and is now being applied to everything from health and electronics to renewable energy and materials research.

Some of the key developments in nanotechnology include the discovery of fullerenes (hollow carbon molecules also known as “buckyballs”) in 1985, the development of the first nanotube in 1991, and the first practical applications of nanotechnology in the 2000s, such as the use of nanoparticles in drug delivery and the development of nanoscale electronics.

NANO concept

What is NANO scale?

A nanometer is one billionth of a meter, or 10-9 m, as the term “nano” indicates.

Natural Nano-concepts

Lotus effect

The hydrophobic surface of lotus leaves allows them to clean themselves, an effect known as the “lotus effect.”

The nanoscale order of the particles on the lotus leaf is responsible for its hydrophobic properties. This causes the leaf to shed any precipitation, soil, or microbes that fall on it. The wings of certain insects, such as dragonflies, have a pattern similar to the lotus flower.

Nature made nanomaterials

The best instance of this can be seen in the processes occurring within a single cell, the basic structural and functional unit of all living things (Remember the size of the cell is not at nano size).

Biological functions on the nanoscale, such as respiration, excretion, nutrition, growth, and photosynthesis, are always occurring in a cell. Organelles in cells that have been adapted to do these tasks are essentially nanoscale machines.

Anatomy of an animal cell

Changes of properties in nano scales

In the microscopic level of atoms and molecules, properties of substances vary. Although the bulk material remains the same, when the size of an object is reduced to 100 nm or less, its physical and chemical properties undergo dramatic changes. Many other types of physical properties, including as optical, mechanical, electrical, and magnetic ones, as well as chemical reactivity, undergo major alterations at the nano-scale.

Properties of nano materials

  • At diameters smaller than 100 nm, chemically inert gold becomes extremely reactive.
  • On the nanoscale, the metal copper is transparent.
  • Carbon nanoparticles have the potential to be several times stronger than steel.
  • In the nanoscale, gold exhibits a variety of colors depending on its size and shape.
  • At the nanoscale, carbon can be transformed into resistance-free conducting materials.

How to observe nano materials?

How to see the nano-scale?

The development of electron microscopes by scientists has made it possible for us to not only examine things on the nanoscale but also to manipulate them. The electron microscopes described below are some of the varieties that can be used to examine nanomaterials.

• Atomic Force Microscopes (AFMs)

• Scanning Probe Microscopes (SPMs)

• Scanning Tunneling Microscopes (STMs)


Nanomaterials made of carbon

Carbon-based nanostructures are among the most intriguing nanomaterials among the many accessible nanostructures. They can be in the form of a rod, a foot ball, or thin sheets.

Forms of Carbon

Carbon exists in two forms: carbon graphite and carbon diamonds.


Graphite has a layered structure, and scientists have spent decades attempting to extract a single layer from the framework.

Graphene is a single layer thick graphite sheet (0.5 nm) with special features due to its large surface area (figure 16.15). It is extremely flexible while exhibiting extremely high mechanical characteristics. It also exhibits unusual electronic and electrical properties. It is regarded as a material with the potential to revolutionize next-generation flexible electronics.

Carbon Nanotube

When a single sheet or a few layers of graphene are rolled into a tube, a nanotube is created. Single Wall Carbon Nano Tube (SWCNT) is formed when a single layer is rolled into a tube, whereas Multi Wall Carbon Nano Tube (MWCNT) is formed when several layers are rolled into a tube (MWCNT).


Fullerene is another type of nano carbon. Fullerene is a molecule made up of around 60 carbon atoms organized in the shape of a football. It has a diameter of roughly 1 nm.

Active carbon with pores of nanoscale

Charcoal, coconut shell coal, coal, peat, and other raw materials are used in the production of active carbon. The existence of nanoscale pores is what distinguishes active carbon. These tiny holes in active carbon have a vast surface area. A gram of active carbon has a surface area of around 3000 m2. The pores in active carbon have a high capacity for adsorption.

It is used to filter water due to its strong adsorption capacity. Nanotechnology is used in a variety of industries, including medical, electronics, agriculture, cosmetics, and food.

Applications of nanotechnology

Applications of nanotechnology in field of medicine

Nanotechnology, the science of manipulating matter at the atomic and molecular scale, has the potential to revolutionize the field of medicine.

Drug Delivery: Nanoparticles can be designed to deliver drugs to specific locations in the body, including tumors, while causing no harm to healthy tissues. This enables more effective and targeted drug delivery, resulting in fewer side effects.

Imaging: Nanoparticles can be used as contrast agents in medical imaging, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) scans. These contrast agents can enhance the visibility of tissues and organs, helping doctors make more accurate diagnoses.

Diagnostics: Nanoparticles can be used as biosensors in the body to detect biomolecules and disease markers. This technology has the potential to aid in the earlier and more accurate diagnosis of diseases.

Tissue Engineering: Scaffolds for tissue engineering can be created using nanotechnology. These scaffolds can be made of materials that have properties similar to natural tissues, allowing cells to grow and develop into functional tissues.

Cancer Treatment: Nanoparticles can be engineered to target and destroy cancer cells, either through photothermal therapy, which uses heat to destroy cancer cells, or through photodynamic therapy, which uses light to activate a drug that kills cancer cells.

Wound Healing: Nanotechnology can be used to create wound dressings and bandages that speed up wound healing. Antimicrobial properties and tissue regeneration can be enhanced by adding nanoparticles into these materials.

Vaccines: Nanoparticles can be used to deliver vaccines, either by encapsulating the vaccine or by serving as an adjuvant, which enhances the immune response to the vaccine.

Applications of nanotechnology infield of transport

Nanotechnology has numerous applications in the field of transport, ranging from enhancing the performance of vehicles to improving the efficiency of transportation infrastructure.

Lightweight Materials: Carbon nanotubes and graphene, for example, are extremely strong and lightweight. These materials are being used to create lighter, more fuel-efficient automobiles, airplanes, and ships. Lighter materials also improve transportation’s overall energy efficiency by lowering the amount of energy required to move the vehicle.

Self-Healing Materials: Nanotechnology has led to the development of self-healing materials that can repair damage to vehicle parts or transportation infrastructure automatically. These materials can significantly reduce the need for repairs and maintenance, resulting in cost savings and improved safety.

Improved Fuel Efficiency: Nanotechnology is being used to create advanced fuel additives and lubricants that can increase vehicle fuel efficiency. For example, cerium oxide nanoparticles have been shown to improve the combustion efficiency of diesel engines, resulting in better fuel economy and lower emissions.

Advanced Sensors: Nano sensors can be used to monitor various parameters of transportation systems, such as temperature, humidity, pressure, and vibration. These sensors can provide real-time information on the condition of vehicles and infrastructure, allowing for predictive maintenance and improved safety.

Solar Cells: The development of nanotechnology has resulted in the development of highly efficient solar cells that can be integrated into vehicles and transportation infrastructure. These cells can produce enough electricity to power a variety of systems, such as lighting, heating, and air conditioning.

Anti-Corrosion Coatings: Nanotechnology has led to the development of anti-corrosion coatings that can protect vehicles and infrastructure from damage caused by exposure to the elements. These coatings can significantly extend the lifespan of transportation assets and reduce the need for costly repairs.

Adverse effects of nanotechnology

Toxicity: Some nanoparticles have been shown to have toxic effects on human cells and tissues, including DNA damage and inflammation. Long-term exposure to nanoparticles could lead to serious health problems.

Environmental Impact: The intentional or unintentional release of nanoparticles into the environment could have a negative impact on ecosystems and wildlife. There are also concerns about nanomaterials’ long-term effects on soil, water, and air quality.

Ethical Concerns: Nanotechnology raises ethical concerns about the potential misuse of advanced technologies, such as nanorobots or nano sensors, for surveillance or other harmful purposes.

Cost and Accessibility: Nanotechnology is a highly advanced field that requires significant investment and expertise. This could lead to disparities in access to the benefits of nanotechnology between different countries and socioeconomic groups.

Nano technology in covid vaccine

The use of nanotechnology in the development and production of COVID-19 vaccines has been significant. Here are a few examples of how nanotechnology has been used in COVID-19 vaccines:

Lipid Nanoparticles:

Both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines use lipid nanoparticles to deliver the messenger RNA (mRNA) that encodes the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. These nanoparticles are composed of a lipid mixture that protects mRNA from degradation and facilitates its uptake into cells.


Adjuvants are substances that are added to vaccines to enhance the body’s immune response to the vaccine. Some COVID-19 vaccines, such as the Novavax vaccine, use nanoparticles as adjuvants to boost the immune response.

Diagnostic Nanoparticles:

Nanoparticles are also being used in the development of COVID-19 diagnostic tests that are quick. The presence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in a patient’s sample is detected using gold nanoparticles in these tests.

Vaccine Stability:

Nanotechnology is being used to improve the stability and shelf life of COVID-19 vaccines. For example, researchers are exploring the use of nanogels and other nanomaterials to protect the vaccine from degradation during storage and transportation.

Delivery Systems:

Nanoparticles can also be used to target specific cells or tissues in the body, making them an enticing vaccine delivery system. Researchers are exploring the use of nanoparticle-based COVID-19 vaccines that could be administered as nasal sprays or inhalers, providing a more convenient and effective delivery method.

Share this post
About Author

Anuradhika Lakmali

Anuradhika Lakmali is a co-founder of Science A Plus learning network. She is working as a government teacher and has interest in chemistry, biology, phisics and self development.