Kyle Aaron


-INTRODUCTION: If you were to walk up to any nanoengineer, the unifying theme that he/she would know is the control of matter on a scale smaller than 1 micrometer, between 1-100 nanometers. Nanotechnology is a field of science and technology that covers a broad range of topics. It encompasses diverse chemistry, applied physics, material science, mechanical engineering, and electrical engineering. It could also be seen as an extension of current sciences into the nanoscale. Two main approaches are used in nanotechnology: one is an approach where materials and devices are built from molecular components which assemble themselves chemically using principles of molecular recognition; the other is an approach where nano-objects are constructed from larger entities without atomic-level control.


Figure 1
*This is a picture of a buckyball, which is one of the simplest carbon structures known as fullerenes. Members of the fullerene family are a major subject of research in nanotechnology.

The interest in nanotechnology has stemmed from a renewed interest in colloidal (a suspension of small particles scattered in another substance) science, and with a new generation of analytical tools such as the atomic force microscope (AFM) and the scanning tunneling microscope (STM). Combined with refined processes such as electron beam lithograph, these instruments allow the deliberate manipulation of nanostructures. The manufacture of polymers based on molecular structure, or the design of computer chip layouts based on surface science, are a few examples of nanotechnology in modern use. Despite the great promise of numerous nanotechnologies such as nanotubes, real applications that have moved out of the lab have mainly utilized the advantages of colloidal nanoparticles, such as suntan lotion, cosmetics, protective coatings, and stain resistant clothing.

Figure 2
*This is a picture of a lithography press for printing maps in Munich

The first distinguishing concepts in nanotechnology were brought up in a talk given by a physicist named Richard Feynman called “There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom”, at Caltech on December 29,1959. Feynman described a process by which the ability to manipulate individual atoms and molecules might be developed, using one set of precise tools to build and operate another proportionally smaller set, so on down to the needed scale.


One nanometer is one billionth of a meter. In a carbon molecule, the spacing between the atoms is ranged between 12-15 nanometers. Also the diameter of a DNA molecule is 2 nanometers, and the smallest cellular life-forms (the bacteria from the genus Mycoplasma) are around 200 nanometers in length.

"the Nanocar"

Molecular manufacturing is the concept of engineering nanosystems, which are nanoscale machines. Nanoscale machines can produce a desired structure or device atom by atom. Nanomaterials can be toxic to humans and the environment, though. The smaller a particle, the greater chemical reactivity and biological activity.

A couple months ago I took my cousin to see "the Last Mimzy." There was a section in the movie in which one of the main characters (a little girl) had a stuffed animal rabbit that had bits of nanotechnology embedded into its fur. There was a group of scientists that were conducting research on the unknown bear, and they discovered that the back of the bear had "Intel' inscribed in a chip of nanotecnology robots moving slowly.