Nanotechnology refers broadly to a field of applied science and technology whose unifying theme is the control of matter on the molecular level in scales smaller than 1 micrometer, normally 1 to 100 nanometers, and the fabrication of devices within that size range.

Nanotechnology (“nanotech”) is manipulation of matter on an atomic, molecular, and supramolecular scale. The earliest, widespread description of nanotechnology referred to the particular technological goal of precisely manipulating atoms and molecules for fabrication of macroscale products, also now referred to as molecular nanotechnology. A more generalized description of nanotechnology was subsequently established by the National Nanotechnology Initiative, which defines nanotechnology as the manipulation of matter with at least one dimension sized from 1 to 100 nanometers. This definition reflects the fact that quantum mechanical effects are important at this quantum-realm scale, and so the definition shifted from a particular technological goal to a research category inclusive of all types of research and technologies that deal with the special properties of matter which occur below the given size threshold. It is therefore common to see the plural form “nanotechnologies” as well as “nanoscale technologies” to refer to the broad range of research and applications whose common trait is size. Because of the variety of potential applications (including industrial and military), governments have invested billions of dollars in nanotechnology research. Through 2012, the USA has invested $3.7 billion using its National Nanotechnology Initiative, the European Union has invested $1.2 billion, and Japan has invested $750 million.

Nanotechnology as defined by size is naturally very broad, including fields of science as diverse as surface science, organic chemistry, molecular biology, semiconductor physics, energy storage, microfabrication, molecular engineering, etc. The associated research and applications are equally diverse, ranging from extensions of conventional device physics to completely new approaches based upon molecular self-assembly, from developing new materials with dimensions on the nanoscale to direct control of matter on the atomic scale.

Scientists currently debate the future implications of nanotechnology. Nanotechnology may be able to create many new materials and devices with a vast range of applications, such as in nanomedicine, nanoelectronics, biomaterials energy production, and consumer products. On the other hand, nanotechnology raises many of the same issues as any new technology, including concerns about the toxicity and environmental impact of nanomaterials, and their potential effects on global economics, as well as speculation about various doomsday scenarios. These concerns have led to a debate among advocacy groups and governments on whether special regulation of nanotechnology is warranted.

It is a highly multidisciplinary field, drawing from fields such as applied physics, materials science, colloidal science, device physics, supramolecular chemistry, and even mechanical and electrical engineering. Much speculation exists as to what new science and technology may result from these lines of research. Nanotechnology can be seen as an extension of existing sciences into the nanoscale, or as a recasting of existing sciences using a newer, more modern term. Two main approaches are used in nanotechnology.

In the “bottom-up” approach, materials and devices are built from molecular components which assemble themselves chemically by principles of molecular recognition.

In the “top-down” approach, Nano-objects are constructed from larger entities without atomic-level control.

The impetus for nanotechnology comes from a renewed interest in colloidal science, coupled 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 lithography and molecular beam epitaxy, these instruments allow the deliberate manipulation of nanostructures, and led to the observation of novel phenomena. Examples of nanotechnology in modern use are the manufacture of polymers based on molecular structure, and the design of computer chip layouts based on surface science.

Despite the great promise of numerous nanotechnologies such as quantum dots and nanotubes, real commercial applications have mainly used the advantages of colloidal nanoparticles in bulk form, such as suntan lotion, cosmetics, protective coatings, and stain resistant clothing. Modern synthetic chemistry has reached the point where it is possible to prepare small molecules to almost any structure. These methods are used today to produce a wide variety of useful chemicals such as pharmaceuticals or commercial polymers.

This ability raises the question of extending this kind of control to the next-larger level, seeking methods to assemble these single molecules into supramolecular assemblies consisting of many molecules arranged in a well-defined manner. These approaches utilize the concepts of molecular self-assembly and/or supramolecular chemistry to automatically arrange themselves into some useful conformation through a bottom-up approach.

The concept of molecular recognition is especially important: molecules can be designed so that a specific conformation or arrangement is favored due to non-covalent intermolecular forces. The Watson-Crick base pairing rules are a direct result of this, as is the specificity of an enzyme being targeted to a single substrate, or the specific folding of the protein itself. Thus, two or more components can be designed to be complementary and mutually attractive so that they make a more complex and useful whole.

Now, what is Acamech doing?

Acamech provides feasible and high-performing scientific simulations for mechanical systems. Acamech’s fields expertise are in Energy Conversion, Multi-Phase Flow, Nano Technology, Micro and Nano Electro Mechanical Systems, as well as Fluid-Structure interaction.

Acamech’s provides education and training, as well as consultations in these scientific fields. It also teams up with other scientific centers and individual scientists, on specific applied studies.

Would you like to know more?