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Welcome to the nanotechnology portal

Nanotechnology is the study of manipulating matter on an atomic and molecular scale. Generally, nanotechnology deals with developing materials, devices, or other structures possessing at least one dimension sized from 1 to 100 nanometers.

Nanotechnology is very diverse, including extensions of conventional device physics, new approaches based on molecular self-assembly, developing new materials with nanoscale dimensions, and investigating whether we can directly control matter on the atomic scale. Nanotechnology entails the application of fields as diverse as surface science, organic chemistry, molecular biology, semiconductor physics, microfabrication, etc.

There is much debate on 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 medicine, electronics, biomaterials and energy production. 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.


K. Eric Drexler (left) and Richard E. Smalley (right)
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Drexler–Smalley debate on molecular nanotechnology

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The Drexler–Smalley debate on molecular nanotechnology was a public dispute between K. Eric Drexler, the originator of the conceptual basis of molecular nanotechnology, and Richard Smalley, a recipient of the 1996 Nobel prize in Chemistry for the discovery of the nanomaterial buckminsterfullerene. The dispute was about the feasibility of constructing molecular assemblers, which are molecular machines which could robotically assemble molecular materials and devices by manipulating individual atoms or molecules. The two also traded accusations that the other's conception of nanotechnology was harmful to public perception of the field and threatened continued public support for nanotechnology research.

The debate was carried out from 2001 to 2003 through a series of published articles and open letters. It is often cited in the history of nanotechnology due to the fame of its participants and its commentary on both the technical and social aspects of nanotechnology. It has also been widely criticized for its adversarial tone, with Drexler accusing Smalley of publicly misrepresenting his work, and Smalley accusing Drexler of failing to understand basic science, causing commentators to go so far as to characterize the tone of the debate as similar to "a pissing match" and "reminiscent of [a] Saturday Night Live sketch".



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A rotaxane with a cyclobis(paraquat-p-phenylene) macrocycle, generated from a crystal structure data reported by Bravo, Raymo, Stoddart, White, and Williams in 1998
Credit: User:M stone

A rotaxane with a cyclobis(paraquat-p-phenylene) macrocycle


Robert Curl in 2009

Robert Curl b. 1933

Selected biography

Robert Floyd Curl, Jr. is an American chemist whose research interests involve physical chemistry, developing DNA genotyping and sequencing instrumentation, and creating quantum cascade laser-based mid-infrared trace gas monitoring instrumentation. He is an emeritus professor of chemistry at Rice University. He shared the 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the "discovery of fullerenes".



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