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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.


A model of a DNA tetrahedron. Each edge of the tetrahedron is a 20bp DNA duplex, and each vertex is a three-arm junction. In this model each basepair is represented by five pseudo-atoms, representing the two sugars, the two phosphates, and the major groove.
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DNA nanotechnology

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DNA nanotechnology is the design and manufacture of artificial nucleic acid structures for technological uses. In this field, nucleic acids are used as non-biological engineering materials for nanotechnology rather than as the carriers of genetic information in living cells. Researchers in the field have created static structures such as two- and three-dimensional crystal lattices, nanotubes, polyhedra, and arbitrary shapes, as well as functional devices such as molecular machines and DNA computers. The field is beginning to be used as a tool to solve basic science problems in structural biology and biophysics, including applications in crystallography and spectroscopy for protein structure determination. Potential applications in molecular scale electronics and nanomedicine are also being investigated.

The conceptual foundation for DNA nanotechnology was first laid out by Nadrian Seeman in the early 1980s, and the field began to attract widespread interest in the mid-2000s. This use of nucleic acids is enabled by their strict base pairing rules, which cause only portions of strands with complementary base sequences to bind together to form strong, rigid double helix structures. A number of assembly methods are used to make these structures, including tile-based structures that assemble from smaller structures, folding structures using the DNA origami method, and dynamically reconfigurable structures using strand displacement techniques.


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Allotropes of carbon

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This illustration depicts eight of the allotropes, or different molecular configurations, that pure carbon can take: (a) diamond, (b) graphite, (c) Lonsdaleite, (d) C60 Buckminsterfullerene), (e) C540, (f) C70, (g) amorphous carbon, (h) single-walled carbon nanotube.
Credit: Michael Ströck

This illustration depicts eight of the allotropes, or different molecular configurations, that pure carbon can take.


Katharine Burr Blodgett in 1938

Katharine Burr Blodgett b. 1898 – d. 1979

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Katharine Burr Blodgett was an American physicist known for her research on monolayers and the invention of low-reflectance "invisible" glass. Blodgett worked with Irving Langmuir on monomolecular coatings designed to cover surfaces of water, metal, or glass, which could be deposited in layers only a few nanometers thick. In 1938, she devised a method to use what is now called a Langmuir-Blodgett trough to spread these monomolecular coatings one at a time onto glass or metal, which made the glass more than 99% transmissive. This coating is now called the Langmuir-Blodgett film. She was the first woman to be awarded a Ph.D. in physics from University of Cambridge in 1926, and the first female to work as a scientist for General Electric Laboratory in Schenectady, New York.



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