Portal:Nanotechnology

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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.

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Diagram of a single-walled carbon nanotube

Carbon nanotube

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Carbon nanotubes (CNT) are allotropes of carbon with a cylindrical nanostructure. Nanotubes have been constructed with length-to-diameter ratio of up to 132,000,000:1, significantly larger than for any other material. These cylindrical carbon molecules have unusual properties, which are valuable for nanotechnology, electronics, optics and other fields of materials science and technology. In particular, owing to their extraordinary thermal conductivity and mechanical and electrical properties, carbon nanotubes find applications as additives to various structural materials. For instance, in (primarily carbon fiber) "baseball bats, car parts" and even "golf clubs", where nanotubes form only a tiny portion of the material(s).

Nanotubes are members of the fullerene structural family, which also includes the spherical buckyballs, and the ends of a nanotube may be capped with a hemisphere of the buckyball structure. Their name is derived from their long, hollow structure with the walls formed by one-atom-thick sheets of carbon, called graphene. These sheets are rolled at specific and discrete ("chiral") angles, and the combination of the rolling angle and radius decides the nanotube properties; for example, whether the individual nanotube shell is a metal or semiconductor. Nanotubes are categorized as single-walled nanotubes (SWNTs) and multi-walled nanotubes (MWNTs). Individual nanotubes naturally align themselves into "ropes" held together by van der Waals forces, more specifically, pi-stacking.

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Fullerenes in popular culture

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"Quantum Reality (Large Buckyball Around Trees)" (2007), an art installation by physicist-turned-artist Julian Voss-Andreae. It is a 30' (9 m) diameter buckyball-shaped steel structure intersected by several trees that grow freely through the structure and support it in mid-air, just above arm's reach.
Credit: Julian Voss-Andreae

A 30' (9 m) buckyball structure by Julian Voss-Andreae. View from below. Location: Private property in Portland, Oregon, USA

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Angela Belcher

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Angela M. Belcher is an American materials scientist and biological engineer who won the 2010 NBIC Award for Research Excellence in Nanotechnology. She is known for her use of nanostructured inorganic materials, fabricated and shaped by biological molecules to create novel materials and processes for a variety of industries, including using genetically-modified viruses to build both anode and cathode of a lithium-ion battery.

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