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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.


Colloidal quantum dots irradiated with a UV light. Different sized quantum dots emit different color light due to quantum confinement.

Quantum dot

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A quantum dot is a portion of matter (e.g., semiconductor) whose excitons are confined in all three spatial dimensions. Consequently, such materials have electronic properties intermediate between those of bulk semiconductors and those of discrete molecules. Stated simply, quantum dots are semiconductors whose electronic characteristics are closely related to the size and shape of the individual crystal. For example, in fluorescent dye applications, this equates to higher frequencies of light emitted after excitation of the dot as the crystal size grows smaller, resulting in a color shift from red to blue in the light emitted. In addition to such tuning, a main advantage with quantum dots is that, because of the high level of control possible over the size of the crystals produced, it is possible to have very precise control over the conductive properties of the material.

Researchers have studied quantum dots in transistors, solar cells, LEDs, and diode lasers. They have also investigated quantum dots as agents for medical imaging and hope to use them as qubits in quantum computing. Quantum dots of different sizes can be assembled into a gradient multi-layer nanofilm. They were discovered at the beginning of the 1980s by Alexei Ekimov in a glass matrix and by Louis E. Brus in colloidal solutions. The term "quantum dot" was coined by Mark Reed.



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A 40-nanometer-wide National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) logo made with cobalt atoms on a copper surface. The ripples in the background are made by electron waves
Credit: Joseph Stroscio and Robert Celotta/NIST

A 40-nanometer-wide NIST logo made with cobalt atoms on a copper surface


Mark Reed b. 1955

Selected biography

Mark A. Reed is an American physicist and professor at Yale University, who has made contributions in the area of quantum dots, electronic transport in nanoscale and mesoscopic systems, artificially structured materials and devices, and molecular electronics. He was at Texas Instruments from 1983 to 1990, where he demonstrated the first quantum dot device. Reed shared the 2007 IEEE Pioneer Award in Nanotechnology "for contributions to nano and molecular electronics".



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