Nanobiotechnology Center/ Cornelll University
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and nanoengineering refer tothe
world as it works at the atomic and molecular level.This
world is measured on a nanometer scale, from one to several hundred nanometers.
The prefix "nano" represents one-billionth of a unit. For example,
a nanosecond isone-billionth
of a second;a
nanoliter is one-billionth of a liter. All living systems are governed
by molecular processes at the nanoscale level.
Nanotechnology aims to use nanoscale processes to create human-made products
by arranging the molecules of various shapes and surface features into
patterns in order to obtain novel and useful features. These patterns
then determine important materials properties such as electrical conductivity,
optical properties and mechanical strength.
Also, very tiny electronic, medical, sensor and other high-performance
devices with nanosize features could be produced for the first time. Researchers
are now actually creating nanoscale building blocks, such as metallic
and ceramic particles and all-carbon "nanotubes," that are hundreds
of millions of times smaller than bricks used for houses and pipes used
Despite increasing attention, nanoscience and nanotechnology are largely
in an exploratory phase. Researchers say nanotechnology stands now where
television did in the 1930s and transistors in the 1950s.
Yet some nanoengineered materials and nanoscale devices are already in
commercial use for chemical, pharmaceutical and electronic applications
and impact multibillion dollar production lines.
Some read computer data stored on CD-ROMs. Others are found insidecellular
phones, pagers, medicines and replacement tissues and automobile tires;still
others are part of lasers with accurate wavelengths, advanced chemicals,
sensors, air bags and automobile engines.
NSF has been a pioneer in fostering the development of nanoscience and
engineering, establishing an appropriate physical infrastructure and workforce
needed to exploit the opportunities presented by nanotechnology.
NSF currently invests in a wide range of research activities, including
five nanotechnology university-based research hubs with a focus on electronics,
biology, advanced materials, optoelectronics and nanoscale computer simulation.
U.S.A. government investment rose from $116 million to $255 million over
the course of two years (fiscal years 1997 to 1999).