The nano-dimension: inside our microscopic world


A Summary Presentation…


Nanotechnology’ is the study and application of extremely small things which has uses across all scientific fields. Evident as the prefix ‘nano’ is derived from the greek word ‘Nanos’ meaning ‘dwarf’. It involves the ability to see and control individual atoms and molecules. Nanoscience is the study of phenomena and manipulation of materials at atomic, molecular and macromolecular scales, where properties differ significantly from those at larger scales.

 This nanoscale typically deals with dimensions approximately  between 1 and 100 nanometers, where 1 nanometer is 1×10-9 meters. To put it into perspective, a nanometer is approximately 10 atoms across and a sheet of newspaper is about 100,000 nanometers thick. So as you can imagine, nanometers are exceedingly small. Moreover, when you change the size of a particle, a lot of things generally tend to change: a change in colour, strength, conductivity and reactivity can be observed. In nanoscale particles, the arrangement of atoms causes an increase in surface area to volume ratio, meaning it reflects light differently, reflecting a different “portion” of the visible spectrum. A common example of this is the difference in colour of gold – in nanoscale dimensions, gold is seen as dark red or even purple.

Watch our video on an example of gold changes when seen in nano-dimensions

There seemingly a lot of potential for nanotechnology. It has shown evidence of potentially increasing the efficiency of energy consumption, producing less harmful emission gases and solving major health problems. It is said to massively increase manufacturing production at significantly reduced costs, hence meaning it would be more favourable to the economy and business traders. Furthermore due to the ability technologists now have with generating materials in a way to form a specific role, the use of nanomaterials spans across a wide variety of industries, from healthcare and cosmetics to environmental preservation and air purification.

Is nanotechnology the future of Medicine?

Nanotech advocates claim that “Products of nanotechnology will be smaller, cheaper, lighter yet more functional and require less energy and fewer raw materials to manufacture.”


Nanoparticles can be found naturally, be created as by-products of combustion reactions, or be produced purposefully through engineering to form a specialised function.

The healthcare field utilises nanoparticles in a variety of ways, with the major method being the delivery of drugs to specific locations in the body. 

For example, lipid-based, inorganic and polymeric nanoparticles can be used for the transportation of chemotherapy drugs to cancerous growths, alongside the delivery of drugs to the arteries that are damaged in order to prevent further cardiovascular disease.

For example, lipid-based, inorganic and polymeric nanoparticles can be used for the transportation of chemotherapy drugs to cancerous growths, alongside the delivery of drugs to the arteries that are damaged in order to prevent further cardiovascular disease. Nanotechnology increases bioavailability of a chemical drug at the targeted site. Optical imaging using nanoparticle “quantum dots” have allowed the imaging of lymph nodes, lung blood vessels and tumours. In addition, superparamagnetic iron oxide particles can be used in MRI scanners for the detection of cancer. It has been reported these provide an “enhanced contrast” for the imaging of the liver and lymph nodes, and the bone marrow, increasing accuracy in diagnosis.



 It’s not only the healthcare field that benefits from nanotechnology. The aerospace industry uses nanoparticles in the development of many parts of an aircraft. Its applications for nanotechnology include an increased strength, a reduced weight, improved electronics, large surface area materials and better filters for air purification. 

The most common types of nanoparticles used in aerospace engineering include the carbon nanotube, nanoclay, nanofibres and graphene

 An interesting new usage of nanotechnology in the aerospace industry includes anti-corrosion coatings. Silicon and boron oxide nanotechnology are used here, as they are particularly more useful to increase the durability of metals. Scientists also anticipate magnesium nanoalloys to be a “promising alternative” , although more research yet needs to be done to compare effectiveness.


Nanotechnology has also developed its usage in the military. One example is through the use of mobile pigment nanoparticles being used to produce a better form of camouflage, through injection of the particles into the material of soldiers’ uniforms. This helps them to blend in more and take cover when they need to hide from danger. Major advances enabled by nanotechnology include the development of military grade active sensing packages to detect damage (such as corrosion and substrate integrity) and environmental conditions (i.e. radiation, chemicals, temperature, gases, strain). It can also be used within developed sensor systems, where titanium oxide nanomaterials can detect toxic biological agents such as viruses, plaque and bacteria which would cause harm to humans. 



As with every form of technology, scientists have also seen nanotechnology with some potential harmful effects. They have been known to cause lung inflammation and heart problems within people, limiting its usage in healthcare as the intake of these particles needs to be limited. They are more likely to have a toxic effect than bulk materials, if they are insoluble, penetrate biological membranes, persist in the body, or (where exposure is by inhalation) are long and fibre-like. 

 As with most scientific breakthroughs, there seems to be a mixed perception about how useful and safe nanotechnology actually is. For instance in Asia particularly -where there is a positive perception of nanotechnology- some products have been justified as being ‘nano-enabled’ to target a premium price. This has resulted in at least four Asian economies adopting state-operated, user-financed product testing schemes to verify nano-related marketing claims, such as the original “nanoMark” certification system in Taiwan.

Taiwan nanoMark certification sytem

Numerous prospective benefits for health and the environment are offered by nanotechnology, with engineered nanomaterials being developed for renewable energy capture and water purification, food packaging, environmental sensors and remediation, as well as greener engineering and manufacturing processes. However, It is very hard to evaluate whether the risks outweigh the benefits of this new technology. As with all newly researched things, the long term effects remain unknown as everything is rather in a trial-type phase. Nanotechnology has, however, reached out to benefit a variety of fields, hence has developed many aspects of the economy. It’s important to note as well that it has huge benefits across several fields of science. Therefore; we can only predict that  the field of nanoscience is to grow more and more.

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