Nanotechnology is the science of manipulating matter on the atomic and molecular scales to solve problems. Nanotechnology is a developing applied science that has the potential to make significant contributions to many fields, including engineering, computer science, and medicine.
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Nanotechnology is an area of research and application of that research to make devices and products. It studies the properties of materials that are between one and 100 nanometers in size. So what's a nanometer? It's 10 to the minus-nine meters or .000000001 meters. That's one ten-thousandths the diameter of the human hair. Or another way to look at it is the DNA molecule is about two and a half nanometers in diameter. Nanotechnology's interesting because scientists observe unusual properties of materials at that size scale. The materials don't behave either like the atoms from which they're made or like the bulk material with which we are familiar. Examples of nanometer particles are gold, that instead of appearing the familiar color we call gold, appear red or blue or other colors depending on their exact size. And they also have different electrical properties from bulk gold that we use in jewelry or electronic devices. Or carbon nanotubes that are made of the same material as the graphite in your pencil lead that are incredibly strong, not brittle, and also have different electrical properties depending on how exactly the atoms come together. As biomedical scientists, we're interested in nanotechnology because we think we can use these new materials to make better devices to diagnose disease or to improve imaging agents that are used for MRI tests and even to deliver drugs more effectively.
Jeffery A. Schloss, Ph.D.
Program Director, Technology Development Coordination, Division of Extramural Research
Jeffery A. Schloss is program director for technology development coordination in the Division of Extramural Research at the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI). He manages a grants program in technology development for DNA sequencing and single nucleotide polymorphism scoring and serves the NHGRI Division of Extramural Research and Office of the Director as a resource on genome technology development issues. He led the team that launched the Centers of Excellence in Genomic Science and initiated a program to foster collaborations to validate new sequencing technologies for use in high-throughput laboratories.