Nano has a wide variety of meanings. It originated from the Greek term ‘nânos’, which literally means dwarf. In science, it is used as a prefix for unit multiplication. A nanometre is 10^-9 or 1 billionth of a metre. The nanometre is a ridiculously small unit of length used to measure atoms and light.
The nanoscale science and engineering is defined loosely as: the study and control of matter on an atomic and molecular scale. To understand the atomic scale, we must gaze into the atomic spectrum of things. An atom consists of a nucleus and orbiting electrons. The nucleus is made up of protons and neutrons. In an atom, this is where most weight is defined. The electrons do not exactly orbit atoms in a perfect circle. They are scattered about in various areas. These probable areas of space are known as orbitals. The way the orbitals are shaped and overlapped forms the basis of chemical bonds. It is impossible to note where exactly one electron is at a snapshot moment of time. This is because electrons follow a wavelike function, they are fluid. We know so much about the structures of atoms from technology.
The Microscope was the beginning
The microscope was the beginning of nanotechnology. Inventor Van Leeuwenhoek built the first microscope in the 1673. He made a glass bead that is 40,000 nanometres in diameter and discovered bacteria, flora, and fauna. This breakthrough made people realize that there is much more to life than just the macroscopic view of things. There are tons of different interactions going one at a scale much smaller than with the eye can see. However, there is a limit to what microscopes can do. This is because they require visible light.
Light is characterized by waves. The properties that affect waves are: intensity, coherence, and wavelength. Intensity is how strong the frequency is being sent. Coherence is the amount of interference a wave has. Wavelength distinguishes one wave from another in the form of length. Waves range from 10^4 to 10^-14 nanometres, the former being radio waves and microwaves, the latter being gamma rays.
It is impossible to resolve one nanometre details with an optical telescope using visible light. This is because visible light falls along the longer wave lengths. Visible light has too long of a wavelength to resolve the details of a small biological molecule. Unlike the classical microscope, modern technology allows us to make things exceedingly small. The nanometre scale of length is important for light and atoms because it is necessary to measure their interactions.
The nanoscale is where various disciplines of science meet. Physics, Chemistry, and Biology are all interested in molecular structures through different aspects. Scientists from different disciplines have valuable approaches to whatever our problem is because they view things from different angles. Physicists concern themselves with how molecules interact specifically with relation to the environment. Chemists concern themselves with how the molecule is made. Biologists view molecules as how they pertain to the building blocks of life.
Although scientists find it useful to study at the nanoscale, such a scale of observation turns out to be pragmatic as well. Nano objects are smaller, meaning they can be lighter, faster, and cheaper. At the nanoscale, it takes less material to make things requiring less energy. The macro to nano view is a contrast of life and its function.
Life consists of continuous functions beyond the human eye. You can see a piece of wood and believe that it is smooth on its exterior. When magnified to the nanoscale, such observations become the opposite. At the nanoscale you must think of how the atoms interact with each other rather than objects being uniform. On this level of observation quantum mechanics must be considered. Instead of Newton’s equations, Schrodinger’s equations are utilized. Particles are randomized and in many different states and forms, making it hard to quantify.
Nanotechnology has uses in almost every field of science possible. A major advancement is in the pharmaceutical /medical field. Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) consists of a very thin cantilever where a virus or other biological cells and molecules can be put under it. Through the process of NMR a map is built of where all the hydrogen molecules are.
Nanotechnology has been improving therapy response for cancer patients. Thanks to nanotechnology there have been better ways to image tumours. New advancements in nanotechnology have allowed small samples of blood to be examined to check the traces of various biological molecules. This will allow doctors to prescribe the correct treatment for cancer patients.
Nanoscience is all around us. It always has been present in life processes and in the last century we have been studying these nanoscale interactions closely. We have understood how the quantum mechanics of nature operate. The next century of nanoscience will consist of strides in nanoengineering.