In order to understand nanotechnology, first you should know that it’s a big word for some mighty small stuff. In fact, “small” as we know it doesn’t even come close to being small enough.
Let’s learn some things about the first part of the word. “Nano” comes from the Greek word for dwarf. Today, scientists use nano as a measure for something that requires special microscopes for them to see. Grab a ruler, and flip to the centimeter side. See how long 1 centimeter is? Now imagine if you could fit 10 million points between 0 and 1. The space between two of those points is a nanometer. Do you only have inches on your ruler? Well, imagine 25 million points crammed inside of one inch. Don’t try it. Just trust us!
So, now we’re talking tiny. Something smaller than a cell in your body. Way smaller than the head of a pin or thinner than a hair on your head – though people who know nano say hairs can be very different so we’ll stay away from that. Either way, it’s definitely too small to see.
As for technology, you may know that factories make big things like cars. When it comes to nanotechnology, scientists work in factories, too. But they are called fabrication facilities, or fabs for short. It’s here where the technology part comes in: scientists use machines that take things only nanometers big, move and mix them with other ingredients, and turn them into materials that help make car parts stronger and lighter. Pants and shirts that keep stains away. Or sunscreens and medicines that work better. Nanotechnology could even help clean up polluted water or land.
Of course, scientists don’t even know everything about nanotechnology. Students and teachers in colleges all over the world use those super-powerful microscopes and other machines to learn how nanometer size things work. Like all chemicals and materials, they have to be sure they know what they are doing before they use them. And they have to be very careful that they are using them right.
You’ll be hearing a lot more about nanotechnology in the years ahead. It might even be something you’ll want to study in high school or college. For now, Nanooze is here to help you learn a little bit about this super small world and have some fun while you’re at it!