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Why is nanotechnology important?

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Quick Answer

The finesse of material manipulation that nanotechnology enables is helping scientists to develop faster computers, more effective medications and larger capacity batteries. As of 2015, nanotechnology remains an emergent field, where new applications continue to be discovered every day.

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Nanotechnology is an interdisciplinary science, with applications in biology, chemistry, material physics and electronics. As characterization and manipulation tools gain accuracy, scientists’ ability to resolve and manipulate single atoms and clusters of atoms increases.

Changing the size of a material from bulk to nanoscale results in profound changes in material properties and behavior. Mechanical properties of nanoscale materials are often orders of magnitudes higher than their bulk counterparts, because the likelihood of deleterious material defects decreases. This lower likelihood of defects also leads to superior electrical and magnetic properties.

Manipulating the shape of a nanomaterial leads to an even higher degree of material property customization. Anisotropic structures such as sheets, tubes and wires can be assembled having different properties from isotropic spheres of the same material. The near-perfect conduction of metallic carbon nanotubes as compared to other carbon allotropes is an example. Other applications employing nanotechnological design principles include nanoscale medicine capsules that can actively seek out and target pathogens and titanium oxide nanoparticle paints that use sunlight to break down air pollution.

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