What Is Nano?Nowadays, almost everyone has heard the term of nano, but few people have a realistic idea what it is and what it will be. Some people believe it is a revolution in science and are waiting for subsequent revolution in technology affecting everyday life. The problem is that nano found public fame before real advancement in industry.
Nano is actually a SI prefix denoting 0.000 000 001, and for instance one nano-meter means one billionth of a meter. Obviously nano is referring to the fields dealing with such small scales (roughly 1-100 nm). It should be emphasized that nano as a field of study, deals with size; and nano scale of e.g. time, concentration, etc are not normally considered as the nano discipline (the reason is given below).
A common mistake is very popular in this context; as nanotechnology is popularly used for both nanotechnology and nanoscience. At this preliminary stage, most of studies are indeed in the realms of nanoscience, but they are considered as nanotechnology. This is the reason that many prefer to use the term nano instead of nanotechnology. Since this terminology has been widely spread among both professional and public communities, it is almost impossible to correct it.
Specialty of Nano
It is a natural tendency for humans to miniaturize devices to gain both efficiency and capacity, in addition to numerous opportunities in low scale (e.g. biomedical devices). For more than five decades, microtechnology served the modern needs of everyday life. Little by little, the capability of microtechnology was increased as more control over low scales was achieved. Now, it has reached a lower scale, namely nano. Is this a special scale?
Yes, nano is a special scale for materials properties, since it is comparable with the molecule sizes. In general, materials properties are statistically identified by the molecular interactions. From a statistical point of view, when the number of elements is high enough, the statistical considerations are reliable. For instance, the thermodynamical behavior of a gas with a volume of 1 million molecules is almost the same as 1 trillion molecules. Obviously, the statistical considerations fail when investigating a volume of 10 molecules. This is the different world of nano.
Fiction of Nano
Nano was introduced to the public by science fiction in the 1980s. Since possible nano-robots are in the size range of viruses, some suggested that nano-robots can control life processes, overcoming all diseases. This is the most interesting science fiction for the public, as many people are struggling with diseases.
Nano in the Market
According to the public belief that nano is capable of revolutionary advancement, its name has a significant effect on the consumers. Therefore, marketing managers use this fame to promote their products. Utilizing nano-based achievement as well as other industrial creativity can improve a product; but when hearing the term of nano in advertising, consumers believe it is something special.
The Future of Nano
As discussed here, nano has a capability to make some revolutionary advancements in the realms of science, and consequently, providing new opportunities in industry to improve everyday life; but contrary to fictions told about nano, it is not a global revolution to change the world. In general, nano is just at the beginning of a long way for significant achievements affecting the people's life. Such false expectations not only obscure the essence of nano, but also may lead the scientific research astray.
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