Nanotechnology: Why Bother?

You can tell a lot about an element from its position on the Periodic Table. In fact, the periodic table is designed to make information about the chemical properties of an element readily available. So all you need is the periodic table. Right? Not exactly. The periodic table tells you all about an element at the conventional scale. When you’re looking at an element at the nanoscale, things can change. 

The nanoscale is the level at which measurements are made in nanometers. Nanometers are 1 billionth of a meter, or 10-9. The symbol for a nanometer is nm. At the nano level, the properties of an element often differ from those at the conventional level. For instance, gold is normally classified as an inert material – it does not corrode or tarnish. At the nano level, gold oxidizes in carbon monoxide. It also appears in colors other than the distinctive yellow for which it is known. Because gold can appear in other colors or even oxidize at the nano level, it is possible to use gold at the nano level as an indicator for changes in chemical properties of other elements.

To get an element at the nano level, it’s necessary to produce nano particles. This can be done through Top-Down Nanofabrication in which a large quantity of materials is winnowed down to portions at the nano size. Nanoparticles can also be produced through Bottom-Up Nanofabrication. With this method, nanoparticles create themselves when the required materials are put in contact with each other.

Nanoparticles can be created for specific purposes. They can, for instance, be created to act as markers for specific conditions. There is a great deal of excitement about the use of nanoparticles in the field of medicine where it may be possible to more specifically target a site for the delivery of medication for the treatment of a disease or other medical condition.

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