An Introduction to Nanoparticles

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    Identification

    • Nanoparticles are the smallest identifiable pieces of a material or substance. These particles can be taken from any material, however the size of any one particle cannot exceed one nanometer in size. Their size is indicated in the "nano" prefix, meaning one billionth so one nanometer is approximately one billionth of a meter. Something this small is not visible to the human eye, so high-powered microscopes are required to work with these materials. Their unusually small size opens up a whole new world of science and discovery.

    Function

    • Nanoparticles make up the smallest unit of a substance, or material. This means the particle itself is made up of the material's strongest and most distinguishing properties. As a result, these materials can behave completely different from the larger-sized, macro materials found in nature. In nano-form, a material's natural properties are exposed. These are concentrated properties compacted into minute sizes, meaning any physical or chemical reactions had can be much more powerful than that of a macro material.

    Characteristics

    • Because of their size and condition, nanoparticles have a larger surface area than macro-sized materials. A larger surface area means the actual atoms that make up the material have more contact with the external environment, as compared to a macro-material which holds its atomic structure closer to its center. With nanoparticles, actual portions of the material's atomic structure are exposed to the external environment. This results in a contact surface that behaves differently than a larger-sized material, as well as a different chemical and physical reaction to the environment.

    Effects

    • The powerful physical properties inherent in nanoparticles require scientists to develop a whole new approach as they discover what these materials can do. With the core properties of these materials being exposed, a more versatile approach can be taken in terms of how to use them for manufacturing purposes. In addition to manufacturing products and materials with macro-materials, these core materials can be used to manufacture, or invent new materials altogether. Carbon and silicon are two elements, in particular, where a number of new developments are under way.

    Nanobots

    • Nanotechnology is a field of science that uses nanoparticles and materials to manufacture automated devices, or nanobots. In effect, these devices are robots capable of, as of yet, undiscovered tasks and purposes. Future explorations look to use these robots as surgical devices and as methods of drug delivery within the field of medicine. Silicon is the material used to make these devices. Through the use of remote control, nanobots can be made to manufacture and cook food, clean a house, or any number of tasks. As of yet, the scope of this field is unknown.

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