micromechanics, the combination of minuscule electrical and mechanical components in a single device less than 1 mm across, such as a valve or a motor. Although micromechanical production processes and applications are still in the developmental stage, efforts have begun to develop machines—called micromachines or micromechanisms—1,000 times smaller. Nanotechnology is concerned with atomic- and molecular-scale devices. Such devices can be constructed using a scanning tunneling microscope. A single atom has been used as an electrical switch and an individual molecule used to convert alternating current into direct current. Cluster chemistry has produced small balls and tubes (see fullerene) containing between 10 and 1,000 atoms that may be useful in forming nano-thin wires and transistors that operate on just a few electrons. A third nanotechnological approach is to grow such devices from proteins, DNA, or synthesized organic molecules. Nanotechnologies are still in the laboratory stage, but practical applications are envisioned in such diverse areas as computers, pharmaceuticals, and metrology. For example, American chemist George M. Whitesides has used hydrocarbon molecules, called alkanethiols, that are self-assembling (i.e., arrange themselves into ordered, functioning entities without human intervention, as do living cells) to form ordered rows on a gold surface; such a process could be used to produce much thinner lines on an integrated circuit than can be accomplished using conventional techniques.

See K. E. Drexler and C. Peterson, with G. Pergamit, Unbounding the Future: The Nanotechnology Revolution (1991); A. J. Bard, Integrated Chemical Systems: A Chemical Approach to Nanotechnology (1994); E. Regis, Nano: The Emerging Science of Nanotechnology (1995).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2018, The Columbia University Press.

Nanotechnology: Selected full-text books and articles

A Radical Future for Nanotechnology By Drexler, K. Eric The Futurist, Vol. 47, No. 5, September-October 2013
Nanotechnology, Risk and Upstream Public Engagement By Macnaghten, Phil Geography, Vol. 93, Summer 2008
Nanotechnology Development and Sub-Technologies Effect By Al-Tameem, Abdullah Abdulaziz Journal of Digital Information Management, Vol. 7, No. 1, February 2009
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Nanotechnology: Its Impact on Food Safety By Dingman, Jim Journal of Environmental Health, Vol. 70, No. 6, January-February 2008
Kellogg on Technology & Innovation By Ranjay Gulati; Mohanbir Sawhney; Anthony Paoni Wiley, 2003
Librarian's tip: Chap. 6 "Recent Trends in Nanotechnology"
Nanotechnology - a Lot of Hype over Almost Nothing? By Stang, Charma; Sheremeta, Lorraine Health Law Review, Vol. 15, No. 1, Fall 2006
Nanotechnology Science's Next Frontier or Just a Load of Bull? By Ball, Philip New Statesman (1996), Vol. 132, No. 4643, June 23, 2003
The Global Course of the Information Revolution: Recurring Themes and Regional Variations By Richard O. Hundley; Robert H. Anderson; Tora K. Bikson; C. Richard Neu Rand, 2003
Librarian's tip: Chap. Fifteen "The Information Revolution Is Part of a Broader Technology Revolution with Even Profounder Consequences"
Molecules: A Very Short Introduction By Philip Ball Oxford University Press, 2003
Librarian's tip: "Natural Nanotechnology" begins on p. 110
The 21st Century at Work: Forces Shaping the Future Workforce and Workplace in the United States By Lynn A. Karoly; Constantijn W. A. Panis Rand, 2004
Librarian's tip: "Nanotechnology: Revolutionary Technology on the Horizon" begins on p. 96
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