National Nanotechnology Day: Celebrating the possibilities of the small

NanotechIt’s National Nanotechnology Day! A day for raising awareness of nanotechnology and celebrating the science of the small.

What is nanotechnology and how small is it? Nanotechnology involves the use of incredibly small pieces of matter. How small? “Nano” means a billionth of a meter. To put that in perspective, an average human hair is about 80,000 nanometers wide. Therefore, a nanometer is tiny, and much smaller than the human eye can see. And yes, while nanotechnology is incredibly small in scale, that doesn’t make it unimportant, even if you haven’t dusted off a chemistry textbook recently!

Nanotechnology is used across all scientific fields, including chemistry, biology, physics, materials science and engineering, and it is at the forefront of some incredible discoveries and technological advances.

Here are a few ways nanotechnology is changing our world in 2017:

  • Helping to heal spinal cord injuries: Researchers at Northwestern University have demonstrated that injection of a biodegradable nanoparticle into the bloodstream of mice can prevent the damage caused by inflammation and scarring following an initial spinal cord injury. According to the researchers, “these findings suggest that the nanoparticles potentially offer a practical treatment for human spinal cord injury.
  • Delivering fresh air: Researchers from National University of Singapore have successfully concocted a novel nanofiber solution that creates thin, see-through air filters that can remove up to 90 per cent of PM2.5 particles and may be able to achieve high air flow 2.5 times that of conventional air filters.
  • Treating cancer: MIT engineers have developed a more sensitive way to reveal cancerous ovarian tumors than previously used methods. The engineers created a new test which makes use of a “synthetic biomarker” — a nanoparticle that interacts with tumor proteins—to release fragments that can be detected in a patient’s urine sample.
  • Water clean-up: Thanks to the application of nanotechnology, a team of researchers from the University of Minnesota developed a sponge with mercury adsorption properties. The sponge can remove mercury contamination from tap, lake and industrial wastewater to below detectable limits.
  • Tackling electronic waste (e-waste): Nanjing University researchers have modified a degradable bioplastic derived from corn starch and other natural sources with metal-organic framework nanoparticles for use in creating degradable electronic components.

Looking for more ways to celebrate nanotechnology?

The National Nanotechnology Initiative plays a critical role in coordinating research, investments and education efforts across the federal government. To celebrate National Nanotechnology Day, the National Nanotechnology Initiative and several schools, labs and organizations nationwide will be holding events to commemorate the date, including a challenge to run a #100BillionNanometers (equal to 100 meters) and a series of podcasts featuring stories from the National Nanotechnology Initiative. A full list of events for the date and updates can be found on the official NNI website and on their twitter page, @NNInanonews.

Alongside these efforts, the American Chemistry Council’s (ACC) Nanotechnology Panel is at the forefront of guiding the responsible development of nanotechnologies domestically and internationally and providing a scientifically sound approach to nanotechnology policy.

To learn more about the Nanotechnology Panel or to inquire about joining the panel, contact Jay West at jay_west@americanchemistry.com.

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