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National Nanotechnology Day: Celebrating the Science of Extremely Small Things Used in Many Critical Applications

National Nanotechnology Day provides a wonderful opportunity to raise awareness about a tiny science that enables incredible scientific advances that enrich our daily lives.

What is nanotechnology, and how small is it? Nanotechology is the study and manipulation of matter at incredibly small sizes. “Nano” means a billionth of a meter. To put that in perspective, the tip of a ballpoint pen is about 1 million nanometers wide. Hence, a nanometer is much smaller than the human eye can see.

Why is nanotechnology important? Using nanotechnology, scientists and engineers can create new materials, products and devices, and technical advances that yield life-changing results. This amazingly tiny science is at the forefront of some extraordinary innovations in healthcare, technology, and building and construction.

Here are a few ways nanotechnology is changing our world in 2019:

  • Helping to prevent mosquito bites: Diseases transmitted by mosquitos — malaria, dengue fever, zika, and others — are responsible for millions of deaths around the world every year. Brown University researchers have shown that lining fabric with the extremely strong nanomaterial graphene can block the signals mosquitos use to identify a blood meal, potentially enabling a new approach to helping to prevent mosquito bites.  
  • Locating cancerous tissue during surgery:  Cancer treatment can have enormous physical, emotional, and financial consequences for patients and their families. Medical researchers are using nanotechnology to develop more targeted, less invasive tools for cancer detection and treatment. As one example, researchers from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have developed a medical tagging substance made of clusters of nanosized silver plates, each about 10,000 times thinner than a human hair. The nano-tags bind to cancerous cells, differentiating them from health cells. The hope is that the nano-tags will allow cancer surgeons to remove tumor tissue more efficiently and help doctors prescribe doses of anti-cancer medicines more precisely.
  • Clean water: The United Nations estimates that more than 800 million people lack access to clean water. Australian researchers at RMIT University and University of New South Wales have designed a rapid nano-filter that they claim can clean dirty water over 100 times faster than current technology. The filter has been shown to remove lead and oil from water and has the potential to target other common contaminants.

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 100 Billion Nanometer Dash (equal to 100 meters) and a series of podcasts featuring stories from the National Nanotechnology Initiative. A full list of events can be found on the official NNI website and on the organization’s 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. You can also follow @AmChemistry on Twitter during our official nanotechnology Twitter takeover and retweet our facts and graphics on nanotechnology.

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