Addressing Big Issues with Small (nanoscale) Systems
- What are the alternatives for electric power generation?
- How do we build a better battery?
- How can we efficiently provide clean water to areas of the world with restricted access to drinkable fresh water?
- How can nanomaterials be used to design biosensors?
Nanomaterials are materials engineered on size scales of atoms and molecules. At these small size scales, the properties of the materials can be manipulated by the way the individual atoms and molecules are arranged in the material. Certain arrangements will improve the electrical conductivity of the material, enabling the creation of more efficient energy storage and conversion devices which are important features of all renewable energy sources. Other arrangements will increase the mechanical robustness for forming nanocomposites for space applications and ability to filter toxins (bacteria) out of water for use in creating low cost easily deployable water filtration systems or provide sensitivity to biological markers which allows them to be used in the creation of biosensing devices.
The word ‘nano’ comes from the Greek word "nanos" meaning "dwarf". When used in the SI system of units as a prefix, nano- (abbreviated by the letter n) means "one billionth" or a factor of 10−9 = 0.000 000 001. One nano-meter, or 0.000 000 001 m, is on the order of the size of typical atoms. The terms nanoscience, nanotechnology, or nanomaterials refer to the study, manipulation, and engineering of matter, particles and structures on the nanometer scale of atoms and molecules. At this length scale, quantum mechanical effects become important affecting the electrical, optical, thermal, mechanical, and even biological properties of the materials.