A nanometer is a measure of length. It is a billionth of a meter which equals 10-9 m. If you want to visualize how small that is, imagine the width of a human hair and then divide it by 100,000. Nanoparticles are those particles that must have at least one dimension less than 100 nanometer.
Humans have devised technologies to arrange and attach particles up to the nanoscale. When we can manipulate the patterns of these particles, it is possible to get more efficient materials. One of the most exciting elements of operating in the nanoworld is that matter starts behaving differently at the nanoscale. The laws of quantum physics, and not classical physics, apply. This means that physical and chemical properties like color, strength, hardness, conductivity, resistance, and melting point change.
Some nanomaterials exist in nature. However, scientists are more interested in designing manmade nanomaterials that can be used for different commercial purposes. Manmade nanomaterials are called engineered nanomaterials (ENMs).
There is no single type of nanomaterial. Potentially, it is possible to create nanomaterials from minerals and almost any chemical. Each of these nanomaterials will behave differently according to their composition.
Today, nanomaterials are already being used in many commonplace products like cosmetics, sunscreens, stain-resistant clothing, electronics, tires, and sporting equipment. They are also used in medical diagnosis, environmental remediation, and imaging and drug delivery.
The small size of the particles is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the small size poses the challenge of the particles entering human body and reacting with the biological system. On the other hand, scientists’ claims of the applications of nanotechnology are very enticing. Nanotechnology will make it possible to create pharmaceuticals that can target specific organs or cells in the body such as cancer cells, and enhance the effectiveness of therapy. Nanomaterials can also be added to cement, cloth and other materials to make them stronger and yet lighter. Nanoscience has applications in electronics, and they can also be used in environmental remediation or clean-up to bind with and neutralize toxins.