Research in nanotechnology is a growth industry, with worldwide government-funded research spending running at over four billion dollars per year and growing at an annual rate of about 20% [1]. Industry is also willing to spend vast sums on investigating nanotechnology, with, for example, major cosmetics companies announcing big increases in their annual Research and Development budgets for the field. It is clear that nanotechnology is expected to have a significant impact on our lives, so what is it and what does it do? These simple direct questions, unfortunately, do not have simple direct answers, and it very much depends on who you ask. There are thousands of researchers in nanotechnology in the world, and one suspects that one would get thousands of different responses. A definition that would probably offend the smallest number of researchers is that nanotechnology is the study and the manipulation of matter at length scales of the order of a few nanometers (100 atoms or so) to produce useful materials and devices.

This still leaves a lot of room for maneuver. A nanotechnologist working on suspensions of particles might tell you that it is achieving better control of tiny particles a few nanometers across (nanoparticles) so that face creams can penetrate the epidermis (outer skin layer). A scientist working at the so-called “life sciences interface” would say that it is finding ways of attaching antibodies to magnetic nanoparticles to develop revolutionary cancer ...

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