School of Life Sciences | Ask A Biologist

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Nanotechnology

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  • Molecule: a chemical structure that has two or more atoms held together by a chemical bond. Water is a molecule of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom (H2O)... more
  • Nanomedicine: medical use of tools built out of atoms and molecules to diagnose and treat diseases and injuries... more
  • Nanometer: one-billionth of a meter.
  • Nanotechnology: technology that works on a very small scale, with atoms and molecules... more

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What is nanotechnology?

nanotechIt’s time to think small. I mean really, really, really small. A nanometer is one-billionth of a meter. Structures of that size are much too small to see, even with a powerful laboratory microscope. But what if doctors had ultra-tiny tools they could use to repair parts of broken cells? Or what if they could insert pumps the size of molecules into sick people to deliver medicine only in the spots it was most needed?

These ideas are not science fiction. Welcome to the world of nanotechnology and nanomedicine. In this world, scientists are creating and using materials and devices the size of atoms and molecules. Engineers are already working to create miniature computers made out of DNA, the material that codes all life on Earth. Others are creating tiny semiconductor chips made out of strings of individual molecules.

Scientists want to better understand how the body’s own molecular machines work when we are healthy. Once that understanding is strong enough, doctors will put nanomedical tools and techniques to work to help repair damaged cells and cure sick cells in our body when we are ill. The work continues to advance. Scientists are learning more each day.

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Additional images from Wikimedia via William Thielicke (CG droplets).

Nanotechnology

Nanotechnology would allow for medicine to be more effectively delivered to the right cells.

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Nanotechnology

Nanotechnology would allow for medicine to be more effectively delivered to the right cells.

book icon” title=“book icon Microbes

Story Behind the Scenes

 

For Teachers

Download comic as PDF packet
or
Get a MagCloud version for print or iPad

Share to Google Classroom

Be part of Ask A Biologist

by volunteering, or simply sending us feedback on the site. Scientists, teachers, writers, illustrators, and translators are all important to the program. If you are interested in helping with the website we have a Volunteer page to get the process started.