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Nanotechnology is the understanding and control of matter at dimensions between approximately 1 and 100 nanometers.[1]


Nanotechnology research and development is directed toward the understanding and control of matter at dimensions of roughly 1 to 100 nanometers. At this size, the physical, chemical, and biological properties of materials can differ in fundamental and potentially useful ways from the properties of individual atoms and molecules, on the one hand, or bulk matter, on the other hand."[2]

The entry of nanotechnology into manufacturing has been compared to the advent of earlier technologies that have profoundly affected modern societies, such as plastics, semiconductors, and even electricity. Applications of nanotechnology promise transformative improvements in materials performance and longevity for electronics, medicine, energy, construction, machine tools, agriculture, transportation, clothing, and other areas. Many technologically sophisticated products today (for example, smartphones, tablet computers, and targeted therapeutic drugs, among many others) already benefit from nanotechnology or some innovative nano-enabled process — as do other products that are not typically conceptualized as "high tech" (such as textiles, lubricants, and athletic gear).[3]

A 2010 study estimated that values for products enabled by nanotechnology were worth about $91 billion in the United States and $254 billion worldwide in 2009.[4] Trends suggest that the number of nanotechnology products and workers employed in related fields will double every 3 years worldwide, achieving a $3 trillion market and 6 million workers by 2020.[5]

However, the path to greater benefits — whether economic, social, or environmental — from nanomanufactured goods and services is not yet clear. Although many view the United States as the world's premier nanotechnology research and development (R&D) nation, some are concerned about our national ability to efficiently and effectively capture value from our collective investments, whether through intellectual property development, licensing and commercialization, manufacturing goods at scale, or delivering new services. Moreover, concerns persist regarding the environmental, health, and safety implications of nano-engineered materials.[6]


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