Optical Science and
Technology Center

Nanotechnology and Nanoscience

Nanoscience is the study of the world on the nanometer scale, from approximately one nanometer (1x10 -9 m) to several hundred nanometers. To put this into the appropriate perspective, consider that ten hydrogen atoms lined up side by side are 1 nanometer long, that a DNA molecule is 2.5 nanometers wide or that the individual components of a computer processor are about 200 nanometers in size. Nanotechnology involves the ability to manipulate molecules and atoms to produce nanoscale materials with novel properties due to their very small size. The emerging fields of nanoscience and nanotechnology have the potential to change many aspects of our lives. The National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI)- Leading to the Next Industrial Revolution was introduced in July 2000 as part of President Clinton's FY2001 budget in an effort to support long term nanoscale research, development and education. The potential benefits of nanoscience and nanotechnology span diverse areas such as: nanoelectronics, medicine, the environment, chemical and pharmaceutical industries, agriculture, biotechnology and computation.

Nanostructures, which have one dimension in the 1-100 nm range, are formed by the assembly of nanoscale building blocks or nanoparticles. Some examples of nanostructures include self-assembled alkane thiol molecules on a gold surface, polymers, such as DNA oligonucleotides, and natural and synthetic nanoparticles assembled into thin films or coatings. Nanostructures have many applications in areas such as biological chemistry (proteins, cellular and subcellular systems), environmental chemistry (natural nanoparticles in the atmosphere, environmental catalysts) and materials chemistry (optical and electronic materials and polymers).

Many OSTC members have research interests related to different aspects of nanoscience and nanotechnology. In the broad areas of biological, environmental and materials sciences, OSTC members have diverse research interests involving nanoscience and nanotechnology. Examples of research topics in each of these areas are provided below.

Biological sciences

  • studies of protein structure and dynamics using time-resolved vibrational spectroscopy
  • optical and chemical characterization of novel cellular and sub-cellular systems
  • characterization of the nanoscale aggregation of proteins.

Environmental science

  • environmental impacts of manufactured nanoparticles
  • surface reactions on mineral dust aerosols
  • photochemistry and optical properties of nanometer-sized particles in the atmosphere
  • application of nanocrytalline zeolites in environmental catalysis

Materials science

  • synthesis of nanoscale metal-based materials polymers (conducting and photopolymers)
  • ordered nanostructures from polymer/lyotropic liquid crystals
  • patterning self-assembled monolayers on silicon(111)
  • organic semiconductor nanostructures
  • design and construction of new nanoscale assemblers based on resorcinol
  • ultrafast spectroscopy and theory of nanostructured semiconductors