By Earl Boysen, Nancy C. Muir, Desiree Dudley, Christine Peterson

Part of Nanotechnology For Dummies Cheat Sheet

The field of nanotechnology has produced lots of terms. Some describe nanotechnology applications, others are the names of various types of nano-sized materials, and still others describe processes that involve the use of nanotechnology or nanomaterials. Here’s a list of nanotechnology definitions that will help you become nano-savvy.

Nanocatalyst: Nanoparticles of a substance, such as platinum, that reduce the temperature at which various chemical reactions occur.

Nanocomposite: A matrix to which nanoparticles have been added to improve a particular property of the material, such as strength.

Nanoelectromechanical systems (NEMS): Devices that integrate nanoscale mechanical and electrical components into a single component. NEMS are generally built on semiconductor wafers using integrated circuit manufacturing techniques.

Nanoelectronics: Electronic devices containing components such as sensors or transistors that have features less than 100 nanometers in size.

Nanoengineering: The study and practice of engineering at the nanoscale.

Nanolithography: The practice of printing nanoscale patterns on a surface.

Nanomaterials: Materials with one or more dimensions measuring less than 100 nanometers.

Nanomedicine: The use of nanotechnology for diagnosing, treating, and preventing disease.

Nanometer: A measurement equal to 10-9 meter, or 1 billionth of a meter. Approximately 800 100-nanometer particles placed side by side would match the width of a human hair.

Nanoparticle: Particles ranging from 1 to 100 nanometers in diameter.

Nanopores: Holes in a membrane or solid less than 100 nanometers in size.

Nanorobot: Robots approximately the size of the cells in our bodies that have a propulsion system, sensors, manipulators, and possibly an on-board computer that can perform tasks on nanoscale objects.

Nanorod: A nanoscale object in which all dimensions are between 1 and 100 nanometers in size with the length typically three to five times the diameter. Nanorods are typically synthesized from metal or semiconducting materials.

Nanosensor: Sensors that use nanoscale materials to detect biological or chemical molecules.

Nanoshells: Nanoparticles consisting of a gold coating over a silica core. Nanoshells can convert infrared light into heat to destroy cancer cells.

Nanotechnology: The study and use of structures between 1 nanometer and 100 nanometers in size.

Nanotube: Molecules composed of carbon atoms arranged on the surface of a cylindrical shape in a pattern of hexagons as seen in buckyballs.

Nanowire: A wire of any length with a diameter of less than 100 nm.