A list of common acronyms used in nanotechnology may be found here.

If we are defining this class of entries in the wikibook as "definitions", we probably should define it or at least state that we are not going to define "definition". Fortunately, wikis are open-ended, so all definitions are provisional. Given that the set of all definitions of "definition" is itself unknown, there is nonetheless probably a subset of definitions we could define as "useful for a wikibook."

For our purposes in this wikibook, the goal is not to arrive at the correct, definitive definition - how could this work in a transformational field? The lexicon of nanotechnology must both cohere sufficiently to enable reasonably effective communication about results, and must also develop dynamically to capture new aspects and understandings of results. Hence in this wikibook, a good definition is an informed definition. Part of being informed about nanotechnology is knowing that it means many different things!

A persistent vagueness in nanotechnological discourse may be an ironic symptom of its rapid development. The set of definitions useful to understanding the social implications of nanotechnology need not be limited to correct usage. Even the social implications of non-existent nanotechnologies, as in nano hype below, become interesting signs of nanotechnology's effect as a "meme.". The semantic field of a concept like nanotechnology is as interesting for the range of meanings it can take on as it is for its literal content - this semantic field is some of our most accessible data on the effects of nanotechnology on our behavior - in this case, the use of language.



Autogeny is the spontaneous generation of an organism in an inorganic medium [1]. In the scientific world, autogeny means the generation of a field of science or an area of work that is born of itself. It is designed not to further other technology but exists for only itself. The example given by writer Josh Hall is artificial intelligence which initially was researched to create a computer entity that learned. Without application AI research was only done to further AI rather than create applications.

Chemical vapor deposition (CVD)


Chemical vapor deposition is the process of producing a microscopic solid-material structure through chemically reacting vapor- or gas-phase reactants on a heated surface. Many of today's most important and most common technologies make use of very thin films of electrically active materials. Chemical vapor deposition (CVD) is a widely used manufacturing technique for products such as electric circuits and processors.

Susan Krumdieck, "Chemical vapor deposition", in AccessScience@McGraw-Hill,, DOI 10.1036/1097-8542.800560

Disruptive Technology


Disruptive technology and disruptive innovation are terms used in business and technology literature to describe innovations that improve a product or service in ways that the market does not expect, typically by being lower priced or designed for a different set of consumers.

Disruptive innovations can be broadly classified into low-end and new-market disruptive innovations. A new-market disruptive innovation is often aimed at non-consumption (i.e., consumers who would not have used the products already on the market), whereas a lower-end disruptive innovation is aimed at mainstream customers for whom price is more important than quality.

Disruptive technologies are particularly threatening to the leaders of an existing market, because they are competition coming from an unexpected direction. A disruptive technology can come to dominate an existing market by either filling a role in a new market that the older technology could not fill (as cheaper, lower capacity but smaller-sized flash memory is doing for personal data storage in the 2000s) or by successively moving up-market through performance improvements until finally displacing the market incumbents (as digital photography has largely replaced film photography).



This is a process where a large voltage(10kV-30kV) is applied to a viscous polymer solution situated in a glass pipette. The high voltage forces the solution out of the pipette into what is called a Taylor cone. This phenomenon is called "whipping" and this stretches the liquid into a fiber and continues to stretch until the diameter of the fiber reaches the micro and nanometer range. The fibers are then collected on a grounded plate.



According to the Oxford English Dictionary, "ethics" is defined as the "moral principles that control or influence a person's behavior." An "ethic" can be understood as the systems and principles by which we live our everyday lives. The German Philosopher Immanuel Kant's Categorical Imperative suggests that we can tell if something is ethical by asking themselves "If everyone acted in this way, how would the world be affected?" Arguably, ethics undergirds cultural ettiquette and respect in different cultures. There are many types of ethical issues. It can be useful to divide ethical questions into types.

  • Moral Issues: Issues that are resolved using moral principles. "What ought to be" or "how to be"
  • Factual Issues: When more data is needed to determine the issue's ethics. "I shot the Sheriff, but I did not shoot the deputy."
  • Application Issues: When it is unclear how to apply key concepts "What does it mean to be human as an upload?"

Note that all four types focus share the attribute of finitude - they work at a limit - an unknown. Ethical thinking informed by the work of phenomenologist Emmanuel Levinas would suggest that ethics emerges out of this experience of finitude and our sense of obligation to others. Levinas's investigation suggests that there can be no "code" of ethics, therefore, since it is founded on the unknowable mystery of other ways of beings and living, ways crowded out by our own experiences.

One meaning - there are many! - we might agree to try out for "ethics" is that it involves trying collectively to find the best way through competing interests given uncertain and unknown factors. Becoming comfortable with the unknown is an old skill for developmental and evolutionary creatures like ourselves. Onward, Homo Experimentalis! Let's get experimenting with the "ethics definition" of our ever evolving wiki book.

Lab on a Chip (LOCs)


A smaller version of a laboratory procedure, or a combination of several processes. For example, most microfludic devices are embedded into LOCs used in particle filtration. May also be combined with MEMS or NEMS.



Lithography is a general term that literally means "rock writing". It is important to recall that nanotechnology is often essentially a kind of writing. Lithography refers to a method of printing by which a smooth surface is altered to either allow or disallow the desired "ink". Putting down a single layer or film of a desired material is much like the ink and as a result, lithography is a common word found in several thin film fabrication methods. Photo-lithography is one method of growing films layer by layer and usually involves a photo-lithographic mask which is used to pattern a film and allow for specific geometries to be removed and others preserved after etching. A Stepper is now used for photo-lithography to create smaller images. The large mask called a reticle has light shown through it in a similar fashion to regular photo-lightography, but after the light leaves the mask it passes through a series of lenses to shrink the pattern. This small pattern is then repeated over the entire wafer in chip manufacturing. This allows for large designs to be made smaller.



Micro-electromechanical systems and Nano-electromechanical systems. Also referred to as Micromachines, MEMS and NEMS combine many aspects of nano-technology into one device. With a very small Surface to Volume ratio, many principals of physics are not applicable at these scales. Devices are effecting fields that range from plasmonics to micro-fluidic, and optoelectronics to optofluidics. Oftentimes, NEMS/MEMS involves shrinking macro-scale devices to a nano-scale, such as nanomotors and nanovalves. In fluidics, inventive flow control allows for creating laminar flows with layered substances, or even using fluids to focus or direct light. One of the future goals of MEMS and NEMS devices is the concept of Lab on Chip.



Metamaterials are artificial materials engineered to provide properties which "may not be readily available in nature".[1] These materials usually gain their properties from structure rather than composition, using the inclusion of small inhomogeneities to enact effective macroscopic behavior.[1][2]

The primary research in metamaterials investigates materials with negative refractive index[3][4][5] Negative refractive index materials appear to permit the creation of 'superlenses' which can have a spatial resolution below that of the wavelength, and a form of 'invisibility' has been demonstrated at least over a narrow wave band. Although the first metamaterials were electromagnetic,[3] acoustic[6] and seismic metamaterials[7] are also areas of active research.

Potential applications of metamaterials are diverse[8] and include remote aerospace applications, sensor detection[9] and infrastructure monitoring, smart solar power management, public safety,[9] radomes,[10] high-frequency battlefield communication and lenses for high-gain antennas,[8] improving ultrasonic sensors and even shielding structures from earthquakes.[7]

The research in metamaterials is interdisciplinary and involves such fields as electrical engineering, electromagnetics, solid state physics, microwave and antennae engineering, optoelectronics, classic optics, material sciences, semiconductor engineering, nanoscience and others.



'Nanotechnology is composed of the prefix nano and the root word technology. The English prefix nano is derived from the latin word nanus, meaning dwarf. Nanus is a later form of the Greek term nanos, which has a similar meaning. The English root word technology is derived from the Greek word technologia. The Greek prefix techno is derived from the Greek word techne, meaning an art, trade, or skill. The Greek suffix logia can be translated as a contribution. Logia comes from the classical Greek term logos, which represents ultimate reasoning from within the universe, roughly meaning both "speech" and "reason", an order immanent to the cosmos.

  • the study of the control, or the purposeful manipulation, of matter on an atomic and molecular scale, generally describing structures of the size 100 nanometers or smaller,

Many scientists include structures ranging from 1 nano-meter up to and including 999 nano-meters as nanotechnology

  • The first issue of Nature Nanotechnology in 2006 had an introductory article titled:"nan'o - tech - tnol'o - gy n." This issue talks about the definition of nanotechnology. They say that nano deals with anything smaller than 100nm and usually a comparison is made with the human hair which is 80,000nm thick. The bulk of this article consists of interviews with scientist giving their own unique definition of nanotechnology.

Google Trend data suggests that queries about "nanotechnology" have actually gone down since 2004. Note too that at last edit, the dominant language for queries about nanotechnology was Korean. Learn more about Google Trend data



Nano-composites are composites with nanoparticles mixed into a matrix. The matrix must consist of a different type of material than the particulates. Common Nano-composites consist of a polymer matrix with ceramic nanoparticles. The particulates added have a higher modulus than the matrix material. These particles cause an increase in strength of the overall composite.



This is another term that is surfacing recently. "Nano-enabled" is used to refer to devices or systems that utilize some aspect of nanotechnology to enhance their function. Products that act solely on the macroscale but have some enhancement due to nanotechnology are sold as being nano-enabled. The term has also been used to describe the future of nanotechnology and how it might change our lives: In a nano-enabled world...

  • Example:

Fabrication of precisely ordered nanoscale structures is essential for nanotechnology.Article



A word coined to label some aspect of nanotechnology. See also "acronyms" in nanotechnology.



A particle less than 100 nm in diameter. The properties of nanoparticles are different than bulk amounts of the same material due to the quantum confinement of electrons. Semiconductor nanoparticles and called quantum dots. Wikipedia on Nanoparticles

A particle passing through a magnetic field of 1 tesla at 1 meter per second carrying a charge of 1 coulomb experiences a force of 1 newton, according to the Lorentz Force Law. As an SI derived unit, the tesla can also be expressed as:

(In SI base units)

Units used:



The Greek prefix ὄν means of being, or to quote Shakespeare "to be". And the suffix λογικός has to do with logic, the sciences or study. So it literally translates to "having to do with the study of being".

See Martin Heidegger, "The Question Concerning Technology"

Ontological Technology


Bioethical discussions of human cloning have focused on the ontological effects of cloning, suggesting that human cloning would somehow alter our nature or "being" as a species. Implicit to this argument is the idea that at some threshold, a transformation or "enhancement" ceases to be a change in degree and becomes a change in kind. So, for example, few would object to the ontological challenge to human beings posed by the use of corrective lenses, but many would likely wonder if transforming my entire epidermis into a field of infrared eyes through subcutaneous nano sensors would leave me human. Some implicit and perhaps actual threshold of change in human attributes are perceived by different participants as "critical" to humanity. Needless to say, the location of this critical threshold has altered historically and culturally, as humans with different phenotypic characteristics have been dubbed "human" - itself a relatively recent locution - at different historical occasions and locations, as in the history of slavery in the United States. Discussions of animal chimera, for example, ponder the ontological implications of being a "geep", a chimera organism of goat and sheep.

Open Source


Open source is an approach to the design, development, and distribution of software, offering practical accessibility to a software's source code. The principles and practices are commonly applied to the peer production development of source code for software that is made available for public collaboration. The result of this peer-based collaboration is usually released as open-source software, however, open source methods are increasingly being applied in other fields of endeavor, such as biotechnology.



The study of plasmons. In physics, a plasmon is a quantum of plasma oscillation. The plasmon is the quasiparticle resulting from the quantization of plasma oscillations just as photons and phonons are quantizations of light and sound waves, respectively. Thus, plasmons are collective oscillations of the free electron gas density, often at optical frequencies. They can also couple with a photon to create a third quasiparticle called a plasma polariton.

Since plasmons are the quantization of classical plasma oscillations, most of their properties can be derived directly from Maxwell's equations.

"The Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies was established in April 2005 as a partnership between the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and the Pew Charitable Trusts. The Project is dedicated to helping ensure that as nanotechnologies advance, possible risks are minimized, public and consumer engagement remains strong, and the potential benefits of these new technologies are realized" (PEN Mission Page). PEN serves as a publicly-visible monitor and forecaster over the nanotechnology industry, working with various government and private entities to help regulate nanotechnology, create public policy, engage public discourse, and keep everyone informed.

Quantum Dot


This term generally refers to any semiconductor particle of the nanometer scale that experiences effects due to quantum confinement of excitons. Usually this term is used, rather than nanoparticle, when talking about semiconductor nanoparticles. Wikipedia on Quantum Dots

Rhetorical Analysis




A stochastic process is one whose behavior is non-Deterministic in that a system's subsequent state is determined both by the process's predictable actions and by a random element.

In biological systems, introducing stochastic 'noise' has been found to help improve the signal strength of the internal feedback loops for balance and other vestibular communication. It has been found to help diabetic and stroke patients with balance control.[11]

See wikipedia entry on stochastic for more depth and diversity of meanings from different disciplines. For thinking about the implications of nanotechnology and other emerging technologies, stochastic systems are probably better models than deterministic systems.


The simplest tensegrity structure. Each of three compression members is symmetric with the other two, and symmetric from end to end. Each end is connected to three cables which provide compression and which precisely define the position of that end in the same way as the three cables in the Skylon tower define the bottom end of that pillar.

Tensegrity structures are structures based on the combination of a few simple but subtle and deep design patterns:

  • loading members only in pure compression or pure tension, meaning the structure will only fail if the cables yield or the rods buckle (the rods would have to be an exceptionally weak material with a very large diameter to yield before they buckle or the cables yield)
  • preload, which allows cables to be rigid in compression
  • minimal overconstraint which reduces stress localization
  • mechanical stability, which allows the members to remain in tension/compression as stress on the structure increases

Because of these patterns, no members experience a bending moment. This produces exceptionally rigid structures for their mass and for their cross section.

A conceptual building block of tensegrity is seen in the 1951 Skylon tower. The long tower is held in place at one end by only three cables. At the bottom end, exactly three cables are needed to fully determine the position of the bottom end of the spire so long as the spire is loaded in compression. Two cables would be unstable, like a person on a slackrope; one cable is just the limit case of two cables when the two cables are anchored in the same place.

The concept has applications in biology. Biological structures such as muscles and bones, or rigid and elastic cell membranes, are made strong by the unison of tensioned and compressed parts. The muscular-skeletal system is a synergy of muscle and bone, the muscle provides continuous pull, the bones discontinuous push.

Tensegrity in molecular biology has been developed by Donald Ingber.[12]

Thin Film


Thin films are thin material layers ranging from fractions of a nanometer to several micrometers in thickness. Electronic semiconductor devices and optical coatings are the main applications benefiting from thin film construction.

"Thin film."Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 16 Apr 2009, 06:51 UTC. 21 Apr 2009 <http://en.wikipedia.or /w/index.php?title=Thin_filmoldid=284160839>.

Top Down and Bottom Up Nano-Fabrication


Top down nano-fabrication involveThe matrix must consist s building or organizing molecules layer by layer. Bottom up nano-fabrication is the opposite of building upwards layer by layer. In this method, a large (relatively speaking) film is etched or cut in such a way that the desired geometry is formed.



A term used by Julian Huxley in 1957, he defines it as "man remaining man, but trans­cending himself, by realizing new possibilities of and for his human nature." [2]


  1. a b Nader, Engheta (2006-06). Metamaterials: physics and engineering explorations. Wiley & Sons. pp. xv, 3–30, 37, 215–233, 240, 241. ISBN 9780471761020. {{cite book}}: Check date values in: |date= (help); Unknown parameter |coauthors= ignored (|author= suggested) (help)
  2. Smith, David R. (2006-06-10). "What are Electromagnetic Metamaterials?". Novel Electromagnetic Materials. The research group of D.R. Smith. Retrieved 2009-08-19.
  3. a b Shelby, R. A.; Smith, DR; Schultz, S (2001). "Experimental Verification of a Negative Index of Refraction". Science. 292 (5514): 77. doi:10.1126/science.1058847. PMID 11292865. {{cite journal}}: More than one of |first1= and |first= specified (help); More than one of |last1= and |last= specified (help); Unknown parameter |coauthors= ignored (|author= suggested) (help)
  4. Pendry, John B. (2004). "Negative Refraction" (PDF). Contemporary Physics. Princeton University Press. 45 (3): 191–202. doi:10.1080/00107510410001667434. ISBN 0691123470. Retrieved 2009-08-26.
  5. Veselago, V. G. (1968). "The electrodynamics of substances with simultaneously negative values of [permittivity] and [permeability]". Soviet Physics Uspekhi. 10 (4): 509–514. doi:10.1070/PU1968v010n04ABEH003699.
  6. Guenneau, Sébastien (2007). "Acoustic metamaterials for sound focusing and confinement". New Journal of Physics (free download pdf). 9 (399): 1367–2630. doi:10.1088/1367-2630/9/11/399. {{cite journal}}: |format= requires |url= (help); Unknown parameter |coauthors= ignored (|author= suggested) (help)
  7. a b Brun, M. (2009-02-09). "Achieving control of in-plane elastic waves" (PDF). Appl. Phys. Lett. 94 (061903): 1–7. doi:10.1063/1.3068491+accessdate+=2009-09-09. {{cite journal}}: Unknown parameter |coauthors= ignored (|author= suggested) (help)
  8. a b Smith, David R; Research group (2005-01-16). "Novel Electromagnetic Materials program". Retrieved 2009-08-17.
  9. a b Rainsford, Tamath J. (9 March 2005). "T-ray sensing applications: review of global developments". Proc. SPIE. Conference Location: Sydney, Australia 2004-12-13: The International Society for Optical Engineering. 5649 Smart Structures, Devices, and Systems II (Poster session): 826. doi:10.1117/12.607746. {{cite journal}}: More than one of |pages= and |page= specified (help); Unknown parameter |coauthors= ignored (|author= suggested) (help)CS1 maint: date and year (link) CS1 maint: location (link)
  10. Cotton, Micheal G. (2003-12). "Applied Electromagnetics" (PDF). 2003 Technical Progress Report (NITA – ITS). Boulder, CO, USA: NITA – Institute for Telecommunication Sciences. Telecommunications Theory (3): 4–5. Retrieved 2009-09-14. {{cite journal}}: Check date values in: |date= (help)
  11. Priplata A. et al. Noise-Enhanced Balance Control in Patients with Diabetes and Patients with Stroke. Ann Neurol 2006;59:4–12. PMID 16287079.
  12. Donald E. Ingber, “The Architecture of Life”, Scientific American Magazine, January 1998.