What is Nanotechnology?
To explain Nanotechnology we have to start at the size we are talking about.
We all know by now that Nano is a Greek word and means dwarf. It does not mean we are dealing with dwarfs but it became a common word for everything which is smaller than 1 Micron or 1 millions of a millimeter. 1 Micron is 1000 Nanometer.
"A human hair is about 50,000 - 100,000 nanometers across."
If a nanometer were somehow magnified to appear as long as the nose on our face, then a red blood cell would appear the size of the Empire State Building, a human hair would be about 20 kilometers wide, one of your fingers would span the continental United States, and a normal person would be about as tall as six or seven planet Earths piled on top of one another. Pretty small things in fact. Big Thinks from Tiny World (PDF)
Nature made nano materials a long time before mankind started making them on purpose. There are lots of natural sources of nano materials. They are all around us. Enzymes and viruses are all in the nanosphere.
There are natural and anthropogenic processes that release nanoparticles into the atmosphere. Natural sources include volcanic activity, natural fires, chemical reactions in the atmosphere, or sea spray leading to salt particles.
To transform these Nanoparticles into useful products, Nanotechnology companies are looking at Mother Nature.
Copying the ideas of others is usually frowned upon, but when it comes to the work of Mother Nature, scientists are finding they can use nature as a template.
Nature is skilled at fabricating organic structures at the nano scale. The best and most known example of a self cleaning surface is the so-called Lotus-Effect.
Lotus leaves in particular have the unique ability to avoid getting dirty.
(Discovered by Botanists Wilhelm Barthlott and Christoph Neinhuis from the University of Bonn in Germany)
Lotus blossoms (the easiest to clean) are coated with tiny hydrophobic particles. When water contacts these particles, it does not wet the leaves. Instead, it simply rolls off, taking with it any dirt in its path.
To transfer the Lotus-Effect into coatings, it is necessary to create a hydrophobic surface with very low surface tension, along with the appropriate nano-structure.
The nano particles have self-assembly properties. The particles self-assemble into a very tiny nanoscopic mesh which covers the surface of the substrate. Due to the technology, it is possible to create mono layer treatments only one nanoparticle thick!
Utilizing this technology, it is possible to create products and substrate properties with new and unseen smart surfaces.