What is nanotechnology? - Introduction

Fraunhofer Nanotechnology Alliance

Materials and systems with critical dimensions below about 100 nm change their behaviour due to increasing importance of surface effects and the occurence of special optical, electrical and quantum size effects. Techniques to synthesize these systems and use to the effects in products are summarized as nanotechnology. Materials and applications of nanotechnology cover a wide range of branches like electronics and optics, biotechnology, polymers, surface refinement etc.

Material synthesis
The synthesis routes are generally divided into two groups: Top-down and bottom-up. The top-down approach starts with materials of macroscopic sizes and makes them smaller (milling or lithography). The bottom-up approach starts with atoms and molecules and uses chemical processes or self-assembling.

Figure: TiO2-nanoparticulate powders by hydrothermal synthesis (ICT)

  TiO2-nanoparticulate powders by hydrothermal synthesis (ICT)
The synthesis of nanoscaled building blocks is the first step. However, in order to create a macroscopic system or product, these building blocks have to be assembled in a reproducible way. Therefore the processing is a critical step for nanosystems. The Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft offers various techniques to generate nanosystems like bulk materials, coatings, fibers, composites etc., either by physical or chemical means.

Figure: Transparent aluminium-oxide ceramics based on nanoparticles (IKTS)

  Transparent aluminium-oxide ceramics based on nanoparticles (IKTS)
Analysis, characterisization tools and modeling
The development of nanotechnology was fostered by new analytical tools like the atomic force microscope. Due to the atomic resolution of these devices the nanoscale systems can be analyzed and even processed on an atomic scale. Ultrasonic AFM modes have been developed to image and measure local material properties. Advanced modeling tools are used in order to predict material properties in the range between atomic/molecular and macroscopic scale. Basic research is also conducted on macroscopic properties of nanostructured layer/substrates f.e. with microforce testing devices.



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