To define nanotechnology: scientific stakes and fields?

As it is an emerging Field, there isn’t any scientific consensus on the definition of the Nano Science and Technological Field (NST for NanoSciences and NanoTechnologies): where it starts and stops? However, even if there is a controversy, several common aspects can be underlined in these definitions:
  • size of the elements (10^-9) - the nanometer
  • the fact that the emergence of this Field is based on the convergence of other fields apparently dissociated.
  • the fact that the development of the NST is leading by two main dynamics :  the miniaturization (top down) or the manipulation of atoms to shape bigger molecular complex (bottom-up).

Did you find this definition?
To be more precise, many texts show that nanosciences could be divided in several subfields. Even if these subparts are coherent and related to each others, they are characterized by specific dynamics and characteristics. Considering the description made in a study ordered by OECD (Bibliometric Indicators of Nanoscience Research (2006). NESTI. Berlin, OECD 20 p.), a bibliometric analysis demonstrates that nanotechnology should be divided in three main areas:
  • biosciences and pharma: including biology, pharmaceutical laboratories and biotechnologies (nanobiology)
  • nanomaterial and chemical synthesis: around chemistry and the nanomaterial (nanomaterial)
  • superconductivity and quantum computer: from microelectronics (nanoelectronic)
Each one of these three dimensions of the nanosciences has direct implications on the organization of the activities of research and production. We can qualify them by: a type of equipment, the utilization of the public research (the link between industry and research are present with biotechnologies but a little less with micro-electronics), or different growth rates…

In Grenoble, the model which prevails is the development of a Cluster around the micro and nano-technologies (by associating research and industry) which would be at the intersection of : software (technologies, services), biology and health (biotechnologies), energy (news technologies), and nanosciences (physics condensed matter, biology, chemistry).

The text "the control of the infinitely small " from the Council of the Science and the Technology of Quebec (June 2001, VI, 79 p.), gives us a better understanding of the genesis of the nanotechnology, by describing scientific and technical stakes, and giving us a first definition:
"The term "nanotechnology" was used for the first time in 1974 by Norio Tanigushi. However, it was popularized by K. Éric Drexler in the years 1980, when this scientist introduced researches in "molecular manufacture". Richard Feynman was the first scientist to advance the idea that it would be soon possible for the humanity to make researches at the atomic level. In a famous speech, pronounced in December 1959 in front of the American Physical Society, he considered the possibility to put all the contents of the Britannica encyclopaedia in the head of a pin by reorganizing the matter atom by atom (2)."
2. The text is available in the speech "There' S Plenty of Room At the Bottom ".


Keywords : Définition, définir, nanotechnologies, nanosciences, enjeux, miniaturisation, nanotechnologie, industrielles, scientifiques, applications, intersection, nanosciences, NST

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