Editorial Feature

The History of Nanotechnology Developments

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Since the late 1950s and following a significant speech by the physicist and Nobel laureate Richard Feynman in 1959, it has been postulated that individual atoms and molecules can be manipulated. This theory turned into a thought-provoking vision after the publication of K. Eric Drexler’s Engines of Creation, the Coming Age of Nanotechnology in 1990.

The fact is that a few applications of nanotechnology date back to the early Roman era. The Lycurgus Cup is one such example, where gold nanoparticles found in the glass cause this antique object to change color upon exposure to light at different angles.

However, it is indeed only in the last twenty years that equipment has become available to enable studies to be carried out at the nanoscale. With the progress of highly powered microscopes and an ever-increasing understanding of the physical interactions of atoms and molecules, the concept of nanotechnology has turned out to be a material reality. The progress of microscopes span from transmission electron microscope and the scanning electron microscope, and later the atomic force microscope and the scanning tunneling microscope.

Another crucial development has been in the area of high-powered computer processing and virtual reality. The ability to mimic nanoscale transactions has largely helped in knowledge sharing and prioritization of efforts in a new scientific domain, where the possibilities are apparently infinite.

What is the Present-Day Status of Nanotechnology Around the World?

Nanotechnology applications have become a reality today. For more than 10 years, American car manufacturers have been applying nanotubes to enhance the safety of fuel-lines in passenger vehicles. Moreover, the electronics industry has relied on nanotubes for its packaging material to protect goods in a better way and to help in the removal of any electrical charges before they can grow to disruptive levels.

Japan, Taiwan, Korea, and European nations, including the Netherlands and Scotland, have also played significant roles in the progress of nanotechnology capabilities—and international attention gained by this technology still continues.

The possibility for more broad-based applications of nanotechnology will arise from proper insights into how particles work on a nanoscale, and how biological and non-biological particles can be combined. R&D continues in these fields and several others.


There is more to learn to fully understand the workings and possible applications of the arrangement of atoms. As is the know how to make these processes profitable, scalable, and standardized (and thus able to yield consistent and predictable outputs).

Annually, nearly US$2 billion is being invested in the advancement of nanotechnology globally, with approximately 40% invested in the United States alone. Japan is a key contributor, as are the European Governments, and leading industrial economies like Singapore, China, and Taiwan.

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