Nanoscale arrangement: Sulfur atoms form "dancing triangles" on copper

[Image above] Nanoscale arrangement of triangles of sulfur atoms on copper. Credit: Brookhaven National Lab; Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Nanotechnology, while a seemingly futurist topic, is nothing new.

Famed physicist Richard Feynman talked about nanotechnology—although it didn’t yet have that name—all the way back in 1959.

Since then, advances in instruments and techniques have opened new doors to nanomaterials, allowing up-close examinations of what happens in the world of an incredibly small scale.

According to the National Nanotechnology Initiative, “Nanotechnology is not simply working at ever smaller dimensions; rather, working at the nanoscale enables scientists to utilize the unique physical, chemical, mechanical, and optical properties of materials that naturally occur at that scale.”

A new six-part series created by NSF and NBC Learn, called “Nanotechnology: Super small science,” is exploring just how nanotechnology affects our world and tomorrow’s technology.

“We’re proud to launch an original series that shows viewers how scientists and engineers manipulate material only billionths of a meter in size, and the powerful impact that can have on the world around them,” Soraya Gage, vice president and general manager of NBC Learn, says in an NSF press release. “Through our partnership with the National Science Foundation, we’re using our digital platform and journalistic expertise to explore how nanotechnology advances innovation in fields such as medicine, energy and electronics.”

In the series’ first video, ACerS member Dawn Bonnell, materials science and engineering professor and vice provost for research at the University of Pennsylvania, discusses the how and why of nanotechnology—how studying the surface of nanomaterials can solve problems and improve quality of life.

Head over to NSF to watch the video here.