The term “nanotechologies” includes both objects (nanostructures, nanosensors, etc.) and manufacturing technologies such as nanoinstruments. With nanotechnologies, science makes the leap from Newtonian physics, which describes mainly the macroscopic world (visible to the naked eye), to quantum physics, which deals with the nanoworld: atoms and particles.
Nanometres and the nanometre scale
The prefix “nano” derives from the Greek nanos for “small”. Very small, in fact: a nanometre (nm) is one billionth of a meter. The nanoworld encompasses objects of 100 nm and under. The nanometre is the unit of length used to describe the size of molecules, while atoms are measured in tenths of nanometres (angstroms). To illustrate, one nanometre is about 1/30,000 the thickness of a hair. A grain of pollen measures about 5,000 nm, and a red blood cell 2,000 to 5,000 nm.
Le Monde diplomatique