What is Nanoscience?

The basics you need to know about the tiny particles making a big impact on science.

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For anybody operating outside of the science and technology fields, nanoscience is apt to be confusing. Most basically, the term “nano” refers to the metric prefix 10-9… one billionth of something. Therefore, nanoscience is the study of structures, materials, and objects on the scale of nanometers. Essentially, anything extremely tiny is fair game.

Playing with scale

It’s easy to state that “nano” means one billionth, but it’s much more difficult to conceptualize how small this truly is. The Texas Materials Institute at the University of Texas at Austin offers some helpful examples to illustrate the actual scale of nanoscience. For instance, a single strand of DNA is about three nanometers wide. A single sheet of paper, meanwhile, is a whopping 75,000 nanometers thick.

Diverse field

Indeed, size is one of the only main criteria when it comes to what nanoscientists study. Disciplines as diverse as physics, chemistry, biology and materials science all contribute to this diverse field. On a scholarly level, the study of nanoscience helps academics with advanced applications in information storage, health, energy and computing.

On a practical level, however, its applications appear even more diverse. Everything from stain-resistant fabrics to computer computer hard drives have been impacted by breakthroughs in this field. The Texas Materials Institute predicts that the next big breakthroughs in the area will involve scaling up “from atomic assembly and individual nanodevices to macroscopic systems and structures with evolving properties and multiple functions.

Science versus technology

As previously suggested, nanoscience has a dual role in today’s world: it is both an area of academic interest, and tool which is advancing technology significantly. By and large, the academic sphere is where advancements in nanoscience are achieved, while the public and private sectors put this knowledge into practise to build new technologies. That’s why, when it comes to the realm of nano investing, you’ll often hear the word ‘nanotechnology’ rather than nanoscience. Investors who are keen on nano – but aren’t interested in getting a PhD – can support this research and innovation on the public market.

Nanoscience and health

One of its largest areas of impact in both universities and the public market is in the healthcare field. Nanosphere Inc. (NASDAQ:NSPH) offers one great example. The company is dedicated to enhancing medicine by offering targeted molecular diagnostic tests, which can benefit consumers through earlier disease detection, optimal patient treatment and better healthcare economics. The company’s platform, the Verigene Systems, relies on a proprietary gold nanoparticle chemistry.

In 2013 and 2014, the company share price lost a lot of ground and, as of 2015, things have stabilized for the company. In May 2016, investors received a boon, when share prices skyrocketed. Year to date, the company has seen 177.78 percent growth – a good outcome for any investor, particularly those in nanoscience.

Nanoscience takeaway

Of course, the healthcare field is just one area that nanoscience has benefited. Nanometrics (NASDAQ:NANO) operates in the computer arena, its systems addressing a broad range of process control requirements for applications. Year to date, the company has seen an upward share price move of 24.9 percent.

The diversity of this market makes it hard to pin down, but it also creates a wonderfully enriching opportunities for investors. Furthermore, the strong stock prices that we are seeing from nano companies suggest that the market is hungry for new nanoscience breakthroughs and tech innovations. Stay tuned here at Technology Investing News, as we delve into more details of the nanotech market over the coming weeks.

For now, feel free to read this introductory article about nanotech and this piece on nanoscience in the healthcare field. Also, learn about nanotechnology investing via real time updates, follow us twitter at @INN_Technology. 

Securities Disclosure: I, Morag McGreevey, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

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