Issue 2 | June 2005


***Articles reviewed and updated in August 2014***

Dealing with things smaller than 100 nanometres (for comparison, a human hair is 80,000 nm wide), nanotechnologies are an exciting prospect. Yet while many agree they are the future, questions about safety still remain for some nanotechnologies. From nano-hype to nano-nonsense, this issue sifts sense from speculation.

Nanotechnology is a field that is advancing at a remarkable pace. This issue was first published in 2005; in 2014, all of the individual resources were reviewed and updated for accuracy and currency. Please do note, however, that the PDF of the original 2005 issue has not been updated from its original form.

Navigating the nanoworld

Introduction to nanotechnology

So what exactly is nanoscience? And why the excitement?

How new are nanotechnologies?

Nanotechnology may not be as new as you thought

Life at nanoscales

Nanoparticles might not behave how we expect them to

Viewing nature

Nanotechnology has transformed our ability to see the very small

Nanoscience potential

Inventive materials: buckyballs

Inspiration for invention can come from anywhere

Inventive materials: carbon nanotubes

Lightweight, strong and versatile, carbon nanotubes could revolutionise almost any material

Inventive materials: nanoparticles

Nanoparticles have great potential, but concern over their safety continues

Inventive materials: graphene

Even the most simple methods can produce astonishing results

Inventive materials: nanowires

Nanowires are just one of many new technologies that could revolutionise electronic devices

Inventive materials: self-assembled nanostructures

The ability of structures to self-assemble could change how we think about manufacturing

Nanobots: fact or fantasy

Emerging technologies can generate fear of the unknown among the public

Moore of the same?

Computers continue to grow more and more powerful. Can this continue forever?

Nanotechnology in medicine

The medical potential of nanotechnologies is huge

Nanotechnology detects bacteria

Nanotechnology could be used to detect the presence of bacteria

Too much information?

Nanosensors and enhanced data storage could help us keep tabs on our health status in real time. Is that always going to be a good thing?

The downside

Safety first

Nanoparticles and nanotubes might be harmful, but we don’t really know

Green or black?

Do new nanotechnologies pose a risk to our environment?

Civil liberties

Information, information everywhere: will it become even harder to keep personal information to ourselves?

Who benefits?

Will nanotechnologies lead to a nano-divide between rich and poor?

Hello, post-humans

Could nanotechnology bring humans and machines closer than ever before?

Risky business

Phone for help

In a risky world, how do we work out what’s safe?

Assessing risk

In an uncertain world, working out the risk that’s acceptable is very hard

Tibbs and the precautionary principle

When a course of action might have a potentially serious impact, one approach is to adopt the precautionary principle

Listening to the people

Should the public be involved in discussions about the risks of new technologies?

What do the public think of nano?

Questions have certainly been raised about nanotechnology, but what do the public think?

Tricky innovation

From idea to application

Will nanotechnologies take the world by storm? The road from idea to application is long and rocky

DDT: angel or devil?

What can we learn from previous cases where a technology has faced widespread public criticism?

GM: a not-so-great debate?

What can we learn from previous cases where a technology has faced widespread public criticism?

Where now for nano?

Exciting technology: light fantastic

New developments in digital display are down to nanotechnology

Exciting technology: detective agencies

A highly promising use of nanotechnologies is in diagnosis of disease

Exciting technology: great strides forward

Even some of the clothes we wear make use of nano

Exciting technology: bionano – or nanobio?

Some scientists are looking to nature for inspiration for new uses of nanotechnology

Chips with everything

Lab-on-a-chip technology could reduce a room full of equipment to the size of a microchip

Replacement parts: medical implants

Illnesses that require longer scale treatment may benefit greatly from nanotechnology


Nanoparticles can be engineered to recognise a specific disease

Real Voices Interviews

Real Voices interview: Doug Parr and Mark Welland

Meet Doug and Mark, two people for whom nanotechnology is a big part of their working lives

Activities and lesson ideas

People power

Look at both sides of the argument over the degree of public involvement in discussing how new technologies are used. What side are you on?

Fast Facts

Each issue of 'Big Picture' comes with a sprinkling of Fast Facts, fascinating snippets of information on the topic covered.

Browse through all of our Fast Facts indexed by topic