Nanotechnology is a term used to refer to any form of technology that operates on the smallest of scales, from the level of atoms, molecules, or groups of molecules. The earliest use of the term nanotechnology came from science fiction, and was used specifically to refer to technological devices that allowed human beings to manipulate matter on the atomic and molecular level in order to create anything. A good example of this form of nanotechnology is the fictional devices called Fabricators on the Star Trek television show, which allowed users to simply request an item be created for them. Today, the term nanotechnology refers to a wide field of study, and has for this reason been broken down into many different subcategories. More importantly however, nanotechnology is no longer solely relegated to science fiction, but has become an accepted part of scientific fact.
The field of nanotechnology was first theorized in the late 1950s by Richard Feynmen, when he described the possible development of technology that could manipulate atoms directly in order to create large scale objects. The term ‘nanotechnology’ itself was not actually coined for another couple of decades, by the Japanese scientist Norio Taniguchi. In the 1980s, nanotechnology became something scientists across the world began to actively start to attempt to develop, but progress was slow until the dawn of the twenty first century. Governments across the globe began to allocate funds and attention toward the development of nanotechnology because it had become a goal that appeared to be feasible in the near future. As a result of this increased awareness and attention, in modern times the field has developed to a shocking degree.
Today, nanotechnology has begun to reach the vague goals first proposed by Feynmen all those years ago, and it has become possible to manipulate matter on the smallest of scales imaginable. Because it is defined only by the scale on which it operates, nanotechnology involves a huge variety of different scientific fields, including everything from organic chemistry to molecular engineering under its umbrella. The ways that nanotechnology can be used is just as widely varied, including everything from direct manipulation of atoms to the creation of unique materials structured on a molecular scale. The most well known use of nanotechnology is the emerging field of three dimensional printing. 3D printing has allowed scientists to create everything from internal organs to complex machinery, all working from the molecular scale to the macro scale.
The future of nanotechnology is something that will likely change the way that every human being lives their lives, changing the face of society as we know it. In the near future, it will allow us to do anything from improving water purification methods to manipulating DNA in living organisms. It will allow us to automate tasks on a new level, creating a possible third industrial revolution of sorts by reducing the need for human labor across the world. Nanotechnology may very well allow us to eliminate resource scarcity entirely, improving the lives of all of humanity immeasurably.