Nano What?

The terms “nanoscience” and “nanotechnology” are well defined, at least in the scientific community. We just have to Google one of those two terms and a torrent of definitions will appear on the search results page. Some are presented with more accuracy; some not so well defined.

The pace of development of science and technology as well as scientific and technological innovations is becoming faster every day. The velocity of development of nanoscience and nanotechnology are no exceptions.

Consequently, the daily amount of news published about nanoscience and nanotechnology also increases every day. It is very common to read news referring to an achievement in nanotechnology, when in reality the achievement belongs to nanoscience. It is also very common to read news about nanotechnology achievements, when the work was developed in the field of materials science. Also very common is to find news about nanotechnology achievements, when the work was developed at the sub-micron scale or even at microscale.

This raises an interesting question: Are nanoscience, nanotechnology, sub-micron science, sub-micron technology, microscience, microtechnology and materials science fields of science and technology delimited by rigid conceptual borders?

No, in my personal opinion. Accurate definitions of each of those scientific and technological fields are extremely useful. Those definitions are like a reference or the North of a compass. However, to force those fields to de constrained by artificial borders of conceptual nature will constrain the development of those scientific and technological fields. We must perceive them as clouds that overlap partially in the same way clouds of probabilistic density of electron of atoms overlap partially with other clouds on the same molecule.

To illustrate this idea, I can mention just one of many examples: in the vast and diversified world of nanotechnology, there are many specific fields. One of them is nanotechnology in drug delivery. Nanotechnology in drug delivery is a multidisciplinary field that interacts with several disciplines such as pharmaceutical science, polymer chemistry, biochemistry, biophysics, molecular biology, biotechnology and bioengineering (just to mention some). The studies and achievements in the field of Nanotechnology in Drug Delivery can highly contribute to improve the efficiently and precision of delivery of drugs, genes, DNA or RNA fragments or other therapeutic material. Various applications of this highly promising field include the improvements in solubility, stability, the more efficient targeting of organs, cells or sub-cellular structures, increased sustainability of drug release and the decrease in adverse collateral effects.

It is common to see works and achievements discussed and published under the theme nanotechnology in drug delivery about nanoparticles, sub-micron particles, microparticles and even nanoparticles inside microparticles.

Although nanoparticles are generally defined as particles with a size in the range of 1-100 nm (nanoscale), sub-micron particles are particles with a size in the range of 100-1000 nm (sub-micron-scale) and microparticles are particles with a size in the range of 0.1 µm-100 µm (100 nm-100,000 nm; microscale), many drug delivery systems use a range of different sized particles. Does that make them more or less related to nanotechnology?

While as scientists we may get a little grumpy about the various scales being interchangeable in the minds of many journalists, it’s no big deal.  Although journalists or media professionals must keep rigour and accuracy in their reporting, the field of nanoscience and nanotechnology has no rigid frontiers.


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