European Trade Union Institute, ETUI.

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What are nanotechologies ?

Nanotechnology refers to the research and development of materials, products and processes on a nanometre scale (nm), a billionth of a metre in size. Materials in the nano form, known as nanomaterials, are made up of nanoparticles under 100 nm in size. For comparison, the average human hair has a diameter of 80 000 nm. Their small size endows these nanoscale materials with singular properties. They have a much bigger surface area to volume ratio than more macroscale materials; this can give them a higher chemical reactivity and influence their electrical or mechanical properties. Also, quantum mechanical effects may become dominant in the behaviour of materials reduced to nanosize, altering their optical, electrical and magnetic properties.