The Environmental Nanoscience Initiative
Nanoscience is the science of the very small, on the scale of a billionth of a metre. At this scale some materials behave radically differently from larger forms of the same substance.
Such enhanced properties can offer huge potential economic, health and environmental benefits, which in turn is driving an explosion in nanotechnologies research.
Nanocomposites, nanotubes and engineered nanoparticles are all now in production, producing novel solutions in many industries - from suncreams to tennis racquets.
Nanoscience may be about the science of the very small, but it's big business, with a predicted global market value of over 1 trillion US dollars in the next 10 years.
Nanoparticles are not new. They occur widely, from volcanic dust to atmospheric pollution. What is new is the scale of manufacture of novel nanoparticles and other nanomaterials and our ability to exploit the enhanced properties of materials when produced at this very small size.
Nature also makes use of nanoparticles and nanostructures. Geckos are so good at scaling walls because they have evolved nano-scale hairs on their feet, which are small enough to interact with the molecules on the surface of a wall, creating weak attractive forces allowing them to climb effortlessly. If scientists could replicate this trick they too could scale dizzy heights.