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Home > Introduction > Nanotechnology Glossary M through O


Last Updated: Wednesday, 02-May-2012 22:27:23 PDT

This Nanotechnology Glossary is a work-in-progress, and will be updated very frequently, so check back. Please email us with any missing terms, and we will include them. Any definition that can be attributed to an author will be, unless we get a quote sent to us without one. If you see one for which the author is not shown, and you know who it is, please let us know and we will make the update. Thanks! [brackets] indicate author and copyright holder

A - C | D - F | G - I | J - L | N | O | P - R | S - U | V - Z

Matter as Software: "Autonomous, motile microdevices clearly are on the horizon. They may be regarded as the first step in the evolution of a technology for "programming" the structure and properties of material objects at the microscopic and the submicroscopic levels. As this evolution progresses, the physical and economic properties of such programmable matter are likely to become much like those of present day software." [MITRE Corporation]

Meat Machine: AKA Cabinet Beast. A box containing assemblers and raw material, within which is formed meat [or whatever else it was programmed to make]. [FS]

Mechanosynthesis: (where) molecular tools with chemically specific tip structures can be used, sequentially, to modify a work piece and build a wide range of molecular structures. [FS] See Technical Bibliography for Research on Positional Mechanosynthesis

Mechatronics: the study of the melding of AI and electromechanical machines to make machines that are greater than the sum of their parts. [FR]

Meme: An idea that replicates through a society as it is propagated through person-to-person interaction, both direct and indirect. Memetics is a field of study that focuses on memes' role in the evolution of a culture. [ZY]

MEMS--MicroelectroMechanical Systems: generic term to describe micron scale electrical/mechanical devices. [ZY] See The beauty of MEMS: Simpler, more reliable, cheaper, and cool - Small Times for a great description and examples of use.

Mesoscale: A device or structure larger than the nanoscale (10^-9 m) and smaller than the megascale; the exact size depends heavily on the context and usually ranges between very large nanodevices (10^-7 m) and the human scale (1 m). [AS]

Microencapsulation: Individually encapsulated small particles. see Journal of Microencapsulation

MIMIC: [micromoulding in capillaries] one-step rapid prototyping technique.

Molecular Assembler: Also known as an assembler, a molecular assembler is a molecular machine that can build a molecular structure from its component building blocks. [ZY]

Molecular Beam Epitaxy: [MBE] Process used to make compound (multi-layer) semiconductors. Consists of depositing alternating layers of materials, layer by layer, one type after another (such as the semiconductors gallium arsenide and aluminum gallium arsenide).

Molecular Biology: [AKA: wet nano]

Molecular Integrated Microsystems (MIMS): microsystems in which functions found in biological and nanoscale systems are combined with manufacturable materials. See Molecular Integrated Microsystems

Molecular Electronics (ME) [moletronics] Any system with atomically precise electronic devices of nanometer dimensions, especially if made of discrete molecular parts rather than the continuous materials found in today's semiconductor devices. [FS] Also: Using molecule-based materials for electronics, sensing, and optoelectronics .... ME is the set of electronic behaviors in molecule-containing structures that are dependent upon the characteristic molecular organization of space .... ME behavior is fixed at the scale of the individual molecule, which is effectively the nanoscale. [Mark Ratner & MT 5(2) p. 20

Molecular Manipulator: A device combining a proximal probe mechanism for atomically precise positioning with a molecule binding site on the tip; can serve as the basis for building complex structures by positional synthesis. [NTN]

Molecular Manufacturing: Manufacturing using molecular machinery, giving molecule-by-molecule control of products and by-products via positional chemical synthesis. [FS]

Molecular Medicine: Studying molecules as they relate to health and disease, and manipulating those molecules to improve the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of disease.

Molecular Nanogenerator: see Molecular Nanogenerator Developed That Can Target Cancer Cells and Destroy Them

Molecular Nanotechnology (MNT): Thorough, inexpensive control of the structure of matter based on molecule-by-molecule control of products and byproducts; the products and processes of molecular manufacturing, including molecular machinery. [FS]

Molecular Recognition: A chemical term referring to processes in which molecules adhere in a highly specific way, forming a larger structure; an enabling technology for nanotechnology. [FS]

Molecular Systems Engineering: Design, analysis, and construction of systems of molecular parts working together to carry out a useful purpose. [FS]

Molecular Wire: A molecular wire - the simplest electronic component - is a quasi-one-dimensional molecule that can transport charge carriers (electrons or holes) between its ends. [Michael D Ward]

MOLMAC: Molecular machine [Kilian, Gryphon]

Monomer: The units from which a polymer is constructed. [ZY]

Monomolecular Computing: the implantation inside a single molecule of ALL the functional groups or circuits to realize a calculation, without any help from external artifices such as re-configuration, calculation sharing between the user and the machine, or selection of the operational devices. [C. Joachim]

Moore's Law -- Coined in 1965 by Gordon Moore, future chairman and chief executive of Intel, it stated at the time that the of number transistors packed into an integrated circuit had doubled every year since the technology's inception four years earlier. In 1975 he revised this to every two years, and most people quote 18 months. The trend cannot continue indefinitely with current lithographic techniques, and a limit is seen in ten to fifteen years. However, the baton could be passed to nanoelectronics, to continue the trend (though the smoothness of the curve will very likely be disrupted if a completely new technology is introduced). [CMP]

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Nanarchist: Someone who circumvents government control to use nanotechnology, or someone who advocates this. [Eli Brandt, October 1991]

Nanarchy: The use of automatic law-enforcement by nanomachines or robots, without any human control - see blue goo [Mark S. Miller].

Nanites [AKA: nanobots] -- machines with atomic sized components. [Popularized by the Star Trek episode "Evolution"] As to their weight, a popular question: "Do you 'feel' heavier after you drink a mouthful of water? A mouthful of water, roughly 5 cm^3, would have the same mass as a ~2 terabot [2 trillion nanite] dose of 1 micron^3 nanorobots. You'll never feel it." Robert A. Freitas Jr.

Nanoarray: an ultra-sensitve, ultra-miniaturized array for biomolecular analysis. BioForce Nanosciences' Nanoarrays utilize approximately 1/10,000th of the surface area occupied by a conventional microarray, and over 1,500 nanoarray spots can be placed in the area occupied by a single microarray domain. [BioForce Nanosciences] See The NanoPro™ System

Nanoassembler: the Holy Grail of nanotechnology; once a perfected nanoassembler is availble, building anything becomes possible, with physics and the imagination the only limitation (of course each item would have to be designed first, which is another small hurdle).

Nanobarcode: SurroMed's Nanobarcode™ technology uses cylindrically-shaped colloidal metal nanoparticles, in which the metal composition can be alternated along the length and the size of each metal segment can be controlled. Intrinsic differences in reflectivity between the metal segments allow individual particles to be identified by conventional optical microscopy. See SurroMed and Penn State Publish Pioneering Work in the Journal Science Describing Nanobarcode™ Particles

Nanobiotechnology: applying the tools and processes of MNT to build devices for studying biosystems, in order to learn from biology how to create better nanoscale devices. Should hasten the creation of useful micro devices that mimic living biological systems.

Nanobot: see Nanite

Nanobubbles: tiny air bubbles on colloid surfaces. Thought to reduce drag, such as would be of benefit to swimmers wearing a suit coverd in them. See FIRST IMAGES OF NANOBUBBLES

Nanocatalysis See LBL-UCB Scientists Demonstrate Nanocatalysis and Nanocluster arrays refine the catalytic process

Nanochips: we are approaching the limits of standard microchip technology; thus, the "nanochip" -- a next-smaller microchip. [ed] They are also a next-gen device for mass storage, of significantly higher density, with greater speed, and much lower cost. [Tod Maffin (p)] See Getting a Line on Nanochips

Nanocomputer: A computer made from components (mechanical, electronic, or otherwise) built at the nanometer scale.

Nanochondria: Nanomachines existing inside living cells, participating in their biochemistry (like mitochondria) and/or assembling various structures. See also nanosome. [Ken Clements 1996]

Nanocones: Nonplanar graphitic structures. Carbon-based structures with five-fold symmetry that form due to disclination defects in two-dimensional graphene sheets. They have been observed as nanotube caps and as freestanding structures. [North Carolina State University] see Nanostructures Fabrication from Carbon Nanocones

Nanocrystals: also known as nanoscale semiconductor crystals. "Nanocrystals are aggregates of anywhere from a few hundred to tens of thousands of atoms that combine into a crystalline form of matter known as a "cluster." Typically around ten nanometers in diameter, nanocrystals are larger than molecules but smaller than bulk solids and therefore frequently exhibit physical and chemical properties somewhere in between. Given that a nanocrystal is virtually all surface and no interior, its properties can vary considerably as the crystal grows in size." [LBL] See Nanocrystals: The shapes of things to come

Nano Cubic Technology: an ultra-thin layer coating that results in higher resolution for recording digital data, ultra-low noise and high signal-to-noise ratios that are ideal for magneto-resistive (MR) heads. It is capable of catapulting data cartridge and digital videotape to one-terabyte native (uncompressed) capacities and floppy disk capacities to three gigabytes. To help visualize the potential, 1TB can store up to 200 two-hour movies. [Fuji Photo Film U.S.A., Inc.]

Nanodefenses: any of the "good" goo's, such a Blue Goo. Protectors against Grey Goo, destructive nanoswarms, and the like.

Nanodisaster: see the various 'goo' scenerios that have potentially negative outcomes.

NEMS - nanoelectromechanical systems: A generic term to describe nano scale electrical/mechanical devices. [ZY]

Nanoelectronics: Electronics on a nanometer scale, whether made by current techniques or nanotechnology; includes both molecular electronics and nanoscale devices resembling today's semiconductor devices. [NTN]

Nanofabrication: construction of items using assemblers and stock molecules. see Nanofacture. AKA: nanoscale engineering.

Nanofacture: The fabrication of goods using nanotechnology [Geoff Dale 1995]. see Nanofabrication

Nanofluidics: controlling nano-scale amounts of fluids

Nanogate: A device that precisely meters the flow of tiny amounts of fluid. Precise control of the flow restriction is accomplished by deflecting a highly polished cantilevered plate. The opening is adjustable on a sub-nanometer scale, limited by the roughness of the polished plates. Thus, the Nanogate is an Ultra Surface Finish Effect Mechanism (USFEM). The Nanogate can be fabricated on a macro-, meso- or micro- (MEMs) scale. [James R. White]
See Nanogate: A Fundamental New Device for Nanofluidics

Nanogypsy: someone who travels form place to place, spreading the "nano" word. Usually a person who takes the most optimistic viewpoint, and is enthusitic. [uhf]

Nanoimprinting: Sometimes called soft lithography. A technique that is very simple in concept, and totally analogous to traditional mould- or form-based printing technology, but that uses moulds (masters) with nanoscale features. As with the printing press, the potential for mass production is clear. There are two forms of nanoimprinting, one that uses pressure to make indentations in the form of the mould on a surface, the other, more akin to the printing press, that relies on the application of "ink" applied to the mould to stamp a pattern on a surface. Other techniques such as etching may then follow. [CMP]

Nanoimprint Machine: a form of soft lithography

Nanohacking: describes what MNT is all about -- "hacking" at the molecular level.

Nanoindentation: Nanoindentation is similar to conventional hardness testing performed on a much smaller scale. The force required to press a sharp diamond indenter into a material is measured as a function of indentation depth. As depth resolution is on the scale of nanometers (hence the name of the instrument), it is possible to conduct indentation experiments even on thin films. Two quantities which can be readily extracted from nanoindentation experiments are the material's modulus, or stiffness, and its hardness, which can be correlated to yield strength. Investegators have also used nanoindentation to study creep, plastic flow, and fracture of materials. [Nix Research Group, Materials Science & Engineering, Stanford University]

Nanolithography: Writing on the nanoscale. From the Greek words Nanos - Dwarf, Lithos - rock, and grapho - to write, this word literally means "small writing on rocks." [NTN] See definition in Wikipedia.

Nanomachine: An artificial molecular machine of the sort made by molecular manufacturing. [FS]

Nanomachining: like traditional machining, where portions of the structure are removed or modified, nanomachining involves changing the structure of nano-scale materials or molecules.

nanoManipulator: uses virtual reality (VR) goggles and a force feedback probe as an interface to a scanning probe microscope, providing researchers with a new way to interact with the atomic world. Researchers can travel over genes, tickle viruses, push bacteria around, and tap on molecules - the nanoManipulator simplifies the process and allows researchers to play with their atoms. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH) The Nanomanipulator from the Center for Computer Integrated Systems for Microscopy and Manipulation (CISMM) at UNC Chapel Hill. Part of the Nanoscale Science Research Group (NSRG). Images & Movies

Nanomanipulation: The process of manipulating items at an atomic or molecular scale in order to produce precise structures. [ZY See Zyvex SEM manipulator]

Nanomanufacturing: Same as molecular manufacturing.

Nanomaterials: can be subdivided into nanoparticles, nanofilms and nanocomposites. The focus of nanomaterials is a bottom up approach to structures and functional effects whereby the building blocks of materials are designed and assembled in controlled ways. [Oxonica]

Nanomedicine: See Nanomedicine Glossary

Nano-Optics: Interaction of light and matter on the nanoscale. see University of Rochester - Institute of Optics - NANO-OPTICS GROUP

NanoPGM - nanometer-scale patterned granular motion: The goal of NanoPGM is to generate millions of “nanofingers,” finger-like structures each only a few nanometers long, that might someday perform precise, massively parallel manipulation of molecules and directed assembly of other nanometer-scale objects. This ability answers one of the biggest technical challenges facing builders of nanocomputers: how to arrange as many as a trillion molecular computing components in an area only a few millimeters square. [MITRE / Alex Wissner-Gross]

Nanopharmaceuticals: nanoscale particles used to modulate drug transport for drug uptake and delivery applications.

Nanophase Carbon Materials (carbon nanotubes, nanodiamond, nanocomposite]--A form of matter in which small clusters of atoms form the building blocks of a larger structure. These structures differ from those of naturally occurring crystals, in which individual atoms arrange themselves into a lattice.

Nanopore: involves squeezing a DNA sequence between two oppositely charged fluid reservoirs, separated by an extremely small channel.

Nanoprobe: Nanoscale machines used to diagnose, image, report on, and treat disease within the body. See "Cell Repair Machine", "Nanites", "Nanobots", and "Nanomachine". Also: tips for scanning probe microscopes.

Courtesy of, and Copyright 1999 by Time Inc. Reprinted by Permission.
"Anatomy of a Nanoprobe" by Joe Lertola. 11/08/99 issue of Time.
Reproduction strictly prohibited without permission of Time.
Click for larger image

Nanoreplicators: A set of nanomachines capable of exponential replication. [ZY]

Nanorods: or Carbon Nanorods. Formed from multi-wall carbon nanotubes.

Nanoropes: nanotubes connected and strung together.

Nanoscale: 1 - 100 nanometer range.

Nanoscopic Scale same as nanoscale.

Nanosensors: nanoscale size sensors.

Nanosources: sources that emit light from nanometre-scale volumes. [See Tears of brilliance Nature reg. req'd]

Nanosome: Nanodevices existing symbiotically inside biological cells, doing mechanosynthesis and disassembly for it and replicating with the cell. Similar to nanochondria. [AS January 1998]

Nanosurgery: A generic term including molecular repair and cell surgery. [FS] See Voyage of the Nano-Surgeons

Nanoswarm: UFog and Goo

Nanotechism: the religion of nanotech, as opposed to the science of nanotech

Nanotechnology: a manufacturing technology able to inexpensively fabricate most structures consistent with natural law, and to do so with molecular precision. [FS]

Nanoterrorism: using MNT derived nanites to do damage to people or places.

Nanotube: see our Nanotubes and Buckyballs page
nanotube animation
Copyright Prof. Vincent H. Crespi Department of Physics Pennsylvania State University.
And an excellent description of Nanotubes

A one dimensional fullerene (a convex cage of atoms with only hexagonal and/or pentagonal faces) with a cylindrical shape. Carbon nanotubes discovered in 1991 by Sumio Iijima resemble rolled up graphite, although they can not really be made that way. Depending on the direction that the tubes appear to have been rolled (quantified by the 'chiral vector'), they are known to act as conductors or semiconductors. Nanotubes are a proving to be useful as molecular components for nanotechnology. [Encyclopedia Nanotech]

Strictly speaking, any tube with nanoscale dimensions, but generally used to refer to carbon nanotubes (a commonly mentioned non-carbon variety is made of boron nitride), which are sheets of graphite rolled up to make a tube. The dimensions are variable (down to 0.4 nm in diameter) and you can also get nanotubes within nanotubes, leading to a distinction between multi-walled and single-walled nanotubes. Apart from remarkable tensile strength, nanotubes exhibit varying electrical properties (depending on the way the graphite structure spirals around the tube, and other factors), and can be insulating, semiconducting or conducting (metallic). [CMP]

AKA: Multiwall Carbon Nanotubes (MWNTs), Single Walled Carbon Nanotubes (SWCNs)

See Nanobeam Mechanics: Elasticity, Strength, and Toughness of Nanorods and Nanotubes and
Fullerene Nanotubes: C1,000,000 and Beyond. Boris I. Yakobson and Richard E. Smalley.

Nice presentations at Carbon Nanotubes - Research Project

and here Carbon Nanotubes in Space

"Maybe the most significant spin-off product of fullerene research....are nanotubes based on carbon or other elements. These systems consist of graphitic sheets seamlessly wrapped to cylinders. With only a few nanometers in diameter, yet (presently) up to a millimeter long, the length-to-width aspect ratio is extremely high. A truly molecular nature is unprecedented for macroscopic devices of this size. Accordingly, the number of both specialized and large-scale applications is growing constantly."
See [The Nanotube Site]

Nanny: A cell-repair nanite

NEMS - Nanoelectromechanical systems: Nanoscale MEMS.

nm: Abbreviation for Nanometer.

NRAM™ - Nanotube-based/Nonvolatile RAM, developed by Nantero, using proprietary concepts and methods derived from leading-edge research in nanotechnology.

Nanowetting: how wetting behavior depends on nanoscale topography on a substrate. [BNL]

NBIC: Nanotechnology, Biotechnology, Information Technology and Cognitive Science. See Converging Technologies for Improving Human Performance

NE3LS: Nanotechnology's Ethical, Environmental, Economic, Legal, and Social Implications. From 'Mind the gap': science and ethics in nanotechnology. click here (requires free registration) [Anisa Mnyusiwalla, Abdallah S. Daar and Peter A. Singer 2003 Nanotechnology 14 R9-R13. 13 Feb 2003]

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OLED or Organic LED is not made of semiconductors. It's made from carbon-based molecules. That is the key science factor that leads to potentially eliminating LEDs' biggest drawback – size. The carbon-based molecules are much smaller. And according to a paper written by Dr. Uwe Hoffmann, Dr. Jutta Trube and Andreas Klöppel, entitled OLED - A bright new idea for flat panel displays "OLED is brighter, thinner, lighter, and faster than the normal liquid crystal (LCD) display in use today. They also need less power to run, offer higher contrast, look just as bright from all viewing angles and are - potentially - a lot cheaper to produce than LCD screens." See also LCD and LED. LCD, LED, and OLED definitions courtesy The San Francisco Consulting Group (SFCG)

OMEGA POINT: Also called the Quantum Omega Point Theory. A possible future state when intelligence controls the Universe totally, and the amount of information processed and stored goes asymptotically towards infinity. See Terminology From The Omega Point Theory List . [Origin: Teilhard de Chardin, The Phenomenon of Man. See also Barrow and Tipler, The Cosmological Anthropic Principle or Tipler's The Physics of Immortality for a more modern definition.] [AS]

Orbital Tower: also known as a "space tether", "beanstalk" or "heavenly funicular". A cable in synchronous orbit, with one end anchored to the surface of the Earth, often with a small asteroid at the outer end to provide some extra tension and stability. Picture also a "space elevator". In theory, constructed of a diamondoid material, approximately 22,000 miles long, with one end in a stable orbit, and the other somewhere [probably] around the equator. Used frequently in science-fiction yarns, and may become a reality with the advent of mature MNT. Such an elevator would move freight and passengers into orbit at a cost per pound orders of magnitude less than current launches, with passenger safety comparable to train, plane, or subway trips. Becomes possible when we can mass-produce nanotubes, and make their length to fit.

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Key to Abbreviations for Original Authors

 Blank - our definition
 AS - Anders Sandberg
 Bostrom - Dr. Nick Bostrom
 BNL - Brookhaven National Laboratory Center for Functional Nanomaterials
 CA-B - Christopher Anderson-Beatty
 CP - Chris Phoenix
 CMP - CMP Científica
 DCBE - Department of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering, Toyama University
 FR - Fractal Robots
 FS - Foresight Institute
 KED - K. Eric Drexler
 LBL - Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
 MT - Materials Today
 NTN - NanoApex [formerly NanotechNews]
 RCM - Ralph C. Merkle
 Encyclopedia Nanotech - Steve Lenhert
 Wid - Widener University
 ZY - Zyvex
 (p) - paraphrased. Occasionally necessary for contextual purposes.
 [ed] - editor
 [uhf] - used here first. In other words, we coined it.
 .... - a paragraph has been condensed, and portions left off [while still attempting to maintain context].

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Other Future Sciences, Nanotech and Nanoscience glossary sites





Nanotechnology Part One: Taxonomy Codesta

Nanomedicine Book Glossary R A Freitas Jr.

JPK Instruments NanoBiotechnology Glossary (click NanoResources/Glossary)

Nanoword Steve Lenhert

Lextropicon: Extropian Neologisms Max More

Transhuman Terminology Anders Sandberg

Accelerating Future Lexicon Michael Anissimov

Terminology From The Omega Point Theory List

Orion's Arm Glossary M.Alan Kazlev, et al

Russian Society of Scanning Probe Microscopy and Nanotechnology.

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