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
Paradigm Shift: When one conceptual world-view is replaced by another, or, a change of patterns on a massive scale. When Copernicus showed how the Earth rotates around the Sun, and not vice versa, that created a paradigm shift [it forced a new way of thinking about our place in the Universe]. And when quantum physics and general relativity displaced Newtonian mechanics, that created another shift. Applied to an enabling technology such as molecular manufacturing, it suggests that there will be many shifts occurring, soon, and with wide-ranging and often disruptive consequences. For more detail, see
Accelerating Intelligence: Where Will Technology Lead Us? [by Ray Kurzweil].
Pervasive Computing: when computers (and sensors and actuators) become virtually invisible, and are used in almost every aspect of human commerce, interaction, and life. It will allow you full control over data and information, enabling you to send, receive, manage, and update your data from anywhere at any time. It will also allow you full control over your environment, in so far as you will be able to speak or gesture commands, effecting changes to things around you. Applications include: environmental monitoring - when you enter a room, they sense your presence and adjust temperature and humidity to your personal preferences; building security - to sense chemical weapons and perform face recognition; information transfer - allowing you to send and receive calls, data, and images from anywhere to anywhere, without the need of bulky equipment. Also called "Ubiquitous Computing", "Intelligent Telesensing", "Proactive Computing", "Distributed Information Management Systems", "The Evernet", and "Calm Technology". "...it will look like nothing to the naked eye. ...beneath the surface, tiny computing networks will be doing exactly what we want them to do - working behind the scenes to help us see clearer, travel safer, and place more knowledge, rather than frustration, into our heads." [Howard Lovy, editor at Small Times Media]
Pico Technology: (trillionth of a meter) -- the next step smaller, after Nano-technology. The art of manipulating materials on a quantum scale. [CA-B]
Pink Goo: (humorous) Humans (in analogy with grey goo). "Pink Goo to refer to Old Testament apes who see their purpose as being fruitful and multiplying, filling up of the cosmos with lots more such apes, unmodified." [Eric Watt Forste August 1997]
POSS Nanotechnology: short for Polyhedral Oligomeric Silsesquioxanes Nanotechnology. POSS nanomaterials are attractive for missile and satellite launch rocket applications because they offer effective protection from collisions with space debris and the extreme thermal environments of deep space and atmospheric re-entry. Another application of POSS nanotechnology under development is a new high-temperature lubricant. This new nanolubricant is effective at temperatures up to 500°F, which is 100°F greater than conventional lubricants. From Technologies developed by the Propulsion Directorate's Polymer Working Group at Edwards AFB
Polysilicon: short for Polycrystalline Silicon, used in the manufacture of computer chips.
Posthuman: Persons of unprecedented physical, intellectual, and psychological capacity, self-programming, self-constituting, potentially immortal, unlimited individuals. [Max More]
Positional Controlled Chemical Synthesis or Positional Synthesis: Control of chemical reactions by precisely positioning the reactive molecules, the basic principle of assemblers. [NTN]
Positional Assembly: Constructing materials an atom or molecule at a time
Protein Design, Protein Engineering: The design and construction of new proteins; an enabling technology for nanotechnology. [FS]
Protein Folding: "The process by which proteins acquire their functional, preordained, three-dimensional structure after they emerge, as linear polymers of amino acids, from the ribosome." [The Scientist]
Proteomics: The term proteome refers to all the proteins expressed by a genome, and thus proteomics involves the identification of proteins in the body and the determination of their role in physiological and pathophysiological functions. ... Ultimately it is believed that through proteomics new disease markers and drug targets can be identified that will help design products to prevent, diagnose and treat disease.
Quantum: Describes a system of particles in terms of a wave function defined over the configuration of particles having distinct locations is implicit in the potential energy function that determines the wave function, the observable dynamics of the motion of such particles from point to point. In describing the energies, distributions and behaviours of electrons in nanometer-scale structures, quantum mechanical methods are necessary. Electron wave functions help determine the potential energy surface of a molecular system, which in turn is the basis for classical descriptions of molecular motion. Nanomechanical systems can almost always be described in terms of classical mechanics, with occasional quantum mechanical corrections applied within the framework of a classical model. [NTN]
QuantumBrain: [theoretical] Think of your brain. Now, think of your brain performing at vastly superior levels. Nanobots will become an as-needed addition to your existing neurons, extending your mental capacities further then you can probably now imagine. [uhf]
Quantum Computer: A computer that takes advantage of quantum mechanical properties such as superposition and entanglement resulting from nanoscale, molecular, atomic and subatomic components. Quantum computers may revolutionize the computer industry in the not too distant future. [NTN]
Quantum Confined Atoms (QCA): atoms caged inside nanocrystals. May find uses in clear-glass sunglasses, bio-sensors, and optical computing.
Quantum Cryptography: A system based on quantum- mechanical principles. Eavesdroppers alter the quantum state of the system and so are detected. Developed by Brassard and Bennett, only small laboratory demonstrations have been made. [AS]
Quantum Dots: nanometer-sized semiconductor crystals, or electrostatically confined electrons. Something (usually a semiconductor island) capable of confining a single electron, or a few, and in which the electrons occupy discrete energy states just as they would in an atom (quantum dots have been called "artificial atoms"). [CMP] Other terminology reflects the preoccupations of different branches of research: microelectronics folks may refer to a "single-electron transistor" or "controlled potential barrier," whereas quantum physicists may speak of a "Coulomb island" or "zero-dimensional gas" and chemists may speak of a "colloidal nanoparticle" or "semiconductor nanocrystal." All of these terms are, at various times, used interchangeably with "quantum dot," and they refer more or less to the same thing: a trap that confines electrons in all three dimensions. [from Hacking Matter: Levitating Chairs, Quantum Mirages, and the Infinite Weirdness of Programmable Atoms. Wil McCarthy. February 2003]
Quantum Dot Nanocrystals (QDNs): used to tag biological molecules, and "measuring between five and ten nanometres across, are made up of three components. Their cores contain paired clusters of atoms such as cadmium and selenium that combine to create a semiconductor. This releases light of a specific colour when stimulated by ultraviolet of a wide range of frequencies. These clusters are surrounded by a shell made of an inorganic substance, to protect them. The whole thing is then coated with an organic surface, to allow the attachment of proteins or DNA molecules. By varying the number of atoms in the core, QDNs can be made to emit light of different colours." [From The Economist print edition]
Quantum Mechanics: A largely computational physical theory explaining the behavior of quantum phenomena, which incorporates the theory of special relativity. Despite dilignet attempts, general relativity has not been sucessfully incorporated into quantum mechanics. [NTN]
Quantum Mirage: A nanoscale property that may allow information to be transfered through use of the wave property of electrons. Thus, quantum computers might not require wires as we know them. [NTN]
Quantum Tunneling: When electrons pass through a barrier, without overcoming it or breaking it down. See this illustration.
Quantum Well: A P-N-P junction in which the "N" layer is ~10 nm (where traditional physics leaves off and quantum effects take over) and an "electron trap" is created. "If one makes a heterostructure with sufficiently thin layers, quantum interference effects begin to appear prominently in the motion of the electrons. The simplest structure in which these may be observed is a quantum well, which simply consists of a thin layer of a narrower-gap semiconductor between thicker layers of a wider-gap material."
Center for Quantum Electronics U of Dallas
Quantum Wire: Another form of quantum dot, but unlike the single-dimension "dot," a quantum wire is confined only in two dimensions - that is it has "length," and allows the electrons to propagate in a "particle-like" fashion. Constructed typically on a semiconductor base, and (among other things) used to produce very intense laser beams, switchable up to multi-gigahertz per second.
Qubit: The quantum computing analog to a bit. Qubits exhibit superposition. Thus, unlike normal bits, qubits can be both 1 and 0 at the same time. [NTN]