The world of nanotechnology opened its eyes to the world in 1959, when Caltech physicist Richard Feynman painted a vision of the future of science. In a talk titled “There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom,” Feynman hypothesized that atoms and molecules could be manipulated like building blocks.[i] The first “proof-of-principle” that atoms could be precisely positioned by a manmade tool took place in 1989 when scientists at IBM manipulated 35 xenon atoms to form the letters ‘IBM’. While the old philosophy of creating things was to start with something big and makes it smaller, nanotechnology starts with something atomic and builds things with it. Since then, the exploration within nanotechnology has ramped up substantially a world full of surprises and potential, dissolving the barriers between chemistry, biology at molecular level, materials sciences, and condensed matter physics.[ii]
Nanomaterials are the building blocks of nanotechnology that can be positioned and manipulated for appropriate applications to create complex materials, devices and systems.[iii] Atoms, which are the basic units of matter, can be combined together to form more complex structures like molecules and compounds. When the arrangements of the matter are within a length of 1- 100 nanometers, it can yield unique characteristics. The making of these building blocks involve two methods: top down and bottom up. The top-down method involves carving nanomaterials out of bulk materials[iv] including slicing or successive cutting of a bulk material to arrive at a nano sized particle. The bottom up approach refers to the buildup of a material from the bottom: atom by atom, molecule by molecule or cluster by cluster.