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In order to understand the meaning of nanoelectronics, it is useful to break the word into components. The first half of the word nano refers to the size of something, in particular something very small. Electronics may be defined as the technological and scientific branch dealing with electrical, or charged, components. Therefore, the term nanoelectronics refers to very small, electrically charged components.
Scientists over time have developed a universal prefix system for identifying the size of something, usually based off the the metric system with the base unit being the meter. The metric system has a number of prefixes describing the size of something; for example, the prefix centi means one hundredth or 0.01. This may also be written as 10 with an exponent of -2. Nano is the third smallest increment described on the metric scale; it's value is 0.00000001 or one one billionth of a base value.
A nanometer, for example, would be one billionth of a meter. This is such a small quantity that it is difficult to comprehend with the human mind. The point to be made here is that the prefix nano describes something very small, generally not visible to the eye.
Electronics encompasses a large variety of concepts and inventions that have been utilized for quite some time in the advancement of technology. At the heart of electronics is the manipulation and utilization of electrically charged units in ways that release energy, which may then be harnessed for mechanical function. This phenomena was first discovered by Benjamin Franklin and has allowed us to take part in a number of activities, such as watching television or having an electrically lit room, that are often taken for granted in modern times.
Nanotechnology and nanoelectronics, two terms sometimes used interchangeably, have seen a number of advancements due to the modern ability to see and work with very small units. This is because of other scientific advancements such as microscopes. Generally, these units are so small that they are on an atomic or molecular scale. The potential for the emerging science of nanoelectronics far exceeds its current use, with future developments in medicine, technology, and material all possible.
The roots of nanoelectronics began to develop in the early 1980s. The amazing potential for new products and developments within this branch of technology has both positive and negative implications. On the positive side, many advancements may lead to life-changing or saving innovative materials. Negatively, the radiation involved in molecular manipulation may prove to be detrimental to society, and others fear that this science may be harnessed for things such as weapons of mass destruction. For these reasons, the study of nanoelectronics is heavily regulated, generally by governmental sources.