As part of a major report commissioned by the UK Government from the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering in the UK, entitled ''Nanoscience and nanotechnologies: opportunities and uncertainties'',3 the following definitions were used:

Nanoscience is the study of phenomena and manipulation of materials at atomic, molecular and macromolecular scales, where properties differ significantly from those at a larger scale.

Nanotechnologies are the design, characterisation, production and application of structures, devices and systems by controlling shape and size at nanometre scale.

The NASA website provides an interesting definition of nanotechnology: ''The creation of functional materials, devices and systems through control of matter on the nanometre scale (1-100 nm) and exploitation of novel phenomena and properties (physical, chemical, biological) at that length scale.''4

Issues in Environmental Science and Technology, No. 24 Nanotechnology: Consequences for Human Health and the Environment © The Royal Society of Chemistry, 2007

The Oxford English Dictionary defines nanotechnology as ''technology on an atomic scale, concerned with dimensions of less than 100 nanometres".

The prefix nano- derives from the Greek word for dwarf and one nanometre is equal to one billionth of a metre i.e. 10~9 m. Nanomaterials are therefore regarded as those that have at least one dimension of size less than 100 nm.

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