What is nanotechnology?

Nanotechnologies are technologies dealing with dimensions measured in billionths of a meter, or nanometres (nm). To give an idea, 1 nm is the length of a chain of 5 to 10 atoms, and a human hair is about 80 000 nm in diameter.

Scientists exploit the unique properties that tiny nanoparticles or arrangements of materials at the nanoscale can have to create new materials, structures and devices used in fields as diverse as medicine, foods, electronics, information technology, energy supply and distribution and environmental protection.

Why are nanotechnologies useful?

Nanotechnologies offer great potential for achieving sustainable growth, improving the competitiveness of Europe's industries, protecting the environment, creating highly-skilled jobs and increasing our quality of life (see the EU 2020 agenda).

The EU has invested a great deal of money in research and development for nanotechnologies. It must now create the right conditions for realising their full potential.

What is the EU policy on nanotechnologies?

The EU has decided to take an “integrated, safe and responsible approach” to the development of nanotechnologies. This includes:

  • Reviewing and adapting EU laws
  • monitoring safety issues
  • engaging in dialogue with national authorities, stakeholders and citizens.

Read more in the proposed EU nanotechnology strategy.