Is it Chemistry? Is it Physics?
The answer is…Yes! Nanotechnology also involves biology, several disciplines of engineering, material science, and medicine. Anywhere molecules and atoms are concerned, nanotechnology can potentially play a role.
When the terms “nanoscience” and “nanotechnology” first appeared, there was a tendency to treat them as a separate scientific discipline or as a new industry. Most practitioners nowadays tend to view nanoscience and nanotechnology as interrelated with other disciplines. Thus, observational tools that image the nano world (like the Atomic Force Microscope) can be applied in several scientific areas, and researchers of different backgrounds and aims are using those tools routinely to answer questions about the material and biological world around us.
For centuries researchers have known that properties of materials, such as hardness, electrical conductivity, elasticity and adhesion are (or are likely to be) dependent on the atomic or crystalline structure of these material. Using information from the Periodic Table of the Elements we could infer atomic bonding and crystal structure, and use these to explain the characteristics of different materials and solutions. What we could not do in the past (but can increasingly do nowadays) was to observe those materials at the molecular or atomic level and test our assumptions and hypotheses directly.
Nanotechnology thus helps us understand better the mechanisms behind many phenomena that were studied earlier in the fields of chemistry, physics and biology. For example, chemists have been creating solutions, suspensions and colloids for hundreds of years. However, they were not able to actually measure and observe the particles or mixtures that they were creating at the molecular level. Now, by being able to measure and view these products at the nanoscale, chemists can more accurately verify performance predictions and understand better the chemical interaction processes.