The Nanoscale Frontier


Richard Feynman, the New York-born theoretical physicist, gave a lecture in 1959 where he speculated on the potential of radically miniaturized technology. It was possible to write the entire text of the Encyclopaedia Brittanica onto the head of a pin, Feynman proposed, if we could shrink each pixel to just 1,000 atoms. He suggested that, in time, miniature factories could be built and microscopic medical devices might transform healthcare.

“It would be interesting in surgery if you could swallow the surgeon,” Feynman said. “You put the mechanical surgeon inside the blood vessel and it goes into the heart and ‘looks’ around.”

Feynman never used the term, but he was describing what we now call “nanotechnology.”

The vision of powerful machines manufactured on molecular scales has intrigued technologists ever since. But in recent years, nanotechnology has left the domain of fancy and started to enter the real world. In the pages of Mechanical Engineering, we have featured the work of leading researchers talking about their breakthroughs as well as the engineers who are bringing nanoscale products to market. To paraphrase Feynman, there’s plenty of opportunity at the nanoscale, and these stories about engineering on the frontier of nanotechnology have been some of our most provocative – and popular – articles.

As part of the celebration of National Nanotechnology Day, an event sponsored by the federal government’s National Nanotechnology Coordination Office to raise awareness of the field, Mechanical Engineering magazine and is publishing this page with links to 15 of our best nanotechnology feature articles since 2010. We also provide some excerpts from those articles, which hint at the excitement these technologists feel about nanotechnology’s potential. The research and breakthroughs they describe could lead to new ways to store energy, probe the human brain, or even cure cancer.

We urge you to explore these articles which we have curated, republished in PDF format.


Jeffrey Winters is a senior editor at Mechanical Engineering magazine.

“Over the past decade, bioengineers have transformed the design of DNA scaffold origami from art to engineering.”

-- Hai-Jun Su
and Carlos E. Castro,
“The Rise of the DNA
Nanorobots,” August 2016