ICT - Overview - About the Sector - Text

Information and Communication technology (ICT) encompasses devices and systems that are used in communication and in the creation, storage, and transmission of information. Examples of ICT include computers, phones, radios, satellites, hardware and software. Nanotechnology has many applications in ICT, like uses in computers, sensors, displays, data storage, integrated circuits, semiconductor devices, transistors, wireless technology and flexible electronics. They are commonly used in electronic coatings, particles, lubricants, and films for ICT materials, components and manufacturing (Allan et al., 2017).1  

Broadly, nanotechnology is used in ICT for/to: 

  • Data Storage 
  • Make and manufacture ICT
  • Make up components of ICT devices and displays
  • Enhance and improve ICT
  • Innovation and novel uses

Applications of nanotechnology in ICT overlap with other sectors because of the multifunctionality of ICT. Nanotechnology and ICT are used in the health sector and can be found in biosensors, scanners, monitors, and medical devices. In the transport sector, they are used in assisted driving systems and positioning and communication systems. Also, they are found in sensors, robotics and electrical and mechanical components in the manufacturing sector (Allan et al., 2017).

Nanoscale devices and processes, like nanoelectronics, nanoprocessors and nanosensors, have emerged as a result of the goals of ICT development and progression. Nanofabrication methods are fundamental in creating new nanoscale ICT devices. In the future, nanotechnologies have the potential to create radical new developments in ICT, such as quantum computers and quantum communication devices.2,3 ,  

The aim of development and progress in ICT is to make electronics smaller, faster, and cheaper, as well as more powerful and energy efficient. Smaller-sized electronic pieces allow for more components and thus functionalities to be put into a device, creating an overall better device or system. Nanotechnology and nanomaterials have played an integral role in achieving these goals and the downward scaling or miniaturization of ICT. This has mostly been accomplished by a top-down approach, allowing devices to become smaller and more powerful. The process of miniaturization was described in Moore’s Law, which states that the number of transistors in an integrated circuit doubles every two years or so. Moore’s Law has held up over time as industry demand has further driven miniaturization, called More Moore (Waldrop, 2006;4 Filipponi and Sutherland, 20105). New materials and the ability to manufacture and build at the nanoscale have helped ICT progress to reach the nanoscale. For example, in the late 1940s transistors were measured in millimetres and, in 2016, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab created the first, functional transistor that is 1 nanometre in size using carbon nanotubes and molybdenum disulphide nanotechnologies.6 

There are foreseen limitations to miniaturization as it cannot happen indefinitely with the current tools, materials and processes available. Most devices are made from silicon-based materials, which has also reached its physical limitations. For progress to continue, there needs to be a shift towards nanotechnology-based devices. These obstacles have created a need for a More than Moore strategy, with innovation shifting away from miniaturization and towards making devices that have better performance, more functionalities and lower costs. This strategy focuses on needed applications and creating devices to support them, rather than creating better devices and seeing what applications follow (Waldrop, 2006). ICT developments now focus on areas such as wireless devices, Internet of Things and ambient intelligence, which are electronics that can interact with and respond to the real world. Nanotechnologies are continuing to play a central role in the new chapter of ICT innovation. Nanomaterials are used to construct these technologies and make up many of the components in them. For instance, nanotechnologies and nanomaterials, such as graphene and nanoantennae, will be the base of future wireless technologies. Bottom-up approaches are also being utilized because developing nanostructures and having control over their size, shape, and geomatic arrays make them attractive building blocks for new ICT (Allan et al., 2017; Filipponi and Sutherland, 2010; Markovic et al., 2012).7    

While miniaturization has driven nanotechnology in ICT development, it has also created challenges for further progress. The main challenges include excessive heat production, high power consumption and high manufacturing costs. Concerns have also been raised over security and scalability. Bottom-up approaches using nanotechnology are helping to create new materials and manufacturing techniques to overcome some of these obstacles. In the future, there is enormous potential for nanotechnologies to be used in radical new developments in ICT. On a nanoscale, materials begin to be governed by quantum effects. This requires the architecture of a technology to be redesigned in order to achieve the same function. However, nanotechnology in ICT is taking advantage of these effects. Nanomaterials are being used for their quantum effects to make new data storage and processing methods. Research is exploring the use of quantum computers, quantum cryptography and other quantum communication methods. Other avenues of future development include using the spins of electrons rather than their charge in technology (spintronics) and using graphene transistors instead of silicon-based transistors (Allan et al., 2017; Filipponi and Sutherland, 2010; Markovic et al., 2012).



Allan, J. E. M., Buist, H., Chapman, A., Flament, G., Hartmann, C., Jawad, I., Kuijpers, E., Kuittinen, H., Noyons, E., Shukla, A., Giessen, A., & Yegros, A. (2017). NanoData landscape compilation information and communication technologies. Carried out by the Joint Institute for Innovation Policy. Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/317617033_NanoData_Landscape_Compilation_Information_and_Communication_Technologies


Hamza, E. K., & Jaafar, S. N. (2022). Chapter 6 – Nanotechnology applications for wireless communication system. In N. M. Mubarak, S. Gopi & P. Balakrishnan (Eds.). Materials Horizons: From Nature to Nanomaterials: Nanotechnology for Electronic Applications. Springer.

Waldrop, M. M. (2016). More than Moore. Nature, 530, 144-147.

Filipponi, L., & Sutherland, L. (2010). Information and communication technologies (ICT). Available at: https://www.slideshare.net/NANOYOUproject/application-of-nanotechnologies-ict

DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. (2016). Smallest. Transistor. Ever: Research breaks major barrier in transistor size by creating gate only 1 nanometer long. ScienceDaily. Available at: www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/10/161006140546.htm

Markovic, D. S., Zivkovic, D., Cvetkovic, D., & Popovic, R. (2012). Impact of nanotechnology advances in ICT on sustainability and energy efficiency. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 16(5), 2966–2972.