Manufacturing - Overview - About the sector Text

Nanotechnology manufacturing relates to the processes and products used in the manufacture and use of nanomaterials. Processes for nanotechnology manufacturing include, for example, chemical vapour deposition, lithography and self-assembly. The products can be materials, e.g. carbon nanotubes, but they can also be finished products that use those carbon nanotubes.

Nanotechnology manufacturing techniques have long been grouped into two categories: top-down and bottom-up. In bottom-up processes, the material is synthesised from atoms or molecules through a physical or chemical reaction, e.g. through gas and vapour deposition, liquid phase methods and self-assembly. Top-down processes start with a bulk material and break it into smaller pieces or reducing its size by removing material (e.g. thermal evaporation of layers, ball milling, etching). Some techniques are quite severe in their approach – e.g. milling and grinding – while others appear more refined – e.g. etching and lithography. Both types of processes can take place in solid, liquid or gas states as well as in vacuum. The UK Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering (2004) has illustrated bottom-up and top-down nanotechnology manufacturing approaches in its report1.

This section examines nanotechnology manufacturing from the perspectives of :

  • The knowledge base (publications, projects, patents and the organisations involved)
  • The economic importance of nanotechnology (the industry, products and markets)
  • Regulation and standards, environmental health and safety (EHS)
  • Societal issues, public attitudes and communication

The abbreviation MF is used in the website for nanotechnology manufacturing. In addition, the following abbreviations are used: BU (bottom-up) and TD (top-down).


1. “Nanoscience and nanotechnologies: opportunities and uncertainties”, Nanosciences and Nanotechnologies, the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering, July 2004.