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Nanotech Now: Tiny Technology All Around You

Nanotech Now: Tiny Technology All Around You

Scientists who work in the nanotech industry have long promised better products in basic technologies and human health. While many of the applications have yet to leave the lab, nanotech is all around you.

From sunscreens to baseball bats and kitchen paint, more than 200 everyday items made a new list of nanotechnology consumer products.

The Wilson Center's Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies compiled the inventory, adopting a broad definition of nanotechnology to include manufacturing process that control matter at the nanoscale, usually considered between 1 and 100 nanometers. A human hair is about 100,000 nanometers wide.

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"This means the ability to put small numbers of atom and molecules where we want them, to form materials, structures and devices that benefit from such a high level of control and precision," said Andrew Maynard, chief science advisor for the project.

The products in the database hail from 15 countries. But the search was conducted online in English, and only included products said by manufacturers to incorporate nanotechnology. Researchers expect that more nanotechnology consumer products exist, especially in countries such as Japan, China, and Korea.

Although the database demonstrates a wide array of uses for nanotechnology, only a few materials (carbon, silver and silica) were used to construct most of the products.

The inventory is organized into eight categories, including health and fitness items, home and garden, and automotive.  By far, health and fitness represents the largest category, while children's goods only has three items, including the Xbox 360.

"The database is a tool for consumers and a tool for the public," research associate for the project Evan Michelson told LiveScience. "People can find products that are of interest to them."

Among the nanotechnology goods already sitting on shelves in a store near you:

The entire list is here.

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Corey Binns lives in Northern California and writes about science, health, parenting, and social change. In addition to writing for Live Science, she's contributed to publications including Popular Science, TODAY.com, Scholastic, and the Stanford Social Innovation Review as well as others. She's also produced stories for NPR’s Science Friday and Sundance Channel. She studied biology at Brown University and earned a Master's degree in science journalism from NYU. The Association of Health Care Journalists named her a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Health Journalism Fellow in 2009. She has chased tornadoes and lived to tell the tale.