Here is a compilation of important terms around nanotechnologies and nanomaterials followed by a brief definition (CEN ISO / TS 80004-2).



Nanometer scale


Order of magnitude of 1 - 100 nm. The lower limit (1 nm) serves to delimit the order of magnitude of individual atoms or smaller atomic groups.



Material with outer dimensions at the nanometer scale or with internal structures or surface structures at the nanometer scale. The nanomaterials therefore include nanostructured materials and nano-objects.

Nanostructured material

Internal structure or surface structure at the nanometer scale (e.g. nanocomposites).


Material with one, two or three outer dimensions in the nanometer scale.


Generic term for all individual nano-scale objects.


Nano-object with one outer dimension in the nanometer range and two significantly larger outer dimensions (e.g. graphene molecule).



Nano-object with two similar outer dimensions at a nanometer scale and a third outer dimension substantially larger than the other two outer dimensions (e.g. carbon nanotubes).


Hollow nanofibers (e.g. Carbon Nanotubes (CNT).


Rigid nanofibers.
Nano wire

Electrically conducting or semiconducting nanofibers.

Quantum dot


Crystalline nanoparticles which show quantum-limiting properties due to quantum constraints on the electronic states (quantum dot, e.g. cadmium selenide).

Computer chips, for example, belong to nanostructured materials, while titanium dioxide particles in solar creams belong to nano-objects, resp. to the nanoparticles.

Nanotechnologies are not nanoparticles

In the public debate, nanotechnologies are frequently equated with nano-objects - particularly with nanoparticles. This comes from inconsistency in the definition as well as the medial focus on the potential adverse health and environmental effects of nanoparticles. However, nanotechnologies do not deal only with these objects. There are numerous examples such as nanometer-thin layers, which do not contain particles. One example are insulating glasses, which are vaporized with transparent metallic layers.