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Nanotechnology entails the exploration and engineering of matter at the atomic and molecular level. At one-billionth of a meter, one nanometer is about how long a fingernail grows each second. A typical germ is about 1,000 nanometers in size. Conducting research at this level allows scientists to measure, control, and manipulate matter to change an object’s properties and functions.

Importance of Nanotechnology

Scientists anticipate that research in nanotechnology will lead to an unprecedented understanding of matter’s fundamental building blocks, resulting in unlimited applications. These capabilities are expected to produce technological advances in a range of fields that affect agriculture, including food safety, processing, and product development. Applications underway include development of:

  • Safer food packaging
  • Reliable and cost effective alternatives to commercially available insecticides
  • Devices to detect disease-causing proteins in cattle
  • Methods  for producing healthier chickens for human consumption

NIFA’s Impact

NIFA initiatives focus on conducting fundamental research and developing applications such as:

  • Nanosensors that can detect contaminants, such as pathogens or allergens
  • Devices for detecting pesticides or fertilizers in food products
  • Techniques to improve the digestibility, nutrient content, and flavor of food
  • Smart systems to allow the real-time monitoring and regulation of medicines or nutrients, and the environment
  • Nano-catalysts for agricultural waste bioprocessing and other tools to address agro-environmental challenges

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