Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

"Industrial Grade Nano-Paste, Planet's most valuable commodity, can also be one of its most dangerous. Simply pour out several canisters, slide in a programming transponder, and step well away while the stuff cooks. In under an hour the nano will use available materials to assemble a small factory, a hovertank, or enough impact rifles to equip a regiment."

Col. Corazon Santiago - "Planet: A Survivalist's Guide", Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri

In Latin, nanus means "dwarf". In science, the prefix nano- means "one billionth" of something. Nanotechnology is technology on a scale of 1-100 nanometers (1 nanometer being one billionth of a meter.)

For a long scale of sizes see e.g. here. But of what's relevant to nanoscale construction - a hydrogen atom is about [1] 0.1 nanometers across, ribosomes [2] are around 20 (prokaryotic) to almost 30 (eukaryotic) nm long; bacteria are in range of 200-2000 nm; visible light has a wavelength of 400-800 nm, a human cell nucleus is about 1700 [3], and a human hair is about 100,000 nm wide. Which gives a good idea of limitations and complexity involved - and raises a question of at which point you have a nanorobot if you start with "cyborgizing" some bacteria.

Nanotechnology has become an all-purpose magic substitute for soft science fiction and sci-fi-flavored fantasy. Nano is the latest Sci Fi Name Buzzwords; it is the new pseudo-Greek for phlebotinum. Nanotech supplies a myriad of exciting powers with a satisfying patina of plausibility.

In an apparent contradiction, nanotechnology leads to interesting plots and settings in hard science fiction. If one could make a tiny robot, and that little robot created another, and those two robots made four...

Once you have a vast mass of these robots, all ready to accept orders and shuffle stuff around at the molecular level, they can potentially do anything nature does and much, much more. Real-life nanomachine research is being done in areas such as medicine, manufacturing, and chemical engineering.

More often fiction delights in taking nanotech way, way beyond the plausible. Nanomachines, "nanites" or "nanobots" are a writer's best friend. Writers are not expected to show the nanomachines doing whatever it is that they do, all they have to do are the results. And the results can be anything. Nanomachines can be depicted as masses of cloud/liquid in external "colonies", Voluntary Shapeshifting Blobs, or syringes of stuff to be injected into humans and have fantastic results, usually in the form of superpowers, but sometimes in the form of a Baleful Polymorph or Harmful Healing.

Note that real-life physics puts constraints on what nanomachines could accomplish; for instance, without some source of energy, they will just sit there being molecules, or at best work veeeery slowly using ambient energy. But most writers rarely study the subject in any detail; it's easier to just use them as Green Rocks that can do anything the plot requires.

One reasonably common science-fiction scenario involves nanomachines being programmed to build copies of themselves using materials in their environment. If not stopped, such nanobots could theoretically grow exponentially, turning all available material on Earth into more nanobots and ending life as we know it—this is known as the "Grey Goo" scenario. Some scientists (and noted homeopathy fan, HRH The Prince of Wales) have expressed concern that this scenario could actually happen in real life, although most consider it extremely unlikely.

Because it is so powerful, in settings where science is inherently bad expect nanotech to be right up there on the Scale of Scientific Sins.

Nanotech is a fairly common cause for the drastic scenario called The Singularity. The concepts of supply and demand change utterly when humanity becomes capable of mass-producing machinery that can turn anything into anything, ensuring supply is as close to infinite as is possible. And our basic nature is thrown up into the air once we direct nanites to work on us.

Nanites themselves will usually either be dumb as bricks, or networked into a fully sentient mass. Some works may invoke Mechanical Evolution to make the nanomachines smarter/better/deadlier.

Examples of Nanomachines include:

Anime and Manga

  • The Otome from Mai-Otome receive their powers via nanomachine injections; they self-destruct when the female body's exposed to semen.
  • The series Kiddy Grade bases a lot of technology on "Nano-mist"—a fog made up of trillions of nano-scale machines, which can achieve amazing effects—from keeping a 64 thousand kilometer long starship from collapsing under its own mass, to creating a barrier, to repairing damage, to terraforming a planet. Also known as utility fog.
  • In Martian Successor Nadesico exposure to terraforming nanomachines had an interesting effect on humans born on Mars. "Image Feedback System" Nanomachines were also used to interface with various machinery. On Mars, IFS nanomachines were required for pretty much any heavy equipment, but on Earth they served only as the Unusual User Interface for Humongous Mecha and other military vehicles. This led to Martian civilian Akito getting a lot of flak from Earth-natives who assumed he was a military deserter, and eventually getting press-ganged into piloting.
  • Getter Robo hand waves its Transforming Mecha in the Armageddon OVA by attributing the transformations to nanomachines.
  • Turn a Gundam and Turn X's powerful Moonlight Butterfly attacks work by releasing technology-destroying nanomachines. Which may or may not be related to the equally dangerous and much more versatile nanotech "D.G. Cells" from G Gundam.
    • And they allow teleportation, regeneration and more.
  • Gundam 00 uses nanomachines to explain why the crew of Ptolemaios can stay in space for extended periods of time and not suffer bone density loss and so on. They are also the explanation, together with genetic modification, on why Innovades like Tieria do not age.
  • Gunnm's Dr. Desty Nova is a specialist in Nanotechnology, and uses nanomachines to almost everything—from healing almost any wound to making pudding out of trash. The manga even featured an extra section about the subject.
  • Taken to quite an extreme in Black Cat. One of the main characters, Eve, is a bioweapon of sorts who has several nanomachines inside her body that allows her to morph at will. This includes, but is not limited to, sprouting wings, turning her own skin into steel, transforming her hair into massive fists and, most notably, turning into a mermaid.
  • The plot of the Cowboy Bebop movie centers on these devices, which it frames as proteins that make its victims see thousands of butterflies before asphyxiating them nearly instantly.
  • In Trinity Blood, the Crusniks are super-powered über-vampires who feed on vampire blood. They transform from human form into Crusnik by activating the nanomachines in their blood.
  • Sky Girls has nanomachines as the focus of the entire story. Monster of the Week? Nanomachines originally built to cure medical problems gone rogue. Pilots wearing Latex Space Suit? They are protected by nanomachine armor that only lasts ten minutes.[4] The weapons that the Sonic Divers carry? They are all nanomachine bullets.
  • Strike Witches, a show quite similar to Sky Girls, features the alien Grey Goo version of this as all of the Monsters of the Week.
  • Foo Fighters from JoJo's Bizarre Adventure -- Stone Ocean is a unique character: while she does all the things a nanomachine-creature can do, such as healing herself and others and morphing her body to suit her needs (she has a literal handgun), she's actually a Stand-enhanced colony of plankton.
  • In Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, nanomachines are widely used. In the first season, one of the potential treatments for cyberbrain sclerosis is based on nanomachines (although it isn't very effective). One episode also mentions that nanomachines are used to counteract air pollution. 2nd GIG introduces the "Japanese Miracle"; a nanomachine-based technology for neutralising radioactive fallout from nuclear explosions.
    • Though, being written before "nano" became a popular buzzword they're called micro -machines.
      • If it collects substances that inevitably and spontaneously explode into fragments far too energetic to contain on its scale, it needs massive redundancy.
  • Viluy from Sailor Moon attacks with nanomachines. After one of Sailor Moon's attacks causes them to malfunction, they turn on their creator.
  • Yami from To LOVE-Ru apparently gets her powers from nanomachines.
    • As expected of an Eve-expy.
    • And now Yami has a 'younger sister', Mea Kurosaki with the same powers, presumably from the same source.
  • In Blassreiter, Amalgams/Demoniacs are created by nanomachines.
  • In GaoGaiGar FINAL, Palparepa uses nanomachines during his fight with Guy. After taking some damage from them, Guy uses his Evoluder abilities to rewrite the nanomachines and send them back at Palparepa. However, instead of weakening him the nanomachines have the unforeseen effect of making Palparepa cross the Bishonen Line.
  • Pretty much the reason a Vanguard is a superior fighter against… soldiers, tanks, spider tanks and helicopters: Somehow, they make them superstrong, fast, agile etc.. They are also, however, harmful to the body, which is why Vanguards of the newer generations are euthanized after a certain period of time, bing a military asset and damn expensive. A bunch of little machines pushing you to your limits, possibly straining the immune system, wearing you down… yep, sounds like Deconstruction.
  • In Deadman Wonderland, the Branch of Sin powers come from femtomachines called the Nameless Worm.
  • After suffering life-threatening brain damage that left her semi-paralyzed for months, Ai from Planetes finally get better after a long treatment involving nanomachines reconstructing neural pathways and such.

Comic Books

  • The Authority - Authority member The Engineer replaced all of her blood with nanomachines. She can create nearly anything with these, from Arm Cannons to duplicates of herself. This being The Authority, many of the implications of these powers are investigated.
  • During Grant Morrison's X-Men run, Cassandra Nova attacked the team on a cellular level with nanosentinels.
  • In the Sonic the Hedgehog comic series, some of Eggman's creations resulted in a hivemind mass of nanites that collected into a "city" in the forest. When an AI system of Eggman's was eliminated, NICOLE, the AI from Sally's computer, took over the dormant nanites herself and reconfigured them into a modified replica of Mobotropolis, giving her friends a new home. Nicole has been shown to occasionally modify the city structure through the nanites, though if her attention is divided she may have trouble maintaining everything at once.
    • NICOLE also occasionally uses those nanites to create a physical form for herself, though she just as often uses holograms instead.
  • In the fourth volume of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Mirage comic book, it is revealed that Baxter Stockman had infected April O'Neil with "NanoBaxterBots", which were slowly killing her. As a response, utrom Glurin and Professor Honeycutt device NanoTurtleBots—nanomachines that draw their fighting skills from the turtles' memories, which they then insert into April.
  • Xombi, from Milestone Comics, is about a scientist who becomes a superhero after being injected with a nanomachine "virus" that's capable of extensive tissue regeneration.
  • Iron Man - Tony Stark once killed The Mandarin with nanomachines, also his "Extremis" Armour is supposedly this.
    • Iron Man's new bleeding edge armor is made completely out of nanites and liquid metal.
    • His original suit was powered by "tiny transistors," the predecessor to today's nanomachines in terms of function and origin.
  • By the unspecified future of Transmetropolitan, "Makers", which use nanomachines to create food, clothing, and most other necessities, are commonplace. Spider Jerusalem sarcastically reminisces about his youth, where virtually everything he ate, wore, or owned was made from reprocessed lizard.
    • One filler issue has an interview with a man who lost his legs stopping a Grey Goo outbreak—and who was then fired for not following the standard procedure of letting Blue Goo devour the entire endangered block and everyone still in it.
    • Also there's the foglets, who are people who download their consciousness into a cloud of utility fog.
  • In Adam Warren's version of the Dirty Pair, nanotechnology is strictly regulated to the point of being outlawed, after a Grey Goo outbreak called the "Nanoclysm" destroyed the Earth years ago.
    • One villain uses nanobots to grant himself a Healing Factor; the Angels beat him up so much that the waste heat from the repairs does as much damage as the beating.
  • Valiant Comics and the successor Acclaim Comics have multiple nanite-powered heroes. Valiant's Bloodshot has nanite-infused blood that, in the Valiant Comics incarnation, survives as the "Blood of Heroes" well into the 41st Century.
    • Acclaim's Bloodshot's nanites may not be that long-lived, but were capable of healing any injury provided they had enough raw material to work with, reshaping his appearance, and making a modem jack in his neck for free internet access. Acclaim's version of Magnus Robot Fighter was never explicitly stated to have nanites, but his blood was metallic and capable of healing wounds. You do the math.
  • The Flash - Flash's enemy Abra Kadabra is a time traveler who uses technology to simulate magic. At least one recent story described most of his tricks as being based on nanotech.
  • The magic behind virtual reality in Kimmie 66.

Fan Works


  • The second Terminator is often explained within fandom as being able to change shape because it is made of nanomachines, even though that explanation is not in the movie.
    • The villain of Terminator 3 is made of nanomachines on top of an android skeleton, allowing for some Magical Computer effects, as well as not suffering from the T-1000's inability to create complex tools from its substance.
  • The source of KITT's superpowers in the 2008 Knight Rider Pilot Movie. It's even what keeps the armor together; when the computer is turned off, the car's an ordinary non-bulletproof Product Placement... I mean Mustang.
  • In Virtuosity an evil AI named Sid 6.7 enters the real life by creating itself an avatar using nanotech. He/It absorbs glass to heal.
  • When used as directed, the nanobots on the salvage ship in Friday the 13th (film) can heal wounds and restore tissue damaged by cryogenic freezing. They can also be used to rebuild a shot-to-living-hell psycho killer into a Nigh Invulnerable cyborg. ...Yay?
  • Nanomachines are used in the I Robot movie to "execute" problem robots.
  • In the remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still nano-insects (grey-goo style) Kill All Humans.
  • Star Trek: First Contact was the first time the Borg were shown using nanotech as an assimilation tool (see below under Live Action TV).
  • The MacGuffin in Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever is nanotech used as an assassination weapon. Roger Ebert wrote in his review: "A miniaturized assassination robot small enough to slip through the bloodstream would cost how much? Millions? And it is delivered by dart? How is this for an idea: use a poison dart, and spend the surplus on school lunches."
  • Transformers Film Series - According to The Official Movie Guide, Protoforms are made up of densely packed nanomachines. This is the semi-official Hand Wave for any transformation "cheats" in the films and where, for example, the rubber for Optimus' tires comes from.
  • G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra features the nanites, originally created for medical intents and later weaponized (sometimes with medical intents, for creating Super Soldier Elite Mooks who had a minor Healing Factor and parts of their brains destroyed to become fearless). And seems like they already existed in a G.I. Joe comic.
  • One of the plots in the unproduced Plastic Man movie explained the technology which gave the titular character's powers. It involves the use of a experimental chemical liquid that rubberized anything that comes in contact with... But to stabilize the transformation, the test subject has to have a nanomachine (inside its body) as a catalyst to render the liquid product safe in its organism. If the nanomachine isn't used in the process, the liquid continues to rubberize the subject until it decomposes from the liquid's grey goo attributes. According to the script's text, it described the nanomachine that it has the shape of a snowflake
  • What the major antagonists are made up of in Ben 10 Alien Swarm. An interesting thing is that they're inert initially but this is a ploy by the hive queen to keep the heroes guessing while she prepares an invasion.


  • Greg Bear's novelette and later novel Blood Music may very well be the first user of this trope in fiction, despite the fact that technically its nanomachines were biological in origin. On the other hand, once you get down to nano-scales, the difference between organism and machine is very blurry. Nanotechnology also features in Bear's Queen Of Angels, and its sequel, Slant'.
  • The Monoliths in the 1982 book (and 1984 movie) 2010: Odyssey Two act like nanomachines, but are great big self-replicating machines. They turned the planet Jupiter into a star by igniting its core. The proper term for macroscale replicators are Von Neumann machines.
  • Prey - A swarm of sentient nanomachines was the central premise of the Michael Crichton novel.
  • In the satiric science-fiction novel, Tim Defender Of The Earth, one character uses the implications of nanotechnology to turn himself and the rest of Britain's population into a collective hive-mind.
  • The counterculture novel How to Mutate and Take over the World ends with nanomachines transforming the entire world into key-lime pie filling.
  • In the second of the Thursday Next series of novels by Jasper Fforde, Thursday's inventing uncle Mycroft invents some nanomachines. Her time-traveling Chronoguard rogue father who does not exist in real time (that's a mouthful) eventually has to time travel to the beginning of life on Earth with the nanomachine colony (instructed to convert all organic material into Dream Topping) in his fist, to prevent the world ending in a sugary, confectionery manner. Turns out we are all evolved from Dream Topping. Which actually explains a lot.
  • The epilogue of Look To Windward by Iain M Banks features an artificial shape-shifting assassin composed of "E-Dust" (Everything-Dust), originally intended as a building material but inevitably turned to darker purposes. The Culture in general seem to have progressed beyond nanotech, referring to 'picofoam' as the building blocks of their AI Minds.
    • "Picofoam complex" is the backup computational substrate for a mere ship drone's AI core, as described in Excession. Most of a true Culture Mind actually exists in hyperspace, where it may function unburdened by pesky nuisances like the speed of light and neutron decay.
  • The anti-Descolada virus designed by the heroes in the Ender's Game sequels. Ironically, the original Descolada virus counts too, as it was engineered by an unknown alien race as a terraforming agent.
  • The plot of the Moonrise and Moonwar by Ben Bova revolve around nanomachines. A subversion occurs when one character proposes making nanomachines that act like dust, to blind the invading army, and another character suggests just using dust instead.
  • Nearly-omnipresent nanotechnology is an important part of the setting and plot in Neal Stephenson's novel The Diamond Age (So named because with nanotech, diamond becomes literally as cheap as dirt, making it a useful building material.)
  • The eyves in Sergey Pavlov's novel Moon Rainbow aren't as much nanomachines as they are alien microorganisms, but they do grant people superpowers. Much of the book is devoted to exploring psychological and social consequences of this. In the sequel, though, they are just an excuse for the hero to kick some ass.
  • Nanomachines figure prominently in Nancy Kress's novel Beggars and Choosers (1994), the middle book of a trilogy beginning with Beggars in Spain (1993) and concluding with Beggars Ride (1996).
  • In Specials, the third book of Scott Westerfeld's Uglies series, it is revealed that the Specials have nanobots in their blood that allow them to heal faster than normal humans. Nanos can also be really bad, though, as in the scene where Tally and Shay end up destroying a museum by accidentally unleashing some. (This scene is referenced for comedic value in Extras, when Shay's solution to a problem is an excited cry of "Nanos!")Nanos are also what allow the Holes in the Walls to work like they do. In fact, nanos are everywhere in that world.
  • In the Nulapeiron Sequence (and the prequel, To Hold Infinity) by John Meaney, nanotech is considered rather crude and almost everything is instead done using 'femtotech', comprising 'engineered pseudatoms', whatever that might mean. References are even made to 'attotech', engineering using the fundamental building blocks of spacetime, referred to as Twistors.
  • In Ken MacCleod's Fall Revolution series, nanotech replicators and the creation of true AI lead to the singularity where many humans upload themselves to a computer framework and boost their intelligence and capabilities to godlike levels. The humans left behind in the solar system after the departure of the Fast Folk (so named due to the speed of their thought) use nanomechanical devices as the basis of much of their technology, the idea being that mechanisms are practically immune to subversion unlike their computer counterparts with corruptible software.
  • Alastair Reynolds
    • The Revelation Space series covers the collapse of much of human civilisation following the spread of an alien disease which corrupts human technology in very unpleasant ways. The problem is compounded by the return of the Inhibitors, a vastly ancient machine race who use replicating technology hundreds of millions of years in advance of humanity which might be based on even smaller scale femtotechnology...
    • In Pushing Ice, many of the other inmates of the Spican's "zoo" have access to femtotechnology, again far in advance of the nanotechnology humans wield and correspondingly more dangerous when replicators run out of control. in something of a twist, it is suggested that much of the alien femtotech was in fact human in origin... thanks to time dilation humanity progressed significantly whilst the crew of the Rockhopper were in transit to the Spican structure.
    • Century Rain Earth was abandoned after nanomachines that are suppose to fix global warming start to eat everything to fuel themselves. The Slashers, who are a splinter human group, don't care if nanomachines caused problem in the past and continue to use them, have them present in their blood.
  • In Bloom by Wil McCarthy, nanomachines have run amok and eaten the entire biosphere of Earth, plus spread out into nearby space. Human refugees survived by colonizing the outer solar system, including Jupiter's moon Ganymede. The novel's plot follows the first mission sent back sunward to find out what's left.
  • In the opening of John Ringo's Council Wars series 41st century humanity has reached the point where people have the power to transform themselves into all sort of nifty things, up to and including sentient clouds of nanites. Which must have been a lot of fun... right up until the point where somebody turns off all the power.
  • In Ringo's Posleen War Series, the Galactic economy is based primarily on control of nanomachines used to build material from the atomic level up. With the new threat introduced in The Eye of the Storm, Mike O'Neal, Jr kicks this in the head, thanks to Darhel interference with the human forces supposedly defending against hostiles making them varying degrees of useless.
  • Luckily the Samothrace operative in Drakon has a small Faber which can make whatever he wants, diamonds, components for Plasma rifles, anything small enough. The Draka he's chasing was caught in an accident so it doesn't have these luxuries, and it can think of better ways to commit suicide then use the enemy's weapons.
  • Larry Niven, aware that Tech Marches On, retconned his Known Space Verse by saying that Carlos Wu had invented a nanotech-based autodoc with astonishing capabilities: in "Procrustes", the story where it was introduced, Beowulf Shaeffer was able to have his entire body regenerated from just his severed head, and when it reappeared in The Ringworld Throne and Ringworld's Children, Louis Wu used it to reverse being transformed into a Protector—which borders on Deus Ex Machina.
  • Used in various ways in the Honorverse, both for good and evil, but rarely explored in detail except one specific case.
  • Quickies (or "shustrs" in original Polish text) are the mainstay of Lusanian society in Stanislaw Lem's Observation on the Spot. They do everything, from providing energy and material wealth to enforcing laws of ethics as laws of physics. In Lusania "man" doesn't kill a "man"—the environment won't let him. They could even provide immortality, but those who tried it generally found that it doesn't worth the effort.
  • In his Peace on Earth nanomachines are also the ultimate stage of Mechanical Evolution of human weaponry.
  • Walter Jon Williams novel Aristoi covers these, in various aspects, in great detail. Nanomachines are pretty much the basis for the entire economy, and a great deal of effort is expended in making sure the few people authorized to design new ones know what they're doing. The novel goes into more than usual detail on what it would take to actually get one running, including troubles such as getting rid of the heat such things would generate, especially in a vacuum. Gray goo does come up a couple times, at least once as a malicious attack.
  • The Plague Year Series details the effects of a devastating nano-tech plague which disassembles all warm-blooded life forms below 10,000 ft elevation.
  • An entire manufacturing entity—Chasti Perma Lock has been created which produces nanite powered devices such as chastity devices, gags and so forth by the action of nanites on a person. For example, a chastity device is made by nanites closing up the ... operative ... opening permanently. You can use your imagination as to the rest.
  • The Days of Solomon Gursky by Ian McDonald. It starts in a near-ish future where nanomachines are routinely used to build virtually anything. Out of diamond if you like. And then the protagonist invents a process that uses nanomachines to entirely replace the cells in a living creature (such as a human). This essentially converts the creature into a new immortal form entirely constructed from nanomachines. The rest of the novella explores the full astounding ramifications of this over the following centuries and millennia.
  • The Diving Universe has "nanobits", a Lost Technology used by the Precursors in the Fleet 5,000 years ago. Very few of them are still operational, and those are generally mistaken for a strange natural phenomenon.

Live Action TV

  • The concept has been used on Eureka.
  • Assistant DA Skinner from The X-Files was poisoned by nanomachines. This was never resolved.
  • Introduced as the way that people from the future take over human hosts (including protagonist Tom Baldwin) in the fourth season of The 4400.
  • Star Trek
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation - When Nanomachines or "nanites" were first introduced, they wreaked havoc when accidentally allowed to interact with each other to form a Hive Mind. Interesting to note, these were originally dust mites. Later the nanites were put forth as a possible way of combating the Borg, though the process of destroying a Borg cube (estimated at about two weeks) would have taken too long to save the Federation. However, given the Borg's own mastery of nanotechnology as later seen in Star Trek: First Contact and in Star Trek: Voyager, it probably wouldn't have been very effective anyway. The Borg use "nanoprobes" for assimilating other species into their collective hive environment: the nanoprobes are injected into the bodies of other species through tubules, where they begin to transform the foreign species into partially organic and partially machine beings.
    • On Star Trek: Voyager, one of the aforementioned Borg becomes part of the crew and in later episodes the nanoprobes are used to do various convenient things, including curing medical conditions, assimilating even more advanced technology and spawning a new individual, and so on.
    • The Borg's nanoprobes are also revisited during their appearance in Star Trek: Enterprise. Although the details behind their ability to assimilate a ship from the inside out had been previously left offscreen, it's revealed that the Borg simply inject the nanite tubules into a wall panel, causing a wave of Borg technology to begin spreading and consuming the ship.
  • In Andromeda, High Guard ships of the line have nanomachines as part of their self-repair systems, their medical equipment and their anti-intruder defences. In the background information for the series (and sometimes alluded to on-screen) it's stated that nanomachines are ubiquitous in people as well as defense for nanomachine attacks. And Beka Valentine has them in her hair to make it change color.
  • Nanomachines called "Nanogenes" ran amok to trigger the major crisis in the Doctor Who episodes "The Empty Child" and "The Doctor Dances".
  • The Sarah Jane Adventures: "Prisoner of the Judoon"
  • Season eight of Mystery Science Theater 3000 introduced the Nanites, who could do anything from hairstyling to blowing up planets. Lampooned because they were usually too busy dealing with the social problems of their microscopic society to actually do anything useful.
  • In a later season of Red Dwarf, the missing Red Dwarf was revealed to have been stolen and miniaturized (with the extra matter stored as a small planetoid) by nanobots that had once been Kryten's self-repair system. The nanobots are tracked down, and made to give back what they took as well as replace Lister's amputated arm. As a bonus, the nanobots had not only restored Holly when they originally took the ship, but when they rebuilt it they built it true to its original plans and resurrected the crew, minus Kochanski.
  • The Outer Limits had featured a plot designed around nanobots created to heal human infirmities; the nanobots spontaneously develop an artificial intelligence and begin "repairing" what they perceived as "design flaws" of those human bodies- creating some rather weird things like an armored ribcage and even eyes in the back of the head! According to opening titles, the main plot (The New Breed) was also based on Blood Music, mentioned below under Literature.
  • Stargate:
    • Nanites appear in several episodes of Stargate SG-1, although the earlier ones appear to be an evolution of a less-sophisticated group of Replicators which seem to have been independently created.[5]
    • Fanon and the Expanded Universe hold that the unsophisticated Stargate SG-1 Replicators encountered the advanced Stargate Atlantis Replicators at some point in the past or during the series and cribbed the ability to create human-form Replicators from them. However, canon explicitly states that the Milky Way replicators got the idea for human form from Reese:

First: When our Replicator brethren discovered the android Reese, they realized she was their creator. They studied her design and form and found aspects of her technology superior to their own.
Second: Our brethren are composed of ungainly blocks.
Third: We are composed of millions of cell units, microscopic in comparison, that combine to create this form.

    • Stargate Atlantis features a nanovirus that kills several members of the Atlantis Expedition and nearly kills many more during its first season (possibly Asuran nanobots). Also an example of criminal neglect from the Precursors (Ancients). (To be fair, though, they thought they would be coming back, and couldn't really have foreseen the humans, who were still hunter-gatherers when they left, taking over. They weren't really jerks until they Ascended.) Nanotechnology is used fairly regularly in the later seasons, the most notable example being the human-form Replicators, originally designed by the Ancients.
  • A common Fanon explanation for the "smoke monster" on Lost is that it is a cloud of nanites. Though the writers have Jossed this theory more than once, it nonetheless appeared in the ARG The Lost Experience.
  • An injection of Nanomachines also gave super strength, endurance and enhanced senses as well as the ability to interface with electronics in the short-lived Jake 2.0.
  • Used in an episode of Now and Again, in which the nanomachines used in Mr. Goodman's construction start spreading from his body, devouring all the ink in the world and destroying all literature. Turns out it was all just a dream.

Tabletop Games

  • Cyberpunk 2020 has a variety of nanotech, to go along with its various cyberware. Things get more interesting in Cybergeneration, its sequel. Cybergeneration introduces the 'Carbon Plague,' a nanite-based disease of uncertain origin. (How uncertain? The writers intentionally made incompatible statements to fans). At first, the Carbon Plague horrifically deforms and kills people, but later, kids, then adults, start to survive. Some of the kids aren't quite the same after, now possessing one of several super-powers; morphing limbs, wireless net-hacking, electrical blasts, pseudo-telepathy (via brainwave scanning), matter manipulation, or whatever power a Game Master can figure out a way to justify with the little hexite-manufacturing and manipulating nanobots that is the Carbon Plague.
  • Flowstone, the rocklike substance that made up most of the artificial world of Rath in Magic: The Gathering, is made of Dungeon Punk-style nanomachines that can be controlled by the mind, usually by Rath's ruler, the evincar. It can be shaped into semi-sentient beasts or unleashed as a viscous tidal wave. Flowstone is not self-replicating, though; it was produced in a factory in the now-destroyed stronghold, the evincar's fortress at the center of the plane.
  • GURPS tech level progression is explicitly based on the idea that nanotechnology will take off between TL 9 and TL 10.
  • Averted in Traveller except as an occasional MacGuffin. Sourcebooks explicitly state that this was done to protect their system.
  • Eden Games' Conspiracy X supplement Atlantis Rising. The Atlanteans (immortal aliens) use nanotechnology for everything, including altering themselves.
  • Ubiquitous in Eclipse Phase, Nanofabricators are used to produce most goods, nanoware (most healing medichines) are an entire category of implants, and non-self-replicating nanoswarms are used for a variety of purposes. The TITANS also made frequent use of sentient Grey Goo.


  • Bionicle: very small subversion, the inhabitants of Mata Nui can be considered this. Given that Mata Nui is a 40,000 foot tall Humongous Mecha, the inhabitants would be like nanobots to him. Also, in a more literal sense, the microscopic Rahi, Protodites, could be seen as nanobots. Zaktan's body is entirely composed of them after a unfortunate encounter with the Shadowed One.

Video Games

  • The nanobot work crews in Portal2
  • Nanomachines (called Nanites) fuel the war effort in PlanetSide; they build the weapons, tanks, buildings, and the soldiers themselves. When the objects are damaged beyond repair, they're deconstructed by the nanites.
  • Metal Gear Solid and its sequels use nanomachines for everything, from transmissions to healing bleeding wounds to aiding in a fake possession.
    • Nanomachines?
    • In Metal Gear Solid 2, Raiden actually has all of his blood replaced with synthetic blood teaming with nanites. Never mind the actual viability of that particular gruesome mashup, this is what allows him to interact wirelessly with nerds. Uh, nodes. This is actually perfectly viable, or at least it should be in the next few decades. Current designs project replacing even 10% of your blood with these machines could allow you to go hours without taking a breath.
  • Vanilla H's healing ability in the Galaxy Angel games comes from nanomachines. This works on both ships (her Angel Wing, Harvester, is a living nanomachine colony) and people (with her pet, a catlike living Lost Technology). Vanilla is one of the very few people that can pull this off, and became an Emotionless Girl as a side effect of honing her skills. Nano-Nano Pudding, from the later games, is another living Lost Technology, this time a Catgirl. Like Vanilla's pet, she too is constructed from nanomachines.
  • In the Galaxy Angel anime, none of this is mentioned at all, and Vanilla's powers may or may not come from a magical bead.
  • While Warcraft III doesn't actually use them in the story, a custom map called S.W.A.T. Aftermath calls the Mana resource 'energy' instead and the creator refers to the 'Nanites' in it as being able to do pretty much anything. A fan comic parodies it by having the creator call the Nanites concept 'magic', which is ill-received by the scientific community. After renaming it Nanites, he's considered a genius. As a note, the map's creator has said "Nanites did it" when some of the community begin to over analyze how certain technologies work.
  • Total Annihilation used nanobots (via "Nanolathes") for construction. One of the creators explained it thus: "It would have been too complex and time consuming to have little guys with hammers and scaffolds every time something was built in the game. It also wasn't futuristic enough. We needed something like magic, but with a thin veneer of science around it. Nanotechnology to the rescue!"
    • Ironically, this has turned out to be a fairly reasonable use of nanotech. Now imagine a game of total annihilation that drags out for months, and apply to the real world. Total Annihilation's Spiritual Successor, Supreme Commander, uses Nanolathes as well, but calls them "Protocrafters" and gives each faction's unique graphics.
    • Total Annihilation used nanotechnology but not nanomachines. The two are very different! Nanolathing is the process by which solid objects are created by fabrication systems, eg Commanders, Factories and Engineers. Things must be actively constructed by a fabricator; they cannot self-assemble. Once built, non-fabricating units and buildings cannot replicate or regenerate: they're just perfectly normal (albeit very high-tech) machines. A select few buildings can upgrade, but most buildings and units cannot and no unit can change itself dramatically. A nanolathe could be visualised as a very fast, very powerful, multi-material 3d-printer with molecular-scale resolution.
      • It takes over enemy robots, however.
  • The plotline of the video game Hostile Waters: Antaeus Rising, by Warren Ellis, is based on nanotechnology. In the year 2012, nanotech "Creation Engines" were developed and released to the world at large. Able to dispense anything a person could want, at any time - on demand - they cause "the world to go sane"; Revolution happened, power cliques were overthrown and the world becomes a Utopia. The game takes place is the fictional year 2032, where the old power elites have perverted nanotechnology for their own uses, creating weapons of war with which to blackmail the rest of the world into servitude again. Or so it seems, at first...
  • Deus Ex - Nanites are central to gameplay and a strong part of the plot. The protagonist, JC Denton, has nano-augmentations, such augmented vision. During the game, fresh infusions of nanites add entirely new abilities and upgrades for existing abilities. All his augmentations were powered by his body's own bioelectrical energy—a high tech equivalent of mana. The abilities themselves were fairly believable, though if you built your character right you were essentially an Invisible, super-fast, super-strong, rapid-healing dude wielding a sword that could kill robots in a single hit. Of course, you would completely drain your bioelectrical energy in about twenty or thirty seconds of pure awesomeness, but hey, what price glory?
    • The sequel, Deus Ex: Invisible War, starts with a cutscene where a terrorist detonates a pocket "Nanite Detonator" that turns everything in range into a big soup of gray nano-goo. The kicker? He was in the middle of Chicago, and the thing wipes out the city.
  • Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri. All over the place at higher levels. Several technologies have to do with the stuff (Nanominiaturization, Nanometallurgy, and Industrial Nanorobotics being the coolest-named), most of which give you some pretty cool stuff (and allow you to build carriers and submarines for the first time for some reason).
    • On one hand, upon researching Industrial Nanorobotics, you hear an excerpt from one of Miriam's screeds against new technology:
Already we have turned all of our critical industries, all of our material resources, over to these...things...these lumps of silver and paste we call nanorobots. And now we propose to teach them intelligence? What, pray tell, will we do when these little homunculi awaken one day and announce that they have no further need of us?
Sister Miriam Godwinson, "We Must Dissent"
  • Ratchet and Clank uses Nanotech to explain the existence of hitpoints. After a set point in the first game, the Nanotech can be upgraded to increase the health of Ratchet.
  • Also the game Size Matters central plot revolves around a tiny civilization naked to the human eye called the Technomites who are responsible for creating technology (at least in one galaxy).
  • The Xenosaga trilogy uses nanomachines a lot. Ether is basically the main characters using nanomachines to do things like heal and spam Game Breakers. Segment Addresses (places where one can obtain some nice stuff) are said to have been made by faulty nanomachines, and that their corresponding Decoders "fix" them so that the corridor behind is accessible.
  • The spiritual predecessor, Xenogears, makes even further use of them, though it's still limited to a few applications found only at the very highest tech level available to the game (Solaris, Shevat, Zeboim and Deus). They are used to heal people, to turn people into monsters, to turn these monsters back into humans, to create artificial human beings, to build biological limitations into humans (and to remove the nanites that do the former, allowing humans to access their full potential), to build, upgrade, repair and modify some of the huge Powered Armor suits, to partially cure the hero of his complex multiple personalities disorder, to mind-control people, and to build a complete fortress out of nothing in a matter of seconds. A playable character in the game is also herself an entire nanite colony whose method of fighting involves her reshaping her own body into various weapons at will.
  • In System Shock 2, nanites are a mixture of nanomachines and base material used with replication technology to make items, and they have become the world's default currency. Quite naturally, replicators in the game are set by their Mega Corp manufacturer to rip off the consumer by skimming off the top with each transaction, which explains why the player (and according to in-game logs, everybody else) can hack replicators for better prices. In addition to buying things, nanites are used to power all the technical skills; hacking the replicators would use up nanites to create new circuit bypasses, repairing your weapon would need replacement parts, etc. Well, in theory, since in the game it's all just a minigame.
  • Mass Effect has the appropriately named Omni-tool, a holographic tool that can dispense medigel, conduct electronic warfare, and function as a datapad, and repair vehicles and a certain plasma vent. It is also a definite threat in combat; if you bring her along, the tech-focused party member will brandish one as a threat while others draw weapons or take up their Pstandard Psychic Pstance. Since that description does nothing to suggest that this has anything to do with the trope: Omni-tools contain nano manufacturies, which permit them to create small items out of raw materials on the fly—like very small high-power explosives. They can also apparently make drones made of light that shoot electricity if the sequel is any indication.
  • The Necris from the Unreal series are humans who had all their blood replaced with Nanoblack, a "black goo" of nanomachines. The Necris are technically undead (as the name implies), since Nanoblack is harmful to living organisms and the blood transfusion only works on dead people.
  • Iji uses nanotechnology for everything. All the enemy soldiers and Iji herself use nano to enhance their movement and protect their bodies. Also, their "nanoguns" can shapeshift their internal components to act as any kind of weapon and assemble projectiles inside the barrel.
  • The entire Wild ARMs series thrives on the use of nanotechnology, mixed with liberal helpings of Clarke's Third Law. See: Metal Demons, "Planet Hiades" in general in Wild ARMs 3, it's specifically stated to be Terra/Earth after a nanotech apocalypse, the fourth game's meaning behind the acronym ARM...
  • The GenSelect Device, from Wing Commander IV, was weaponized Nanomachines designed to eliminate anyone with "inferior" genes.
  • All of the Red Faction games feature nanotechnology, primarily as plot points. Used quite realistically in the first and third games; not so much in the second.
  • In Cyberstorm, a Turn-Based Strategy game set in the Earth Siege universe, you can buy your HERCs self repair systems based on nanotechnology.
  • In Escape Velocity Nova, the Krypt Hive Mind reacts to any interesting phenomena in its region of space by having a pod release a colony of nanites to "explore" it. Although the game's documentation insists that nanites are not really weapons, their effect on ships gives no good reason for players to consider them as anything else, Blue and Orange Morality notwithstanding.
  • Super Robot Wars Alpha Gaiden has nanomachines known as Machine Cells as part of the Black History backstory and are being used by the Big Bad: the Magus and her minions. Also used in Super Robot Wars Original Generation 2.
  • The Vasari from Sins of a Solar Empire make extensive use of nanomachines, with most of their special abilities being built around either spacetime-warping technology or nanomachines.
  • Anarchy Online takes this trope to heart and runs with it, using nanobots for frickin' everything. "Magic" is essentially just free-floating nanobots in the air being told to do something, your Mana is called Nano Points, and these 'bots make everything from guns, to Humongous Mecha, to that super-potent beer that all nano-augmented species that live on Rubi-Ka can't get drunk from ("It's just as nasty-tasting and foul smelling as the real thing, but without the alcohol."). Hell, these things can even change the way things taste. You name it, nanobots are probably behind it on Rubi-Ka. Except for resurrection; you need the local Green Rocks for that.
  • A little-known RTS game from the DOS era called War, Inc. puts you in charge of a Private Military Contractor. The vehicles are manufactured by nanobots from raw materials that you must harvest in-mission (and your infantry is made by incredibly high-speed cloning).
  • One of the main resources in the RTS Achron is called Liquid Crystals (LC for short) and is made of a mix of common atoms and nanobots in a liquid-crystal framework. When you order a unit to construct a building the unit drops a tiny transponder seed which signals local teleportation infrastructure to teleport the right quantity of LC to that location. The nanobots in the LC then assemble the building using the atoms contained within it. When you build a unit the LC is teleported into the factory where it assembles into the units gear in a similar way (and the pilot is supplied separately).

Web Comics

  • Much of Earth's technological superiority over New Abilene in Afterlife Blues is based on nanotech.
  • Most of the advanced Martian technology in A Miracle of Science is based on nanites.
  • Angels and Aliens is based on a secret group of humans given nanotechnology-based abilities such as speed, strength and healing by mysterious aliens. Drawbacks include rapid depletion of energy and oxygen while using the abilities, and the one-size-fits-all female template for the transformed humans - even if the recipient was originally male.
  • Alien Dice has healing nanites, one use ones used for repairing a particular injury, after which they deactivate, and ones that provide a permanent Healing Factor, as well as the "relays" which are nanotechinologcal communications devices which implant themselves in your brain, they basically function as a form of machine assisted telepathy.
  • In the Blade of Toshubi a nano-virus was used in World War IV to rid the Earth's surface of Humans & is believed to have caused the mutation of animals to a sentient, humanoid form.
  • At least two types of nanomachines showed up during the Crossover Wars, mini-gnomes from Magical Misfits were sent to the Evil Overlords headquarter to sabotage things and nanite versions of Mind Mistress were left there to monitor things.
  • In Schlock Mercenary nanomachines are almost omnipresent, and several Story Arcs have featured them heavily. Note that they generally are of very specific limited use and/or act as a part of large and complex systems. The types that can survive in the open at all still have heat capacity and resistance to radiation reasonable for their size - hardened ones are vacuum-capable but all are killed if anyone fires in their general direction anything from a powerful searchlight and up. Or if they run into "antiseptic", like anti-nannotic film.
    • "Nanny-cams", bugs that are dispensed from a squirt-gun. While devices on the scale of light wavelength obviously can't use ray optics, it's the right size for antenna arrays.
    • Medical. Regeneration vats are awesome, but they include external control and support systems, and expensive. The only common piece of multi-species medical equipment in the field is a body-bag that keeps the brain alive in anabiosis.
    • "Blood-nannies" - self-sustaining swarms of medical nanobots controlled by implanted microcomputers, sometimes interfaced to the user's brain, as explained here... of course, implanting stuff in the brain is made safer by using yet another nanobot system to do all the cable-work. Uncommon at best.
      • The "soldier boosts" - the same, plus augmentation of tissues and enough of integration with neural system to avoid control problems. Really expensive to install and restricted in many polities. High-end ones may include "weapon package", so when an operative is disarmed, there still are surprises, since micro-implants, let alone swarms of nanobots spread through the body, are either overlooked as fairly common or left alone because it's hard to remove or disable them without killing the host (short of throwing the latter in a jar swarming with your own for a while).
    • Weaponized nanites - not much good for an open battle (vulnerable to heat and ionizing radiation, and as such purged with fire in small areas and swept with beams in large), but a very nasty assassination weapon. They are targeted (for example, eating their way along nerves to the victim's brain, then make it non-recoverable) and self-destruct later. Variants keeping a live carrier intact may be voluntarily controlled by the carrier or even nanobots may have limited control over one's body - for designs carried in humans, the all-time favorite delivery method is projectile vomiting a full stomach of stuff lethal in mist-droplet quantities.
    • The "cloud AI" types stand out, but from what we have seen, given enough of time and challenges those are prone to evolving out of their initial rules one way or another even more than conventional fixed-hardware AI.
    • Also, one big and already metal-rich ecosystem seems to have co-evolved (over millions of years) into symbiosis with what is implied to be runaway nanobots, formerly used by the cyborgized sophonts who owned the place, and now electroplate bones and carapaces of local fauna (and at least one of these species also have developed sapience over this time).
  • Featured prominently in the Sluggy Freelance Story Arc "Kiki's Virus," where nanobots turn into a deadly virus thanks to Y2K. Nanotechnology is also used by Dr. Crabtree for more outlandish, shapeshifting purposes.
  • Both used and subverted in Triquetra Cats, nanites are a miracle cure for most any medical condition however each use increases your chances of contracting a disease called NCDS (nanite cellular disintegration syndrome) where the nanite user's cells can no longer support themselves and break down.
  • In Umlaut House 2, nanites first appear when Sissy steals some assemblers from Dr. Lyse to build her fortress. Later it seems that nanotech is used for home replicators and when Peggy Seus asks the Dragon what it is it tells her to "ask Dr. Lyse about foglets". And now it seems that Lyse has replaced every cell in his body with foglets and the Dragon tried to take over his body.
  • xkcd, of course, have a page about this, too.
    • For those interested - assuming one device is a cube 2 μm (volume 8 μm3), the total volume of devices uniquely addressed by 6 bytes would be [6] about 22.5 liters. Of course, they won't hold compactly, but it's not like something of this size is going to communicate over great range either.

Web Original

  • Nanotech is a big part of everyday life in Orion's Arm, sometimes to the extent of replacing all natural microbes in an environment. One thing it's not very good for is combat, unless the group using it has the element of surprise.
  • Diamond, a Powered Armor heroine from the Global Guardians PBEM Universe uses as a means of situational adaptiveness. Her armor (which is thinly plated diamond over a liquid layer of nanites) can be redesigned and rebuilt in seconds, depending on the precise function she needs from the armor.
  • In the League of Intergalactic Cosmic Champions the heroes fought an AI that used nanites & a minor villain from the future had nanonanotechnology, amongst other uses.
  • The Journal Entries seem to use nanotechnology mostly for medical purposes. Pendorians owe their enhanced health and immortality to being, effectively, nanotech cyborgs, but don't exhibit much in the way of actual 'superpowers'; they're mostly depicted as regular folks with an occasionally odd-seeming outlook on things and seriously extended lifespans.
  • Sam Everheart is walking around in the Whateley Universe because Sam interrupted an attempt to steal a nanotechnology experiment and ended up getting the nanotech, which then did a whole-body alteration. Luckily, Sam survived it.
  • The Chaos Timeline has a lot of them in the last years.

Western Animation

  • Despite the reference, the Kim Possible episode "Tick Tick Tick" isn't really a good example. The tick was visible to the naked eye, there was just one, and it didn't do anything but explode. But nano still sounds about a hundred times better. Just because it's big, doesn't necessarily imply it isn't made out of very small components, of course.
    • A better example of nanotechnology in the series could be the Hephaestus Project, a sort of living metal capable of repairing, modifying, and increasing in size when given the proper commands. Drakken used this technology in The Movie to create an army of robots disguised as toys.
  • Max Steel was just an Ordinary High School Student until an accidental injection of Nanomachines gave him super strength and endurance. Gets pretty heavy with it, too, as the show loved to sneak in more complexity than most Saturday morning cartoons get away with; the nanomachines here run on a unique form of power known as "Trans-Phasik Energy" or "T-Juice"—the flipside being that said energy is burned rather quickly in combat. The nanites have symbiotic relationship with the protagonist: if they go offline, he dies. Surprisingly not played for a plot point as often as one might think so much as an occasional inconvenience... until the show's entire third season, where the government forces the agency to disband after terrorists steal the generator and nearly wipe out the UN with it. It is implied that the main character is living on borrowed time without the full-size power generator, and that he will die in the near future with only the portable model to fall back on. Whenever he powers up, he's burning off said time. Nice Job Killing Yourself, Hero?
  • In the Gargoyles episode "Walkabout", villain turned good guy Dingo acquires a living suit made of nanomachines, after helping the Gargoyles convince said nanomachines not to eat Australia.
  • Big Bad Slade on Teen Titans blackmails Robin into becoming his apprentice by infecting the rest of the Titans with nanomachines that will kill them if he should decide to activate them.
  • Alien nanomachines figure into the Justice League Unlimited episode "Dark Heart", and manage to give the entire League a serious run for its money. Later on, things really get serious when Brainithor gets a hold of that technology.
    • Brainiac/Luthor is also an example. Years prior to those events (back in Superman: The Animated Series), Brainiac forced Luthor to build him a new body, and his first act in that body was to inject Luthor with a "nanoscopic payload" that carried a dormant copy Brainiac's entire consciousness.
    • The DCAU version of Amazo the android was made of nanotech, which allowed him to evolve by duplicating whatever power he saw. Luthor and The Atom attempted to use this knowledge in an attempt to stop him, but he revealed that he had evolved beyond nanotechnology.
  • In a Crossover between Batman the Animated Series and Superman: The Animated Series, Superman's foe Brainiac Mind Controls Bruce Wayne using nanomachines.
  • In the Code Lyoko episode "Amnesia", XANA creates nanomachines that act like virus and erase the memories of anyone infected. They are actually seen with a microscope, looking like minute spiders.
  • One episode of Captain Planet had a variation on the usual plot by having a mysterious figure appear in a small town in Latin America and give people everything they wanted, which it did by firing mysterious beams at nearby natural resources. Said beams turned out to be nanomachines. Unlike most examples, they were always under control of the villain, who turned out to be a spirit of environmental destruction whom the team had met before.
  • The second Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series featured a recurring antagonist in Nano, a nanomachine colony that had somehow "personified" (acquired sentience) and which possessed the emotional maturity of an infant. Eventually, however, it outgrows its immature tendencies and joins super-hero team The Justice Force.
  • Nanomachines Microbots create the first antagonist on Earth in Transformers Animated. A cockroach is injected with them, and it grows, bursts out of the tube it's held in, and proceeds to merge with everything metal around it and grow into a skyscraper-sized, tentacled, rather blobby monster. In a later episode, the Microbots are reconfigured to eat garbage, and again go out of control when exposed to an allspark fragment.
  • In the title sequence of the Disney show Phineas and Ferb there is a passing reference to nanobots.
  • Central to the premise of Generator Rex. An industrial accident spread nanomachines all over the world and they have a tendency to warp living things into monsters, which the titular character must deal with.
  • In the Ben 10 Live Action Adaptation movie Alien Swarm, the main villains of the film were a Hive Mind swarm of alien nanitie-like chips that were capable of infecting and controlling any living creature. They even had a queen. They weren't actually nanomachines, though, more like living microchips. Nano just sounds cooler.
  • Iron Man: Armored Adventures featured Technovore, a data and technology eating virus which infected a cluster of nanites, creating one of the most dangerous villains Iron Man has ever faced. Bonus Points for the fact that it was Tony who created the virus. In its initial appearance, it appeared that Tony destroyed it; however, a few of the nanites seemed to have survived.
  • One episode of The Batman had The Joker uploading his thought processes into a colony of nano machines at WayneTech, creating a shape-shifting, size-changing nano-clone of Mister J. Not good.

Real Life

  • Nanotechnology, while not able to give people super powers and destroy the planet, still has some very promising prospective applications. None of these are practical yet, but someday we hope they will.
    • It's a common mistake to conflate nanomachines with nanotechnology. While nanomachines are not yet practical, nanotechnology has been in common use for a long time now. For example, CDs use pits around 100 nm deep for storing data, while the transistors in microchips are now as small as 22 nm and have been sub-100 nm since 2002.
    • Nanofactories: A small, printer-sized device which isn't limited to shooting ink onto paper, (though it could if you want it to). If you have the raw material for it, you could print out entire electronic integrated circuits or other complex things.
    • Nanomaterials: Super strong, very tough, and incredibly light, carbon nanomaterials. They are the Flying Brick of materials, in a sense. Variants include nanotubes, nanobuds, graphene sheets, etc.
    • Nanomedicine: While we have no idea how to make ourselves immortal, superpowered badasses yet, doctors hope nanotechnology has the promise of eventually being able to cure the common cold. And HIV. And Cancer. The tricky part is actually getting the nanites to know what they should attack. This is being worked on mighty well. Nanites engineered to precisely exploit abnormally swollen pores in cancer tissue are in development. Ultra-tiny nanotube-based radio devices are also in development, which would allow for remote-controlled nanites, but those are somewhat farther away.
    • Non-Newtonian liquid suspensions: Basically, funny-shaped particles made by nanoengineering, floating in thick oil. Flexible when subjected to the force of human muscles, but turn ultra-rigid when compressed by something faster. Like a bullet. Body armor that can stop a rifle round that also allows one to do crunches like it wasn't there. It's basically a man-made enhancement of the forces that allow John Tickle to walk on custard.
  • If you think about it, nanomachines are actually much Older Than They Think, since proteins are essentially naturally occurring nanomachines. They are quite small, and they can accomplish functions like facilitating chemical reactions, pumping substances across barriers, and when working together can even cause macro-scale movement of objects.[7]
    • Monoclonal antibodies already meet most of the criteria for medical nanomachines. Cultivate some that adhere to tumors, stick a radioactive isotope on each one, and turn 'em loose in the body to hunt down their prey like itty bitty Terminators.
    • Another impressive example of an existing natural nanomachine is ATP synthase, which makes both the electric motor [8] and the reciprocating engine.[9]
    • Another remarkable example of a natural nanomachine capable of manufacturing stuff is a Ribosome. These are the things that actually assemble proteins according to their encoding in DNA/RNA and are a vital component of all natural replicators such as bacteria or eukaryotic cells. They self-assemble from their component proteins, so they can trivially replicate themselves. They're also hackable; viruses propagate by injecting their own DNA or RNA into cells, and awaiting the ribosome-based production line to unwittingly start making copies.
    • Given these examples the Cell in a biological system is a complete nanite in the classical sense. Able to consume external resources, duplicate seemingly endlessly, massive data storage (via DNA), the ability to manufacture anything on its to do list etc. Some of the closest stuff to grey goo is bacterium while most large multicelluar organisms (us for example) are large nanite colonies with hundreds of different types of nanite working in harmony from a single instruction set.
  • This video, depicting claytronics. This is just a simulation, but it is running of actual software. Using a sort of nanobot programming language, a CAD file gets read in, and the nanobots reshape themselves to match it. The program is supposedly only a couple of pages long. For now this is just software, nothing to worry about—but the guy who made this video thinks that he will have the hardware to do this in real life within the decade.
  • Middle Ages style stained glass contains gold nanoparticles. Clock Punk nanotech ahoy!
  • One of TRIZ methods is trying to solve the problem with certain ideal machines. One of which, coincidentally, is a mass of "tiny people" who can do basic things like holding together or moving, know what they have to do and when. If you can do this, the next step is to move toward conventional sizes and methods until your machine actually can be built, of course.
  1. on this scale things don't look blurry, they actually are quite blurry
  2. the part of a cell that builds proteins to received arbitrary data
  3. it holds about 1.5 Gb] worth of raw data - but note that it's the whole storage unit (though there's also another vital, but self-contained unit - in mitochondria), and in a form optimized for several uses and, shall we say, viable level of resilience, not for sheer density
  4. or twenty nine minutes, depending on which version you're watching
  5. One of the more widely-accepted theories within Stargate fandom is that after the Ancients left the Pegasus Galaxy to return to the Milky Way (leaving the Asuran Replicators behind), one of them decided to go off on his own and restart the project, but with more control exerted over it to ensure that they didn't get out of control like the Asurans did. Unfortunately, things didn't quite go to plan.
  6. (2×10-6m)3 × 2(8×6) = 8*10-18m3 × 2.81514 ≈ 0.0225 m3
  7. Without nanomachines, you wouldn't have been able to view this footnote. Reward them with a cup of a xanthine alkaloid. Preferably coffee.
  8. specifically, a proton-motive electrostatic motor, complete with armature and stator
  9. the ATP-producing end is basically a 3-cylinder radial engine