A nanoparticle or ultrafine particle is usually defined as a particle of matter that is between 1 and 100 nanometres in diameter. The term is sometimes used for larger particles, up to 500 nm, or fibers and tubes that are less than 100 nm in only two directions. At the lowest range, metal particles smaller than 1 nm are usually called atom clusters instead. Nanoparticles are usually distinguished from microparticles, "fine particles", and "coarse particles", because their smaller size drives very different physical or chemical properties, like colloidal properties and ultrafast optical effects or electric properties. Being more subject to the brownian motion, they usually do not sediment, like colloidal particles that conversely are usually understood to range from 1 to 1000 nm. Being much smaller than the wavelengths of visible light, nanoparticles cannot be seen with ordinary optical microscopes, requiring the use of electron microscopes or microscopes with laser.

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