Future societal and economic impacts of nanoscience and nanotechnology raise the demand for a nano-literate public as well as a nano-competent workforce. This translates into the urgent need for nano education interventions in schools and informal learning contexts. In seeking to meet this mandate, we have developed and investigated a virtual reality environment that induces immersive presence (feeling as being ‘in’ the virtual world) and exploits bodily movements (e.g. hand gestures to control virtual objects) for students and citizens to learn nano concepts. In this article, we argue that such scientifically-informed immersive and interactive visualizations have a unique potential in communicating nanoscale ideas to students as well as the general public.