- List of nanotechnology applications
Part of a series of articles on Nanotechnology Nanomaterials Nanomedicine Molecular self-assembly Nanoelectronics Scanning probe microscopy Molecular nanotechnology Nanotechnology Portal
With nanotechnology, a large set of materials and improved products rely on a change in the physical properties when the feature sizes are shrunk. Nanoparticles, for example, take advantage of their dramatically increased surface area to volume ratio. Their optical properties, e.g. fluorescence, become a function of the particle diameter. When brought into a bulk material, nanoparticles can strongly influence the mechanical properties of the material, like stiffness or elasticity. For example, traditional polymers can be reinforced by nanoparticles resulting in novel materials which can be used as lightweight replacements for metals. Therefore, an increasing societal benefit of such nanoparticles can be expected. Such nanotechnologically enhanced materials will enable a weight reduction accompanied by an increase in stability and improved functionality. Practical nanotechnology is essentially the increasing ability to manipulate (with precision) matter on previously impossible scales, presenting possibilities which many could never have imagined - it therefore seems unsurprising that few areas of human technology are exempt from the benefits which nanotechnology could potentially bring.
- 1 Medicine
- 2 Environment
- 3 Energy
- 4 Information and communication
- 5 Heavy Industry
- 5.1 Aerospace
- 5.2 Catalysis
- 5.3 Construction
- 5.4 Vehicle manufacturers
- 6 Consumer goods
- 7 References
- 8 External links
The biological and medical research communities have exploited the unique properties of nanomaterials for various applications (e.g., contrast agents for cell imaging and therapeutics for treating cancer). Terms such as biomedical nanotechnology, nanobiotechnology, and nanomedicine are used to describe this hybrid field. Functionalities can be added to nanomaterials by interfacing them with biological molecules or structures. The size of nanomaterials is similar to that of most biological molecules and structures; therefore, nanomaterials can be useful for both in vivo and in vitro biomedical research and applications. Thus far, the integration of nanomaterials with biology has led to the development of diagnostic devices, contrast agents, analytical tools, physical therapy applications, and drug delivery vehicles.
Nanotechnology-on-a-chip is one more dimension of lab-on-a-chip technology. Magnetic nanoparticles, bound to a suitable antibody, are used to label specific molecules, structures or microorganisms. Gold nanoparticles tagged with short segments of DNA can be used for detection of genetic sequence in a sample. Multicolor optical coding for biological assays has been achieved by embedding different-sized quantum dots into polymeric microbeads. Nanopore technology for analysis of nucleic acids converts strings of nucleotides directly into electronic signatures.
Nanotechnology has been a boon for the medical field by delivering drugs to specific cells using nanoparticles. The overall drug consumption and side-effects can be lowered significantly by depositing the active agent in the morbid region only and in no higher dose than needed. This highly selective approach reduces costs and human suffering. An example can be found in dendrimers and nanoporous materials. Another example is to use block co-polymers, which form micelles for drug encapsulation. They could hold small drug molecules transporting them to the desired location. Another vision is based on small electromechanical systems; NEMS are being investigated for the active release of drugs. Some potentially important applications include cancer treatment with iron nanoparticles or gold shells. A targeted or personalized medicine reduces the drug consumption and treatment expenses resulting in an overall societal benefit by reducing the costs to the public health system. Nanotechnology is also opening up new opportunities in implantable delivery systems, which are often preferable to the use of injectable drugs, because the latter frequently display first-order kinetics (the blood concentration goes up rapidly, but drops exponentially over time). This rapid rise may cause difficulties with toxicity, and drug efficacy can diminish as the drug concentration falls below the targeted range.
Buckyballs can "interrupt" the allergy/immune response by preventing mast cells (which cause allergic response) from releasing histamine into the blood and tissues, by binding to free radicals "dramatically better than any anti-oxidant currently available, such as vitamin E".
Nanotechnology can help reproduce or repair damaged tissue. “Tissue engineering” makes use of artificially stimulated cell proliferation by using suitable nanomaterial-based scaffolds and growth factors. For example, bones can be regrown on carbon nanotube scaffolds. Tissue engineering might replace today's conventional treatments like organ transplants or artificial implants. Advanced forms of tissue engineering may lead to life extension.
A strong influence of photochemistry on waste-water treatment, air purification and energy storage devices is to be expected. Mechanical or chemical methods can be used for effective filtration techniques. One class of filtration techniques is based on the use of membranes with suitable hole sizes, whereby the liquid is pressed through the membrane. Nanoporous membranes are suitable for a mechanical filtration with extremely small pores smaller than 10 nm (“nanofiltration”) and may be composed of nanotubes. Nanofiltration is mainly used for the removal of ions or the separation of different fluids. On a larger scale, the membrane filtration technique is named ultrafiltration, which works down to between 10 and 100 nm. One important field of application for ultrafiltration is medical purposes as can be found in renal dialysis. Magnetic nanoparticles offer an effective and reliable method to remove heavy metal contaminants from waste water by making use of magnetic separation techniques. Using nanoscale particles increases the efficiency to absorb the contaminants and is comparatively inexpensive compared to traditional precipitation and filtration methods.
Some water-treatment devices incorporating nanotechnology are already on the market, with more in development. Low-cost nanostructured separation membranes methods have been shown to be effective in producing potable water in a recent study.
The most advanced nanotechnology projects related to energy are: storage, conversion, manufacturing improvements by reducing materials and process rates, energy saving (by better thermal insulation for example), and enhanced renewable energy sources.
Reduction of energy consumption
A reduction of energy consumption can be reached by better insulation systems, by the use of more efficient lighting or combustion systems, and by use of lighter and stronger materials in the transportation sector. Currently used light bulbs only convert approximately 5% of the electrical energy into light. Nanotechnological approaches like light-emitting diodes (LEDs) or quantum caged atoms (QCAs) could lead to a strong reduction of energy consumption for illumination.
Increasing the efficiency of energy production
Today's best solar cells have layers of several different semiconductors stacked together to absorb light at different energies but they still only manage to use 40 percent of the Sun's energy. Commercially available solar cells have much lower efficiencies (15-20%). Nanotechnology could help increase the efficiency of light conversion by using nanostructures with a continuum of bandgaps.
The degree of efficiency of the internal combustion engine is about 30-40% at the moment. Nanotechnology could improve combustion by designing specific catalysts with maximized surface area. In 2005, scientists at the University of Toronto developed a spray-on nanoparticle substance that, when applied to a surface, instantly transforms it into a solar collector.
Information and communication
Current high-technology production processes are based on traditional top down strategies, where nanotechnology has already been introduced silently. The critical length scale of integrated circuits is already at the nanoscale (50 nm and below) regarding the gate length of transistors in CPUs or DRAM devices.
Electronic memory designs in the past have largely relied on the formation of transistors. However, research into crossbar switch based electronics have offered an alternative using reconfigurable interconnections between vertical and horizontal wiring arrays to create ultra high density memories. Two leaders in this area are Nantero which has developed a carbon nanotube based crossbar memory called Nano-RAM and Hewlett-Packard which has proposed the use of memristor material as a future replacement of Flash memory.
Novel semiconductor devices
An example of such novel devices is based on spintronics.The dependence of the resistance of a material (due to the spin of the electrons) on an external field is called magnetoresistance. This effect can be significantly amplified (GMR - Giant Magneto-Resistance) for nanosized objects, for example when two ferromagnetic layers are separated by a nonmagnetic layer, which is several nanometers thick (e.g. Co-Cu-Co). The GMR effect has led to a strong increase in the data storage density of hard disks and made the gigabyte range possible. The so called tunneling magnetoresistance (TMR) is very similar to GMR and based on the spin dependent tunneling of electrons through adjacent ferromagnetic layers. Both GMR and TMR effects can be used to create a non-volatile main memory for computers, such as the so called magnetic random access memory or MRAM.
In 1999, the ultimate CMOS transistor developed at the Laboratory for Electronics and Information Technology in Grenoble, France, tested the limits of the principles of the MOSFET transistor with a diameter of 18 nm (approximately 70 atoms placed side by side). This was almost one tenth the size of the smallest industrial transistor in 2003 (130 nm in 2003, 90 nm in 2004, 65 nm in 2005 and 45 nm in 2007). It enabled the theoretical integration of seven billion junctions on a €1 coin. However, the CMOS transistor, which was created in 1999, was not a simple research experiment to study how CMOS technology functions, but rather a demonstration of how this technology functions now that we ourselves are getting ever closer to working on a molecular scale. Today it would be impossible to master the coordinated assembly of a large number of these transistors on a circuit and it would also be impossible to create this on an industrial level.
Novel optoelectronic devices
In the modern communication technology traditional analog electrical devices are increasingly replaced by optical or optoelectronic devices due to their enormous bandwidth and capacity, respectively. Two promising examples are photonic crystals and quantum dots. Photonic crystals are materials with a periodic variation in the refractive index with a lattice constant that is half the wavelength of the light used. They offer a selectable band gap for the propagation of a certain wavelength, thus they resemble a semiconductor, but for light or photons instead of electrons. Quantum dots are nanoscaled objects, which can be used, among many other things, for the construction of lasers. The advantage of a quantum dot laser over the traditional semiconductor laser is that their emitted wavelength depends on the diameter of the dot. Quantum dot lasers are cheaper and offer a higher beam quality than conventional laser diodes.
The production of displays with low energy consumption could be accomplished using carbon nanotubes (CNT). Carbon nanotubes are electrically conductive and due to their small diameter of several nanometers, they can be used as field emitters with extremely high efficiency for field emission displays (FED). The principle of operation resembles that of the cathode ray tube, but on a much smaller length scale.
Entirely new approaches for computing exploit the laws of quantum mechanics for novel quantum computers, which enable the use of fast quantum algorithms. The Quantum computer has quantum bit memory space termed "Qubit" for several computations at the same time. This facility may improve the performance of the older systems.
An inevitable use of nanotechnology will be in heavy industry.
Lighter and stronger materials will be of immense use to aircraft manufacturers, leading to increased performance. Spacecraft will also benefit, where weight is a major factor. Nanotechnology would help to reduce the size of equipment and thereby decrease fuel-consumption required to get it airborne.
Hang gliders may be able to halve their weight while increasing their strength and toughness through the use of nanotech materials. Nanotech is lowering the mass of supercapacitors that will increasingly be used to give power to assistive electrical motors for launching hang gliders off flatland to thermal-chasing altitudes.
Chemical catalysis benefits especially from nanoparticles, due to the extremely large surface to volume ratio. The application potential of nanoparticles in catalysis ranges from fuel cell to catalytic converters and photocatalytic devices. Catalysis is also important for the production of chemicals.
The synthesis provides novel materials with tailored features and chemical properties: for example, nanoparticles with a distinct chemical surrounding (ligands), or specific optical properties. In this sense, chemistry is indeed a basic nanoscience. In a short-term perspective, chemistry will provide novel “nanomaterials” and in the long run, superior processes such as “self-assembly” will enable energy and time preserving strategies. In a sense, all chemical synthesis can be understood in terms of nanotechnology, because of its ability to manufacture certain molecules. Thus, chemistry forms a base for nanotechnology providing tailor-made molecules, polymers, etcetera, as well as clusters and nanoparticles.
Platinum nanoparticles are now being considered in the next generation of automotive catalytic converters because the very high surface area of nanoparticles could reduce the amount of platinum required. However, some concerns have been raised due to experiments demonstrating that they will spontaneously combust if methane is mixed with the ambient air. Ongoing research at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) in France may resolve their true usefulness for catalytic applications. Nanofiltration may come to be an important application, although future research must be careful to investigate possible toxicity.
Nanotechnology has the potential to make construction faster, cheaper, safer, and more varied. Automation of nanotechnology construction can allow for the creation of structures from advanced homes to massive skyscrapers much more quickly and at much lower cost. In the near future Nanotechnology can be used to sense cracks in foundations of architecture and can send nanobots to repair them.
Nanotechnology and constructions
Nanotechnology is one of the most active research areas that encompass a number of disciplines Such as electronics, bio-mechanics and coatings including civil engineering and construction materials.
The use of nanotechnology in construction involves the development of new concept and understanding of the hydration of cement particles and the use of nano-size ingredients such as alumina and silica and other nanoparticles. The manufactures also investigating the methods of manufacturing of nano-cement. If cement with nano-size particles can be manufactured and processed, it will open up a large number of opportunities in the fields of ceramics, high strength composites and electronic applications. Since at the nanoscale the properties of the material are different from that of their bulk counter parts. When materials becomes nano-sized, the proportion of atoms on the surface increases relative to those inside and this leads to novel properties. Some applications of nanotechnology in construction are describe below.
Nanoparticles and steel
Steel has been widely available material and has a major role in the construction industry. The use of nanotechnology in steel helps to improve the properties of steel. The fatigue, which led to the structural failure of steel due to cyclic loading, such as in bridges or towers.The current steel designs are based on the reduction in the allowable stress, service life or regular inspection regime. This has a significant impact on the life-cycle costs of structures and limits the effective use of resources.The Stress risers are responsible for initiating cracks from which fatigue failure results .The addition of copper nanoparticles reduces the surface un-evenness of steel which then limits the number of stress risers and hence fatigue cracking. Advancements in this technology using nanoparticles would lead to increased safety, less need for regular inspection regime and more efficient materials free from fatigue issues for construction.
The nano-size steel produce stronger steel cables which can be in bridge construction. Also these stronger cable material would reduce the costs and period of construction, especially in suspension bridges as the cables are run from end to end of the span. This would require high strength joints which leads to the need for high strength bolts. The capacity of high strength bolts is obtained through quenching and tempering. The microstructures of such products consist of tempered martensite. When the tensile strength of tempered martensite steel exceeds 1,200 MPa even a very small amount of hydrogen embrittles the grain boundaries and the steel material may fail during use. This phenomenon, which is known as delayed fracture, which hindered the strengthening of steel bolts and their highest strength is limited to only around 1,000 to 1,200 MPa.
The use of vanadium and molybdenum nanoparticles improves the delayed fracture problems associated with high strength bolts reducing the effects of hydrogen embrittlement and improving the steel micro-structure through reducing the effects of the inter-granular cementite phase.
Welds and the Heat Affected Zone (HAZ) adjacent to welds can be brittle and fail without warning when subjected to sudden dynamic loading.The addition of nanoparticles of magnesium and calcium makes the HAZ grains finer in plate steel and this leads to an increase in weld toughness. The increase in toughness at would result in a smaller resource requirement because less material is required in order to keep stresses within allowable limits.The carbon nanotubes are exciting material with tremendous properties of strength and stiffness, they have found little application as compared to steel,because it is difficult to bind them with bulk material and they pull out easily, Which make them ineffective in construction materials.
Nanoparticles in glass
The glass is also an important material in construction.There is a lot of research being carried out on the application of nanotechnology to glass.Titanium dioxide (TiO2) nanoparticles are used to coat glazing since it has sterilizing and anti-fouling properties. The particles catalyze powerful reactions which breakdown organic pollutants, volatile organic compounds and bacterial membranes.
The TiO2 is hydrophilic (attraction to water) which can attract rain drops which then wash off the dirt particles.Thus the introduction of nanotechnology in the Glass industry, incorporates the self cleaning property of glass. Fire-protective glass is another application of nanotechnology. This is achieved by using a clear intumescent layer sandwiched between glass panels (an interlayer) formed of silica nanoparticles (SiO2) which turns into a rigid and opaque fire shield when heated.Most of glass in construction is on the exterior surface of buildings .So the light and heat entering the building through glass has to be prevented. The nanotechnology can provide a better solution to block light and heat coming through windows.
Nanoparticles in coatings
Coatings is an important area in construction coatings are extensively use to paint the walls, doors, and windows. Coatings should provide a protective layer which is bound to the base material to produce a surface of the desired protective or functional properties. The coatings should have self healing capabilities through a process of “self-assembly.” Nanotechnology is being applied to paints to obtained the coatings having self healing capabilities and corrosion protection under insulation. Since these coatings are hydrophobic and repels water from the metal pipe and can also protect metal from salt water attack. Nanoparticle based systems can provide better adhesion and transparency. The TiO2 coating captures and breaks down organic and inorganic air pollutants by a photocatalytic process, which leads to putting roads to good environmental use.
Nanoparticles in fire protection and detection
Fire resistance of steel structures is often provided by a coating produced by a spray-on-cementitious process.The nano-cement has the potential to create a new paradigm in this area of application because the resulting material can be used as a tough, durable, high temperature coating. It provides a good method of increasing fire resistance and this is a cheaper option than conventional insulation.
Risks of using nanoparticles in construction
In building construction nanomaterials are widely used from self-cleaning windows to flexible solar panels to wi-fi blocking paint. The self-healing concrete, materials to block ultraviolet and infrared radiation, smog-eating coatings and light-emitting walls and ceilings are the new nanomaterials in construction. Nanotechnology is a promise for making the “smart home” a reality. Nanotech-enabled sensors can monitor temperature, humidity, and airborne toxins which needs nanotech based improved batteries.The building components will be intelligent and interactive since the sensor uses wireless components,it can collect the wide range of data.
If the nanosensors and nanomaterials becomes a every day part of the buildings to make them intelligent,what are the consequences of these materials on human beings?
1.Effect of nanoparticles on health and environment: Nanoparticles may also enter the body if building water supplies are filtered through commercially available nanofilters. Airborne and waterborne nanoparticles enter from building ventilation and wastewater systems. 2. Effect of nanoparticles on societal issues: As sensors become more common place,a loss of privacy may result from users interacting with increasingly intelligent building components.The technology at one side has the advantages of new building material. The otherside it has the fear of risk arises from these materials. However, the overall performance of nanomaterials to date, is that valuable opportunities to improve building performance, user health and environmental quality .
Much like aerospace, lighter and stronger materials will be useful for creating vehicles that are both faster and safer. Combustion engines will also benefit from parts that are more hard-wearing and more heat-resistant.
Nanotechnology is already impacting the field of consumer goods, providing products with novel functions ranging from easy-to-clean to scratch-resistant. Modern textiles are wrinkle-resistant and stain-repellent; in the mid-term clothes will become “smart”, through embedded “wearable electronics”. Already in use are different nanoparticle improved products. Especially in the field of cosmetics, such novel products have a promising potential.
Complex set of engineering and scientific challenges in the food and bioprocessing industry for manufacturing high quality and safe food through efficient and sustainable means can be solved through nanotechnology. Bacteria identification and food quality monitoring using biosensors; intelligent, active, and smart food packaging systems; nanoencapsulation of bioactive food compounds are few examples of emerging applications of nanotechnology for the food industry. Nanotechnology can be applied in the production, processing, safety and packaging of food. A nanocomposite coating process could improve food packaging by placing anti-microbial agents directly on the surface of the coated film. Nanocomposites could increase or decrease gas permeability of different fillers as is needed for different products. They can also improve the mechanical and heat-resistance properties and lower the oxygen transmission rate. Research is being performed to apply nanotechnology to the detection of chemical and biological substances for sensanges in foods.
New foods are among the nanotechnology-created consumer products coming onto the market at the rate of 3 to 4 per week, according to the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies (PEN), based on an inventory it has drawn up of 609 known or claimed nano-products.
On PEN's list are three foods—a brand of canola cooking oil called Canola Active Oil, a tea called Nanotea and a chocolate diet shake called Nanoceuticals Slim Shake Chocolate.
According to company information posted on PEN's Web site, the canola oil, by Shemen Industries of Israel, contains an additive called "nanodrops" designed to carry vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals through the digestive system and urea.
The shake, according to U.S. manufacturer RBC Life Sciences Inc., uses cocoa infused "NanoClusters" to enhance the taste and health benefits of cocoa without the need for extra sugar.
The most prominent application of nanotechnology in the household is self-cleaning or “easy-to-clean” surfaces on ceramics or glasses. Nano ceramic particles have improved the smoothness and heat resistance of common household equipment such as the flat iron.
The first sunglasses using protective and anti-reflective ultrathin polymer coatings are on the market. For optics, nanotechnology also offers scratch resistant surface coatings based on nanocomposites. Nano-optics could allow for an increase in precision of pupil repair and other types of laser eye surgery.
The use of engineered nanofibers already makes clothes water- and stain-repellent or wrinkle-free. Textiles with a nanotechnological finish can be washed less frequently and at lower temperatures. Nanotechnology has been used to integrate tiny carbon particles membrane and guarantee full-surface protection from electrostatic charges for the wearer. Many other applications have been developed by research institutions such as the Textiles Nanotechnology Laboratory at Cornell University, and the UK's Dstl and its spin out company P2i.
One field of application is in sunscreens. The traditional chemical UV protection approach suffers from its poor long-term stability. A sunscreen based on mineral nanoparticles such as titanium dioxide offer several advantages. Titanium oxide nanoparticles have a comparable UV protection property as the bulk material, but lose the cosmetically undesirable whitening as the particle size is decreased.
Applications of nanotechnology have the potential to change the entire agriculture sector and food industry chain from production to conservation, processing, packaging, transportation, and even waste treatment. NanoScience concepts and nanotechnology applications have the potential to redesign the production cycle, restructure the processing and conservation processes and redefine the food habits of the people.
Major challenges related to agriculture like low productivity in cultivable areas, large uncultivable areas, shrinkage of cultivable lands, wastage of inputs like water, fertilizers, pesticides, wastage of products and of course Food security for growing numbers can be addressed through various applications of nanotechnology.
Nanotechnology may also play a role in sports such as soccer, football, and baseball. Materials for new athletic shoes may be made in order to make the shoe lighter (and the athlete faster). Baseball bats already on the market are made with carbon nanotubes which reinforce the resin, which is said to improve its performance by making it lighter. Other items such as sport towels, yoga mats, exercise mats are on the market and used by players in the National Football League, which use antimicrobial nanotechnology to prevent parasuram from illnesses caused by bacteria such as Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (commonly known as MRSA).
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- ^ Electrocatalytic oxidation of methanol
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