Nanotechnology: Part Two

Sumário:

Nanotechnology is impacting our lives in many ways that go unnoticed in our day to day activities but specifically have found their place in sectors such as medicine, energy, heavy industry to name but a few.
A relatable example would be in the aerospace industry where there are constant pressures on both safety and environmental impact and so it is clear how a technology, which brings stronger and lighter materials to the sector, would be viewed as attractive.

Three powerful technologies have met on a common scale — the nanoscale — with the promise of revolutionizing both the worlds of electronics and of biology. This new field, which we refer to as biomolecular nanotechnology, holds many possibilities from fundamental research in molecular biology and biophysics to applications in biosensing, biocontrol, bioinformatics, genomics, medicine, computing, information storage and energy conversion.

The implications of nanotechnology run the gamut of human affairs from the medical, ethical, mental, legal and environmental, to fields such as engineering, biology, chemistry, computing, materials science, military applications, and communications.

Benefits of nanotechnology include improved manufacturing methods, water purification systems, energy systems, physical enhancement, nanomedicine, better food production methods and nutrition. Products made with nanotechnology may require little labor, land, or maintenance, and would be highly productive, low in cost, and have modest requirements for materials and energy.

Risks include environmental, health, and safety issues if negative effects of nanoparticles are overlooked before they are released; transitional effects such as displacement of traditional industries as the products of nanotechnology become dominant; military applications such as biological warfare and implants for soldiers; and surveillance through nano-sensors, which are of concern to privacy rights advocates.

Nanoparticles or nanocrystals made of metals, semiconductors, or oxides are of particular interest for their mechanical, electrical, magnetic, optical, chemical and other properties. Nanoparticles have been used as quantum dots and as chemical catalysts.

Nanoparticles are of great scientific interest as they are effectively a bridge between bulk materials and atomic or molecular structures. A bulk material should have constant physical properties regardless of its size, but at the nano-scale this is often not the case. Size-dependent properties are observed such as quantum confinement in semiconductor particles, surface plasmon resonance in some metal particles and super paramagnetism in magnetic materials.

With nanotechnology, a large set of materials and improved products rely on a change in the physical properties when the feature sizes are shrunk. 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 an improved functionality. There are many applications of nano-technology; few of them are shown here.

Medicine

Nanomedicine - 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, bionanotechnology, and nanomedicine are used to describe this hybrid field.

Diagnostics - Nanotechnology-on-a-chip is one more dimension of lab-on-a-chip technology. Biological tests measuring the presence or activity of selected substances become quicker, more sensitive and more flexible when certain nanoscale particles are put to work as tags or labels.

Drug delivery - 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.

Tissue engineering - Nanotechnology can help to reproduce or to repair damaged tissue.

Chemistry and environment

Chemical catalysis and filtration techniques are two prominent examples where nanotechnology already plays a role.

Catalysis - Chemical catalysis benefits especially from nanoparticles, due to the extremely large surface to volume ratio.

Filtration - A strong influence of nanochemistry 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.

Energy

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.

Heavy Industry

An inevitable use of nanotechnology will be in heavy industry.

Aerospace - 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 thereby helps to reduce the size of equipments used.

Refineries - Using nanotech applications, refineries producing materials such as steel and aluminium will be able to remove any impurities in the materials they create.

Vehicle manufacturers - 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.

Consumer goods

Foods - 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.

Optics - The first sunglasses using protective and antireflective ultrathin polymer coatings are on the market. For optics, nanotechnology also offers scratch resistant surface coatings based on nanocomposites.

Textiles - 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

Cosmetics - 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.

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