Some technologies are pure science fiction, such as laser guns and teleportation devices. Frequently, the mainstream media also describes nanotechnology as a futuristic science, however this is far further from reality than any episode of Star Trek.
To prove this point here are 8 places where nanotechnology is already in use today.
1. Nanotechnology in Textiles
The company Nano-Tex has developed a wrinkle-resistant and stain-repellent fabric by attaching molecular structures to cotton fibres. The result is a high-performance material that the company claims, “can be washed less frequently and at lower temperatures”.
Similarly, Gore-Tex uses nanotechnology to integrate tiny carbon particles into a line of its fabrics to create a weather-protective lining that has excellent anti-static qualities. The company markets the clothing line for “Those who work in oil, gas and telecommunication fields,” and “guarantees full-surface protection from electrostatic charges for the wearer”.
2. Nanotechnology in Adhesives
A number of companies have developed adhesives that use nanotechnology. For example, Masterbond, utilises the non-electroconductivity of carbon nanotubes to manufacture insulating adhesives that can function in such extreme high and low temperatures (and even in the vacuum of space) while maintaining maximum adhesion. Some of these nano-adhesives are being used by NASA.
3. Nanotechnology in Composite Materials
Zyvex Performance Materials has developed carbon nanotube technology that produces substances that are both light weight and strong, allowing the company to continue to provide, “new materials and products to customers in aerospace, automotive, marine, industrial and sporting equipment industries.”
This includes the design and construction of the Piranha Unmanned Surface Vessel, which according to the industry journal Composites World is, “the largest boat built from nano-enhanced materials, weighs only 8,000 lb/3,629 kg and can carry up to 15,000 lb/6,804 kg of payload more than 2,500 miles/4,023 km.”
The company also applies its technology in cooperation with BRG Sports for the production of bicycle parts.
Similarly, Amroy Europe Oy, a manufacturer of resins, has developed a carbon nano-epoxy resin that is up to 30% stronger as well as being much lighter than other composites. It is already in widespread use in wind turbines and marine paints, as well as a variety of sports gear such as skis, ice hockey sticks, baseball bats, hunting arrows, and surfboards.
Meanwhile the French tennis racket manufacturer Babolat manufacturers a racket with carbon nanotubes. This has led to a more rigid racket than typical carbon rackets, one which produces more power with increased torsion and flex resistance.
4. Nanotechnology in Coatings
The American company, InMat uses nanotechnology for the manufacture of a wide-range of coatings. These coatings are made using, “an aqueous suspension of nano-dispersed silicates and butyl rubber”. The result is a product that, “dramatically improve the barrier properties of polymers and elastomers.”
Nanox, meanwhile, produces ski wax with nanotechnology. The company explaining how, “… because of the nano-particles' ability to adapt to different temperatures and conditions,” it provides, “The advantages of … extreme long bonding with the best gliding performance.”
5. Nanotechnology in Cosmetics
For many years, sunscreens have used zinc oxide nanoparticles to block the sun’s ultraviolet rays, while minimising the white coating on the skin.
However, there is a wide-range of other applications of nanotechnology in the cosmetics industry. As the popular scientific journal, UnderstandingNano, highlights, “[Many] Skin creams use proteins derived from stem cells to prevent aging of the skin. These proteins are encapsulated in liposome nanoparticles which merge with the membranes of skin cells to allow delivery of proteins.”
The journal continues, by noting how, “[Other] Skin care lotions include nutrients which are encapsulated in nanoparticles suspended in a liquid, creating a nano-emulsion. The small size of the nanoparticles, compared to particles in conventional emulsions, allows the nanoparticles to penetrate deeper into the skin, delivering the nutrients to more layers of skin cells.”
Additionally, hair growth lotions often use the same method, but deliver nanoparticles called ethosomes to deliver the nutrients.
6. Nanotechnology in Electronics
In the search for smaller and yet also more powerful devices, nanotechnology is used in many of the latest electronics. For example, in televisions, as the popular science journal Nanobay, notes, “Nanomaterials and nanofabrication techniques are used in transparent electrodes.” These are then used in, “OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diodes) technology [which] is based on the phenomenon that certain organic materials emit light when fed by an electric current.”
OLED TVs are ultra-slim, have excellent picture quality, and use less power than other types of screen.
The battery industry has also made use of nanotechnology, as Nanobay notes, “Many laptop battery manufacturers use nanoparticle enhanced electrodes in their lithium ion batteries in order to improve battery performance and safety.” Adding that, “The chips in our laptops, like the CPU and the GPU, have for years been fabricated on a nanoscale.”
7. Nanotechnology in Medical Applications
One of the best-known uses of nanotechnology has been in the field of medicine, the impact of which has already been both deep and far-reaching.
For example, nanotechnology can be seen in both drug delivery techniques and wound healing. As the scientific journal Nanowerk, reports, “Nanoparticles enable physicians to target drugs at the source of the disease, which increases efficiency and minimizes side effects. They also offer new possibilities for the controlled release of therapeutic substances. Nanoparticles are also used to stimulate the body’s innate repair mechanisms.”
There has also been a lot of progress in using nanotechnology to aid diagnosis, with the technology being employed in sensors and scanners, especially those used to identify and target cancer cells. For example, nanotechnology has successfully been used in improving MRI contrast agents.
8. Nanotechnology in …
Nanotechnology, and specifically single wall carbon nanotubes, have already been successfully applied in hundreds of other applications including, supercapacitors, lead-acid batteries, anti-icing coatings, scratch-resistant sunglasses, wind turbine blade composites, lightning strike protection, frying pan coatings, cleaning products, polymer composites, chemical, gas, and radiation sensors, conductive composites, optical switches, desalination membranes, flame retardants …
Clearly the list of applications for nanotechnology does not end here. Nanotechnology allows materials to be adapted in ways outside of their normal limits, giving them superb strength, durability, electro-conductivity or electro-insulation, flexibility, as well as rigidity.
With so many real-world applications and potential customers, nanotechnology is not the future of raw material feedstock it is the present.
Today, because of nanotechnology, we are not only free to dream, we can make it possible.
Photo credit: CompositesWorld, NewPro, YouTube, Phys.org, Stanford University, & Iysn. ScienceDirect, & ResearchGate, Pexels