Current uses of nanotechnology at or near market.
Nanocomposite coatings for cutting tools
A nanocomposite coating consists of at least two phases: a nanocrystalline phase and an amorphous phase, or two nanocrystalline phases. The two phases when deposited under the right conditions spontaneously separate and form a stable nanoscale structure. This generic concept has recently led to the development of nanocomposite PVD ceramic coatings. PVD stands for Phsycal Vapour Deposition. Different materials such as crystalline titanium, chromium and aluminium nitrides are deposited alongside an amorphous material such as silicon nitride. These PVD nanocomposite coatings have nanometer sized grains and exhibit enhanced yield strength, hardness and toughness properties. To find out more about PVD coatings take a look at www.pvd-coatings.co.uk.
.....and tennis balls
Wilson's Double Core tennis balls have a nanocomposite coating that reportably keeps the balls bouncy for double the time. The nanocomposite coating is made by InMat LLC and is a mix of butyl rubber and nanoclay particles.
Nanocomposite materials for cars
Nanocomposite materials are currently being used on General Motors and Toyota production cars. The new materials are more scratch resistant and lighter. The impact of such nanocomposite materials is set to be huge as lower weight results in lower fuel consumption and minor accident damage could be eliminated.
Nanotechnology in thinner, more efficient televisions or monitors
Kodak is currently manufacturing organic light emitting diodes, OLED colour displays for car stereos and mobile phone displays that contain nanostructured polymer films. The use of these OLEDs may enable thinner, more efficient displays for other products such as cameras, laptops, PDAs, monitors and televisions.
Nanotechnology creates stain repellent clothing
A coating of "nano-fibres" has been developed by Nano-Tex, to prevent staining of clothing. An example of such stain-repellant clothing are Eddie Bauer Nano-Care™ khakis. The "nano-fibres" are 10 to 100 nanometers in size and prevent staining materials from absorbing into the clothing.
Paint and clothing that can generate electricity
This is one of the most amazing uses of nanotechnology. Researchers at University of Toronto have invented a nanoscale infrared-sensitive material that could allow products such as paint and clothing to turn the sun’s energy into electrical power. The particles are made from semiconductor crystals two to four nanometres in size. Hence the nanoparticles are so small they can be dispersed in everyday solvents. The nanocrystals are tuned to catch light at very long wavelengths resulting in an infrared detector that could be sprayed on clothing or be used in the paint on cars to assist electric engines.
Also existing plastic solar cells only harness light in the visible spectrum so these new materials will probably allow up to 500% more of the sun’s radiant energy to be used.
Vitamins and additives in food
Nanotechnology has many applications in the food sector. Many vitamins and additivies are insoluble in water, however if the same vitamins are converted to nanoparticle form they can easily be mixed with water. Certain drinks now contain these special nanoparticle additives.
Cosmetics and sun-block
UV absorbers based on nanoparticulate zinc oxide are incorporated in cosmetics and sun creams. The nanoparticles are extremely effective at blocking light, particularly in the ultra-violet (UV) range. Due to the particle size, they are transparent and spread more easily. Nanoparticulate based sun-block became an instant success and by 2001 had captured 60% of the Australian sun-block market.
AngstroMedica has produced a nanoparticulate-based synthetic bone by manipulating calcium and phosphate at the molecular level. The synthetic bone can be used in instances where natural bone has been damaged or removed, as in the treatment of fractures.
The phenomena that when particle size is decreased the particle surface area increases whilst the weight remains the same is currently being exploited in the manufacture of automotive catalytic converters. A variety of chemical reactions can only take place on the surface of the catalyst, therefore the larger the surface area, the more active the catalyst. An example of the use of such nanoscale catalysts is in the chemical process by which coal is transformed into gas. China's largest coal company (Shenhua Group) has licensed technology from Hydrocarbon Technologies to carry out this chemical process, which uses a gel-based nanoscale catalyst to increase efficiency.
Argonide Nanomaterials manufacturer a filter that is capable of filtering the smallest of nanoparticles through the use of a nano size alumina fiber that attracts and retains sub-micron and nanosize particles. The company claim that the disposable filter will retain 99.9999+% of all viruses passing through the filter at water flow rates several hundred times greater than would be possible using conventional virus-rated ultra porous membranes. The nanofilter is applicable for application such as the sterilization of biological, pharmaceutical and medical serums, protein separation, collector/concentrator for biological warfare detectors, and several other applications. The filter could have a massive impact worldwide enabling everyone to drink clean water, reducing death rates due to illnesses such as diarrhea.
Nanotechnology is being developed that will allow tanks to repair themselves and change colour creating instant camouflage on the battlefield. Aside from the obvious military benefits of instant camouflage the US Army estimates that the cost of repairing vehicles' surfaces amounts to $10bn each year, $2bn of which is related to painting and scraping.
Nanotechnology uses will be many.