Nanotechnology has become the buzzword for the decade! Many industries have revolutionized through precise manipulation and control of matter at nano levels. From clothes to computer hard drives, nanotechnology plays an important role in the manufacture of numerous products that we use in our everyday life. Nanotechnology encompasses science, engineering and technology and involves imaging, measuring, modeling, and manipulating matter at the nanoscale.
We cannot imagine a life without Nanotechnology, to be more specific nanomaterials, as they are used in numerous products and industrial applications. Here is brief overview of applications of Nanotechnology from food and clothes to computer hard drives and industries.
List of Applications –
1. Electronics –
Nanotechnology application in electronics has increased its capabilities by giving options to reduce their weight and power consumption. We have already seen some applications of it in the form of memory chips, batteries, display screens, integrated circuits and many more. But there are many other such areas which are still under developments. Below is the list of the nanoelectronics projects on which researchers are working on –
- A polymer with embedded silver nanowires to construct conductive layers that can flex without damaging the conductor.
- Researchers are working to develop electronic circuits which are combination of flexibility, simple fabrication process and low power requirements. This can be achieved by depositing Cadmium Selenide nanocrystals on plastic sheets.
- To develop a lead free solder reliable enough for space missions and other high stress environments using copper nanoparticles.
- Develop transistors from carbon nanotubes to enable to manufacture transistors of nanometer dimensions. Researchers are also working to develop techniques for manufacturing integrated circuits built with nanotube transistors.
2. Medicine –
Nanomedicine is medical application of Nanotechnology. This application of nanotechnology in medical sciences ranges from the use of nanomaterials to nanoelectronic biosensors and a possible future application of molecular nanotechnology is also being researched on. Use of nanotechnology in medicine could change the way we detect and treat the damage to the human body and diseases in the future. Some of the applications are as follows –
- Drug Delivery – One of the application currently being developed is employing nanoparticles for the delivery of drugs, heat, light or other substances to the targeted body part, organ or cells (such as cancer cells). A nanoparticle is being developed to defeat viruses by delivering enzymes that restricts the reproduction of viruses molecules in the patient’s bloodstream.
- Therapy Techniques – Nanosponges are polymer nanoparticles coated with a red blood cell membrane and are developed to absorb toxins and remove them from the bloodstream. Researchers are investigating the use of bismuth nanoparticles to concentrate radiations used in radiation therapy to treat cancer tumors. Research is being done on generating the sound waves that are powerful and tightly focused, that may eventually be used for noninvasive-surgery.
- Diagnostic Techniques – Researchers have demonstrated a way to use nanoparticles for early diagnosis of infectious diseases. A similar test is being developed for early detection of kidney damage which uses gold nanorods. These gold nanorods are functionalized to attach to the protein generated by damaged kidneys. Researchers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute are using antibodies attached to carbon nanotubes in chips to detect cancer cells in the blood stream.
- Cell Repair – Nanorobots could actually be programmed to repair specific diseased cells, functioning in a similar way to antibodies in our natural healing processes.
3. Food –
Nanotechnology has also impacted several aspects of Food Science, from the method of growing it to the methods packing it. Nanomaterials are being developed that will contribute in changing the taste of food and the safety of foods. Below are some of the current and under development applications of Nanotechnology in Food Science –
- Clay nanocomposites are used to manufacture lightweight bottles, cartons and packaging films to make them impermeable and to store gases like oxygen or carbon dioxide. Silver helps in fighting bacteria, hence silver nanoparticles are embedded in plastic used for making bins for storing foods. It minimizes health risks from harmful bacteria.
- A project is being pursued to develop a network of nanosensors and dispensers to be used in a farm field which help in keeping a check on the needs of nutrients and water by the crops.
- Development of nanosensros that could detect bacteria and other contaminates at a packaging plant is under process. With this development the cost of frequent testing could be reduced in comparison to the traditional methods.
4. Energy Applications –
Nanotechnology is finding applications in energy sources to enhance and develop alternative energy approaches help meet the world’s increasing energy demands. Some of the potential projects being developed are as below:
- Development of less expensive Solar cells are one of the best examples of application of nanotechnology in the field of environment. Scientists have demonstrated that using an array of silicon nanowires embedded in a polymer could form a more cost-effective high-efficiency solar cells.
- Windmills blades could be developed by epoxy containing carbon nanotubes, which makes these blades stronger and light. Hence, increases the amount of electricity generated.
- It has the potential to improve the efficiency of fuel production from raw petroleum materials through better catalysis. It is enabling reduced fuel consumption in vehicles and power plants.
5. Environment –
Nanotechnology is being used in several ways to benefit our environment. This includes cleaning up existing pollution, improving manufacturing methods to reduce the generation of new pollution, and making alternative energy sources more cost effective. Overview of potential applications includes as below:
- Researches have shown that iron nanoparticles can be effective in cleaning up organic solvents that are polluting groundwater. These particles spread out in water and decompose the organic chemicals.
- Researchers have developed a nanofabric “paper towel” woven from tiny wires of potassium manganese oxide that can absorb 20 times its weight in oil for cleanup applications. Researchers have also placed magnetic water-repellent nanoparticles in oil spills and used magnets to mechanically remove the oil from the water.
- Engineers have developed a thin film membrane with nanopores for energy-efficient desalination. This molybdenum disulphide (MoS2) membrane filtered two to five times more water than current conventional filters.
This is not the end of the list of applications of Nanotechnology. In the next blog, we will take a look at more such applications of Nanotechnology in the other domains of our everyday life.