The term ‘nanotechnology’ was first coined by professor Norio Taniguchi in 1974. He was describing semiconductor processes that exhibit characteristic control on the order of a nanometer. The modern nanotechnology began in 1981, when scientists develop the scanning tunnelling microscope to “see” individual atoms.
How small is one nanometer? The human hair is approximately 50 micrometers wide. One nanometer is 50,000th of a hair width.
What is Exactly Nanotechnology?
Nanotechnology is science, technology, and engineering carried out at the nanoscale, between 1 and 100 nanometers. It’s can be a complicated topic with new discoveries being made everyday.
Nanotechnology can provide unprecedented insights into materials and equipment and is likely to impact various fields including device physics, material science, supramolecular chemistry, colloidal science and electrical and mechanical engineering.
The topic can be better explained by providing clear and concise explanations of nanotechnology applications. We have listed some less popular uses of nanotechnology and their advantages, showing how they actually impact our daily lives.
12. Nanotechnology in Food Industry
Role of nanotechnology in different aspects of food sectors | Credit: Frontiers
Over the last two decades, nanotechnology applications have emerged with growing need of nanoparticle uses in different fields of food microbiology and food science, including food processing, packaging, safety, identification of food-borne pathogens and shelf-life extension of food products.
Nano engineered particles used in food industry, for instance, minimize the carbon dioxide leakage in carbonated beverages, reduce fat, and enhance nutritional value. They also maintain moisture outflow and control the growth of bacteria in order to keep food fresh.
Smart packaging techniques combined with nano scale sensors enable detection of contaminated food and presence of bacteria and pesticides.
Today, nanoscale ingredients are used to improve flavor, texture, and color of food. The nanoparticles of titanium dioxide, silicon dioxide, and amorphous silica are used as food additives.
In the food industry, commercial applications of nanoparticles is expected to grow at a significant rate due to their novel and unique properties. Thus, human exposure to nanoparticles will continue to increase and its associated health impact will remain prime public concern.
11. Molecular Communication
Nano machines are fully functional devices that can perform numerous tasks such as actuation, sensting, storing data and computing. In order to be more effective and efficient, these machines should be interconnected in form of a network.
Molecular communication is the paradigm in nano communication networks, which uses molecules for communication among nano machine. These systems use the absence or presence of a particular type of molecule to digitally encode data.
It works by delivering molecules into a medium (like water or air) for transmission. The communication signals require little energy and can be made biocompatible. Also, this technique dosen’t rely on specific-size antennas.
Since molecular communication is inspired from the communication among biological materials, it offers a wide range of biomedical and environmental applications.
Nano Communication inside human body, for instance, can have several health applications, such as tissue engineering, enhanced immune system, Brain Machine Interface, and targeted drug delivery.
Scientists are currently working on models for end-to-end communication between bio-nano machines.
10. Growing Nerve Cells
Image credit:Sebastian Kaulitzki/Shutterstock
The ability to regenerate nerve cells in the body could significantly decrease the effects of trauma and disease. Scientists are working on nanotechnology to improve the regeneration of nerve cells.
They have shown that how magnetic nanoparticles can be used to generate mechanical tension for stimulating the elongation of axons (or nerve fibers). They have also described how aligned nanofibers can provide a bioactive matrix where nerve cells can regenerate.
Several studies have proved that carbon nanotubes facilitate the full growth of neurons and the formation of new synapses. However, the growth isn’t indiscriminate and unlimited.
9. Better Solar Panels
As the global interest in green energy continues to increase, scientists have continued to study ways to enhance the efficiency of solar cells. Over the last few years, several advances in nanotechnology have been integrated into solar panels to improve efficiency while decreasing its manufacturing and installation costs.
Silicon nanoparticles, in particular, have proven useful: they have low bulk density, active surface state, and unique photoluminescent characteristics. Therefore, these nanoparticles are also used in integrated semiconductors, luminescent display devices, solar energy cells, and lithium-ion batteries.
Recent advances in graphene-based solar cells have resulted in 20% less reflectance and at least 40% more energy conversion as compared to traditional solar cells.
A nano-sculpture created by Jonty Hurwitz
Scientists are becoming artists, thanks to ‘NanoArt’. It’s a artwork done on a molecular and atomic scale. It portrays natural or synthetic nanostructures that are observed by electron microscopes in laboratories.
To create a nanoart, scientists first analyze the textures of molecules and atoms, capture microscopic images of them, and tune the resulting image to produce a unique piece of art. One of the objectives of such arts is to familiarize people with useful tiny objects and advances in their synthesis.
In 2015, Jonty Hurwitz developed a new method for generating nanosculpture using photogrammetry and multiphoton lithography. Hurwitz is a creative artist who is now recognized for the smallest human form ever built using nanotechnology.
7. Medical Diagnostics And Treatment
Nanotech-based diagnostic methods can provide two major benefits –
- Quick testing, which may allow doctors to perform diagnostic tests and start treatment within a day.
- Detection of serious diseases in earlier stages, which can help doctors stop disease(s) earlier, with less damage to the patient.
For example, scientists are developing nanoparticles called NanoFlares to detect cancer cells in the bloodstream. These nanoparticles are designed to bind with genetic targets in cancer cells and produce a fluorescent signal when that particular target is found.
Another good example is nanopore sensor that can identify individual virus particles. Nanopore sensors combined with artificial intelligence techniques may provide quick, point of use, detection of viruses.
The technology can also be used to combat infections: researchers have developed a prototype of catheter dressing which incorporates nanoparticles of chlorhexidine hexametaphosphate. It can inhibit the growth of bacteria and decrease wound colonization. In near future, these types of molecules could be used in wound care materials to control infections.
6. Improving Fuel Availability
Nanotechnology can address the shortage of fossil fuels (gasoline and diesel) in different ways –
- It can increase the mileage of engines.
- Can efficiently and economically produce fuels from conventional raw materials.
Nanomaterials are exceptional candidates for numerous biofuel systems because of their unique properties such as catalytic activity, durability, stability, high degree of crystallinity and efficient storage which could collectively help optimize the overall system.
Nanotechnology combined with gasification, pyrolysis, anaerobic digestion, transesterification, and hydrogenation has been proven to be economical and efficient, but are still mostly limited to laboratories and small scale. They will soon (probably in the next three decades) replace traditional systems at commercial scales.
Several metal oxide nano-catalysts, including calcium oxide, titanium, strontium oxide, and magnesium oxide have been created with high catalytic performance for producing biodiesel. Carbon-based nano-catalysts also hold great potential for biodiesel production from various feedstocks.
5. Computing And Data Storage
3. High resolution Display
Image Source: extremetech
Any image on the display screen is created via a small element called pixels. The pixel is considered as the main factor of image quality. With traditional displays, more pixels mean bulky screen. Nano size pixels are a great choice for smart glasses, foldable screens and synthetic eye lens. At present, nanostructured polymer films are used in creating organic light emitting diode (OLED). OLED screens offer bright screen, better picture quality and long life.
2. Super Fast Mobile Charging
Image Source: bbc
Smartphones are the most useful devices, but they have a notorious downside of low battery life. Even the powerful devices need to be charged daily for heavy use. An Israel based startup, StoreDot has developed nanodots technology that need only 30 seconds to completely recharge a battery. The technology uses the peptide properties to improve the life of the battery. A prototype was demonstrated on the Samsung Galaxy S3 phone and the battery was charged from zero to full in less than a minute.
1. Color Changing Liquid
Image Source: colormatrix
There are many videos of experiments on YouTube that claim the color changing paint. But, most of the videos have been taken as a hoax. Recently, some scientists at the University of California discovered a way to change the color of any fluid. They created a sensor made of gold nanoparticles and added it to a flexible polymer film. When the pressure is applied to film, it stretches and changes the color of the particle. The polymer film turns into purple color by applying a little force while pressing harder turns it into red.