Many airplane cabin and other types of air filters are nanotechnology-based filters that allow “mechanical filtration,” in which the fiber material creates nanoscale pores that trap particles larger than the size of the pores. Nanoscale sensors and devices may also support an enhanced transportation infrastructure that can communicate with vehicle-based systems to help drivers maintain lane position, avoid collisions, adjust travel routes to circumnavigate congestion, and other such activities. Multifunctional therapeutics where a nanoparticle serves as a platform to facilitate its specific targeting to cancer cells and delivery of a potent treatment, minimizing the risk to normal tissues. Nanostructured solar cells already are cheaper to manufacture and easier to install, since they can use print-like manufacturing processes and can be made in flexible rolls rather than discrete panels.
Two big applications are in petroleum refining and in automotive catalytic converters. These crystals offer optical detection up to 1,000 times better than conventional dyes used in many biological tests, such as MRIs, and render significantly more information. Nanostructured ceramic coatings exhibit much greater toughness than conventional wear-resistant coatings for machine parts. In 2000, the U.S. Navy qualified such a coating for use on gears of air-conditioning units for its ships, saving $20 million in maintenance costs over 10 years. Research is underway to use nanotechnology to spur the growth of nerve cells, e.g., in damaged spinal cord or brain cells. In one method, a nanostuctured gel fills the space between existing cells and encourages new cells to grow.
Researchers are also working to develop a safe, lightweight hydrogen fuel tank. Another method is exploring use of nanofibers to regenerate damaged spinal nerves in mice. Quantum dots are semiconducting nanocrystals that can enhance biological imaging for medical diagnostics. Although nano-products are costly, the research in nano-technology is gaining momentum with the motivation of immediate profitable return from high value products.
Using nanotechnology, materials can effectively be made to be stronger, lighter, more durable, more reactive, more sieve-like, or better electrical conductors, among many other traits. Nanobiosystems, Medical, and Health Applications Nanotechnology has the real potential to revolutionize a wide array of medical and biotechnology tools and procedures so that they are more personalized, portable, cheaper, safer, and easier to administer. Below are some examples of important advances in these areas. Nanoscale materials in cosmetic products provide greater clarity or coverage; cleansing; absorption; personalization; and antioxidant, anti-microbial, and other health properties in sunscreens, cleansers, complexion treatments, creams and lotions, shampoos, and specialized makeup.
Nanotechnology is helping to considerably improve, even revolutionize, many technology and industry sectors: information technology, energy, environmental science, medicine, homeland security, food safety, and transportation, among many others. Many scientists are looking into ways to develop clean, affordable, and renewable energy sources, along with means to reduce energy consumption and lessen toxicity burdens on the environment. 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. Clinical scientists are able to monitor the development of plaque as well as its disappearance following treatment (see image). Before (left) and after (right) picture of atherosclerotic placque in a mouse artery.
AbstractNanotechnology in the construction industry ranked eighth out of ten most significant areas of applications. Nano-engineered materials in the food industry include nanocomposites in food containers to minimize carbon dioxide leakage out of carbonated beverages, or reduce oxygen inflow, moisture outflow, or the growth of bacteria in order to keep food fresher and safer, longer.
Nanoparticles are used increasingly in catalysis to boost chemical reactions. Researchers have developed an imaging technology to measure the amount of an antibody-nanoparticle complex that accumulates specifically in plaque. Nano-bioengineering of enzymes is aiming to enable conversion of cellulose into ethanol for fuel, from wood chips, corn stalks (not just the kernels, as today), unfertilized perennial grasses, etc.
New systems may incorporate innovative capabilities into traditional infrastructure materials, such as the ability to generate or transmit energy. The discussion for each area of application covers (i) research findings by different researchers / agencies, (ii) possible mechanisms of improvement, (iii) potential areas of applications.
Finally, challenges and future direction of nano-based products in construction field is briefly described. Placque accumulation is shown in this image by the increasing intensity of color, from blue to yellow and red. (Image courtesy of M. Nahrendorf, MGH Center for Systems Biology, Harvard Medical School) Gold nanoparticles can be used to detect early-stage Alzheimer’s disease.
Nanostructured materials are being pursued to greatly improve hydrogen membrane and storage materials and the catalysts needed to realize fuel cells for alternative transportation technologies at reduced cost. Researchers around the world are investigating carbon nanotube “scrubbers,” and membranes to separate carbon dioxide from power plant exhaust. Nanosensors built into plastic packaging can warn against spoiled food. Everyday Materials and Processes Most benefits of nanotechnology depend on the fact that it is possible to tailor the essential structures of materials at the nanoscale to achieve specific properties, thus greatly extending the well-used toolkits of materials science.
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