TMCnet Feature
January 06, 2021

What To Know About Nanomaterials



To put it in the simplest possible way, Nanomaterials are chemical substances that are manufactured and used at a very small scale. They are developed to exhibit novel traits compared to the same material without nanoscale features, such as increased strength, chemical reactivity, or conductivity. The size of nanomaterials ranges between 1 and 100 nanometers. It is also worth noting that one nanometer equals a billionth of a meter, which just goes to show how tiny these materials are. All processes around manufacturing and manipulation of nanomaterials are called nanotechnology.



Manufacture Of Nanomaterials

US nanomaterials manufacturer produces these in two ways. The first is by cutting down macro structures to the nanoscale, which is also called a top-down approach, and the other is by an assembly of structures from atoms and molecules. A clear example of the top-down approach is seen with the manufacture of microprocessors, whereby shortwave electron beams are used to cut silicon wafers, which are used to create circuits with nanoscale structures. The downside of this approach, however, is that it can be very wasteful of expensive materials that get etched away during the whole process as there is no way to recycle them.

On the other hand, the bottom-up approach where we build up materials atom by atom doesn’t create any waste. It is possible to form nanomaterials through this method because every atom already recognizes its natural position.

There are two ways in which one can produce nanomaterials in bulk; physical and chemical vapor deposition. In the physical vapor deposition method, heat in a furnace is used to vaporize the materials. One could also use pulse lasers, but furnaces are the most popular. The vapor is then condensed on a cool surface, and all this time, an inert gas is bled into the reactor to prevent oxidation of the carbon vapor. As for the chemical vapor deposition method, a reaction occurs in the vapor phase between two or more materials, and/or the vapor reacts with the target material.

Types of Nanotechnology

There are various types of nanotechnology, and they are all classified according to how they proceed and the medium in which they work. (top-down or bottom-up, and dry or wet respectively).

Descending (Top-Down)

This is the most popular type of nanotechnology even to date and is especially used in electronics. Mechanisms and structures are miniaturized at the nanometric scale — from one to 100 nanometers in size.

Ascending (Bottom-Up)

This one starts with a nanometric structure; take, for example, a molecule. A larger mechanism is then created through a mounting process or self-assembly.

Dry Nanotechnology

It is mainly used with the intention of manufacturing structures in coal, silicon, metals, semiconductors, and any other inorganic materials that do not work with humidity. Hence the word “dry.”

Wet Nanotechnology

Based on the word ‘wet’ you can probably deduce what it is all about. Basically, it is based on biological systems present in an aqueous environment such as membranes, enzymes, genetic material, and other cellular components.

Uses of Nanotechnology

Nanotechnology plays a very significant role in the modern world. It is applied in various disciplines, including physics, engineering, biology, medicine, and so much more. You probably also apply nanotechnology in your everyday life without even knowing.

Electronics

Silicon has, for a long time, been the basic component in most microchips and electronic devices. However, carbon nanotubes have been threatening to take their place in the recent past, and slowly they are becoming successful. It is a faster and more efficient option and also lighter and more conductive. Graphene's properties make it an ideal candidate for the development of flexible touchscreens.

Energy

There is a new semiconductor that has been developed, which makes it possible to manufacture solar panels that increase the amount of light energy converted to electricity by 100%. This means that you can now double the amount of electricity generated, and that is simply amazing. This could go a long way in protecting the environment because more people will be attracted to using solar energy as opposed to non-renewable sources, which have done a great deal of damage to our planet. Also, on the energy front, nanocomposite materials can be used in the production of the blade found on wind turbines; the bigger the blade, the more electricity we are able to generate. To sum it up, nanotechnology lowers costs, produces stronger and lighter wind turbines, improves fuel efficiency, and, thanks to the thermal insulation of some nano components, can save energy.

Water Purification

Nanotechnology has also been incorporated into the process of water purification. New research at Manchester University has shown that graphene can filter common salts from the water making it safe to drink. If this goes well, we could be able to desalinate seawater in more affordable and efficient ways.

Sports & Leisure

Carbon nanotubes produce composites with epoxy resins that have a tensile strength that could be up to ten times higher than carbon fiber reinforced materials. This can be applied on yacht masts, tennis rackets, fishing rods, and also bodywork in racing cars as it maintains the same strength but is lighter and therefore improves performance.

Transport

In the transport industry, the same principle of lightness with equal strength is used to incorporate nanomaterials. Take, for example, the Airbus A380, which uses around a fifth of composite materials containing nanomaterials. This reduction of weight reduces energy consumption and therefore saves fuel. This is not only helpful in reducing costs, but it also plays a huge role in conserving the environment as the miles per gallon for cars, aircraft, and ships is increased, meaning that these vessels don’t consume as much fuel.

Biomedicine

Nanotechnology has been able to make great moves in the world of medicine, especially in the fight against cancer. Some of the properties that nanomaterials have to make them an ideal tool for early diagnosis and treatment of neurodegenerative diseases or cancer. These nanomaterials are able to selectively attack cancer cells and leave healthy ones, which is just splendid.

Environment

Nanotechnology can also be applied in matters to do with environmental conservation, especially when it comes to air purification with ions as well as wastewater purification with nanobubbles or nanofiltration systems for heavy metals. Nanocatalysts are also available to make chemical reactions more efficient and less polluting.

Food Production

When it comes to food production, nanotechnology comes in handy when one is trying to detect the presence of food pathogens. This is done through nano biosensors by decreasing oxygen transfer in packaged products and increasing mechanical and thermal resistance.

Textile

In the textile industry, nanotechnology is used in the development of smart fabrics that don’t stain or wrinkle. It is also applied in the manufacture of stronger, lighter, and durable materials that are popular with motorcycle helmets and sports equipment.

The Future of Nanotechnology

The future of nanotechnology looks very bright, but there are a few dark spots as well. For example, we expect that it will grow globally with the aid of even more technological advancements, more government support, increased private investment, and also a growing demand for smaller, more portable devices. There are, however, a few environmental, safety, and health risks that pose a potential threat to market growth.

It is expected that by the year 2024, the US, Germany, and Brazil will be leading the nanotechnology industry. There is also an expected significant presence in some of the “bigger” Asian countries such as Japan, China, South Korea, India, Taiwan, and Malaysia. As for the ranking of sectors, we expect that electric and energy will continue to lead the way, but the cosmetic sector will climb up to third, displacing the biomedical sector.



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