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2011 October 3 - 12:00 am

Everyday Applications of Nanotechnology

Everyday Applications of Nanotechnology
Compiled by Paul Bradley

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Though nanotechnology is a relatively new science, it already has numerous applications in everyday life, ranging from consumer goods to medicine to improving the environment.

Here are a few examples:

Medicine
One application of nanotechnology in medicine currently being developed involves employing nanoparticles to deliver drugs, heat, light or other substances to specific types of cells, such as cancer cells. Particles are engineered so that they are attracted to diseased cells, which allowdirect treatment of those cells. This technique reduces damage to healthy cells in the body and allows for earlier detection of disease. For example, nanoparticles that deliver chemotherapy drugs directly to cancer cells are under development.

Electronics
Nanoelectronics holds some answers on expanding the capabilities of electronics devices can be expanded while reducing their weight and power consumption. These include improving display screens on electronics devices and increasing the density of memory chips. Nanotechnology can also reduce the size of transistors used in integrated circuits. One researcher believes it may be possible to put the power of all of today’s present computers in the palm of your hand.

Environment

Nanotechnology is being used in several applications to improve the 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. Potential applications include:

  • Cleaning up organic chemicals polluting groundwater. Researchers have shown that iron nanoparticles can be effective in cleaning up organic solvents that are polluting groundwater. The iron nanoparticles disperse throughout the body of water and decompose the organic solvent in place. This method can be more effective and cost significantly less than treatment methods that require the water to be pumped out of the ground.
  • Generating less pollution during the manufacture of materials. Researchers have demonstrated that the use of silver nanoclusters as catalysys can significantly reduce the polluting byproducts generated in the process used to manufacture propylene oxide. Propylene oxide is used to produce common materials such as plastics, paint, detergents and brake fluid.
  • Increasing the electricity generated by windmills. Epoxy containing carbon nanotubes is being used to make windmill blades. The resulting blades are stronger and lower weight and therefore the amount of electricity generated by each windmill is greater.
  • Producing solar cells that generate electricity at a competitive cost. Researchers have demonstrated that an array silicon nanowires embedded in a polymer results in low-cost but high-efficiency solar cells. This may result in solar cells that generate electricity as cost effectively as coal or oil.

Consumer Products

Nanotechnology has already found its way into numerous consumer products you use every day, from clothing to skin lotion. They include:

  • Silver nanoparticles in fabric that kill bacteria making clothing odor-resistant.
  • Skin care products that use nanoparticles to deliver vitamins deeper into the skin
  • Lithium ion batteries that use nanoparticle-based electrodes powering plug-in electric cars
  • Flame retardant formed by coating the foam used in furniture with carbon nanofibers.

Sporting Goods
If you’re a tennis or golf fan, you’ll be glad to hear that even sporting goods have been improved by nanotechnology. Current nanotechnology applications in the sports arena include:

  • Increasing the strength of tennis racquets by adding nanotubes to the frames which increases control and power when you hit the ball.
  • Filling any imperfections in golf club shaft materials with nanoparticles; this improves the uniformity of the material that makes up the shaft and thereby improving your swing.
  • Reducing the rate at which air leaks from tennis balls so they keep their bounce longer.

Source: UnderstandingNano.com

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