What is Nanotechnology ? Nanotechnology Applications
Some definitions of Nanotechnology
-Nanotechnology could be simply defined as the design and production of structures, devices and systems by controlling shape and size at nanometre scale.
-In the 1959 the famous physicist Richard Feynman, in his prophetic lecture “There’s plenty of room at the bottom” first sketched the framework of nanotechnology.
Feynman first explored the possibility of manipulating material at the scale of individual atoms and molecules (definition of nanotechnology). Famous is his example of the possibility to store whole Encyclopaedia Britannica written on the head of a pin.
-Nanoscience involves research to discover new behaviors and properties of materials with dimensions at the nanoscale which ranges roughly from 1 to 100 nanometers (nm). Nanotechnology is the way discoveries made at the nanoscale are put to work. Nanotechnology is more than throwing together a batch of nanoscale materials—it requires the ability to manipulate and control those materials in a useful way. (source: http://www.nano.gov)
-Nanotechnology is the study of phenomena and fine-tuning of materials at atomic, molecular and macromolecular scales, where properties differ significantly from those at a larger scale. Products based on nanotechnology are already in use and analysts expect markets to grow by hundreds of billions of euros during this decade. These advances can contribute to the European Union’s growth, competitiveness and sustainable development objectives and many of its policies including public health, employment and occupational safety and health, information society, industry, innovation, environment, energy, transport, security and space. (source: http://cordis.europa.eu/nanotechnology)
-Nanotechnology is a highly multidisciplinary field, drawing from a number of fields such as applied physics, materials science, interface and colloid science, device physics, supramolecular chemistry (which refers to the area of chemistry that focuses on the noncovalent bonding interactions of molecules), self-replicating machines and robotics, chemical engineering, mechanical engineering, biological engineering, and electrical engineering.
Two main approaches are used in nanotechnology. In the “bottom-up” approach, materials and devices are built from molecular components which assemble themselves chemically by principles of molecular recognition. In the “top-down” approach, nano-objects are constructed from larger entities without atomic-level control. The impetus for nanotechnology comes from a renewed interest in Interface and Colloid Science, coupled with a new generation of analytical tools such as the atomic force microscope (AFM), and the scanning tunneling microscope (STM). Combined with refined processes such as electron beam lithography and molecular beam epitaxy, these instruments allow the deliberate manipulation of nanostructures, and lead to the observation of novel phenomena.(source: wikipedia).
Nanotechnology is emerging as one of the most promising and rapidly expanding fields of R&D. Nanotechnology expectations for improving the safety and quality of life are high. Nanotechnology offers potential industrial solutions to many problems using emerging nanofabrication techniques.
The potential contributions of advances in nanoscale phenomena to improving human health created even more excitement by envisioning new biomaterials, devices and techniques for biological detection and remediation. Thus, issues such as synthesis, fabrication and characterization of functional nanomaterials and nanostructures for biomedical applications (molecular recognition, nanotubes, nanowires, nanoparticles, self-assembly, polymer-based nanomaterials, thin films, medical imaging, diagnosis and therapy, etc.) become very important.
Nanostructured Materials and Thin Films
Conventional materials have grain sizes ranging from microns to several millimeters and contain several billion atoms each. Nanometer sized grains contain only about 900 atoms each. As the grain size decreases to the nanometer range, there is a significant increase in the volume fraction of grain boundaries or interfaces. A nanostructured crystalline material is one in which the spacing between lattice defects approaches inter-atomic distances. These characteristics strongly influence the chemical and physical properties of the material. For example, it has been found that nanostructured ceramics are sometimes tougher and stronger than the coarser grained ceramics and nanophase metals exhibit significant increases in yield strength and elastic modulus. It has also been shown that other properties (electrical, optical, magnetic, etc) are influenced by the fine grained structure of these materials. Physical Vapor Deposition (PVD) processes, such as magnetron sputtering have shown to be powerful methods for the synthesis of nanostructured ceramic thin coatings. Magnetron sputtering is a non-equilibrium process induced by collision processes of high-energy particles . This is a complex method to deposit thin films and coatings, because small changes in deposition parameters induce radical changes in physical properties of coatings. For the deposition of composite multiphase coatings this technique allows to control at an atomic level the addition of the elements to the coating matrix, and thus providing an improved uniformization of the phases, e.g. nanocrystalline phases embedded in an amorphous matrix such as ZrO2-Al2O3 or TiN-Si3N4 coatings.
Interfaces and grain boundaries are key parameters in designing nanolayered coatings. Internal interfaces in materials are extended defects including grain boundaries and interphase boundaries, found in almost every engineering materials. Interfaces play a crucial role for the performance of layered composite coatings. Extreme service conditions sometimes prevail such as high temperatures, aggressive surrounding media, interdiffusion, wear, etc. It follows that the structure of interfaces must be regarded from the point of view of the whole complexity of the thermodynamic conditions during fabrication and exploitation of coated components, frequently in thermodynamic non-equilibrium. Therefore, interface engineering is an important field of coating materials science and engineering. For many technological applications, the control of internal interfaces, including the orientation relationship, the interfacial misfit, dislocations, segregation, and of interface kinetics play a crucial role.
Nanotechnology Thin Film Approaches for Biotechnology and Biomedical Industry
In the field of nanotechnology-based thin films and coatings, new approaches using nanoscale effects can be used to design, create or model nanocoating systems with significantly optimized or enhanced properties of high interest to the food, health and biomedical industry. With the development of nanotechnology in various areas of materials science the potential use of novel surfaces and more reliable materials by employing nanocomposite and nanostructured thin films in food packaging, security pharmaceutical labels, novel polymeric containers for food contact, medical surface instruments, bio-implants, and even coated nanoparticles for bionanotechnology can be considered.
Nanotechnology in Energy
Research in Nanoscience and Nanotechnology will contribute to the achievement of fundamental breakthroughs in nanomaterials and processes in energy systems. In the near future nanotechnology will contribute to efficient and low-cost systems for generating, storing, and transporting energy. Materials and structures that are designed and fabricated at the nanoscale level offer the potential to enhance efficiencies and reduce costs in solar photovoltaic systems, solar thermal systems, fuel cells and other energy technologies. Nanostructured materials and thin films offer the potential for significant improvements in energy technology and photo-electronic properties based on improvements in physical, chemical and nanomechanical properties resulting from reducing microstructural features by decreasing the grain size of a material to the nanometer range compared to current technological materials. For example, efficient solar photothermal conversion benefits from spectrally selective absorber nanostructured graded surfaces.
Food and Health Food Safety
The increasing consumer health consciousness and the growing demand for healthy and new functional foods are stimulating innovation and new product development in the food industry, and it is also responsible for the expanding worldwide interest in functional foods. Food technologists expect Nanotechnology to revolutionize food production and to establish new ways of controlling and assuring food safety from farm to fork. Nowadays, food safety and quality is provided by macroscopic technologies, where processing, storage and distribution are controlled by conventional methods (e.g. HACCP). However, there are steps which are currently non-controllable leading to important quality and safety losses. Today´s packaging systems provide in general a passive protection, acting only as a physical barrier (to e.g. UV light, gases, micro-organisms, mechanical damage) which is insufficient in many cases to guarantee the required quality levels. Novel nanomaterials for flexible packaging systems are being developed to increase the safety of foods keeping their natural characteristics, among them active packaging and inorganic nanocoatings.
Nanobiotechnology and Nanomedicine
A common technological problem for conventional biomolecular sensors is the long-term instability of the microorganisme response, bacteria selectivity and the time to reach steady-state of the response is often very long. Nanotechnology-based platforms for the high-throughput, multiplexed detection of proteins and nucleic acids in heretofore unattainable abundance ranges promise to bring substantial advances in molecular medicine.
Enabled by innovative applications of microfabrication and novel nanoengineering tools, scientists are able to manipulate biological systems with previously unattainable dexterity and resolution. Indeed, the state of the art is moving in a general trend toward integrated implementations of sample conditioning, analyte detection, and analysis, i.e., the lab on a chip. To this end, microfluidics is an enabling technology that has the potential to define the next-generation biological assay.
Continuously advances in micro- and nanofabrication, DNA and protein microarray and microfluidic technologies will enabled the development of fully-integrated, miniaturized systems. These so called ‘laboratory-on-a-chip’ devices perform sample preparation together with biochemical reactions and detection steps in a simple and automated manner.
Nanotechnology in the Textile Industry
The use of nanotechnology in the textile industry has increased rapidly due to its unique and valuable properties. This is mainly due to the fact that conventional methods used to impart different properties to fabrics often do not lead to permanent effects, and will lose their functions after laundering or wearing. Nanotechnology can provide high durability for fabrics, because nano-particles have a large surface area-to-volume ratio and high surface energy, thus presenting better affinity for fabrics and leading to an increase in durability of the function. In addition, a coating of nano-particles on fabrics will not affect their breathability or hand feel.
The first work on nanotechnology in textiles was undertaken by Nano-Tex, a subsidiary of the
US-based Burlington Industries. Coating is a common technique used to apply nano-particles onto
textiles. The coating compositions that can modify the surface of textiles are usually composed of
nano-particles, a surfactant, ingredients and a carrier medium. The properties
imparted to textiles using nanotechnology include water repellence, soil resistance, wrinkle resistance,
anti-bacteria, anti-static and UV-protection, flame retardation, improvement of dyeability, etc.
Nanotechnology and Society Impacts
Responsible development of nanotechnology entails research toward understanding the public health and safety and environmental implications of nanotechnology, as well as research toward promising, highly beneficial uses of the technology. Such an approach recognizes the value of supporting basic research to develop nanotechnology as well as research to address environmental, health, and safety concerns related to the use of nanotechnology. (source http://www.nano.gov)
Several research topics have been identified as being crucial, also for contributing to other policy areas in nanotechnology, such as safety of nanoparticles, pre-normative research, or research for health, security energy, information society, and environment, or for supporting less developed countries and socially disadvantaged people.(source: http://cordis.europa.eu/nanotechnology)
Societal aspects / Ethics
Nanotechnology is likely to change our lives in many ways. It is important that nanotechnology is developed in a responsible way – in a way that responds to the needs and concerns of the citizens. An open debate involving the public is indispensable. Interested people must be enabled to reach their own informed and independent judgements. This will allow a shared analysis of benefits and risks (both real and perceived) and their implications for society. Ethical issues related to nanotechnology have to be identified and to be taken into account. (source: http://cordis.europa.eu)
More Information on Nanotechnology:
See also the website portal: http://www.
It offers website access to funding opportunities and USA, EU and Asia funded projects, information on international co-operation, financing and innovation, nanotech jobs opportunities, education and mobility, health, environment and safety aspects, and communication and debate. The site also includes some reports and scientific publications and international events calendar in nanotechnology, the latest nano-related news, and press material on nanotechnology in general and on specific funded projects.
Nanomaterials companies, carbon nanotubes suppliers, metal oxides, vacuum products , smart materials, piezo-electric actuactors: