What is nanotechnology?
Nanotechnology, or “nanotech”, is the manipulation of matter on an atomic, molecular, or supramolecular scale.
While most people’s ideas of revolutionary nanotechnology products, materials and applications, such as nanorobotics, are still years in the future, what qualifies as “nanotechnology” today includes products that are gradually improved using evolutionary nanotechnology. For example a nanotechnology enabled material, such as carbon nanotubes, or nanotechnology process, such as nanopatterning or quantum dots can be used in the manufacturing process.
Nanotechnology therefore refers to the ability to create increasingly smaller, powerful devices from the bottom up, and embraces many industries including healthcare, communication, energy, oil and gas, and agriculture.
The impact of nanotechnology on various industries
Nanotechnology has the potential to impact business across a number of verticals. Some of the potential uses for nanotechnology in business include:
- Nanotechnology may have its greatest impact on the medical industry. New research on the use of nanoparticles in cancer and gene therapy is often published but has yet to gain FDA approvals. A good example of the pervasiveness of these minute particles, however, can be found in sunscreen, which contains titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. These nanoparticles are highly reflective and can prevent harmful rays from penetrating the skin.
- Technologies such as wearable fitness gadgets to monitor health, prototype electronic tattoos to sense vitals, or tiny sensor implants in patients’ bodies to capture their details may sound like something that will not happen in the foreseeable future. Multibillion healthcare firms like GlaxoSmithKline have, however, already started exploring ways to develop so-called “electroceuticals”.
- Nanotechnology sensors will be able to produce more information than we’ve ever had to deal with before, becoming a key enabler of big data. Data from traffic sensors, for example, can help manage congestion and prevent accidents, or avert crime by using statistics to allocate police resources more efficiently.
- Furthermore, nanotechnology is providing the motivation for processing, encrypting and communicating data without compromising on reliability.
- Innovative ways to generate and use electricity are necessary if we are to tackle climate change. Nanotechnology has already helped create batteries that are able to store more energy for electric cars, and has made it possible for solar panels to convert more sunlight into electricity.
Oil and gas
- Osorb is an accident of chemistry where the glass material was expected to react with trace molecules of explosives by changing colour. It was discovered that instead of being solid, the nanoparticles had the ability to swell and soak up the whole volume of test solution. Osorb is already being used in the oil and gas industry to remove contaminants from water.