Being an engineer, you often hear people say that the future lies in nanotechnology. Tell you what, it probably does. Nanotechnology is the art of manipulating material on an atomic scale, and in this post I share some exciting new developments, across a wide range of areas, that are using this small science to develop life changing products. Here are some examples:
Artificial muscles have been around for some time. They work on the principle of the screw. However, with the exploration of nanotechnology scientists have been able to build nanotubes, which allows them to control yarns that twist and untwist to lift or rotate objects a thousand times their own size.
Self heated roads
In a country like Britain, which tends to struggle every time we have snow or icy conditions, this is genius. Activated carbon nanofibers embed together to form self-heating sheets, which can go from -10 to 0oC in just 2 hours, and consume only 6 watts of power. To put things into perspective, that is the amount of energy used to light an energy saver bulb for about an hour.
Fireflies are wonders of nature. The light they produce is explained as bioluminescence. Scientists have managed to produce firefly nanorods using nanotechnology, which convert chemical energy directly to light energy. So future LEDs and light sources could be based on this technology.
Before they announced the Higgs Boson discovery, this was the biggest news in science. Scientists have developed stretchable electronics, which have physical properties of rubber bands, but function as regular electronics.
Even better than being stretchable, this special form of rubber has self healing properties. If such a fabric is cut, this has the ability to merge back into its original shape and form.
By using a network of nanoscale wires, scientists have developed a chemical sensor which can work as an artificial nose. As a result we have an easy and economical way of sensing environmental factors such as air pollution, contaminants and other processes.
Electrotactile Touch Screens
Using nanotechnology, scientists have been able to create surfaces that can feel different under different conditions. As a result, smooth and rough surfaces can be experienced on touch screens, changing the way we interface with our smartphones and other electronic devices. In fact, this was one of the rumours that the new iPhone was supposed to bring in. The rumours didn’t die with HTC ONE X and Samsung Galaxy S3, but not quite seen yet.
Nanotechnology has been used to create waterproof fabrics that not only protect from water and moisture, but also provide breathability. Other than that, this technology can be applied to books, cash, and any other such product.
Much like above, nanotechnology is being used to coat the inside of electronics with a water-resistant layer, which protects the treated devices from water and other liquids. Of course, this is a topic I have extensively covered in my past blogs (link to past blog article).
One great example of a company that has taken a nanotechnology concept from a ‘great idea’ in the lab and commercialised it can be found in our own Oxfordshire. P2i is a company that has patented nano-technology coatings that are applied across a wide range of applications and products, such as footwear, electronics, life sciences, energy production, etc. More information about their products and applications can be found on their website (www.p2i.com).