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Nanotechnology – The Future Is Here!

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:

Water purifying Tea Bag
Water purification is one of the biggest issues facing humankind. Researchers have combined the fibers in a tea bag with activated carbon atoms so that when the water is drank through the teabag, it filters harmful contaminants and also acts as an antibacterial.
Air purifying fabric
Much like the above, treated fabric can purify air. As it is wearable, we can all become part of the grand plan to clean air for all of us to breath. Even better is the fact that all one needs to treat the fabric is to wash the cloth in a specially treated detergent.

 Artificial Muscles

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.

Converting waste to energyThe concept of converting waste material, everything from wasted food to poo is not old. However, the process has not really been efficient enough to deal with the waste. However, once again, nanotechnology is determined to change all that, and increase the return by up to 20 times!

 Firefly nanorods

 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.

 Stretchable electronics

 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.

 Self-healing fabrics

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.

Nanowire sensing

 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.

 Waterproof fabrics

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.

 Water-resistant electronics

 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).

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