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Nanotechnology - Your Online Guide

What are Nanomaterials? 

Engineered nanomaterials are materials designed at the molecular (nanometre) level to take advantage of their small size and novel properties which are generally not seen in their conventional, bulk counterparts. The two main reasons why materials at the nano scale can have different properties are increased relative surface area and new quantum effects. Nanomaterials have a much greater surface area to volume ratio than their conventional forms, which can lead to greater chemical reactivity and affect their strength. Also at the nano scale, quantum effects can become much more important in determining the material’s properties and characteristics, leading to novel optical, electrical and magnetic behaviours

 

Nanomaterials have extremely small size as their defining characteristic, although there is as yet no agreed national or international definition for nanomaterials. The current working definition of nanomaterials is a material having at least one dimension 100 nanometres or less. To put nanomaterials into perspective, up to 10,000 could fit across a human hair. Nanomaterials can be nanoscale in one dimension (eg. surface films), two dimensions (eg. strands or fibres), or three dimensions (eg. particles). They can exist in single, fused, aggregated or agglomerated forms with spherical, tubular, and irregular shapes. Common types of nanomaterials include nanotubes, dendrimers, quantum dots and fullerenes

 

Products containing engineered nanomaterials are already in commercial use, with some having been available for some time. The range of commercial products available today is very broad, including stain-resistant and wrinkle-free textiles, cosmetics, sunscreens, electronics, paints and varnishes. Nanocoatings and nanocomposites are finding uses in diverse consumer products, such as windows, sports equipment, bicycles and automobiles. There are novel UV-blocking coatings on glass bottles which protect beverages from damage by sunlight, and longer-lasting tennis balls using butyl-rubber/nano-clay composites. Nanoscale titanium dioxide, for instance, is finding applications in cosmetics, sun-block creams and self-cleaning windows, and nanoscale silica is being used as filler in a range of products, including cosmetics and dental fillings.

 

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