The future of Nanotechnology looks perfect. A number of developments have been made by material scientists and engineers in improving methods of synthesis of nanomaterial solids. There are a number of opportunities for re-engineering existing products. Take for example- nanocrystalline structured materials (grain size less than 100 nm), cluster of atoms (nanodots, macromolecules), films less than 100 nm in thickness and less than 100 nm in diameter (nanorods and nanotubes) offer an excellent foundation for developing further new nanocomponents and materials. Also C60 or buckyball has set open opportunities in the field of material science and chemistry because of its capability of accepting electrons. Nanotubes have the potential of being exploited in the oil and gas industry and its market is expected to grow. It has been found out that carbon nanotubes have a potential in safe and effective storage of hydrogen gas in fuel cells which increases the prospects of wide use of fuel cells and replacement of internal combustion engine. Also Nanotechnology is offering a number of opportunities in the area of optical sensors, new gas sensors, chemical sensors and a host of energy conversion devices. The future is endless for this technology.
Do you know that five million Americans suffer from heart failure every year which results in hospital admissions among twenty percent of the elderly? In order to reduce these figures researchers of San Antonio are working on a sensor which is thinner than the width of a human hair and could be implanted within the heart of the patients suffering from heart problems enabling doctors to monitor patients from their home itself. Dr. Steven Bailey, professor of cardiology. University of Texas Health Science Center is working towards making this possible. This is what Dr. Steven Bailey, heart surgeon had to say: This whole concept came up from my frustration in seeing patients in clinic and saying, why can’t I find a way to get this information so that we can help patients and keep patients out of the hospital? As of now doctors measure pressure in the left atrium by measuring chemicals called bone morphogenetic in the blood but this is an indirect and inexact method. Now Dr. Bailey is planning for a sensor which would be microscopic in size and could be implanted within a blood vessel in the left atrium of the heart.
As per a research at Purdue University it has been found out that Nanocantilevers could play a vital part in designing a new class of ultra small sensors which could help in quick detection of bacteria, pathogens and viruses. They could be useful as they vibrate at different frequencies when contaminant stick to them and this could indicate the presence of dangerous substance. Since nanocantilever’s are of minute size and more sensitive than larger devices therefore it can aid in the development of advanced sensors which can detect minute quantities of contaminant and hence provide a warning regarding the presence of dangerous pathogens. Cantilevers vibrate faster after antibodies are attached and the vibration would be faster if the protein coated nanocantilever is longer. This would certainly help in designing future nanomechanical sensors which use cantilevers.
Are you aware that although mortality rate in a number of cancers has come down significantly but in the case of ovarian cancer it has remained the same for the last five decades? We all know that Nanotechnology has been transforming the manufacturing sector but now it is the turn of the healthcare sector to benefit from it. Researchers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago believe that nanotechnology could be put to use in diagnosing and treating ovarian cancer. They are working towards improving the health of the women and for this purpose are collaborating with Argonne National Laboratory and the Illinois Institute of Technology. Nanotechnology could be used for detecting ovarian cancer in the early stages by making use of highly sensitive imaging tools and development of drug carriers which could deliver therapeutic agents inside the tumor. Nanotechnology could be effective in the case of ovarian cancer as diagnosis of this type of cancer requires the detection and characterization of small quantities of biomarker and therefore it could be quite effective.
Ask the people who use body armour and they will tell you how unwieldy and heavy they are due to the thick layer of ceramic material used for absorbing ballistic impact. Researchers have figured out that nanocomposite materials could be woven into fabrics in order to provide greater flexibility and enhanced ballistic protection. Inclusion of spherical nanoparticles of silicon or carbon nanotubes or titanium dioxide in a plastic or epoxy material provides greater ballistic resistance along with improved flexibility. Although this would make the armour better but the process for making armour could introduce impurities which might inhibit the amount of nanoparticles and thus reduce their effectiveness. Dr Vin Dhanak said: We’re using the synchrotron light source, or SRS, and the photoelectron spectrometer at the National Centre for electron spectroscopy and surface analysis, both based at Daresbury. These world-leading instruments let us analyse how the nanoparticles bond with the matrix materials in which they’re embedded. This will help improve the manufacturing process to eliminate impurities and make the materials stronger.
In order to increase the importance of nanotechnology, it has been added by Rittal to air conditioning systems for a new climate control package which could be used in some of the hardest industrial environments where dust and oil laden air could clog condenser coils. Called Top Therm air conditioners, these are manufactured with a condenser coil designed with RiNano which is a protective coating having dirt, oil and water repellent properties. It ensures that you get cooling performance on a long term basis and save on maintenance cost and time. The contamination to the condenser oil gets reduced and is easier to clean as compared to standard surfaces. RiNano coatings consist of different classes of nanoparticles which lead to the formation of solid homogeneous bond with the condenser surface of Top Therm air conditioner. What you get is a surface which is an ultra thin, glass like layer which has a landscape of nanoscale sized peaks and valleys. You could also control oily ambient air and water is formed like pearl like droplets which runs off.
Using a commercial inkjet printer, researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have found out a method of printing patterns of carbon nanotubes on paper and plastic. The process involved filling off the shelf ink cartridges with a water based liquid containing nanotubes. The technique was developed along with researchers at the University of Oulu in Finland. What made this possible was that carbon nanotubes have the ability to conduct electricity and it is made up of latticework of carbon molecules which align themselves into cylindrical structures which are about fifty thousand times smaller than a human hair. This is what Robert Vajtai, RPI researcher who authored the paper had to say: Some potential applications based on their electrical conductivity include flexible electronics for displays, antennas, and batteries that can be integrated into paper or cloth.
In order to give a push to nanotechnology, AT&T Foundation has given a grant of $200,000 for supporting The University of Texas Health Science Center’s Janey Briscoe Center of Excellence in Cardiovascular Research in order to develop a new medical device. The fund would be utilized for developing an implantable intravascular biosensor that would help in monitoring heath and disease progression in humans. The function of the nano-sized pressure sensor would be to monitor pressure within the cardiovascular system and blood flow whereas the information would be transmitted to a data collection module worn by the patient, most probably a wristwatch device. The external device would then be transmitting the data to a central remote monitoring station where it could be viewed in a real time by health care providers and offer an insight into potential irregularities in the heart. This is what John T. Montford, Senior V.P, AT&T Helping to decrease healthcare costs is an important aspect of AT&T’s future, and we are happy to support a technology that has the potential to benefit the many Americans who are affected by this terrible disease every year.
Another good use of Nanotechnology. Stanford University scientists are using carbon nanotubes for constructing electrodes which successfully stimulate neurons in rats. The stimulation which happens is individual in nature. This hints that success could not only be duplicated in the human body but such a practice could fire individual neurons in the securing ears and eyes. It has been found out that by decay of cells and neurons deafness and blindness is caused. Cochlear and retinal implants are undertaken in order to focus on individual neurons for the purpose of stimulating artificial nerve cells in order to bypass the dead parts of the hearing and seeing process and the signals are sent directly to the brain. Up till now efforts were not successful due to metals in current electrodes as they were prone to damaging the surrounding tissue but the university scientists have found out a solution by resorting to carbon nanotubes in order to make smaller electrodes and this would help in creation of effective retinas and cochlear implants.
Nanotechnology is also being applied in the field of biotechnology. It is being used as a viable product for revolutionalizing pharmaceutical industry and drug development. It is being put to use in accelerating the chiral drug development process. Nanostructured materials are being used for eliminating delay, risk and cost associated with chiral separations. One of the biggest problems faced today is the discovery and development of small molecule therapeutics, most of them contain chiral molecules which are mirror image molecules that cannot be superimposed. Nanotechnology has come ahead to solve this problem and a nanostructured material has been designed with a honeycomb pattern at molecular level which could actually differentiate between mirror image molecules based on shape. It is a powerful nanostructure which can simplify a range of complex processes with a material solution similar to solid state devices which replaced complex computing machines.