Nanoscience involves studying the application of things that scale between 1 and 100 nanometers. In this field of study, scientists and engineers use nanotechnology engineering to manipulate individual atoms and molecules and create nanotechnology, which operates at a microscopic level. This process of nanotechnology engineering is used to produce materials with enhanced properties, like higher durability with less physical mass.
What Is Nanotechnology Engineering?
The following nanotechnology examples demonstrate how nanotechnology engineering can be used to improve the functionality of certain products and impact production and processes across a range of industries.
1. Carbon Nanotube Body Armor
Functional bulletproof materials are essential for law enforcement officers and military personnel, who are at high risk of facing gunfire. Bulletproof vests disperse a bullet’s force across a larger area than the point of impact, preventing it from penetrating the wearer’s body.
Nanotechnology is currently being tested as an effective means of enhancing traditional bullet-resistant materials, like Kevlar. While Kevlar may stop a bullet from penetrating, a large amount of energy still transfers to the wearer, causing blunt force trauma. Steel or ceramic plating has been used to counter this in the past, but engineers have found that introducing nanoscale carbon tubes into Kevlar materials is another way to bolster its ability to prevent blunt trauma from bullets and blades.
2. Surface Protection Materials
Nanosurface protection materials use nanomaterials to create ultrathin protective layers that fortify surfaces to which they are applied. Nanorepel is a product that uses a fine coating of pure quartz glass, which is resistant to temperature and corrosive materials, to enhance surface flexibility and elasticity and prevent stress damage. Similar products may offer antiadhesive properties as well, which can make it easier to remove dirt, stains, and oily substances from surfaces.
3. Solar Panels
Solar power allows people to harness electricity from the sun without directly creating waste, but the process of creating solar cells is energy-intensive and can produce large amounts of waste. Photovoltaic solar cells are made using layers of expensive crystalline silicon that are treated using caustic chemicals, so researchers have been searching for ways to lower the cost of producing efficient solar cells through nanotechnology engineering. The Gratzel cell, which uses a layer of material coated with highly porous titanium dioxide nanoparticles as its surface material instead of silicon, is less expensive to produce and allows cells to collect the sun’s rays across a wider surface area.
4. Food Products and Packaging
Nanoscientists are developing new techniques to precisely tailor the smallest particles of food to provide a specific taste, texture, and nutrient density. For instance, if a company wants to make its mayonnaise thinner, it could replace a portion of the fat content of each particle of mayonnaise with water content.
Some companies are researching ways to improve perishable product packaging using nanotechnology engineering. SABMiller, a beer brewing company, incorporates flaky clay nanoparticles in its plastic beer bottles. These tiny clay particles fill up more space in the walls of the bottle than plastic nanoparticles, and they make it difficult for gases to escape or enter the beer bottle, ensuring that it retains the optimal flavor longer.
5. Transdermal Patches
Transdermal administration delivers a solution into the bloodstream through an individual’s skin. Transdermal patches typically deliver a specific dosage of medication after being placed onto a person’s skin, allowing patients to avoid painful injections and gastrointestinal complications caused by ingesting the medicine.
Until recently, the medications that could be administered via transdermal patches have been limited to those that have molecules small enough to penetrate the skin. Nanotechnology engineers are exploring ways that microneedles — small needles ranging in size from 100 to 1,000 micrometers long — can be incorporated into transdermal patches to solve this problem. The needles are affixed to a transdermal patch and painlessly penetrate the top layer of the user’s skin, helping denser drugs to pass into the bloodstream. Through nanoelectronics engineering, these patches can also be equipped with pumps that allow the patient or physician to dictate medicine delivery and dosage.
Bandages are normally applied to protect wounds from further contamination, but engineers are now studying new ways to enhance their antimicrobial properties using nanotechnology engineering. Incorporating noble metals, which have natural antimicrobial properties, into bandages has been proven to help combat bacterial infections.
Since silver disrupts the growth of bacteria by blocking its metabolism, engineers have developed ways to create bandages with silver nanoparticles woven into them. These bandages are commonly used to dress injuries that are resistant to treatment and prone to infection, like burn wounds.
Nanotechnology engineering allows people to alter materials at their most basic level. Organic and inorganic products can be improved using this technology, but it takes an advanced education to gain an actionable understanding of the fundamental aspects of nanoscience. Through a master’s of electrical engineering, engineers can deepen their comprehension of how effective nanosized electronic components are designed, manufactured, and used.
Nanotech Engineering and Future Advancements
As nanotechnology engineering evolves, it will continue to transform how scientists research and produce new materials at the molecular level. In the future, researchers expect products that use nanotechnology to drive advancements in areas such as sustainability, medicine, and robotics. For example, scientists can use nanotechnology engineering to create drugs that target specific cells in the body or build materials that can grow artificial organs. Nanotechnology can also be used to improve sustainability and access to natural resources with inventions such as molecular water filtration and self-cleaning materials.
Second, we can clean up air pollution, including greenhouse gases, with nanotech catalysts that remove carbon dioxide from the air and reconfigure it into chemicals we can use in the industry. Christian Schafmeister at Temple University is doing this work.
Further applications of nanotechnology are likely to yield new jobs and faster, more efficient production processes that contribute to significant economic growth.
At Ohio University’s Russ College of Engineering and Technology, graduates of the online Master of Science in Electrical Engineering program are equipped with the skills to research, design, develop, and test new technologies and industry applications — and position themselves as leaders. Discover the benefits of an online Master of Science in Electrical Engineering today.
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