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What are Nanomaterials and Their Applications

written by: Senadheera Jayakody • edited by: Lamar Stonecypher • updated: 12/13/2009

Nanotechnology is the field that uses microscopic processing techniques to produce various materials and components. Nanomaterials are used in many industries including electronics and mechanical design to produce useful items, and their applications can be seen in almost all the engineering fields.

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    Introduction to Nanomaterials

    Nanotechnology is one of the most rapidly advancing scientific technologies today. Nanotechnology includes nanometer-scale processing and the production of various components by controlling size and shape. A nanometer is one billionth of a meter. Generally when the size is less than 100 nanometers (100 nm) those production techniques can be considered nanoscale. There are two methods are used to produce nanomaterials. One is called the “top down method” and the other is the “bottom up method." In the first method very small components are produced using larger parts of the material. In the bottom up method nanomaterials are produced by processing molecule by molecule or atom by atom.

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    Properties of Nanomaterials

    One significant property that makes nanoparticles different from other materials is the fact that nanomaterials have a massive surface area. Because of their very high surface area, nanoparticles are extremely reactive compared to its larger form. This property is used to create materials with distinctive characteristics for various applications. One nanotechnology application is carbon nanotubes that have a very high strength. Its remarkable strength is due to the higher surface area of its originating materials.

    In the nano level, quantum effects have a higher effect on the behavior of particles. Therefore some materials have special effects that have utilized smartly to produce innovative products. Then magnetic, electrical and optical properties can be effectively exploited to certain applications. As an example if Gold particles can be rendered in to particles with radius of 2 nm then their melting can be lowered from 10600 C to 6000 C.

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    Applications of Nanomaterials

    Nanotechnology has already contributed to number of innovative products in various engineering disciplines because of their unique and rewarding chemical, physical, and mechanical properties. One of popular application of nanomaterials is nanotubes. Carbon nanotubes (CNT) are one of an illuminative example for the potential of nanotechnology. The tensile strength of high carbon steel is around 1.2 GPa but the tensile strength of carbon nanotubes (CNT) is 63 GPa. Also they are known to be one of the strongest materials having been produced by nanotechnology so far.

    Basically nanotechnology applications can be divided in to several categories. Thin films and engineered surfaces fall in to the one dimensional applications of nanomaterials. They have been used for fields like electronic and chemistry so they can’t be considered as a new material. Two dimensional materials like tubes and wires are the other type of applications of nanotechnology. Nanowires are ultrafine wires or linear arrays of dots that are formed by self assembly. Semiconductor nanowires are produced of silicon. There dimensional nanomaterial applications include nanoparticles like dendrimers and fullerenes. Dendrimers are spherical polymeric molecules that are formed through a nanoscale self-assembly process.

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    Nanotechnology Applications in the Field of Electronics

    Nontechnology has helped to break barriers in the field of electronics. Many of the miniaturized products in this field perform very poorly as a result of contamination of particles and poor heat dissipation. Thanks to nanomaterials, now ultra high purity materials with better thermal conductivity can be used to overcome those issues. Nanomaterials are quite important to produce long lasting and durable interconnections. The super-capacitor is another production of nanotechnology. They have a quite large capacity compared to normal capacitors due to the fact that they have large surface areas resulting in a large capacitance.

    Many other fields also use nanomaterials for a wide variety of applications. Better insulation materials can be produced using a technique called sol-gel. Aerogels are such a product with extremely light weight and porousity that is used for the insulation of homes and offices. By using them heating and cooling bills can be remarkably reduced. Tougher and harder cutting tools can be produced using nanomaterials that give many industrial benefits like low production cost and higher productivity. Also high energy density batteries are one of most important production that uses nanotechnology.

    Still many of techniques related to nanomaterials and nanotechnology are under development. But their achievements are quite amazing when compared to many of their counterpart products. Therefore it can be concluded that the marvelous applications of nanomaterials are yet to come.

Nanomaterials

Nanomaterials are the materials that are processed in the nanoscale. It is one of most advancing industry today with an immense potential. In this series articles related to various nanomaterials are discussed here focusing on the nanotechnology
  1. What are Nanomaterials and Their Applications
  2. The Future of Nanotechnology