Applications of Nanotechnology in Chemistry [Mechanical engineering]

Applications of Nanotechnology in Chemistry

Chemical Engineering: The Rise of Nanotechnology

While discussions between those in favour and those against nanotechnology continue, materials based on what is termed nanotechnology have found their way into everyday life. And as companies continue to invest in this area, many more products and applications are set evolve.

"Nanotechnology is a cross-sectional technology that can play a role in a variety of different industries and application areas, " says Joachim Wolff, a member of Bayer Material Science's executive committee and head of the coatings, adhesives and specialities segment. "Its potential uses range from industrial production to energy supply and storage, from information technology to intelligent surfaces and also some areas of medicine, like diagnosis or therapy, " he adds.

Nanotechnology is widely defined as "the science of engineering matter at the atomic and molecular stage". It is the unique properties of materials manufactured or engineered at this level that has led supporters of nanotechnology to claim it could be used to benefit mankind in many ways, from treating cancer to preventing pollution.

Materials and applications based on nanotechnology are in use in almost all sectors from personal care products, food packaging and textiles, through to coatings, electronics and automotives. In the early days of the technology's development, small companies and university spinoffs were leading the way, but the presence of a number of major chemical companies is increasing the pace of change.

"Currently, the advantages of nanotechnology outweigh the potential risks."

Braving new frontiers

One leading innovator in the field is Oxonica, which developed as a spinoff from the UK's Oxford University in 1999. Oxonica's proprietary technologies allow it to rapidly create prototype nanoparticles, typically in the range of five to a few hundred nanometres, and evaluate the differences in their properties to identify nanoparticles with appropriate functionality to solve a given problem.

Since its launch, the company has gone from strength to strength. One of its many notable achievements is the decision by Boots, a leading UK-based healthcare retailer to use Oxonica's UV absorber, Optisol, in a range of facial suncare products. Oxonica's Optisol is a micro-fine titanium dioxide incorporating a small amount of manganese in the crystal lattice. This allows UV energy to be dissipated virtually eliminating the generation of free radicals.

The company has also used its technology to develop Envirox a combustion catalyst which when added to diesel fuel has been shown to lower costs by reducing consumption and reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and other harmful exhaust materials. Engine modifications are not required to use Envirox. The fuel borne catalyst is being used by international public transport group Stagecoach. The company said that over the past five years Envirox had reduced CO2 emissions from its UK bus fleet by more than 100, 000t.

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