Nanotechnology – Is it about to take over the world or not? That is the question Paul Kladitis, a senior research scientist at the University of Dayton Research Institute, tried to answer at Tuesday’s CAMX educational session, “Nanotechnology: Past, Present and Future Visions.”
Nanotechnology is the understanding and control of matter at dimensions between one and 100 nanometers (nm). A nanometer is one billionth of a meter and thousandth of a micron. The buzz about nanotechnologies began in the late 1990s, in large part due to the U.S. Government’s National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI), which has helped coordinate $20 billion in nanotechnology research and development to date. “Nanotechnology would not look like it does in the U.S. without NNI,” noted Kladitis, who is the Carbon Materials Group Leader in the Multi-Scale Composites & Polymers Division at the University of Dayton.
Initially hailed as revolutionary technology that could either solve all of the world’s problems or bring about apocalyptic events such as nanoparticle poisoning of the world’s oceans, nanotechnology has not yet lived up to its sweeping predictions, said Kladitis. Instead, he emphasized, progress has come in the form of modest and continued improvements that have occurred across all science and engineering disciplines. Despite his disclaimer that nanotechnology advances are difficult to measure because “nanotechnology encompasses almost everything small,” Kladitis noted the following successes:
- Antimicrobial coatings (silver nanoparticles)
- Improved coatings that prevent scratches, dents, stains, etc.
- Improved composite matrices that are stiffer, tougher, etc.
- Therapeutic cosmetics and clear sunscreens
- Better batteries
- Improved displays for televisions, cell phones and digital cameras
- Miniaturization of sensors and various electronic devices
- Improved drug delivery mechanisms and diagnostic techniques