What is Nanotechnology?

Nanotechnology can be a complicated topic with new advances being made on an almost daily basis. Many people need a resource for learning about and keeping up with changes in the field. Whether you're a student, industry professional, or just curious about the future of our world, you can use the articles and explanations on this site to keep up to speed on everything nano. Focussed around the uses of nanotechnology, UnderstandingNano also offers information about companies and research labs involved in nanotechnology, as well as descriptions of nanomaterials and lesson plans for teachers and students. You can find information on nanotechnology topics by using the navigation bar above, through the Quick Links on the right side of many pages, or by browsing through the nanotechnology topics introduced below.

Nanotechnology in Medicine

  • Several organizations are working to increase testing capacity for Covid-19 using nano methods to detect Covid-19 antigens.

  • Researchers at Duke University are using silver-plated gold nanostars in a sensor to detect RNA molecules that are early indicators of cancer.

  • Researchers at the University of Maryland are developing a method to grow gold nanoparticles in cancer tumors, the nanoparticles can be used either for imaging of tumor or to apply heat to the tumor.

  • Researchers at Tel Aviv University are developing a vaccine for melanoma based using polymer nanoparticles to which melanoma related peptides have been attached.

  • Researchers are reporting results from a clincal study using use of gold-silcia nanoshels heated by near-infrared laser to destroy tumors in prostate cancer patients.

  • Researchers at the University of Tornoto have demonstrated the use of nanoparticles designed to concentrate in a tumor and generate oxygen can increase the effectiveness of the chemotherapy drug doxorubicin.

  • Researchers at Oregon State University are developing nanoparticles that deliver three anti-cancer drugs to the lymp nodes. The intent is to target cancers that use the lymp nodes to spread through the body. Testing of this technique, so far, has been with lab animals. 

  • Researchers have determined that the surface charge of protein filled nanoparticles affects the ability of the nanoparticle to stimulate immune responses. They are thinking that these nanoparticles may be used in inhalable vaccines.

  • A study has shown that nanoparticles called  "nanomimics" may be effective in blocking malaria parasites from spreading to new red blood cells.

  • Researchers at University of Washington have developed a nanoparticle carrying proteins that works as a vaccine to stimulate immune responses. The researchers believe that this type of vaccine could be produced quickly to prevent the spread of an epidemic.

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Nanotechnology in Electronics  

  • Researchers at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology have demonstrated atomically-thin indium-tin oxide sheets that may make touchscreens that are cost less to manufacture and well as being flexible and comsumes less power.

  • Researchers at Ames Laboratory have developed split-ring resonators made of metamaterials that can generate tera-hertz frequency signals.

  • Researchers at North Carolina State University have developed sensors using silver nanowires that may be useful in robots and prosthetics. The nanowire sensors can measure strain and pressure, and are flexiable enough to work over the range of motion required by prosthetics.

  • Researchers at Georgia Tech have demonstrated antennas made of graphene. They are working toward antennas and transceivers that would require very little power and allow communication between nanomachines.

  • Researchers at ETH Zurich have demonstrated an optical switch that can be changed between ON and OFF states by moving a single silver atom.

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Nanotechnology in Energy

  • Researchers at University of Massachusetts Amherst have developed protein nanowires that produce electric current when exposed to water vapor in air.

  • Researchers at Rice University are using carbon nanotube films to stop the growth of dendrites on lithium metal anodes. This step may help develop lithium metal batteries, which could have much higher capacity and faster charging than lithium ion batteries.

  • Researchers at UC Berkeley are working on a catalyst consisting of thin sheets of metal carbide (instead of expensive platinum) for the generation of hydrogen from water.

  • Researchers at Berkeley Lab have demonstrated that the combination of magnesium nanocrystals and graphene may be useful in storing hydrogen for use in fuel cells.

  • Researchers at Rice University have performed computational studies that suggest that layers of graphene separated by pillars of boron nitrate nanotubes could be used to store hydrogen in cars.

    Researchers at Berkely Lab have have developed a  type of Metal-Organic-Frameworks (MOFs) that has the abilility to store natural gas. The researchers believe this material could be used to improve natural gas storage tanks for vehicles and allow wider use of natural gas to fuel cars.

    Researchers at the University of Houston have demonstrated the use of cobalt oxide nanoparticles as a photocatalyst to produce hydrogen and oxygen gas from water using visible light. More work needs to be done, both to increase the energy efficiency and the lifespan of the nanoparticles, before this catalyst is commercially feasible.

  • Researchers at MIT have shown that iron oxide nanoparticles in water can be used to increase the amount of heat transfer out of a system at localized hot spots. The researchers believe this technique could be applied to cooling a wide range of devices, from electronics devices to fusion reactors.

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Nanotechnology in Materials

  • Researchers at Rice University have demonstrated the use of a two-dimensional bismuth catalyst to convert carbon dioxide to formic acid. The researchers believe the technique could also be used to convert carbon dioxide to produce products such as acetic acid, ethanol or propanol fuels.

  • Researchers at UCLA have demonstated a method to add ceramic silicon carbide nanoparticles to magnesium, producing a strong, lightweight material.

  • Researchers at Rice University have developed a method of depositing a film containing carbon nanotubes that can measure the strain in a structure. The frequency of the carbon nanotubes fluorescence changes with the level of strain, allowing the strain level in a structure to be measured.

  • NIST researchers have developed a coating made with carbon nanotubes that reduces the flammability of foam used in funiture.

  • Researchers at Rice University have demonstrated a composite containing nanoribbons that can apply heat to helicopter rotor blades, this may work to de-ice the blades.

  • Researchers at Rice have demonstated lightweight electrical cables made from carbon nanotubes

  • Researchers have shown how to make magnesium alloy stronger. They introduced nano-spaced stacking faults in the crystalline structure of the alloy. The stacking faults prevent defects in the structure of the alloy from spreading, making the alloy stronger. The researchers believe that the techniques they used to strenghten the alloy can be implemented in existing plants, allowing a fast implementation.

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Nanotechnology in Manufacturing

  • Researchers at the University of Illinois have reported the developement a method to make transparent, flexible conductive films with a one step spray process using silver nanowires in water.

  • Researchers at Prudue University have demonstrated a method they call laser shock imprinting to form nanoscale shapes such as gears.

  • Researchers have produced yarn from carbon nanotubes coated with diamond. They believe this material can be used in thin saw blades that reduce the waste produced when cutting high cost material, such as sawing silicon ingots into wafers for the semiconductor or solar industries.

  • Researchers at Northwestern University have developed a desktop nanofabrication tool. The desktop tool uses beam-pen lithography arrays to create nanoscale structures.

  • Researchers have demonstrated a molecular motor that can be controlled by electrons from a scanning tunneling microscope tip. This motor is an initial step in building molecular motors for use in areas such as medicine.

  • Rolith, Inc. and Asahi Glass Company are working to bring anti-reflective glass to the architectural glass market. The glass uses a technique developed by Rolith to produce a nanostructured surface on the glass, which will reduce the glare seen from the outside of buildings.

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Environmental Nanotechnology

  • Researchers at the RMIT University and University of New South Wales have demonstrated a filter made with nano-thin sheets of aluminium oxide which can filter both heavy metals and oils from water.

  • Using photocatalytic copper tungsten oxide nanoparticles to break down oil into biodegradable compounds. The nanoparticles are in a grid that provides high surface area for the reaction, is activated by sunlight and can work in water, making them useful for cleaning up oil spills.

  • Using carbon nanotubes, that have been treated with a plasma, in membranes to remove salt and organic contamination from water. Researchers believe these membranes can be used in small, inexpensive water purification devices needed in developing countries.

  • Using nanoscavengers, in which a layer of reactive nanoparticles coat a synthetic core which is designed to be easily magnetized. The nanoparticles, for example silver nanoparticles if bacteria is a problem, attach to or kill the pollutants. Then when a magnetic field is applied the nanoscavengers are removed from the water.

  • Researchers at the University of Cincinnati have demonstrated a method of removing antibiotics contaminating waterways. The method uses vesicle nanoparticles that absorb antibiotics.

  • Using pellets containing nanostructured palladium and gold as a catalyst to breakdown chlorinated compounds contaminating groundwater. Since palladium is very expensive the researchers formed the pellets of nanoparticles that allow almost every atom of palladium to react with the chlorinated compounds, reducing the cost of the treatment.

  • Using graphene as a membrane for low cost water desalination. Researchers have determined that graphene with holes the size of a nanometer or less can be used to remove ions from water. They believe this can be used to desalinate sea water at a lower cost than the reverse osmosis techniques currently in use.

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