Nano for cars and transport
Societal benefits are being embraced by the automotive industry in its quest to reduce dependence on fossil fuels. The effect of this new strategic direction is apparent to us all. Nanotechnology has an important role to play, from new nanocomposites to reduce car body weight, to better batteries that enable high performance hybrid cars, and sensor techniques that reduce fuel waste. Nanotechnology in cars has many drivers – passenger safety (better tyres, airbags), competitiveness in the form of more features for less money (sensors for car 'health' monitoring), liability issues (crash avoidance sensors), style (colour changing paints, stay-clean seat fabrics), and sustainability (lighter-weight structural materials, super efficient batteries for hybrid vehicles).
The theme of advanced technology for transport continues with an article by Dr Bojan Boskovic of Cambridge Nanomaterials Technology on the remarkable properties of carbon nanotubes, and how these properties make them excellent candidates for a range of electrical, mechanical and electro-mechanical applications.
To be slightly ethnically biased, Italians do seem to be able to combine technology, design and style. Pietro Perlo, Research Director at Fiat, interviewed in this issue, although a dyed-in-the wool 'technofreak', does not compromise one iota on style. From his earliest days Dr Perlo perceived the automotive industry as the ideal vehicle for a physicist with ideas, and from the day he joined Fiat, this excitement and stimulation has been part of his daily life. Read about Dr Perlo's perpetual interest in realising the sustainable car, extreme cycling and canine communication!
On the themes of technology and style, our featured country is Italy, which is no laggard on the nanotechnology front. Italy is also rich in nano research centres of quality, autonomous and allied to academic institutions. These are listed, with their areas of specialization and expertise.
The textile industry is amongst the earliest adopters of new technology, and are certainly in the vanguard when it comes to nanotechnology. n this issue, Professor M D Teli from the Department of Fibres and Textile Processing Technology, Institute of Chemical Technology, Mumbai, writes on nanofunctionalised textiles, and their huge potential for growth. He discusses various important attributes that nano can impart to textiles such as wrinkle resistance, antistatic properties, UV resistance, and their benefits for both manufacturers and users.
Inkjet technology, a technology enabled by nano, is endlessly fascinating, and some of its potential is explored in this issue. Perhaps because it is ubiquitous, cheap and deceptively simple, it can sometimes be overlooked for the amazing opportunities it opens up in the nano, micro and macro worlds. Colour printing on fabrics, using inkjet technology, is resource and cost effective; similarly with printing electric circuits. As printing can be in 3-D as well as 2-D, inkjet printing enables micro and nanostructured devices to be easily an cheaply realised, and it can be used to print next generation, flexible, low cost light emitting displays on many substrates, offering almost infinite possibilities.
Food security is an increasingly serious issue for many nations. Iran is no exception. Its leaders are committed to exploring the benefits of nanotechnology for agriculture and food, but understand that public perception is the key to the acceptance or otherwise of any new technology. To this end, a study of researchers working on nanotechnology for the agrifood industry was undertaken, as their views are key to influencing public acceptance. Read more about this novel research and its illuminating and important conclusions.
Lab-on-a-chip has never quite realised its potential, because of the difficulties in controlling and analysing individual droplets in the system. Katherine Elvira from Imperial College writes about a breakthrough which has given the lab-on-a-chip concept a new lease of life. A new technique enables droplets to be created on a flat surface, and precisely manipulated.
Dr Adnan Nasir from the Department of Dermatology, UNC Chapel Hill, North Carolina, examines nano for dermatological applications in detail. He discusses the role of nanotechnology in eczema and melanoma treatments, and how skin and other organs might be more readily cultured using nanotechnology. In the light of these potential benefits, Dr Nasir discusses possible risks from nanoparticles, and how these might be addressed.
Still on the subject of medicine, needle-less administrations of vaccines is highly desirable for cost and other considerations. A research group in Australia has perfected the Nanopatch, which has tiny 'bristles' that can be impregnated with vaccine. This has implications for the safer, cheaper and more effective administration of vaccines, particularly applicable in the poorer regions of the planet.
On the issue of training, Dr Denis Koltsov, responsible for developing a nanotechnology Masters course at Lancaster University in the UK, writes about the need for a trained workforce if we are to realise the promise of nanotechnology. Although we may be experiencing a recession now, Denis argues, hi-tech will be the route to future economic success, and it is time to invest now in the training of professional and technical experts with the right skills to meet future challenges.
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NANO Magazine is a dynamic magazine at the leading edge of nanotechnology features, views, news and reviews. NANO appeals to a spectrum of interests ranging from the industrial and academic research communities to investors and businesses.