DNA array technology itself might play an important role in enabling nanofabrication. Rapid and sensitive drug screening, one of the limiting factors in combinatorial chemistry for drug discovery and development, is another important application of nanobiosensors. Chip-sized biodevices could revolutionize the detection and management of illness. For example, a nanosensor can be combined with a nanoscale drug delivery system to dispense optimum amounts of drugs to maximize their efficacy. Nano-total analysis systems nano-TAS : These nanosystems are also known as "nanolabs-on-chips," which are distinguished from simple sensors because they conduct a complete analysis: reaction, separation, and detection on a single nanochip.
They consist of three important elements: a nanofluidic system, a separation scheme normally electrophoresis , and a detection element. With the ability to make chemical and biological information faster and cheaper, nanolabs-on-chips in array may profoundly change the current practice in clinical diagnostics, genome sequencing, environmental monitoring, food safety, and other areas of the public interest.
Nanoscale bioprocesses for bioremediation: Novel properties of nanocrystals such as TiO2 that show promise as photocatalysts can be used in combination with microorganisms to break down toxic pollutants to clean up a variety of waste streams. Nanoscale scavengers are able to capture heavy metals in contaminated sites. There are, however, several problems associated with the commercialization of nanotechnology.
One well-known citation is the superior performance of transistors made from carbon nanotubes.
Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to mass-produce such transistors for making computer chips. Similarly, formidable challenges still remain in the synthesis and processing of drug-carrier nanoparticles at the commercial scale.
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Another critical issue is the integration of nanostructures or nanodevices with the larger, human-scale systems or platforms around them so that they can be used as components of electronic devices, sensors, etc. Nanostructures are often unstable due to their small constituent sizes and high chemical activity. Therefore, a real challenge is to increase the thermal, chemical, and structural stability of these materials and the devices made therefrom.
Last but not least, the biggest problem nanotechnology could encounter towards commercialization is the costs of manufacturing. With myriad nanomaterials or nanostructures in hand, there is no question that more and more nano-objects with novel or enhanced properties will be developed. However, technical feasibility and commercial viability are two different things.
One of the key factors is the identification of promising areas for future research and commercial development. The complexity of nanosystems begs for strong, interdisciplinary research programs to aid this process. Several potential applications of the technology are still in an embryonic phase, and the government must play an important role to sustain the research effort required for establishing the scientific and technological infrastructure.
It is of utmost importance to educate a new breed of researchers who can work and think across several disciplines.
Nanoscience and Biophysics
The challenge for nanotechnology will be to foster more interdisciplinary collaborations and get more young people interested in science and engineering. Therefore, it is essential to create a series of interdisciplinary centers of excellence and research chairs at Canadian universities to conduct research and train graduate students. Such centers will serve as a vehicle to foster on-campus interaction through interdisciplinary research involving multiple departments. These centers should carry out long-term nanoscience and engineering research leading to fundamental discoveries of novel applications, processes, phenomena, and enabling tools.
Numerous workshops and symposia with specific objectives must be organized to spur and encourage the government, private foundations, and industries to support research and education in nanotechnology.
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Of course, both federal and provincial funding agencies are expected to play an important role in fostering the research and development in this important area. Nanoscale additives in polymer composite materials are being used in baseball bats, tennis rackets, bicycles, motorcycle helmets, automobile parts, luggage, and power tool housings, making them lightweight, stiff, durable, and resilient.
Carbon nanotube sheets are now being produced for use in next-generation air vehicles. For example, the combination of light weight and conductivity makes them ideal for applications such as electromagnetic shielding and thermal management. This material has improved thermal, mechanical, and barrier properties and can be used in food and beverage containers, fuel storage tanks for aircraft and automobiles, and in aerospace components.
Image courtesy of NASA. Nano-bioengineering of enzymes is aiming to enable conversion of cellulose from wood chips, corn stalks, unfertilized perennial grasses, etc. Cellulosic nanomaterials are projected to be less expensive than many other nanomaterials and, among other characteristics, tout an impressive strength-to-weight ratio. Nanostructured ceramic coatings exhibit much greater toughness than conventional wear-resistant coatings for machine parts.
Nanotechnology-enabled lubricants and engine oils also significantly reduce wear and tear, which can significantly extend the lifetimes of moving parts in everything from power tools to industrial machinery. Nanoparticles are used increasingly in catalysis to boost chemical reactions. This reduces the quantity of catalytic materials necessary to produce desired results, saving money and reducing pollutants.
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Two big applications are in petroleum refining and in automotive catalytic converters. Nano-engineered materials make superior household products such as degreasers and stain removers; environmental sensors, air purifiers, and filters; antibacterial cleansers; and specialized paints and sealing products, such a self-cleaning house paints that resist dirt and marks. Nanoscale materials are also being incorporated into a variety of personal care products to improve performance.
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Nanoscale titanium dioxide and zinc oxide have been used for years in sunscreen to provide protection from the sun while appearing invisible on the skin. Electronics and IT Applications Nanotechnology has greatly contributed to major advances in computing and electronics, leading to faster, smaller, and more portable systems that can manage and store larger and larger amounts of information. These continuously evolving applications include: Transistors, the basic switches that enable all modern computing, have gotten smaller and smaller through nanotechnology.
At the turn of the century, a typical transistor was to nanometers in size.
In , Intel created a 14 nanometer transistor, then IBM created the first seven nanometer transistor in , and then Lawrence Berkeley National Lab demonstrated a one nanometer transistor in ! Ultra-high definition displays and televisions are now being sold that use quantum dots to produce more vibrant colors while being more energy efficient.
Image courtesy of IBM. Flexible electronics have been developed using, for example, semiconductor nanomembranes for applications in smartphone and e-reader displays. Making flat, flexible, lightweight, non-brittle, highly efficient electronics opens the door to countless smart products. Nanoparticle copper suspensions have been developed as a safer, cheaper, and more reliable alternative to lead-based solder and other hazardous materials commonly used to fuse electronics in the assembly process.