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Composite materials are extensively used, but they are being impacted by the addition of nanotechnology to production processes.
Clay nanoparticles, for example, are of new significance to materials, because of their ability to make the materials more durable, lighter, stronger, and often transparent. These materials are already being employed in the US automotive industry; the Chevrolet Astro and GM Motors Safari vans, for example, use a nanocomposite material for a “step-assist,” an optional extra to enhance access to the vehicle.
Nanocomposite Plastics and Carbon Nanotubes in Packaging
These materials are developed for use in aerospace and packaging also. Nanocomposite plastics are being used for industrial and consumer packaging, and carbon nanotubes have been added to enhance the packaging of electronics components.
Carbon nanotubes are exceptional candidates for composite materials, again rendering the end product stronger and lighter. An extension of these enhancements is smart food packaging that senses if the product has spoiled or has been tampered with.
Nanoporous Compounds in Insulation and Microelectronics
Nanoporous silica compounds could be used to improve insulating materials. The low-density, highly porous solid can be used within a broad range of temperatures, with applications in numerous fields, from freezers and refrigerators to pipe insulation. They can also be used as insulating materials with low dielectric constants, which are progressively crucial in the microelectronics sector.
Nanoparticles in Plastic and Colloids
Nanoparticles are very effective catalysts because of the increased surface area at such a small scale. They are being tested for use in plastics manufacturing to enhance the versatility and properties of the resulting materials.
Nanoparticles are also added to colloids, which, in turn, are being employed in printer ink, sunscreens, and paints. For example, zinc and titanium oxide sunscreens use nanoparticles that are so tiny they do not disperse light, leaving the final product clear instead of white.
Coatings are a significant nanomaterial. Such coatings, occasionally composed of self-assembling monolayers (SAM—one molecule-thick layers spontaneously formed by a substance), are relevant in numerous ways, from self-cleaning surfaces to scratch-resistant coatings for glass.