Editorial Feature

Opportunities for Nanotechnology in Consumer Product Applications

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Nanomaterials are making their way into consumer products. By introducing minimal amounts of nanomaterials in products, manufacturers of consumer products obtain great benefits. The inclusion of nanomaterials either adds new features or improves the present features.

Mentioned below are a few materials in which benefits of nanotechnology are evident:

  • Glasses
  • Manufactured devices
  • Lubricants
  • Adhesives
  • Surface treatments
  • Architectural surfaces
  • Abrasives

Nanotechnology Victoria—Consumer Products Projects

Adhesives, Lubricants, and Abrasives

The main area of nanotechnology development is in the field of industrial materials, which usually involves complex particles distributed in polymers or other solvents. In the global markets, companies such as NanoGate have been pioneering the design and production of fluids and waxes, with advanced features acquired from nanoscale additives.

In these products, nanotechnology could have a major impact, essentially involving minimal quantities of an exclusive product that has a greater influence on a manufacturing or operating system.

Members of Nanotechnology Victoria offer notable scientific skills and effective prototyping and analytic equipment to the area of industrial materials. Monash University’s Maintenance Technology Institute, Engineering Faculty, and Institute of Railway Technologies; RMIT’s Faculty of Applied Science, CSIRO Manufacturing & Infrastructure Systems (CMIT), and Swinburne University’s Industrial Research Institute are all involved in this field.

A project to exhibit an array of adhesives for an industrial company is being finalized by Nanotechnology Victoria. This project leverages devices and skills from CSIRO in Clayton and Monash University. RMIT University will also take part in the characterization and demonstration of these adhesives. Moreover, Nanotechnology Victoria has been looking for possibilities in abrasive materials, new generation lubricants, anti-freezing and anti-icing agents, and wear-resistant materials.

By leveraging the properties of nanoparticles, the interfacial phenomenon of lubrication, adhesion, and abrasion can be integrated into materials systems. Hard abrasive nanoparticles for fine polishing of engineering surfaces, spherical nanoparticles like molybdenum sulfide for lubricating surfaces, and nanoparticle cross-linking agents in adhesives are some examples.

Manufactured Devices

A number of project openings that utilize the abilities of its members to develop advanced devices with nanotechnology properties for special applications, are being studied by Nanotechnology Victoria. These include the following:

  • Photonic equipment based on nanoscale properties and enabling highly efficient telecommunications and encryption
  • Sensors with the potential to identify individual molecular interactions and send a signal to data collection systems
  • Biodrips with the ability to carry out numerous analyses with sub-micron-sized samples of organic and inorganic materials
  • Active membranes with the potential to execute catalysis on liquids and gases

Surface Treatments

Nanoscale features are noticeable only in the surfaces of bulk materials. The advancement of new surface features for well-known materials is an interesting growth opportunity for nanotechnology companies. By making use of the nanoscale properties, local and multinational companies are formulating surface treatments that improve and leverage the surface properties. In this area, chemical treatments, plasma, and laser are specifically vital.

Several material properties are associated with a material’s surface and not the bulk material, thus allowing the performance of the material to be modified using a coating system. In nanoparticle coatings, the transparent property of nanoparticles is usually utilized to combine an engineering feature with a material without changing its appearance.

The ceramic, polymeric, and metallic materials can be modified using nanotechnology coatings to impart features like adhesion improvement, scratch and wear resistance, change in refractive index, electrical conductivity, environmental stability improvements, crazing resistance, etc.

To develop initiatives pertaining to new bio-friendly coating systems, utilizing features at the nanoscale, Nanotechnology Victoria has collaborated with Monash University and CSIRO. Proprietary technologies appropriate for industrial use are developed by Monash and CSIRO, and Nanotechnology Victoria will look to demonstrate these technologies along with industrial partners.

In collaboration with a leading Australian manufacturer, Nanotechnology Victoria has planned for a demonstration project to assess the performance enhancements in surfaces incorporated with nanotubes and nanoparticles. The surfaces in industrial and consumer implementations are being used by the manufacturer to look for various improved features, such as aesthetic improvements and wear resistance.

The expertise of Monash and CSIRO is being leveraged by Nanotechnology Victoria to choose suitable nanoparticles for incorporation into polymer formulations and to subsequently optimize the manufacturer’s process.

The project has found several possibilities and problems for development by Nanotechnology Victoria, which include:

  • Detection of the important features of industrial nanoparticles like silicon carbide, zinc oxide, and aluminum oxide
  • Sourcing, synthesis, and quality control for these particles in substantial amounts, first for demonstration and later for industrial usage, in high-volume products
  • Gaining insights into nanotube and other complex nanostructures, mainly for carbon, manufacturing, and quality control
  • OH&S problems for all nanoparticles, which vary from laboratory application through manufacturing to use in consumer products
  • Incorporation of nanoparticles and complex structures into host substrates like acrylics and resins

Glass

Following are the effects of a thin coating of nanomaterial on a glass:

  • It could control the amount of light that passes through the glass
  • While removing heat, it only permits light, thus saving energy
  • UV absorption
  • Self-cleaning
  • Tinting

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