Editorial Feature

Nanotechnology - Opportunities for Nanotechnology in the Aerospace and Automotive Industry

Nanotechnology is engineering at the molecular level, to produce new materials, new processes with improved performance for a variety of industries and purposes. Nanotechnology is widely regarded as one of the most important sources of new technology over coming decades and will have applications across a broad range of industries. The textiles, food science, automotive and aerospace industries are looking closely at adoption of nanostructured materials to provide new products for domestic and export markets.

Further Opportunities for Nanotechnology in the Aerospace Industry

Development of novel materials with the desired properties has a great impact on aerospace industries. Producing light weight structures with superior properties is the main objective of material scientists and engineers, and nanotechnology developments are likely to play an important role.

Structural Materials

The properties required in aerospace materials are strength, stiffness, impact resistance, long fatigue life, toughness, ductility and lightless of weight. Some developments include:

  • Developing "super-alloys" and amorphous metals (metals with glass-like structure).
  • Enhancing fibre structure (carbon nanotubes) of composites such as Fibre Reinforced Polymers (FRP). This includes improving the bonding mechanism between the fibres and the resin, and developing resins with improved properties.
  • Improving the weak properties of metallic and ceramic composites, especially the brittleness of the ceramics.
  • Enhancing the bonding between metallic sheets and FRP laminates (as in GLARE); this also applies on metallic repairs using FRP patches.
  • Developing safer (non-toxic) anti-corrosion coatings, super paints (so aircraft do not need to be repainted as regularly), insulator coatings for heat and chemicals, radar absorbing coatings and bio-nanomaterial coatings to keep airplane surface clean and free of micro-organisms.


  • Using nano-particles with liquid jet and rocket fuel (aluminium nano-particles with liquid hydrogen) to increase the propulsion energy.
  • Adding nano-particles (iron-oxide) to act as a catalyst for solid propellants.


  • Developing better lubricants, and safer (non-hazardous) nano-fluids for hydraulic use.
  • Developing fire-retardant materials for use in the interior of aircraft to meet aviation standards.
  • Developing materials and coatings that withstand low temperatures and cosmic radiation.
  • Developing micro- and nano-scale electronic devices to reduce weight with better reliability (for example, longer-lasting batteries for satellites).
  • Increasing the safety and security of aerospace craft by developing antiballistic materials for sensitive parts (cockpit door) and sensors for biological and chemical toxins.
  • Developing materials (such as clothes) and equipment with better ergonomic characteristics especially for astronauts.

Further Opportunities for Nanotechnology in the Automotive Industry

Nanotechnology will have a pervasive effect on the future of automotive products and manufacturing processes in the automotive industry. Over time, these "new" performance attributes will be greatly enhanced by sustaining improvements in the structural, electrical, thermal, optical, magnetic and catalytic properties of materials, and their biocompatibility.

Monitoring and Control Systems

  • Micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) are miniature sensors and motors about the size of a dust particle. They can be implanted as indicators of stress and corrosion rates in materials, or on the surface of truck bodies to reduce drag and increase aerodynamic efficiency.
  • High power switches in ignition devices.
  • Electronics could be developed by using nanotubes to replace silicon as a semiconductor. Other possibilities include the self-assembly of nanoscale electronic components, and nanoelectronics based on quantum effects.
  • Carbon nanotubes could be used for flat screen display technology in electronic display screens.
  • Advanced Virtual Reality design technologies combine telerobotics (with nanotechnology in sensors), multimedia, computer-aided design, process simulation, ergonomics simulation (as in mannequin tools) and computer-generated imagery. These technologies increase the speed and reduce the cost of new vehicle designs.
  • Nanotechnology incorporated into sensors and monitoring devices provides on-board diagnostic indicators used to increase the efficiency of maintenance and repair activities in relation to mechanical parts and tyres.
  • Sensors incorporating nanotechnology could be used for the monitoring of the effectiveness of emission control systems and other environmental needs.
  • Automated vehicle control (AVC) systems are on-board technologies geared towards traffic safety. They can assist drivers in obstacle detection, anti-collision sensing and infrared sensing for night driving. More advanced AVC technologies allow for automated driving. Nanotechnology has a role to play in the sensing devices used in this technology, and in advanced radar technology.

New Materials to Improve Performance and Reduce Cost

  • New, light weight and stronger materials such as surface coatings, ultra-strong lightweight materials, and thin layers on bearings and gliding elements. These materials have uses in vehicle bodies, suspensions, brake fittings, sway bars and wheels. The replacement of existing automobile frames with carbon nanotubes-based alloys will provide for high strength and reduced weight.
  • A range of fuel alternatives cold be possible including compact fuel cells for use in new energy-efficient engines, advanced batteries and supercapacitors for energy storage in hybrid electric vehicles and new types of solar cells for use in surface coatings, as an auxiliary source of energy. Nano-catalysts and membrane technology will play critical role in making fuel cells economically viable and replacing the internal combustion engine.
  • New ceramics incorporating nanotechnology used in motor parts.
  • Nanoparticles for use in catalytic processes are relevant to improved internal combustion exhaust control.
  • Improved vibration dampeners based on magnetic nanofluids.
  • New electrostatic filters incorporating nanotechnology.
  • The use of nanofluids in new types of coolants.
  • Nanoparticles as paint additives to get new coloration effects and greater hardness and durability in materials. Additionally, nano-polymer composite panels in automobile frames will enable electrostatic painting, which will greatly reduce the paint costs and environmental issues.
  • Nanotechnology used in new plastics that have greater strength.
  • Nanotechnology can be used to bind fibres tightly enough to be resistant to dirt and water. The conductive property of fabrics used in car seats can be improved by the use of nanoparticles of metals such as silver and nickel.
  • Nanotechnology can be used to control the optical properties of glass to pass only desired frequencies of light and provide self-cleaning properties.
  • Nanomaterials can be used to replace toxic reagents and to reduce waste during manufacturing (so-called "exact" manufacturing). Nano-scale metal oxide ceramic catalysts will further reduce harmful emissions.

This content was provided by NanoVic (Nanotechnology Victoria)

Copyright Nanotechnology Victoria, AZoNano.com

Tell Us What You Think

Do you have a review, update or anything you would like to add to this article?

Leave your feedback
Your comment type

While we only use edited and approved content for Azthena answers, it may on occasions provide incorrect responses. Please confirm any data provided with the related suppliers or authors. We do not provide medical advice, if you search for medical information you must always consult a medical professional before acting on any information provided.

Your questions, but not your email details will be shared with OpenAI and retained for 30 days in accordance with their privacy principles.

Please do not ask questions that use sensitive or confidential information.

Read the full Terms & Conditions.