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The science of nanoparticles and their applications have brought about a new technological revolution that has transformed all aspects of research, needs, and business. Chemistry, electronics and data storage, medicine and healthcare, sports industry, energy, space, cosmetic industry, etc - have all been on a progressive growth path due to the advent of nanoparticles.
Applications of nanoparticles based on their unique properties are well documented in all peer-reviewed scientific journals. However, the applications that sustainably change the way we live in the current technological era are potentially important. As per the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the broader objectives of the society where nanoparticles have played an effective role are enumerated here. Such top 5 applications of nanoparticles are:
In the Water Sector
Affordable clean water reflects socio-economic development. Clean water and sanitation are one of the Sustainable Development Goals that is yet to a far way to be fulfilled. Over 2 billion people are facing water scarcity and related hygiene and sanitation issues. Clean water is unavailable, expensive or highly energy/labor-intensive to procure in many places across the globe. Accessible and affordable clean water is produced by new water technology where the wonder material - graphene is used. Graphene adsorbs, sieves and filters off almost all kinds of contaminants (heavy metal ions, pesticides, microbes) in the water. The nanomaterial is also used in water treatment technologies, atmospheric water harvesters and desalination plants to produce safe water.
In Mitigating Climate Change
Nanosensors and nanorobots are used to monitor climate changes: air pollution, water pollution, soil changes, rainfall measurements, detection of pollutant sources, sea-level rise measurements, create pollution maps, collect samples from natural habitats, etc.
In Affordable and Clean Energy
Following energy generation, storage and transportation are major challenges that impede affordable and clean energy sources. Also, there is a shift in the energy resources that we need to use today: solar energy comes clean and at an affordable cost owing to the nanoparticles used in the photovoltaic cells that convert solar energy into usable energy.
In a recent study, photocatalyst nanoparticles are also used to harvest light energy to produce a cleaner form of hydrogen!
Nanoparticles are playing a major role in providing “good health and well being”. The applications of nanoparticles in medicine are ancient; gold bhasmas are known to have curative properties in ayurvedic medicine for various ailments. Recently they are explored for targeted drug therapy, especially for diseases such as cancer. The tunability of these nanoparticles have made them attractive to fabricate based on the need of the patient and target organ. The tiny nanoparticles are used to deliver a “knock-out-punch” directly to the tumors in hard to reach places in the body (such as a brain), greatly reducing the side-effects.
Nanoparticles have also brought about a leap in medical diagnostics technology. DNA-wrapped single-walled carbon nanotubes ( DNA-SWCNTs) are synthetic nanoparticles that act as optical biosensors. The optoelectronic property of this nanoparticle, with improved selectivity and sensitivity, is used to detect molecules, help in medical diagnostics and research.
In Information Storage
Digital quantum batteries are storing energy and information in a novel way using nanoparticles and nanovacuum tube arrays that enhance the efficiency and fabricate low-cost options. Low electrode resistance and excellent electron transport, high capacitance with no electric breakdowns due to quantization effects are some wonderful applications of nanoparticles in this industry.
References and Further Reading
- Directed evolution of the optoelectronic properties of synthetic nanomaterials
- Cancer treatment using nanoparticles - is it possible? | Stephen Frederico
- How nanoparticles that harvest light could curb climate emissions, by James Temple
- Applications of nanoparticles in biomedical imaging
- Digital quantum batteries: Energy and information storage in nanovacuum tube arrays