Nanotechnology will impact in all areas of transportation, providing a variety of tools to build the system for the twenty-first century. For example, advances in nanotechnology may make possible carbon-based fibres which are 100x stronger than steel, at only one-sixth the weight.
The Benefits of Advanced Materials
Advanced materials that will allow for longer service life and lower failure rates. Among the key applications are nanocoating of metallic surfaces to achieve super-hardening, low friction, and enhanced corrosion protection; ‘tailored’ materials for infrastructure and vehicles; and “smart” materials that monitor and assess their own status and repair any defects resulting from fatigue, fire, etc. New materials designed to have superior properties (stronger, lighter) using materials with nanoscale dimensions will lead to faster, cheaper, and safer transportation
The Benefits of Advanced Communications
Advanced communications that maximise the benefits of intelligent transportation systems and obviate the need for some travel altogether; sensors that continually monitor the condition and performance of roads, bridges, and other infrastructure This includes:
- New materials that will permit ultra-miniaturisation of space systems and equipment, including the development of ‘smart’ sensors and probes. Applications include economical supersonic aircraft; low-power, radiation-hardened computing systems for autonomous space vehicles; and advanced aircraft avionics
- Reduction in transportation energy use and its impacts on the environment. Applications include nanosensors to monitor vehicle emissions and trigger traps for pollutants; nanoparticle-reinforced materials that replace metallic components in cars; replacement of carbon black in tyres with nanoparticles of inorganic clays and polymers, leading to tyres that are environmentally friendly and wear-resistant; and carbon-based nanostructures that serve as ‘hydrogen supersponges’ in vehicle fuel cells.
Improvement in Public Safety
Such applications may include smart sensors for collision avoidance in automobiles; nano-reinforced, glare-resistant car windows and windshields; chemical and biological weapon detectors at airports; and sensors that monitor rail track structural integrity This includes:
- Improved catalysts could reduce or eliminate the emission of pollutants from engines
- New photonic nanodevices could replace the heavy and costly radio frequency transmission equipment on board aircraft, ships, or satellites or be exploited for inexpensive remote control of vehicles
Nanotechnology Underpinning Developments in The Automotive Industry
Nanotechnology is underpinning developments in the automotive industry in a number of areas. The automotive industry is a major user of sensors and components for new integrated miniaturised systems, and MEMS have been a key driver in many of today’s advanced safety systems. MEMS are currently used in two standard automotive applications: the air bag accelerometer, which first went small tech in the early 1990’s, and the manifold air pressure sensor, or MAP sensor, first used in the late 1970’s. Total automotive sales of silicon accelerometers are expected to increase from £192m in 2000 to £364m in 2005 (www.strategyanalytics.com). The worldwide MST market (including MEMS) for automotive applications in 2000 was £725m and is projected to grow to £800m by 2004. (NEXUS/Roger Grace Associates).