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Transcript - Episode 03 - Applications of Nanotechnology

M: welcome to another episode of IMNANO

I: Putting the I in I M Nano, I am your host Irfani

M: and I am your M, your host, Monika

I: and today we will we talking about opportunities in nanotechnology

M: So what we mean by that is where nanotechnology is in our products and how it can be used in the market to generate new solutions

I: As we mentioned in the last episode: The European Commission and UNESCO has labeled nanotechnology as one of the six 'Key Enabling Technologies' that will contribute to the growth of multiple industry sectors” and there is a lot of investment going into the field. So what is so significant about nanotechnology? How does it improve our lives? To begin, let’s start with how the field of nanotechnology started. (Source: From basic research to commercialization (Miyazaki, Technovation, 2007) 

The field of nanotechnology was introduced in 1959 when Richard Feynman gave a lecture about exploring the nanosize realm “plenty of room at the bottom”. Then in 1981, the first scanning tunneling microscope was invented by Gerd and Heinrich that allowed the imaging of materials at the atomic level, which won them their Nobel Prize! And then in 1985, buckyball the nano soccer balls discovered by Harold Kroto, Sean O’Brien, Robert Curl, and Richard Smalley, from Rice university, which won them the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. The first demonstration of atom manipulation was demonstrated by Don Eigler and Erhard Schwizer at IBM in 1989 who spelled out the IBM logo using 35 individual Xenon atoms, ushering a wave of nanotechnology manipulation. In the 1990s, some of the earliers nanotechnology companies started and carbon nanotube was discovered by Sumio Iijima.

Graphene – Sir Andre Geim and Sir Konstantin Novoselov (36 years old when he won!) were awarded the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics "for groundbreaking experiments regarding the two-dimensional material graphene".

M: Wow it has been a long time since the field started! And we are still obtaining many new developments at a fast pace

I: Yes! And you might be wondering, how much has nanotechnology developed since then? Are there any nanotechnology that we have implemented in our daily lives? Monika, can you tell me what products you use daily?

M: Toothpaste and makeup!

I: Yes, so cosmetics! If you go through the aisles in your local drug store, I’m sure you’ve heard of something called mineral sunscreens say by brands like Neutrogena. These sunscreens contain titanium dioxide and zinc oxide by creating a barrier and blocking UV rays from penetrating the skin. Based on a recent study by Mohammed et al published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, Zinc Oxide nanoparticles doesn’t cause hard to the human skin when applied once per hour for 6 hour for 5 days. (Mohammed, J. Inves. Derm., 2019)

M: M: yes exactly and it is also important to demonstrate that many nanoparticles actually occur naturally, quoting

Dr Robert Hill, from Queen Mary University of London, who helped develop a toothpaste containing nanoparticles of hydroxyapatite, : "Silica particles are found in many food stuffs and, in fact, nanosilica particles have been put into cosmetics and household products for more than 40 years with no adverse responses.” so we have NPs that have been around but as you mentioned the microscopes and techniques for observing this scale of partciles was only developped in the 1980s so we just coundt characterize the size range of the particles previously, so it’s a matter of awareness

I: right and it is also present in pregnancy test strips that you get from the drug store! These pregnancy test strips contain gold nanoparticles immobilized with antibodies that captures the biological marker that tells you whether you are pregnant.

Another application that I think we all know is computers! Scientists at intel are continuously developing processors to improve our computer performance. There are a lot more applications of nanotechnology such as in cleaning products and anti-viral/-baterial materials!

M: Yes, as discussed in the review article by Mohaptra and colleagues in Applied Sciences, the applications of nanotechnology spans across various sectors such as electronics, renewable energy, and health care, and very importantly the environment.

I: Didn’t you work on semiconducting carbon nanotubes Monika?

M: Yes, materials such as carbon nanotubes and graphene nanoribbons have fantastic properties that can be implemented in computers. As we know electronics now are getting smaller, we need to use materials that have superior electrical properties to develop them.

Many materials with fantastic properties:

Electronics - transistors,

I: (aren’t you working on CNTs for semiconductors Monika?)

M: graphene/CNTS, graphene nanoribbons, and these can be implemented in all areas of computers, what has computers in them these days? m

I: Oh man, so many! From smart fridges to cars and have you heard of those Oral-B toothbrushes that guides your teeth brushing and connects to your phone? It’s wild! Speaking of toothbrushes, there are these toothbrushes from Japan from the Misoka Lab that coats their bristles with minerals such as magnesium, calcium, and sodium and requires only water to clean your teeth!

M: yes very cool how they coat their brissels with the nanominerals and that with only water and no toothpaste! Actually some toothpastes contain palm oil so if I can avoid promoting consumption of that oil that would be great. But anyways back to the computers and electornics ..

So building nanocomputers is a big application that we didn’t have 30 years ago, this entire area of miniturization that we have, is due to the microscopes and techniques that as you mentioned have been developped.

quantum computing

  1. Renewable energy - Prof Vandenbosch at U Leuven 2012 very well explained article Elsevier journal of Nano Energy discussion the importance of solar energy harvesting from nano-antennas. that capture sunlight and heat energy to create a thin solar sheet capable with 90% storage efficiency—20 % better than current solar panels and the group developed

Around the early 2010s nanosponges were also introduced as a hydrogen storage material by Hirscher and schlichtenmayer. “nanosponges” which can store static-electric energy in their spongy pores. Like traditional supercapacitors, nanosponges can deliver energy faster and more efficiently than chemical-based batteries, but at a far higher capacity. - a review and book on nanosponges has actually been writen byt Dr.s Trotta and Mele in 2019 Although interestingly Hirscher and Broom have critizes the reprocucibility of these new H storages devices in a review from 2016 – so warning of irreproducible data or conditions

There are also covalent organic frameworks and metal organic frameworks so COFs and MOFs, zeolites,

And in a very braod sense they are re-semble poros, or sponge like particles

Not just energy can soak up CO2 as well

  1. Health care -

I: Nanotechnology plays a significant role in health care in diagnostics and therapeutics such as drug delivery and ultrasound imaging. My work focuses more on the diagnostics aspect where we design sensors that are smaller, easier to use, and faster than conventional procedure. Most of the time, we need to go to the doctor’s office or clinic to determine if we have a certain health condition. There, the nurse will take a sample of your blood and send it to a lab for it to be tested for biological markers that signify that health condition. We all know that if we can detect these biological markers faster and figure out that we have a certain health condition earlier, the chances of us recovering from it will be faster right? So with nanotechnology, we can design and develop sensors that can detect these biomarkers with a smaller volume of blood within a shorter time frame and help us to improve our health outcomes.

Nowadays, we have health sensors in the market such as ones embedded in our apple watches and phones that detect physical signals from our body such as heart beat. It can detect if you have ireggular heart beat, commonly referred to as arrythmia, to provide information about the status of your heart health. However, chemical sensors that detect biological markers from your body fluid are less commonly found in the market. There are glucose sensors in the market that can monitor the fluctuations of glucose concentration for diabetic patients but there are not many available that acts as a preventative sensor for people who want to monitor their health. There are a lot of exciting research in academia and start-ups to develop these sensors!

  1. Environment – water and air detection and purification

Nanotechnology can improve the performance and cost of catalysts used to transform vapors escaping from cars or industrial plants into harmless gasses.

Nanomembranes for filtration, wherein tio2 nanoparticles have also been used The nanostructuredcatalytic membranes, nanosorbents and nanophotocatalyst based approaches to remove pollutantsfrom wastewater are eco-friendly and efficient, but they require more energy, more investment inorder to purify the wastewater and with the tio2 photocatalysis is promoted for dyes and contaminants so what that means is using light to activate the reactions to degrade the contamines so get ride of them

I: wow that would be a big environmental help to eliminate the recent surge in PPE pollution

So as you can probably tell, there are many areas that nanotechnology is currently in

M: And many areas that nanotechnology can still be integrated, so it is an industry with a lot of growth.


I: That’s all the nano for today, take care!

M: Stay Curious.


Nanotechnology Timeline: Nanotechnology Timeline. (n.d.). Retrieved December 2020

Biodegradable mask: Sevunts, Levon. “British Columbia scientists develop a biodegradable face mask” Accessed Dec 30, 2020.


Solar Energy:

Health care:


The Secret of MISOKA. (n.d.). Retrieved December 2020

Intro/Outro music:

Music by minwbu from Pixabay

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