Understanding Nanotechnology Materials at Different Scales

Applied Tech Review | Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Nanotechnology benefits a wide range of fields. Some researchers are looking into using molecular self-assembly to develop new computing platforms. Other researchers are employing nanomaterials to create artificial photosynthesis systems that harness solar energy in a way that is inspired by nature.

Fremont, CA: Working at the nanoscale allows scientists to study and use the unique physical, chemical, mechanical, and optical features of materials that occur at this scale, rather than merely working at smaller and smaller scales.

Scale at which quantum effects dominate

When particles with diameters of 1–100 nanometers are formed, the characteristics of the materials might differ dramatically from those at greater scales. This is the size scale at which quantum effects can influence particle behavior and attributes. The concept of "tunability" of qualities is an intriguing and strong byproduct of quantum processes at the nanoscale. A scientist can literally fine-tune a material attribute of interest by modifying the particle size. Melting point, fluorescence, electrical conductivity, magnetic permeability, and chemical reactivity are all qualities that change as a function of particle size at the nanoscale.

Scale at which surface behavior plays the bigger role

The surface-area-to-volume ratio of nanoscale materials is much higher than that of bulk materials. Materials can become more reactive as their surface area per volume increases. The overall surface area of a single cubic centimeter of cubic nanoparticles is considerably larger than that of a football field! More of the material is exposed to the surrounding environment as a result of the increased surface area, which can dramatically speed up chemical reactions, or reactivity, of these materials. Greater surface area—and hence improved reactivity—in nanostructured materials has aided in the development of better catalysts.

The scale at which a lot of biology unfolds

Nature has refined the art of life at the nanoscale over millennia. At the nanoscale, many of the inner workings of cells occur naturally. Many medical researchers are using the natural nanoscale of biology to develop more precise and individualized instruments, treatments, and cures than are now available. Nanomedicine formulations can be engineered to deliver treatments directly to a specific region within the body, lowering the dose necessary for therapeutic action while also reducing severe side effects. Nanomaterials are also being employed to build low-cost, simple-to-use diagnostics and monitoring devices for a variety of uses, including glucose monitoring, pregnancy tests, and viral detection. Advanced nanoparticles are used to improve the chemical, physical, and mechanical properties of prosthetic materials, with advantages such as improved biocompatibility, strength-to-weight ratios, and antibacterial qualities to reduce infection risk.

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