From clothes to computer hard drives, nanotechnology plays an important role in the manufacture of numerous products that we use in our everyday life.
Imagine you’re going on holiday. After getting off the plane and checking into your hotel, you put on your wrinkle-free shirt which you don't have to iron. Taking your scratch-resistant sunglasses, your sunscreen and your camera phone, you go to the hotel pool. There, listening to music on your MP3 player, you get ready to dive into refreshing water.
While you’re basking in the sun, nanotechnology must be the furthest thing from your mind. Nonetheless, you’ve dealt with it during the whole trip. From the drag reducing particles that cover your plane’s surface to the way the pool in your hotel was cleaned, nanotechnology was everywhere. It provided your sunscreen with an ability to reflect ultraviolet radiation, made your shirt look just-ironed and protected your sunglasses from scratches. Nanotechnology was used in your gadgets as well.
Even though, people aren't very aware of the nanotechnology they use, it has become an indispensable part of our everyday life. For example, nanosize components are used even in DVD and CD players.
However, there are airborne nanoscale materials — ultrafine particles that originate from traffic pollution and some other sources. When you breathe them in, they can deposit in your lungs and even cause asthma and lung disease.
Yet not all nanotech is a human achievement. Cells are natural nanoscale structures in which numerous biological reactions at the molecular level occur.
Kevlar, for instance, has many uses — from flak-jackets to frying pans. And its molecular structure was inspired by a similar structure of silk — a naturally occurring nanotechnology.
Using nature's abilities in nanotech is becoming a big business. Scientists have started researches on nanoscale structures used by geckos and mussels to create adhesives that can bind to dry and wet surfaces.
Also, almost fully transparent nanostructures, which were found in the wings of cicada insects, were used to improve non-reflective materials. Mimicking the arrangement of molecules of the cyphochilus beetle would lead to creating a substitute of potentially toxic pigments, which are used to create white paint and paper.
Nanostructures that cover the surface of lotus leaves are able to repel water and dirt. This effect can be used to create self-cleaning windows. Beetles in the Namib desert use particular nanostructures that allow them to capture some moisture from the morning fog. Such structures can be used in buildings to trap moisture for inside use.
Whether you are in the office, at home or on holiday, you can't escape nanotechnology based on the manipulation of the very small. Even though, many nanotechnologies we are using every day have been inspired by nature, there is still a lot of untapped potential left. And probably, some day we will be able to apply all the methods nature has employed.