Nanotechnology Applications Under Development

While there are many applications of nanotechnology being used today, others are still in development and may become available in only a few years to a decade or so.

Several of these developments are in the medical arena, including the following:

  • Targeted drug delivery, such as delivering chemotherapy drugs directly to cancer tumors, avoiding the harm to healthy organs that currently occurs with chemotherapy

  • Better imaging, with devices such as an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), by attaching nanoparticles to diseased cells that increase the imaging signal, providing better images of tumors

  • Sensors used for medical diagnosis to allow earlier detection of diseases in the patient; or to detect bacteria, such as salmonella, in foods

  • The capability to regrow cartilage in joints to relieve arthritis pain

  • The use of nanofiber materials that can replace or repair blood vessels and help patients with vascular or heart disease

  • Burn dressings that release antibiotics when a burn becomes infected, enabling more rapid recovery

  • Enabling the administration of drugs orally that were traditionally given with a shot, such as insulin

Another big area under development is nanoenergy. Here are some examples of what you might see in a few years:

  • Longer-range electric cars with electrical power stored in batteries that have greater capacity than current batteries (by five or more times)

  • Lower-cost solar cells made possible by using nanomaterials that reduce the energy cost used in solar cell manufacturing as well as the material and installation costs

  • Strong, lightweight materials that reduce the weight of spacecraft and aircraft, thereby causing them to use less fuel

Nanotechnology is also being explored as an avenue for cleaning up the environment, including efforts to

  • Clean up our water supply both by reducing the cost of producing drinking water from salt water and by removing contaminates such as metal or bacteria from polluted water

  • Clean up our air by removing pollutants ranging from volatile organic compounds found in indoor air to carbon dioxide generated in power plants

These lists are by no means exhaustive, but they give you a good idea of the types of uses of nanotechnology being developed today.

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