Nanotechnoly: what’s new?
Nanotechnology - the manipulation of cell and atomic structure in materials no larger than a billionth of a metre in size - has recently been described by Frank O'Brien-Bernini, Vice President of Owens Corning Science & Technology Center, as "... so revolutionary, it's being compared to the discovery of fire, the Industrial Revolution, and the invention of the Internet." The National Science Foundation predicts that the market for nanotechnology products and services in the US only will conservatively reach 1 trillion USD by 2015. With nanotechnology, a large set of materials with distinct properties (optical, electrical, or magnetic) can be fabricated and fields of application are very numerous in medicine, chemistry, energy, information and communication, consumer goods. The world's biggest corporations work to be first to market with end-user nanotechnology applications. Here are two concrete achievements related to insulation and packaging of food: - Nansulate, a water-based translucent insulation coating containing a nanotechnology based material called Hydro-NM-Oxide is claimed by Industrial NanoTech, Inc., its conceptor, to be the world's best thermal insulation medium and the world's worst conductor of thermal energy; the thermal conductivity of Hydro-NM-Oxide has been measured as 0.017 W/mK to be compared with that of polyurethane foam (0.040) or cenospheres (0.110). This material also provides excellent protection against corrosion, condensation and rust. Nansulate coating is now being utilized by two separate US mobile refrigeration companies on the ceilings and floors of their refrigerated trucks and vans to decrease heat transfer and the amount of energy necessary to keep the vehicles cool. - Nanotechnology is now being applied to food packaging to enhance protection of foods from mechanical, thermal, chemical and microbiological effects. The US firm Sharper Image claims that its containers infused with naturally antibacterial silver particles keep food fresher 3 to 4 times longer than classic packaging. The containers are used for fruit, vegetables, herbs, cheeses, soups, sauces and meats. Silver has naturally antmicrobial, anti-mould and antifungal properties and tests on Sharper Image's FresherLonger packaging show that growth of bacteria inside the containers was reduced 98% thanks to the silver nanoparticles, which are on average 25 nm in diameter and provide the containers with an attractive golden hue.