Once the stuff of science fiction, nanotechnology is now a reality in groundbreaking products that are rapidly popping up in people's homes. According to the Food and Drug Administration, "nanotechnology is an emerging technology that has the potential for use in a broad array of FDA-regulated products, including medical products, foods and cosmetics.” You might be surprised to find out that you’re reaping the rewards of nanotechnology yourself!
Air Filtration: Catching Contaminants at the Atomic Level
Some high-end ductless climate-control
and air-filtration systems are using nanotechnology in their filters. These filters often use ceramic as the surface element and work in conjunction with other specialty filters in a multi-stage system. After primary filters catch larger particulate matter, dust and bacteria, the passing air contains only the tiniest contaminants by the time it reaches the nano-filter, which can trap odor-causing elements down to single atoms. This leaves you with pure, clean air.
Nano-Toothpaste: Restoring Smiles Down to the Molecule
Some of the most common applications for nanotechnology are in the field of cosmetics. But now some toothpastes are using nanoparticles of a calcium-based mineral that is found in human bones to fill in microscopic gaps in tooth enamel that have been chipped or worn away. Other toothpastes use nanoparticles of silver, a compound which has been shown to inhibit the growth of bacteria and prevent tooth decay.
How Mussels and Geckos Inspired Nano-Adhesives
Curious researchers studied geckos' and mussels’ capability to mimic Mother Nature's ability to bind things together. Nano-glue was created based on the nanofibers found on the feet of geckos, which enable the tiny lizards to cling to frictionless vertical surfaces like glass, even when they're upside down. When developing a glue that could bind even objects even when they're wet, the researchers turned to nanoscale structures secreted by mussels, which allow them to bind to rocks and other objects when they're underwater.
Beetles, Cicadas, Paper and Paint
Turning to Mother Nature once again, researchers mimicked nano-structures found in insects to develop non-reflective elements — like those found in white paint and paper — without using toxic pigments. Cicadas have small projections in their wings spaced about 200 nanometers apart, which allow 98 percent of light to pass through their wings. The scales found on the bright white cyphochilus beetle contain nano-molecules arranged in a way that scatters virtually all incoming light.
Nanotechnology is all around us in nature and has been in use for years for practical applications, such as the lasers on CD and DVD players. But extraordinary advancements in recent years have ushered in a new era of household nanotechnology, which may already be in everything from your toothpaste to your cooling system.
This article and its content are sponsored by Mitsubishi Electric US Inc., Cooling & Heating Division.
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