Applications of Nanomaterials and Ceramics in various sectors
Nanomaterials have revolutionized the fields of material science and engineering by offering unique physical, chemical, and mechanical properties that are not observed in their bulk counterparts. These materials, with dimensions ranging from 1 to 100 nanometers, have unique optical, electronic, and catalytic properties due to their high surface area to volume ratio, quantum confinement effects, and surface reactivity.
The synthesis and processing of nanomaterials involve several techniques such as chemical vapor deposition, sol-gel, hydrothermal synthesis, and ball milling. These techniques allow precise control over the size, shape, and structure of the nanomaterials, making it possible to tailor their properties for specific applications.
Nanomaterials find applications in diverse fields such as electronics, energy, biomedical, and environmental engineering. For example, nanomaterials such as carbon nanotubes, graphene, and metal oxide nanoparticles are being used in the development of high-performance batteries, solar cells, and supercapacitors. In electronics, nanomaterials are used in the development of conductive inks, transparent conductive films, and sensors.
Nanomaterials have also shown great potential in the biomedical field, where they are used for drug delivery, bioimaging, and tissue engineering. For instance, liposomal nanocarriers have been used for targeted drug delivery to cancer cells, and gold nanoparticles have been used as contrast agents in medical imaging.
In environmental engineering, nanomaterials are used in water treatment, air purification, and pollution monitoring. Titanium dioxide nanoparticles, for instance, are used in the photocatalytic degradation of organic pollutants, and carbon nanotubes are used in the development of efficient water filtration membranes.
The synthesis and processing of nanomaterials have enabled the development of materials with unique properties that find applications in a wide range of fields. The precise control over their properties and tailored synthesis approaches make them attractive for future advancements in material science and engineering.
Nanomaterials for 4IR
Nanomaterials are closely connected to the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) because they enable the development of new and innovative products and processes in various industries. 4IR refers to the integration of advanced technologies, such as artificial intelligence, robotics, and the internet of things, into manufacturing and other industries. Nanomaterials can be used to create new materials with enhanced properties, such as increased strength, durability, and conductivity, which can improve the performance and efficiency of products and processes.
In addition, nanotechnology plays a significant role in the development of sensors and other advanced materials that are essential for the 4IR. Nanosensors, for example, can be used to monitor and control various parameters in industrial processes, while nanocomposites can be used to develop lightweight and durable materials for use in manufacturing and transportation.
Moreover, the use of nanotechnology in the development of new materials and products can lead to the creation of new industries and jobs. It can also provide a significant boost to the economy by improving productivity, reducing costs, and increasing competitiveness.
Therefore, the integration of nanomaterials into various industries is an important aspect of the 4IR, which has the potential to revolutionize the way we live and work.
Ceramic materials and composites play a crucial role in the aerospace industry due to their high resilience in extreme operating conditions. They are used in various components of aircraft, missiles, spacecraft, and satellites, requiring properties such as low weight, high mechanical strength, thermal shock resistance, resistance to cosmic radiation, and high electrical insulating capacity. High-purity, monolithic oxide and non-oxide ceramic materials such as Al2O3, ZrO2, AlN, SiC, Si3N4, ferrites, and fiber composites are commonly used in these applications.
Motorized vehicles require high reliability and cost efficiency. Technical ceramics provide solutions to meet specific application requirements, including mechanical strength, tribological properties, and resistance to temperature changes and chemical corrosion. Monolithic ceramic materials, composites, piezoceramics, and magnetoceramics are used for their durability and optimized for specific applications. Non-oxide ceramic fibre composites are used in brake disks, offering high wear resistance and long service life.
Chemicals and Pharmaceuticals
In chemical and pharmaceutical engineering, equipment can face high stresses from temperature, pressure, corrosion, and abrasion. This leads to short service lifetimes and costly downtime for metallic materials in contact with products. Ceramic materials, both oxide and non-oxide based, can be a suitable alternative for designers with knowledge of application conditions. They can withstand high temperatures and exhibit high corrosion resistance, influenced by chemical composition and microstructure. Tailored ceramic materials can be optimized for specific corrosive loads. Both oxide and non-oxide ceramics are used successfully in aggressive conditions and for processing active ingredients in the pharmaceutical industry, with appropriate regulatory certification.
Technical ceramics have become essential components in the construction and control of sophisticated machinery, plants, and equipment with electro-technical assemblies. They offer a wide range of electrical conductivity, spanning more than 15 orders of magnitude, which makes them unique compared to other materials. Technical ceramics are used in various applications, such as λ sensors in automotive engineering, vacuum chambers of particle accelerators, and actuators in motion detectors. These ceramics possess other non-electrical properties such as mechanical strength, thermal resistance, thermal shock resistance, and corrosion resistance. Ceramic components in electrotechnical assemblies demand high or ultrahigh vacuum tightness and acceptable mechanical strength for use in the field, such as in Al2O3 ceramics.
In power engineering, minimizing resource consumption and environmental impact while maximizing efficiency is a primary objective. Ceramic materials and coatings play a crucial role in achieving this objective by providing high mechanical, chemical, and thermal stress resistance in energy-efficient plants and machinery. For instance, they are used as cation-conducting ceramics in low-loss high-power batteries, as corrosion-resistant dielectrics in molten carbonate fuel cells, and as ceramic coatings in the hot gas area of stationary gas turbines. The materials used must meet strict requirements such as mechanical stability, wear resistance, and thermal shock resistance. These ceramics can be modified to suit specific conditions through changes in their chemical composition and microstructure. A wide range of oxide and non-oxide ceramics, ceramic composites, coatings, and magnetoceramics, including superconducting ceramic coatings, are currently available or being developed.
The glass industry finds a wide range of applications across various sectors. In the construction industry, it is used for windows, doors, facades, and structural glazing. The automotive industry uses it for windshields, mirrors, and headlights. The electronics industry requires glass for display screens, touch panels, and semiconductors. In the medical sector, it is used for lab equipment and medical devices. The packaging industry requires glass for bottles and jars for food, beverage, and pharmaceuticals. The art and decoration industry also use glass for sculptures, ornaments, and stained glass windows. The versatility of glass has led to its extensive use in various applications.
There is plenty of opportunity to engineer the properties of glass to meet specific demands. Low emissivity glass is designed to reflect heat back into a room, reducing the need for heating and saving energy. Solar control glass is made to reflect the sun's heat and UV radiation, allowing for a more comfortable and energy-efficient environment. Insulating glass is created by using two or more panes of glass with a vacuum or gas-filled space in between, reducing heat loss and noise pollution. Safety glass is produced by laminating two or more sheets of glass together with a layer of polyvinyl butyral (PVB) or ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) interlayer, making it difficult to break and reducing the risk of injury in the event of an accident. Privacy glass is manufactured by adding a special coating or film to the glass, making it opaque and preventing people from seeing through it. These special glasses are widely used in modern architecture, automobiles, electronics, and solar energy systems, making our lives more comfortable, energy-efficient, and safe.
The production and engineering of glass involve high-temperature processes that require equipment components with high load resistance, especially in the presence of molten glass. To meet these demands, Al2O3 and ZrO2 ceramics are commonly used for measurement and control purposes, and for specific gas supply in glass melting furnaces. These ceramics have a purity of over 99.5%, enabling their cost-efficient operation in oxidizing and reducing conditions, even at temperatures above 1500°C. The ceramics' grain boundary phase can be selectively adjusted to enhance their corrosion resistance and behaviour on contact with molten glass. High-grade oxide ceramic materials satisfy the thermal strength, thermal shock resistance, corrosion resistance, creep resistance and dimensional stability, and abrasion resistance requirements of glass melting equipment. Selectively doped Al2O3 ceramic, for example, enhances its hardness and abrasion resistance with the incorporation of Cr3+ ions.