Maturing research of nanomaterial technologies is beginning to provide new opportunities in the energy, transportation, medical and consumer product markets.
“Nanotechnology covers many areas today,” said Amos Golovoy, a consultant, automotive industry veteran and an organizer of the upcoming Nanomaterials for Industry conference, April 6-9 in San Diego. “It's no longer just plastics nanocomposites.”
While cost remains a challenge, the potential for materials with nanoscale features is generating wider interest.
“I believe that breakthroughs in nanostructured materials development will have a major impact on the increased utilization of thermoplastic alloys and carbon fiber reinforced polymer composites,” said Alex Kawczak, particularly “in vehicle light weighting programs targeted at increased fuel efficiency.”
Kawczak, a conference presenter, is president of StrateNexus Technologies LLC of Dublin, Ohio, a nanostructured materials technology development consulting company.
He envisions use of next-generation polymer composite materials in fuel tanks for compressed natural gas vehicles while processing developments will accelerate commercialization into composites for wind blades and sealants and adhesives for solar panel modules and next-generation energy storage in batteries and capacitors.
“The smart-nanosystem platforms have the potential to improve the performance and durability of fuel cells in both stationary and transportation applications,” he said.
“Graphene and nanocarbon may have a big impact in the enhancement of mechanical properties, electric and thermal conduction behavior,” said Fengge Gao, a professor who directs nanoscience laboratory research at Nottingham Trent University in Nottingham, England.
“If we are talking functioning materials, there would be enormous opportunities in the future,” said Gao, who will lead a pre-conference half-day workshop on graphene/carbon nanotubes.
Aircraft makers also have expressed interest.
“Nanotechnology has the potential to tailor material that is not only stronger and lighter but also allows for functionalities vital to an airplane's service life,” said Samra S. Sangari, a senior scientist with Boeing Co.'s research and technology unit in Seattle.
The conference will cover 33 topics, with Harold Kroto, a 1996 Nobel laureate in chemistry, delivering a keynote address.
Kroto co-discovered the spherical carbon 60 buckminsterfullerene molecule, more widely known as the bucky ball. He is a professor at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Fla., conducting research in nanoscience and nanotechnology.