Esteemed chemist and professor at Texas A&M University, Kim Renee Dunbar shares with readers how nanotechnology is used in a range of applications today.
A world leader in the study of chemistry, Kim Renee Dunbar has made significant discoveries in the topics of synthetic, structural, and physical inorganic and bioinorganic chemistry. Below, she explains how advanced nanotechnology of the future already has practical applications in modern society.
“We see Hollywood use nanotechnology in superhero and science fiction movies, but many people don’t realize that it already helps us accomplish feats in various real-life fields, including medicine, computer technology, and national security,” says Kim Renee Dunbar.
The overarching theme of nanotechnology is controlling matter on a molecular level, ultimately giving scientists greater ability to manipulate and infuse matter with activity on a much smaller scale. Through a multidisciplinary field of study, relying on facets like supramolecular chemistry, colloidal science, and applied physics, scientists can today apply nanotech to the benefit of society on many levels. While speculation has always existed on how this novel research will actually yield practical results for people, nanotechnology is already being used in a variety of useful ways.
Kim Renee Dunbar tells us that nanotech is used in many modern sectors including energy, medicine, homeland security, and information technology among others. It’s often used in the design of computer chip layouts as well as in many commercial applications like suntan lotion, protective coatings, and cosmetic products.
“Nanotech is able to accomplish new feats in these fields because we can use it to manipulate the structure of materials to behave in certain ways or achieve certain properties on much smaller building blocks,” says Kim Renee Dunbar. “By affecting structures at such small scales, we can make materials more lightweight, more durable, more reactive to electricity, and a world of other applications.”
Today, Kim Renee Dunbar tells us nanoscale materials are being used to create ballistic energy deflection in lightweight body armor, which can also help these materials avoid wrinkles and bacterial growth. Nanotechnology is being used to create “smart fabrics,” too, which can perform tasks such as monitoring heart rhythms and capturing solar energy.
Nanoscale materials are being used to create more lightweight vehicles (from cars to space crafts), helping conserve fuel while providing thermal management and electromagnetic shielding. Gold nanoparticles are being investigated as new potential treatment options for debilitating diseases like cancer. Nanotechnology can also help doctors achieve enhanced diagnostics for earlier detection and improved success rates.
“Nanotechnology isn’t the stuff of movies and fictional stories any more,” says Kim Renee Dunbar. “It already surrounds us in various means, from scientific to commercial applications, and we’re sure to see it more heavily used in the future.”