Food, Drink and Automotive Industries
Food and Drink
Working at the nanoscale is not new to food companies. Many foods and beverages contain natural components that are nanoscale in size, and the manipulation of naturally occurring nanoparticles involved in the processing of, for example, dairy products, has been undertaken for some time under the name of 'colloid science'! More recently, an improved understanding of mechanisms such as targeted delivery has enabled food companies to deliver scents, flavours, vitamins and minerals that offer health benefits or impart new physical, visual and sensory effects to foods. This has not only helped the exponential growth in the market for nutraceuticals and other functional foods but has enabled a wide range of new food products with new tastes, flavours and textures to be developed. Other applications of nanotechnology to food manufacturing include antibacterial work surfaces, filters that can extract toxins and packaging that provides a better barrier against contamination, or can signal when its contents are spoiling, by changing colour.
The Car Industry
The automotive industry has appreciated for some time that nanotechnology can offer many benefits to this highly competitive and litigation-driven sector. Research is taking place into many applications of nanotechnology such as - improved lubricants, fuel cells for clean energy, lighter and stronger engine and body materials, better catalysts, nanoporous filters, self-cleaning windshields, self-healing and scratch-resistant coatings, environmentally friendly corrosion protection and colour-changing paints – to name but a few! Major advances are also being made in the use of polymer nanocomposites for body panels as these can be made lightweight yet rugged, and in new metal nanocomposites to improve engine efficiency. Specially designed nanoparticles are presently used as fuel additives to lower consumption in commercial vehicles and reduce toxic emissions. Cars are notable for progressively increasing their high technology content, using smart nano-sensors for the prevention of possible problems from a tyre blow-out to brake failure, even to avoiding a collision!
Car manufacturers are keen to be more environmentally friendly in their manufacturing processes as well as in the final product. Investigations are underway in how nanotechnology may lead to a reduction in toxic wastes and by-products by substituting new nanomaterials for hazardous reactants and solvents or, better still, by using nanotechniques to eliminate their need altogether.