NCMR Nanotechnology

Nanotechnology has been defined as shaping the world atom by atom. More and more materials and products will be made from the bottom-up, that is by building them up from atoms, molecules, and the nanoscale powders, fibers and other small structural components.

The impact of nanotechnologies is vast. New materials with novel magnetic properties will permit orders of magnitude higher data storage capacities than present day media. New generations of prosthetic and medical implants whose surfaces are molecularly designed to interact with the body will arise through synergy between nanomaterials and bioengineering. New materials with unprecedented combinations of strength, toughness and lightness will make all transportation vehicles more fuel efficient. New energy conversion technologies and improvedstorage devices will become available through nanotechnology.

Present realizations where nanotechnology is enabling new systems include dispersions and coatings as realized in thermal barriers, imaging enhancements, abrasive slurries and information recording. Biotechnology examples include include bio-sensors capable of single molecule detection and targeted drug delivery and gene therapy. Energy conversion and storage are benefitting by new solar cell and battery materials. In general nanostructured materials “by design” will be stronger, lighter, harder, self-repairing and safer. Future NASA applications for nanotechnology include microspacecraft, new power and propulsion technologies, bio-sensors, nano-metrology, giant magnetoresistance for data storage, nanocomposites and nanoelectronics.

Our work at the National Center includes catalyst development and characterization for fuel cells, nanostructured carbon for Li ion batteries and supercapacitors, reinforced composite materials, space-compatible nanoengineered lubricants, and optical diagnostics of cellular metabolism and response based on specific and selective nanoparticle interactions. Related modelling work includes fluid transport processes within the lung circulatory systems in low-gravity environments.

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