Sunday, December 9, 2012

Nano in your Daily Life

Nano became a major trending label in the beginning of the 21st century. Nowadays, you see socks, packages, food, cars, mp3 players, etc. labeled with nano. Nano sells! I want to show you what’s the science behind some of the major nano labels. For this, let me first describe to you very quickly what nanoparticles are and why they are so beneficial.

What are Nanoparticles?
Nanoparticles are small structures with a diameter of 1-100nm. At this length scale, some materials have different properties than in their bigger bulk material. Because these particles are so small, the surface area per volume is much higher. Most reactions usually happen at the surface of a material, therefore, a higher surface area means more reaction happening. Nanoparticles are actually not an invention of the modern world. These particles were around since a long time. However, nowadays these particles are trending and a good selling label.

What are Socks with Silver Nanoparticles?
There are many brands who offer socks enhanced with silver particles. But what exactly do these silver particles do? These silver nanoparticles can kill many different types of bacteria and therefore the smell from your socks. Silver nanoparticles are not only added to the fabric of socks or underwear, but also to food packaging, cosmetics, tooth brushes and even bandages.

Why add Titanium Dioxide to Sunscreen?
Most of the available sunscreens contain titanium dioxide nanoparticles (TiO2) or zinc oxide (ZnO). These specific nanoparticles are added to sunscreens as they block ultraviolet (UV) light very efficiently. Usually, the higher the blocking factor of your sunscreen, the whiter the sunscreen appears. However, if you shrink the size of titanium dioxide to the nano size, these particles are transparent and can therefore be added to light sunscreens without the thickening white effect.

Are Nanoparticles dangerous?
There is a strong debate whether particles are harmfull to your body or not. Many believe, that due to their small size they can enter into parts of your body, where you do not want to have any other materials. One can not say that nanoparticles in general are dangerous, as these properties differ very strongly among different types. There is a lot of research going on to measure the effect of nanosized particles to our bodies and environment. But don't worry, most countries have very strict regulations about putting nanoparticles into the market. 

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