The Nanoparticle Toolkit

Kevin Lifsey

Presented by Dr. Nigel H. Holmes, MacDermid-Autotype

The advances that have been made in the understanding of nanoparticle properties have lead to an explosion of interest into how these materials might be used commercially. A rapid scan of the literature reveals a multitude of proposed uses for these materials. Richard Feynman’s clarion call that there’s plenty of room at the bottom appears to be the guiding phrase for this wonderful new area of technology.

However we can also take an alternative view: reality is another country, they do things differently there. There are a plethora of nanoparticle papers promising property enhancements beyond the technologists’ wildest dreams. But, in this speaker’s opinion, the transfer from promise to reality has been less than might have been hoped. This is not to say that significant advances towards commercialisation have not been achieved. Genuine nanoparticle technology is being used in the formulation of self-cleaning glass, in the formulation of protective coatings for wood, and in the fabrication of stronger tennis racquets, amongst others.

The successful use of nanoparticles requires the formulator to take into account one important fact. These materials cannot be treated conceptually or physically in the same manner as macro sized particles; they are not just smaller versions of normal particles. I believe that this is a factor that is often overlooked when their use is considered and presents a barrier to their successful utilisation. I cannot hope in this short talk to do justice to the subtleties that surround this area, but hopefully it will provide an insight into certain simple precautions that might prevent a brilliant idea from becoming an intractable mess.

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