Transport - Overview - About the Sector - Text

Due to their unique physical and chemical characteristics nanomaterials may provide significant safety, lightweight and durability properties for all types of vehicles used in transportation, from cars, vans and lorries, aeroplanes and helicopters to bikes, boats and shipping. Application of nanomaterials can be found within automobiles, aerospace and marine sectors.  

Studies have shown that the use of nanomaterials within painted coatings may promote self-healing and self-cleaning against corrosive environments and extreme weather conditions including scratch and abrasion damage due to their hydrophobic properties.  Incorporating nanomaterials such as silicon carbide (SiC), zirconium oxide (ZrO2), zinc oxide (ZnO), aluminium oxide (Al2O3), and titanium oxide (TiO2) has shown to improve UV resistance by absorbing harmful rays while reducing cracking.1    

It is recognised that nanomaterials used in cars etc may reduce the weight of the vehicle allowing for improved fuel efficiency and increase steel strength enhancing the overall safety of a vehicle. By adding cost effective nanomaterial within engine parts the overall weight can be significantly reduced while improving road handling and durability. Reduced weights of vehicles (if loading capacity is not increased) will reduce wear on road surfaces. The use of metallic nanocrystalline materials (MNC) in lubricants reduce abrasion and friction resulting in improved of fuel efficiency. Research and development of MNC for the use in electric vehicles will help reducing CO2 emissions.2    

Nanostructured platinum for use in fuel cells as a replacement to platinum for electrode catalysts conversion has demonstrated increased catalytic effectiveness while being a less expensive alternative as reduced amounts can be used. Consisting of copper oxide (CuO), alumina, carbon nanotube, silica, and titanium oxide, nanofluids have shown to enhance heat transfer and reduce pollution emissions significantly compared to traditional diesel fuel.3    

The use of catalytic converters within traditional vehicles reduces emissions of harmful exhaust substances.  Applying nano-palladium powder via a spin coating process to the catalytic converter speed up the chemical reactions of pollutants such as nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons significantly reducing harmful emissions.  Other applications of nanomaterials within automobiles include ultra-thin reflective layer of Al2O3 in headlights to reduce glare of light from oncoming vehicles. Integrating carbon nanotubes and nano-SiO2 within tires has shown to improve rolling resistance, reduction of friction and increase wear resistance and grip (Mathew et al., 2019). 

Nanotechnology within the aerospace sector has seen major focus in research and development to create lighter materials with higher strength to reduce weight and consequently the consumption of fuel and ultimately reduce environmental pollution. 

Functional properties of carbon nanotubes, SiO2, TiO2 and SiO2 and graphene have shown to reduce UV degradation and increase the lifespan of surfaces and reduce cracks over a long period. Anticorrosive carbon nanotubes coatings applied on marine vessels has shown to reduce corrosion on ship turbine and hulls from seawater over a long period and providing anti-fouling properties.4 



Mathew, J., Joy, J., & George, S. C. (2019). Potential applications of nanotechnology in transportation: A review. Journal of King Saud University - Science, 31(4), 586–594.

Chavan, S. S., & Dubal, S. (2020). Nanotechnology applications in automobiles: Comprehensive review of existing data. International Journal of Modern Trends in Engineering and Science, 7(2), 18-22.

Salmasi, A., Salmasi, F., & Abraham J. P. (2022). Chapter 7 - Prospects for application of nanotechnology in marine industries: A brief review. In Innovations in Science and Technology (Vol. 4). B P International.

Market Reports World. (2022). Aerospace nanotechnology market size 2022 global growth, opportunities, trends, share, regional overview, leading company analysis, and key country forecast to 2028. Available at: