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The commercial applications of nanotechnology in the field of transport include: nanotubes and particles (e.g. for use in capacitors and batteries), nano-porous materials (e.g. for use in fuel cells), thin films and coatings (for multiple transport applications), and nanocomposites (e.g. for use in vehicle parts).
Many companies identify themselves as being active in the area of nanotechnology. Where their product is generic with many applications in a wide range of sectors, one of which is transport, their product will often not appear as transport-specific. Here efforts have been made to identify products that are clearly designated as being used in transport thereby omitting products with unspecified sectoral application areas, increasing the relevance of the products while reducing the total number. Products that are identified as for use in transport applications may also be used in other sectors e.g. energy or ICT.
The main areas where nanotechnology is (or may be) applied in the field of transport include the following current or future applications:
- Nano-tubes and nano-particles (e.g. in components, capacitors and batteries)
- Nano-porous materials (e.g. for use in fuel cells)
- Nano-composites (e.g. for vehicle parts)
- Nano-thin films and nano-coatings (e.g. to protect from dirt and wear)
- Nanotechnology in lighting and displays (e.g. OLEDs)1
- Nano-fluids and additives (e.g. in fuels)
- Nano-filters (e.g. in exhaust systems)
- Nanotechnology for energy usage and storage (e.g. lithium ion batteries)
Nanotechnology draws on other sectors for applications to transport, sectors such as manufacturing, photonics, ICT and energy. For example, the uses of ICT in the transport sector (now and in the future) include:
- Assisted driving systems for economical driving (for fuel efficiency, etc.)
- Distance and speed regulation (safety systems)
- Warning systems (e.g. obstacles avoidance systems)
- Autonomous driving (driverless vehicles)
- Advanced positioning and communication systems
- Improved logistics management
The table below shows some key examples of application areas for nanotechnology in transport.
|Table AX-7: Examples of nanotechnology applications in transport|
Anti-glare coating for windows
Protective coating for textiles
|Anti-glare coatings on surfaces
Anti graffiti coatings for walls (e.g. on tunnels)
|Nano-enabled OLED||Lighting panels
Displays on dashboard
Monitoring soot emission
Monitoring condition infrastructure
Intelligent transportation systems
|Nano-fluids and lubricants||Coolants
|Nano-filters||Diesel particulate filters
|Nano-enhanced energy storage||Lithium-ion batteries in electric vehicles (EV)
Hydrogen storage (fuel cell electric vehicles)
Solar capture (photovoltaics)
Nanotechnology can have an impact on many different parts of a vehicle including:
- the structure and interior of the vehicle
- the engine and the fuel systems
- external surfaces
Nanotechnology is applied for improving the materials used in transport, and for enhancing the manufacturing process. The application of nanotechnology in photonics can enhance the laser techniques used in the manufacturing process, especially in the automotive industry.
However, the greatest progress in new nanomaterials and manufacturing techniques is made in aerospace. Different (nano)materials have been integrated into aerospace components in order to reduce weight and save energy. They are also contributing to enhanced safety such as fire-resistance. Many of the applications in aerospace and aviation are later applied to lower cost areas such as ground vehicles.
1 Organic light-emitting diodes.