Products and articles made by or with nanomaterials
Nanomaterials are used because they may enhance a function or a property of products, materials or articles. Below you can find some general description of the potenially added value of a specific nanomaterial in certain products or articles.
- Coatings and paints
Nanomaterials are used in paints and coatings, for example, to improve durability and to provide new functionalities, i.e. water/dirt repellent ’easy to clean’, antimicrobial resistance, or scratch resistance.
Currently, the most relevant nanomaterials for the paint and coating industry are nanoscale titanium dioxide and silicon dioxide. Nano titanium dioxide is used in coatings mainly to exploit its photocatalytic activity which results in self-cleaning surfaces. The addition of synthetic amorphous silica can improve the hardness, abrasion, scratch and weather resistance of paint. In addition, nanosized silver, zinc oxide, aluminium oxide, cerium dioxide, copper oxide, and magnesium oxide are currently under investigation for possible future use in paints.
In the pharmaceutical area nanomaterials are mostly used as excipients, i.e. substances that serve as a vehicle or medium for a drug while remaining inactive itself. Several tablets, suppositories and creams contain nanomaterials such as synthetic amorphous silica used to control the viscosity and the uniformity of the active ingredients. In addition, silver nano particles have been used for many years as antibacterial agents when dressing wounds.
- Cosmetics, personal care products
Nanotechnology also plays an important role in the cosmetic industry. Nanomaterials can be found in many cosmetic products including moisturisers, hair care products, make up and sunscreens. The primary advantages of using nanoparticles in personal care products include an improvement in the stability of cosmetic ingredients (e.g. vitamins, unsaturated fatty acids, and antioxidants) by encapsulating them within the nanoparticles; efficient protection of the skin from harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays; aesthetically pleasing products (e.g. in mineral sunscreens, using smaller particles of an active mineral allows them to be applied without leaving a noticeable white cast); targeting of an active ingredient to the desired cells or organ, and offer a controlled release of active ingredients for prolonged effect a knowhow also explored in the developments of pharmaceuticals.
The plastic industry is an area where nanotechnologies are widely used. The development of nanocomposites, i.e. reinforced polymers using nanomaterials, is one of the most relevant applications in the field of (new) materials. Thermoplastics reinforced through nanotechnology can resistin heat, are flame retardant, provide stability and are capable of conducting electricity. Titanium nitride, for example, is an extremely hard material used in plastics such as polyethylene terephthalate (PET) flasks to improve their physical properties and the efficiency of PET manufacturing processes.
- Fabrics, textiles and apparel
Many of the textiles commonly used nowadays contain nanomaterials. Some baby textiles may be coated with nano silver to provide antibacterial protection. Nano titanium dioxide provides UV protection in beach clothes. Many waterproof mountain jackets and spill proof tablecloths are coated with nano synthetic amorphous silica. To improve abrasion resistance, textiles can be coated with nano aluminium oxide, carbon nanotubes or nano synthetic amorphous silica.
- Sports equipments
Within sports products, carbon nanotubes are the most used nanomaterial. They are widely used to produce lighter but at the same time more rigid equipment, such as tennis rackets, golf clubs and bicycle frames.
Nanotechnology also has applications in the food sector. The main developments so far aim at altering the texture of food components, encapsulating food components or additives, developing new tastes, controlling the release of flavours, developing nanosensors for traceability and monitoring the condition of food during transport and storage and/or increasing the bioavailability of nutritional components.
- SCENIHR Report 2007, “Safety of nanomaterials in cosmetic products”
- RIVM Report 2007, “Inventory of consumer products containing nanomaterials”
- RIVM Report 2010, “Nanomaterials in consumer products : Update of products on the European market in 2010”
- Danish EPA Report 2015, “Survey of products with nanosized pigments”