Meeting Place Nanoworlds

As a cross-sectional technology, nanotechnology is impacting nearly all scientific fields and industrial sectors. In addition to developing consumer goods that are more efficient, long-lived and funtionally optimized, nanotechnologists in basic as well as production research are striving to meet three great challenges of our time:  resource-efficient energy generation, environmental protection and effectively combating cancer.

Example: Health/food/agriculture

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Out of 30,000 known human diseases only 10,000 can be treated today. Many causes of illness can only be detected with significant effort and limited reliability. Above all viruses and cancer provide researchers and physicians with monumental challenges. The health care of the future should be faster, safer, more effective and have less side effects. In order to reach this goal, people around the globe are putting great hopes into the medical applications of nanotechnology. Cancer treatments with nanoparticles have already shown success in clinical trials, which gives us hope. Due to nanocoatings medical aids will become more hygienic and are better tolerated.

In the field of agriculture, nanomaterials can increase effectiveness of plant protection products as well as to a more precise detection of animal and crop diseases. In the food sector, priority applications are e.g. self-cleaning nanocoatings in food production, storage and transport, or packaging with new functionalities.

Example: Energy

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Nanotechnology promises progress for the energy sector in energy production, energy conversion and energy storage. Because the stocks of fossil energy sources won't last forever, renewable energy sources must be used more efficiently in the near future than they are today. Important uses for nano particles and nano coatings will be fuel cells for e.g., where electricity is produced by a chemical reaction. Solar energy will be equally important in the future. Even today nanomaterials provide glazing for solar panels, so that more sun light can be converted into electricity or heat. Energy saving also applies to light sources. Light diodes based on nanocoatings supply brighter light and use significantly less electricity than a normal light bulb.

Example: Environmetal protection

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Faced with a growing world population the protection of our environment is becoming more and more important. Soil, waters and air must be freed of already introduced contaminations as effectively as possible. Furthermore we have the task of using the resources more respectfully and more responsibly in the future. Nanotechnology can make a significant contribution to this. E.g. nanomaterials are already being used in the chemical industry today which help to avoid pollutants and reduce the use of raw materials. Environmentally viable nanoparticles take on the sanitation of polluted grounds as "chemical helpers" and save an enormous amount of time. Air filters made of nanofibres bind dust in the exhaust systems of our cars as well as as in industrial systems.

Example: Mobility

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There are many areas where nanotechnology can contribute to making the automobile safer, more comfortable and more sustainable. Numerous applications are already being used in the industry, for example carbon black in tyres. „Nano“ filters and purifies exhaust gases, increases catalysts‘ surfaces without using up precious metals and ensures engines‘ efficiency through coatings and additives that reduce friction.

Another promising field is electromobility, represented by fuel cells or lithium-ion batteries. But possible applications go beyond the automobile itself: in future, nanoelectronics and new materials can contribute to noise-reduced roads that exchange data with the vehicles – under the heading „intelligent road“.

Example: Communication

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Manufacturing integrated circuits on the basis of today’s silicon technology is comparatively cost-intensive and complex. Nanotechnology opens up possibilities to use nanoparticles or nanolayers to print or to vapour deposit circuits on plastic foils or other carriers. This technology will lead to e.g. even thinner displays.

In future, tap-proof, long distance data-transfer is to be ensured using so-called quantum communication. This method uses changes of state on the very level of individual atoms or ions as signals. Nanotechnologists are working on the development of transmission and amplification systems for this new technology.

Example: Security

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Each year, product piracy and counterfeiting cause worldwide damages of around 600 billion US-Dollars. Not only consumer goods such as fashion items, watches or jewelry are affected. Much more seriously, counterfeited pharmaceuticals or car and plane parts can put lives in danger. Nanotechnology-based systems for product information and protection help to keep an edge over the forgers. Luminescen nanoparticles, optical layers or even biological building blocks can be used to apply markings that are invisible and difficult to imitate.

Great efforts are being made in the areas of civil defense and disaster control. E.g., this involves the decomposition of toxins in the environment using chemical nanotechnology or equipping protective garments with new functionalities.