What is Nanochemistry?
Every day, individuals who study and apply science make life-altering discoveries. This has been true since the beginning with inventions such as fire, electricity, space travel, computers, and much more. The scientists who made these discoveries began by asking simple questions, and their curiosities led them to make radical improvements that have made the way for scientists to continue making discoveries today.
Take nanochemistry, for example. Nanochemistry is a seemingly simple discipline that can be applied across numerous fields such as geology, biology, engineering, and physics. The groundwork that has been made in nanochemistry has contributed to significant advances in electronics and modern medicine. But even the individuals who have made such technological advances had to start somewhere. So let’s start with the most basic question.
What is nanochemistry, exactly?
Nanochemistry is the study of chemistry at the nano-scale.
One nanometer (or one nm) is 1 x 10 ^-9 meter. As a frame of reference, a piece of human hair is about one hundred thousand nanometers thick. Any material that is at least one dimension measuring 1-100 nm can be considered a nanomaterial. For instance, consider cutting a watermelon. When you slice the watermelon, two surfaces are generated from the first cut, leading to an increase of the total surface area. If the watermelon is cut continuously into nano-sized materials, i.e., nanomaterials, the total surface area would become huge.
To give you an even better idea, the surface area of a tablespoon of nanomaterials is equivalent to that of a cricket stadium.
Nanoscience and Nanotechnology
Nanoscience and nanotechnology are exactly what they sound like — science and technology at the nanoscale. These concepts were already widely used in our daily lives before more and more people of the general public began hearing about these two words over the past two decades.
One commonly known example of nanotechnology is sunscreen; its ability to protect us from cancer-causing UV lights is attributed to its major component: nanoparticles. The large surfaces of the nanoparticles help sunscreens effectively absorb the harmful UV lights. Nanotechnology can also be used to develop eye drops capable of replacing glasses.
The Importance of Nanochemistry
Dr. Richard Phillips Feynman was an American theoretical physicist and a Noble laureate. Feynman’s notion that “there’s plenty of room at the bottom,” has swung open the door to nanochemistry and has inspired scientists to relentlessly explore this field.
At its core, chemistry with nanotechnology is all about doing more with less material. Therefore, nanochemistry is vital to the sustainable development of our economy and society.
I’ve come to see the importance of nanochemistry first-hand in my research regarding battery materials. Let me explain. The natural reserves for these materials keep decreasing due to the wide use of battery-powered electronics. But the demand for batteries continues to increase while their prices are simultaneously expected to decrease. Nanotechnology plays and will continue to play a major role in combating the conventional wisdom of high demand leading to high price.
The Future of Nanochemistry
Because nanomaterials can significantly improve the properties/functions of an object, we hope to see this technology used more going forward. But in order for more nanomaterials to be moved out of laboratories and into the market, many parties have a role to play:
- First and foremost, it is the role of a nanochemist to achieve facile and tailored syntheses of nanomaterials with desired functions at a low cost.
- Because nanoscience is an interdisciplinary field, scientists from various fields, such as physics and biology, need to work together to achieve the goals.
- And finally, the general public and policymakers should give their input regarding the commercialization and utilization of nanotechnology.
With a science or mathematics degree at Grace, you’ll be educated by faculty who are invested in your learning experience. If you’re interested in chemistry with nanotechnology, apply today to get started on your journey.