They say good things come in small packages, so what could make a better holiday gift than nanotechnology? In the spirit of the season, let’s make our gift list -- and wish list -- from the smallest of the small.
- Shaving three strokes from your golf game. Carbon composite golf clubs promise less weight, more strength and flexibility. They can add up to a more powerful, more accurate drive. Fore!
- Breathing easier. Nanofibers and nonwovens are being used in air filtration of all kinds -- from filtering fine particulates from workers’ air in industrial plants to building HVAC systems to personal purifiers that go everywhere with you.
- Looking 10 years younger. Ok, well, maybe 3. Yes, nanotechnology is smoothing out those pesky wrinkles. Cosmetic makers worldwide include nanotech in their wares. One of the most popular uses is nanoscale beads of moisturizer that are better absorbed by the skin. It’s a beautiful thing.
- H2O-Ho-Ho! Water filtration is another amazing gift of nanotechnology. Nano-membranes capture micro particles. Nano-adsorbants attract pollutants metals to pull them out of water. Whether it’s a low cost solution for a third world village, an oil spill clean-up, or a purer flow from the tap, it’s a crystal clear winner.
- Safety under the sun. You know the milky white splotch of sunblock that used to protect the nose of lifeguards? For decades high-SPF sun lotion had to be thick with chalky white zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. Now a nanoscale formula provides sun defense worthy of a beach beauty.
- Picture perfect photos. If you’re a holiday photographer, you know one of the trickiest parts of getting a great image is managing light -- reflections and flares. Did you know that includes light bouncing around inside the lens itself? Camera makers now add a coating infused with nano-crystals to control it. That’s something to smile about.
- Sniffing out cancer cures. You’ve probably heard they can train dogs to detect a diabetic’s hypoglycemia by the scent of the patient. Now there are studies using gold nanoparticles to “sniff out” cancers by sensing the organic compounds growing cancerous cells create.
- Nano-diamonds are a girl’s best friend. No, I’m not talking about down-sizing the bling on the ring. Just the opposite. Some clever jewelers have developed a way to etch nano-facets onto a diamond -- so small they require an electron microscope to be seen. While the etching is all but invisible, the results are said to be brilliant.
- A safer drive home. Santa doesn’t have to worry about seeing through windshield on a rainy or icy night—the sleigh doesn’t have one. But the rest of us could use the help of an invisible nano-coating shield that repels water, increasing visibility by up to a third on a rainy night. It’s an easy-clean barrier to snow and ice, too. So it’s safer to dash away, dash away, dash away all.
- More smiles per gallon. In our pursuit of energy independence, nanotechnology is key to optimizing efficiency and eco-friendliness. Whether it’s capturing the energy in oil sands or a more pinpointed approach to hydraulic fracturing or reclaiming byproducts from the environment -- nanotech is powering solutions to keep energy costs lower. Fill ‘er up.
- Get the gunk off the touchscreen. Greasy fingerprints on your mobile phone are bad enough. Now that iPads bring work (and play) to the snack room, coffee shop and den, you never know what that smear is. And if you’ve got kids, it seems hopeless. Never fear! Soil-repellant and easy-clean nanocoatings are the solution. Now if someone could just make them anti-bacterial, wouldn’t that be a healthy undertaking?
- Vitamin-packed vigor. When vitamins, antioxidants and other neutraceuticals are nano-encapsulated they can be better absorbed by the body. Don’t you feel better already?
- Dry toes in the snows. Water-resistant fabrics were one of the first consumer products made possible by nano-coatings. As we face months of snow and slush, they’re more recent application on boots and shoes keeps Jack Frost from nipping at your toes.
So let’s wrap it up! A Santa’s dozen very gifted ideas from nanotechnology and a simple wish: a season filled with small delights and immense happiness.
Scott E. Rickert is chief executive of Nanofilm, Ltd.