Over the last 60 years, nanotechnology has become one of the leading factors in the marriage between science and engineering. Conducted at nanoscale (1 to 100 nanometers), its practice has helped drive a technological revolution across multiple industries, thanks to ground-breaking research by its leading lights, Richard Feynman, Heinrich Rohrer and Eric Drexler.
Nanoscience has already gone mainstream across a number of verticals - automotive, transport, water, renewable energy. It’s also facilitating medical breakthroughs for chronic conditions and terminal illness - this year alone nanoparticles have been used to grow bone and cartilage tissue, kill harmful bacteria, and to shrink tumours.
Why then, has Elon Musk, the global tycoon whose business empire is dependent on pushing scientific boundaries to the limits, gone on a social media rampage to ridicule this cutting-edge capability? His recent tweet, where he claims nanotechnology is BS has caused international uproar throughout the science community.
Just Hype or a Force to be Reckoned With?
So, is the realm of nanotechnology just hype, as Musk would have us believe, or is it a phenomenon that will potentially change the face of science as we know it? Well, to be able to offer a valid opinion we need to know what is meant by the term nanotechnology, and according to Eric Drexler, a leader in this field, it is the control and manipulation of “matter” on a microlevel.
What this means from an engineering standpoint is that if we’re able to manipulate matter, we’re potentially able to transform industry and associated manufacturing processes across the board for the economic, scientific and environmental good.
If we changed the properties of glass used to manufacture car windscreens to make them water and dirt repellent, for example, we’d no longer need windscreen wipers; the knock-on effect this would have the automotive supply chain would be both incredible and terrifying simultaneously.
Nanotechnology is Here to Stay
Whether we’re comfortable with potentially opening Pandora’s box due to our ability to manipulate “matter” or not, nanotechnology is impacting our lives more and more. It has already found its way into a whole host of everyday consumer goods, from clothing to skin lotion; it’s enhancing consumer electronic (CE) devices like smartphones by reducing their weight and chip size while extending their battery power, it’s used in industry and it’s paving the way for the mass rollout space age-style inventions like driverless vehicles, delivery drones, reusable self-landing rockets (Musk should know that) and medical robots.
Industrial Applications and Coatings
As well as enabling us to transform many of our primary industrial processes, nanotechnology is being increasingly used to change the chemical properties of raw materials like plastics, metals and paint. This in turn improves their effectiveness and optimises throughput, from heavy industry to more end-user focused sectors.
Another industry that could potentially be transformed beyond all recognition is industrial coatings, and Opus Materials Technology, a UK company that specialises in developing bespoke coatings according to terrain, climatic conditions and geographical location, is embracing nanotechnology.
The company is pioneering a disruptive approach of incorporating nanoparticles into conventional coating materials to make them resilient to environmental ageing, water-repellent, ice-resistant, dirt- repellent anti-reflective, self-cleaning and a whole range of other capabilities depending on the desired requirement.
£4Million UK & EU Funding Secured, with More on the Horizon
Such is the nanotechnology coatings opportunity that Opus has secured £4 million in EU and UK funding to research the market further and to develop a comprehensive portfolio of market-ready industrial coatings for niche requirements in the renewable energy and aerospace industries.
It’s little wonder why, because the global nanotechnology coatings’ market was valued at $3,567.0 million in 2016, and is expected to reach $28,271.8 million by 2026, growing at a CAGR of 23.0%, between 2016 and 2026. According to (BIS research), with the UK being one of the second largest markets globally.
Two Major Development Projects Currently Underway
- Solar Sharc®: an anti-soiling coating being developed to prevent surface contamination problems and dirt build-ups on solar PV modules on large-scale solar farms
- Icemart: an ice-repellent coating being developed to prevent ice build-ups on aircraft, maritime vessels, powerlines and wind turbines
Field trials carried out by Opus to date have demonstrated that its Solar Sharc® coating could significantly reduce the industrial O&M overheads for the PV sector by eliminating the need for costly, time consuming and labour-intensive cleaning.
Sharc Matter® ecommerce platform
Opus will also be in the near future be making the nanotechnology building blocks underpinning both projects available to large-scale industrial organisations on a wholesale basis via an ecommerce platform, Sharc Matter®.
To find out more about Opus as a company and to follow the progress of our different coatings projects, visit: