Intelligent materials

Materials with new structure and composition with embedded radically new properties;artificial materials that acquire copied characteristics of natural materials;materials tailored to the unique needs of society - these are just few of the dreams that modern science turns into a reality.

Science knows about 300 000 different material categories such as metals, ceramics, semiconductors, polymers, composites, biomaterials, nanomaterials.In practice, via the creation of new materials and their combinations their number becomes inexhaustible.

In the past, people have studied the materials based on the principle of "trial and error”, using the volumes that are visible to the human eye.Now scientists are venturing into much greater depth, looking for answers to questions about the structure, characteristics, behavior and application of materials at the atomic level.

Not surprisingly nanotechnology sparked widespread interest together with the discussions about the potential of their implementation.Nowadays we are witnessing the first government initiatives that promote funding of nanotechnology research.

For the first time the term "nanotechnology" was used in 1959 when the famous American physicist Richard Feynman gave a lecture entitled There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom, which later became a classic and often quoted.He proves that the principles of physics do not contradict the attempts to manage things atom by atom, provided that one has the necessary tools.

Nanotechnology allow recreation, exploration and use of very small ("nano" means one billionth of a meter) structures and systems. Resulting from use of nanotechnology are new materials, devices and products with qualitatively different characteristics. They actually hold the potential for application in each economic area and aspect of our life.

As an independent field of science with practical achievements, nanotechnology arise in the early 80-ies of XX century. Initial applications are limited to the use of passive nanomaterials such as titanium dioxide in sun creams and other cosmetics, surface coatings and food products, silver food packaging, clothing, disinfectants and household appliances, zinc oxide in cosmetics, surface coatings, paints and varnishes and cerium oxide as a fuel catalyst.

Modern trends in the development of nanotechnology include:

  • nanomaterials - based on precise control at nanoparticle level, the creation of new materials by composing their structure atom by atom, so as to achieve pre-set performance with a very specific application;
  • bionanotechnology (biological nanotechnology) - examines the processes that occur in living organisms as a kind of biological (or natural) nanotechnology;aimed at introducing nanotechnology solutions for exploration and management of biological processes and phenomena;
  • Nanomedicine aimng at embedding nanotechnology in medicine by developing effective methods of diagnosis and treatment using nanomaterials
  • Nanoelectronics - a continuation in the development of micro-electronics, mainly oriented towards applications in the computer industry.

Other current research areas and applications include quantum dots (nanoscale semiconductors), carbon nanotubes, fullerenes, nanocomposites for high-tech, metal nanoparticles (mainly precious metals - gold, silver, platinum), magnetic nanoparticles (diagnostic medicine, etc.), polymeric nanoparticles (such as carriers for drugs for targeted therapy, etc..); nanostructured ceramic materials for sensors, etc.

Nanomaterials are used in the manufacture of certain food items, such as food additives.Still, there is no adequate methods for assessing the safety of nanomaterials.European Parliament urges that the production of such food is carried after special risk assessment and is marked with special labels.

The application of nanotechnology in everyday life (touch screens), as well to solve major social and economic problems (drinking water treatment, the use of sustainable energy, health) makes them the hot topic at the public agenda.The next challenge is the possibility of massive application of nanotechnology and to create nanomaterials in large quantities.