3.1 Executive Summary
The development of nanochemistry and nanomaterials has got more and more application oriented during recent years. This is indicated by a number of roadmap documents on nanomaterials some of which have even been funded by the EU during the 6th Framework Program (e. g. NanoRoadMap, NanoRoad, SMART). The sector gets increasingly arranged according to large application branches such as the automotive industry, the aerospace sector, energy, health and medicine etc. The transition from knowledge based and discovery driven approaches to nanomaterial developments towards application orientation is according to industry needs and following an increasing knowledge on systematic relations between nanoscale material structures and resulting properties. Visions for the years 2020 foresee "libraries" of nanomaterials and manufacturing methods that allow for the design of tailormade materials set up from basic "building blocks" and meeting the needs of specific applications in most efficient ways.
The main application areas and markets for nanomaterials may be seen in energy, environment, transport as well as in the health and lifestyle sector.
Within the energy sector, new materials are predominantly relevant once optimizing the relation of production cost and energy efficiency. That holds true e. g. for photovoltaics, where nanotechnological approaches lead to novel solar cells based on silicon thin films, dye cells, polymeric semiconductor cells etc. Other areas with considerable potential for innovative nanomaterials are thermal insulation, CO2-sequestration and energy storage (electrode materials, electrolytes, hydrogen storage). Also thermoelectricity, for long times being not sufficiently efficient for commercial applications, gets new chances based on tailormade thin films, nanoparticles, nanowires etc.
Within the automotive sector almost all vehicle components may be optimized by the utilization of nanomaterials and nanocomposites. One of the key items is weight reduction by usage of light weight materials. In particular structural vehicle components such as car bodies and frames will increasingly be made of composites that are reinforced by nanofibers. Further on nano-ceramic composites allow for new coatings and novel designs in the interior structure of combustion engines to obtain e. g. optimized wear resistance, noise damping or improved tribologic properties. Similar to the automotive sector, light weight construction, emission reduction and energy efficiency play a central role within the aerospace sector too. Increasing fractions of aircraft construction components (e. g. fuselage) are containing nanofoams or nano composites based on metals, ceramics or resins with nanoparticles or nano fibres as fillers. However, additional demand for R&D remains both with respect to resistance properties and robustness of new composite materials and in their automated and large scale production.
Within the bio-medical sector the development of specific nanoparticles as "drug delivery systems" rapidly progresses. Some approaches already found their way to clinical test phases. However, numerous visions range to far future without any market potential within the upcoming years. Further application areas are in medical diagnostics, drug development, tissue engineering, cosmetics, consumer products etc.
There are numerouos other applications for nanomaterials. However, many of them are to be appraised only on a long run. Utilization of nanomaterials for alternative nano-electronic approaches beyond Si-based CMOS or for quantum computing e. g. are belonging to these in particular.
Among the large family of nanomaterials carbon nanotubes (CNT) belong to the most prominent and are potentially the most promising particles. Their application spectrum is extremely broad and ranges from composit materials via energy storage, sensing, displays etc. up to nano-electronic and biomedical applications. CNTs have been extensively investigated during recent years and R&D-efforts still continue in all relevant world regions. Finally first CNT products got ready for market. Initial applications are as reinforcing or conductive composites or as electrode materials. However, a series of additional applications will get to the stage of market introduction within the upcoming years.
On a long-term basis graphenes are considered as a promising material for both reinforcing and electrically and thermally conductive fillers in composites as well as for electrode materials and future nano-electronic base material. Recently there has been an increasing interest in graphene research in multiple research institutions mainly in the US. However, graphene research is currently in a very early stage of development.
An increasing interest may even be recognized for nanofilms und DLC layers in particular. Appropriate films offer a set of different coatings, meeting the needs of numerous applications predominantly in wear resistance and tribology. Nanofilms and nanocoatings are getting increasingly utilized in mechanical engineering as well as in the bio-medical sector.
Coatings based on TiO2 nanoparticles and silver nanoparticles are also playing an increasing role in various applications already today. Both particle types are expected to belong to the most promising nanomaterials for the upcoming years.
In recent time, aerogels are getting increasingly discussed as alternative matrix materials. The nano-porous material is characterized by an exceptional low specific weight, a high strength and a small thermal conductivity. Applications open up as insulation materials as well as matrix materials combined with carbon-, glass-, aramid- or natural fibers giving rise for extremely light weight composites. Based on their properties they gain relevance in particular within the aerospace and automotive sectors. Energy efficiency will play a major role and aerogels offer a tremendous potential with respect to thermal insulation. Aerogels are currently coming along with still some drawbacks and are still distant from mass production. However, a deeper understanding of their structure and further improvements of their properties will cause a more widespread interest and utilization of this material class, which to date is still relatively unknown.
In contrast to numerous other nanomaterials, fullerenes run somewhat out of interest within recent years. A strongly decreasing number of publications, patent applications and funding projects deals with that material class due to a lack of application potential.
Beside all applications, toxicity and biocompatibility is a remaining issue for numerous nanomaterials. Compatibility is not only relevant for biomedically utilized nanoparticles (e. g. implants or nanoscale "drug delivery systems") but is rather an issue within any type of exposition or release to the environment by either mass production processes or as waste at the end of a product´s life cycle. In general there is a strong need to develop reliable test standards for nanomaterials with respect to their biocompatibility.
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