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Transportation and mobility

​​Nanomaterials, a variety of applications

Published on 30 January 2017
​The transportation industry is currently seeking solutions to improve energy efficiency, reduce environmental impacts, and enhance safety. The pressure is on to limit the environmental impacts of air, land, and maritime transportation despite mushrooming traffic. The industry is finding solutions based on advanced new nanostructured materials and objects and systems made using these materials.

The automotive industry is one area where nanotechnologies and nanomaterials are making significant inroads: more than 60% of car design and manufacturing processes now involve nanotechnology or nanomaterials. Today's new car designs depend on nanomaterials to deliver higher mechanical resistance while shaving off excess weight. Nano-based information and communication technologies are also shaping the automotive industry. Only nanomaterials have the qualities to enable tomorrow's drivetrains (be they hybrid, hybrid-electric, or all-electric) and manage the many electronic systems that will power the artificial intelligence in driverless cars. Nanomaterials can also bring new features to automotive glass and plastic, delivering anti-scratch, self-cleaning, anti-bacterial, and light-responsive (self-dimming glass) capabilities.

Using nanostructured coatings on mechanical parts is one way to improve resistance and lubrication, making catalytic converters more efficient and reducing the amount of platinum required. Nanostructured ceramic materials are another way. Adding ceramic nanoparticles to lubricants can help reduce friction, improve rheological properties, and boost thermal conductivity—all factors that contribute to lengthening the lifespans of both part and lubricant. Similarly, nanosensors can enhance engine operation and performance. 


Automotive tires are another area where nanomaterials can add value. Carbon black can improve tires' wear resistance; silicon dioxide nanoparticles increase tire lifespans and—because the tires are more efficient—lower vehicle fuel consumption.