Nanotechnology in the Chemical Industry – Opportunities and Challenges
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The traditional chemical industry has become a largely mature industry with many commodity products based on established technologies. Therefore, new product and market opportunities will more likely come from speciality chemicals, and from new functionalities obtained from new processing technologies as well as new microstructure control methodologies. It is a well-known fact that in addition to its molecular structure, the microstructure of a material is key to determining its properties. Controlling structures at the micro- and nano-levels is therefore essential to new discoveries. For this article, we define nanotechnology as the controlled manipulation of nanomaterials with at least one dimension less than 100nm.
Nanotechnology is emerging as one of the principal areas of investigation that is integrating chemistry and materials science, and in some cases integrating these with biology to create new and yet undiscovered properties that can be exploited to gain new market opportunities. In this article market opportunities for nanotechnology will be presented from an industrial perspective covering electronic, biomedical, performance materials, and consumer products. Manufacturing technology challenges will be identified, including operations ranging from particle formation, coating, dispersion, to characterization, modeling, and simulation. Finally, a nanotechnology innovation roadmap is proposed wherein the interplay between the development of nanoscale building blocks, product design, process design, and value chain integration is identified. A suggestion is made for an R&D model combining market pull and technology push as a way to quickly exploit the advantages in nanotechnology and translate these into customer benefits.
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