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What is Nanotechnology?
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What is Nanotechnology?
  • A nanometer (nm) is one billionth of a meter, or 1000 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair, or roughly the size of a marble when compared to the earth. QSI catalysts typically measure 5-25 nm.

  • A catalyst is a material that helps make chemical reactions happen faster. The higher the surface area of the catalyst, the faster the chemical reaction.

  • QSI’s advanced catalysts have superior properties including their spherical shape, oxide layer, and very large surface area. This translates into greater efficiency in the generation, storage, and use of energy.
Nanotechnology is defined as the fabrication of materials and devices with atomic or molecular-scale precision. It is the understanding and control of matter at dimensions of roughly 1 to 100 nanometers, where unique phenomena enable novel applications. A nanometer is one billionth of a meter (10-9 m), this means a sheet of paper is about 100,000 nanometers thick, or that approximately 40,000 nanometers are needed to equal the width of an average human hair.

A nanometer-sized particle is smaller than a living cell and can be seen only with the most powerful electron microscopes available today. At the nanoscale, the physical, chemical, and biological properties of materials differ fundamentally and invaluably from the properties of individual atoms and larger micron-sized bulk materials.

As size decreases to the nano scale, there is a corresponding increase in surface area and surface energy. These unique properties are not present in larger particles. Nanotechnology R&D; is directed toward understanding and creating improved materials, devices, and systems that exploit these novel properties.

One of the benefits of increased surface energy is improvement of the rates of chemical reactions, also known as catalysis. Catalysis using nanoscale materials dramatically improves reaction rates relative to traditional catalysts by decreasing the size of the “hill” that chemical reagents must climb to be converted to products, and in some cases promote a chemical reaction that would not otherwise occur.

Nanocatalysis can be leveraged to further improve the performance of a variety of electrochemical and thermochemical applications, such as in the synthesis of industrial chemicals, emissions abatement, batteries, fuel cells, and other electronic components.

Designed and controlled fabrication and integration of nanomaterials, as well as nano-enabled devices, are likely to revolutionize science and technology, undoubtedly solving many of the problems faced by mankind today. For instance, portable power and clean-technology are two key areas where large-scale efforts are currently underway to integrate advanced nano scale materials and high-performance catalysts into solutions for more efficient chemical synthesis, emissions reduction, solar energy, fuel cell development, and battery technology; others include hydrogen generation, water filtration, and electronics manufacturing.

The ability to produce advanced nano scale materials in commercial volumes is a necessary component to facilitate a company’s participation in mainstream markets. QuantumSphere has developed a fully automated, scalable, and environmentally safe manufacturing process that can yield superior quality nano metals and catalysts in commercial volumes with consistent, narrow particle size distribution. In October 2007, QuantumSphere was awarded a key U.S. patent for its “Method and Apparatus for Forming Nanoparticles” with more than 30 other applications pending in the areas of compositions, dispersions, processes, and commercial devices. The company has leveraged its core expertise and partnered with industry leaders to achieve mass-market penetration and distribution for its advanced catalysts, unique process chemistries, high performance electrodes, and other platform technologies.

Catalyst Footnote: A catalyst is a substance that increases the rate of a chemical reaction by reducing the required activation energy. In addition to speeding up certain chemical reactions, catalysts also can be used to alter the temperature and pressure at which various thermal and elctro-chemical reactions take place and, thus, make them more efficient. Nanocatalysts represent the convergence of catalysts, a mature technology, with a new one, nanotechnology. Nanocatalysts are nanoscale materials (typically under 100 nanometers in size) that have been subjected to nanoscale structural modification in order to enhance their catalytic activity by increasing the active surface area, resulting in unique physical properties with superior performance.

The extent of the catalyst market may not be apparent to the casual observer because catalysts are mostly used in intermediate processing steps, but catalysts are a multi-billion dollar industry. Current global catalyst markets are in excess of $12 billion annually. Nanocatalysts sales are projected to reach $6.0 billion by 2015 and will play a critical role in reducing costs and increasing efficiency in the generation, storage, and usage of energy. Sources: Freedonia Group, Global Industry Analysts, Inc.