One of the first uses of nanotechnology is likely to be the creation of new types of materials and the modification of existing ones.

For example, creating steel with a nanostructure might give much higher strength, lighter weight, and either extremely rigid or highly flexible depending on the usage.

Imagine large steel beams used for construction that two men can carry, but are many times stronger than what is used today.

See: living materials

Nanomaterials are also specialty powders. The difference between a nanoparticle and a bog-standard speck of something is that the former has been specifically engineered for particle size, proportion of atoms in the grain boundaries or particle surfaces, and morphology. Nanopowders usually range in size from 1 to 100 nanometers.

For example, nanoparticles of zinc oxide make for a better sunscreen, as they have uniform characteristics from particle to particle, enabling the properties of the sunscreen to be specifically tailored.

Tungsten-carbide and ceramic nanopowders are used in spray form to coat items to increase their surface hardness for scratch resistance, or to improve their slipperiness for liquid handling.

Graphite nanopowder is now used in ultracapacitors and batteries, since it provides a greater surface area for the chemical reaction than simple ground carbon.

Ceramic nanopowder can be used as a joining compound between two ceramic objects, creating a stronger bond when sintered than adhesives or ceramic slurry.

Nanopowders can also be used to imbue a material with properties not normally found. For example, there is work going on to saturate polymers with metallic or graphite particles to create conductive plastic.

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