What is Nanotechnology?

Nanotechnology is a emerging field dealing with the creation of materials that are on the size range of 1 to 100 nm.  To put that size into perspective, the average width of a human hair is 17,000 nm.  Nanotechnology is becoming an important area of research because scientists are finding that when materials are made on the nano-scale, they can have some amazing new properties.  Here at SolRayo, we are using nanotechnology to make Li-Ion batteries that last longer and ultracapacitors that store more energy.

Economical Nanotechnology

Over the past decade, there has been much research on nanomaterials and nanotechnology. However, few have made their way into the commercial sector typically due to the high processing costs of making structures that are on the nanometer scale. However, at SolRayo we use chemistry (a field typically referred to as sol-gel chemistry) to create nanoparticles which self-assemble. This means that by mixing the right chemicals in under the right conditions, the nanoparticles will be created without expensive processing techniques. An example of the reactions which occur to create these nanoparticles (called hydrolysis and condensation) are shown in Figure 1. 

Figure 1: Hydrolysis and condensation reactions for producing nanoparticles from a metal alkoxide

Really Small Particles

At SolRayo, we can synthesize many different types of nanoparticles depending on our application. These nanoparticles can be very small, anywhere from 1.5 - 10 nm in diameter. These particles are too small to see with even the most powerful optical microscope (these particles require an electron microscope). However, they are able to refract light from a laser beam. This can be seen in Figure 2. 

Figure 2: Vial of nanoparticles (left) and vial of water (right) with laser beam.

Here, the vial on the right is water, and the vial on the left is our nanoparticles suspended in water. To the naked eye they look identical because the particles are so small. However when a laser beam is passed through both vials, we do not see the laser beam through the water vial, but do see it when the nanoparticles are suspended in water. This is because the laser beam hits the small nanoparticles and is refracted, making the laser beam visible.