Nanomaterials, as the name suggests, are extremely minute particles. They are chemical substances or materials which function at a very small scale. These have the increased strength, higher chemical reactivity and conductivity when compared to the same materials without nanoscale features. They might behave differently when compared to their bulk counterparts. These can be hazardous if they enter our body.
FORMS OF NANOMATERIALS
Nanomaterials can occur naturally in the nature of soot from forest fires, volcanic ash etc. They can even be created unintentionally as by-products of various combustion chemical reactions like diesel engines, wielding etc. The naturally occurring nanomaterials and the by-products are termed as ultrafine particles since they are chemically heterogeneous in nature and are physically different too.
However, the nanomaterials that are engineered and intentionally created are designed in such a manner that they possess certain chemical and physical properties which can be utilised for a certain function or purpose.
DIMENSIONS OF NANOMATERIALS
There are various types of nanomaterials based on the dimensions outside the (<100 nm) range.
- Zero-Dimensional Nanomaterials- these are the type of nanomaterials that lie within the nanoscale dimensional range of 100 nm. None of the materials has a dimension larger than 100 nm. Majority of the nanoparticles lie in this range.
- One Dimensional Nanomaterials- these are the type whose one dimension lies outside of the nanoscale. For example, nanorods, nanotubes and nanowires.
- Two Dimensional Nanomaterials- these are the type whose two dimensions lies outside of the nanoscale and shows plate-like shapes. For example, nanofilms, nanocoatings, nanolayers etc.
- Three Dimensional Nanomaterials- these do not have any of the dimensions lying on the nanoscale. These consist of bulk powders, bundles of nanowires, multi-nanolayers, dispersions of nanoparticles and nanotubes etc.
TO SUM IT ALL UP
The use of nanotechnology is increasing every day with widespread applications in the field of electronics, textiles, cosmetics, environment protection, information technology, healthcare etc. In the food sector, nanomaterials face closer scrutiny than others. Nanomaterials are the most important product of nanotechnologies.
Since nanomaterials are different from the bulkier counterparts, they go through risk assessment methods. There are three types of nanomaterials- engineered (these type are deliberately made by humans and have certain required characteristics to perform a specific function), incidental (these type are incidentally produced as a by-product of industrial or some mechanical processes), natural (these types are functional yet natural, found in nature).