Hopped up on Nanoscience

By Ashley Rone

Nanotechnology is an important part of biology, chemistry, physics, and engineering. This type of technology relies on controlling matter on an atomic, molecular, and supramolecular scale. A particle is considered a nanoparticle if its dimensions are less than 100 nanometers in size which means they are not visible to the naked eye.

Nuri Oncel giving a presentation on nanotechnology during a Hopped up on Science gathering at Half Brothers Brewery in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Photo by Ashley Rone.

Nuri Oncel an Associate Professor in the Department of Physics and Astrophysics at the University of North Dakota is studying the different uses of nanotechnology. Nanotechnology has found its way into the medical field. “Functionalized nanoparticles can travel in the bloodstream and attach to cancer cells. Under near-infrared light, the malignant tumor becomes visible,” said Oncel. This specific use of nanotechnology can save lives by allowing doctors to detect cancer cells early on and therefore helping patients receive treatment faster.

Nanotechnology is prevalent in the field of energy science. Oncel explains, “Nanotechnology can be used to optimize lithium batteries and enhance the battery life.” This would allow consumers and companies to save money because they would purchase fewer batteries and other devices that contain lithium batteries.

This field of science also applies to the environment. Sunscreen and beauty products such as lotions and face creams contain nanoparticles. “Putting these nanoparticles on your body can cause them be absorbed into your skin,” said Oncel. “But when you go into the ocean they are washed off and remain in the water source.” Oncel also stated, “These nanoparticles are not naturally occurring they are synthesized so we are unsure of how they affect the environment and living organisms.”

The United States has already spent $1.4 billion on nanotechnology research this year. But Oncel believes this is a step in the right direction for science. “Research on nanotechnology can contribute advancement in many fields in science.” This funding would benefit different areas of research such as the medical, environmental, and electronics. It seems that the research on nanoscience and nanotechnology is going to be around for a long time. Recent developments in technology have enabled scientists to study properties of atoms and molecules which will allow them to fine tune properties of nanomaterials for many new applications.