Today we will discuss the mechanical applications of nanomaterials.
1.) Tougher and Harder Cutting Tools. a) Cutting tools made of nanomaterials, such as tungsten carbide, tatalum carbide, and titanium carbide, are much harder, much more wear-resistant, erosion-resistant, and last longer than their conventional (large grained) counterparts.
b) For the miniaturization of microelectronics circuits, the industry needs micro drills (drill bits with diameter less than the thickness of an average human hair or 100 um) with enhanced edge retention and far better wear resistance. As nano-crystalline carbides are much stronger, harder, and wear-resistant, they are currently being used in these micro drills.
2) Automobile with Great Fuel Efficiency. a) As nanomaterials are stronger, harder, and much more wear-resistant and erosion-resistant, they are can be used in spark plugs.
a.) Also, automobiles waste significant amounts of energy by losing the thermal energy generated by the engine. Thus, the engine cylinders are envisioned to be coated with nanocrystalline ceramics, such as zirconia and alumina, which retain heat much more efficiently that result in complete and efficient combustion of the fuel.
3) Aerospace Components with Enhanced Performance Characteristics. a) The fatigue strength increases with a reduction in the grain size of the material. Nanomaterials provide such a significant reduction in the grain size over conventional materials that the fatigue life is increased by an average of 200-300%.
b) In spacecrafts, elevated-temperature strength of the material is crucial because the components (such as rocket engines, thrusters, and vectoring nozzles) operate at much higher temperatures than aircrafts and higher speeds.
4) Ductile Ceramics. a) Ceramics are very hard, brittle, and hard to machine even at high temperatures. But, with a reduction in grain size, their properties change drastically.
b) Nanocrystalline ceramics can be pressed and sintered into various shapes at significantly lower temperatures. For example, Zirconia is a hard, brittle ceramics, has even been rendered superplastic, i.e., it can deformed to great lengths (up to three times of its original length). However, these ceramics must possess nanocrystalline grains to be super-plastic.
c) Ceramics based on silicon nitrid (Si3N4) and silicon carbide (SiC), have been used in automative applications as high-strength springs, ball bearings, and valve filters, and because they possess good formability and machinability combined with excellent physical, chemical, and mechanical properties.
d) They are also used as components in high-temperature furnaces.
5) Better Insulation Materials. a) Aerogels are nanocrystalline porous and extermely lightweight materials and can withstand 100 times their weight. They are currently being used for insulation in offices, homes etc.
b) They are also being used as materials for “smart” windows, which darken when the sun is too bright and they lighten themselves otherwise.
If you know more magnetic applications of nanomaterials, then please share with us.