Applications & Risks

Applications

  • The main industrial application of nanoparticles is in catalysis due to their high surface area to volume ratios.
  • Titanium dioxide is a good example of how the same chemical has different properties in bulk and nanoparticle form.
  • Titanium dioxide in nanoparticle form is used in sunscreens as it blocks UV light but leaves no white marks on the skin while also providing better coverage than other suncreams.
  • The same chemical in bulk form is used as a white pigment in paints.
  • Fullerenes are used in medicine and drug design as they are more easily absorbed than other particles and can deliver drugs to target areas more effectively.
  • Fullerenes are also used in electronic circuitry and as coatings for artificial limbs and joints.
  • Nanoparticles of silver are sprayed onto the fibres of medical clothing and surgical masks which gives them the flexibility of a material but with the added benefit of the antibacterial properties of silver metal.

Risks

  • The use of nanoparticles in science is in its early stages so there are still a lot of unknown factors and potential risks.
  • In particular there is a lack of understanding on how they may affect health.
  • Although there haven’t been any serious short term side effects, there could be long term side effects which we haven’t detected yet as they haven’t been in use long enough.
  • Even a small amount of toxicity in a particular nanoparticle would be multiplied due to the high surface area to volume ratio.
  • This coupled with the fact that they are not easily disposed of by the body are a cause for caution in the medical application of nanoparticles.

Need help?

AQA GCSE Chemistry Notes

Want to aim for a Level 9?

See if you’ve got what it takes. Test yourself with our topic questions.

Morgan Curtin Chemistry

Author: Morgan

Morgan’s passion for the Periodic Table begun on his 10th birthday when he received his first Chemistry set. After studying the subject at university he went on to become a fully fledged Chemistry teacher, and now works in an international school in Madrid! In his spare time he helps create our fantastic resources to help you ace your exams.