AQA GCSE Chemistry

Revision Notes

2.4.2 Uses of Nanoparticles

Applications of Nanoparticles

  • 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

Advantages & Disadvantages of Nanoparticles

  • Nanoparticles have widespread uses and applications that can provide an immense advance in materials technology
  • 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

Exam Tip

You may be asked to explain other uses of nanoparticles not included here but you will be given sufficient information in the question to be able to provide a fully developed answer.

Author: Francesca

Fran has taught A level Chemistry in the UK for over 10 years. As head of science, she used her passion for education to drive improvement for staff and students, supporting them to achieve their full potential. Fran has also co-written science textbooks and worked as an examiner for UK exam boards.
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