Technology Insights

Top 10 new nanotechnology innovations

Jake Mitchell

Jake Mitchell

Digital Marketing Executive – IN-PART, Sheffield.

You may have heard the phrase ‘the best things come in small packages’ and that’s certainly the case with these new nanotechnology innovations. The 10 university-developed nanotechnologies profiled below are those most viewed on our platform by the industrial R&D community since the start of 2020. New nanotechnology innovations are rapidly changing the technological landscape across a range of sectors and these are set to be the next big (but also very small) thing.

Each of the following new nanotechnology innovations has been published on IN-PART’s matchmaking platform by a university or research institute with a view to find new industry partners to work with on co-development and commercialisation. Through the links below (after setting up an account for the platform which is completely free for industry) you can read the full summary article. If the nanotech opportunity aligns with your company’s priorities, you can submit technical questions or request further information directly through the platform, and the team behind the technology will send you a response via email.

Top 10 new nanotechnology innovations

Looking to nature for superior carbon fibres

The light, durable and aesthetic properties of carbon fibre continue to see the industry thrive, with the material being used in many applications such as aerospace, performance automobiles and sports equipment, as well as having vital practical applications such as water filtration. Yet, the current nanotechnology methodologies to produce carbon fibres, such as those sourced from polyacrylonitrile (a synthetic polymer) and raw pitch, are still too expensive to see carbon fibre being used on a consumer-wide scale. 

This new nanotechnology innovation developed by researchers at the University of North Texas produces carbon fibre from the seed coats of plants such as the vanilla orchid, but this nanotech is anything but vanilla… This new cost-effective method produces environmentally friendly and higher-quality carbon fibres that are smoother, have a more narrow diameter distribution and have fewer defects than Kraft lignin fibres. 

Read the full project summary to learn more about this new nanotechnology innovations feature. 

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A nanocarrier to improve targeted drug delivery

Targeted drug delivery is a revolutionary approach for disease treatment, where a concentrated dose of medication is transported directly to a disease site, thereby avoiding negative side effects on healthy tissue. However, despite this promising science, efficient carriers with the ability to improve stability and selectivity of a drug within the body and also reduce unwanted immune responses are a rarity, thus limiting the effective delivery of therapeutic compounds.

To address this challenge, a team of scientists at the State University of New York have developed a customised nanocarrier platform with the capability of structure-based design and systematic optimisation. The technology provides multiple chemical formulations of biocompatible nanoparticles, consisting of polyethylene glycol, amino acids, and natural compounds, enabling the effective delivery of therapeutic drugs for the likes of infectious and autoimmune diseases, as well as cancer. 

The team is keen to engage with an industrial partner to license or further develop the technology.

Read the full project summary to learn more about this new nanotechnology innovations feature. 

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New advances for transparent conductive thin films

Transparent conductive films are used in many electronic devices for touchscreens and displays, as well as in photovoltaics and other high-performance coatings. The most common conductive material used in these films is Indium Tin Oxide (ITO). ITO is brittle and manufactured from expensive and rare source materials, so there is a need for cheaper and more flexible alternatives as demand rises for wearable electronics and bendable thin films.

Scientists working at The University of Hong Kong have developed a technique to grow flexible silver nanoparticles and nanowires that outperform Indium Tin Oxide equivalents. The highly transparent and conductive silver nanomaterials are produced using low-cost materials and a simple manufacturing process. 

The researchers are keen to engage with industry to identify potential applications.

Read the full project summary to learn more about this new nanotechnology innovations feature. 

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A new frontier for droplets in droplets

Multiple emulsions (mixes of immiscible liquids formed as droplets inside droplets) are present in everyday life in a wide range of products, such as pharmaceuticals, paints and coatings, cosmetics and foods. However, current technologies to create these encapsulated products present some limitations as they are slow, require specific equipment and often create too-large droplets.

The researchers behind this project at the University of California, Santa Barbara have found a way to overcome such limitations and create multi-nanoemulsions and nanoparticles, with diameters as small as 100-200 nm. These nanoparticles are stable and can be created using standard, scalable equipment. This new nanotechnology innovation is set to have an impact on many industries: improving agricultural products, aiding the delivery of pharmaceutical drugs, and even creating low-calorie food emulsions by adding water droplets in fat oils.

Read the full project summary to learn more about this new nanotechnology innovations feature. 

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The world’s smallest (and most useful) hacky sacks

If you asked someone what hacky sacks are good for, the response probably wouldn’t be drug delivery, gene therapy or a vaccine adjuvant. Yet, researchers at Puerto Rico Science, Technology & Research Trust have achieved precisely that through supramolecular formations in a hacky sack architecture based on the nucleoside, guanosine. 

Nanoparticle drug delivery has become an increasingly important strategy in healthcare, including in treatments for COVID-19, crossing the blood-brain barrier, and providing cell-specific targeting for disease treatments. These new nanoparticles from Puerto Rico scientists, formed by small molecules which self-assemble under specific temperature or pH conditions, display a number of key benefits: they are easy to synthesize and reproduce at different scales, they maintain integrity under various key conditions (freeze-drying, pipetting etc.), and exhibit encapsulation and controlled release of therapeutic agents such as nucleic acids and proteins. 

This nanotechnology innovation is already patented and the team are seeking development or commercial partners as well as exclusive or non-exclusive licensing.

Read the full project summary to learn more about this new nanotechnology innovations feature. 

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A spray-drying technique making noise in gene silencing

Silencing disease-related genes is as impressive as it sounds – suppressing the expression of a specific gene, reducing its effect at the core. Short interfering RNA (siRNA) can theoretically do just that, defending against almost any external invasion, such as viral infection. But its effectiveness against fighting lung-related diseases specifically is severely inhibited by the need for it to be formulated for inhalation via a nanocarrier.

A research group at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich has developed a novel solution that could potentially revolutionise this field: a platform for the spray-drying of siRNA nanoparticles (a method for transforming a fluid into dry powder) for targeted delivery against a whole host of respiratory-related illnesses, from asthma to cystic fibrosis to lung cancer. The inhalable dry powder formulation created through the new technique has shown to preserve nanoparticle characteristics after redispersion, as well as siRNA integrity and the bioactivity of both the siRNA and nanocarrier system, whilst ensuring efficient gene silencing in lung epithelial cells and T cells.

The team are on the hunt for collaborators to further up-scale production.

Read the full project summary to learn more about this new nanotechnology innovations feature. 

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Charging the electric vehicle revolution

Lithium-ion batteries are becoming more common as an energy source for electric vehicles, but current battery technology has limitations such as long charging times and short driving range, and therefore can’t support the growing demands of the market. New developments are focussing on improving properties such as the energy density of lithium-ion batteries to increase driving range by replacing graphite anodes with silicon. Whilst silicon has a high capacity for lithium, it cracks easily in batteries, reducing the lifetime of an anode.

Silicon-based nanoparticles developed by scientists at the University of East Anglia can be compacted together, preventing cracking of the anode in a major leap forward for the industry. The nanoparticles also provide double the energy capacity of graphite anodes.

After successful testing in the laboratory, the team is looking to take the next step with industry collaborators.

Read the full project summary to learn more about this new nanotechnology innovations feature. 

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Printing nanoporosity for a renewable future

The ultra-high porosity of metal-organic frameworks makes them ideal for storing gases such as hydrogen and methane. With power operators seeking to prove that gas can be an on-demand repository of renewable energy, metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) offer a unique solution. So far, the use of MOFs has been challenged by handling difficulties, lengthy manufacturing processes and loss of porosity. 

Now, scientists at the University of Exeter have combined MOFs with 3D printable polymers to create materials that can be used in 3D printing without loss of porosity. The greater design flexibility will enable the fabrication of complex structures with pore sizes ranging from the macro to the nanoscale. The 3D printing process also ensures MOF crystals are strongly bound to the polymer surface, reducing the need for handling.

The university is continuing to explore the range of materials and applications this technology can enable.

Read the full project summary to learn more about this new nanotechnology innovations feature. 

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A fireproof nanomaterial bringing the heat

Household fires are costly in more ways than one. The use of flammable materials including polystyrene for building insulation only propagates these fires, and the addition of flame-retardant additives like graphene oxide form toxic byproducts during a fire which are harmful to both humans and the environment.

A solution to these problems has been developed by researchers at Northeastern University in the form of a fire-retardant aerogel, consisting of cellulose nanofibres and metallic phase molybdenum disulphide, that is ultralight and high strength. The material has a crosslinking structure that limits the oxygen index and improves fire resistance, and a nano barrier that inhibits toxic substance release whilst suppressing external heat and oxygen permeation.

The team at Northeastern are looking for commercial and development opportunities to make a big impact with their new nanotechnology.

Read the full project summary to learn more about this new nanotechnology innovations feature. 

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A targeted solution to the silent pandemic

Recent reports suggest that there’s a ‘silent pandemic’ of superbugs being created by microbial resistance in farm animals, and therefore a need to improve antibiotic stewardship in animal pharmaceuticals. As part of this, it’s crucial that new alternatives to antibiotics are found to protect livestock such as pigs from diseases and ensure positive growth and health.

Working towards this goal, researchers at the University of Manitoba have developed a new nanoparticle innovation that utilises essential oils as a food supplement alternative to antibiotics, which is less expensive than current technologies. This patented nanotechnology has shown positive results in terms of the timed release of essential oils through stabilising the compounds and preventing absorption in the stomach before reaching the mid-gut, and all of the ingredients used are already approved for use in animal feeds.

The team is looking for new collaborators to continue development.

Read the full project summary to learn more about this new nanotechnology innovations feature. 

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Production credits:

Technologies written by Jake Mitchell (1, 5, 10), Ella Cliff (2, 6, 9), Frances Wilkinson (3, 7, 14), Mireia Baizan-Urgell (4) and Georgia Gascoyne (8).

Edited by Ruth Kirk. Formatting by Frances Wilkinson.

Copyrights reserved unless otherwise agreed – IN-PART Publishing Ltd., 2021: ‘New nanotechnology innovations’


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Header Image: drmakete lab / Unsplash License

In text image licenses in order of appearence: AlfRibeiro / Adobe Stock, HiguchiJu / CC BY 4.0, Kunal Mukherjee / CC BY-SA 2.0, A_Different_Perspective / Pixabay License, Ricardo Gomez Angel / Unsplash License, CROCOTHERY / Adobe Stock, seksan94 / Adobe Stock, Alexey Brin / Adobe Stock, Ludmila / Adobe Stock, Kenneth Schippe / Unsplash License

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