By Sunil Bhardwaj

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The size of nanomaterials is very similar to that of biological molecules and structures; therefore, these find extensive use in vivo and in vitro biomedical applications. The integration of nanomaterials with biology had led to development of various diagnostic devices, contrast agents, analytical tools, physical therapy applications and drug delivery vehicles.

1. Diagnostics: Magnetic nanoparticles, bound to a suitable antibody, are used to label molecules, structures or microorganisms. Gold nanoparticles tagged with short segments of DNA are used for the detection of genetic sequence. Multicolour optical coding for biological assays has been achieved by embedding different sized quantum dots, into polymeric microbeads. Nanopore technology for the analysis of nucleic acids can convert strings of nucleotides directly into electronic signature.

2. Drug delivery: Drug consumption and side effects can be reduced considerably by depositing the active agent in the diseased region and inappropriate dose. Nanoporous materials can be used to hold small drug molecules and to transport them to the desired location. Applications include cancer treatment with iron nanoparticles or gold shells.

3. Tissue repair: Nanotechnology can help to regenerate or to repair damaged tissues and the technique scaled tissue engineering. This uses artificially stimulated cell proliferation through suitable nonmaterial based scaffolds and growth factors. Tissue engineering might replace today’s conventional treatments like organ transplants or artificial implants surgeries.

4. Transdermal drug delivery: It involves nano sized protrusions on the underside of patches that would be fixed to the skin like a plaster. The protrusions carrying doses of the drug act as tiny needles, discharging the drug, which can then reach the other parts of the body through tissue fluids.

5. Nano zinc oxide and titanium oxide are used in sunscreen creams, lotions and other cosmetics, These nanoparticles become transparent and retain their ability to absorb UV radiation.

6. Nanoparticles of tungsten - carbide -cobalt provide a hard coating. This results in a greater resistance to wear in applications such as drill bits, cutting tools and jet engine parts.

7. Nano coating over glass produces, self cleaning glass, which becomes transparent or opaque according to the current applied.

8. Nanotechnology finds applications in energy storage and its conversion.

9. Nanomaterials are investigated as electrode material in batteries and fuel cells.

10. Nanotubes also offer enhanced hydrogen storage capability for the use in fuel cells.

11. Nanotechnology finds applications in the production, processing safety and packaging of food stuffs.

12. Nano fibres in clothes make waterproof and stain-repellant or wrinkle-free and can be washed less frequently. Nanotechnology in textiles may offer protection from electrostatic charges for the wearer.

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