Synthetic nanomaterials, nano-coatings and nanostructures can give products special properties. A large number of such "nanoproducts" are available on the market in a variety of applications.
Nanotechnology and the special properties of nanomaterials make it possible to develop new products that can be used in many different fields. Surfaces can be made scratch-resistant, dirt-repellent, water-repellent or antibacterial, and plastics can be made lighter and more robust. Surface structures and coatings enable water to run off, and make surfaces conduct electricity.
Numerous foodstuffs contain natural nanomaterials (e.g. the casein that is found in milk). However, only a few foodstuffs and food additives on the Swiss market currently contain nano-scale ingredients. These include silicon dioxide (anti-caking agent), carotenoids (pigments or nutritionally beneficial substances) and micelles (capsules for vitamins, flavours, coenzyme Q10, etc.). These are not novel nanomaterials, but products that have been manufactured and safely used for many years.
Coated nano-sized titanium dioxide is used as a UV filter in some sun protection products with high SPF factors. Nano titanium dioxide is one of the most investigated nanomaterials. Various studies show that nano-sized titanium dioxide cannot penetrate the body through healthy skin.
As regards packaging, there are now composite films and plastic bottles on the market whose barrier properties against gases and flavouring agents have been optimised by nanotechnology. Clay nano-composites and silicon dioxide are used for this purpose.
The term "nano" is not currently used consistently:
- Nanomaterials may be contained in products either in a free form, in a loosely combined form (agglomerated) or in a fixed, closely combined (aggregated) form.
- Products labelled as "nano" may be free from nanomaterials, and may only form a nano-thickness coating when they are used.
- Nanomaterials may be incorporated into stable objects (e.g. plastics) or may adhere to their surface.
- Alternatively, objects may simply have nano-sized surface structures.
Natural and synthetic nanomaterials
Natural nanomaterials are formed during the process of erosion, volcanic eruptions and forest fires. Combustion processes release ultra-fine particles into the environment. Common naturally occurring nanomaterials include, among others, amorphous silicon dioxide, soot and ash.
Synthetic nanomaterials are either deliberately manufactured or occur as side products of production processes. The most significant synthetic nanomaterials in terms of quantity include carbon black (industrially produced soot), silicon dioxide, calcium carbonate and titanium dioxide.
Databases, product lists and market studies
Various databases, product lists and studies list the products in which nanomaterials are used. Databases also provide information on the toxicity of nanomaterials. You can find further information under “Links”
Last modification 15.01.2020