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FAQ: Nano in products

Q: Is it expensive to manufacture nanoproducts?

A: It depends a lot on what types of nanostructures that the product consists of, and what you mean by expensive.  Nanoparticles of mixed sizes, such as zink oxide for paint, can often be manufactured in large quantities. Modern microchips, in which the smallest structures are less than 10 nm, are expensive to manufacture, but the high value of the finished product still makes it profitable.

It is very challenging to produce small structures that are extremely well arranged, for example, when all nanoparticles need to be at the exact same size or arranged in neat rows. Generally, a higher degree of order and control leads to better performance, while mass-production often require some loss of this control.
Zink oxide for use in sunscreen or in white paint is an example of where the size is of less importance, mixed particle sizes works well as long as they are small enough to fulfill their purpose. These particles can be produced in large scale by cheap methods.  Catalysts of noble metals such as palladium or platinum are produced in nanosize due to that the material itself is so expensive. If all the particles could be produced in the same size, and with a complex structure, the performance could be increased. A lot of research and development is conducted to manufacture these ideal structures in an efficient way.
An extreme example, where the demands for control are very high, are the modern microchips. The accuracy in the smallest structures is less than 10 nm. Sideways, but only a single atomic layer in thickness. The equipment needed to produce structures like that costs several billion kronor.

 

Q: How fast does a nanowire grow?

A: Approximately, at the same speed as kids grow, on average two nanometers per second.