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Applications

This page lists eight example applications selected by our team to illustrate the range of potential applications that are enabled by our technology. They are grouped by their estimated difficulty and developmental timeframes.

Low-Hanging Fruit

#1. Load-bearing and ion-conducting surfaces, films and membranes
NSC's ability to provide polymer substructures for pendant groups is directly applicable to nano-engineered surfaces.  These may be nanopolymer scaffolds with perfluorocarbon pendant groups that would have 1) the desired degree of non-stick, 2) cation conducting but electronically non-conductive (dialectric) properties, or 3) friction characteristics without the fundamental fluidity limitations of existing-art all-perfluorocarbon materials or lubricants.  Polysulfonyl cation-conducting surfaces for batteries, fuel cells and thermoelectric converters are also in this category.  The exceedingly large surface areas can be applied to large-scale chromatographic separation of chemical mixtures.  There is existing commercial demand for all of these applications.

#2. Nanostructured Explosives
The precise positioning and/or orientation of oxidant and fuel groups allows a new kind of explosive to be manufactured in which stability and conformation can be uniquely defined.  For example, nanoDetCord could be less than 10 nanometers in diameter where 1 teaspoon (4 grams) of material would produce 100 million meters of detcord.  This diameter is so small that a finger placed directly on top of the exploding detcord would be unlikely to feel anything.  NanoExplosive triggers may allow bulk-explosive devices to have longer shelf lives and to be safer.

#3. Self-repairing polymer materials
The combination of strong covalent bonds for the polymer backbone with weak hydrogen bonds for the thermodynamic stabilizing effect allows polymer nanostructures to be deformed by stretching or impact and to re-form into their thermodynamically favored conformation. By controlling the relative proportion of rigid and semi-rigid segments, a variety of self-repair properties can be generated without the need for new monomer starting materials. Better-than-Kevlar bullet-proof vests, self-repairing fabrics for clothing, and novel elastic and energy-dissipative fibers are but a few potential applications of this class.

Medium-Hanging Fruit

#4. Nanopolymer Development Kits
Once NSC's library of vector-directional monomers and oligomers is sufficiently robust, these could be packaged in "kits" (nanoTinkerToy sets) for research-and-development purposes.  Such nanostructural self-assembly toolkits would enable rapid prototyping.  By eliminating interferences that occur between top-down nanostructuring methods, bottom-up manufacturing allows a tight R&D cycle with only two primary teams, an applications team and a chemistry team, where the applications team defines the performance criteria and tests each polymer material after production, and where the chemistry team handles the polymerization and new-monomer synthesis.  See also our PowerPoint presentation about restructuring the R&D process to take full advantage of bottom-up design.

#5. Ion-selective ion-conducting pores
The ability to line the insides of nanotubes with charged and/or electronegative functional groups opens the door to cation-conducting pores that can be ion-size selective through design control of the pore diameters.  Proton-only pores are our intended first implementation of this capability.  Electrically driven acid and naked-proton pumps are likely to be of high demand for acid catalysis in industry and lab-on-a-chip systems, for which we have the choice of proton-charged and uncharged variations.  The efficiency of proton conductivity can be demonstrated and measured in application #1, above, before this more advanced option is undertaken.

High-Hanging Fruit

#6. Negative refraction-index meta-materials
In the last decade, meta-materials with negative refraction indices have advanced from theoretical constructs into real-life materials, initially operating only in the microwave frequencies28 and more recently in the far infrared.29 The ability of nanopolymers to act as scaffolds for attachment of oxidants, chromophores, or other photon-active moieties opens the door to a new method for manufacturing meta-materials. The use of carefully sabotaged aromatic structures could extend the operational frequencies of such materials into the near infrared and visible ranges. Visible light negative-refraction lenses could enable photo-microscopy without loss of near-field detail.

#7. The Gold Sponge
The structured polymer backbones can be exploited to design S-shaped sinusoidal polymers which bind gold, radium, platinum, uranium, thorium and other valuable rare-earth elements (plus lead, mercury and other toxic and "junk" heavy metals) when the polymer is at rest (thermodynamic minimum).  When the polymer is stretched, the binding pockets will be disrupted and release the bound metal ions. This "mechanical" release of bound metals would make the current Japanese effort to mine seawater for uranium more economic by allowing the collectors to remain in the ocean 24/7/365 and by eliminating the problem of chemical extraction of the metals from the polymer.  In 1999, the President's Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology recommended that the U.S. consider participating in international research on extracting uranium from seawater.

#8. Ultra-high tensile-strength fibers (space-tether polymer)
The space tether is the necessary transformative technology for space development, which would open the door to practically unlimited cheap electrical power and for effective modulation of climate change within both global-warming and ice-age models.  Multi-backboned polymers enabled by nanostructural orientation of poly-functional monomers is one possible solution to this challenge.  The X-Prize offers media value for meeting this challenge.

NSC's technology offers transformative change in a wide variety of applications spaces. However, it is fundamentally difficult to anticipate all of the change, where it might manifest, in advance of the introduction and actual development of the technology.

We welcome inquiries from anybody with a special interest in any of these applications, or from anybody with a critical nanostructural R&D challenge towards which we might be able to contribute solutions.  Please see the Contact Information page for e-mail addresses and phone numbers.

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