Nanotechnology and the Challenges of Nanoscale Material Characterization
The ability to characterize nanoscale materials is essential to many applications and industries around the world. Nanoscale materials are increasingly beneficial to fields such as electronics, medical devices, and scientific research, so combating the current challenges is crucial for their development. In this blog post, we look at what nanoscale material characterization is and the challenges in the field.
An Overview of Nanotechnology
Nanotechnology, in simple terms, is the science of understanding and manipulating materials of nanometer size to characterize and develop devices, materials, and structures. It is an interdisciplinary subject that encompasses biology, chemistry, physics, materials science, and engineering and how these all function in conjunction with technology. Nanomaterials is an important field in nanotechnology, and characterizing them helps identify what applications they are most suitable for.
What is Nanoscale Material Characterization?
Nanoscale materials, or nanomaterials, are vital in a growing range of applications and industries because they hold unique properties beneficial to manufacturers, such as increased strength and effectiveness or unique properties. They are less than 100 nanometers in size and can be manufactured or exist naturally, but their specific properties can influence how they perform in different nanotechnology applications. As a result, there is high demand for characterizing nanoscale materials, which we will explain in more detail.
Nanoscale material characterization is the analysis of particles to understand their biological, chemical, optical and physical properties and how these can be used to develop or manufacture certain applications. The properties analyzed in characterization include chemical composition, electrochemistry, optical and mechanical properties, oxidation state, size, surface composition, and some others, all of which are crucial when nanoscale materials are used in other products.
There are multiple ways of characterizing nanoscale materials. Some of the most common methods include atomic force microscopy, dynamic light scattering, scanning and transmission electron microscopes (SEMs and TEMs), Raman and UV-Vis-NIR microspectrometers. However, each comes with its own advantages and drawbacks.
What Challenges Does Nanoscale Material Characterization Face?
In the field of nanotechnology, characterizing nanoscale materials is a challenge in itself, as many aspects can hinder the process. It is crucial that the magnetic, mechanical, optical, structural, and thermal properties of a material can be understood so that it can be used to enhance, not hinder, specific applications. These challenges include a lack of adequate reference materials, unsuitable characterization techniques, incorrect preparation methods, and the inability to interpret the data correctly. In addition, there is a need for more accurate characterization techniques of nanomaterials on-line and in situ1.
This section will highlight some of the main challenges of nanoscale material characterization and how they can be approached.
- Further Investigation
Because nanoparticles frequently agglomerate, it can be difficult to accurately measure the particle size and properties. To combat this problem, stable dispersion is required and often conducted through light scattering and light measurement-based instruments, such as UV-Vis-NIR spectrometers. UV-Vis-NIR allows researchers to obtain sensible estimates of nanoparticle size, shape, and disposition.2
Previously, characterization was performed by transmission electron microscopy (TEM) or inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry, but now UV-Vis-NIR microspectroscopy has become an industry standard alongside them for characterizing nanomaterials. UV-Vis-NIR operates with wavelengths on either side of visible light spectral region (from 200nm up to 2500nm) and analyzes samples' absorption or transmission spectra. This analysis enables the study of the crystalline structure of individual particles, as well as its composition and structure.
Another technique frequently used in characterizing nanomaterials is Raman microspectroscopy. It is a versatile technique that enables analysis of a range of properties beyond elemental composition. Through Raman microspectroscopy, scientists can identify single nanoparticles' number, concentration, and size distribution, study their layers and how they function, and how nanoparticles and biomolecules interact. UV-Vis-Nir and Raman microspectroscopy is also used to determine the optical properties of nanomaterials, which is essential in electronics, energy, and other applications of nanotechnology.
CRAIC Technologies designs and manufactures a large collection of microspectrometers for use in various applications. From materials science to semiconductor metrology and nanotechnology to protein crystals, these instruments are used to characterize materials for multiple purposes.
One example is our 2030PV PRO™ microspectrophotometer, a powerful analysis instrument offering cutting-edge UV-Vis-NIR microspectroscopy with an optional Raman spectrometer module. The 2030PV PRO™ is the perfect solution for nanotechnology applications, as it incorporates the latest technology in electronics, optics, spectroscopy, and software to offer superior analytical performance.
Contact a team member today and find out how our products can help you overcome the challenges of material characterization applications.