Beyond Nano and Biotech: Step into the Future Factory!
Furthermore, we have to deal with the economics of introducing new nanocomposite materials even if we are aiming at incremental improvements. In most industries, ‘cost is king’ is the main paradigm and the market will determine if a small benefit in performance can justify an increase in manufacturing cost. There will be a much more detailed life cycle analysis of manufacturing in the future. This is already becoming apparent in the field of composites, because for such materials it is difficult to recover the original raw materials for recycling. As resources become scarce, this might even lead to new concepts of recycling factories.
Sectors, Where New Factory Concepts will be Required
The pharmaceutical sector is likely to undergo radical changes soon. Many of the traditional methods of preparing new drugs will be retained but in order to ensure quality and keep costs down, the processes will become more automated and incorporate more instrumentation. The introduction of nanotechnology to synthesize new methods of drug delivery and diagnosis will, in particular, lead to major changes in the manufacturing of products.
This could be step-wise, with initially an ‘extension of life’ of existing formulations, by delivering the drug via nanoparticles or nanocapsules. All such nanoparticles will also have a fairly sophisticated ‘target recognition’ surface layer to ensure that they reach the right target in the body. Making the factory process do this reproducibly and in a way that will satisfy regulators is going to be challenging.
In the Energy Sector
The energy sector will require new manufacturing methods. Nanoparticles and many biotechnology aspects are going to become central to new methods of storing and generating energy. Most of the new battery advances rely heavily on the development of new materials to store and release charged ions. This requires the integration of new carbon-based materials that can be designed to have huge internal surfaces into such batteries.
The drivers for this are not restricted to the hybrid and electric vehicle industry, but is generally spread across energy storage, especially for intermittent renewable sources such as wind and solar.
Nanoparticles for catalysis will also be required in an increasingly sophisticated form. There is great potential for making catalysts and reactors to help convert ‘spare electrical capacity’ into gas, either hydrogen by electrolysis or photoelectrolysis of water and possibly to produce methane from carbon dioxide and water.