How Nanotechnology Will Change Your Phone Forever

Back to Blog  •  Posted on October 3, 2014 by admin

In 2014, wizards at the Cockrell School of Engineering at the University of Texas built an electric motor 500 times smaller than a grain of salt, small enough to squeeze inside of a human cell. The Ultrahigh-Speed Rotating Nanoelectromechanical System (NEMS) spins at 18,000 rpms for up to 15 hours of continuous operation. Researchers envision that fleets of NMS will one day scour human arteries for plaque and tumors.

Such is a step in nanotechnology, the field of half-science, half-magic that manipulates atoms and molecules less than 1/1000 the size of a human hair. Smartphone manufacturers have already adopted nano-technologies, and the results from these tiny technologies are astronomical.

In February 2014, LG unveiled the G Flex, a bendable bar-style smartphone with a self-healing back. Nanotechnology allows the rear panel to recover from slight scratches and minor gouges, preserving its mint resale value. By why stop at cosmetic healing? Why not just reinvent glass?

Samsung already has a foldable, rollable AMOLED glass screen. A company called Pilkington offers self-cleaning glass. It is photocatalytic, meaning that nanoparticles, energized by ultraviolet light, loosen grime from the glass. It is also hydrophilic, meaning that water spreads evenly across the screen as a cleanser.

The company Liquipel offers a hydrophobic waterproof coating for smartphones, tablets and electrical gadgets. The nano-coating, which is 1000 times thinner than a human hair, completely waterproofs the skin and guts of any device. As of now, an eligible device must be mailed to Liquipel for application.

Scientists at Germany’s Technische Universität Dresden and the Fraunhofer Institute for Electron Beam and Plasma Technology recently journeyed to the future and returned with a miniature spectrometer powered by nano-antennas. Though still in the preliminary stage, the device could one day fit inside a tablet or smartphone, and could be used by diabetics to non-invasively check their blood glucose levels.

Much effort is currently being poured into wireless charging. Nanotechnology allows phones to be charged wirelessly via microwave radiation, something like heating up a bag of popcorn. One experimental technology from the Center for Nanotechnology and Molecular Materials at Wake Forest University uses layers of carbon nanotubes to create a thermoelectric charging device. Theoretically, the invention – called Power Felt – uses temperature differences to generate an electric charge. A long-distance runner could power his smartphone using only the heat of his skin.

One day, phones may wrap around wrists like bracelets, heal themselves and even detect food contaminants. Limits are being broken like toothpicks, and phones will never be the same.