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Nanosensors integrated into military systems and wearables suits of warfighters, provide real time threat detection

Nanosensors are nanoscale devices that measure physical quantities and convert those quantities to signals that can be detected and analyzed.


Due to the unique properties associated with nanomaterials (large surface area and surface reactivity) and the possibility to integrate electronic circuitry and power system on the same chip, technologies hitherto not possible with bulk materials can be realised using nanotechnology. Nano-enabled sensors for sensing physical parameters, CBRNE agents and others are being developed. The main advantages are high sensitivity and good selectivity, small size and portability.


Nanosensors can also potentially be integrated with nanoelectronics to add native processing capability to the nanosensor.  In addition to their sensitivity and specificity, nanosensors offer significant advantages in cost and response times, which makes nanosensors suitable for high-throughput applications.


Nanosesensors may function as physical sensors for motion detection, perimeter security, sonobuoys, ultrasensitive microphones image stabilization and correction system, extremely accurate guidance etc. Others are Electromagnetic wave sensors for detection of IR, UV, gamma and THz radiations, and particle detectors for Neutron and alpha particle detection. Chemical sensors for detection of chemical warfare agents and and Biological sensors for detection of biological warfare agents, physiological health monitoring, and food quality testing.


One-dimensional nanomaterials such as nanowires and nanotubes are well suited for use in nanosensors, as compared to bulk or thin-film planar devices. They can function both as transducers and wires to transmit the signal. Their high surface area can cause large signal changes upon binding of an analyte. Their small size can enable extensive multiplexing of individually addressable sensor units in a small device. Their operation is also “label free” in the sense of not requiring fluorescent or radioactive labels on the analytes.


Chemical and biological weapons are common in the present-day threat continuum and continue to pose an enduring global threat. Artificial “electronic nose “trained to detect toxic gases and vapours for detection of bio/chemical/ nuke agents. “ Nanowires” built from sub-micrometer layers of different metals, including gold, silver and nickel, are able to act as “barcodes” for detecting a variety of pathogens, such as anthrax, smallpox, ricin and botulinum toxin. The approach could simultaneously identify multiple pathogens via their unique fluorescent characteristics. rescue mission, nano sensors embedded in combat suit can emit a signal which can be picked up by search and rescue team.


Nanosensors provide real-time monitoring compared to traditional detection methods such as chromatography and spectroscopy. These traditional methods may take days to weeks to obtain results and often require investment in capital costs as well as time for sample preparation.


Nanosensors can be easily integrated into existing threat surveillance and reconaissance technology like drones, LIDAR, and wearable sensors for warfighters, and they provide additional information for threat recognition.


Modern maintenance philosophy is based on on-line monitoring and e-maintenance. Nanosensors engraved in structure of aircraft can measure Important flight parameters and can be monitored at base station to perform Condition based Monitoring ( CBM) even in case of aircraft is flying from one place to another.


Some of the issues in Nanosensors are Large-scale production methods including packaging, controlled modification of different individual devices with variable sensing materials, reliability (preventing false alarm). Major challenges in this area include developing a basic understanding of modeling, design, and performance prediction of small-scale sensors and the scaling of materials characteristics and structural system performance.


The range, accuracy and efficiency of the nanosensors can be improved by integration with NEMS and nanophotonics concepts in a single system. For e.g., an optomechanical sensor, using light to apply force and reduce vibrations, noise level of the sensor system can be reduced; integration of nano-sized optical gyroscopes using miniaturized semiconductor lasers.


Some nanosensors in development for defense applications include nanosensors for the detection of explosives or toxic gases. Such nanosensors work on the principle that gas molecules can be distinguished based on their mass using, for example, piezoelectric sensors. If a gas molecule is adsorbed at the surface of the detector, the resonance frequency of the crystal changes and this can be measured as a change in electrical properties. In addition, field effect transistors, used as potentiometers, can detect toxic gases if their gate is made sensitive to them.


In a similar application, nanosensors can be utilized in military and law enforcement clothing and gear. The Navy Research Laboratory’s Institute for Nanoscience has studied quantum dots for application in nanophotonics and identifying biological materials. Nanoparticles layered with polymers and other receptor molecules will change color when contacted by analytes such as toxic gases. This alerts the user that they are in danger. Other projects involve embedding clothing with biometric sensors to relay information regarding the user’s health and vitals, which would be useful for monitoring soldiers in combat.


Detection of engineered nanoparticles and possibly nanodevices in the surrounding is becoming important. There is a growing realisation that certain engineered particles in the nanoscale regime will pose health and safety hazard. This can become a serious defence and security threat. Certain reports point out that the ability to penetrate the human body and its cells are more feasible, easy to manage and can be directed against specific groups or individuals. Sensors for detection of nanoscale particles and systems will gain importance to manage such vulnerabilities.


Nanoenabled sensors will become widespread and will form an important element in future battlefield scenarios. Nanotechnology is enabling smaller and power efficient devices to drastically reduce power consumption of sensor nodes. Concurrent developments in the field of energy harvesting and their integration with sensors will make it possible to develop energy efficient self-powered nanosensors and make then work as speck-sized battery-less sensor nodes. For e.g., using ZnO nanowires, several self-powered nanodevices, such as ultraviolet (UV) sensor, wireless data transmission, Hg2+ ion sensor and vibration sensor have already been successfully demonstrated.


The capability to communicate with one another would integrate them into self-powered autonomous sensor systems. Providing some amount of intelligence would make them behave as an autonomous swarm of sensors. Such a swarm will have collective data collection and processing abilities that would be unachievable in larger single units of sensors. They could be used in monitoring the status of the equipment, logistics, environmental and security surveillance.


There are several ways being proposed today to make nanosensors; these include top-down lithography, bottom-up assembly, and molecular self-assembly.



Market growth

The nanosensor market was valued at USD 133.69 million in 2017, and it is expected to value at USD 4,621.71 million by 2023, at a CAGR of 79.83%, over the forecast period (2018-2023).

The market for nanosensors has witnessed some important innovations and developments in the field of nanotechnology such as an invention of carbon nanotubes that had a great impact on the area, and it has been the foundation for diverse directions of development.


Moreover, the factors, such as advancements in nanotechnology supported by government initiatives, increasing trend of miniaturization and use of miniaturized products across various industries are driving the market growth.


However, complexity in manufacturing nanosensors and reluctance of some users to use nanosensors due to conservative approach towards adopting new technologies are hindering the market growth.


Nevertheless, advanced technologies have always been the driving force of new opportunities and further development. Constant R&D on new technologies namely nanotechnology can bring market advantage for innovative companies.


Years of investments in nanotechnology have made the world to succeed in developing nanosensors for various applications. The industries using nanosensors hold great potential for future profitability in nanosensors include robotics and the Internet-of-Things (IoT), transportation, construction and energy storage, food management; environmental monitoring; and security, surveillance, and military.


Furthermore, with the rising significance of intelligent packaging, adoption of nanosensors is expected to witness a considerable increase. Nanotechnology, nano minerals and nanosensors in the agri-food sector, including feed and nutrient components, intelligent packaging and quick detection systems, can be seen as the new source of key improvements in the agricultural sector.


The major factor driving the nanosensors market in North America is growing demand of nanosensors in military and homeland security as they are used for the detection of radiations and biotoxins. According to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute,


Nanotechnology has emerged as one of the foremost areas of focus globally owing to these advancements highly supported by the government regulations. For instance, the Cabinet Office of Japan, MEXT and METI have recognized the necessity and have dedicated divisions in the ministries focused only on nanotechnology. The U.S. government R&D initiative, the National Nanotechnology Initiative established in 2001 is still active and propelling the market in the region.


In addition, cost effective manufacturing due to compactness of nanosensors is set to bring about a positive transition in the nanosensors market. Also, the increasing demand for smaller and faster portable diagnostic sensing systems are the major factors driving the growth of nanotechnology in biomedical and healthcare segment in North America. All these factors contribute to the increasing demand for nanosensors in North America.



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