Despite nanotechnology being a relatively recent development in scientific research, the development of its central concepts have taken place over a longer period of time.
In the early 1980s, nanotechnology and nanoscience received a significant boost when two major developments were discovered: the birth of cluster science and the invention of the scanning tunnelling microscope (STM). These developments then led to the discovery of fullerenes in 1985 and the structural assignment of carbon nanotubes a few years later.
Since the start of the millennium, nanotechnology has been subject to growing public awareness and controversy, with prominent debates about both its potential implications, as well as, the feasibility of the applications envisioned by advocates of molecular nanotechnology – subsequently, governments moved towards promoting and funding research into nanotechnology.
As a result, the early 2000s saw the start of nanotechnology being used for commercial products, although most applications were limited to the bulk use of passive nanomaterials.
For example, titanium dioxide and zinc oxide nanoparticles are used in sunscreen, cosmetics and some food products. While silver nanoparticles are being used in food packaging, clothing, disinfectants and household appliances and finally, carbon nanotubes are being applied to stain-resistant textiles.
To date, a total of 13,046 published nanotechnology patent applications have been filed at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the European Patent Office (EPO).
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