Advanced materials nanotechnology

As part of the recently published Global Marine Technology Trends 2030 (GMTT 2030) report, QinetiQ’s Iain Kennedy examines how nanomaterials will play an increasingly important role in tomorrow’s maritime industry.

Advanced Materials are a major subject of research in academia. They include all materials engineered to deliver specific physical and/or functional properties in their application. The trend with all metallic, ceramic, polymer and composite materials is to achieve improved capabilities such as strength, toughness, durability and other useful functionality by designing it in at the nanoscale and harnessing those properties in large structures.

The structure and properties of advanced materials at the ‘nano’ scale (i.e. one millionth of a millimetre) is now well understood. This is leading to the challenge of manufacturing advanced materials to realise capabilities in bulk structures. This is termed nano-engineering and these materials are referred to as nanomaterials. The research and commercialisation of nanomaterials will continue to accelerate and we expect that large scale structures with increasingly refined and reliable properties will be in use.

Desirable functionality such as environmental sensing, self-cleaning, self-repair, enhanced electrical conductance and shape modification is anticipated through the development of nanomaterials, and in turn, delivers performance benefits. We anticipate that affordable, reliable lightweight structures are increasingly required in surface, above surface and below surface platforms. This is driven by the need to use less fuel and reduce emissions as well as deploy fast reconfigurable autonomous systems.

This and other future advances are explored more detail in Global Marine Technology Trends 2030. The report, produced by QinetiQ, Lloyds Register and Southampton University, explores the emerging technology trends that are likely to impact on commercial shipping, naval operations and wider ocean-based industries before and up to 2030.