Last September I took a cursory look at the use of nanotechnology in bicycles, and drew the somewhat hesitant conclusion that it may be more about marketing than actually improving the qualities of the bike.
My extremely unscientific piece was picked up by the Cozy Beehive blog, which is penned by a mechanical engineer and a lover of cycling. I am great admirer of this blog since I am a cycling fan myself and I was really pleased to say the least that he picked up my entry.
Since blogs are usually read by people with at least the same interest as those who write them and often by those who share the same opinion, Cozy’s blog was commented on by other mechanical engineers and cycling enthusiasts and their comments were illuminating.
One comment suggested that carbon nanotubes are unlikely to help in protecting carbon fiber frames from cracking:
“Carbon Nanotubes are all well and good, but I don’t think the failure mechanism for bikes is addressed by them. In general, when a carbon frame fails it is not some small crack propagation issue that would have been solved by micro-fibers mixed into the resin. It is rather a catastrophic failure of the resin in compression, which leads to complete crumple type failures. Nanotubes do little to address resin/laminate compression strength. I could see fatigue life of a frame increasing from their use, but should we really by using our frames anywhere near their fatigue life?”
That may help answer the question of what nanoparticles can do for improving the characteristics of bike frame materials, but as the nanotechnology community knows nanotech has many applications from structural materials to textiles.
In the video below we see that the cycling apparel company Castelli is now using a water repellent material that appears to be sourced from Schoeller Technologies that is famous for its Nano Sphere technology.
At least in this application, the benefit is clear and undeniable.
Dexter Johnson is a contributing editor at IEEE Spectrum, with a focus on nanotechnology.