Ford starts marketing its nanotech: Why now?

Every now and then someone makes mention of how nanotechnology will impact the automobile, I suppose to keep hope alive that the auto industry will do something interesting in applying nanotechnology. Unfortunately, what they do announce is usually pretty mundane stuff.

Things got a little exciting last year, when the news was tangentially about the car and nanotechnology, but specifically about its fuel. Oxonica went from nano-media darling with its liquid-based catalyst that reduces emissions for diesel fuels, EnviroxTM, to media chump almost over night.

The UK-based company was just about to really become a nanotechnology success story as the Turkish national oil-and-gas companyâ''Petrol Ofisiâ''was about to buy a lot of Envirox. But alas, they backed out after tests indicated that it didnâ''t work as well as had been expected.

Before that news item, nanotech and the car stayed largely out of the press with the possible exception of nearly everyone citing how nanotechnology is going to transform the auto industry. Nanocomposites in polycarbonate automotive glazing doesn't really make for sparkling news copy.

But now Ford Motor Company is getting all the science news services to cover their most recent announcement regarding nanotechnology.

Donâ''t get too excited. There is nothing new here. Itâ''s the same old staple of using nanoparticles in structural materials to reduce weight and nano-enabled paint that improves adhesion and durability.

There is some news here about Ford teaming up with Boeing and Northwestern University to develop their nanotechnology, but the whole media push left me scratching my head asking â''Why? And â''Why now?â''

The other strange thing about it is Ford may be researching uses for nanotechnology, but arenâ''t they eventually going to resource this stuff out to their first- and second-tier suppliers? Ford: â''We need lighter door handlesâ'' Supplier: â''I have just the thing, itâ''s a nanocomposite.â''

My hope is that Ford is setting the groundwork for a really big announcement regarding nanotechnology, like a plan to use nanomaterials for changing radiation directly into electricity.

I know, I know, but I can hope canâ''t I?


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