728 x 90
728 x 90

You Use Nanoparticles Everyday: 4 Examples

You Use Nanoparticles Everyday: 4 Examples

Brief list of the major nanomaterials in your daily products.

nanoparticles, nanotechnology, sunscreen, nanomaterials, daily

Nanoparticles have existed throughout the history of the world and can even be produced by some organisms. However, intentionally manmade nanoparticles, also called engineered nanoparticles, are somehow new. Nanotechnology is a field of research that has quickly and greatly developed in the last decades, and the global market is already incorporating this technology into a wide variety of products. Despite that, most of the consumers are not really aware of this and think about nanotechnology as science fiction.

Some of us look positively at nanotechnology and see a future for it, whereas other people appear worried and sceptical. Whatever our opinion on nanotechnology may be, what we don’t realise is that we are exposed to nanoparticles in our everyday life, not only through pollution, but by means of the products we use daily. So, here’s a short list of some of these hidden engineered nanoparticles.


Titanium dioxide nanoparticles (TiO2) have two major commercially interesting properties: they can absorb UV light and they can destroy organic compounds by interacting with the light. Therefore TiO2 nanoparticles are mainly used in cosmetics, in particular as UV filters in sunscreens, and in outdoor painting, as cleaning agents and against organic pollutants.

The main mechanism involved in titanium dioxide- based paintings, the disintegration of organic material, is the major disadvantage of titanium dioxide as UV filter: in fact, TiO2 can have the same disintegrating effect on our skin. In order to avoid this, the particles are generally coated by other nanomaterials that are inert, such as alumina or silicon dioxide.
Alternatively to titanium dioxide nanoparticles in sun care products, it is possible to use zinc oxide nanoparticles, which substantially work in the same way.

Antimicrobial agents

Silver nanoparticles are powerful antimicrobial agents and are therefore used in a wide variety of products: from cleaning agents and paints, to cosmetics and textiles. The first cleaning product using silver nanoparticles was brought on the market in 1952 under the name of Algaedyn. Nanosilver is exceptionally effective against bacteria, fungi, viruses and certain insects; at the same time the toxicity to humans and mammals is extremely low.

Bandages, swimming pool cleaning products and probably even your socks contain some nanosilver. Or at least, they did, before they were washed hundred times…


Silica dioxide (SiO2) nanoparticles  are used in food as additives. Are you going to the fridge to check for the ingredients of your food? Then you will find SiO2 particles under the name E551. E551 is used as anti- caking (non-stick) agent and acidity regulator. From now on your food will have a different taste…

Electronics and sporting equipments

The name “carbon nanotubes” derives from the peculiar shape of these materials, where carbon atoms are arranged to form a tube. These nanomaterials have two main applications: electronics and composite materials (plastics and sporting equipment).

Some carbon nanotubes may be quite dangerous if dispersed in the environment, as their mechanisms of action resemble the ones of asbestos. You are however not really likely to stumble upon these free particles, thus the risk is minimal.


Photo: victorpuntes/flickr

Blasco C., Picó Y. (2013). Nanoparticles in Foods, Determination of Encyclopedia of Analytical Chemistry DOI: 10.1002/9780470027318.a9285

Cristina Buzea, Ivan I. Pacheco, & Kevin Robbie (2008). Nanomaterials and nanoparticles: Sources and toxicity Published in Biointerphases Vol. 2, issue 4 (2007) pages MR17 – MR71 arXiv: 0801.3280v1

Mueller M., Nowack B. (2008). Exposure modelling of engineered nanoparticles in the environment Environmental Science & Technology

Nohynek GJ, Lademann J, Ribaud C, & Roberts MS (2007). Grey goo on the skin? Nanotechnology, cosmetic and sunscreen safety. Critical reviews in toxicology, 37 (3), 251-77 PMID: 17453934

Nowack B., Krug H.F., Height M. (2011). 120 years of nanosilver history: implications for policy makers. Environmental Science & Technology DOI: 10.1021/es103316q

Peters R, Kramer E, Oomen AG, Rivera ZE, Oegema G, Tromp PC, Fokkink R, Rietveld A, Marvin HJ, Weigel S, Peijnenburg AA, & Bouwmeester H (2012). Presence of nano-sized silica during in vitro digestion of foods containing silica as a food additive. ACS nano, 6 (3), 2441-51 PMID: 22364219

Rai M., Yadav A., Gade A. (2008). Silver nanoparticles as a new generation of antimicrobials Biotechnology Advances DOI: 10.1016/j.biotechadv.2008.09.002

nanotechnology, nanoparticles, sunscreen, food, Antimicrobial agents_

This post was written by Chiara Civardi:
“Thanks for reading my article. I would love to hear what you think about it. Please comment or rate with the stars below.”
Chiara Civardi

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply


  • Jagadeesa sarma
    October 5, 2015, 09:14

    In India generally all women apply an organic paste made of the leaves of the plant Henna (Lawsonia inermis, also known as hina, the henna tree, the mignonette tree, and the Egyptian privet);

    which turns into reddish. This is considered to be sacred for the better family life and for the general healthy of women. I believe that the action of HENNa / mehendi leaves is NANO in nature. This similar to TiO2 applied to arrest UV light rays. The same paste is also useful to keep up the health of hair. In some fashion the adsorption phenomena which take place in the nature can be considered to be NANO . This can be considered to be the nano usage in daily life