Nanotechnology (or nanotech) is a novel innovation that emerged recently when the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) accelerated its digital transformation. It involves designing tiny atoms or molecules into unique applications for fields like electronics and healthcare. It consists of manipulating particles to one billionth of a metre, referred to as a nanometer. National Geographic states that there are natural and artificial nanomaterials, with natural ones including volcanic ash and blood haemoglobin, whereas the artificial ones are car exhaust smoke and pollution.

The current trends in nanotechnology in Southeast Asia show that many top industries can benefit from its special properties and adaptability. However, there are several significant concerns about the cost of adopting the tech, accessibility for all, potential medical problems, and possible environmental harm. For example, synthetic nanoparticles may enter the human body, instantly triggering the immune system’s response. Thus, people may grow increasingly unhealthy as unexpected pathogens flow through their bodies.

High-growth industries in 2023 require innovation from startups in Southeast Asia

Additionally, there is a risk of nanotech standing in the way of privacy and data security. Recording devices could become miniscule over time, leading to people taping others without first getting consent. Lastly, the tech may drive people out of manufacturing plants with better and more efficient solutions for their tools and hardware and lead to job losses.

Top sectors using nanotech

Despite the negatives, there are many reasons to look forward to what is happening across many sectors in ASEAN. Here are some of the areas benefiting from innovative nanotech products:


Nanoporous materials can help with sustainability by capturing and reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide. CO2 traps heat in the atmosphere, harming the environment and crops. Nanoscale delivery systems can protect plants from pests, while other disruptive nanotechnologies can enhance farm yields and productivity.

Miniaturising components leads to lighter, more efficient products. Cars can save fuel costs if the vehicles are lightweight. Moreover, electric cars can benefit from enhanced rechargeable battery systems.


On the health side, nanoscale carriers can aid in gene therapy by encapsulating therapeutic systems, enabling them to be released over time in the body. They can also get accurate and better diagnostic tools, top-quality imaging, or provide targeted therapies for diseased cells, such as cancer cells.

The University of Rhode Island created the smart bandage to monitor wounds and detect infections using nanotubes and nanosensors. It achieves this by looking for concentrations of hydrogen peroxide observable using a miniature wearable device.


According to Nano Magazine, molecular-level designs can shield nuclear power plants from leaking toxic waste. The experts make nanosensors that can reside within the facilities to monitor radiation and protect the public. The durable materials created using this technology can survive within a radioactive base and assist with the safe disposal of its waste.

Moreover, solar panels can become more efficient through nano hardware. For example, advancements in charging cells mean it will be simpler to absorb sunlight and convert it into electricity. By modifying particles, solar equipment and storage devices may also become cheaper.

Information Technology (IT)

The IT sector benefits from having smaller and highly efficient hardware, which lowers the price of tech products. It is possible to enhance the design of components within electronics like transistors, while non-volatile memory devices end up with improved performance. 

Additionally, there are advances in insulation, data storage, ultra-high-definition (UHD) screens, and foldable or bendable screens.

Clean water

One of the Global Goals is to improve water quality and provide safe and affordable drinking water by 2030. It involves reducing pollution, ensuring sanitation, and addressing scarcity by supplying fresh fluids.

Malaysian company H2GO Global uses nanotech to create filter cartridges that are so miniscule that they block bacteria and viruses from getting through. The filtration process, therefore, leaves behind clean drinking water. This solution can work in remote areas and may be valuable to other countries with limited access to safe water.

Leveraging emerging trends for startup growth

The nanotechnology trends in Southeast Asia prove that its applications and possibilities are unique and innovative. Nevertheless, the threat of health concerns is something to look into further. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this tech may pose a risk to the public because the microparticles are toxic and others may affect the respiratory system. 

ASEAN governments have a role to play in supporting this technology for the advancement of their people. While startups should focus on designing solutions that fit the public’s needs while taking all the necessary precautions, governments must provide funding and change the regulatory climate to suit businesses. Foreign experts and employees should be allowed to come in and offer their input.

Finally, the public should receive digital training and education to transition faster to the new age technologies. Implementing these strategies will allow the region to grow while embracing the latest nanotechnology.