Yale journal finds nanomaterials may have large environmental footprint

October 22, 2008

New Haven, Conn.--Environmental gains derived from the use of nanomaterials may be offset in part by the process used to manufacture them, according to research published in a special issue of the Journal of Industrial Ecology.

Hatice Şengül and colleagues at the University of Illinois at Chicago assert that strict material purity requirements, lower tolerances for defects and lower yields of manufacturing processes may lead to greater environmental burdens than those associated with conventional manufacturing. In a separate study of carbon nanofiber production, Vikas Khanna and colleagues at Ohio State University found, for example, that the life-cycle environmental impacts may be as much as 100 times greater per unit of weight than those of traditional materials, potentially offsetting some of the environmental benefits of the small size of nanomaterials.

Materials engineered at dimensions of 1 to 100 nanometers¬ (1 to100 billionths of a meter) ¬exhibit novel physical, chemical and biological characteristics, opening possibilities for stunning innovations in medicine, manufacturing and a host of other sectors of the economy. Because small quantities of nanomaterials can accomplish the tasks of much larger amounts of conventional materials, the expectation has been that nanomaterials will lower energy and resource use and the pollution that accompanies them. The possibility of constructing miniature devices atom-by-atom has also given rise to expectations that precision in nanomanufacturing will lead to less waste and cleaner processes.

"Research in this issue reveals the potential of environmental impacts from nanomanufacturing to offset the benefits of using lighter nanomaterials," says Gus Speth, dean of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. "To date, most attention has focused on the possible toxic effects of exposure to nanoparticles¬ and appropriately so. But considerations of pollution and energy use arising from the production technologies used to make nanomaterials need attention as well."

Other topics explored in the special issue include: Industrial ecology is a field that examines the opportunities for sustainable production and consumption, emphasizing the importance of a systems view of environmental threats and remedies. "Through the use of tools such as life cycle assessment, green chemistry and pollution prevention, industrial ecology takes a broad and deliberate view of environmental challenges," states Reid Lifset, editor-in-chief of the Journal of Industrial Ecology. "This special issue shows the power of this approach."
-end-
Roland Clift, professor of environmental technology in the Centre for Environmental Strategy at the University of Surrey, and Shannon Lloyd, principal research engineer in the Sustainability & Process Engineering Directorate at Concurrent Technologies Corporation, served as guest editors. Support for this special issue was provided by the Educational Foundation of America in Westport, Conn., and the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

To obtain a PDF of the issue, contact journalnews@bos.blackwellpublishing.net. The articles in this issue are also available online at www.interscience.wiley.com/journal/jie-nano. To request a print copy of the special issue, contact indecol@yale.edu. The Journal of Industrial Ecology is the official journal of the International Society for Industrial Ecology. It is published for Yale University on behalf of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. For more information, visit www.interscience.wiley.com/journal/jie.

Yale University

Related Nanomaterials Articles from Brightsurf:

Spinal injuries: the recovery of motor skills thanks to nanomaterials
Re-establishing motor skills and neuronal connectivity thanks to the implantation of carbon nanotubes in the injury site.

Nanomaterials based strategies for treatment of hypoxic tumor
Hypoxic tumor microenvironment restricts efficiency of tumor therapies and leads to serious results of tumor recurrence and high mortality.

Trapping and controlling light at the interface of atomically thin nanomaterials
In a recent study, scientists at Cornell University propose a novel method by which nanoscale light can be manipulated and transported.

New way to check the quality of nanomaterials like graphene
A new way to check the quality of nanomaterials like graphene has emerged from a team at the University of Sussex.

Nanobiohybrids: A synergistic integration of bacteria and nanomaterials in cancer therapy
Nanobiohybrids: A Synergistic Integration of Bacteria and Nanomaterials in Cancer Therapy- BIO Integration.

Electronics for high-altitude use can get smaller and sturdier with new nanomaterials
Demand is growing for new materials that can be printed at ever smaller dimensions.

Water-free way to make MXenes could mean new uses for the promising nanomaterials
Ten years after producing the first sample of the now widely studied family of nanomaterials, called MXenes, Drexel University researchers have discovered a different way to make the atom-thin material that presents a number of new opportunities for using it.

Magnetic nanomaterials become an effective treatment against liver fibrosis
Fibrosis may affect different body organs. It develops as a reaction to long-time inflammation and is supposed to isolate the inflammation site from surrounding tissues.

More efficient risk assessment for nanomaterials
Nanotechnology is booming, but risk assessment for these tiny particles is a laborious process that presents significant challenges to the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR).

New technology gives insight into how nanomaterials form and grow
A new form of electron microscopy allows researchers to examine nanoscale tubular materials while they are 'alive' and forming liquids -- a first in the field.

Read More: Nanomaterials News and Nanomaterials Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.