Researchers look to make 'messy' nanotech production clean and green
A nice article about why it's important to get this emerging technology right and how to make it happen.
Thanks for bringing up this aspect of the nanotechnology industry. With all the fanfare about how nanotechnology is going to revolutionize everything, the environmental implications are barely being observed (they are being considered, but in the rush to be the first at getting these products produced, not as much attention is being paid to environmental and health issues).
While I read about nanotechnology every once in a while, I had no idea that 3 to 4 new nanotechnology consumer products were being introduced every week. I hope that the days when we start talking about the recycling of nanomaterials (if at all possible) will occur a lot sooner than it did for other more standard materials like plastic.
The Wilson Center's project on emerging technology estimates > 800 consumer products that contain nanomaterials. NanoEHS is a bigger issue than you might first think, though a daunting task. NSF recently funded a center to explore the Environmental Implications of Nanotechnology. (CEIN - UCLA and Duke University). Our own group (which was discussed in that article - I know.. shameless plug :) ) is committed to steering this emerging technology in the right direction from the beginning.
We firmly believe (and have shown) that it is cost effective to implement strategies to not only produce nanomaterials using the principles of green chemistry, but to also incorporate testing to assure inherent safety of nanomaterials and redesign (in an iterative process) as needed. We have toxicologists developing in vivo and in vitro assays to test the toxic potential of nanoparticles.
I agree with you. We need to implement a life cycle analysis into these products now rather than later and we need to reduce the uncertainties surrounding nanomaterials. That begins with knowing what we have (characterization, purity), how they change in response to the environment, where they go (fate and transport) and biological effects.