Nano materials likely to impact environment negatively

October 23rd, 2008 - 2:14 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Oct 23 (IANS) Eco-friendly gains derived from the use of nano materials may be offset partly by their manufacturing process, according to research.Hatice Sengül and colleagues of Illinois University, Chicago, said strict material purity requirements and lower yields may lead to greater ecological burdens than those associated with conventional manufacturing.

In a separate study, Ohio State University researchers 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.

Materials with size of one to 100 nanometers or (one to 100 billionths of a metre) 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, according to an Yale University release.

“Research in this issue reveals the potential of environmental impacts from nanomanufacturing to offset the benefits of using lighter nanomaterials,” said 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.”

Industrial ecology is a field that examines the opportunities for sustainable production and consumption, emphasising the importance of a systems view of environmental threats and remedies.

These findings have been published in the Journal of Industrial Ecology.

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