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Nanotechnology provides 'green' path to environmentally sustainable economy

xperimental method saves materials and requires less water and solvent than the traditional printing or lithography techniques used in the deceptively resource-intensive electronics industry. Other researchers are investigating nanoscale approaches to replace lead and other toxic materials in electronics manufacturing.

Chemist Vicki Colvin and her Rice University colleagues have discovered that 12-nanometer magnetic nanoparticles can remove better than 99 percent of the arsenic in a solution, while their counterparts at Oklahoma State University have engineered nanoscale sensors that can detect pollutants at the level of parts per billion.

Nanotechnology has opened promising new routes for making inexpensive solar cells as well as improving the performance and lowering the cost of fuel cells, eyed as the energy source for cars and trucks of the future. At the same time, work at the nanoscale is leading toward tools for removing toxic materials and cleaning up hazardous waste sites.

"Nanotechnology potentially is a 'doubly green dream.' It offers us the opportunity to make products and processes 'green' from the beginning," explained Barbara Karn, an environmental scientist who helped organize the green nanotechnology programs while with the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies. "It also allows us to substitute more environmentally-friendly chemicals, materials and manufacturing processes for older, more polluting ones."

The report defines four categories in which nanotechnology applications and environmental interests intersect:

  • Fostering new nanotechnology-enabled products and processes that are environmentally benign or "clean and green";

  • Managing nanomaterials and their production to minimize potential environmental, health, and safety risks;

  • Using nanotechnology to clean up toxic waste site and other legacy pollution problems; and

  • Substituting
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Contact: Sharon McCarter
sharon.mccarter@wilsoncenter.org
202-691-4016
Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies
26-Apr-2007


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