Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Nanotech processing ’greener’ than oil refining

06.10.2005


Actuarial model puts risks of making nanotubes on par with making wine



Using a method for assessing the premiums that companies pay for insurance, a team of scientists and insurance experts have concluded that the manufacturing processes for five, near-market nanomaterials -- including quantum dots, carbon nanotubes and buckyballs -- present fewer risks to the environment than some common industrial processes like oil refining. For two of the nanomaterials – nanotubes and alumoxane nanoparticles -- manufacturing risks were comparable with those of making wine or aspirin.

The study is available online and slated for publication in the Nov. 15 issue of Environmental Science and Technology. It compares the environmental and health risks associated with the production of five nanomaterials -- single-walled carbon nanotubes, buckyballs, zinc selenide quantum dots, alumoxane nanoparticles and titantium dioxide nanoparticles -- with the risks of making six commonplace products -- silicon wafers, wine, high-density plastic, lead-acid car batteries, refined petroleum and aspirin.


"There are many unknowns about the impacts of nanomaterials on living organisms and ecosystems, but a great deal is known about the properties of the materials that are used to create nanomaterials," said study co-author Mark Wiesner, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Rice University. "Our goal was to produce an early estimate of the environmental ’footprint’ for nanomaterials fabrication.

"The jury is still out on whether some nanomaterials pose a risk, but it is not too early to consider how we might avoid environmental and health risks associated with making these new materials," Wiesner said. "We have a narrow window of opportunity to guide the emerging nanomaterial industry towards a green future. With this study, we hope to establish a baseline for the safe, responsible development of the nanomaterials manufacturing industry."

In developing their risk assessments, the research team developed a detailed account of the input materials, output materials and waste streams for each process. Risk was qualitatively assessed for each process, based on factors including toxicity, flammability and persistence in the environment.

Using an actuarial protocol developed by the Zurich-based insurance company, XL Insurance, the researchers developed three risk scores for each of the 11 processes: incident risk, which refers to in-process accidents; normal operations risk, which refers to waste streams and airborne emissions; and latent contamination, which refers to the potential for long-term contamination.

Wiesner said the incident risks for most of the nanomaterials were comparable or lower than those of non-nanoprocesses.

"That doesn’t imply that the non-nano processes present an acceptable level of risk, or that there is no room for improvement across the board, but the study does suggest that the risks of making these new materials will not be drastically different from those we encounter in current industries," he said.

For example, the incident risks associated with alumoxane and nanotube production fell near or below the scores for wine production. Buckyballs had the highest incident risk rating among nanomaterials and scored near the risks associated with producing polyolefins, a broad class of polymers like polyethylene that are used in making plastics.

The normal operations risk scores for nanotubes and alumoxanes were comparable to those of wine and aspirin making, while the scores for buckyballs, quantum dots and titanium dioxide were comparable to the operations risks of making silicon wafers and car batteries. The normal operations risks associated with plastics and petroleum refining were greater than those for any nanomaterial.

For all of the nanomaterials except buckyballs, latent risk scores were comparable to those of silicon wafers, wine and aspirin production. Buckyballs had a latent score comparable to car battery and plastics production and considerably lower than the score for petroleum refining.

"We can’t anticipate all of the details of how nanomaterials fabrication will evolve, but based on what we do know, the fabrication of the nanomaterials we considered appears to present lower risks than current industrial activities like petrochemical refining, polyethylene production and synthetic pharmaceutical production," said Wiesner.

Jade Boyd | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.rice.edu

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Europe’s Demographic Future. Where the Regions Are Heading after a Decade of Crises
10.08.2017 | Berlin-Institut für Bevölkerung und Entwicklung

nachricht Scientists reveal source of human heartbeat in 3-D
07.08.2017 | University of Manchester

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Gold shines through properties of nano biosensors

17.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Greenland ice flow likely to speed up: New data assert glaciers move over sediment, which gets more slippery as it gets wetter

17.08.2017 | Earth Sciences

Mars 2020 mission to use smart methods to seek signs of past life

17.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>