October 30, 2008

Study: Nanomanufacturing Needs Improvement

New U.S. research suggests environmental gains derived from the use of nanomaterials might be partly offset by the processes used to manufacture them.

Various researchers reporting in a special issue of the Journal of Industrial Ecology highlight the need for improved efficiency in the manufacturing of nanoscale materials to reduce energy use, emissions, solid waste and the use of toxic materials.

"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 University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. "To date, most attention has focused on the possible toxic effects of exposure to nanoparticles -- and appropriately so. But the 'old-fashioned' considerations of pollution and energy use arising from the production technologies used to make nanomaterials need attention as well."

One study, by Vikas Khanna and colleagues at the Ohio State University, found the life-cycle environmental impacts of carbon nanofiber production might be as much as 100 times greater per unit of weight than those of traditional materials.

The Journal of Industrial Ecology is owned by Yale University and headquartered at the university's School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.