Day: November 1, 2019

Day: November 1, 2019

The Environmental Impact of Nanotechnology
Image November 1, 2019 Technology chris

Abstract

This report looks at the recent development of nanotechnology and its environmental impact by studying the beneficial applications of technology and the consequential risks posed by it on the environment and the public. Over the course of writing this report I discovered that not much scientific literature exists on the topic and that this is itself one of the series of problems faced by nanotechnology in its emergent phase.

Introduction

Nanotechnology is the branch of science whose characteristic feature is that it involves working with and creating materials or structures that are measured on the nanometer scale. Until recently, nanotechnology was but a popular theme in science fiction. However, it has since expanded into a diverse and extensive field of study and research with a wide range of possible applications. Today nanotechnology has implications in a variety of fields that affect human affairs such as medicine, agriculture, engineering, materials, ethics, and law. However, as with any emerging technology, nanotechnology has set off a number of discussions on its toxicity and, hence, impact on the environment. This has led to the setting up of regulatory bodies all over the globe to supervise the research and commercial applications of nanotechnology as well as to deal with the potential risk that nanotechnology poses to our environment.

Beneficial Applications of Nanotechnology

Nonetheless, nanotechnology has proved beneficial for the sustenance of our environment in numerous ways. One such application, according to Tina Masciangioli[1], is the use of nanotechnology to make more efficient water purification systems. By using advanced materials for filtration nanotechnology has the potential to make a tremendous positive impact on the long-term availability and quality of water resources. It is also possible, by the use of advanced nanosensors, to detect chemical and biological contamination in the environment (including the hydrosphere) even at very minute concentrations. Moreover, there is a vast amount of ongoing research on the possibility of using nanotechnology to completely eliminate the hazardous materials that remain behind in water systems due to the chemical processes that are currently used for water purification.

For instance, nanoparticles of iron are already being used extensively for end-of-pipe management and pollution cleanup in groundwater systems. Iron is known to chemically reduce contaminants in the environment but the use of nanosized particles further enhances its reactivity. This is essentially because the nanosized particles can access difficult areas more easily. The process can be further improved by coupling iron with other metals such as palladium on the nanoscale.

Nanosized particles of zinc oxide are also used widely for the development of greener pollution treatment processes. The minute particles of zinc oxide function dually as both sensors and catalysts. First, the presence of organic pollutants is detected by looking for changes in the visible emission signals. The zinc oxide particles then oxidize the pollutants by photocatalysis and reduce them into more environmentally friendly compounds. The benefit of using nanotechnology over other methods of purification is the dual sensor functionality of the nanoparticles being used. As a consequence …