Presented by Thomas L. Theis, Institute for Environmental Science and Policy, University of Illinois at Chicago
October 5, 2011
The promise of nanotechnology for improving human health, reducing impacts on the environment, and enabling new fields of study is great. Yet, uncritical acceptance of such progress, as has been the case for many other major technological advances in the modern age, is likely to result in unforeseen, and unintended, consequences, with potential for significant harm. Unlike past technological developments, nanotechnology has come of age at a time coincident with the development of modern tools for environmental analysis and evaluation, and a better understanding of the potential for human and ecological damage of even very small quantities of materials. Life cycle analysis, too, has emerged as a powerful tool for guiding policy on many fronts. Its use as a means of informing developmental research on nanotechnology awaits acceptance and use by the interdisciplinary materials research community. The relationship of nanostructured material and product research needs to LCA will be discussed, along with challenges faced in applying LCA to nanotechnology.