Home > Press > Nanotech Processing "Greener" than Oil Refining
Insurance Industry Risk Model Puts Nanotubes On Par With Wine Making
Nanotech Processing "Greener" than Oil Refining
Houston, TX | October 04, 2005
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
Wiesner said the incident risks for most of the nanomaterials were
comparable or lower than those of non-nanoprocesses.
"That doesn¹t 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
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.
Co-authors on the study include Rice doctoral student Christine Robichaud;
sustainability researcher Dicksen Tanzil of Bridges to Sustainability; and
Ulrich Weilenmann of XL Insurance.
The research was funded in part by the National Science Foundation, and by
the Environmental Protection Agency.
About Rice University:
Rice University is consistently ranked one of America's best teaching and
research universities. It is distinguished by its: size‹2,850 undergraduates
and 1,950 graduate students; selectivity -10 applicants for each place in the
freshman class; resources - an undergraduate student-to-faculty ratio of
6-to-1, and the fifth largest endowment per student among American
universities; residential college system, which builds communities that are
both close-knit and diverse; and collaborative culture, which crosses
disciplines, integrates teaching and research, and intermingles
undergraduate and graduate work. Rice's wooded campus is located in the
nation's fourth largest city and on America's South Coast.
For more information, visit www.rice.edu
Copyright © Rice University
If you have a comment, please Contact
Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.
Preparing for Nano
Durnham University's DEEPEN project comes to a close September 26th, 2012
Technical Seminar at ANFoS 2012 August 22nd, 2012
Nanotechnology shows we can innovate without economic growth April 12th, 2012
Thailand to host NanoThailand 2012 December 18th, 2011
UC Riverside scientists discovering new uses for tiny carbon nanotubes: Adding ionic liquid to nanotube films could build smaller gadgets, and create more cost effective 'Smart Windows' that darken in bright sun May 15th, 2013
Development know-how is made available to collaboration partners: Bayer MaterialScience brings nano projects to a close May 8th, 2013
Next-generation transistor outperforms other carbon-based designs May 7th, 2013
Ubiquitous engineered nanomaterials cause lung inflammation, study finds: Substances are used in everything from paint to sporting equipment May 6th, 2013
IDTechEx launches online Market Intelligence Portal May 23rd, 2013
Weird science: Crystals melt when they're cooled May 22nd, 2013
INSCX™ exchange announces substantial increase in capital designated to provide Trade Finance for registered Nanomaterial Producers May 21st, 2013
International survey supports need for built-in water protection on smartphones and tablets May 21st, 2013
Glowing Plant Releases Maker Kit, Enabling Anyone to Make a Glowing Plant at Home: Glowing Plant seeks funds via crowdfunding and raises almost $400,000 May 23rd, 2013
IDTechEx launches online Market Intelligence Portal May 23rd, 2013
UofL scientists uncover how grapefruits provide a secret weapon in medical drug delivery May 22nd, 2013
Atomic-Scale Investigations Solve Key Puzzle of LED Efficiency: MIT and Brookhaven Lab scientists use electron microscopy imaging techniques to settle a solid-state controversy and raise new experimental possibilities May 22nd, 2013
Bacterial spare parts filter antibiotic residue from groundwater May 22nd, 2013
NIA Public Briefing: Nanotechnology and the Council of Europe May 17th, 2013
Nanoadsorbent Synthesized to Remove Toxic Dyes from Textile Industry Wastewater May 16th, 2013
New Stanford Nanoscavengers Could Usher In Next Generation Water Purification May 15th, 2013