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Environmental Impacts of Nanotechnology

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  • Last Updated : 19 May, 2022
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Glad that this century gave us something bigger and better to rely on when it comes to impacting the environment, and that’s nothing but nanotechnology. In today’s fast-paced world, we are focusing on bettering our lives whereas, directly or indirectly impacting the environment in endless ways. Everything revolving around nanotechnology, applications, products, or processes is expected to save the environment by saving energy, water, and raw material and reducing the harmful greenhouse gases. Therefore, bringing nanomaterials into usage promises to deliver sustainable effects, environmental benefits, etc.

There are numerous unique attributes associated with nanotechnology, making it a great option for using various applications, products, and procedures. As far as the environment is concerned, nanotechnology provides us with a new perspective and approach to cutting waste production and emission generation. Nanotechnology is being carefully studied across the globe to figure out its potential impacts across multiple fields like engineering, biology, chemistry, computing, materials science, and communications. Studies reveal that nanoparticles have a higher surface area than the bulk particles. This concern has led to the world’s increased attention toward the potential environmental impacts of nanotechnology.

Positive Impact of Nanotechnology:

  • Using nanotechnology, the quality of water can be enhanced. Nanomaterials like carbon nanotubes, zeolites, etc. can be used for water remediation.
  • Few nanomaterials like tungsten oxide can help oxidize organic pollutants to harmless material as they serve as photocatalysts.
  • These nanomaterials, especially titanium dioxide, are non-toxic, inexpensive, and easily available.
  • Many polymeric nanoparticles are used for the treatment of wastewater.
  • Using nanotechnology, we can expect cleaner air as they clean the toxic gases in the atmosphere around us.
  • Using this technology, one can expect the sustainability of the environment and human health.
  • Surely, this technology gives us a new way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reduce waste production, and control the discharge of many harmful chemicals into the water bodies.

Cleaning Radioactive Waste from water using Nanotechnology:

The use of titanate nanofibers as absorbents to remove radioactive ions from water is being investigated as a nanotechnology solution for radioactive waste cleanup. Furthermore, researchers have found that Titanate nanotubes (TNTs) and nanofibers have exceptional mechanical properties, making them suitable materials for removing iodine and cesium ions from water.

Artificial Photosynthesis – Producing Hydrogen from Sunlight:

Hydrogen-powered companies wish to show off their environmentally friendly technologies and claim to be saving the planet. In spite of hydrogen fuel’s reputation as a clean fuel, the sources of that hydrogen are often very dirty. Hydrogen cannot be mined from a well but can be produced using various resources. A clean and portable energy source that can last as long as the sun, artificial photosynthesis uses solar energy to split water and generate hydrogen and oxygen.

Some of the Potential Risks of Nanotechnology:

Nanotechnology is an emerging field. Hence, there is a constant debate and voluminous discussions surrounding the potential impacts of nanotechnology. Nanotechnology’s environmental impact can be categorized into the following two categories:
Positive impact: This includes all the technological innovations in nanotechnology, which would help improve the environment.
Negative impact: This includes the potential risks associated with nanotechnology i.e, the pollution that nanotechnology might cause by releasing nanoparticles into the environment. This pollution is called nano pollution.

It is the generic name devised for all the waste that is generated by all the nanodevices or during the manufacturing process of nanomaterials. In addition to this, nano waste includes the group of particles that are released into the atmosphere. Multiple nanotechnology products have an uncertain shape, size, or composition. Due to this uncertainty, the risk of toxicological pollution to the environment increases. To summarize, the potential risks of nanotechnology on the environment are:

  • Lack of trained workers and engineers. 
  • High energy is required for synthesizing nanoparticles, this further causes high energy demand. 
  • Dissemination of toxic, persistent nano-substances originating from environmental harm. 
  • Lower recovery rate and lower recycling rate.
  • The toxic properties of graphene are unknown, so its impact while it reacts with other materials and biological systems is unknown.

Every coin has two sides, and all that matters is which one we are picking up to go lucky for winning things. Definitely, we can’t ignore the fact that nanotechnology is somewhere contributing to making greener earth so there is no reason to highlight much on the darker side. Using nanotechnology, many more approaches are taken to make this planet a better place to survive. Nanotechnology is directly beneficial for the environment, health, and medicine, but like other technologies, it might have some unidentified effects that can adversely affect the natural ecosystem. So, it is crucial for science to examine the environmental and health implications of using this new technology for health, the environment, and sustainability.

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