Keywords: nanotechnology, environmental impact, environmental pollution, EPA, regulatory laws, environmental R&, amp, D, research and development, environmental protection, nanostructures
Environmental research and development in nanotechnology
Maintaining and improving soil, water, and air quality represent some of the most formidable challenges facing global society in the 21st century. Pollutants from such diverse sources as oil and chemical spills, pesticide and fertiliser runoff, abandoned industrial and mining sites, and airborne gaseous and particulate matter from automobiles exacerbate the situation on a daily basis. Detecting and treating existing contaminants and preventing new pollution are among the challenges. In light of these enormous and complex challenges, it is perhaps ironic that one prospective solution is diminutive in size but immensely powerful in capacity, of nanoscale structures. These nanoscale structures are already being used for enhanced sensing, treatment and remediation of environmental contaminants. On the bright side, future developments in nanotechnology may lead to greater control over the design of chemical and engineering technologies, such that pollution may be prevented in the first place. On the other hand, the novel characteristics of nanotechnologies may also lead to unforeseen environmental problems such as new classes of toxins or related environmental hazards. This paper provides a critical review of the research initiatives that identify both positive and negative environmental impacts of nanotechnology and proposes to understand and characterise these impacts, and outline the additional researches required to further predict future effects.