Abstract There is a critical need for life cycle assessment (LCA) during the formative stages of technology development. For example, several studies have called for the application of LCA to nanotechnology. However, LCA typically relies on detailed inventory and performance data collected from existing industries at commercial scales. In the case of nanotechnology, collecting manufacturing and use-phase LCA inventory data is problematic, both because nanotechnologies are proprietary and because the energy and material flows studied at the laboratory-scale will likely change as the technology matures. This necessitates the development of anticipatory LCA methods that can be used to explore potential environmental impacts of technologies and industries before they exist at scale. Anticipatory LCA can be viewed as a quantitative scenario development tool used in situations of high uncertainty (e.g., nano-enabled energy technologies) to inform research, investment, and policy decisions. While cradle-to-gate analyses of nano-enabled products (nanoproducts) have called attention to the energy intensity of nanomanufacturing processes, one challenge in anticipatory LCA is establishing a functional unit relevant to the use phase of a nanomaterial that captures the potential benefits of the new technology. This requires a combination of laboratory-scale inventory measurements with technological performance modeling to explore life cycle environmental tradeoffs. The results suggest that anticipatory LCA may uncover new research directions that will reduce life-cycle burdens, such as improving synthesis reactions yields, recovering metal catalysts from liquid waste streams, and recycling inert gases. Thus, anticipatory LCA can result in reorientation of the research agenda within the laboratory towards pathways that reduce environmental impacts.
|Effective start/end date||8/1/14 → 7/31/16|
- US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): $34,000.00