Project Details


NCCLCs: Material Life Cycle of Nanomaterials (LCNano) NCCLCs: Material Life Cycle of Nanomaterials (LCNano) Project Description 1.0 Introduction Nano-enabled products that incorporate engineered nanomaterials (NMs) will have transformative benefits to individuals and society through applications ranging from self cleaning cloths and enhanced food products to improved energy storage or water purification. There is little doubt that many more benefits will accrue as new NMs and nano-enabled products are designed, production methods improve, prices decline, and consumption and use patterns emerge [2]. Estimates for the total economic value of the nanotechnology sector vary, but it is likely that it will range into the hundreds of billion dollars as industry takes advantage of the unique mechanical, photonic, catalytic, magnetic, and other properties that arise or are enabled because of their size [3, 4]. These novel NM properties frequently require their incorporation into macroscale materials (e.g. polymers, textiles) to create nano-enabled products for their benefits to be realized, while other nano-enabled product lines intentionally use dispersed NMs in liquids (e.g., polishing agents) or soluble matrices (e.g., foods, crmes). However, chemists and engineers creating new nano-enabled products have little information regarding the potential life cycle implications of their designs. In particular, there is a critical lack of knowledge regarding the flow of NMs and possible adverse environmental and human health impacts of NM exposures (i.e., release rates) and hazard (i.e., toxicity) during synthesis, use and end of life management. The physicochemical properties associated with a unique functionality can also influence inherent hazard and potential exposure routes of an NM (Fig. 1). Elucidating these parametric relationships should enable the unintended implications (i.e., hazard and exposure) as well as efficacy in a desired application to be predicted. Such an achievement would represent the first a priori NM design strategy that enables environmental and human health impact mitigation and functional efficacy maximization. In the absence of these relationships, tremendous uncertainty exists in the ability to predict or manage risks from nano-enable products across their life cycle. The problem with nanoscience today is the lack of consistent information (databases, measurements and assays) on the release and toxicity of NMs from nano-enabled products which inhibits development and use of design tools to minimize the advserse impacts of a product across the life cycle while simultaneously maximizing intended materials performance in nano-enabled products. In order to address this problem holistically, we define the concept of a dynamic life cycle assessment (LCA) knowledge network, an approach which consists of a methodology specifically designed to integrate information from across the life cycle, and assess future trajectories of the environmental impacts of emergent nano-enabled products (Fig. 2). The dynamic LCA network incorporates the major stages of LCA, which are embedded within the product value chain. LCnano focuses, in particular, on the manufacturing, consumer use, consumption, and end-of-life disposition stages of the life cycle, but recognizes the larger interconnectivity of these stages with other critical parts of the LCA methodology. The dynamic LCA continuum is divided into four phases: prospecting, anticipation, forecasting, and integration. Prospecting and anticipation consist of an exploration of the nanotechnology field, and associated analysis of the emergent value chains of a wide variety of NMs and products. Forecasting and integration apply to those NM-product combinations which have been shown to surpass a probability threshold indicating that a greater level of research and analysis is warranted. Laboratory and field studies that address fate, transport, and toxicity; the development of predictive tools and indices; understanding of the intended and unintended uses of the products; and estimation of potential impacts and risks all occur during these stages of the dynamic LCA network. The proposed network on the life cycle of nanomaterials (LCnano) seeks to elucidate and validate material property-exposure and property-hazard (PE/PH) relationships from a life cycle perspective that reduces the uncertainty of predictive models for unintended implications of NMs across their life cycle as nano-enabled products and processes. By creating a network of physical and social scientists and engineers, LCnano can ensure continuity 2 and coordination in approaches, materials and measurements that will lead towards research products of high scientific and practical-use benefits. More broadly, the impacts of LCnano are to reduce uncertainty associated with potential hazards associated with using nanoenabled products for the public and business or regulatory communities, and create products to educate the public on the importance of the life cycle perspective for nano-enabled products .
Effective start/end date12/1/138/31/19


  • US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): $5,000,000.00


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