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Meridian Institute

UF Researchers Look for Ways to Make an Emerging Technology Safe for Environment

Summary posted by Meridian on 3/22/2012

Source: University of Florida (21 March 2012)

Author(s): Donna Hesterman

University of Florida, United States, researchers are looking for ways to minimize the environmental hazards of carbon nanotubes, a material likely to play an increasingly important role in the manufacturing of electronics. The resulting electronic waste from all these gadgets, is, however, occupying an increasingly large percentage of our landfills, and concern is growing over the toxicity of their components. As the use of carbon nanotubes ramps up, there is some concern over their toxicity. Jean-Claude Bonzongo, associate professor of environmental engineering, said, “Depending on how the nanotubes are used, they can be toxic – exhibiting properties similar to asbestos in laboratory mice.” He is working with Kirk Ziegler, an associate professor of chemical engineering, to minimize this material’s potential for harm. The team is investigating the toxicity associated with aqueous solutions of carbon nanotubes that would be used in certain manufacturing processes. “At the nano-scale, electron interactions between atoms are restricted, and that creates some of the desirable traits like the high conductivity that manufacturers want to take advantage of with carbon nanotubes,” Ziegler said. “But exploiting those properties is difficult because the nanotubes tend to clump together.” Nanotubes need to be treated in some way to keep them from clumping, and an aqueous solution is often used. “Some of the surfactants, or solutions, are toxic on their own,” Bonzongo said. “And others become toxic in the presence of carbon nanotubes.” The team is working on solutions that become hazardous when mixed with carbon nanotubes, and have found that toxicity can be reduced by controlling the ratio of liquid to particulate. “It’s an emerging technology,” Bonzongo added. “We want to get ahead of it and make sure that the progress is sustainable — in terms of the environment and human health.”

The original article may still be available at http://news.ufl.edu/2012/03/21/nano-toxic/

As tagged by Meridian Institute:

Stakeholders: AcademiaPrivate Sector

Implications: Economic CompetitivenessEnvironmental RisksHuman Health RisksWorker Safety

Regions: North America

Nanomaterial Category: Carbon Nanoparticle

Materials and Manufacturing: ElectronicsManufacturingMaterials

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