The Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies (PEN) is holding an event on site remediation on Feb. 4, 2010 (12:30 pm to 1:30 pm EST). From the news release,
A new review article appearing in Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP) co-authored by Dr. Todd Kuiken, Research Associate for the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies (PEN), Dr. Barbara Karn, Office of Research and Development, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Marti Otto, Office of Superfund Remediation and Technology Innovation, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency focuses on the use of nanomaterials for environmental cleanup. It provides an overview of current practices; research findings; societal issues; potential environment, health, and safety implications; and possible future directions for nanoremediation. The authors conclude that the technology could be an effective and economically viable alternative for some current site cleanup practices, but potential risks remain poorly understood.
PEN’s Contaminated Site Remediation: Are Nanomaterials the Answer? features the EHN article’s authors Kulken, Karn, and Otto on a panel with David Rejeski, PEN’s executive director moderating. PEN also has a map detailing almost 60 sites (mostly in the US, 2 in Canada, 4 in Europe, and 1 in Taiwan) where nanomaterials are being used for remediation. More from the news release,
According to Dr. Kuiken, “Despite the potentially high performance and low cost of nanoremediation, more research is needed to understand and prevent any potential adverse environmental impacts, particularly studies on full-scale ecosystem-wide impacts. To date, little research has been done.”
In its 2004 report Nanoscience and nanotechnologies: opportunities and uncertainties, the British Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering recommended that the use of free manufactured nanoparticles be prohibited for environmental applications such as remediation until further research on potential risks and benefits had been conducted. The European Commission’s Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR) called for further risk research in 2005 while acknowledging environmental remediation technology as one of nanotechnology’s potential benefits.
If you wish to attend in person (i.e. you are in Washington, DC), you are asked to RSVP here (they provide a light lunch starting at 12 pm) or you can watch the webcast (no RSVP necessary and I will put up a link to the webcast closer to the date).
On the topic of risk, Michael Berger has written an in depth piece about a recently published article, Redefining research risk priorities for nanomaterials, in the Journal of Nanoparticle Research. From Berger’s piece,
While research in quantitative risk characterization of nanomaterials is crucially important, and no one advocates abandoning this approach, scientists and policy makers must face the reality that many of these knowledge gaps cannot be expected to be closed for many years to come – and decision making will need to continue under conditions of uncertainty. At the same time, current chemical-based research efforts are mainly directed at establishing toxicological and ecotoxicological and exposure data for nanomaterials, with comparatively little research undertaken on the tools or approaches that may facilitate near-term decisions.
In other words, there’s a big lag between developing new products using nanomaterials and the research needed to determine the health and environmental risks associated both with the production and use of these new materials. The precautionary principle suggests that we not produce or adopt these products until we are certain about risks and how to ameliorate and/or eliminate them. That’s an impossible position as we can never anticipate with any certainty what will happen when something is released to the general public or into the environment at large. From Berger’s piece,
In their article, [Khara Deanna] Grieger [PhD student at Technical University of Denmark (DTU)], Anders Baun, who heads DTU’s Department of Environmental Engineering, and Richard Owens from the Policy Studies Institute in the UK, argue that there has not yet been a significant amount of attention dedicated to the field of timely and informed decision making for near term decisions. “We see this as the central issue for the responsible emergence of nanotechnologies” says Grieger.
Getting back to site remediation using nanomaterials, since it’s already in use as per the map and the authors state that there hasn’t been enough research into risks, do we pull back and adopt the precautionary principle or do we proceed as intelligently as possible in an area where uncertainty rules? That’s a question I will continue to explore as I get my hands on more information.
On a completely different nano front, the Leonardo magazine has issued a call for papers on nano and art,
2011 is the International Year of Chemistry! To celebrate Leonardo is seeking to publish papers and artworks on the intersections of chemistry,
nanotechnology and art for our on-going special section on nanotechnology and the arts. Since its inception nanotech/science has been intimately connected to chemistry; fullerenes, nanoputians, molecular machines, nano-inorganics and self-assembling molecular systems all spring from the minds and labs of chemists, biochemists and chemical engineers. If you’re a nano-oriented chemist who is serious about art, an artist working on the molecular level, or a chemical educator exploring the mysteries of nano through the arts we are especially seeking submissions from you.
You can send proposals, queries, and/or manuscripts to the Leonardo editorial office: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can read more about the call for papers here at Leblogducorps or you can go here to the Leonardo online journal.
Meanwhile, Andrew Maynard at 2020 Science is posting about a new book which integrates art work in an attempt to explain nanotechnology without ever mentioning it. From Andrew’s posting,
How do you write a book about something few people have heard off, and less seem interested in? The answer, it seems, is to write about something else.
Felice Frankel and George Whitesides have clearly taken this lesson to heart. Judged by the cover alone, their new book “No Small Matter: Science at the Nanoscale” is all about science in the Twilight zone of the nanoscale
– where stuff doesn’t behave in the way intuition says it should.
Drat! I can’t make the indent go away. At any rate, do visit 2020 as Andrew to read more from this posting and at least one other where he has gotten permission to excerpt parts of the book (text and images).
Tags: Anders Baun, Andrew Maynard, art, art and nanotechnology, call for papers, David Rejeski, Dr. Barbara Karn, Dr. Todd Kulken, Felice Frankel, Goerge Whitesides, Khara Deanna Grieger, Leonardo online, Marti Otto, Michael Berger, nanomaterials, nanotechnology, No Small Matter: Science at the Nanoscale, PEN, Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies, remediation map, Richard Owens, risk, site remediation, Technical University of Denmark