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Posted: Jan 15, 2016
Green nano: Positive environmental effects through the use of nanotechnology (page 2 of 4)
The term 'green nano' in the USA
The term green nanotechnology can be interpreted in two ways. On the one hand, a number of general applications and processes can be made environmentally friendlier through the use of nanotechnology (e.g. through resource and energy savings, reduction of harmful substances etc.), and on the other hand, the term directly relates to applications in environmental technology.10
In order to avoid this double meaning, it was differentiated already early on: The Woodrow Wilson Institute11 used the term green nanotechnology in 2007 and contrasted it with the term of nano-enhanced green technology. The adaptation of concepts for environmentally friendly production (green chemistry and green technology) to the conditions of nanotechnology was already considered.
Box 1: Examples of green nano and green nano-enhanced technologies. (Woodrow Wilson Institute)12
Thus, this definition of green nanotechnology related particularly to environmentally friendlier production. This was accompanied with nano-enhanced green technology as its own point. Box 1 introduces examples of applications for each of the terms.
Predecessors to the green nano design principles
In an attempt to specify the term green nano within one exhaustive concept and to summarize its partial aspects, the second German NanoCommission (2009-2011) turned to the already existing list of demands of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) who had already in 2006 defined possible aspects of a more sustainable, greener chemistry and technology.
They understand green chemistry (Box 2) to encompass the development of chemical products and processes which reduce or mitigate the use or production of hazardous substances. It can be applied throughout the entire life cycle of a product. While green chemistry thereby can contribute to the minimization of pollution directly at the source, it does not rehabilitate environmental damage or contribute to waste treatment (in comparison to nano-enhanced green technology).14
Green engineering (Box 3) comprises the design, distribution and use of processes and products. By incorporating this early on into the development of technologies (compare above mentioned Leitbild approach) greatest possible benefits and highest cost efficiency are expected. Developments which fall into this area shall be economic and functional and maintain possible contamination at a minimum.15
Discussions surrounding the green nano design principles in Germany
Box 3: The principles of green engineering.The discussion on the advantages and disadvantages of nanotechnology has undergone several phases.18 In Germany, the creation of the first German NanoCommission (2006-2008) constituted a change in the debate, shifting the discussion from economic policies to institutions, which were entrusted with the mandate to protect.19 In the course of this development, there were already first approaches to develop guiding principles for the industry to consider environmental effects. However, they were never implemented.20 In 2008, the NanoCommission was extended, both with regard to its composition and its orientation. Originally tasked with four thematic groups, an additional Working Group, “Sustainable Nanotechnology – Green Nano”, was created.
While the former dealt primarily with regulatory questions21, the latter analyzed already existing ideas on sustainable nanotechnology and unified these without considering any specific implementation.
Through the adaptation and extension of the green chemistry and green engineering principles it was attempted to develop a more unified approach to environmentally friendlier production. Unlike the Woodrow Wilson Institute’s definition, the German interpretation understood green nano to comprise both environmentally friendly products and production processes as well as improvements of environmental technology. This broad definition of terms is also reflected in the design principles, which can encompass (research) processes and applications.