Green Nanotechnology Roadmap Highlights Opportunities and Challenges

A University of Oregon news release “‘Green nano’ vision is now a roadmap for development” announces the release by the American Chemical Society’s Green Chemistry Institute of a roadmap for the development of ‘green’ nanochemistry to bring the benefits of near-term nanotechnology with minimal threat to human health or to the environment. From the news release:

A decade ago, University of Oregon chemist James E. Hutchison wrote an invited article in Chemical & Engineering News in which he envisioned “a generalized roadmap for the future design and development of green nanoscience materials.”

That roadmap has grown up and is now in front of chemistry leaders worldwide with the publication of “Green Nanotechnology Challenges and Opportunities.” The new “white paper” on the potential of incorporating benign chemistry practices was co-written by Hutchison. The American Chemical Society’s Green Chemistry Institute issued the document, which is freely available at

“The roots of green nano are really deep here in Oregon,” said Hutchison, who holds the Lokey-Harrington Chair in Chemistry at the UO. “This report mirrors the strategy that we have had for several years now. This is the way that things are going to be done. The report addresses the need for commercialization, for new policies — a new science for addressing our societal needs. It’s been 10 years in coming, but we are at the table now.”

The report outlines the promise of green nanotechnology, which promotes the design of useful particles thousands of times smaller than the width of a human hair in a way that reduces or eliminates waste or the production of hazardous substances. It also spells out what actions need to be undertaken by the various stakeholders, Hutchison said.

When successfully implemented, green nanotechnology could lead to a revitalized and sustainable U.S. chemical and materials manufacturing base, the white paper says. Nanoparticles could well find their ways into medicine, electronics, energy production and other industries.

Green Nanotechnology Challenges and Opportunities” presents examples of both encouraging success in meeting the challenges of near-term nanoparticle development and reasons for concern that inept government regulation will retard progress.

A solid success is the development of sensitive assays for the biological effects of nanoparticle to be used to guide research and development of nanoparticles for applications. The combination of the embryonic zebrafish model with precisely engineered gold nanoparticles means that the effect of specific changes to charge, surface chemistry, and particle size can be investigated for subtle biological effects.

An example of the challenges yet to be overcome is the case of Dune Sciences. This company licensed a promising nanotechnnology innovation to permanently attach silver nanoparticles to surfaces so that commercial antimicrobial applications of silver nanoparticles could be developed without the worry of potentially toxic silver nanoparticles escaping into the environment. Unfortunately no path could be found through the EPA regulatory maze to register the product, despite the evident fact that the proposed product was safer than what was already on the market. This impasse prevented the company from securing funding and necessitated putting development of the product on hold.

The report also presents a brief analysis of the different barriers to developing nanotechnology in the US and in China that is worth a look.

Given Foresight’s interest in the long-term development of atomically precise productive nanosystems as a future manufacturing technology, with both its much greater potential benefits and its potentially more complex regulatory issues, the path forward being blazed by green nanotechnology is worth following.

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