Dumping Nanoparticles into a Fjord: How to Think About the Potential Environmental Impacts

Nanoparticles and the Environment Series, Part II  (click here for Part I) Let’s dive in to a real-world nanotechnology problem raised by one of our readers: should waste composed of nanoparticles, let’s call it “nanowaste”, be disposed of differently than regular waste? There are many types of nanowaste that we could discuss, but today we’ll …

Nano Contaminants: How Nanoparticles Get Into the Environment

Nanoparticles and the Environment Series, Part I (click here for part II) More than a year ago on this site, I talked to you about how nanoparticles were already all around us, and have been for most of human history. That day, I was hoping to show you that while nanotechnology may sound cool and …

Solar Roads: the Science, Potential, and Lingering Questions

There are many ways to reduce our carbon footprint and move towards protecting the environment, but what if we could do this while also preventing automobile accidents, clearing snow without salt and plows, providing electricity, TV, and internet to businesses and homes, and providing clean water all with one new technology? Sounds like something too …

Turning Plastic Bags into Carbon Nanotubes

I was surprised to learn recently that plastic bags can be turned into a new material called carbon nanotubes. Prior to this, all I had heard about plastic bags was about the environmental threat that they potentially pose, either by accumulating in wildlife or clogging landfills with slow-to-break-down waste. Many recycling techniques have been developed …

The Cautionary Tale of DDT – Biomagnification, Bioaccumulation, and Research Motivation

We perform many different kinds of experiments in the Center for Sustainable Nanotechnology—some that you might expect (like making new kinds of nanoparticles), and some that you might not (like feeding nanoparticles to tiny organisms such as bacteria and water fleas).  The second kind of experiment may seem a little strange to you: why is …

Paper or Plastic? Sustainability is a Multi-Dimensional Problem

Part 1 in the "How is That Sustainable?" Series “Paper or plastic?” This was the question you always used to get once you’d made it through the checkout line to the grocery store register (at least when I was growing up). Ever since about 2005, however, it seemed like it was becoming increasingly rare to …

Friday Video: Does Every Silver Lining Have a Cloud?

Happy Friday! That was a video by our friends at the Center for the Environmental Implications of Nanotechnology at Duke University. Our research goals are related to theirs. They are looking at things more from the perspective of the entire ecosystem, while we are taking a more "zoomed-in" approach--looking at things from the atomic- and molecular-scale. …

Silver For Your Smelly Socks??

Silver nanoparticles can be found in socks and sports clothing because of their ability to kill bacteria and inhibit unwanted odors.  Their antibacterial properties are exploited in a number of other products on the market, including cutting boards, computer keyboards, personal care products…and the list goes on. The multitude of uses explains why nanoparticles made …

Personal Care Products, Nano, and You

Here is a picture of the REU (Research Experiences for Undergraduate) students and I sailing in Lake Michigan earlier this summer. It was slightly cold that day at 59℉ with 15 mph winds but also surprisingly sunny, which meant we needed to whip out the sunscreen. Did you know many sunscreens contain nanoparticles? Well, they …

Nanomaterials Making Their Way into Fireworks

For many people the celebration of the 4th of July is not totally complete without a good aerial fireworks show. A good firework show needs to have two essential components to deliver that thrilling experience most of us love to see—sound and color effects. Nanotechnology could make it possible for these fireworks effects to be …