Effects of nanotechnology on environment to be focus of workshop at Rice

first_imgShareCONTACT: B.J. AlmondPHONE:(713) 348-6770EMAIL: [email protected] NANOTECHNOLOGY ON ENVIRONMENT TO BE FOCUS OF WORKSHOP AT RICE UNIVERSITYDEC. 10Presenters include a Nobel Prize laureate and Bill Clinton’sformer science adviserWhether newnanotechnologies that can help clean up the environment might also harm it willbe addressed during a workshop at Rice University Dec. 10.Titled “Nanotechnologyand Environment: An Examination of the Potential Benefits and Perils of anEmerging Technology,” the free workshop is open to the public.“Emerging technologiespresent new opportunities for improving the human condition, but they also havethe potential for unforeseen negative environmental consequences,” said MarkWiesner, director of Rice’s Energy and Environmental Systems Institute (EESI),which is co-sponsoring the workshop with the Office for Science and Technologyof the French Embassy USA.Wiesner cites Freon asan example. This chemical was hailed as an important advance in refrigerationbecause it was nontoxic and nonflammable. It replaced highly toxic compoundsthat had caused numerous accidental deaths from their use in home refrigerators.But decades later, scientists discovered that chlorofluorocarbons such as Freonendangered Earth’s ozone layer.“Nanotechnologies holdgreat promise for creating new means of detecting pollutants, cleaning pollutedwaste streams, recovering materials before they become wastes and expandingavailable resources,” Wiesner said. “But the nanotechnology industry is just nowemerging, so we need to question whether it presents new environmentalchallenges so that the products of nanochemistry do not become dangerousenvironmental pollutants.”Rice is hosting theworkshop in affiliation with its new Center for Biological and EnvironmentalNanotechnology, one of six major Nanoscale Science and Engineering Centersrecently announced by the National Science Foundation and the first to focus onapplications of nanoscience to biology and the environment.Nanotechnologies involvematerials that are one-billionth of a meter. Research at the Rice center willfocus on the use of nanomaterials in water-based systems, ranging in size frombiomolecules and cells to whole organisms and the surrounding environment. Newnanostructured membranes are being developed for potable water treatment,treatment of hazardous materials and environmental analysis. Such membranesmight be used to improve water quality while providing a higher level ofsecurity to water-treatment systems.“We’re bringing togetherresearchers from Rice and leading French research institutions in the area ofnanotechnology and environment with nanochemistry and environmental researchersto discuss how nanotechnologies might be used to protect our environment and thepotential dangers they pose,” Wiesner said.Among the scheduledpresenters are Richard Smalley, recipient of the 1996 Nobel Prize for chemistryand director of the Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology at Rice, andNeal Lane, a university professor at Rice who served as President Bill Clinton’sscience and technology adviser.Topics to be addressedin presentations at the workshop include carbon nanotubes; mineralnanoparticles; nano-engineering chemical sensors for environmental applications;nanostructured membranes; environmental quality on the “Nano-Coast;” transportof nanoparticles in the environment; potential for facilitated transport ofcontaminants by nanomaterials; potential for bio-uptake and bio-accumulation ofnanoparticles; and implications of nanotechnology for environmental policy andsociety.The workshop will beheld from 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. in Anne and Charles Duncan Hall, McMurtryAuditorium, 6100 Main Street. A reception and poster session will be held from 5to 6 p.m. Preregistration is not required.For a complete list ofspeakers and the times of presentations, see EESI’s Web site, . AddThis Rice University is consistently ranked one of America’sbest teaching and research universities. It is distinguished by its: size-2,700undergraduates and 1,500 graduate students; selectivity-10 applicants for eachplace in the freshman class; resources-an undergraduate student-to-faculty ratioof 5-to-1, and the fifth largest endowment per student among private Americanuniversities; residential college system, which builds communities that are bothclose-knit and diverse; and collaborative culture, which crosses disciplines,integrates teaching and research, and intermingles undergraduate and graduatework. Rice’s wooded campus is located in the nation’s fourth largest city and onAmerica’s South Coast. last_img read more