ECO-FRIENDLY-NANO-TECHNOLOGY will offer the composite materials of tomorrow

October 1, 2009 § Leave a comment

nanotube (Image by Scott Dougherty)

(image by Scott Dougherty) Both nano and bio technology products are my bet on saving the planet

Let’s face the truth… we can’t go back to stone age and only use naturally occurring stuff. We can’t just use wood for everything. Or stone. Or glass. Or vegetable oil. Human civilisation needs science more badly than ever to be able to stop going belly-up.

We need (1) to develop non-polluting energy-efficient industrial processes that use solely renewable energy-sources here on earth.

We need  (2) materials that are safe for humans, that don’t leach hazardous chemicals be it contact leaching or off-gassing.

We need (3) to scale these industries efficiently to be able to cover the demand from a growing earth population without damaging the nature.

This article will be a little science-fiction compared to the usual DIY-ish all natural, all recycled, locally produced, minimal design/use of materials/energy usage kind of articles you find on perfectcube. But I will try to be very concise and only point 1st and 2nd abovementioned issues.

At point (1) I mentioned renewable energy as the only energy that must be produced on earth. Sounds weird but I believe we need to produce most of our energy in space. We can’t cover the energy demand of the future by harnessing wind, solar and waves. We could but it’s not economically feasible. Unless we get this fusion thing started we won’t be able to cleanly produce tremendous amount of electricity all our electronic equipment will devour. I guess Japan thinks same way as they plan a $21 bn 1GW space solar station. But perhaps a few nuclear-power plants on the moon or even in high orbit would be great, but by all means we need to conserve the habitat we have been blessed with here. It’s similar with what we did with national parks or reservations – protected areas from the pollution and harm outside.

(2)nd stressed issue above talks about materials. My opinion is we desperately need to replace petroleum plastics with something else, be it bio-plastic or some other eco-friendly replacement. But in the long term plastic, metal, glass won’t exist. There will be composite materials that will have just the right properties for their intended use, that won’t leach or off-gas or have any influence on living matter, that will be produced cleanly with no toxic or in any-way harmful by-products to be dumped in rivers or landfills. This is where science WILL help us if we want to have a safe future.

But, as the title of the article implies, the first such product that needs to be created is a plastic replacement. Yet we don’t even agree how to define nano-technology when food or health-care products are considered but science and politics must act quicker than ever to set things right and make studies on nano-scale particles’ safety so that we get producing some kick-ass Star-Treck kind of materials.

There are already huge steps being made by bio-plastics. See

  • Cereplast’s CP-TH-6000 nano-engineered Poly-Lactic Acid,
  • Teijin’s BioFront polylactide fibers,
  • Innovia’s NatureFlex compostable wood pulp derived cellulose packaging film,
  • DuraBan LLC’s DuraBan sollution, a permanent, water-based, non-leaching and non-VOC antimicrobial,
  • EcologyCoatings’  nanotechnology-enabled, 100 percent solids, ultraviolet curable industrial coatings,
  • SOLPLAS’ aerosol assisted atmospheric plasma (AAAP) deposition technology for coating thin films especially inportant in food packaging industry,

There are yet to be overcome great concerns on environmental, health and safety risks of nanoparticles. Researchers are still trying to find answers on questions about exposure of nanoparticles to humans, their toxicity and accumulation in the body cells. Major founds need to be deployed to support studies on safety before nan0-composite materials will re-define our world.

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