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Lecture | Studium Generale

The global challenge of the environmental impact of nanomaterials

Wednesday 10 April 2019
Anna van Buerenplein
Anna van Buerenplein 301
2595 DG The Hague

And how to develop better (nano)technologies

Nanomaterials can play a significant role in the transition towards sustainability. Next generation photovoltaic technologies can use nanomaterials to increase their solar cell efficiency. The use, however, of nanomaterials can cause environmental and human health impacts. Humans can be exposed to nanomaterials either directly or through the food chain. Furthermore, the production processes of nanomaterials are currently very energy intensive, shifting the environmental impact “up-stream” in the supply chain – i.e. the production processes of electricity –. Thus, to assess the environmental impact of nanomaterials we need to take a holistic approach. We can look into the impact of the use of nanomaterials throughout the life cycle of a nano-based product/technology; the impact of the extraction and processing of raw materials, the manufacturing, operation and end-of-life treatment of the new technology, as well as the energy production impact in all these life cycle stages. In this lecture, I will present how we can use life cycle assessment to guide the sustainable development of emerging technologies and address the challenges related to nanomaterials. I will present the state-of-the-art research for the case of the emerging nanowire-based solar cells and the steps towards a successful future commercialization of the technology, as well as the economic, environmental and social relevance.

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