Seminar | Thomas L. Theis

Title: "Life Cycle Analysis and Nanostructured Materials"

Date: 11/11/2010 | 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
Location: Schiciano Side B – Fitzpatrick Center

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Thomas L. Theis, Ph.D., PE, DEE
Professor, Civil and Materials Engineering
Director, Institute for Environmental Science & Policy
University of Illinois
 

Overview:
This presentation will review findings on life cycle analysis and nanostructured materials and products. It will examine the function and composition of nanostructured materials, their manufacture, use, and end-of-life disposition, and explore ways in which a life cycle approach can be used to guide research on their environmental and health properties.

Abstract:
Engineered nanostructured materials are defined as small structures of controlled shape, size, composition, and function (e.g. nanoparticles, carbon nanotubes, nanowires, nanofilms, quantum dots). Examples of industries or sectors where nanoproducts or nanomanufacturing methods are being used today include ceramics, membranes, coatings, composites, skincare products, biotechnology, semiconductors, and thin films. However, this area is growing rapidly thus new applications and products will undoubtedly be developed in the near term.
 
Present environmental research on nanotechnology appears to be proceeding along two separate pathways; one as a receptive view recognizing nanotechnology as a an enabling force providing benefits such as innovative remediation alternatives, improved catalysts and membranes, and better sensors for detection of contaminants, and the other as a precautionary view seeking to identify fate and transport, potential toxicity, risk, and health effects of nanostructured materials and resultant products. Significant research efforts on human health impacts are underway; however there are comparatively few studies that have focused on the application of life cycle concepts.

Life cycle analysis (LCA) is an interdisciplinary, systems-based approach for gathering data on material and energy flows involved with products and processes and assessing the environmental impacts associated with those flows. LCA is a powerful tool for making holistic comparisons among possible or competing systems, and are undertaken for four principal reasons:
(1) To develop information for comparative purposes when choices among designs or alternatives must be made,
(2) To quantitatively establish the nature of tradeoffs associated with various choices,
(3) To examine single systems in order to ascertain those components, parts, or processes which are the most material or energy intensive and for which investments of resources or research might be expected to yield the greatest improvements, and
(4) To facilitate the communication of risks and benefits to consumers and stakeholders.
   
This presentation will review findings on life cycle analysis and nanostructured materials and products. It will examine the function and composition of nanostructured materials, their manufacture, use, and end-of-life disposition, and explore ways in which a life cycle approach can be used to guide research on their environmental and health properties.