Nanoscale Materials and Nanotechnology Processes in Environmental Protection
Gheorghy Vissokov and Tsvety Tzvetkoff
University of Chemical Technology and Metallurgy, 8, Kl. Okhridski Blvd., 1756, Sofia, Bulgaria
Nanoscale materials occur naturally in the atmosphere, in minerals, in the ocean, and biological systems. The risks to human health for particles of this length scale have not been assessed. A number of environmental and energy technologies have already benefited substantially from nanoscale technology:
- reduced waste and improved energy efficiency; - environmentally friendly composite structures;
- waste remediation;
- energy conversion.
Opportunities for nanoscale technology use exit in a number of areas:
- replacement of waste-generating technologies with "green" technologies;
- improvement of process efficiency and manufacturing of smaller and lighter materials in order to reduce material and energy use;
- better understanding and control of natural phenomena and pollution through use of nanosensors and nanoelectronics.
In this report we present examples of current achievements and paradigm shifts:
- from discovery to application;
- a nanostructured materials;
- nanoparticles in the environment (plasmachemical preparation);
- nanoporous polymers and their applications in water purification;
- photocatalytic fluid purification;
- hierarchical self-assembled nanostructures for adsorption of heavy metals, etc.
Several themes should be considered priorities in developing nanoscale processes related to environmental management:
- To develop understanding and control of relevant processes, including protein precipitation and crystallisation, desorption of pollutans, stability of colloidal dispersion, micelle aggregation, microbe mobility, formation and mobility of nanoparticles, and tissue-nanoparticle interaction. Emphasis should be given to processes at phase boundaries (solid-liquid, solid-gas, liquid-gas) that involve mineral and organic soil components, aerosols, biomolecules (cells, microbes), biotissues, derived components such as biofilms and membranes, and anthropogenic additions (e.g. trace and heavy metals);
- To carry out interdisciplinary research that initiates novel approaches and adopts new methods for characterising surfaces and modelling complex systems to problems at interfaces and other nanostructures in the natural environment, including those involving biological or living systems. New technological advances such as optical traps, laser tweezers, and synchrotrons are extending examination of molecular and nanoscale processes to the single-molecule or single-cell level;
- To integrate understanding of the roles of molecular and nanoscale phenomena and behaviour at the meso- and/or macroscale over a period of time.
Environmental compartments for investigations are not limited and might include terrestrial locations (e.g. acid mines), aquifers, polar environments, or the atmosphere.