In addition to great progress, technology has brought the pollution, ozone holes and global warming. Technology is not the reason for today’s ecological disaster. It is just a powerful tool that we have misused. Now, when we finally become aware of our mistakes, there is a good opportunity to properly utilize the available technological strength to repair the damage. Green nanotechnology has great potential for solving many problems of environmental pollution.
What is green nanotechnology? It is the kind of nanotechnology that uses different environmentally friendly nano-products and technological processes in order to enhance the environmental sustainability. Also, this clean technology needs to minimize all potential human health risks (associated with the use of nanotechnology products) and to replace existing products with new ecological nano-products. Green ecological nano-products are produced at low temperatures using less materials, energy and renewable inputs.
Nano-products are widely used for cleaning and desalinating of polluted water, as well as for remediation of hazardous waste locations. Also, the numerous nano-products have been developed for generation of energy, such as thermo-electric devices, fuel cells, improved batteries and solar cells. All these products are small sized (use less material), save energy/fuels and they don’t generate any pollutants. Green Nanotechnology combines Green Engineering, Green Chemistry and Industrial Ecology to discover the nano-products and nanomaterials that don’t contain of toxic ingredients. First of all, this nanotechnology has to involve the following:
- Use of significantly less energy during manufacturing processes
- The ability to recycle products after their use
- Using various eco-friendly materials.
Applications of green nanotechnology can be direct or indirect. The main fields of their application are:
- Solar cells – Application of nanotechnology in the production of solar cells is large. It provides improved performance of coatings for photovoltaic and solar thermal panels. Self-cleaning and hydrophobic properties combine to make more efficient solar panels. Solar panels covered by nanotechnology coatings can stay cleaner for longer to give maximum energy efficiency.
- Water treatment – Green nanotechnology offers various environmental materials and products (e.g., carbon nanotubes, nanofiber filters, nanobiocides and different nanoparticles) for the treatment of groundwater, wastewater and surface water. Their high efficiency stems from the very specific surface of nanomaterials, which increases sorption, reactivity and the dissolution of contaminants. Some applications include:
- Laboratory methods for fast identification of pathogens in water.
- Desalination of water, i.e., removal of minerals and salts from water. One of the most successful applications is the use of carbon nanofiber membranes and nanobiocides for seawater desalination.
- Treatment of biofilms by enzymes (development is still in progress).
- Control different types of pollution. For example, so-called buckminsterfullerene can control certain chemical reactions and protects reactive oxygen. Other examples of green nanotechnology applications for reduction of pollutants are:
- Usage of atomic synthesis and improved catalysts for different industrial processes.
- Provides information to molecules to create new molecules.
- Self-assembly of molecules.
- To create molecules in microscale reactors.
In addition, other applications can involve the production of numerous low weight nanocomposites for automobiles – for bearings, tires, valves, cylinders, etc. As you can see, the application of green nanotechnology is very broad, but many researches are still in progress.