Just Say Nano?
Nanotechnology — the rapidly evolving science of manipulating materials at the molecular level — holds the promise of tiny computers, super-strong bridges, ultra-light airplanes, and cures for cancer. But will it be an environmental boon or bane? Some fear that nanotechnology could create contaminants whose tiny size would make them nearly impossible to cleanse from the bloodstream or groundwater, for example; one environmental organization, ETC Group, is asking the government to halt nanotechnology research until environmental and health concerns can be researched and addressed. But others believe that nanotechnology could be the key to solving many environmental problems. The National Science Foundation’s National Nanotechnology Initiative has been researching the technology’s potential to aid the environment through such applications as filtering systems for water, gas pipelines, and smokestacks that could remove even minuscule impurities. The tiny particles could also be used as sensors to monitor air and drinking water for toxics, and absorbent particles could be used to clean up tainted water or soil.