Anticipatory Life Cycle Assessment for Emerging Nanotechnologies

EPA Grant Number: F13C20588
Title: Anticipatory Life Cycle Assessment for Emerging Nanotechnologies
Investigators: Wender, Benjamin Alex
Institution: Arizona State University
EPA Project Officer: Lee, Sonja
Project Period: August 15, 2014 through August 15, 2016
Project Amount: $84,000
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2013) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Fellowship - Civil/Environmental Engineering


Lithium ion batteries (LIBs) are increasingly used in electric vehicles and transportation applications, which has drawn attention to the significant economic and safety risks associated with LIBs’ overheating. One promising solution is to use solid electrolytes derived from ceramic nanowires that afford similar performance and obviate charge-discharge regulating electronics. The life cycle environmental tradeoffs of this marketable technology are unknown and being shaped by decisions made today, which presents an opportunity to use LCA to influence the research agenda toward nano-enabled batteries with reduced impacts.


This research brings together a network of researchers from materials science, social science, environmental engineering and industrial ecology to develop and apply forward-looking LCA models that are robust under uncertainty. To overcome the shortage of data characteristics of nanotechnologies this research employs a suite of prospective modeling tools, including scenario development, thermodynamic modeling and global stochastic sensitivity analysis within a life cycle framework. These methods may identify the greatest data uncertainties and prioritize investments of research resources that result in the greatest life cycle environmental improvements.

Expected Results:

Applying LCA early and literately in research and development (R&D) of nano-enabled batteries will provide materials researchers with environmental criteria to consider alongside technical and economic metrics of technology readiness. Integrating environmental criteria into R&D decisions may result in development of nano-enabled batteries with decreased environmental burden. Additionally, anticipatory LCA will provide a collection of best practices for LCA of nanotechnology and build a framework that is broadly applicable to other emerging technologies.

Potential to Further Environmental/Human Health Protection

Engaging R&D decision makers with broader environmental concerns helps to transcend retrospective identification, regulation and mitigation of environmental impacts. This research has the potential of protecting human and environmental health from emerging threats by building a holistic framework that can guide development of emerging technologies toward environmentally preferable outcomes.

Supplemental Keywords:

nanomaterials, life cycle assessment, lithium ion batteries

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2015
  • Final