Evaluating the Impacts of Nanomanufacturing via Thermodynamic and Life Cycle Analysis

EPA Grant Number: R832532
Title: Evaluating the Impacts of Nanomanufacturing via Thermodynamic and Life Cycle Analysis
Investigators: Bakshi, Bhavik R. , Lee, L. James
Institution: The Ohio State University
EPA Project Officer: Hahn, Intaek
Project Period: January 1, 2006 through December 31, 2010
Project Amount: $375,000
RFA: Exploratory Research: Nanotechnology Research Grants Investigating Environmental and Human Health Effects of Manufactured Nanomaterials: A Joint Research Solicitation - EPA, NSF, NIOSH (2005) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Health , Safer Chemicals , Health Effects , Nanotechnology


The proposed research will develop original life cycle inventory data for the manufacture of polymer nanocomposites, test two new hypotheses for thermodynamics-based life cycle assessment (LCA) and impact assessment with limited information, and develop a tool for exploring economic and environmental aspects of alternate manufacturing combinations for selected nanoproducts and conventional processes. The following hypotheses will be tested: (i) among alternatives for making similar products, the one with a higher life cycle thermodynamic efficiency has a smaller life cycle impact; and (ii) emissions with a smaller life cycle thermodynamic efficiency have a larger ecotoxicological impact. The second law of thermodynamics and hierarchical systems theory support these hypotheses. However, validating them has been challenging.


Through collaboration with leading academic groups, industry, and a national laboratory, life cycle inventory data and modules will be developed for the synthesis and use of nanoclays and carbon nanofibres. These modules will be combined with life cycle information at different spatial scales, ranging from equipment to ecosystems, and used to perform multiscale or hybrid LCA of several potential products. Different scenarios for the manufacture, use, end of life, emissions and exposure of typical consumable and durable products, such as automotive body panels and food wrapping film, will be analyzed along with estimates of uncertainty. Thermodynamic LCA will treat industrial and ecological systems as networks of energy flow and combine the features of systems ecology, LCA and systems engineering. The proposed hypotheses will be tested in a statistical sound manner via several case studies.

Expected Results:

LCA of nanotechnology is essential for guiding and managing risk in research, development and commercialization while preventing irrational optimism or unfounded fear of this emerging field. However, it presents formidable obstacles since data and knowledge about resource consumption, emissions and their impact are either unknown or not readily available. This work will lay the foundation for LCA of polymer nanocomposites and other emerging technologies. Validation of the first hypothesis will provide useful insight about nano versus traditional technologies while the second hypothesis will provide a proxy for the ecotoxicological impact of the emissions. These hypotheses will be useful for nano and other emerging technologies before detailed emissions data and ecotoxicological studies are available. As more information about manufacturing, emissions and their impact becomes available it will be incorporated in the proposed studies and tool.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 19 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 4 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

energy, modeling, industrial ecology, life-cycle analysis, environmentally conscious manufacturing, sustainable development, risk management,, Health, Scientific Discipline, ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT, Environmental Chemistry, Risk Assessments, Environmental Microbiology, Risk Assessment, ecological risk assessment, environmental risks, nanotechnology, carbon fullerene, human exposure, nanomaterials, nanoparticulate aerosol, polymer nanocomposites, nanoparticle toxicity, exposure assessment

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2006 Progress Report
  • 2007 Progress Report
  • 2008
  • 2009
  • Final Report