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July 29, 2010

Safety of Nanomaterials That Will Soon Have a Big Impact on the Construction Industry

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Science Daily covers the ACS Nano paper by Alvarez and co-authors Jaesang Lee, a postdoctoral researcher at Rice, and Shaily Mahendra, now an assistant professor at the University of California, Los Angeles.

They note that nanomaterials will likely have a greater impact on the construction industry than any other sector of the economy, after biomedical and electronics applications. They cite dozens of potential applications. For example, nanomaterials can strengthen both steel and concrete, keep dirt from sticking to windows, kill bacteria on hospital walls, make materials fire-resistant, drastically improve the efficiency of solar panels, boost the efficiency of indoor lighting and even allow bridges and buildings to "feel" the cracks, corrosion and stress that will eventually cause structural failures.

* 41 percent of all energy use in the U.S. is consumed by commercial and residential buildings, the potential benefits of energy-saving materials alone are vast.

* The time for responsible lifecycle engineering of man-made nanomaterials in the construction industry is now, before they are introduced in environmentally relevant concentrations

ACS Nano - Nanomaterials in the Construction Industry: A Review of Their Applications and Environmental Health and Safety Considerations


Supplemental material is the following two pictures on nanomaterials on biological cells.



The extraordinary chemical and physical properties of materials at the nanometer scale enable novel applications ranging from structural strength enhancement and energy conservation to antimicrobial properties and self-cleaning surfaces. Consequently, manufactured nanomaterials (MNMs) and nanocomposites are being considered for various uses in the construction and related infrastructure industries. To achieve environmentally responsible nanotechnology in construction, it is important to consider the lifecycle impacts of MNMs on the health of construction workers and dwellers, as well as unintended environmental effects at all stages of manufacturing, construction, use, demolition, and disposal. Here, we review state-of-the-art applications of MNMs that improve conventional construction materials, suggest likely environmental release scenarios, and summarize potential adverse biological and toxicological effects and their mitigation. Aligned with multidisciplinary assessment of the environmental implications of emerging technologies, this review seeks to promote awareness of potential benefits of MNMs in construction and stimulate the development of guidelines to regulate their use and disposal to mitigate potential adverse effects on human and environmental health


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