Nanotubes.... dontchajustlovethem? As nanotechnology advances rapidly, and appears to be an almost invaluable tool in the sustainable technologists armoury, being employed in a variety of next-gen technologies: Hydrogen storage, solar devices, more efficient semiconductors, and lightweight materials that could result in lighter composites all use nanotubes and other nanomaterials in their construction. They can even help turn CO2 into usable fuel!
However, Liz Borkowski from Grist has picked up on an article in the Journal Nature Nanotechnology, whose authors reckon that there could be a more sinister side to EcoGeek's favourite little allotropes of carbon... and raises the spectre of 'asbestos' - the former wonder-material turned nasty. Previously used in more applications than you could shake a stick at, asbestos was discovered to cause particularly nasty cancers.
Asbestos, is long thin crystals of a natural mineral, whilst carbon nanotubes are long thin constructions of carbon atoms. There is a cautionary tale for the adoption of new technologies, lets keep our fingers crossed that nanotubes are benign. But questions remain about what effects nanotubes have in current uses. While injecting them into rats certainly causes problems, will they really kill if simply coating the faces of solar panels?
We will certainly need to watch out for applications that might shed nanotubes. And anything that would result in inhaling the stuff should be avoided at all costs. But mosts applications should be entirely benign.
written by Lauren Guite, May 23, 2008
|< Prev||Next >|