Sustainable Nanotechnology: Defining, Measuring and Teaching the Emerging Field

I. Linkov
US Army Engineer Research and Development Center, US

Keywords: nanotechnology, sustainable, education, decision analysis


Sustainable nanotechnology is being touted as a holistic and pragmatic concept that can guide incremental nanotechnology development amidst significant data gaps and uncertainty. Although there is increasing interest in the topic, there is little consensus on how Sustainable Nanotechnology is defined and measured. We argue that Sustainable Nanotechnology should be defined using the "Triple Bottom Line" framework where the three pillars of sustainability are defined as: the environment, society, and the economy. A TBL definition of sustainable nanotechnology needs to be specific enough to guide the development of metrics through which manufactures, regulators, consumers and other stakeholders can quantify sustainability of specific products and processes. TBL definition of sustainability naturally leads to the use of multi-criteria decision analysis where criteria and metrics are used to prioritize alternative nano technologies or products based on their performance. This presentation will use materials generated at a project course developed in Ca Foscari University of Venice (Italy) in Fall 2013 to teach sustainable development as well as research activities conducted by the US Army Engineer Research and Development Center in the area of life cycle analysis, value of information analysis and risk assessment to address sustainable nanotechnology.