A Public-Private Partnership Approach to Promote Safe, Rapid Commercialization of Advanced Materials

R. Patel, M. Curry, A. Mullins, L. Kovacs, K. Kim, P. Schweiger, N.L. Vanette, C.A. Hansen, C.N. Campbell, K.W. Ess, M. Chappell, J. Brame, T. Rycroft, M. Wood, A. Kennedy, W-S. Shih, D. Edwards
US Army Engineer Research and Development Center,
United States

Keywords: Life Cylce, nano-enabled products, public-private partnership, EHS


Research exploiting applications for nano-enabled technologies (NET) over the past two decades is now leading to products set for commercialization. However, the potential environment, health, and safety (EHS) risks associated with the unique properties throughout the life of these products are not understood [1-4]. Because of the limited knowledge and sometimes overly conservative regulatory assumptions and perceptions by the general public, obstacles for commercializing NETs may be significant. The goal of this effort is to create and communicate tools that promote safe yet rapid commercialization of advanced materials. As a case-study to develop these tools we focus on the development of a carbon nanotube (CNT)-based sensor being developed by Brewer Science, Inc. Using a life cycle approach, we will address EHS issues, regulatory requirements, product liability concerns, and identify additional obstacles to future advanced technology commercialization. As part of the effort, we aim promote public understanding of the positive impacts from responsible nanomaterial commercialization and generate student interest in advanced material applications, while developing processes to foster responsible development. Accomplishing this goal requires a diverse, interdisciplinary team, combining experts from industry, government and universities. As such we have formed a public-private partnership research team, composed of Missouri State University (MSU), Brewer Science Inc. (BSI), and the US Army Engineer Research & Development Center (ERDC). This team is conducting a systematic study on the "cradle to grave" life-cycle assessment (LCA), to calculate the potential environmental impacts of carbon nanomaterial-based sensor devices. To accomplish this effort we outline four component activities describing project tasks, timeline, and products over the next 3-4 years. Component 1: Sensor Development. The first task focuses on the fundamental research required for development of a carbon nanotube sensor. Commercialization of this NET product will include development and characterization of CNT inks and printing processes as well as sensor scale-up and manufacturing. Component 2: Life Cycle Inventory & Analysis. Using LCA-based approaches, we will create a comprehensive inventory of processes and materials contributing to sensor development, manufacturing, use and disposal of the NET sensor. This information will enable an analysis of potential emissions and expenditures that can be used to refine processes and implement controls for reduction of both cost and EHS impact. Component3: Environmental Health. We will employ a tiered framework tool and carry out bench-scale tests to characterize the properties of the NET, the potential emissions of nanomaterials throughout the life cycle, the fate and transport of those materials in the environment and the potential hazard or toxicity that may be associated with any released engineered nanomaterials. Component 4: Cross-Cutting Themes. In this component we will coordinate the communication and dissemination of information and tools resulting from the efforts of the first three components. As part of the overall program goal to facilitate safe and rapid commercialization of NET products, this will include interactions with industrial, regulatory and research communities.