Nanotechnology

Nano structuresClick to enlarge
Nano structures are more than 1000 times smaller than the diameter of an human hair
Source: eugenesergeev / Fotolia.com

Nanotechnology involves research and development, production and processing of structures and materials on a nanometre scale. Nanotechnology deals with the production and application of processes and materials composed of structurally definable particles on a scale of about 100 nanometres (1 nm = 10-9 m) or less in at least one dimension.

Nanotechnology for mankind and the environment – Seize upon opportunities, reduce risks

In other words, nanomaterials are more than 1,000 times smaller in diameter than a human hair. At this scale the physical and chemical properties of materials change, and these changes can be applied in a variety of ways to develop new types of products and applications.

Nanotechnology is applied in many areas of the economy such as the automotive industry, mechanical engineering, the chemicals and food industries, and the biotech and environmental technology fields.  Nanotechnology can offer various environmental opportunities, e.g. in the field of energy and resource efficiency, site remediation, or water purification. However, as a consequence of the dynamic development of nanomaterials and their applications, the amounts produced are increasing. In case nanomaterials are released from products and applications, this may result in increased burdens for humans and the environment.

Even today some questions remain concerning the potential environmental benefits and the possible risks posed by nanomaterials. The nanoscale form of a substance does not necessarily constitute a hazard or risk. However, nanomaterials have specific properties that distinguish them from other chemicals. The knowledge about characteristics, behaviour, and effects of nanomaterials gained during the last years allows to point out which aspects need to be considered for the testing and assessment of their environmental risks and have to be reflected in the regulatory requirements. UBA seeks to provide information about the environmental and health aspects of nanotechnology, to narrow the gap in knowledge, and to identify further need for action. On the one hand UBA supports the use of nanotechnology with ecological potential and it funds innovations suited to that purpose; on the other hand, it draws attention to the possible risks of nanomaterials to environment and human health and develops recommendations for best practise aimed at reducing or eliminating risk.