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Protecting our natural environment

​Nanomaterials, a variety of applications

Published on 30 January 2017
​Nanotechnologies in general and nanomaterials in particular, provide a number of opportunities to reduce the environmental impact of human activities.

Nanotechnologies contribute to reducing energy consumption, developing alternative energy sources, and managing water resources; they can also help improve industrial processes and make better use of resources. Finally, nanotechnologies are useful in limiting waste and underpin the most reliable monitoring and surveillance systems. 


Nanotechnologies can also be used to treat pollution and decontaminate soil and water. In terms of air pollution, nanotechnologies, by enabling more efficient catalytic processes, are already being used to improve the treatment of stack and exhaust emissions and, in some cases, aircraft engine emissions. Nanotechnologies can also be used to develop custom stack-emissions sensors to help ensure more efficient removal of volatile organic compounds and chlorinated substances.


Silicon dioxide nanoparticles are being leveraged to develop new photocatalysis processes capable of breaking down organic pollutants in air and water by generating odd oxygen at the emission point. Groundwater pollution, whether it is naturally-occurring or caused by industrial or other human activities, is another area where nanotechnologies are driving the emergence of new solutions. Traditional groundwater depollution techniques like pumping and surface treatment are costly. Nanometric adsorbents and iron nanoparticles have achieved some encouraging results on both organic and inorganic contaminants. Iron nanoparticles are also being investigated as a way to break down recalcitrant organic pollutants like hydrocarbons and certain xenobiotic substances found in polluted water in industrial and farming areas.