Print 16 comment(s) - last by Clauzii.. on May 9 at 8:35 PM

Carbon nanotubes have practical applications for anything and everything, but is there a dark side of CN that we are ignoring?

Nanotechnology was supposed to revolutionize the world.  Experts in material science, bioengeering, and chemical engineering were now beginning to manufacture products 0.0001 times the width of a human hair.  The unique properties of materials this small promised a future of advanced miniaturization of electronic components, novel pharamaceuticals and drug delivery systems, improved gas mileage, longer lasting tennis balls, better sunscreens and even flat panel televisions that anyone can afford. 

While that future may still come, there is rising concern about the potential risks of nanoparticle toxicity.  Carbon nanotubes are at the forefront of the discussion.  In 2004, NASA researchers at the Johnson Space Center showed that when carbon nanotubes reached the lungs, they were more toxic than carbon black and even quartz on an equal-weight basis.  In 2005, researchers at UT El Paso, showed that the cell toxicity effect of carbon-nanotubes was essential identical to that of chrysotile asbestos.  Last March at a Society of Toxicology meeting, researchers from Tottori University showed the first series of images that showed carbon nanotubes entering the blood within a minute of contact with the lung.  Once in the blood, the negatively charged carbon nanotubes attached to red blood cells, potentially leading to future complications.

On the other hand, the carbon nanotubes which are so dangerous in the lung may actually provide a ideal structure for bone growth and repair following injury.  Carbon nanotubes also have a role in the development of high tensile-strength fibers, more efficient diodes, ultra-efficient solar panels. Likewise, nanoparticles made of cerium and yttrium oxides actually have antioxidant properties and enhance cell survival.

The real question is whether the concern should be primarily for workers in the industry who are continuously exposed to the nanoparticles, or if the proliferation of nanoparticles in the environment will make it a concern for everyone.  No one knows the answer.  The good news is that the industry is taking a close look at the problems and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (a division of the CDC) and the European Commission are both in the process of developing additional safety guidelines.

Comments     Threshold

This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

mmm..... why worry
By PandaBear on 5/5/2006 3:51:08 PM , Rating: 2
I don't think there is anything that is being very useful out of the so called "nano" scam yet. Sure we see some interesting stuff but when is the application coming? We will probably not see any quantity large enough to kill us.

If they every have nano machine on mass production, we will probably only use a fraction of ppm (part per million) to accomplish our goal.

Not a worry until they are cheap enough and everywhere.

RE: mmm..... why worry
By Furen on 5/5/2006 4:05:38 PM , Rating: 2
Nanotubes are not nanomachines. Nanotubes are one of the most significant material breakthroughs of the past decades, and the fact that its effect on health is getting attention so early in its life can only mean that any widespread use of them will be as safe as possible (in contrast to how we painted everything with lead and used asbestos for fireproofing before understanding the effect these would have on our health).

RE: mmm..... why worry
By rrsurfer1 on 5/5/2006 4:22:35 PM , Rating: 2
Cause the reason asbestos became a problem was because alot of people asked "why worry". We should learn from the past.

Nanotech is already being used in many areas and is being researched extensively by many companies in many different fields. I'm sure they are certainly worried about health effects of working with certain nanotech products.

RE: mmm..... why worry
By smitty3268 on 5/8/2006 1:55:37 AM , Rating: 2
There is a company only a couple miles from where I live making nano-particles (I don't think carbon). They're getting a fricking ton of money from the DOD because of the way these things absorb. So they can be used to neutralize toxins in the air like anthrax, or remove odors like in kitty litter. I'm not sure if they are really ready for mass production yet, but they have proved that these applications work.

"I'd be pissed too, but you didn't have to go all Minority Report on his ass!" -- Jon Stewart on police raiding Gizmodo editor Jason Chen's home

Copyright 2015 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki