lotions, as a less toxic alternative to the organic molecules currently used as UV absorbers in many sunscreen formulations. Other nanomaterials are incorporated in sporting equipment, clothing, telecommunication infrastructure, and fuel cells.

The future of nanotechnology is potentially boundless if we can avoid the pitfalls. Some of the items that exist today were a topic of science fiction a decade ago.

Douglas Mulhall

Other examples of current nanotechnologies are three-dimensional printing with nanoparticles, high speed computing driven by nanotechnology, and computer-assisted design software with generic algorithms that learn by themselves. Three-dimensional printers were invented in the 1990s and commercialized in 2000 and are already being used to make products such as surgical models. Surgical models have the potential to match the exact needs of an individual patient while allowing surgeons to eliminate the need for exploratory surgery when they are doing reconstructive work.

Today it is technologically feasible to manufacture programmable nano-filters that eliminate the pressure requirement for desalinization and reduce the expenses by 99 percent, meaning the end of water shortages in arid regions. It could also potentially alter regional environments and convert deserts to forests by removing large amounts of fresh water from the oceans, postulated Mulhall.

With the invention of solar paint and principal solar cells based on nanoengineered organic plastics, fossil fuel dependence may begin to recede. Another nanotechnology-based invention is extremely strong materials called nanostructured aerogels. These materials are inexpensive and they could make structures resistant to earthquakes and hurricanes, which will have significant societal benefits, said Mulhall.


Some of the greatest potential uses or applications for nanotechnology in the environment are sensors, treatment, remediation, and green nanotech manufacturing and engineering, stated Barbara Karn of the Environmental Protection Agency. These applications can be further categorized as either reactive to existing environmental problems or proactive in anticipating and preventing future problems.

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