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July 3, 2007

EPA Will Hold Conference on “Pollution Prevention through Nanotechnology”

Lynn L. Bergeson

In the July 2, 2007, Federal Register, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a notice regarding its conference entitled “Pollution Prevention through Nanotechnology,” which will be held on September 25-26, 2007, in Arlington, Virginia. EPA intends the conference to provide a forum to exchange ideas and information on using nanotechnology to develop new ways to prevent pollution. Lynn L. Bergeson is on the Steering Committee for the conference. Representatives from industry, academia, non-governmental organizations, and government are invited to focus on current practices and potential research areas in nanotechnology that incorporate the concept of pollution prevention in three major areas:

  • Products: Less toxic, less polluting, and wear-resistant.
  • Processes: More efficient and waste-reducing.
  • Energy and Resource Efficiency: Processes and products that use less energy and fewer raw materials because of greater efficiency.

Registration is open until September 14, 2007, but is not required to attend the conference.

According to EPA, the conference will feature discussions of nanotechnology life-cycle considerations and the responsible development of nanotechnology. EPA provided the following questions, which will be addressed by conference participants. EPA intends the questions to focus presentations and discussions at the conference, and states that answers to these questions could help guide subsequent work in pollution prevention through nanotechnology.

1.         Which nanotechnologies show the greatest promise for preventing pollution?


  • This question should be viewed through the lens of life-cycle thinking to minimize the possibility of unintended consequences.
  • Which pollution prevention applications are the most likely to find real-world applications?
  • What barriers exist to the adoption of nanotechnology-enabled pollution prevention applications?

2.         What are the most promising areas of research on pollution prevention applications of nanotechnologies?


  • Which research areas could improve our understanding of the full life-cycle of nanomaterials?
  • How can the beneficial properties of engineered products of nanotechnology, such as increased surface activity, greater conductivity, improved strength-weight ratio, altered optical properties (changes in color or opacity), and flame retardancy be used to improve materials and products and reduce the production of pollutants at their source?

3.         What recommendations do conference participants have for promoting and encouraging pollution prevention in the development and application of nanotechnology?


  • What actions could be taken, and by whom?
  • What mechanisms, programs, or associations could promote the research, development, and adoption of such applications?
  • What role can EPA programs play?

The July 2, 2007, Federal Register notice includes a call for posters. EPA encourages submissions “in the area of nanotechnology products, nanotechnology processes, or nanotechnology energy/resource efficiency,” and “[p]osters with a focus on safer chemistries through use of nanotechnology are especially encouraged.” Because of space constraints, EPA will accept only a limited number of posters in each area. Poster applications are due July 31, 2007.