Essay on Nanotechnology for Environmental Remediation
Number of words: 981
Society today grapples with one of the main challenges facing environmental pollution (Lofrano et al., 2017). Exploration of state-of-the-art and innovative technology is ongoing for mitigation measures associated with water, soil, and air pollution. Sewage, effluent from industries, heavy metals, harmful gases, herbicides, particulate matter, and pesticides represent a small fraction of the worrisome pollutants. Environmental remediation can be achieved through the use of very distinct materials, and thus diverse approaches can be utilized to realize the process. Low reactivity, high volatility, and complexity of the composition of pollutants pose a challenge to the identification and removal of environmental contaminants. Consequently, research over the years has concentrated on using nanomaterials to establish better technologies for environmental remediation (Joo & Cheng, 2006).
The nanoscale’s materials have physical attributes that are unique and make nanotechnology gain a lot of prominence in recent times. Nanomaterials offer better reactivity, thereby improving effectiveness compared to similar technologies that have a very high surface-to-volume ratio. Additionally, the technology presents the unique opportunity to leverage potentially distinct surface chemistry compared to their more-traditional counterparts. This means that the nanomaterials’ functional groups can be grafted to target contaminants for remediation measures that are efficient. Morphology, size, chemical composition, and porosity are some of the nanomaterials’ physical characteristics that are tuned intentionally and offer increased advantages that influence the activity of the technology for remediation of pollutants. Physical attributes that can be tuned as well as alteration chemistry of the rich surface of the nanomaterial present gains that transcend traditional approaches for the arrest of pollution in the environment. After use, nanomaterials for contamination remediation mustn’t be contaminants themselves. Hence, materials that are biodegradable are preferred for this purpose. The utilization of biodegradable materials results in increased confidence by consumers, excellent reception of the technology by the consumers, and ultimately, it leads to a safer and greener environment, which helps in the restoration of the environment from pollutants (Karn et al., 2009).
Some of the nanotechnologies in use today are:
Various nanomaterials that are metal-based are proposed for the remediation of several pollutants. However, numerous research studies have propounded heavy metals removal from water. Adsorption capacities that are high along with fast kinetics are some of the advantages associated with nanomaterials of metals and their oxides. Due to their high flexibility with in situ and ex-situ use in systems which are aqueous, nanoparticles are normally used to remedy the environment. Following approaches of a chemical and physical nature in the preceding decade, synthetic methods that are efficient to attain stable, mono-disperse, and shape-controlled metal nanomaterials have been widely researched. Some of the inorganic nanomaterials are titanate nanotubes, iron-based, metal-dope TiO2, e.tc. One of the major issues arising from the use of metal-based nanomaterials is the toxicity linked with chemicals for synthesization of material and the resultant byproducts from the pollutant’s degradation process (Imran et al., 2014).
In comparison to nanomaterials that are metal-based, carbon poses very particular and beneficial electronic, chemical, and physical characteristics that are accounted for by hybridization that is mutable and its structural composition. The functionalization, activation, or surface treatment of carbon that is pristine is a prerequisite for the use of carbon nanomaterials to be used in environmental applications according to investigations. Carbon-based materials that are single-walled and multi-walled have been subjected to extensive research. The degradation of organic and inorganic contaminants from an aqueous solution of large quantities and air is highly dependent on the adsorption qualities of the above materials. Furthermore, carbon nanotubes use photocatalytic devices to remove contaminants (Guerra et al., 2018).
Examples of polymer-based materials are polymer nanocomposites, amphiphilic polyurethane NPs, amine-modified PDLLA-PEG, etc. The identification and remediation of a myriad of biologics (viruses), organic contaminants (pharmaceuticals), gases (SO2), and contaminant chemicals (iron) have been the significant uses of polymers. Emulsifiers, surfactants, and stabilizing agents (polymetric hosts) are more often than not used to augment stability and provide an edge when compared to NPs of pristine nature. The polymetric hosts are further used to provide desirable traits such as durability, thermal stability, recyclability, and mechanical vigor (Bhawana & Fulekar, 2012).
Polymetric, carbonaceous, and inorganic oriented nanomaterials play a crucial role and are classed with other materials that are used in various applications connected with the remediation of the environment. An intensive assessment of remediation site accessibility, pollutant type is to be degraded, and if it is beneficial to recycle the nanomaterial and the nanomaterial quantity required for thorough remediation, some of the factors considered before choosing a nanomaterial. With relation to the applicability, each material possesses its limitations and advantages. Addressing the many issues concerning the use of nanotechnology for degradation and capture of contaminants is essential despite the many studies conducted in this field. Real-life cases need to be explored to determine the efficiency of nanotechnology to impact environmental remediation. Also of great concern is the fate of the materials after use, which needs to be investigated further.
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Joo, S. H., and Cheng, F. (2006). Nanotechnology for environmental remediation. Springer Science and Business Media.
Karn, B., Kuiken, T., and Otto, M. (2009). Nanotechnology and in situ remediation: a review of the benefits and potential risks. Environmental health perspectives, 117(12), 1813-1831.
Lofrano, G., Libralato, G., and Brown, J. (2017). Nanotechnologies for Environmental Remediation. Springer International Publishing.