Environmental Nanotechnology Lesson Plan
Created by UnderstandingNano.com


This lesson plan was created to help first year college teachers provide an introduction to environmental nanotechnology in a classroom setting, making use of the information provided on this Web site.

I.  Introduce the Concept of Environmental Nanotechnology

Provide this definition to your students: Environmental Nanotechnology is the application of nanotechnology techniques to reducing or preventing damage to our environment.

Ask the students: What are our most important environmental issues facing our planet today? Answers might include global warming, oil spills, polluted water, polluted air.

Reading 1: Have students read the Environmental Nanotechnology page (http://www.understandingnano.com/environmental-nanotechnology.html).

Discussion 1: Hold a discussion about the basic concepts of environmental nanotechnology, which might include these topics:

  • One way in which nanotechnology can affect our environment is by providing tools for cleaning up existing pollution. Identify and discuss one way in which nanotechnology may be used to clean up water pollution and what impact that might have on our world. For example discuss the removal of arsenic from well water could provide needed drinking water in certain areas of our world.
  •  Another way that nanotechnology can improve our environment is by enabling cleaner processes for the production of energy or materials. Have students identify one environmental issue facing your community. For example, do you have a foundry that produces pollution in its manufacturing processes or air pollution from traffic causing smog? Research to see if nanotechnology is being explored as a way to solve that problem and discuss

2. Explore an Application of Environmental Nanotechnology

Discussion 2:  Overproduction of CO2 is one of the major causes of global warming. Identify ways in which nanotechnology could help reduce CO2 production. These might include absorbing CO2 from smokestacks in utility plants, replacing hydrocarbon powered plants with solar powered plants, or replacing gas-powered cars with fuel cell-powered cars. Which of these approaches does the class feel would have the greatest impact on reducing global warming?

Research and Report: Have students pick one of the topics on the Environmental Nanotechnology page related to water quality, air quality or energy to read.  Encourage them to follow links on the site for additional information, if they like. Have them create a brief report about one possible way that nanotechnology might help prevent or reduce negative impacts on our environment.

3. The Future of our Environment

Explain that nanotechnology has the potential to cause significant changes to our air quality, water quality and energy generation, therefore causing significant changes in our environment.

Presentation: Split the class into groups and have each group research one of these two topics and prepare a presentation:

What impact would it have on our economy if nanotechnology got rid of all forms of pollution?

What impact would it have on our health and life spans if there were no more pollution on our planet, plenty of drinkable water, and no global warming?

Have each group present on their topic and then hold a discussion with the entire class on the ideas that have been put forth.   

Optional Activity: Identify possible careers in environmental nanotechnology (see lists of schools offering nanotechnology degrees for ideas).

Wrap up the lesson by pointing out that environmental nanotechnology offers great potential for improving the quality of life on our planet.

May be printed for classroom use
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