Environmental Nanotechnology Student Handout
Created by UnderstandingNano.com


This lesson was created to give you an introduction to environmental nanotechnology.

I.  Introduce the Concept of Environmental Nanotechnology

Definition: Environmental Nanotechnology is the application of nanotechnology techniques to reducing or preventing damage to our environment.

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

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

Discussion 1: Discuss 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: Pick one of the topics on the Environmental Nanotechnology page related to water quality, air quality or energy to read.  Follow links on the site for additional information, if they like. 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

Presentation: Nanotechnology has the potential to cause significant changes to our air quality, water quality and energy generation, therefore causing significant changes in our environment. In small groups as assigned by your teacher, discuss and then prepare a brief presentation on one of these topics and deliver it to the class:

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?

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

Conclusion: Environmental nanotechnology offers great potential for improving the quality of life on our planet.


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