Nanotechnology Initiative

Mission

Academia, industry and government collaboration to bring novel nanotechnologies to market through life cycle analysis and risk assessment along with stakeholder engagement, decision making and education.

Objective

The Jordan Valley Innovation Center (JVIC) at Missouri State University along with Brewer Science, Inc. (Rolla, Mo) is working on a cooperative agreement with funding provided by the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center – Environmental Laboratory (ERDC-EL) on “Advancing Carbon Nanomaterials-Based Device Manufacturing through Life Cycle Analysis, Risk Assessment, and Mitigation.” This program aims to safely develop and deploy nano-enabled technologies (NETs) for military, industry, and consumer applications. Nanomaterials have a wide range of interesting properties that have potential applications in sensor technology, biomedical monitoring, energy generation/storage, displays, lighting, and lightweight ultra-strong composites to name a few.

JVIC’s corporate partner, Brewer Science, Inc. (BSI), has developed printable carbon NET-based sensors for temperature and humidity monitoring as well as strain sensors for structural monitoring. One potential application of BSI’s temperature and humidity sensors is to monitor a soldier’s health, where observing temperature and humidity helps to determine whether a soldier is suffering from dehydration or is experiencing stresses on the body that can be linked to the body’s temperature change. BSI’s strain sensors are of interest to monitor structures such as the nation’s bridges. A crucial part of the nation’s infrastructure is the viability and reliability of bridges that experience stresses on a daily basis, and monitoring of such structures is of importance, especially with respect to safety. Other NET based sensors are also under development that can be utilized in chemical and biomedical application.

Due to the small sizes of nanomaterials they could easily be absorbed through natural barriers such as the skin and cell walls and could pose a potential risk to both living organisms as well as the environment. Therefore it is crucial to determine the potential risks as well as the environmental impact of such technologies by employing a “cradle-to-grave” environmental life cycle and risk analysis that covers the early stages of nanomaterials and technology development, materials and device manufacturing, consumer product deployment, and finally end-of-life disposal/recycling. This analysis is key to minimizing, mitigating, or even eliminating the human and environmental risks that may be associated with the NET-enabled products.