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Sustainability 2018, 10(3), 689; doi:10.3390/su10030689

Green and Clean: Reviewing the Justification of Claims for Nanomaterials from a Sustainability Point of View

Institute of Environmental Sciences (CML), Leiden University, PO Box 9518, 2300 RA Leiden, The Netherlands
National Institute of Public Health and the Environment, Center for the Safety of Substances and Products, P. O. Box 1, 3720 BA Bilthoven, The Netherlands
Department of Econometrics and Operations Research, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, De Boelelaan 1105, 1081 HV Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 8 February 2018 / Revised: 28 February 2018 / Accepted: 1 March 2018 / Published: 3 March 2018
(This article belongs to the Section Sustainable Engineering and Science)
View Full-Text   |   Download PDF [257 KB, uploaded 3 March 2018]


Nanotechnology is an emerging technology with the potential to contribute towards sustainability. However, there are growing concerns about the potential environmental and human health impacts of nanomaterials. Clearly, nanomaterials have advantages and disadvantages, and a balanced view is needed to assess the overall benefit. The current “green and clean” claims of proponents of nanomaterials across different sectors of the economy are evaluated in this review study. Focusing on carbon emissions and energy use, we have reviewed 18 life cycle assessment studies on nanomaterials in the solar, energy, polymer, medical and food sectors. We find that the “green and clean” claims are not supported for the majority of the reviewed studies in the energy sector. In the solar sector, only specific technologies tend to support the “green and clean” claims. In the polymer sector, only some applications support the “green and clean” claims. The main findings show that nanomaterials have high cradle-to-gate energy demand that result in high carbon emissions. Synthesis of nanomaterials is the main contributor of carbon emissions in the majority of the studies. Future improvements in reducing parameter uncertainties and in the energy efficiency of the synthesis processes of nanomaterials might improve the environmental performance of nanotechnologies. View Full-Text
Keywords: nanomaterials; sustainability; quantitative assessment; life cycle assessment; industrial ecology nanomaterials; sustainability; quantitative assessment; life cycle assessment; industrial ecology
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Pallas, G.; Peijnenburg, W.J.G.M.; Guinée, J.B.; Heijungs, R.; Vijver, M.G. Green and Clean: Reviewing the Justification of Claims for Nanomaterials from a Sustainability Point of View. Sustainability 2018, 10, 689.

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