Nanotechnology Risk Assessment in NanoBatteries

Nanotechnology involves the manufacture and the use of biological, chemical and physical systems at scales ranging from individual molecules or atoms which are about a hundred nanometers (Bowman & Hodge 27). The nanomaterials are then incorporated into extensive systems. Nanotechnology involves the control of atoms and molecules to create new materials with a variety of useful functions most of which poses massive economic and technological potential.

Nanobattery refers to a series of infinite fine tubes which are billionths of a metre in width and encrusted in a chemical fuel producing about a hundred times more electrical power than the conventional battery. This new technology came up with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology team with the guidance of Dr Michael Strano. This team was able to coat carbon nanotubes with cyclotrimethylene trinitramine, a very strong chemical fuel, and used an electric spark or laser to set off a reaction in a bundle of the coated tubes.

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The carbon nanotubes conduct heat incredibly evenly and extremely fast along their length, within a speed of up to a hundred times faster than that of metals. The MIT team was concerned in finding out what would happen if a chemical reaction were to occur on these nanotubes. From their findings, the team found out that, the nanotubes acted to steer the reaction and speeds it up by an amazing factor of about ten thousand.

Dr Strano’s team also discovered that the nanobattery reaction generates valuable voltage, which the scientists refer to as thermo power waves. As a matter of fact, one gram of nanotubes bundles within the nanobattery will produce about a hundred times more energy than an equal amount of lithium ion battery while the reaction can be instigated by the use of a minute energy input which is as little as the energy needed to thrust a finger.

Different from the usual batteries, the nanobatteries do not lose any stored energy when kept somewhere for some time, and they do not need toxic, non-renewable metals to invent. The electrodes used in nanobatteries were made using a cumulative layering method. The base material was put into a solution holding either negatively or positively charged carbon nanotubes.

Inserting two different types of layers produces a magnetic field which attracts them together, putting the electrode in the right position. The nanobatteries are likely to transform the ways in which we use several electrical appliances, ranging from the smart phones to the electrically powered vehicles. In general, the nanotechnology has several benefits which include improved water purification systems, improved energy systems, better food production methods among many other things.

Hazard and Exposure Identification

On the other hand, the nanobatteries pose several risks which may be associated with the consumer, his occupation and his environment. Such hazards include; health, environmental problems, safety issues and transitional effects such as the displacement of traditional industries.

Indeed, the nanobatteries can be used destructively by the militaries to instigate wars. However the presence of the nanobatteries is not a threat by itself but some features of their components make them hazardous. These features include their amplified reactivity as well as their mobility. For this reason, we are not faced with authentic hazards as the nanobatteries do not portray features harmful to human beings.

Consumer Risks

Since the nanoparticles that form the nanobatteries are of a small size, they can be readily absorbed by the human body as compared to larger particles. This is especially when the nanobatteries are damaged and exposed to human beings for a long time. Thus, probing the behavior of these particles inside the human body is of great importance.

More often than not, chronic diseases are caused by an intricate combination of various risk factors. Since the cyclotrimethylene trinitramine made nanobateries are often used in some military bases, the armies officers are usually predisposed to the hazardous effects of these batteries.

These materials may be poorly disposed in garbage sites, thus exposing the general public to the hazards emanating from the materials. Even though the general public is at the risk of such, menstruating and pregnant women have been found to have increased immunity to the effects of this compound. As such, they are less likely to be affected by this compound.

Upon intake of small particles over a long time, the materials accumulate in the human kidney. This gradually damages the kidneys leading to kidney failure and eventual death. This implies that the compound is not execrated. Since the materials seem to have severe impacts on the human kidney it is likely that those people with weak kidneys are most vulnerable to the hazards associated with the cyclotrimethylene trinitramine compounds.

These include young children, and the aging. Conclusive evidence also points to the fact that cyclotrimethylene trinitramine causes plastic anemia, a condition in which the bone marrow fails to replenish blood cells reserves. This suggests that the compound travels through to the bone marrow where it settles and causes gradual harm to bone marrow function. However, it has not been clear how this happens.

When the nanobatteries are exposed to fire, the inhalation of the fumes may cause severe respiratory tracts inflammation in the upper region of the respiration systems, which can lead the damage of the lungs. This implies that the material only travels as far as the respiratory tracts where most damage occurs. The toxic fumes may also cause eye irritation.

Environmental Hazards

The disposal of nanobatteries leads to nanopollution. The waste is especially dangerous when the nanobatteries are damaged. This is because, the particles produced by damaged nanobatteries are minute, which makes them float in the air and can easily penetrate the cells of flora and fauna, leading to undesirable effects (Kearnes, Grove, Macnaghten, Wilsdon &Wynne 296).

The environmental evaluation of the nanobatteries is vital as they pose new environmental effects. As a matter of fact, scientists argue that, it is currently very hard to tell or manage the ecological effects of nanobatteries into the environment. In order to effectively handle the risks posed by nanobatteries, their life cycle should be evaluated. This should be done with regards to their production, their storage, their supply, use, probable misuse and waste disposal.

Occupational Risks

Nanobatteries create occupational risks causing broader social challenges. As a matter of fact, scientists argue that the impacts of nanobatteries in the working environment should be understood and evaluated in a scrupulous manner and also involve public participation in order to ensure technology progress that meets social objectives.

Occupational risks can also be assessed in military bases as there is the likelihood of military applications of nanobatteries in some cases. In the companies that engage in the production of nanobatteries, health and environmental issues are of great concern. This is also the case in the laboratories that deal with nanotechnology research. However, the current workplace exposure standards for dusts cannot be applied directly to nanobattery dusts (Monahan &Tyler 158).

Risk Management

Due to the severity of these hazards, several mitigation measures are relevant. To avoid occupational hazards, handlers of nanobatteries need to follow appropriate industrial procedures. These include the use of protective clothing such as gas masks, gloves and other protective wear that minimize contact.

In addition, users are encouraged not to overcharge nanobatteries since this increase the chances of electrical abuse, such that the battery might vent. Moreover, the batteries need to be handled with care avoiding any instances that might mechanically damage them thus exposing users to toxic materials.

To avoid consumer risks, users need to store the batteries under moderate temperatures to avoid emission of toxic fumes in case of overheating. What’s more, the users should wash affected skin with abundant amount of water for at least fifteen minutes.

In case of inhalation, the victim should be put in a ventilated area and seek immediate help from a qualified doctor. It is also imperative not to dispose used batteries in garbage pits. Instead, users are advised to explore the option of disposition them by means of a chemical incinerator.

Scientists should endeavor to analyze the nanobatteries and establish the reactivity of their components on human beings. Experts should examine the consequences of the accumulation of the non-gradable or slowly-gradable nanoparticles in nanobatteries within the human body. They should also study how the nanoparticles interact with the biological processes of the human body (Paull 23). The nanomaterials should be examined individually and all their properties taken into consideration.

In conclusion, a lot of research has to be done before complete embracement of the nanobatteries and the nanotechnology in general. The phenomenon also necessitates more research.

For effective risk management of nanobatteries, governments should adequately fund nanobatteries’ research on associated risks. The end product of chemical reaction should be safe and easily managed in order to be extended to use for public purposes (Monahan &Tyler 166). Up to now, the engineered nanobatteries are not subjected to any kind of regulation, with regards to the manufacture, treatment or branding.

Inadequate regulation may intensify human and environmental hazards and aggravate security issues related to nanobatteries. As a matter of fact, nations should adopt inclusive regulation strategies while dealing with nanobatteries as this will guarantee that the possible risks do not surpass their possible benefits. All the parties that are affected by the nanobatteries should take effective steps in an attempt to manage the risks involved.

Works Cited

Bowman Diana, and Hodge Graeme “A Small Matter of Regulation: An International Review of Nanotechnology Regulation”. Columbia Science and Technology Law Review 8 (2007): 1–32. Web. 2 Dec. 2011. .

Gyorgy Scrinis “Nanotechnology and the Environment: The Nano-Atomic reconstruction of Nature”. Chain Reaction (2007): 3–26. Web. 2 Dec. 2011. .

Kearnes, Matthew, Grove, Robin, Macnaghten, Phil, Wilsdon, James, and Brian Wynne. “From Bio to Nano: Learning Lessons from the UK Agricultural Biotechnology Controversy.” Science as Culture 15 (4) (2006): 291–307. Print.

Monahan Torin, and Tyler Wall. “Somatic Surveillance: Corporeal Control through Information Networks.” Surveillance & Society. Spec. issue of Surveillance and Criminal Justice 1, 4(3) (2007): 154-173. Web. 2 Dec. 2011. .

Paull, John. Nanomaterials in food and agriculture: The big issue of small matter for organic food and farming. 3rd ISOFAR Scienti?c Conference at the 17th Organic World Congress, Gyeonggi Paldang, Korea, 2011. Web. 2 Dec. 2011. .

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