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Airdate: May 22, 2017
Scientist: Pedro Alvarez

Nanotechnology the Bottom Line

Nanotechnology  the Bottom Line
Do we need nanomaterials to be 100% pure?

Transcript:
Nanotechnology the Bottom Line

Ambience: Stream
Nanotechnology promises to improve our ability to filter water, but what about its cost? I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

Alvarez: There are several challenges that that we will face related to the use of nanotechnology for water purification. The first one will be cost.

Pedro Alvarez is the George R. Brown Professor of engineering at Rice University.

Alvarez: Cost is something that is very easily addressed. If we recognize that it is relatively inexpensive to make nanomaterials, that what is expensive is to purify them, as we need to do for research. For actual application, perhaps we don't need the material to be 100% pure, maybe 99.9% purity is okay, and that can significantly decrease the cost.
Another important strategy is to be able to reuse these materials so that you can amortize their cost, because it really doesn't matter how much a gram of a catalyst cost, what matters is how much it cost to treat a million gallons of water. And if you can use that same gram over and over, then you can bring the cost of water treatment significantly down. That requires for us to immobilize the materials so that you can reuse them more easily. By immobilizing the materials, you also address another barrier which is public perception. People want to make sure that these materials don't end up in the drinking water and that you don't end up drinking them. By immobilizing them, you can eliminate the probability of exposure and therefore you eliminate any risk associated.

Pulse of the Planet is made possible in part by the Center for Earth and Environmental Nanotechnology and the National Science Foundation.