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Airdate: Jan 10, 2018
Scientist: Christine Ogilvie Hendren

Pulse of the Particle

Pulse of the Particle
What happens when nanoparticles find their way into the environment?

Pulse of the Particle
Nanotechnology and nanoparticles are everywhere these days, in cosmetics, food, clothing, electronic devices. But what'll happen when nanoparticles find their way into the environment? I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

Hendren: NanoTechnology is the ability to manipulate matter at the nanoscale, meaning atomic or molecular level. A nanometer, if a meter is the size of Texas, a nanometer is an ant crawling across Texas. So that's very small, and these materials therefore have more surface area, different properties. They can be more conductive. They can be stronger. They can be photocatalysts and this is because of their size and other special characteristics.

Christine Ogilvie Hendren is the Executive Director of the Center for the Environmental Implications of NanoTechnology, headquartered at Duke University.

Hendren: The aim of the Center is really to ask the question,"what are the implications of these new nanoscale materials?" And that's started with asking, "are they toxic for a lot of people?" The Center was funded in the context of wanting to break our cycle as humans introducing revolutionary new technologies, only to find out that they have unintended consequences. We've seen this with pesticides that saved people from malaria, but that then poisoned the environment in other ways. We've seen it with CFCs that allowed us to have refrigerators and spray cans. The Center is focused on making sure we don't continue that cycle.

We'll hear more on nanoparticles and their effects in future programs. Pulse of the Planet is made possible in part by the Center for Earth and Environmental Nanotechnology and the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.