Nanotech & LCA: The Shape We Are In:
LCA studies of nanotechnologies are increasingly important as nanomaterials are becoming widespread in consumer products. It is inevitable that nanoparticles will interact with organisms during their production, use, recovery, and/or disposal. With the lack of data from long-term studies, analysts must make hypothetical assumptions and examine a large range of potential outcomes to model these interactions in the life cycle context. As an example, see the 2014 OECD work to which I contributed, LCA on nanotechnology and vehicle tires.
Recent research summarized in an article in Environmental Science Nano is contributing to our increasing pool of knowledge on nanoparticle interactions in the environment. This research indicates that nanoparticle shapes can have a significant effect on nanoparticle interactions with organisms. There are several variables for how differently shaped nanoparticles interact at organism membranes and these may not be generalizable across all biological systems. However, authors conclude that particle shape be considered at the design phase of useful and sustainable nanomaterials.
Buchman JT, Gallagher MJ, Yang C, Zhang X, Krause MOP, Hernandez R, Orr G (2016). Research highlights: examining the effect of shape on nanoparticle interactions with organisms, Environmental Science Nano, 3:696-700.