Increasing the lifetime of products by nanomaterial inclusions—life cycle energy implications
Twomey, Janet M.
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Asmatulu, E., Subeshan, B., Twomey, J. et al. Increasing the lifetime of products by nanomaterial inclusions—life cycle energy implications. Int J Life Cycle Assess (2020)
Purpose: Typically, the high energy required to manufacture nanomaterials is weighed against the benefits transferred to a product. Adequately establishing the environmental characteristics of a product that contains nanomaterials requires a complete methodology. The objectives of this study are to draw attentions on life cycle information and to demonstrate the methodology for the scientific assessment of the environmental benefits of using a nanomaterial in a product to extend the product life and to provide a real example for the calculations of the approach. Methods: About 1317 products with nanomaterials in the market were analyzed to identify the outcomes of lifetime extension by the nanomaterial additions. Five life cycle elements were quantified to establish the cradle-to-gate (CTG) life cycle footprint of a product comprised of a nanomaterial. These are the following: the life cycle of the conventional product with the usual construction and without added nanomaterial, the life cycle of the nanomaterial manufactured from CTG per kilogram of nanomaterial, the amount of nanomaterial incorporated into the product, the quantitative improvement in the product performance due to the presence of the nanomaterial (such as increased lifespan), and the incremental energy and auxiliary materials (often negligible) involved in the incorporation of the nanomaterial into the conventional product Results and discussion: The primary challenge here is to have all five of the informational pieces in order to ensure that the environmental footprint of using a nanomaterial is complete. The results can be seen for the range of products with life extension via nanomaterials, ranging from 130 to 3100%. In these cases, the higher energy to manufacture the nanomaterial is more than offset by the avoidance of manufacturing non-nanoproducts multiple times over the life extension period. Conclusions: It was found that several nanoscale inclusions in the products greatly increased many properties of the final product along with the lifetime. Increasing the lifetime of products by adding nanoscale inclusions will thus reduce environmental and health concerns, as well as the use of virgin materials, energy consumption, landfill allocations in the long term, and product marketability.
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