Not to use substances which threaten human health and the environment is obviously the most effective way to avoid them harming humans and the environment. Therefore, substitution plays a crucial role in the new regulatory framework of the EU for the Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals (REACH). Against that background, the EU-Parliament has asked for an assessment of the potential of nanotechnology (NT) to substitute toxic substances or processes in which toxic substances are produced. One prominent example is the substitution of anti-fouling coatings used in the ship industry by nanotechnological based coatings, which are already under investigation. (AMBIO-project).
The project is called: "The role of Nanotechnology in Chemical Substitution". It is one of 11 projects of the European Technology Assessment Group (ETAG), a group of five TA institutes working on behalf of the European Parliament's STOA panel (Scientific Technological Options Assessment).
The project is focused on the identification of concepts or ideas for substitution in the field of NT. To find the full potential of NT for substitution in the sense of the project, it is not useful to restrict the investigation only to cases of one-by-one-substitution. In contrast it seems to more realistic that NT can substitute the functionality of a substance by using a completely different approach.
Here are some more examples:
- Biocide coatings realized by surface texture or by TiO2 particles which are built in the coating and serve as photo catalysts.
- Toxic lubricants could be replaced by super hard and self greasing coatings.
- Organic solvent could be replaced by microemulsions on the basis of lecithin.
- Bromine flame retardant could be replaced by functional nanoparticles embedded in furniture finishing.
The aim of the project is to give an overview of conceivable applications of NT for substitution. The evaluation of these applications with regard to realisability, efficiency or side effects is not in the scope of the project. The project will be based on literature research and interviews with experts. In the last phase of the project, a Validation-Workshop will be organized to discuss and evaluate the outcome of the investigation with experts.