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COWI examines how nano affects the environment

Photo: COWI
In-depth experience and an extensive international network secured COWI a major Danish project that will assess the environmental impact of nanomaterials.

Without always knowing, Danes come into daily contact with products that contain nanomaterials. Batteries, sunscreen, clothes, foods, sports gear, soil decontamination chemicals and building components; these are just some of the products that use nanomaterials to improve e.g. surface properties, reactivity, energy intensity and strength-weight ratio.

Because nanotechnology is highly present in the lives of Danes – and poses a potential risk due to new properties – the Finance and Appropriation Act has set aside DKK 24 million for the Danish Environmental Protection Agency from 2012 to 2015 to better grasp nanomaterials and their potential risks.

Two thirds of the funds will be used for so-called fact-finding projects that aim to map whether nanomaterials may be harmful to the Danish environment and consumers.

Innovative project with development potential

Thanks to strong technical skills, several years of experience in the field, and a close cooperation with Swiss materials research institute Empa and the nano group at DTU Environment, COWI was awarded the contract to assess the environmental impacts of nano.

The project’s consultancy potential supports COWI’s leading position in assessment of nanomaterials in the Danish market.

“This is a very exciting project as it features innovative elements as well as a considerable development aspect which we expect a lot from and see great perspectives in,” says COWI’s Project Manager on the project, Jesper Kjølholt from the Department of Pollution Prevention.

He continues:

“I am convinced that we will strengthen our knowledge in the field further through this collaboration with the recognised researchers from DTU and Empa.”

More projects on the horizon
The project includes a risk assessment of ten different nanomaterials.

Among the more ‘famous’ materials are nano-titanium-dioxide, which is found in sunscreen; nano-silver, which is used as germicide and odour remover in textiles; nano-copper which is found in wood impregnation; and carbon-nano-tubes, which make sports gear lighter.

The evaluation will include international data on the materials’ potential to affect live organisms in the environment, and the final result will be a total assessment of the risk of unwanted effects in the Danish environment.

By Pernille Bang-Ortmann, pnbo@cowi.com
Published: 07.05.2013

About nanotechnology

Facts on nanotechnology

Nanotechnology can improve almost all other technologies in a variety of ways and using many different types of nanomaterials.
For instance, nanotechnology can deliver higher material strength in proportion to weight (e.g., in sports gear), improve UV absorption (e.g., nano-titanium-dioxide in sunscreen) and improve electrical properties (e.g., in batteries and solar cells).

Definition of "nano"
Nano means a billionth (i.e. 1/1,000,000,000). Its origin is the Greek work “nanos”, which means dwarf. A nanometre (nm) is therefore a millionth of a millimetre, which is around 80,000 times smaller than the thickness of a hair or a few times the diameter of an atom.

LAST UPDATED: 16.09.2016