Engineered Nanomaterials (ENMs) are increasingly manufactured and incorporated into a diverse array of consumer products and industrial uses. While ENMs are touted for their technological and efficiency benefits, the potential impacts of increasing emissions and exposures to ENMs are poorly understood. This dissertation takes a critical look at the current knowledge in impact assessment of nanomaterials. First, the current metrics for impact assessment of traditional methods are compared with the proposed set of metrics necessary for nanomaterial impact assessment. Next, in order to understand the potential environmental impacts in context, characterization factors for four case study nanomaterials are modeled using physicochemical data from literature sources and adjusting the USEtox method as necessary. Then cradle-to-gate life cycle assessments are performed for the production of case study nanomaterials to understand the primary drivers of environmental impact. Last, the larger context of nanomaterial production is considered by forecasting a potential use of CNTs in lithium ion batteries over the next 25 years. Current policy issues are discussed within a life cycle context for the nano-enabled lithium ion battery.

The results demonstrate that in most cases nanomaterials do not contribute a significant impact to the total in LCA. In contrast, energy production for these materials is found to be the primary driver of impact in cases where inherent nanomaterial toxicity is low. Electric vehicles and energy storage were found to be the primary drivers of CNT production for lithium ion batteries in both forecasted scenarios, indicating that despite the current debate over how to use toxic chemical regulations to best control risk, regulations over electricity and energy production could better target the overall environmental impact in most cases. Furthermore, there is potential for future regulations to incorporate novel metrics so that life cycle impact assessment can inform environmental policy.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Nanostructured materials--Environmental aspects; Nanostructured materials--Health aspects; Life cycle costing

Publication Date


Document Type


Student Type


Degree Name

Sustainability (Ph.D.)

Department, Program, or Center

Sustainability (GIS)


Gabrielle Gaustad

Advisor/Committee Member

Thomas Trabold

Advisor/Committee Member

Nabil Nasr


Physical copy available from RIT's Wallace Library at TD196.N36 G37 2016


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