Nanotechnology in the Environmental Health Sciences
Among the newest buzzwords in biomedical science is nanotechnology: small is big! The vision for nanotechnology has existed for many years--remember Isaac Asimov's Fantastic Voyage--but the ability to manipulate individual atoms to engineer devices at the nanoscale is new. A number of benefits arise at the nanoscale, from the practical (reagent utilization and the ability to multiplex) to the emergence of new properties (optical and electrical). The intent here is to briefly outline some ways nanotechnology will impact the environmental health sciences.
The benefits of nanotechnology make it ideal for sensor development, for environmental and biological monitoring as well as for linking exposure, disease, and susceptibility. Investigators are developing arrays for toxicants based on technologies such as ion channels or fluorescence-emitting nanoprobes. Similarly, nanomaterials are being used to investigate the mechanisms of disease etiology in vitro and in vivo.
Nanomaterials offer two distinct advantages to remediation technologies: large surface-area-to-volume ratio and high chemical reactivity. This pays dividends for both catalysis (for example, with halogenated organics) and sequestration (for example, with radionuclides). …