As a confirmed optimist and believer in technology, I’ve long thought that we can meet the challenge posed by global climate change – as long as we implement the right policies to provide incentives to develop the necessary technologies. Having the wide engineering knowledge that being a lawyer – as well as one of six political science graduates from MIT my year – provides, I have assumed that nanotechnology would play a substantial part in whatever the ultimate solution turns out to be.

Climate change is a big problem and we’re not there yet – especially since the incentives aren’t yet in place. Contaminated site remediation presents a more manageable set of problems, and nanotechnology finally does seem to be making significant headway in the remediation arena. According to a report just published in Environmental Health Perspectives, in-situ nanotechnology can reduce soil and groundwater remediation costs, as well as help to reach the cleanup end point more quickly. The study identifies a number of nano-scale materials that are being used for remediation, but the most common at this point and the one discussed in most detail in the study is zero valent iron. The study is not definitive, but is based on a review of 45 sites at which nanotechnology has been used or is in process.

In conjunction with the study, the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies has also produced a map showing the location of sites at which nanotechnology has been used as a remediation technology and providing some information about each site.