Friends of the Earth has released a new report debunking industry promises that nanotechnology offers solutions to our most pressing environmental problems, including climate change.

The report by Friends of the Earth groups in the United States, Europe and Australia examines the nanotechnology industry’s green claims, and concludes they don’t stack up.

The report evaluates current and near-term energy generation technologies, energy savings applications and the energy demands of using nanotechnology in the majority of applications where there is no potential for energy savings – such as cosmetics, sports equipment, electronic goods, cleaning products, and others.

It finds that although there are some energy applications where nanotechnology may deliver new efficiencies or functionalities, on the whole, the use of nanotechnology will come at a large energy and environmental cost.

Rather than substantially reducing our environmental footprint, using nanotechnology in products such as face creams, odour repellent socks, golf clubs and televisions will increase the energy demands of making these products, while posing new health and environment risks.

The report also reveals that despite governments’ green rhetoric, public funding is being used to develop nanotechnology to find and extract more oil and gas.

Not only have the world’s biggest petrochemical companies established a joint consortium to develop nanotechnology to find and extract more oil and gas, public funding is being used to support similar research in Australia and elsewhere.

Nanotechnology has been the focus of considerable ‘greenwash’ and industry has promoted it as a solution to environmental concerns. Australian Federal Governments from both Labor and Liberal parties have touted nanotechnology’s green credentials as a key reason to justify generous public funding of the sector.

Yet while government has shown much interest in the industry’s economic prospects, it has shown little interest in asking the key question: ‘does nanotechnology actually deliver for the environment?’

This report cuts through the greenwash, evaluates the evidence, and concludes that the nanotechnology industry’s green claims don’t stack up. It demands that the Federal Government reassess its assumptions about nanotechnology’s role in responding to climate change.


United States environmentalist and founder Bill McKibben has commended the report: “Very few people have looked beyond the shiny promise of nanotechnology to try and understand how this far-reaching new technique is actually developing. This report is an excellent glimpse inside, and it offers a judicious and balanced account of a subject we need very much to be thinking about”.


Report summary (pdf, 3 page, 79KB)