Environment Systems and Decisions

, Volume 35, Issue 1, pp 29–41 | Cite as

Review of decision analytic tools for sustainable nanotechnology

  • Vrishali Subramanian
  • Elena Semenzin
  • Danail Hristozov
  • Esther Zondervan-van den Beuken
  • Igor Linkov
  • Antonio Marcomini


Nanotechnology innovation is hampered by data gaps and knowledge limitations in evaluating the risks and impacts of nano-enabled products. “Sustainable nanotechnology” is a growing concept in the literature, which calls for a comprehensive evaluation of the risks and impacts of nanotechnology at an early stage of nano-enabled product life cycle. ‘One such method to frame sustainable nanotechnology is the triple bottom line (TBL) approach, which comprises the environmental, economic, and societal “pillars” that contribute to the overall sustainability of a nano-enabled product. For the context of nanotechnology, risk analysis (RA), life cycle assessment (LCA), and multi-criteria decision analysis (MCDA) are frequently called upon to support sustainable nanotechnology governance. This paper provides a systematic review of these tools in the context of sustainable nanotechnology. The results indicate a growing number of applications for these tools with LCA contributing to the environmental and economic pillars, and RA contributing to the environmental pillar. MCDA provides the structural scaffold and mathematical techniques necessary to integrate RA and LCA within the TBL, and also provides the means to address uncertainty of early-stage nanotechnology assessment. Using these tools, integrated sustainability assessment could provide a viable means for industry and regulators to make near-term decisions about complex nanotechnology problems.


Sustainability assessment Risk analysis Life cycle assessment Multi-criteria decision analysis Nanotechnology 



This study was funded in part by the European Union Seventh Framework Programme [FP7/2007-2013] under EC-GA No. 604305 “SUN.” This publication reflects the views only of the authors, and the European Commission and other sponsors cannot be held responsible for any use, which may be made of the information contained therein.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Vrishali Subramanian
    • 1
  • Elena Semenzin
    • 1
  • Danail Hristozov
    • 1
  • Esther Zondervan-van den Beuken
    • 2
  • Igor Linkov
    • 3
  • Antonio Marcomini
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Environmental Sciences, Informatics and StatisticsUniversity Ca’ Foscari VeniceVeniceItaly
  2. 2.TNOZeistThe Netherlands
  3. 3.US Army Engineer Research and Development CenterConcordUSA

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