Jump to main content
Jump to site search

Issue 4, 2015
Previous Article Next Article

Comparative life cycle assessment of silver nanoparticle synthesis routes

Author affiliations


Silver nanoparticles (AgNPs) can be produced through a variety of synthesis routes with differing mechanisms, inputs, yields, reaction conditions, and resulting size distributions. Recent work has focused on applying green chemistry and sustainable manufacturing principles to nanomaterial synthesis, with the goal of reducing life cycle energy use and environmental impacts. Life cycle assessment (LCA) is used here to analyze and compare the environmental impacts of AgNPs produced through seven different synthesis routes (cradle-to-gate). LCA reveals both direct and indirect or upstream impacts associated with AgNPs. Synthesis routes were chosen to represent current trends in nanoparticle synthesis and include physical, chemical and bio-based methods of production. Results show that, across synthesis routes, impacts associated with the upstream production of bulk silver itself were dominant for nearly every category of environmental impact, contributing to over 90% of life cycle burdens in some cases. Flame spray methods were shown to have the highest impacts while chemical reduction methods were generally preferred when AgNPs were compared on a mass basis. The bio-based chemical reduction route was found to have important tradeoffs in ozone depletion potential and ecotoxicity. Rescaling results by the size-dependent antimicrobial efficacy that reflects the actual function of AgNPs in most products provided a performance-based comparison and changed the rank order of preference in every impact category. Comparative results were also presented in the context of a nanosilver-doped wound dressing, showing that the overall environmental burdens of the product were highly sensitive to the synthesis route by which the AgNPs are produced.

Graphical abstract: Comparative life cycle assessment of silver nanoparticle synthesis routes

Back to tab navigation

Supplementary files

Article information

16 Apr 2015
26 Jun 2015
First published
26 Jun 2015

Environ. Sci.: Nano, 2015,2, 361-369
Article type
Author version available

Comparative life cycle assessment of silver nanoparticle synthesis routes

L. Pourzahedi and M. J. Eckelman, Environ. Sci.: Nano, 2015, 2, 361
DOI: 10.1039/C5EN00075K

Social activity

Search articles by author