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Anticipatory Governance and Anticipatory Life Cycle Assessment of Single Wall Carbon Nanotube Anode Lithium ion Batteries
Volume 9, Issue 3

B.A. Wender, R.W. Foley, D.H. Guston, T.P. Seager and A. Wiek

Anticipatory governance (AG) provides a forward-looking framework through which social, ethical, and legal aspects of such emerging technologies as nanotechnology may be assessed. Advanced versions of AG integrate a suite of qualitative methods, including sustainability constellation mapping, as well as quantitative methods focused on real-time trend analysis of bibliometric and patent activity. Anticipatory life cycle assessment (LCA) builds upon advancements in LCA, and seeks to adapt life cycle frameworks to developing nanotechnologies through a combination of laboratory-scale inventory data collection, thermodynamic modeling of nano-manufacturing processes, and nanotechnology experience curve modeling. Anticipatory LCA may call attention to environmentally problematic processes in the life cycle of novel nanotechnologies before significant social, political, and economic investments in research and infrastructure contribute to technology lock in. One such technology is single wall carbon nanotube (SWCNT) anodes for advanced lithium ion batteries, which may increase the energy density of portable, rechargeable batteries. Through a case study of SWCNT anodes, we demonstrate that incorporation of anticipatory LCA within AG directly addresses the lack of laboratory-generated quantitative methods, promotes communication between laboratory researchers, social scientists, and broader sets of stakeholders, and may reorient laboratory research agenda.

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