15 September, 2017
Book Title: Artificially Intelligent Nanomaterials for Environmental Engineering
Available Date: around December 2018
Book Background and Introduction:
Tremendous progress has been made in the past decade in the application of nanotechnology to environmental engineering, or ‘environmental nanotechnology’ in short. The field of environmental nanotechnology is currently in its ‘rational design’ phase where heavy emphasis is on ‘design-for-purpose’.
Highly visible and sensational in the field of general science and engineering nowadays is the rise of artificial intelligence (AI), which emphasizes the capability of a machine to imitate intelligent human behavior so to perform tasks normally requiring human intelligence but without human-like intervention. Thus, the design of AI machine necessitates proactive, instead of reactive, functionality, which endows the machine with anticipatory, change-oriented and self-initiated behavior. Given that there are inherent complexity and unpredictability and more particularly varying and even quite contrasting application scenarios in environmental problems, an ideal design of nanomaterials to be applied to environmental engineering should be proactive with artificial intelligence.
As a matter of fact, AI has entered the field of environmental nanotechnology in the past decade where nanomaterials are entrusted with proactive functionalities so that these ‘nano-machines’ perceive their surroundings and subsequently take automated actions or make self-adjustments for the purpose of maximizing their possibility to achieve their desired goal.
There have been some exploratory and very valuable works done in the artificially intelligent nanomaterials for environmental engineering. For example, the self-propelled artificially intelligent nano-motors that were able to autonomously travel through polluted samples with their own power and penetrate inaccessible locations, which have potential applications to water-quality screening and pollutant removal and degradation. Conventional porous filtration membranes were imparted with intelligent gates that could self-regulate their permeation and species selectivity, which can be used for more effective environmental separation. The materials were made to switch their oil and water wettability between two opposite sides in response to external triggers and were used for self-controlled, on-demand, and selective oil-water separation. Self-healing environmental materials were made to self-recover their physical damages, self-restore their lost functions and self-clean their contaminated surfaces. Given the sensational and frequent PM2.5 induced severe air quality incidents these years, the nanofibrous membrane air filters were created with artificially intelligent designs toward self-powered particulate matter collection and with thermal management, etc.
The rational design of artificially intelligent nanomaterials for environmental engineering is still at its very early infant stage, but it is gaining fast popularity as it is expected to offer disruptive and next generation technologies for environmental engineering.
The objective of the book is to clearly lay out the design concepts, majorly chemical principles, of artificially intelligent environmental nanomaterials and provide eye-opening proof-of-concept examples in relevant and significant applications. It is our sincere hope that this book, along with its educational purpose, would inspire further research efforts to develop advanced artificially intelligent nanomaterials for the enhancement of the overall quality of the environment and human health.