In laboratories around the world, researchers regularly pay top dollar for specialized materials to conduct their work. Afterward, any leftovers usually go into storage, where all too often they remain unused and forgotten.
In cases where chemical agents eventually become toxic or volatile, such obscurity can pose physical hazards. But Anna Klinkova sees a more subtle tragedy unfolding in her field of nanomaterials. She suggests that many of these unused products could go to researchers who might not have the resources to custom order their own. Klinkova and Rachelle Choueiri, both doctoral students at the University of Toronto, highlighted this prospect for an American Chemical Society blog, where they introduced an on-line site for posting information about leftover items such as nanoparticles that could be shared with others.
Klinkova likens the site, http://nanosupply.co, to the popular classified advertising site Kijiji, where individuals can quickly seek out items they want to buy, sell, or give away. Even if this material were created for a specific application, Klinkova argues, it would be suitable as a simple and cost-effective way to initiate a research project or educational demonstration. She also remains confident that there is a surplus of nanomaterials to be offered, although she admits that it will require laboratories to undertake comprehensive, up-to-date inventories of what they have on hand. Eventually such exchanges could become a commercial venture. For now, however, Klinkova would simply like to minimize waste and provide a practical opportunity. “It’s a short-cut to finding the people who want to share it,” she says. “But it takes a different mind set.”