Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors

Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button

Home > Press > Engineers Explore Environmental Concerns of Nanotechnology

Peter Vikesland and Linsey Marr, both associate professors of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech, are members of the national Center for the Environmental Implications of NanoTechnology (CEINT) at Virginia Tech. They are exploring the impact of nanotechnology research on the environment.
Peter Vikesland and Linsey Marr, both associate professors of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech, are members of the national Center for the Environmental Implications of NanoTechnology (CEINT) at Virginia Tech. They are exploring the impact of nanotechnology research on the environment.

Abstract:
As researchers around the world hasten to employ nanotechnology to improve production methods for applications that range from manufacturing materials to creating new pharmaceutical drugs, a separate but equally compelling challenge exists.

History has shown that previous industrial revolutions, such as those involving asbestos and chloroflurocarbons, have had some serious environmental impacts. Might nanotechnology also pose a risk?

Engineers Explore Environmental Concerns of Nanotechnology

Blacksburg, VA | Posted on February 1st, 2010

Linsey Marr and Peter Vikesland, faculty members in the Via Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Virginia Tech, are part of the national Center for the Environmental Implications of NanoTechnology (CEINT), funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) in 2008. Along with Michael Hochella, University Distinguished Professor of Geosciences, they represent Virginia Tech's efforts in a nine-member consortium awarded $14 million over five years, starting in 2008. Virginia Tech's portion is $1.75 million.

CEINT is dedicated to elucidating the relationship between a vast array of nanomaterials — from natural, to manufactured, to those produced incidentally by human activities — and their potential environmental exposure, biological effects, and ecological consequences. It will focus on the fate and transport of natural and manufactured nanomaterials in ecosystems.

Headquartered at Duke University, CEINT is collaboration between Duke, Carnegie Mellon University, Howard University, and Virginia Tech as the core members, as well as investigators from the University of Kentucky and Stanford University. CEINT academic collaborations in the U.S. also include on-going activities coordinated with faculty at Clemson, North Carolina State, UCLA, and Purdue universities. At Virginia Tech, CEINT is part of the University's Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science (ICTAS).

Scientists and engineers at the center have outlined plans to conduct research on the possible environmental health impacts of nanomaterials. The plans include new approaches, such as creating a predictive toxicology model based on cell assays and building ecosystems to track nanoparticles.

Characterization of Airborne Particles

In one of the novel ways Marr is conducting her tests, she and her colleagues are growing human lung cells and placing them in chambers that leave the lung cell surface exposed to air. This placement allows for direct contact of the cells with aerosolized particles at the air-liquid interface (ALI). One of Marr's post-doctoral researchers, Amara Holder, and colleagues from Berkeley have previously exposed the cells to particles in diesel exhaust and a methane flame. They compared the ALI exposure to conventional in vitro exposure, where particles are suspended in a liquid cell culture medium.

"Our findings showed the ALI exposure inhalation route is a relevant in vitro approach and is more responsive than the conventional exposure to particle suspensions," they concluded. Now, Marr and her colleagues are repeating the exposure with engineered nanoparticles. The researchers will enhance the deposition of smaller particles by generating an electric field and "relying on the electrophoretic force to drive charged particles to the cell surface."

"With this design, lung cells can be exposed to substantial numbers of aerosolized engineered nanoparticles, such as silver and metal oxides, as single particles rather than large agglomerates," Marr explained. A challenge in tests of nanoparticles' toxicity has been that very small particles like to form aggregates, so testing interactions of the smallest particles with cells requires special approaches.

Marr and one of her graduate students, Andrea Tiwari, have selected the C60 fullerene as a model for carbonaceous nanomaterials because of its relative simplicity, evidence of toxicity, and rich history in the scientific literature. The discovery of the C60 compound in 1985 earned Harold Kroto, James R. Heath, and Richard Smalley the 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. C60 fullerenes and variations on them are being used throughout the nanotechnology industry.

"Airborne carbonaceous nanomaterials are likely to be found in production facilities and in ambient air and may exhibit toxic effects if inhaled," Marr and Tiwari said. They further theorized that when exposed to the air, nanomaterials are likely to be chemically transformed after the exposure to oxidants in the atmosphere.

In their preliminary studies, results indicate that "oxidation does impact solubility, as absorbance after resuspending in water is lower for fullerenes exposed to ozone." The implication is that reactions in the atmosphere can transform nanoparticles and make them more likely to dissolve in water once they deposit back to earth. There, they can travel farther and come in contact with more organisms than if they were stuck to soil.

To collect airborne nanoparticles for analysis, Marr's group designed a low-cost thermophoretic precipitator that uses ice water as a cooling source and a 10-W resistor as the heating source. They flowed synthetic aerosols through the precipitator and used a transmission electron microscope to inspect the particles.

"Preliminary analysis confirmed that this precipitator was effective in collecting nanoparticles of a wide range of sizes and will be effective in future studies of airborne nanoparticles," Marr said.

As her work in this field progresses, Marr was able to use her research in the characterization of airborne particle concentrations during the production of carbonaceous nanomaterials, such as fullerenes and carbon nanotubes, in a commercial nanotechnology facility. Based on the measurements of her study, done with Behnoush Yeganeh, Christy Kull and Mathew Hull, all graduate students, they concluded that engineering controls at the facility "appear to be effective in limiting exposure to nanomaterials," and reported their findings in the American Chemical Society's publication Environmental Science and Technology (Vol. 42, No. 12, 2008)

However, they point to the limitations of this initial study that focused mainly on the physical characterization, and which did not differentiate between particles generated by nanomaterial soot production and those from other sources.

Effects of Carboxylic Acids on nC60 Aggregate Formation

"The increasing production and application of the C60 fullerene due to its distinctive properties will inevitably lead to its release into the environment," Marr's colleague, Vikesland, said. Already, the biomedical, optoelectronics, sensors and cosmetics industries are among the users of the C60 fullerene.

"Little is currently known about the interaction of the C60 fullerene with the constituents of natural waters, and thus it is hard to predict the fate of C60 that is released into the natural environment," Vikesland added. "The C60 fullerene is virtually insoluble in water."

However, one of the components of natural water is natural organic matter (NOM). When the C60 fullerene is released in water, it forms "highly stable dispersed colloidal C60 aggregates or nC60," Vikesland explained. These aggregates can exhibit significant disparities in aggregate structure, size, morphology, and surface charge and behave very differently than the C60 alone.

The problem with NOM is its randomness, resulting in diverse characteristics of the aggregates that form when they mix with the C60.

So, Vikesland is looking at small molecular weight carboxylic acids such as acetic acid, tartaric acid, and citric acid, all widely detected constituents of natural water and biological fluids. He and his graduate student Xiaojun Chang have specifically looked at the formation of nC60 in acetic acid (vinegar) solutions, subjected the aggregates to extended mixing, and found that the solution's chemistry differs substantially from nC60 mixed in water alone.

"The citrate affects the formation of the nC60 in two ways," Vikesland said. It alters the pH, a key factor in controlling the surface charge of nC60 and it directly interacts with the C60 surface.

Vikesland explained the significance of this result. When nC60 is produced in the presence of the carboxylic acids, its aggregates differ significantly from those produced without the acids. In general, Vikesland said, these aggregates have more negative surface charges and are more homogenous than those produced in water alone.

"These results suggest that the ultimate fate of C60 in aqueous environments is likely to be significantly affected by the quantities and types of carboxylic acids present in natural systems and by the solution pH," Vikesland added. Furthermore, because carboxylic acids are common in biological fluids, Vikesland is interested in how his findings relate to the mechanisms by which C60 interact with cells in vivo.

These acids may significantly affect any conclusions ultimately reached regarding the impact of the C60 fullerene into the environment. His current work appears in an issue of Environmental Pollution v157, issue 4 (April 2009), pp. 1072-1080.

####

About Virginia Tech
Founded in 1872 as a land-grant college named Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College, Virginia Tech is now a comprehensive, innovative research university with the largest full-time student population in Virginia.

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
Mark Owczarski
Director of News and Information

(540) 231-5223
314 Burruss Hall (0229)

Copyright © Virginia Tech

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related News Press

News and information

Graphene and quantum dots put in motion a CMOS-integrated camera that can see the invisible May 29th, 2017

Ag/ZnO-Nanorods Schottky diodes based UV-PDs are fabricated and tested May 26th, 2017

New metamaterial-enhanced MRI technique tested on humans May 26th, 2017

Controlling 3-D behavior of biological cells using laser holographic techniques May 26th, 2017

Preparing for Nano

How nanoscience will improve our health and lives in the coming years: Targeted medicine deliveries and increased energy efficiency are just two of many ways October 26th, 2016

Searching for a nanotech self-organizing principle May 1st, 2016

Nanotechnology is changing everything from medicine to self-healing buildings: Nanotechnology is so small it's measured in billionths of metres, and it is revolutionising every aspect of our lives April 2nd, 2016

Durnham University's DEEPEN project comes to a close September 26th, 2012

Govt.-Legislation/Regulation/Funding/Policy

Graphene and quantum dots put in motion a CMOS-integrated camera that can see the invisible May 29th, 2017

New metamaterial-enhanced MRI technique tested on humans May 26th, 2017

Controlling 3-D behavior of biological cells using laser holographic techniques May 26th, 2017

Unveiling the quantum necklace: Researchers simulate quantum necklace-like structures in superfluids May 26th, 2017

Academic/Education

MIT Energy Initiative awards 10 seed fund grants for early-stage energy research May 4th, 2017

Bar-Ilan University to set up quantum research center May 1st, 2017

California Research Alliance by BASF establishes more than 25 research projects in three years April 26th, 2017

SUNY Polytechnic Institute Announces Total of 172 Teams Selected to Compete in Solar in Your Community Challenge: Teams from 40 states, plus Washington, DC, 2 Territories, and 4 American Indian Reservations, Will Deploy Solar in Underserved Communities April 20th, 2017

Nanotubes/Buckyballs/Fullerenes/Nanorods

Ag/ZnO-Nanorods Schottky diodes based UV-PDs are fabricated and tested May 26th, 2017

Fed grant backs nanofiber development: Rice University joins Department of Energy 'Next Generation Machines' initiative May 10th, 2017

Nanotubes that build themselves April 14th, 2017

Intertronics introduce new nanoparticle deagglomeration technology March 15th, 2017

Sensors

Graphene and quantum dots put in motion a CMOS-integrated camera that can see the invisible May 29th, 2017

Ag/ZnO-Nanorods Schottky diodes based UV-PDs are fabricated and tested May 26th, 2017

'Hot' electrons don't mind the gap: Rice University scientists find nanogaps in plasmonic gold wires enhance voltage when excited May 8th, 2017

Better living through pressure: Functional nanomaterials made easy April 19th, 2017

Nanoelectronics

Oddball enzyme provides easy path to synthetic biomaterials May 17th, 2017

Racyics Launches ‘makeChip’ Design Service Platform for GLOBALFOUNDRIES’ 22FDX® Technology: Racyics will provide IP and design services as a part of the foundry’s FDXcelerator™ Partner Program May 11th, 2017

Researchers “iron out” graphene’s wrinkles: New technique produces highly conductive graphene wafers April 3rd, 2017

A big leap toward tinier lines: Self-assembly technique could lead to long-awaited, simple method for making smaller microchip patterns March 27th, 2017

Announcements

Graphene and quantum dots put in motion a CMOS-integrated camera that can see the invisible May 29th, 2017

Ag/ZnO-Nanorods Schottky diodes based UV-PDs are fabricated and tested May 26th, 2017

New metamaterial-enhanced MRI technique tested on humans May 26th, 2017

Controlling 3-D behavior of biological cells using laser holographic techniques May 26th, 2017

Environment

Can crab shells provide a 'green' solution to malaria? Study shows how a mixture of chitin and silver nanoparticles inhibits growth of mosquito larvae May 12th, 2017

NanoMONITOR shares its latest developments concerning the NanoMONITOR Software and the Monitoring stations April 21st, 2017

Wood filter removes toxic dye from water April 21st, 2017

Making Batteries From Waste Glass Bottles: UCR researchers are turning glass bottles into high performance lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles and personal electronics April 19th, 2017

Personal Care/Cosmetics

Programmable materials find strength in molecular repetition May 23rd, 2016

Common nanoparticle has subtle effects on oxidative stress genes May 11th, 2016

NRL reveals novel uniform coating process of p-ALD April 21st, 2016

New ORNL method could unleash solar power potential March 16th, 2016

Safety-Nanoparticles/Risk management

NanoMONITOR shares its latest developments concerning the NanoMONITOR Software and the Monitoring stations April 21st, 2017

NIST updates 'sweet' 1950s separation method to clean nanoparticles from organisms January 27th, 2017

Nanoparticle exposure can awaken dormant viruses in the lungs January 17th, 2017

Investigating the impact of natural and manmade nanomaterials on living things: Center for Environmental Implications of Nanotechnology develops tools to assess current and future risk January 9th, 2017

Nanobiotechnology

Zap! Graphene is bad news for bacteria: Rice, Ben-Gurion universities show laser-induced graphene kills bacteria, resists biofouling May 22nd, 2017

Sensors detect disease markers in breath May 19th, 2017

Oddball enzyme provides easy path to synthetic biomaterials May 17th, 2017

The brighter side of twisted polymers: Conjugated polymers designed with a twist produce tiny, brightly fluorescent particles with broad applications May 16th, 2017

Alliances/Trade associations/Partnerships/Distributorships

California Research Alliance by BASF establishes more than 25 research projects in three years April 26th, 2017

BASF and Landa partner to create revolutionary pigments for automotive coatings: The alliance combines BASF innovations with Landa nano-pigment technology April 5th, 2017

Leti Announces EU/South Korean Project for World’s First 5G-system Prototype: Coinciding with the 2018 Winter Games in PyeongChang, Korea, Prototype Will Be First Time State-of-the-art Terrestrial Wireless Communication Is Seamlessly Combined with Disruptive Satellite Communicati April 4th, 2017

ATTOPSEMI Technology Joins FDXcelerator Program to Deliver Advanced Non-Volatile Memory IP to GLOBALFOUNDRIES 22 FDX® Technology Platform: Leading-edge I-fuse™ brings higher reliability, smaller cell size and ease of programmability for consumer, automotive, and IoT applications March 27th, 2017

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE



  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoTech-Transfer
University Technology Transfer & Patents
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More











ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project