Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

How nanoparticles flow through the environment

12.05.2016

Carbon nanotubes remain attached to materials for years while titanium dioxide and nanozinc are rapidly washed out of cosmetics and accumulate in the ground. Researchers from the National Research Programme "Opportunities and Risks of Nanomaterials" (NRP 64) have developed a new model to track the flow of the most important nanomaterials in the environment.

How many man-made nanoparticles make their way into the air, earth or water? In order to assess these amounts, a group of researchers led by Bernd Nowack from Empa in St. Gallen has developed a computer model as part of the National Research Programme "Opportunities and Risks of Nanomaterials" (NRP 64).(*) “Our estimates offer the best available data at present about the environmental accumulation of nanosilver, nanozinc, nano-tinanium dioxide and carbon nanotubes”, says Nowack.


Cosmetics and tennis racquets

In contrast to the static calculations hitherto in use, their new, dynamic model does not just take into account the significant growth in the production and use of nanomaterials, but also makes provision for the fact that different nanomaterials are used in different applications. For example, nanozinc and nano-titanium dioxide are found primarily in cosmetics.

Roughly half of these nanoparticles find their way into our waste water within the space of a year, and from there they enter into sewage sludge. Carbon nanotubes, however, are integrated into composite materials and are bound in products such as which are immobilized and are thus found for example in tennis racquets and bicycle frames. It can take over ten years before they are released, when these products end up in waste incineration or are recycled.

39,000 metric tons of nanoparticles

The researchers involved in this study come from Empa, ETH and the University of Zurich. They use an estimated annual production of nano-titanium dioxide across Europe of 39,000 metric tons – considerably more than the total for all other nanomaterials. Their model calculates how much of this enters the atmosphere, surface waters, sediments and the earth, and accumulates there.

In the EU, the use of sewage sludge as fertiliser (a practice forbidden in Switzerland) means that nano-titanium dioxide today reaches an average concentration of 61 micrograms per kilo in the affected ground.

Knowing the degree of accumulation in the environment is only the first step in the risk assessment of nanomaterials, however. Now this data has to be compared with ecotoxicological test results and the statutory thresholds, says Nowack. A risk assessment has not been carried out with his new model until now. Earlier work with data from a static model showed, however, that the concentrations determined for all four nanomaterials investigated is not expected to have any impact on the environment.(**)

But in the case of nanozinc at least, its concentration in the environment is approaching the critical level. This is why this particular nanomaterial has to be given priority in future ecotoxicological studies – even though nanozinc is produced in smaller quantities than nano-titanium dioxide. Furthermore, ecotoxicological tests have until now been carried out primarily with freshwater organisms. The researchers conclude that complementary investigations using soil-dwelling organisms is a priority.

(*) T. Y. Sun et al.: Dynamic probabilistic Modelling of Environmental Emissions of Engineered Nanomaterials. Environmental Science & Technology (2016); doi: 10.1021/acs.est.5b05828

(**) C. Coll et al.: Probabilistic environmental risk assessment of five nanomaterials (nano-TiO2, nano-Ag, nano-ZnO, CNT, and fullerenes). Nanotoxicology (2016); doi: 10.3109/17435390.2015.1073812

(Journalists can obtain PDF versions of both publications from the SNSF: com@snf.ch)

Opportunities and Risks of Nanomaterials (NRP 64)

The Swiss National Science Foundation was commissioned by the Federal Council to run the National Research Programme ‘Opportunities and Risks of Nanomaterials’ (NRP 64). Its goal is to bridge the gaps in our current knowledge of nanomaterials with regard to their manufacture, use and disposal. The overall final recommendations of NFP 64 will be published in summary reports in 2017. www.nfp64.ch

Contact

Prof. Dr. Bernd Nowack
Empa
Environmental Risk Assessment and Management Group
Lerchenfeldstrasse 5
CH-9014 St. Gallen
Tel.: +41 58 765 76 92
E-Mail: nowack@empa.ch

Weitere Informationen:

http://www.snf.ch/en/researchinFocus/newsroom/Pages/news-160512-press-release-ho... - Press release online
http://p3.snf.ch/project-131241 - Project in the SNSF research database P3
http://www.nfp64.ch/en/projects/module-environment/project-nowack - NRP 64 - Modelling of nanomaterials in the environment
https://twitter.com/snsf_ch

Media - Abteilung Kommunikation | Schweizerischer Nationalfonds SNF

Further reports about: Nanoparticles SNSF bicycle frames nanomaterials sewage sludge waste water

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Dispersal of Fish Eggs by Water Birds – Just a Myth?
19.02.2018 | Universität Basel

nachricht Removing fossil fuel subsidies will not reduce CO2 emissions as much as hoped
08.02.2018 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Attoseconds break into atomic interior

A newly developed laser technology has enabled physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (jointly run by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics) to generate attosecond bursts of high-energy photons of unprecedented intensity. This has made it possible to observe the interaction of multiple photons in a single such pulse with electrons in the inner orbital shell of an atom.

In order to observe the ultrafast electron motion in the inner shells of atoms with short light pulses, the pulses must not only be ultrashort, but very...

Im Focus: Good vibrations feel the force

A group of researchers led by Andrea Cavalleri at the Max Planck Institute for Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) in Hamburg has demonstrated a new method enabling precise measurements of the interatomic forces that hold crystalline solids together. The paper Probing the Interatomic Potential of Solids by Strong-Field Nonlinear Phononics, published online in Nature, explains how a terahertz-frequency laser pulse can drive very large deformations of the crystal.

By measuring the highly unusual atomic trajectories under extreme electromagnetic transients, the MPSD group could reconstruct how rigid the atomic bonds are...

Im Focus: Developing reliable quantum computers

International research team makes important step on the path to solving certification problems

Quantum computers may one day solve algorithmic problems which even the biggest supercomputers today can’t manage. But how do you test a quantum computer to...

Im Focus: In best circles: First integrated circuit from self-assembled polymer

For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.

In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...

Im Focus: Demonstration of a single molecule piezoelectric effect

Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale

Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on High Temperature Shape Memory Alloys (HTSMAs)

15.02.2018 | Event News

Aachen DC Grid Summit 2018

13.02.2018 | Event News

How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition

12.02.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Basque researchers turn light upside down

23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Finnish research group discovers a new immune system regulator

23.02.2018 | Health and Medicine

Attoseconds break into atomic interior

23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>