Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Environmental Fate of Nanoparticles


Materials made from particles one-millionth the size of a fine-point pen tip are touted daily for their current uses and dreamed of possibilities, but a pressing question remains as to the environmental impact of manufactured nano-sized materials.

Purdue University scientists are investigating the interactions between these tiny, many-sided structures and the environment. To further this research, the National Science Foundation (NSF) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have awarded grants totaling nearly $2 million to the Purdue Nanoscale Interdisciplinary Research Team and a colleague from the University of Minnesota.

"This is one of the first major studies solely interested in the environmental fate of carbon-based manufactured nanoparticles," said Purdue’s Ron Turco, principal investigator on the project. "We will test Buckyballs and other manufactured nanomaterials in all types of soil and in water to determine their effect on the environment, including any toxicity toward bacteria and fungi that are key indicators of damage to the ecosystem."

Buckyballs are multi-sided, nano-sized particles that look like hollow soccer balls. The full name for the cluster of carbon atoms is Buckminsterfullerene, after the American architect R. Buckminster Fuller. His design for the geodesic dome is much like the shape of Buckyballs, also known as fullerenes.

First found in a meteorite in 1969, Buckyballs are the third naturally occurring pure carbon molecules known. The others are graphite and diamonds. Experts say that tiny carbon-based manufactured nanotubes are 100 to 1,000 times stronger than steel.

In 1985, researchers began making Buckyballs, which led to a Nobel Prize. These are among the carbon-based manufactured nanoparticles the Purdue scientists will study. Other studies are delving into various aspects of all types of nanoparticles.

"We want to know what would happen if these materials enter the environment in either high or low concentrations," Turco said. "What happens when they get in the soil or the water? I don’t think there will be a problem, but we need to have data."

The scientists will investigate not only the manufactured nanoparticles’ affect on the environment, but also the environment’s affect on them. Using techniques that they employed in assessing the environmental impact of other materials such as pesticides, they will examine how bacteria and fungi in soil and water contribute to the degradation of manufactured nanoparticles.

Other studies are delving into aspects of naturally occurring nanoparticles.

The research team, which was formed by Purdue’s Environmental Science and Engineering Institute, will conduct their work in laboratory settings using all types of soil and water, said Turco, an environmental microbiologist in the School of Agriculture.

Nanomaterials already are used for stain-resistant slacks, sunscreens, cosmetics, automobile paint and bowling balls. In fact, the Eastman Kodak Co. and other corporations began employing nano-sized material as early as the 1930s. Kodak’s use of the material was nano-silver for film coating.

Scientists are testing sensors that use nano-scale materials for detecting biological weapons and other pathogens that may cause disease. Researchers also believe that stronger-than-steel materials made from carbon-based nanotubes could produce the next generation of electronics and even tougher bulletproof vests. Drug delivery and food production may be revolutionized by nanoparticles, which derive the nano part of their name from the Greek meaning dwarf.

The National Science Foundation funding is a four-year, $1.6 million grant for the research team’s Response of Aquatic and Terrestrial Microorganisms to Carbon-based Manufactured Nanoparticles project. The EPA is providing $365,000 over three years to study implications of the materials on soil processes and aquatic toxicity.

The project is composed of five parts handled by seven researchers. The Purdue researchers are Turco, Department of Agronomy; Bruce Applegate, Department of Food Science; Natalie Carroll, Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering and Department of Youth Development and Agriculture Education; Tim Filley, Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences; and Chad Jafvert and Loring Nies, both of the School of Civil Engineering. Robert Blanchette, of the University of Minnesota’s Department of Plant Pathology, also is on the team. Turco and Filley also are members of the Purdue Climate Change Research Center. Applegate is a member of the Center for Food Safety Engineering.

The project components and researchers involved are:

  • Determine the degradability and solubility of carbon-based manufactured nanoparticles in soils and water - Jafvert.
  • Determine baseline information on the toxic effects of carbon-based manufactured nanoparticles on aquatic bacteria - Applegate and Turco.
  • Examine how microbes in the soil react to and alter themselves due to the presence of carbon-based manufactured nanoparticles - Nies, Filley and Turco.
  • Determine how carbon-based manufactured nanoparticles are broken down in the soil, how long the degradation takes, and how the change in their chemical structure during this process affects soil toxicity and processes - Filley, Blanchette and Turco.
  • Educational outreach to promote public awareness and understanding of nanoscale science and its applications - Carroll.

| newswise
Further information:

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Don't forget plankton in climate change models, says study
27.11.2015 | University of Exeter

nachricht Using sphere packing models to explain the structure of forests
26.11.2015 | Helmholtz-Zentrum für Umweltforschung - UFZ

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: Climate study finds evidence of global shift in the 1980s

Planet Earth experienced a global climate shift in the late 1980s on an unprecedented scale, fuelled by anthropogenic warming and a volcanic eruption, according to new research published this week.

Scientists say that a major step change, or ‘regime shift’, in the Earth’s biophysical systems, from the upper atmosphere to the depths of the ocean and from...

Im Focus: Innovative Photovoltaics – from the Lab to the Façade

Fraunhofer ISE Demonstrates New Cell and Module Technologies on its Outer Building Façade

The Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE has installed 70 photovoltaic modules on the outer façade of one of its lab buildings. The modules were...

Im Focus: Lactate for Brain Energy

Nerve cells cover their high energy demand with glucose and lactate. Scientists of the University of Zurich now provide new support for this. They show for the first time in the intact mouse brain evidence for an exchange of lactate between different brain cells. With this study they were able to confirm a 20-year old hypothesis.

In comparison to other organs, the human brain has the highest energy requirements. The supply of energy for nerve cells and the particular role of lactic acid...

Im Focus: Laser process simulation available as app for first time

In laser material processing, the simulation of processes has made great strides over the past few years. Today, the software can predict relatively well what will happen on the workpiece. Unfortunately, it is also highly complex and requires a lot of computing time. Thanks to clever simplification, experts from Fraunhofer ILT are now able to offer the first-ever simulation software that calculates processes in real time and also runs on tablet computers and smartphones. The fast software enables users to do without expensive experiments and to find optimum process parameters even more effectively.

Before now, the reliable simulation of laser processes was a job for experts. Armed with sophisticated software packages and after many hours on computer...

Im Focus: Quantum Simulation: A Better Understanding of Magnetism

Heidelberg physicists use ultracold atoms to imitate the behaviour of electrons in a solid

Researchers at Heidelberg University have devised a new way to study the phenomenon of magnetism. Using ultracold atoms at near absolute zero, they prepared a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

Fraunhofer’s Urban Futures Conference: 2 days in the city of the future

25.11.2015 | Event News

Gluten oder nicht Gluten? Überempfindlichkeit auf Weizen kann unterschiedliche Ursachen haben

17.11.2015 | Event News

Art Collection Deutsche Börse zeigt Ausstellung „Traces of Disorder“

21.10.2015 | Event News

Latest News

Siemens to supply 126 megawatts to onshore wind power plants in Scotland

27.11.2015 | Press release

Two decades of training students and experts in tracking infectious disease

27.11.2015 | Life Sciences

Coming to a monitor near you: A defect-free, molecule-thick film

27.11.2015 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>