Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

From the Sewer to the Sound: Researchers Examining Effects of Household Titanium Dioxide Nanoparticles on Marine Ecosystems

25.10.2010
While swimmers and boaters along any shore consider the slimy green film that coats everything from rocks to docks as a nuisance, University of New Haven (UNH) chemical engineering student Nicole Reardon and Assistant Professor Shannon Ciston, Ph.D. think otherwise.

They view the slime, or biofilm, as a complex community that may hold the key to informing humanity of the true environmental impact of the chemical nanoparticles that find their way from area kitchens, baths and garages into Long Island Sound.

One such controversial compound is titanium dioxide, which is used to whiten and brighten a multitude of products, including candy, cosmetics, toothpaste and paint.

The underlying premise for testing the effects of titanium dioxide nanoparticles on biofilms is simple: when some chemicals are in nanoparticle form—ranging in size from 1/100th to 1/1000th of a human hair—they become bioactive, degrading and passing through cell membranes. Noting that “large” particles of titanium dioxide are considered safe by the FDA, Ciston and Reardon are interested in how nanoparticles of titanium dioxode affect marine ecosystems, particularly in terms of the humble biofilm. Reardon explains that while marine biofilms can be a bother, they are critical players in the oceanic environment. In addition to transforming nitrogen and carbon in ways that positively impact the greater food web, biofilms clean waste water by eating harmful organic matter and can even be used to clean oil and gasoline spills through bioremediation.

This fall, Reardon is continuing the biofilm research she began during her Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) at UNH. Reardon and her SURF advisor, Ciston, are collecting biofilm samples from a pier in West Haven, Connecticut, and Port Jefferson, Long Island, using a substrate system Reardon designed. Reardon harvests the biofilm that naturally attaches to the microscope slides in the submerged substrate and then heads to either the UNH lab or the State University of New York at Stony Brook, where fellow researchers are sharing their lab space and expertise. In the lab, Reardon stains the biofilm bacteria with fluorescent nucleic acid and, using digital image analysis, collects data on the depth and biomass of her test subjects. She also uses optical microscopy and scanning electron microscopy to identify characteristics of the biofilm structure and to identify the organisms.

Reardon and Ciston “dose” the samples with a composite material made of carbon nanotubes and titanium dioxide nanoparticles. Ultimately, they will compare the dosed biofilm with the untreated samples, determine how the microorganisms were affected and look at the greater implications for Long Island Sound.

As a chemical engineer with an environmental engineering background, Ciston notes she is fascinated by titanium dioxide and has been studying it, and its effects on organisms, for several years. She notes that titanium oxide is included in many cosmetic preparations to reflect light away from the skin and, as a pigment, is used to enhance the white color of certain foods, including dairy products and candy. It also brightens toothpaste and some medications, is used as a food additive and flavor enhancer, and used in paints for cars, boats, and airplanes.

A leader in experiential education, the University of New Haven provides its students with a valuable combination of solid liberal arts and real-world, hands-on professional training. Founded in 1920, UNH is a private, top-tier comprehensive university with an 80-acre main campus. The University has an enrollment of more than 5,900: approximately 1,700 graduate students and more than 4,200 undergraduates, 70 percent of whom reside in university housing. The University offers more than 80 undergraduate degrees and more than 25 graduate degrees through the College of Arts and Sciences, College of Business, the Henry C. Lee College of Criminal Justice and Forensic Sciences, the Tagliatela College of Engineering and University College. University of New Haven students study abroad through a variety of distinctive programs.

Julie Winkel | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.newhaven.edu

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Plant seeds survive machine washing - Dispersal of invasive plants with clothes
11.09.2018 | Gesellschaft für Ökologie e.V.

nachricht Air pollution leads to cardiovascular diseases
21.08.2018 | Universitätsmedizin der Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

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: Scientists present new observations to understand the phase transition in quantum chromodynamics

The building blocks of matter in our universe were formed in the first 10 microseconds of its existence, according to the currently accepted scientific picture. After the Big Bang about 13.7 billion years ago, matter consisted mainly of quarks and gluons, two types of elementary particles whose interactions are governed by quantum chromodynamics (QCD), the theory of strong interaction. In the early universe, these particles moved (nearly) freely in a quark-gluon plasma.

This is a joint press release of University Muenster and Heidelberg as well as the GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung in Darmstadt.

Then, in a phase transition, they combined and formed hadrons, among them the building blocks of atomic nuclei, protons and neutrons. In the current issue of...

Im Focus: Patented nanostructure for solar cells: Rough optics, smooth surface

Thin-film solar cells made of crystalline silicon are inexpensive and achieve efficiencies of a good 14 percent. However, they could do even better if their shiny surfaces reflected less light. A team led by Prof. Christiane Becker from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) has now patented a sophisticated new solution to this problem.

"It is not enough simply to bring more light into the cell," says Christiane Becker. Such surface structures can even ultimately reduce the efficiency by...

Im Focus: New soft coral species discovered in Panama

A study in the journal Bulletin of Marine Science describes a new, blood-red species of octocoral found in Panama. The species in the genus Thesea was discovered in the threatened low-light reef environment on Hannibal Bank, 60 kilometers off mainland Pacific Panama, by researchers at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama (STRI) and the Centro de Investigación en Ciencias del Mar y Limnología (CIMAR) at the University of Costa Rica.

Scientists established the new species, Thesea dalioi, by comparing its physical traits, such as branch thickness and the bright red colony color, with the...

Im Focus: New devices based on rust could reduce excess heat in computers

Physicists explore long-distance information transmission in antiferromagnetic iron oxide

Scientists have succeeded in observing the first long-distance transfer of information in a magnetic group of materials known as antiferromagnets.

Im Focus: Finding Nemo's genes

An international team of researchers has mapped Nemo's genome

An international team of researchers has mapped Nemo's genome, providing the research community with an invaluable resource to decode the response of fish to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

"Boston calling": TU Berlin and the Weizenbaum Institute organize a conference in USA

21.09.2018 | Event News

One of the world’s most prominent strategic forums for global health held in Berlin in October 2018

03.09.2018 | Event News

4th Intelligent Materials - European Symposium on Intelligent Materials

27.08.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Astrophysicists measure precise rotation pattern of sun-like stars for the first time

21.09.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Brought to light – chromobodies reveal changes in endogenous protein concentration in living cells

21.09.2018 | Life Sciences

"Boston calling": TU Berlin and the Weizenbaum Institute organize a conference in USA

21.09.2018 | Event News

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>