Impact of Manufactured Nanomaterials (Metal and Metal oxides) on the Environment

 

Impact of Manufactured Nanomaterials (Metal and Metal oxides) on the Environment

        With continuing exciting breakthroughs in nanoscience and nanotechnology, it is anticipated to grow into one trillion dollar industry by 2015. Nanomaterials which are defined to have at least one dimension in the size range of 1-100 nm are not merely small crystals but in fact a fascinating, intermediate state between bulk and molecular materials and exhibit unique magnetic, electrical, optical, mechanical, structural and chemical properties. Because of the ability to tune physical and chemical properties with size and morphology, nanomaterials are utilized in a wide variety of applications including medical diagnostics, drug delivery, waste water treatment, carbon capture, antimicrobials, electric and thermal insulators, energy conservation and cosmetics. Metal-based nanomaterials are of particular importance and used in many of these applications. Thus production of these materials is expected to increase worldwide resulting in potential release into the environment including water systems.

In the Grassian group, the environmental implications of nanomaterials are being studied using a wide-range of techniques and methods so as to study the properties of these materials under different environmental conditions. The ability of metal and metal oxide nanoparticles to dissolve into ions for example are quantitatively analyzed by ICP-OES while size, morphology and compositional changes following dissolution is obtained by TEM, SEM and XRD respectively. Special focus is given to identify potential size dependent trends in the solubility. For insoluble nanoparticle systems adsorption and aggregation experiments are conducted using HPLC and light scattering measurements. In addition to these bulk measurements the Grassian group focuses on obtaining fundamental information through the use of molecular-based measurements using different methods including solution phase ATR-FTIR spectroscopy which gives great insight to the details of molecular interactions on nanoparticle surfaces. These studies thus provide for a more detailed picture of surface adsorption, nanoparticle aggregation and nanoparticle dissolution.