State Water Resources Research Institute Program


Project ID: 2007MA73B
Title: Environmental Behaviors of Engineered Nanoparticles in Water
Project Type: Research
Start Date: 3/01/2007
End Date: 2/29/2008
Congressional District: First
Focus Categories: Water Quality, Toxic Substances, Solute Transport
Keywords: Nanoparticles, adsorption, fate, toxicity, pollutants, water quality, transport
Principal Investigators: Xing, Baoshan
Federal Funds: $ 24,988
Non-Federal Matching Funds: $ 61,450
Abstract: Nanotechnology is one of the world's most promising new technologies of the 21st century and is set to have dramatic impacts across the fields of physics, chemistry, biology, medicine, material science, engineering, and environmental sciences. The quantity of nanomaterials currently used is about 1,000-2,000 tones per annum worldwide, that will expand to around 10,000-100,000 tones per annum in 2011-2020. Due to the widespread use and large quantity of production in the very near future, engineered nanoparticles will inevitably end up into the environments such as water and soil through waste disposal and unintentional release. Therefore, there are serious environmental and health concerns over these invisible, tiny particles because they are more toxic and chemically active per unit of mass than bulk materials of the same substances. Several very recent studies clearly indicate the toxicity of nanoparticles to animals and human cells. For example, buckyballs (C60 fullerene) are shown to be toxic to water fleas, fish, and rats.

Very little is, however, known about the fate, transport, and transformation of nanoparticles in aqueous systems. How and to what extent nanoparticles influence aquatic ecosystems is not yet clear. As a result, precise assessment of environmental impacts of these nanoparticles on water quality and aquatic systems cannot be made though they can pose significant health and environmental risks. This proposed research will timely address this urgent need to study the physical and chemical behavior of engineered nanoparticles in aqueous phases. The main goal of this work is to generate enough preliminary data for multidisciplinary grant proposals to be submitted to federal funding agencies (e.g., NSF, EPA). The long-term goal is to better understand the environmental behavior of engineered nanoparticles in order to reduce/eliminate their adverse effects and to ensure sustainable development and use of nanotechnology. The specific objectives are: 1) to characterize the physical and chemical properties of nanoparticles and their aggregation behaviors under different aqueous conditions using a series of advanced techniques (e.g., NMR, FTIR, AFM, DLS, SEM); 2) to examine the adsorption and desorption of toxic contaminants and dissolved organic matter (DOM) by nanoparticles using a batch equilibration method and to evaluate how DOM affects sorption of contaminants by the nanoparticles; and 3) to determine the mobility and transport of nanoparticles in soils for potential groundwater pollution; and to examine if these nanoparticles enhance the mobility of other toxic chemicals such as PAHs using soil column experiments.

This study is particularly germane to the "Occurrence, fate and transport of pollutants" thrust of the Massachusetts Water Resources Research Center, the first on the research area list. Environmental behavior of engineered nanoparticles is an emerging area of research. If funded, this proposal will serve as a start-up project to generate enough data for peer-reviewed articles and for developing new and innovative projects seeking federal supports (e.g., NSF, EPA, NIH). In addition, one graduate student will be trained. The research data will be disseminated through scientific papers and conferences, and extension activities and newsletters. The results from this research are expected to yield many benefits to the University, public, scientific and industrial communities in terms of enhanced scientific knowledge and awareness of unanticipated potentially adverse implications of engineered nanoparticles. Further, this proposed work will help to position the PI and his collaborators at the University of Massachusetts Amherst (Dr. Arcaro/Environmental Toxicology, Drs. Reckhow and Tobiason/Environmental Engineering, Dr. Dorner/Public Health) as leaders in this new and exciting research area, and as strong candidates for outside funding.

Progress/Completion Report, 2007, PDF
Progress/Completion Report, 2008, PDF
Progress/Completion Report, 2010, PDF

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