Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2016WA411B

Transformation of Graphene Oxide Nanomaterials in the Aquatic Environment

Institute: Washington
Year Established: 2016 Start Date: 2016-03-01 End Date: 2017-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $27,500 Total Non-Federal Funds: $55,002

Principal Investigators: Indranil Chowdhury, Rick Watts

Abstract: The rapidly emerging field of nanomaterials for the industrial production of diverse products, from medical therapeutics to ground-water remediation tools, has created the potential for the broad distribution of nanomaterials across the United States including the State of Washington. In the State of Washington, carbon-based nanomaterials are widely used in automobiles, electronics, and aviation industry, all of which are likely to release these emerging pollutants into the surface water via industrial effluent. Graphene family nanomaterials are the most common class of carbon-based nanomaterials in the fields of electronics, medicine, and energy, and are used also in environmental applications. The structure of graphene is very similar to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which are commonly found pollutants and serious concerns in surface waters in Washington State. Since many industries in the State of Washington are using graphene-based nanomaterials, degradation of these materials may increase the load of toxic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in the surface waters of Washington State. Therefore, understanding the degradation of graphene-based nanomaterials in surface waters is essential for protecting aquatic life and public health. Photodegradation is one of the major pathways for the transformation of nanomaterials in surface waters. Surface waters, including the Columbia Basin, are complex ecosystems where numerous constituents (nitrate, natural organic matter, minerals) can affect the rate of graphene photolysis. Limited data exist regarding the degradation of carbon-based nanomaterials in natural waters in the Pacific Northwest. The objective of this proposed project is to investigate the degradation of graphene-based nanomaterials under sunlight as a function of nitrate, natural organic matter, and minerals. Controlled experiments will be conducted within a range of solution chemistries and conditions as appropriate for surface waters in the Columbia Basin. The rationale of this study is that fundamental understanding of carbon-based nanomaterial transformation will provide a foundation to predict the fate of these emerging pollutants in the Columbia Basin, and potential formation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons during the photodegradation of these emerging materials. This proposed project on degradation of graphene-based nanomaterials will provide insight into the potential management approaches to mitigate the impacts of these emerging pollutants. The completion of this research will add to the knowledge base of graphene fate as well provide data for pursuing subsequent federal funding. This proposed project will provide support for one Ph.D. student and contribute to the thesis of the student. The student will present the preliminary findings to a scientific audience at the American Chemical Society National Meeting or similar conference. The student will prepare a publication for a peer-reviewed journal with assistance from the PIs. Additionally, this project supports the mentoring of an Assistant Professor by a senior faculty member. The work performed will provide the basis for subsequent publications and funding proposals investigating the fate of these emerging pollutants. The findings of this and future studies will be disseminated to the stakeholders through relationships fostered in the present project.