Environmental Nanotechnology

Environmental Nanotechnology: fabrication, transport and fate in the environment, risk assessment, photocatalytic properties, toxicity, new environmental technologies.


Nanotechnologies, will have broad social, economic, and environmental implications; in some cases entirely unanticipated. Our work addresses both applications of nanomaterials that will enable sustainability and the implications of these materials for public health and the environment.

We are developing new processes based on emerging nanomaterials that include membranes,[i],[ii] [iii][iv]catalysts[v], and adsorbants is very much in this spirit.

Along with research on the use and fabrication of naomaterials, is the need to consider impacts of nanomaterials on environment and human health[vi].[vii] Nanomaterials will have an increasing presence in consumer products and commercial applications that already include nano-engineered titania particles for sunscreens and paints, carbon nanotube composites in tires, and silica nanoparticles as solid lubricants, and protein-based nanomaterials in soaps, shampoos, and detergents. Industrial applications currently being marketed include the use of alumina nanoparticles in the manufacture of propellants, pyrotechnics, and ceramics membranes, nanoparticles in semiconductor manufacture, and numerous biomedical applications. If the current trend in commercial ventures continues, we will soon find ourselves with a relatively large nanomaterials industry. Forethought as to how environmental risks associated with the production, use and disposal of these materials can be best managed is needed sooner rather than later. Indeed, as environmental engineers and scientists, we have a special obligation to not only look for matches between nanotechnologies and environmental needs, but also to anticipate unintended, perhaps negative consequences associated with the growth of an emerging nanotechnology industry. A critical element of this charge is to perform forward-looking research that explores the possible environmental implications of the products of nanochemistry and their fabrication.

Research in the Wiesner Group area includes an examination of the transport and fate of nanomaterials in aqueous environments[viii][ix], collaborating with toxicologists to assess environmental and health hazards, examining the elements of nanomaterial surface chemistry and reactivity that affect toxicity and mobility, and performing life cycle assessments of environmental impact and risk associated with nanomaterials production, use, and disposal.

References Cited

[i] Bailey, D.A., C.D. Jones, A.R. Barron, and M.R. Wiesner, “Characterization of alumoxane-derived ceramic membranes,” Journal of Membrane Science. 176:1-9, 2000.

[ii] Jones, C.D., Fidalgo, M.M., Wiesner, M.R. and Barron, A.R., “Alumina ultrafiltration membranes derived from carboxylate-alumoxane nanoparticles,” Journal of Membrane Science, 193: 175-184, 2001.

[iii] Cortalezzi, M.M., J. Rose, A.R. Barron, M.R. Wiesner, “ Ceramic membranes derived from ferroxane nanoparticles: a new route for the fabrication of iron oxide ultrafiltration membranes,” Journal of Membrane Science in press, 2003.

[iv] DeFriend, K.A., M.R. Wiesner, and A.R. Barron, “ Alumina and Aluminate ultrafiltration membranes derived from alumina nanoparticles,”Journal of Membrane Science, in press.

[v] Rose, J., Fidalgo, M.M., Moustier, S., Magnetto, C., Jones, C.R. , Barron, A.R., Wiesner, M.R., and Bottero, J.Y., “ Synthesis and Characterization of Carboxylate-FeOOH Particles (Ferroxanes) and Ferroxane-derived Ceramics, “ Chemistry of Materials, 14:621-628, 2002.

[vi] “Environmental Implications of Nanotechnologies” M.R. Wiesner, Environmental Engineer AAEE, 2003.

[vii] Wiesner, M.R. and Colvin, V. “ Environmental Implications of Emerging Nanotechnologies: Avoiding the Wow to Yuck Trajectory, “ The Environmental Future, Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 2003.

[viii] Lecoanet, H., J.Y. Bottero, and M.R. Wiesner, “Mobility of fullerene-based nanomaterials in porous media,” Nature, submitted.

[ix] Wiesner, M.R., Lecoanet, H., and M. Cortalezzi, “Nanomaterials, sustainability and risk assessment,” Proceedings International Water Association Conference on Nano and Micro Particles in Water and Wastewater Treatment, Zurich, Switzerland, 2003.