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Rice UniversityCBEN
Center for Biological and Environmental Nanotechnology

Fate and Transport of Engineered Nanoparticles

This CBEN project aims to develop the information needed to accurately model nanoparticle exposures in aquatic systems.  In order to define the overall risk posed by engineered nanoparticles to aquatic ecosystems, both exposures as well as biological effects must be evaluated; without an exposure, no amount of toxicity will result in harm to people or the environment. CBEN’s pioneering work in years 1-8 highlighted the complexity that these models must incorporate: nanoparticles can aggregate, sorb molecular contaminants, deposit onto soil surfaces and possibly biotransform. As a result of these complex processes, the introduction of a pure nanoparticle source may lead to a complex set of resulting particle forms.  CBEN’s work in this area provides the fundamental framework for describing these different forms, as well as the quantitative data needed to fully model the exposures of particles at particular receptor sites.  Environmental engineers Tomson, Li and Alvarez perform experiments related to nanoparticle sorption, deposition onto soils, impact of natural organic matter (NOM) and biotransformations.

At the conclusion of this project in year 10, we will have the capability to assess the risk associated with engineered nanoparticle released into aqueous environments.  This will directly address our systems-level goal of effective risk management for nanotechnology based products.  This risk management is a Year-10 outcome of this project; progress in year 9 has aimed at the exploration of the fate and transport of nanoparticle and associated contaminants in real-world aquatic systems.  This work has encompassed sorption behaviors of both organic and inorganic contaminants in nanoparticle transport, and a more thorough evaluation of the sorption properties of various forms of C60 under various conditions found in the environment.

Participating Researchers: