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Paradigm Shift on Control of Nanoparticle Fate in the Environment


Extensive work by our IGERT team, in collaboration with the Center for the Environmental Implications of Nanotechnology (CEINT), has shifted focus to assessing the environmental interactions of nanoparticles (e.g. transformations) rather than focusing solely on the nanoparticle properties in determining nanoparticle fate in the environment. The emerging paradigm is that the fate of engineered nanomaterials is determined in a large part by the environmental properties (e.g. redox state, amount of organic matter, etc.) where the nanoparticle resides. In many cases, the impact of the various environmental properties may be more important to consider than the specific nanomaterial properties (e.g. surface coating), which has been the focus of a great deal of research throughout the environmental engineering community over the past decade. We believe this finding will enable the nanotechnology research community to better prioritize their research aimed at predicting the effects that nanomaterials may have on the environment.

Address Goals

This paradigm shifting research activity is advancing the frontiers of our knowledge of nanoparticles, how they may interact with natural systems, and how to predict those behaviors. Nanomaterials have significant potential benefit to society, and understanding how they behave in deifferent environmental conditions is critical to realizing these benefits while avoiding societal costs. We have achieved this new insight through the work of faculty, NEEP IGERT trainees and affiliates, and thus, our research is integrated seamlessly with our focus on education and development of an interdisciplinary engineering workforce.