Graham Sustainability Institute

Exploring the Risks of Nanomaterials in the Aquatic Environment

Nanoparticles in water

U-M Investigators

Walter Weber, Jr. – College of Engineering
Nicholas Kotov – College of Engineering

External Partners

Qingguo Huang – University of Georgia (Griffin Campus)
Xiangyang Shi – Donghua University (China)
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

Project Summary

Advances in the field of nanotechnology, which involves the synthesis and manipulation of materials between 1 and 100 nanometers (10-9 m) in size, may lead to the development of many new materials and devices with applications in medicine, electronics, and energy production, among others.  As with any new technology, increased use of nanomaterials may also pose new or exacerbated environmental risks.
Given the anticipated widespread use of nanomaterials in the near future, it is inevitable that they will enter into various human and ecologically critical environments and media, including the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat. The goal of the research was to initiate a sound and comprehensive scientific foundation to proactively assess the potential risks nanomaterials pose prior to their widespread release into the environment. Team members worked to:
  • synthesize and characterize a representative suite of nanomaterials varying in size, morphology, and surface coatings, and
  • design and conduct experiments to assess the uptake, distillation, and potential ecotoxicological effects of the varied nanomaterials on different relevant ecological receptors.
This foundational research is guiding further study of nanomaterials in our environment.
This project received a $158,865 Environmental Sustainability Multidisciplinary Research Team Proposal Grant in 2007.