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Nanotechnology: Fate and Transport



Image: Nanotechnology Injection

What is nanotechnology? The term refers to research and technology development conducted with particles and materials in the size range of about one to one hundred nanometers in any dimension.

Nanomaterials are being manufactured and used at a rapidly increasing rate, but little is known about the fate and transport of these particles in the environment. Uses of nanomaterials include:

  • Zero-valent iron at groundwater remediation sites for transformation of chlorinated solvents
  • Elemental silver in polymers/composites as anti-fungal/anti-microbial agents for fabrics and washing machines
  • Oxides (e.g., titanium dioxide) in paints and pigments

The controlling factors and extent of transport of nanomaterials in the environment is generally unknown and research is needed to assist decision makers in assessing and managing risk from these particles if released into the environment. EPA researchers are involved in three areas of nanotechnology research:

  • Use of emulsified zero-valent iron (EZVI) for groundwater remediation to decrease the mass flux of dissolved chlorinated solvents from a dense nonaqueous-phase liquid (DNAPL) source zone
  • Evaluation of the fate and transport of nanomaterials (zero-valent copper, titanium dioxide, carbon onions, etc.) in porous media
  • Assessment of the chemical speciation and transformation (zerovalent iron), and antimicrobial activities of nanomaterials (copper and copper oxide) that may be released to ground and/or surface waters

References and Products

Use of Nanoscale Emulsified Zero-Valent Iron to Treat a Chlorinated Solvent Source Zone at Site 45, Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, South Carolina – Fact Sheet. (In press).


Chunming Su
Soil Scientist

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