Magnetite Nanoparticles for Enhanced Environmental Remediation

EPA Contract Number: EPD05027
Title: Magnetite Nanoparticles for Enhanced Environmental Remediation
Investigators: Hull, Matthew
Small Business: Luna Innovations Inc.
EPA Contact: Richards, April
Phase: I
Project Period: March 1, 2005 through August 31, 2005
Project Amount: $69,939
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase I (2005) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: SBIR - Nanotechnology , Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) , Nanotechnology


Luna Innovations Incorporated proposes to develop commercial-scale suspensions of nanoscale magnetite (Fe3O4) particles for the remediation of contaminated groundwater. Magnetite nanoparticles are ubiquitous in the environment and can be found in weathered clays and soils, in atmospheric aerosols, and in recently deposited marine and freshwater sediments. Preliminary studies conducted by Luna Innovations indicate that as a result of their small size, the reductive capacity of Fe3O4 nanoparticles is potentially considerably higher than that of an equal mass of larger-sized particles.

Recently, it has been shown that nanoscale iron can be used to reduce a wide variety of contaminants prioritized for remediation by federal agencies such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Energy, and Department of Defense. These contaminants include chlorinated ethylenes, hexavalent chromium, and perchlorate. Reaction rates reported for nanoparticulate iron typically are two- to threefold greater than the reaction rates reported for granular irons (diameter approximately 1-2 mm). This disparity may be the result of size-mediated changes in surface reactivity. During Phase I, the reactivity of magnetite nanoparticles towards a model contaminant, carbon tetrachloride (CT), will be examined as a function of particle diameter. Luna Innovations hypothesizes that as a direct result of their size, magnetite nanoparticles will exhibit reactivity that differs significantly from that of larger (greater than 100 nm diameter) bulk particles. Luna Innovations believes that the potential importance of these particles as reductive components in anoxic subsurface environments has not been adequately recognized and that a detailed analysis of the activity of these particles is warranted. Monodisperse suspensions of Fe3O4 will be synthesized carefully under anoxic conditions and then the reactivity of these suspensions towards CT will be characterized. Finally, Luna Innovations’ experience in nanomaterials development and manufacturing will be leveraged to refine the application of the nanoparticles for environmental remediation and to optimize the production process for commercial scale up and field application during Phase II.

Luna Innovations will market the proposed technology to leaders in the field of environmental remediation, who continuously are seeking advanced tools to cost-efficiently expedite remediation of recalcitrant environmental contaminants. The overall global remediation market currently is estimated at $8-$10 billion annually. In the United States, procurement by the federal government plays a critical role in the remediation market segment. With more than 200,000 contaminated sites remaining to be cleaned, and some estimates pushing that total to more than 500,000, the market for remediation of U.S. sites alone may exceed $200 billion.

Supplemental Keywords:

small business, SBIR, magnetite nanoparticles, Fe3O4, chlorinated ethylenes, hexavalent chromium, perchlorate, carbon tetrachloride, CT, surface reactivity, anoxic conditions, nanomaterials, environmental remediation, EPA, RFA, Scientific Discipline, Waste, TREATMENT/CONTROL, Sustainable Industry/Business, Sustainable Environment, Physics, Environmental Chemistry, Remediation, Treatment Technologies, Technology, Technology for Sustainable Environment, New/Innovative technologies, Environmental Engineering, nanoparticle remediation, decontamination, bioengineering, persistant bioaccumulative toxic compounds, biodegradation, remediation technologies, nanotechnology, environmental sustainability, bio-engineering, magnetite nanoparticles, environmentally applicable nanoparticles, biotechnology, sustainability, contaminated groundwater, innovative technologies, nanoparticle based remediation

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report
  • SBIR Phase II:

    Magnetite Nanoparticles for Enhanced Environmental Remediation  | Final Report