Magnetite Nanoparticles for Enhanced Environmental Remediation

EPA Contract Number: EPD06079
Title: Magnetite Nanoparticles for Enhanced Environmental Remediation
Investigators: Hull, Matthew
Current Investigators: Hull, Matthew , Small, Aaron
Small Business: Luna Innovations Inc.
EPA Contact: Richards, April
Phase: II
Project Period: April 1, 2006 through June 30, 2007
Project Amount: $224,963
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase II (2006) Recipients Lists
Research Category: Nanotechnology , SBIR - Nanotechnology , Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)


The purpose of this research project is to develop low-cost commercial-scale magnetite (Fe3O4) nanoparticles for the enhanced remediation of contaminated groundwater.  The use of nanoparticles for environmental remediation has attracted much attention since the late 1990s, yet practical application of this nanoscale technology has met several key challenges including particle-particle aggregation and subsequent loss of reactivity, difficulty in application, and prohibitively high cost. 

In Phase I of this research project, Luna Innovations Inc., developed magnetite nanoparticles and stabilizing particle surface coatings and suspension chemistries that offer advantages over conventional zero-valent iron (ZVI) and bimetallic nanoparticle approaches including low-cost, long-term particle stability and reduced aggregation.  Phase I studies demonstrated that the nanoscale Fe3O4 particles had higher reductive dechlorination capacity than that of an equal mass of larger micro-sized particles and also were effective in adsorptive removal of arsenicIII from solution.  Luna Innovations is partnering with an existing manufacturer of magnetite particles to commercially scale up production of its low-cost, stabilized magnetite nanoparticles for near-term penetration of the $8-10 billion per year global environmental remediation market.  End-users in this regulation-driven and growing field are continuously seeking advanced tools to cost-efficiently expedite remediation of recalcitrant environmental contaminants, and this technology addresses their needs. 

Magnetite nanoparticles may impart a significant cost advantage over popular nano- and micron-scale ZVI and bimetallic particles used for environmental remediation, while retaining comparable or even enhanced capability for contaminant removal or degradation.  In Phase I, Luna Innovations identified nanoparticle production processes that can be controlled or “tuned” to reduce, or perhaps eliminate entirely, the formation of toxic intermediate compounds such as chloroform that may form during the reductive de-chlorination of parent-chlorinated hydrocarbon compounds.  The objectives of the Phase II research project will include optimizing the nanoparticle manufacturing process for more controlled and reproducible particles, refining compatible surface coating and particle stabilization and delivery techniques, expanding the number of contaminants degraded or otherwise removed, incorporating the technology with appropriate nanoparticle delivery methods, conducting a field-scale technology verification, and conducting a thorough cost-benefit analysis.

Due to their small size, high surface area, superparamagnetic properties, and various other attributes, the proposed nanoscale magnetite particles will have numerous marketing applications beyond environmental remediation.  These applications include use in medical imaging and targeted therapeutics for cancer, processing of plant materials, catalysis, chemical separations, component bonding in the automotive industry, and various others.

Supplemental Keywords:

small business, SBIR, EPA, magnetite nanoparticles, surface reactivity, sustainable environment, biodegradation, bioengineering, bioremediation, biotechnology, contaminated groundwater, decontamination, environmental sustainability, environmentally applicable nanoparticles, innovative technologies, remediation technologies, nanotechnology, zero-valent iron, ZVI,, 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, biotechnology, environmentally applicable nanoparticles, contaminated groundwater, sustainability, innovative technologies, bioremediation

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report

  • SBIR Phase I:

    Magnetite Nanoparticles for Enhanced Environmental Remediation  | Final Report