Transatlantic Initiative for Nanotechnology and the Environment

EPA Grant Number: R834574
Title: Transatlantic Initiative for Nanotechnology and the Environment
Investigators: Bertsch, Paul M. , Dorey, Robert A , Rocks, Sophie A , McNear, David H. , Unrine, Jason M. , Wiesner, Mark R. , Lowry, Gregory V. , Tsyusko, Olga V. , Neal, Andy , Jefferson, Bruce , Svendsen, Claus , Spurgeon, David , Casman, Elizabeth , Zhang, Hao , Harris, J. , Liu, Jie , Ritz, Karl , Kabengi, Nadine , McGrath, Steve , Lofts, Steve
Institution: University of Kentucky , Carnegie Mellon University , Lancaster University , Cranfield University , Centre for Ecology and Hydrology , Duke University , Rothamsted Research
Current Institution: University of Kentucky , Carnegie Mellon University , Centre for Ecology and Hydrology , Cranfield University , Duke University , Lancaster University , Rothamsted Research
EPA Project Officer: Lasat, Mitch
Project Period: August 1, 2010 through September 30, 2014 (Extended to June 30, 2016)
Project Amount: $2,000,000
RFA: Environmental Behavior, Bioavailability and Effects of Manufactured Nanomaterials - Joint US – UK Research Program (2009) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Chemical Safety for Sustainability


We have developed a life cycle perspective inspired conceptual model (CM) that suggests the importance of terrestrial ecosystems as a major repository of ZnO, TiO2, and Ag (tier 1) manufactured nanomaterials (MNMs) introduced via the land application of MNM-containing biosolids. We propose to investigate the transport, fate, behavior, bioavailability, and effects of MNMs in(to) agroecosystems under environmentally realistic scenarios organized around three key hypotheses: Hypothesis (H1) Surface chemistry is the primary factor influencing the fate and transport of MNMs in the terrestrial environment as well as the bioavailability and effects to biological receptors; Hypothesis (H2) Once released to the environment, pristine MNMs surfaces will be modified by interactions with organic and inorganic ligands (macromolecules) or via other biogeochemical transformations (aging effects forming a-MNMs); Hypothesis (H3) Ecoreceptors will respond to interactions with pristine metal and metal oxide MNMs, a-MNMs, and/or dissolved constituent metal ions and bulk oxides by specific ecological and toxicogenomic responses that will reflect their combined effects.

The overall objectives are to: 1) compare the transport, fate, behavior, bioavailability, and effects of MNMs, a-MNMs, and/or dissolved free metals/bulk oxides to organisms with key terrestrial ecosystem functions, as well as exposure pathways involving humans;2)determine MNM, surface modified MNM and a-MNM interactions with important biological targets relevant to the BLM and pBRM models and relate these interactions to physicochemical properties;3) Validate models with information generated from experiments designed to address O1 for MNMs introduced through a pilot scale WWTP to key terrestrial ecoreceptors, including effects of MNMs on the WWTP itself. 4) Determine realistic MNM emission scenarios for Tier 1 MNMs in wastewater from the WWT pilot plant data & develop first generation Life-Cycle-Analysis-inspired Risk Assessment (LCA-RA) model components for terrestrial effects of Tier 1 MNMs and a-MNMS based on data generated in experiments designed to address O1, O2, & O3. and 5) provide tools for in situ detection, monitoring, and characterization of pristine MNMs and a-MNMs in environmental media and biota.


Detailed physicochemical characterization will be conducted on tier 1 and tier 2(CeO2, carbon nanotubes) MNMs and a-MNMs produced by simulating aging and these materials will be utilized in column transport (tier 1 and 2), bioavailability, and effects (tier 1) studies to key ecoreceptors (bacteria, soil invertebrates, and plants). Data needed to calibrate and validate the pBRM will be collected for tier 1 MNM using a subset of ecoreceptor species. The CM and model results from the simulated aging of MNMs will then be validated by repeating studies of tier 1 MNMs subjected to actual WWT process using a pilot scale WWT facility. To facilitate these and future investingations of MNMs under environmentally relevant scenarios, novel in situ tools will be developed.

Expected Results:

: The proposed research will generate among the first data on the transformations of important classes of MNMs subjected to WWTP as well as those added to and aged in soil. These data will be critical for evaluating potential direct and indirect ecological and human health risks of MNMs introduced to agroecosystems. Data generated on the simulated aged materials and on the MNM containing biosolids and soils to test H1 & H2, may indicate that the permutations of MNM properties required to be experimentally considered under realistic environmental scenarios can be significantly reduced. Furthermore, the results of this work will provide the first validation of using gene and protein expression profiles generated in laboratory controlled experiments as an indicator of exposure or effects under environmentally realistic conditions. An important output from the proposed research and modeling efforts will be the development of first generation validated predictive models of the environmental fate, behavior, bioavailability, and effects of several important classes of MNMs in agroecosystems.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 68 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 38 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

chemical speciation, biosensors, environmental chemistry, biogeochemistry, wastewater treatment, soil,

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2011 Progress Report
  • 2012 Progress Report
  • 2013 Progress Report
  • 2014 Progress Report
  • 2015 Progress Report
  • Final Report