Repercussion of Carbon Based Manufactured Nanoparticles on Microbial Processes in Environmental Systems

EPA Grant Number: R831720
Title: Repercussion of Carbon Based Manufactured Nanoparticles on Microbial Processes in Environmental Systems
Investigators: Turco, Ronald F. , Applegate, Bruce M. , Filley, Timothy
Institution: Purdue University
EPA Project Officer: Lasat, Mitch
Project Period: July 1, 2004 through June 30, 2007
Project Amount: $335,000
RFA: Exploratory Research to Anticipate Future Environmental Issues: Impacts of Manufactured Nanomaterials on Human Health and the Environment (2003) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Nanotechnology , Health , Safer Chemicals , Health Effects


The use of nanotechnology has tremendous potential for economic growth and is a key feature of sustainable development. Despite the impending increase in industrial production and the certain releases of Carbon Based Manufactured Nanoparticles (CMNP) to the environment, almost nothing is known about their environmental impact. In order to engage in a publicly transparent evaluation of risks and benefits, and to develop public policy and technology to manage potential risks, fundamental scientific environmental research must be completed. The goal of this proposal is to provide fundamental information about the impact of CMNP on water, soil and subsurface ecosystems.


Objective 1: We propose there will be a shift in the structure of soil microbial populations in systems exposed to CMNP as the nanomaterial will exert pressure on the microbial population.

Approach: The intrinsic features describing activity will be estimated in four ways. We will: 1) draw information from the ratio of key fatty acids taken from the phospholipid fatty acids fraction (PLFA) and relate it to a background status of the soil microbial populations; 2) use genetic approaches, e.g., density gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) with both bacterial and fungal primers; 3) use enzyme assays for dehydrogenase, urease, cellubiase; and 4) use respiration and trapping of CO2 to estimate aerobic activity in the presence of the CMNP.

Objective 2: The long-term fate of CMNP in the environment and their entrance into soil and aquatic biogeochemical cycles will mostly be a function of the activity of the specific oxygenase, ligninase, laccase, and fenton systems resident in microbial populations.

Approach: Using 13C-fullerenes in soil microcosm studies outlined in Hypothesis 1, we will track CMNP carbon to determine how the soil microbial biomass responds to CMNP. We will also assess the degree to which CMNP carbon is assimilated into microbial biomass, or is converted to a form bound with soil carbon. Additionally, we will inoculate various litter forms (wood and leaves) spiked with 13C-labeled fullerene with aggressive decay fungi where our goal is to assess the degree to which CMNP carbon is assimilated into fungal biomass or converted to functionalized forms (free and bound).

Objective 3: Water-borne CMNP represent an, as yet, unassessed toxicological risk to aquatic organisms because of their capacity to physically interact with cell membranes possibly causing harm to the cells.

Approach: We will use a lux-gfp based assay to estimate the impact of the CMNP on the processes of respiration and growth, allowing us to arrive at the first CMNP structure-to-microbial function model. This objective will involve monitoring bacterial bioluminescence to evaluate the impact of CMNP (amount or structure) on bacterial response in aqueous systems.

Expected Results:

The expected results of this proposed research are very substantial. The knowledge gained from our research will be used by governments and industry for developing public policy and technology for the management of any environmental risks from CMNP. The research can be integrated with educational programs and used to disseminate knowledge about the behavior of nano-materials.

Supplemental Keywords:

ecological risk, exposure route, indicators, environmental microbiology, biogeochemistry, RFA, Scientific Discipline, ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT, ECOSYSTEMS, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, Sustainable Industry/Business, Ecosystem/Assessment/Indicators, Ecosystem Protection, Sustainable Environment, Technology for Sustainable Environment, Ecological Effects - Environmental Exposure & Risk, Environmental Microbiology, Ecological Monitoring, Ecological Risk Assessment, Risk Assessment, aquatic ecosystem, bioassessment, microbial removal and monitoring, ecosystem assessment, microbial communities, nanotechnology, carbon based manufactured nanoparticles, ecological assessment, ecological impacts, toxicity, nanomaterials, nanoparticles, environmental fate

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2005
  • 2006
  • Final