Final Report: Magnetite Nanoparticles for Enhanced Environmental Remediation

EPA Contract Number: EPD06079
Title: Magnetite Nanoparticles for Enhanced Environmental Remediation
Investigators: Hull, Matthew , Small, Aaron
Small Business: Luna Innovations Inc.
EPA Contact: Manager, SBIR Program
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)

Description:

Luna Innovations Incorporated (Blacksburg, VA) partnered with Virginia Tech (Blacksburg, VA) to develop and characterize commercial-scale quantities of magnetite nanoparticles enhanced for remediation of chlorinated organic compounds and toxic metals known to contaminate groundwater systems throughout the United States.  The primary goal is to develop a scaleable production method for magnetite nanoparticles that will result in high output/low cost iron compounds suitable for remediation and possibly other markets.  The project was broken into three primary tasks:

  • Prepare and Characterize Particles—Luna will conduct studies necessary to optimize the production, stabilization, and performance of the magnetite nanoparticles.
  • Assess Performance in Laboratory and Field Studies—The most promising particle suspensions will be investigated further in laboratory and simulated field-scale experiments to determine their effectiveness in remediation of water samples spiked with a model chlorinated hydrocarbon or in arsenic-contaminated water and soils.

Establish Phase III Commercialization Strategy—Luna will produce prototype formulations and establish large-scale manufacturing methods.

Summary/Accomplishments (Outputs/Outcomes):

  • Prepare and Characterize Particles—Luna demonstrated the ability to produce active iron magnetite nanoparticles at a scale of 10 L using standard laboratory equipment under simple anaerobic conditions.  These particles appeared to be identical to those produced at the 0.5 L scale, suggesting Luna was able to easily increase the scale of the reaction by 20 times.  Luna also determined a less sensitive alternative method using an aerobic method.  Luna demonstrated the ability to encapsulate the iron nanoparticles resulting in an encapsulated ferrofluid.  Luna attempted to entrap the iron nanoparticles in other matrices in order to stabilize them for environmental remediation. 
  • Assess Performance in Laboratory and Field Studies—Virginia Tech determined there was little difference between Luna produced material and their benchmark magnetite with respect to carbon tetrachloride reduction or arsenic removal.  Virginia Tech also determined there was little difference between Luna’s 500 mL, 1 L, 5 L, and 10 L batch materials, proving the method was scalable.  The particles also were evaluated by Raman and TEM microscopy and appeared to be equivalent materials.  Simulated field studies were conducted using soil obtained from an abandoned arsenic mine in Floyd County, Virginia.  The Luna synthesized materials did not show a clear advantage to material prepared at Virginia Tech.  This may be due to agglomeration of the nanoparticles after removal of the surface stabilizer.  However, the Luna materials did show expected activity proving magnetite had been prepared on the 10 L scale.
  • Establish Phase III and Commercial Scale Up—Luna established that the current procedure is scalable to 10-20 L reactors in Luna’s facilities using standard laboratory reactors under anaerobic conditions.  Although Luna was not able to find a partner early in the program for scale-up, the lack of specialty equipment required will allow Luna to quickly scale up this technology at a suitable contract manufacturer when necessary.  Luna also participated in the Foresight Science and Technology program to evaluate potential use for the iron nanoparticle technology, as well as to determine target customers and potential competitors.

Conclusions:

  • Prepare and Characterize Particles—Luna demonstrated the ability to produce active iron magnetite nanoparticles at a scale of 10 L using standard laboratory equipment under simple anaerobic conditions.  Luna also determined a less sensitive alternative method using an aerobic method.  Luna demonstrated the ability to encapsulate the iron nanoparticles.
  • Assess Performance in Laboratory and Field Studies—Virginia Tech determined there was little difference between Luna-produced material and their benchmark magnetite with respect to carbon tetrachloride reduction or arsenic removal.  Virginia Tech also determined there was little difference between Luna’s 500 mL, 1 L, 5 L, and 10 L batch materials, proving the method was scalable.  The materials were analyzed by Raman and electron microscopy to also establish that the magnetite nanoparticles were in fact magnetite and on the nanometer scale in size.
  • Establish Phase III and Commercial Scale Up—Luna established that the current procedure is scalable to 10-20 L reactors in Luna’s facilities using standard laboratory reactors under anaerobic conditions.  Although Luna was not able to find a partner early in the program for scale-up, the lack of specialty equipment required will allow Luna to quickly scale up this technology at a suitable contract manufacturer when necessary.  Luna’s method is highly scalable, results in high yields, and does not produce dangerous side products, such as hydrogen gas.

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, arsenic remediation; magnetic shielding; thermite formulation; MRI contrast agent; therapeutic agent; photonics,, RFA, Scientific Discipline, Waste, TREATMENT/CONTROL, Sustainable Industry/Business, Physics, Remediation, Environmental Chemistry, Sustainable Environment, 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


SBIR Phase I:

Magnetite Nanoparticles for Enhanced Environmental Remediation  | Final Report