Characterization of Incidental Carbonaceous Nanoparticles in Ambient Air and Combustion Exhaust

EPA Grant Number: FP917308
Title: Characterization of Incidental Carbonaceous Nanoparticles in Ambient Air and Combustion Exhaust
Investigators: Tiwari, Andrea J
Institution: Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
EPA Project Officer: Michaud, Jayne
Project Period: September 1, 2011 through August 31, 2014
Project Amount: $126,000
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2011) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Fellowship - Nanotechnology


This research will investigate whether C60 fullerenes are present in ambient air or in exhausts of common combustion sources. These results have implications for research and policy pertaining to carbonaceous nanoparticles as environmental pollutants.


For this research, aerosol samples will be collected on filters and on electron microscopy grids. Samples will originate from six sources: coal-fired power plant, diesel truck depot/industrial location, forest fire, ambient urban, ambient rural and laboratory control. All filters will be extracted to allow for quantification of any C60 content by liquid chromatography and infrared spectroscopy. Additionally, microscope grids will be analyzed using a transmission electron microscope to examine particle morphology. Comparing these results with previously published work alleging the presence of C60 based on particle morphology alone, this research will make definitive progress towards understanding the potential presence of C60 in the ambient atmosphere.

Expected Results:

The most important result of this research is one of the most complete datasets to date on the presence of C60 in the aerosol phase in the natural environment. This study expects that C60 fullerenes will not be found at detectable levels in combustion exhaust, ambient carbonaceous aerosol or forest fire smoke, as the combustion conditions are far from optimal for C60 production. The results of this study should weigh rather heavily on the debate as to the state of nanocarbons in the natural environment. This will help the research community, as well as policy makers, understand the relative importance of nanocarbons when considering nanotechnology’s potential impacts on the environment.

Potential to Further Environmental / Human Health Protection

Knowing whether or not C60 is present in combustion exhausts and ambient air, and if so at what levels, will be very important when formulating environmental policy relating to nanoparticles as emerging pollutants. Because nanotechnology is a growing phenomenon in both the United States and global economies, effective nano-environmental policy is critical to protect the environment from the potentially negative impacts that manufactured nanoparticles may have on the environment.

Supplemental Keywords:

C60, fullerenes, nanoparticles, nanotechnology combustion, aerosol, incidental

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2012
  • 2013
  • Final