Jointly meeting global challenges Annual report 2012

 

Tracing nanoparticles in water and the environment

25 November 2012BTO

New instrument and nanoparticle detection methods make research into the behaviour and risks of nanoparticles in water possible. Within the water sector’s research programme (BTO) and in the collaboration with NanoNextNL, KWR is researching the applications and risks of nanotechnology.

More and more consumer products contain nanoparticles, that is, particles that are at least in one of their dimensions smaller than 100 nanometres. This gives them different properties compared to “normal” chemical substances. Nanoparticles can be found in an increasing number of applications, such as pharmaceuticals, solar cells, textiles or sun screens.

Pre-separation and detection

The question is whether nanoparticles are also present in the environment or in drinking water and, if so, what effect they have. KWR is developing techniques to trace and identify low concentrations of different types of nanoparticles in water. To pre-separate the nanoparticles, a new instrument, which separates them on the basis of their size, is being used: Field Flow Fractionation (FFF). The researchers are also focusing on the detection of fullerenes – nanoparticles made up of small balls of carbon atoms – using chromatography and mass spectrometry. The extremely sensitive methods developed are being applied in a study on the influence of humic acid and salts on the behaviour of nanoparticles in the environment.

Nanoparticles can have a variety of structures

Nanoparticles can have a variety of structures

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