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Governmental Organizations with R&D Budgets for Nanotechnology

Centers and Networks of Excellence Focusing on Nanotechnology

Other EHS and Societal Impact Research Programs

  • Health Effects of Inhaled Nanomaterials
    Principal Investigator: Kent E. Pinkerton
    Co-Investigators: Ting Guo
    It is anticipated there will be an exponential increase in the commercial use of nanomaterials in society as carbon nanotubes, nanowires, and silicon/metal alkoxides. This use will lead to a concomitant increase in exposure of the general population to nanomaterials in products and the environment through incidental introduction to the soil, water and air. Little is known what the environmental fate of these particles will be. Epidemiological and toxicological studies on the effects of particulate air pollution support the premise that ultrafine or nanosize particles cause pulmonary inflammation as well as systemic effects. Therefore, we propose to test the hypothesis that inhaled nanomaterials cause respiratory effects in the form of oxidative stress and inflammation. We further propose such events will lead to release of pro-inflammatory cytokines as well as other mediators to induce cell proliferation and alterations in the normal cellular milieu of the airways and alveoli of the lungs. We will test whether these health impacts of nanomaterials on the respiratory system are driven in large measure by (1) particle size, (2) particle composition and/or (3) trace contaminants associated with the manufacturing process of nanomaterials.
  • Impacts of Manufactured Nanomaterials on Human Health and the Environment - A Focus on Nanoparticulate Aerosol and Atmospherically Processed Nanoparticulate Aerosol
    Principal Investigator: Vicki H. Grassian
    Co-Investigators: Patrick O'Shaughnessy and Peter S. Thorne
    In this proposal, the potential effects of manufactured nanomaterial aerosol on human health will be investigated and compared to ultrafine carbonaceous particles typically found in the environment from combustion processes. This research will be conducted to satisfy three main objectives. These objectives are to: 1) fully characterize a variety of manufactured nanomaterials in terms of their size, shape, bulk and surface properties; 2) determine if engineered nanomaterials are particularly deleterious to health compared to particles from combustion processes that have been more extensively studied; and 3) evaluate the relative health effects caused by different surface coatings on the nanoparticle.
  • Evaluating Nanoparticle Interactions with Skin
    Principal Investigator: Nancy A. Monteiro-Riviere
    Co-Investigators: Jim E. Riviere
    The focus of this research is to assess the nature of interaction between manufactured nanoparticles and the skin, including dermal absorption, cutaneous toxicity as well as the ability to distribute to the skin after systemic exposure. These studies will utilize iron oxide nanocrystals, cadmium selenide nanocrystals and carbon fullerene nanoparticles which are representative of the broad spectrum of nanoparticles presently being used by industry. Eight particle types selected from these commercially relevant manufactured nanoparticles will be studied to allow assessment of size, shape and composition on absorption, distribution or toxicity to the skin.
  • Responses of Lung Cells to Metals in Manufactured Nanoparticles
    Principal Investigator: John Veranth
    Co-Investigators: Christopher Reilly and Garold Yost
    Established cell culture models and toxicology assays will be applied to the analysis of manufactured nanomaterials. In vitro studies with human and rat lung cells will evaluate the effects of manufactured nanoparticles in the as-sold condition, and the same materials after the particles have been subjected to surface modification simulating fire and wastewater treatment conditions. The emphasis will be on lower-cost nanomaterials that are sold in powder or liquid suspension form because these materials are expected to be produced and ultimately released in the largest amount.
  • The Fate, Transport, Transformation and Toxicity of Manufactured Nanomaterials in Drinking Water
    Principal Investigator: Paul Westerhoff
    Co-Investigators: David Capco, Yongsheng Chen, and John C. Crittenden
    The accumulation of nanomaterials in cells may have significant environmental and human impacts. However, at present, very little is known about the fate, transport, transformation and toxicity of these man-made nanomaterials in the environment. The objectives of this project are: 1) to characterize the fundamental properties of nanomaterials in aquatic environments; 2) to examine the interactions between nanomaterials and toxic organic pollutants and pathogens (viruses); 3) to evaluate the removal efficiency of nanomaterials by drinking water unit processes; and 4) to test the toxicity of nanomaterials in drinking water using cell culture model system of the epithelium. This study considers the physical, chemical, and biological implications of nanomaterial fate and toxicity in systems that will provide insight into the potential for nanomaterials to be present and of health concern in finished drinking water.
  • Physical and Chemical Determinants of Nanofiber/Nanotube Toxicity
    Principal Investigator: Robert H. Hurt
    Co-Investigators: Agnes B. Kane
    Tubular and fibrous materials play a very special role in emerging nanotechnologies, but may show asbestos-like toxicity in humans upon inhalation. For asbestos fibers, it is known that both surface-reactive transition metals and fibrous geometry are major determinants of toxicity. Most commercial nanotubes/fibers are complex materials containing transition metal catalysts or residues and exhibiting complex distributions of length and diameter, as well as variability in defect density and surface functional groups.  The objective the proposed project is to carry out a carefully designed parametric study of the physical and chemical factors that underlie nanofiber/tube toxicity, in which the effects of shape, size, purity, and surface chemistry are carefully isolated by special synthesis techniques developed at Brown University.
  • Repercussions of Carbon Based Manufactured Nanoparticles on Microbial Processes in Environmental Systems
    Principal Investigator: Ronald F. Turco
    Co-Investigators: Bruce M. Applegate and Timothy Filley
    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.
  • Short-term Chronic Toxicity of Photocatalytic Nanoparticles to Bacteria, Algae, and Zooplankton
    Principal Investigator: C.P. Huang
    Co-Investigators: Daniel K. Cha and Shah S. Ismat
    The overall goal of this proposed research project is to assess the short-term chronic aquatic ecotoxicity of photocatalytic nanoparticles. Upon the irradiation of photocatalysts at a wavelength equivalent to the bandgap energy, electrons will jump over from the valance band to the conduction band, leaving behind positive holes. The holes are strong oxidation agents, and the electrons are strong reducing agents. Depending on the level of band gap energy, photocatalysts can exhibit both reduction and oxidation reactions, only oxidation reactions, or only reduction reactions. It is expected that chemical reduction-oxidation reactions play an important role in the aquatic ecotoxicity of nano-photocatalysts. The specific objectives of this research project are (1) to determine the acute toxicity of photocatalytic nanoparticles to mixed bacterial cultures, (2) to determine the short-term chronic toxicity of photocatalytic nanoparticles to pure bacterial culture, (3) to determine the short-term chronic toxicity of photocatalytic nanoparticles to daphnia, (4) to determine the short-term chronic toxicity of photocatalytic nanoparticles to algae, (5) to determine the short-term chronic toxicity of copper (II) to Selenastrum capricornutum in the presence of photocatalytic nanoparticles, (6) to determine the short-term chronic toxicity of chlorinated phenols to E. coli and Ceriodaphnia dubia in the presence of photocatalytic nanoparticles, and (7) to determine the short-term toxicity of photocatalytic nanoparticles to freshwater algal assemblages.
  • Transformations of Biologically-Conjugated CdSe Quantum Dots Released into Water and Biofilms
    Principal Investigator: Patricia Holden
    Co-Investigators: Jay L. Nadeau
    Semiconductor nanocrystals (quantum dots) differ in important ways from bulk semiconductor materials. Their increased band gap means that they function as strong oxidizing and/or reducing agents, and their small size allows them to pass into living cells. Conjugation of biomolecules to the crystal surface can alter any or all of these properties. In preliminary experiments, we have observed that nucleobase-conjugated CdSe quantum dots were actively taken up by soil and aquatic bacteria (for example, Bacillus subtilis, and Escherichia coli). Effects on microbial viability attributed to the presence of the quantum dots included slower doubling times, heavy metal sequestration, and “blebbing” of metals into the environment. We propose here to quantify these effects using a variety of biologically-conjugated quantum dots and an assortment of microbial species, monitoring the process of quantum dot uptake and breakdown and characterizing the breakdown products that result from bacterial metabolism of these particles. Possible hazards to microbial populations with extrapolation to humans through contamination of soil and water with quantum dot breakdown products will be analyzed and quantified.
  • Iron Oxide Nanoparticle-Induced Oxidative Stress and Inflammation
    Principal Investigator: Alison C.P. Elder
    Co-Investigators: Hong Yang
    Although much has recently been learned about their synthesis, very little is known about cellular or organ responses upon contact with nanoparticles. A defining feature of nanoparticles is their large specific surface area; thus, it is possible that current concepts of dose expressed as mass concentration, which is very low for nanoparticles, may fail in predicting exposure outcomes if this feature is not taken into account. We hypothesize that the small size of nanoparticles contributes to their evasion of normal particle clearance mechanisms, increases the likelihood of contact with cells of many types, particularly epithelial cells, and allows their translocation to sites distant from the original exposure. We hypothesize further that this contact results in inflammation and oxidant stress and that the large surface area of the nanoparticles potentiates their effects. We will address these hypotheses with the following objectives to determine if nanoparticles: 1) induce oxidative stress and toxicity in cultured epithelial and endothelial cells; 2) cause lung inflammation or extrapulmonary effects after in vivo exposure; and 3) are translocated to extrapulmonary sites.
  • Chemical and Biological Behavior of Carbon Nanotubes in Estuarine Sedimentary Systems
    Principal Investigator: P. Lee Ferguson
    Co-Investigators: G. Thomas Chandler and Wally A. Scrivens
    This study attempts to: (1)  Determine factors controlling the fate of single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs) and their synthetic byproducts in estuarine seawater, sediment, and sediment-ingesting organisms, (2)  Examine the impact of SWNTs and byproducts on the disposition of model organic contaminants in estuarine sediments, (3)  Determine whether the presence of SWNTs and byproducts in estuarine sediments affects the bioavailability of model organic contaminants to estuarine invertebrates, and (4)  Assess the toxicity of SWNTs and byproducts to suspension- and deposit-feeding estuarine invertebrate models in seawater suspension alone, and/or in combination with estuarine sediments.
  • Adsorption and Release of Contaminants onto Engineered Nanoparticles
    Principal Investigator: Mason B. Tomson
    As nanotechnology develops into a mature industry the environmental and health effects of its core materials becomes of increasing importance. This proposal aims to evaluate the sorption and release of contaminants onto the surfaces of engineered nanoparticles. Specifically, we will test four hypotheses in this research: 1) that carbon nanostructures have a high capacity for sorption/desorption hysteresis with polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons and other common organic contaminants; 2) that the sorption capacity of inorganic nanomaterials for heavy metals is the same as the corresponding bulk crystals, when corrected for surface area; 3) that sorption of naturally occurring humic materials and surfactants to metal oxide and carbon nanomaterials will diminish the sorption capacity of heavy metals on oxides and increase the sorption of hydrocarbons on carbon nanomaterials; and 4) that the transport of nanoparticles in soils, sediments, and porous medial will be vastly greater than the corresponding colloids or bulk materials.  Such information also will allow environmental issues to factor in early into manufacturing development, leading to a greener and ultimately more economic industry.
  • Nanotechnology and its Publics
    Principal Investigator:
    Roger Geiger
    A pilot study exploring several aspects of Nanotechnology: (1) State investment in nanotech, (2) Commercialization and technology transfer, (3) Potential environmeental issues, (4) Media treatment and public opinion, and (5) Ethical issues raised by each of the preceding aspects
  • Building Capacity for Social and Ethical Research & Education in Agrifood Nanotechnology
    Michigan State University, 
    Institute for Food and Agricultural Standards (IFAS)
    Principal Investigator: Paul Thompson
    This projects's objectives are to (1) Derive nanotechnological-analogous lessons from the social conflict over agrifood biotechnology, (2) Build a new multi-disciplinary competence among a team comprising of reseachers with experience in social and ethical issues related to agrifood technology and communication strategies in engineering applications, (3) Identify the likely applications of nanotechnology within the agrifood sector, and (4) Develop curricular and other educational outreach materials on social and ethical dimensions of agrifood nanotechnology directed towards a diverse audience

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This work is supported in part by the Nanoscale Science and Engineering Initiative of the National Science Foundation
under NSF Award Number EEC-0118007.

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