Tag Archives: nanoremediation

Inaugural workshop using *nanomaterials for environmental remediation being held in Louisiana

Participants at the Nano-4-Rem (nanomaterials for environmental remediation) aNsseRS workshop will be visiting the Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond in early June 2013. From the Nov.  6, 2012 news item on Nanowerk,

An inaugural workshop on the safe use of nanomaterials in environmental remediation will be held at Southeastern Louisiana University June 5-7, 2013.

With increased use of nanotechnology and nanomaterials in the cleanup of hazardous sites, there is now a growing body of evidence that exposure to these materials may have adverse health effects, said conference organizer Ephraim Massawe, assistant professor of occupational safety, health and environment.

“The applications and results of nano-enabled strategies and methods for environmental remediation are increasingly promising,” Massawe said. “The challenge is ensuring that such applications are both safe and sustainable.”

There is more information on Southeastern Louisiana University’s Nano-4-Rem aNsseRS webpage,

Background: Groundwater or soil contamination is present at most Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) corrective action sites. Traditional technologies, such as pump-and-treat (P&T) and permeable reactive barriers (PRBs), have been used for decades to remediate such sites. In recent years, remediation strategies involving engineered nanoparticles (ENPs) such as zero-valent iron and titanium dioxide have been demonstrated as viable time-saving and cost-effective alternatives to traditional remediation. In addition, advances in nanotechnology-enabled assessment and monitoring methods such as nano-sensors may support more extensive, reliable, and cost effective assessment and management of remediation activities.

At the same time that applications of nano-enabled strategies and methods for environmental remediation are increasingly promising, there is a growing body of evidence linking exposure to certain nanomaterials with adverse health effects in animals at the laboratory scale. The challenge is to ensure that such applications are both safe and sustainable. …

Workshop Objectives: This is the first national workshop that provides an opportunity for representatives from the environmental remediation community, industry, academia, and government to:

  • Share their perspectives, pose questions, and develop ideas for design of good guidelines, selection criteria, and work practices to support safe and sustainable nano-enabled environmental remediation;
  • Become acquainted with other U.S. nanotechnology stakeholders, including vendors, transporters, and contractors of the remediation sites and communities; and
  • Share case studies of nano-enhanced clean up technologies, including selection criteria for alternative remediation strategies and methods, job planning, job tasks, and nanomaterial handling practices.

Furthermore, in the context of nanoinformatics (Nanoinformatics 2020 Roadmap), the workshop will present:

  • Occupational and environmental regulatory issues as they relate to remediation, synthesis and characterization, and application of nanoinformatics for safe and sustainable use of nanomaterials during remediation;
  • Fate and transport of nanomaterials during and after remediation;
  • Risks, including contributions from both toxicological properties of nanomaterials (hazard) and potentials for occupational and environmental exposure, where hazard x exposure = risk;
  • Results of the recent nanoinformatics survey of state agencies and programs described on the workshop website; and
  • Opportunities for developing and sustaining continuing advances and collaborations.

Call for Presenters and Deadlines: Participants are invited from the industry; site contractors, nanomaterial vendors; laboratories that synthesize and characterize ENPs for environmental remediation; regulatory authorities (local, state, and federal government) and academia (faculty and students). Presenters should submit titles and abstracts for podium or poster presentations by December 14, 2012. The workshop or program schedule will be finalized by February 20, 2013. Event date: June 5-7, 2013. Students are encouraged to submit proposals for podium or poster presentations. “Best student” poster and presentation awards will be given. Information about this workshop can also be found at http://cluin.org [a US Environmental Protection Agency 'office'].

The Nov. 7, 2012 news release from Southeastern Louisiana University which originated the news item (Nanowerk seems to have posted the item before the release was posted on the university website) provides more detail,

The event, “Nano-4-Rem-Anssers 2013: Applications of Nanotechnology for Safe and Sustainable Environmental Remediations,” is one of the first of its kind in the Southeast which has been designed to provide an opportunity for involved parties to share perspectives, pose questions and develop ideas for generating solid guidelines for best work practices that support safe and sustainable nano-enabled environmental remediation.

Southeastern is sponsoring the event with other agencies and institutions, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Institute of Safety and Health (NIOSH), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and in conjunction with the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office (NNCO).

The program will include case studies of nano-enhanced clean up technologies, including selection criteria for alternative remediation strategies and methods, job planning and tasks, and safe material handling practices. Other issues to be discussed are updates of toxicity studies, fate and transport of nanoparticules [the French word for nanoparticles is nanoparticules ..  this seems an unusual choice for a news release from a US university but Louisiana was French at one time, so perhaps there's a desire to retain a linguistic link?]  in soils and groundwater, and nanoinformatics.

I have written about nanoremediation before. Here are a few of the latest,

Nanoremediation techniques from Iran and from South Carolina

Canadian soil remediation expert in Australia

Phyto and nano soil remediation (part 2: nano)

* ‘nanotechnolmaterials corrected to ‘nanomaterials’ on Sept. 23, 2013.

Oil spills, environmental remediation, and nanotechnology

Oil spills have been on my mind lately as I’ve caught some of the overage about the BP (British Petroleum) oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. One  leak (the smallest) has been fixed according to a news item on physorg.com

Days of work off the coast of Louisiana with underwater submarines nearly a mile below the surface finally bore fruit as a valve was secured over the smallest of the three leaks and the flow shut off.

The feat does not alter the overall amount of crude spilling into the sea and threatening the fragile US Gulf coast, but is significant nonetheless as the focus can now narrow on just two remaining leaks.

“Working with two leaks is going to be a lot easier than working with three leaks. Progress is being made,” US Coast Guard Petty Officer Brandon Blackwell told AFP.

More than two weeks after the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded, the full impact of the disaster is being realized as a massive slick looms off the US Gulf coast, imperilling the livelihoods of shoreline communities.

The news item goes on to detail how much crude oil is still being lost, the oil slick’s progress, the probable impact on the shoreline and animals, and the other efforts being made to ameliorate the situation.

With all the talk there is about nanotechnology’s potential for helping us to clean up these messes, there’s been no mention of it in the current  efforts as Dexter Johnson over at the IEEE’s (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers)  Nanoclast blog pointed out the other day. From Dexter’s posting which features both a  discussion about patents for nanotechnology-enabled clean up products and an interview with Tim Harper,

So to get a sense of where we really are I wanted to get the perspective of my colleague, Tim Harper (principal of Cientifica), who in addition to being a noted expert on the commercialization of nanotechnologies also has devoted his attention to the use of nanotechnologies in cleantech including its remediation capabilities, leading him to his presentation this week in Australia at the conference Cleantech Science and Solutions: mainstream and at the edge.

“If you are looking for a quick fix from nanotechnology, forget it,” says Harper. “Nanotech is already making an impact in reducing energy, and therefore oil use, it is also being used to create stronger lighter materials that can be used for pipelines, and enabling better sensors for early warning of damage, but in terms of cleaning up the mess, the contribution is minor at best.”

Clearly not the hopeful words that many would have hoped for, and the pity is that it might have been different, according to Harper.

“As with all technologies, the applications take a while to develop,” he says. “If someone had come up with some funding 10 years ago for this specific application then we may have had better tools to deal with it.”

Dexter’s posting about patents and Harper’s comments reminded me of an article by Mason Inman I saw two years ago on the New Scientist website titled, Nanotech ’tissue’ loves oil spills, hates water. From the article,

A material with remarkable oil-absorbing properties has been developed by US researchers. It could help develop high-tech “towels” able to soak up oil spills at sea faster, protecting wildlife and human health.

Almost 200,000 tonnes of oil have been spilled at sea in accidents since the start of the decade, according to the International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation. [This article was posted May 30, 2008]

Clean-up methods have improved in recent years, but separating oil from thousands of gallons of water is still difficult and perhaps the biggest barrier to faster clean ups.

The new water-repellent material is based on manganese oxide nanowires and could provide a blueprint for a new generation of oil-spill cleaners. It is able to absorb up to 20 times its own weight in oil, without sucking up a drop of water.

Unfortunately,

But [Joerg] Lahann [University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, US]  points out that manganese oxide may not be the best material for real-world applications because it could be toxic. He says, though, that the new material “clearly provides a blueprint that can guide the design of future nanomaterials for environmental applications.”

I wonder if they’ve done any research to determine if manganese oxide in the shape and size required to create this nanotech ’tissue’ is toxic. Intriguingly, there was a recent news item on Nanowerk about toxicology research in a marine environment being undertaken.

Led by Dr. Emilien Pelletier, the Institut des Sciences de la Mer de Rimouski at the Université du Québec à Rimouski has obtained an LVEM5 benchtop electron microscope to help them study the short-term and long-term effects of nano-materials on the marine environment.

Dr. Pelletier is the Canada Research Chair in Marine Ecotoxicology. The overall objective of the chair is to understand the impact of natural and anthropogenic stresses on the short-and long-term high-latitude coastal ecosystems to contribute to the conservation, protection and sustainable development of cold coastal marine resources.

Since the news release was written by the company supplying the microscope there is no word as to exactly what Emilien’s team will be researching and how the work might have an impact on other members of the community such as the researchers with the ‘oil-hungry nanotech tissue’ made of nanoscale manganese oxide.

There is as always a political element to all of this discussion about what we could or couldn’t do with nanotechnology-enabled means to clean up oil spills and/or reduce/eliminate our dependence on oil. This discussion is not new as Dr. J. Storrs Hall implies during a presentation being reported in a recent (May 4, 2010) Foresight Institute blog entry by Dave Cronz, PhD. From the posting,

Here I offer my reflections on some of the highlights of the presentation by Dr. J. Storrs Hall of the Foresight Institute, entitled “Feynman’s Pathway to Nanomanufacturing,” and the panel discussion that followed, “How Do We Get There from Here?” Discussions such as these are crucial opportunities to reflect on – and potentially shape – emerging technologies whose destinies are often left to be determined by “market forces.”

Dr. Hall began with an intriguing argument: Feynman’s top-down approach to reaching the nano scale in manufacturing, achieved through a step-down method of replicating and miniaturizing an entire, fully-equipped machine shop in 1:4 scale over and over would yield countless benefits to science, engineering, and manufacturing at each step. These microscopic, tele-manipulated master-slave “Waldos” (named after Heinlein’s 1942 story “Waldo F. Jones”) would get nanotechnology back on track by focusing on machines and manufacturing, since most of our current emphasis is on science at the nano scale. Feynman’s top-down approach to nanoscale manufacturing is missing from the Foresight Institute’s roadmap, according to Hall, “for political reasons.” This raises a fundamental point: science and technology cannot develop independent of the political and social spheres, which pose as many challenges as the technology. Many would argue that social and technological processes are inseparable and treating them otherwise borders on folly. I commend Dr. Hall for offering his argument. It soon became clear that the panelists who joined him after his presentation disagreed. [bolded emphases mine]

As Dr. Hall aptly noted it’s not dispassionate calculations but “serendipity: the way science always works.”

I’m in agreement with Dr. Hall, the political and social spheres are inseparable from the scientific and technological spheres. As for “emerging technologies whose destinies  are often left to be determined by market forces”, Dexter’s posting ends with this,

But foresight is not the strong suit of businesses built around short-term profit motives as evidenced by them [BP] not even investing in the remote systems that would have turned the oil well off and possibly avoided the entire problem.

I strongly recommend reading Dexter’s posting to get the nuances and to explore his links.

I’m going to finish on a faint note of hope. There is work being done on site remediation and it seems to be successful, i.e., nonpolluting, less disruptive to the environment, and cheaper.  The Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies (PEN) has a webcast of a presentation titled, Contaminated Site Remediation: Are Nanomaterials the Answer?. You can find my comments about the webcast here (scoll down a bit) and PEN’s Nanoremediation Map which lists projects around the world although most are in the US. It’s incomplete since there is no requirement to report a nanoremediation site to PEN but it does give you an idea of what’s going on. Canada has two sites on the map.