Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Delaware, Huang, Donald C. Phillips, is detecting the presence of engineered nanoparticles (ENP) in ground wastewater.
According to Huang, increased use of nanomaterials will result in their release into the environment including the air, water, and soil. The main transport route for ENP would be through industrial wastewater and municipal. Huang says that we are not completely aware about the ENP lifecycle and the extent to which the presence of nanomaterials can affect water, organisms and the ecosystem. He adds that their minute size makes it technically tough to locate and isolate ENP. Huang’s team is working to determine the behavior and transport of four vital engineered nanomaterials. The nanomaterials studied include titanium dioxide which is present in sunblock and food additives, zinc oxide in cosmetics and food, carbon nanotubes found more in printer ink and medicines and silver that is used in refrigerators and disinfecting products. The project was sponsored by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The research team at UD utilizes a new experimental approach to gather and categorize sludge samples and wastewater released from four main municipal wastewater treatment plants in Baltimore, Wilmington, Washington D.C., and Philadelphia. They could identify and quantify the nanomaterials retained in the system and their exact location by using electrospray aerosol analysis (EAA) and electrically assisted tangential flow (EATF) membrane filtration integrated with a nano aerosol mass spectrometer (NAMS).
The results obtained will help design engineers to develop new treatment procedures for the removal of solids like titanium dioxide from wastewater and to stop it from entering the environment where its effects are actually not yet known. Using the results from the research, decision makers in public and private sectors can alter wastewater treatment quality standards. Huang plans to launch similar research with scientists from partner firms in Korea, Taiwan and China.