Nov 16 2009 04:13 PMWater/Wastewater

Breakthrough in nanoparticle behaviour in wastewater

 
The environmental management of nanoparticle waste could be greatly improved following a new study into the substances found in wastewater.

Researchers from a number of scientific institutions around the world collaborated on the report, which focused on the behaviour of potentially harmful nanoparticles found in sewage treatment plants.

Their investigations centred on silica-shelled nanoparticles. During the course of their studies, they discovered that introducing a commercial surfactant to coat these particles enabled them to be separated from the water alongside other waste particles.

According to the scientists, if the nanoparticles are allowed to "settle out" in this way then they can be prevented from passing on to the following stage of the waste-treatment process.

Team member Bernd Nowack of the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Testing Research said that while the high concentrations of nanoparticles used for these experiments could not be applied to normal wastewater, it could have implications in terms of dealing with industrial accidents.

According to an article in the Environment Times, the UK government commissioned research into the fate, behaviour, toxicity and ecological effects of manufactured nanoparticles once they are introduced to the environment.

Previous studies into incidental nanoparticles found in the air indicate that there is a risk and that this should be further investigated.

Posted by Lauren Steadman
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