#nanoproject 2017 ESF Global Environment

About the Project

Manufactured nanomaterials have been introduced into the environment through various products because of their unique properties. The impact of nanoparticles on ecosystems is a new area of investigation for scientists and offers an opportunity for original and authentic investigations. This investigation was an introduction to nanomaterials, their life cycle, methods of research and the possible impacts of nanoparticles on the ecosystem. It was also an opportunity to learn from Rochester Institute of Technology scientists that are conducting this research. Our goal is to contribute what we have learned to the public’s understanding of nanoparticles.

Learning Targets

  • I can explain what a nanoparticle is, where they come from and why they are used.
  • I can explore the life cycle of nanoparticles and materials used for products.
  • I can evaluate the impact of nanoparticles on ecosystems.
  • I can create a model ecosystem for studying the effects of nanoparticles.
  • I can apply what I have learned about nano-particles to an overall understanding of pollution and the flow of materials in an ecosystem.

Intro to Nanoparticles

Nanomaterials are very small particles shaped in different ways to change the characteristics of an object. They are used in things like paint, sunscreen, and oreos. When using sunscreen it has the potential to end up in the water/ocean because it washes off of our skin. Also it can get into water because the particles are very small and they can be filtered out by the water treatment plants. One question i have is why use nano materials if you don't know if they are harmful or not? We should be putting in time to do extensive research on the impact of nanoparticles before we use it on a wide scale, so when it is used we will have plans already set in place to either prevent environmental problems and health problems as well. Another question I have is what are we doing to reduce the impact it may have already have made. Are there programs made to fix any problems that may or may not emerge from the amount of nanoparticles already used? Since it is just now being explored about the effects nanoparticles what are people going to do about the damage that's already done. -Aeriona Ruffins

"Nanoparticles are not known if good or bad but we use them a lot to benefit us."

Stage 1: Nanoparticle Life Cycle

Every manufactured particle has a life cycle. After a visit from Dr. Callie Babbitt, Associate Professor of Sustainability to get an introduction to nanoparticle life cycle we created Sankey diagrams to help us understand how material flow in the environment is modeled. We used data about the use of salt and its release into the environment to build background knowledge before diving deeper into published data related to nanoparticles.

Student created Sankey Diagram about the release of salt into the environment
#sankeydiagram - "Sankey is a way to show flows. This helps when it comes to nanoparticles because it shows the flow of nanoparticles and where they go."

Stage 2: Ecotoxicology and Pollution

Our project continued with the help of Dr. Christy Tyler, Associate Professor of Environmental Science. Her visit built an understanding pollution and the scientific study ecotoxicology and set us on our way creating microcosms for studying the effects of titanium dioxide (a popular nanoparticle) and salt on Daphnia and Lumbriculus. These two organisms are important indicators of ecosystem health and Dr Tyler's lab is doing work to examine how these organisms are impacted by nanoparticles.

Model Cornell Notes from Breshianna Baldwin

Pollution and Ecotoxicology

Pollution is one of the most common problems that the environment is currently facing. Pollution is caused when substance go into the environment and cause undesirable effects. Some current pollution have majorly impacted water, land, and air. Water pollution happens when chemicals or dangerous foreign substances are introduced to water, including chemicals, sewage, pesticides and fertilizers from agricultural runoff, while land can become polluted by household garbage and by industrial waste. Air pollution occurs when things that aren’t normally there are added to the air. A common type of air pollution happens when people release particles into the air from burning fuels.

Ecotoxicology is the study of harmful effects of chemicals on ecosystems. Ecotoxicology combine the ecological and toxicological effects of chemical pollutants on populations, communities, and ecosystems as well as the long/short term impact on the environment. Toxicology study the adverse effects of chemical substances on living organisms and their environment. Ecotoxicologists study what happens to the substance ( containments/pollutants) themselves, where they go in the environment, how long they last, and how they finally break down.

As part of our unit on pollution, we have been studying the varied varied containment that are being added to the environment. These containments such as salt and TiO2 have been introduced into the environment in such other purposes. It had not been addressed if the benefits of these contaminants can outweigh the harmful effect or the other way around. Currently we are doing an experiment to test the impact of salt and TiO2 on Daphnia and Lumbriculus. So excited to see the results. - Eman Muthana

"Ecotoxicity is the the study of the effects of toxic substances and pollutants in the environment."

Stage 3: LD50 Experiments

For the final stage of our project graduate students - Liz Wronko, Sarah Ponte Cabral and Charles Border visited our class to help us set up our LD50 experiments. These experiments model the work they do in the lab and were designed to give us a better understanding of how toxicity of substances is assessed.

"LD50 is how much it takes to kill 50% of test samples"

Should we be using nanoparticles?

"We should because researchers have used nanoparticles called nanotetrapods studded with nanoparticles of carbon to develop low cost electrodes for fuel cells. This electrode may be able to replace the expensive platinum needed for fuel cell catalysts."

"I think we should not be using nanoparticles because they might have an impact on the aquatic life that are being harmed by it in which it can cause less biodiversity and destabilize the environment."

"I think we should not be using nanoparticles because the risks outweigh the benefits. especially when these particles get into the environment. They might have a long term impact on the environment such as causing loss of aquatic biodiversity."

"We shouldn't be using nanoparticles but we can't necessarily stop using them because they are in a lot of the things that we use everyday."

Thanks to our Partners at RIT:

Dr. Callie Babbitt

Dr. Christy Tyler

Liz Wronko

Sarah Ponte Cabral

Charles Border

Created By
Christopher Widmaier

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