Blacksburg, Va. -- Water chemistry and mineralogy are scientific fields that have been around long enough to develop extensive knowledge and technologies. The boundary of water and rock, however, is not a thin wet line but the huge new field of nanoparticle science.
Scientists are discovering that aquatic nanoparticles, from 1 to 100 nanometers, influence natural and engineered water chemistry and systems differently than similar materials of a larger size. Nanoparticles are in an awkward intermediate state, between elements dissolved in water and minerals that you can hold in your hand, said Michael Hochella Jr., University Distinguished Professor of geosciences at Virginia Tech. The nanoscale represents a transition zone. For instance, the electronic, magnetic, and optical properties at the atomic, nano, and bulk scales are all different.
The cover story of the December issue of the Royal Society of Chemistrys Journal of Environmental Monitoring (www.rsc.org/Publishing/Journals/em/) offers a critical review of the emerging field of Aquatic environmental nanoparticles. Written by Virginia Tech Ph.D. students Nicholas S. Wigginton of Holt, Mich., and Kelly (Plathe) Haus of Rochester, Minn., and Hochella, the article looks at recent advances in identifying nanoparticles in water and in understanding their properties and reactivity.
The review considers nanoparticles formed by natural processes in water and as unintended consequences of human activity, such as mining or water treatment.
Because iron is the most abundant transition metal on Earth, and oxygen is the most abundant element in the crust, iron oxides are found in virtually all natural water and soil systems across a wide spectrum of pH, salinity, and geologic settings, wrote Wigginton. Over billions of years, nature produced iron-oxide nanoparticles that carry elements and compounds great distances in riv
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