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When nano may not be nano
Date:9/13/2009

est particles (less than 30 nanometers) that should receive the most attention in studying the environmental and human health impacts of nanomaterials, according to Mark Wiesner, a Duke professor of civil and environmental engineering and director of the federally funded CEINT.

"There are an infinite number of potential new man-made nanoparticles, so we need to find a way to narrow our efforts to those that have the greatest likelihood of having the unique properties with unique effects," Wiesner said.

"A key question to be answered is whether or not a particular nanoparticle has toxic or hazardous properties that are truly different from identical particles in their bulk form," Wiesner continued. "This question has not been answered. To do so, we need to be speaking the same language when assessing any unique properties of these novel materials."

The results of Wiesner's analysis were published online in the journal Nature Nanotechnology. The study was supported by CEINT, which is jointly funded by the National Science Foundation and Environmental Protection Agency.

Specifically, the researchers found that nanoparticles approaching the 100 nm end of the size spectrum tend to have fewer special properties when compared to their bulk counterparts. Furthermore, they found that nanoparticles smaller than 30 nm tend to exhibit the unique properties that should command increased scrutiny, Wiesner said.

"Many nanoparticles smaller than 30 nanometers undergo drastic changes in their crystalline structure that enhance how the atoms on their surface interact with the environment," Wiesner said.

For example, because of the increased surface-area-to-volume ratio, nanoparticles can be highly reactive with other chemicals in the environment and can also disrupt certain activities within cells.

"While there have been reports of nanoparticle toxicity increasing as the size decreases, it is still uncertain whethe
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Contact: Richard Merritt
richard.merritt@duke.edu
919-660-8414
Duke University
Source:Eurekalert  

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