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DetectNano - Quantification of metal oxide nanoparticles (TiO2 and CeO2) in surface wateres

Project leader: Frank von der Kammer
Post-Doc: Elisabeth Neubauer

Metal-oxide nanoparticles belong to those particles with the highest production rates and can be found in many consumer products as sunscreen (TiO2, soon potentially also CeO2) or fuel additives (CeO2). Those applications are considered open applications with a relatively high potential for a direct (by-passing waste water treatment) emission into surface waters.
Currently there are no analytical methods available to measure emission rates, distribution and fate of engineered metal-oxide nanoparticles in the aquatic environment.


The identification and quantification of the engineered metal-oxide nanoparticles in the aquatic environment is hampered by the significant background of natural nanoparticles containing the target elements (i.e. Ti, Ce) as well. The proposed project will develop an integrated tiered approach which will be able to perform detection, identification and quantification of the particles of concern. Apart from sampling and sample preparation techniques which will address the special properties and behavior of nanoparticles, most recent techniques of field flow fractionation, light scattering and conventional ICP-MS will be combined. Single Particle ICP-MS will be developed as stand-alone technique for simple and straight-forward nanoparticle detection (Ti/Ce nanoparticles yes/no) and coupled to FFF for more in-depth characterization.
One important advantage of the project is the dedicated consideration of the nanoparticles in the natural background. For engineered TiO2 nanoparticles it will be possible to test the method on real world samples. In Vienna the Old Danube is one of the most intensively used natural pool in Europe. Here about 1 mio. people   per year are enjoying a bath in a water volume of roughly 3 mio. m³ . Hence it should be possible to detect engineered titania nanoparticles in this environment. Therefore we have foreseen time-resolved sampling of suspended particulate matter, whole water and filtered water samples to analyze them with traditional methods and progressively with the particle-specific methods developed in the project. Due to the still low emission of CeO2 nanoparticles a similar advantageous situation (e.g. CeO2 nanoparticles in road run off) is not present and method development will be based on synthetic mixtures of “standard” particles with natural waters.
The project realizes an efficient tiered approach with regard to the analytical effort and obtained information. It stretches from simple detection (nanoparticles yes/no) to detailed characterization (identification, mass, volume and shape distributions). The limitations of the methods will be described in detail and prevent improper use and misinterpretation in the future.

Funded by FFG – Österreichische Forschungsförderungsgesellschaft

Department of Environmental Geosciences
University of Vienna

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