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Particles in the nanoscale (colloids) are abundant in all environmental compartments. These nanophases are composed of natural organic matter (e.g. humic substances), are biota itself (viruses, bacteria incl. pathogens), inorganic particles (clays, oxides or carbonates) or are man-made originating either from engineering (nanotechnology) or from wear/combustion/corrosion. They span a broad size range from some fractions of a nanometer to several micrometers. Hence a natural colloidal system typically consists of a wide variety of macromolecules and particles. This heterogeneity poses high demands on the analytical equipment and analysis strategy. On the other side engineered nanoparticles are typically well defined but occur in extremely low concentrations what makes them difficult to distinguish from natural ones. Nanoparticles are involved in natural processes as soil development and nutrient cycling but can also act as vehicles of contaminant transport, alter the bioavailability of substances and hence their toxicity. Especially in nanotechnology the proposed future market of several hundred billion US dollars will result in a widespread emission of specially designed nanoparticles into the environment. Today virtually nothing is known about the behaviour of those materials. Nevertheless it is clear already that those materials have characteristics different to those of the bulk materials due to their large surface areas and that some may penetrate the skin, cell membranes and the blood-brain barrier. The future research of the Nanogeosciences at the Vienna University aims at three main topics: Characterization - Environmental Processes - Behavior of Engineered Nanoparticles.

Department of Environmental Geosciences
University of Vienna

Althanstraße 14 UZAII
1090 Vienna
T: +43-1-4277-533 01
F: +43-1-4277-9 533
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