Events & Media: Vicki H. Grassian

The Bren School of Environmental Science & Management
at the University of California, Santa Barbara
the UC Center for Environmental Implications of Nanotechnology



"An Integrated Approach Toward Understanding the Environmental Fate, Transport, Toxicity and Occupational Health Hazards of Metal and Metal Oxide Nanoparticles."

Vicki H. Grassian

Professor, Department of Chemistry
University of Iowa

Monday, Nov. 7, 2011, 11:30 - 12:30
Bren Hall 1414

"Engineered nanomaterials are found in everyday consumer goods. We can't see them, so we may not know they're present, but increasingly, they are, and they are entering the natural environment. Vicky Grassian is a chemist and an expert in metal oxides, the most common type of engineered nanomaterials. She will explain how metal they can move and change, not only in the environment, but in our bodies as well." – Patricia Holden, speaker host

Nanoparticles, the primary building blocks of many nanomaterials, may become suspended in air or get into water systems, e.g. drinking water systems, ground water systems, estuaries and lakes etc. Therefore, manufactured nanoparticles can become a component of the air we breathe or the water we drink. One important issue in understanding the environmental fate, transport, toxicity, and occupational health hazards of nanoparticles is in characterizing the nature and state of nanoparticles in air or water, or in vivo. For the nanoparticles of interest in these studies, metals and metal oxides, it can be asked: (i) will metal oxide and metal nanoparticles be present in air or water as isolated particles or in the form of aggregates?; (ii) will metal oxide and metal nanoparticles dissolve in aqueous solution or in vivo?; and (iii) under what conditions will metal oxide and metal nanoparticles aggregate or dissolve?

As the size regime will be very different depending on the state of the nanoparticles, as dissolved ions, isolated nanoparticles, or nanoparticle aggregates, these questions are important to address as they impact the size regime that needs to be considered or modeled in, for example, environmental transport or lung-deposition models. Further, the effect on biological systems, including nanoparticle-biological interactions and toxicity, will depend on the state of the nanoparticles. In the studies discussed here, an integrated approach is used to address these questions and issues. The approach combines state-of-the-art characterization of the bulk and surface properties of nanoparticles, studies of the physicochemical properties of nanoparticles, aggregation and dissolution as a function of particle size in laboratory studies along with toxicity studies. This integrated approach is needed to better understand the environmental fate, transport, toxicity, and potential occupational health hazards of metal and metal oxide nanomaterials. In our studies, we have focused on several different metal and metal oxide nanoparticles, including those that contain Fe, Ag, Zn, Cu and Ti. Results for these different metal-containing nanoparticles will be presented. 

Vicki H. Grassian is a professor in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Iowa and holds appointments in the Departments of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering and Occupational and Environmental Health. In 2006, she was appointed founding director of the Nanoscience and Nanotechnology Institute at the university. Professor Grassian’s research interests are in the areas of environmental molecular surface science, heterogeneous atmospheric chemistry, climate impact of atmospheric aerosols, and environmental and health aspects of nanoscience and nanotechnology. She has authored more than two hundred peer-reviewed publications and fifteen book chapters, and has edited three books, the most recent being Nanoscience and Nanotechnology: Environmental and Health Impacts. She has been numerous awards and honors at the University of Iowa, including the Regents Award for Faculty Excellence (2006) and Outstanding Graduate Student Mentoring Award (2008). Professor Grassian received a National Science Foundation Creativity Award in 2003, and was elected as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2005. In 2006, she served as co-chair of the NSF-Sponsored Workshop on Sustainability and Chemistry. The workshop report was reprinted in 2009 for the National Science Foundation for further distribution. More recently, Professor Grassian was named a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry, the American Vacuum Society, and the American Chemical Society. In 2011, she co-chaired another National Science Foundation–sponsored workshop titled "Nanomaterials and the Environment: the Chemistry and Materials Perspective." This past September, she was named the 2012 recipient of the National ACS Award for Creative Advances in Environmental Science and Technology, for her contributions to understanding mineral-dust aerosol properties and their impact on atmospheric chemistry and climate.

NOTE: Research colloquia are hosted by Bren faculty members and are generally high-level talks about research in a particular area of environmental science and management.


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