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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract - Special Submissions

The Role of Atmospheric Transformations in Determining Environmental Impacts of Carbonaceous Nanoparticles


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 39 No. 6, p. 1883-1895
    Received: Feb 5, 2010

    * Corresponding author(s): lmarr@vt.edu
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  1. Andrea J. Tiwari and
  2. Linsey C. Marr *
  1. Civil and Environmental Engineering, Virginia Tech, 411 Durham Hall, Blacksburg, VA. Assigned to Associate Editor Gregory Lowry


In studies that have explored the potential environmental impacts of manufactured nanomaterials, the atmosphere has largely been viewed as an inert setting that acts merely as a route for inhalation exposure. Manufactured nanomaterials will enter the atmosphere during production, use, and disposal, and rather than simply being transported, airborne nanoparticles are in fact subject to physical and chemical transformations that could modify their fate, transport, bioavailability, and toxicity once they deposit to aqueous and terrestrial ecosystems. The objective of this paper is to review the factors affecting carbonaceous nanomaterials' behavior in the environment and to show that atmospheric transformations, often overlooked, have the potential to alter nanoparticles' physical and chemical properties and thus influence their environmental fate and impact. Atmospheric processing of naturally occurring and incidental nanoparticles takes place through coagulation, condensation, and oxidation; these phenomena are expected to affect manufactured nanoparticles as well. It is likely that carbonaceous nanomaterials in the atmosphere will be oxidized, effectively functionalizing them. By influencing size, shape, and surface chemistry, atmospheric transformations have the potential to affect a variety of nanoparticle–environment interactions, including solubility, interaction with natural surfactants, deposition to porous media, and ecotoxicity. Potential directions for future research are suggested to address the current lack of information surrounding atmospheric transformations of engineered nanomaterials.

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Copyright © 2010. American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Soil Science SocietyAmerican Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and Soil Science Society of America