Nanoparticle Transport in Subsurface Formations:  Novel Characterization Tools and Emerging Pollutants

Co-hosted by the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department.

Date: October 27, 2015
Time: 10:45 – 11:35 a.m.
Place: WEB L104

Over the past decade, the rapid growth of the nanotechnology industry in the U.S. has created tremendous opportunities for the development of improved manufacturing processes, new consumer products, and revolutionary medical treatments and technologies.  Indeed, worldwide trends suggest that products that rely on nanotechnology will be a $3 trillion market by 2020.  In the energy and environmental sectors, application of nanotechnology is leading to the development of innovative in situ reservoir characterization and subsurface remediation tools.  As the manufacture and use of nanomaterials increases, however, these materials are also posing potentially serious threats to our water resources.  Both the design of new characterization tools and the assessment of environmental impacts will require a deeper understanding of the processes influencing the transport and fate of nanoparticles.  This presentation provides an overview of ongoing collaborative research designed to advance our understanding of nanoparticle migration and retention in the subsurface.  Examples are drawn from a range of experimental systems, encompassing a variety of carbon and metal-based engineered nanomaterials commonly used in consumer products and being considered for subsurface characterization applications.  Conceptual models, originally formulated to describe colloidal transport, are adapted to reproduce observed nanoparticle migration and retention in packed sand column experiments.  Comparisons of numerical simulations with results of laboratory experiments in larger-scale flow cells are used to illustrate model performance and to highlight the importance of physical heterogeneity and solution chemistry in determining nanoparticle fate.