Biomolecular and Environmental Engineering and Science

Nanoparticles are the building blocks for nanotechnology, and are particles with at least one dimension < 100 nm. Particles in these size ranges have been used by several industries and humankind for thousands of years; however, there has been a recent resurgence because of the ability to synthesize and manipulate such materials. Nanoscale materials find use in a variety of different areas, such as electronic, magnetic and optoelectronic, biomedical, pharmaceutical, cosmetic, energy, environmental, catalytic, and materials applications. Because of the potential of this technology, there has been a worldwide increase in investment in nanotechnology research and development. The investment for nanotechnology research by the federal government in the United States will be approximately $1 billion, in Western Europe about $600 million, in Japan $800 million, in Korea $200 million, and other countries totaling about $800 million in 2005. This is a 7-fold increase in nanotechnology research and funding since 1999. Major emphasis is also being put on ensuring broader societal improvements and sustainable development.

Nanotechnology has great potential in improving water quality in the environment. It can improve detection and sensing of pollutants and help in the development of new technologies for remediation. While nanotechnology has the potential to improve environmental quality, there are concerns that it can result in a new class of environmental hazards. The effect of nanoparticles and nanomaterials have on living systems is either poorly understood or unknown.

Proteomics is a new tool to study living systems exposed to everything from a personal care product to a nanomaterial. Proteomics is the study of the entire proteome (proteins) of a living system. Proteins are up regulated and down regulated as a result of exposure to foreign materials and/or disease. Proteins carry out the bulk of the reactions within the cell – they are the workers, the transporters, the protectors. Proteomics provides the opportunity for the rapid identification of each protein up or down regulated providing insight into the impact that results from exposure to a foreign substance.

Understanding the interaction between nanoparticle and proteome will lead to remediation techniques for nanoparticle spills/release, markers to detect anthropogenic nanoparticles in the environment, understanding and altering irreversible fouling in water treatment membranes used for both drinking water and water reuse, and understanding the fate and transformation of engineered nanoparticles in natural environments.


  • Holly Stretz
  • Pedro Arce


  • Holly Stretz
  • Pedro Arce
  • Robby Sanders
  • Tania Datta
  • Laura Arias-Chavez


  • Water Resource Center (WRC)

Grand Challenges:

  • Provide access to clean water.
  • What are the cost effective innovations that can result from using nanomaterials in water treatment?
  • What is the fate of nanoparticles and other nanomaterials in the aqueous environment?
  • What are the mechanisms the control the transport and fate of nanoparticles and other nanomaterials in the aqueous environment?

Current and Potential Partners:

  • University of Texas – AUSTIN, CDM Smith, NIST Boulder, Clemson

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