The discovery sheds new light on the behavior of engineered nanomaterials.
A study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology states that exposure to light from certain nanomaterials can affect their environmental transformation, fate and ultimately toxicity. The discovery sheds new light on the behavior of engineered nanomaterials. It also provides insight into how such materials can be better designed for many commercial applications without affecting the environment or human health.
“Nanomaterials are now ubiquitous in our world and can be found in everyday products such as sunscreens, cosmetics and clothing. New nanomaterials are being considered for commercial use every day, but do we really understand how they break down? materials in the environment and what the consequences are? Our study is about what we still have to learn before we release another nanomaterial into the world, ”said Dr. Danmeng Shuai, associate professor of civil engineering and environmental engineering at George Washington University.
The researchers who conducted the study studied graphite carbon nitride, an emerging artificial nanomaterial that has been widely considered for use in water treatment, air purification, antimicrobials, energy storage, electronics, biomedical therapy, and other purposes. This nanomaterial was previously thought to be extremely stable and to degrade only in the presence of hydroxyl radicals, a very strong oxidizing agent.
However, the research team found that the decomposition of nanomaterials by hydroxyl radicals is also affected by light: nanomaterials degrade rapidly under light, but only slowly without light. The researchers say this raises concerns about the perceived stability of the nanomaterial and its potential for industrial use.
“Our study highlights the persistence or degradation of engineered nanomaterials in the environment as well as their potential toxicity. It also points out where further research is needed to guide the design of future nanomaterials, which can be more stable and do not harm the environment. “said Mengqiao Li, the first author of the study.