Modelling the Release, Transport and Fate of Engineered Nanoparticles in the Aquatic Environment – A Review
Engineered nanoparticles, that is, particles of up to 100 nm in at least one dimension, are used in many consumer products. Their release into the environment as a consequence of their production and use has raised concern about the possible consequences. While they are made of ordinary substances, their size gives them properties that are not manifest in larger particles. It is precisely these properties that make them useful. For instance titanium dioxide nanoparticles are used in transparent sunscreens, because they are large enough to scatter ultraviolet light but too small to scatter visible light.
To investigate the occurrence of nanoparticles in the environment we require practical methods to detect their presence and to measure the concentrations as well as adequate modelling techniques. Modelling provides both a complement to the available detection and measurement methods and the means to understand and predict the release, transport and fate of nanoparticles. Many different modelling approaches have been developed, but it is not always clear for what questions regarding nanoparticles in the environment these approaches can be applied. No modelling technique can be used for every possible aspect of the release of nanoparticles into the environment. Hence it is important to understand which technique to apply in what situation. This article provides an overview of the techniques involved with their strengths and weaknesses. Two points need to be stressed here: the modelling of processes like dissolution and the surface activity of nanoparticles, possibly under influence of ultraviolet light, or chemical transformation has so far received relatively little attention. But also the uncertainties surrounding nanoparticles in general—the amount of nanoparticles used in consumer products, what constitutes the appropriate measure of concentration (mass or numbers) and what processes are relevant—should be explicitly considered as part of the modelling.
KeywordsNanoparticles Modelling techniques Emissions Transport Fate Aquatic environment
This work is supported by NanoNextNL, a micro and nanotechnology programme of the Dutch Government with 130 partners.
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