Project Details Chemical Speciation of Anthropogenic Nanoparticles

Project No.:
Start Date:
01 August 2015
End Date:


To develop guidelines and provide a framework for understanding the chemical speciation of nanoparticles and the associated environmental health and safety issues.

‘Chemical speciation of nanoparticles’ refers to the distribution of the nanoparticles and their corresponding components (i.e. atomic or molecular components, or surrounding stabilizers) by transformation due to changes in the environment (air, water, soil).

The project is relevant to the Division of Chemistry and the Environment and the Division of Analytical Chemistry as there is an increase in the manufacture and use of nanoparticles in consumer products and thus a needed for consensus on their analysis. The increase in nanoparticles usage raises concerns for the adverse impacts on the environment and on human health. The interaction of nanoparticles with various environmental components must be assessed and systematic analytical methods for doing so, is required.

Through this IUPAC project a systematic method will lead to a critical understanding of the toxicity, bioavailability, and environmental fate and transport of nanoparticles. A critical issue that arises in understanding the environmental health and safety concerns of nanoparticles lies in their method of preparation and the properties of the nanoparticles that arise as a result of different preparation techniques. In order to obtain a molecular level understanding of the materials speciation and consequently transformation, it is necessary to bring chemists together with environmental scientists including toxicologists, ecologists and engineers. The project also brings together the expertise of academic scholars, industrial scientists and government researchers.


The growth in the manufacturing and use of anthropogenic nanoparticles will lead to their presence in the environment. The interactions of the nanoparticles with the environmental depend highly on their chemical composition, size, shape, morphology, surface coatings, and the environmental pH and ionic strength. All these parameters play an important role on the chemical speciation of the nanoparticles and consequently their toxicology and ecological risk assessment. Guidelines are needed on a set of characterization tools to quantify nanoparticles in complex environments and at low concentrations. Computational methods for determining speciation of nanoparticles in various environments are required. The guidelines will be useful in understanding and developing an international perspective and consensus for determining the effects and risks of nanoparticles.

This project will have three phases:

Phase I: We aim to address and clearly define ‘speciation of nanoparticles’. Data will be collected to determine the current state of knowledge of the speciation and transformation of nanoparticles in the environment. The task group will focus on gathering information on environmental factors that lead to nanoparticle speciation and the tools/metrics that must be used to measure them. This information will be the subject of the workshop planned to be held in August 2016.

Phase II: This phase will focus on key parameters that need to be measured and validated when aiming at understanding speciation of nanoparticles. The type of isolation methods to be used to recover the nanoparticles post exposure to environmental factors will be described. Isolation methods to be considered will be addressed. Specific emphasis will be placed on characterization and analytical methods that should be used globally to provide information of nanoparticle transformation. Data to determine the current state of knowledge will collected. This information will provide the data needed for us to frame the project objectives and re-evaluate the objectives if necessary. This phase will be the focus of the symposium that we plan to hold in August 2017.

Phase III: A technical report will be produced that will provide consistent guidelines on the speciation of nanoparticles and the associated risks. This report will be ready by December 2017.

Expected Outcome:

The project will provide a set of guidelines to inform researchers involved in nanoscale science on standards for characterizing and accessing the speciation and transformation of nanoparticles in the environment. Specifically, we aim to develop standards for assessing the transformation of nanoparticles that are found in consumer products, including silver, titanium dioxide, iron oxide, zinc oxide, silica and carbon-based nanoparticles. We have two industrial scientists on this team, whose companies work closely with nanoparticle manufacturing. We will use their expertise to ensure that the guidelines established by this project are easy to adopt by chemical companies.


Page last updated 25 Aug 2015