• We investigate pollutants and nutrients in the environment.

  • We elucidate processes and mechanisms in the field and laboratory.

  • Nanogeosciences: exploring the nanoscale to understand processes of global relevance.

  • We use models to quantify processes and mechanisms.

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Latest publications

The leaching of phthalates from PVC can be determined with an infinite sink approach

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is the third most used polymer for plastic products in the European Union (+NO/ CH) and contains the highest amounts of additives, especially phthalic acid esters (phthalates). Leaching kinetics of additives from (micro-) plastics into aqueous environments are highly relevant for environmental risk assessment and modelling of the fluxes of plastics and its associated additives. Investigating the leaching of phthalates into aqueous environments in batch experiments is challenging due to their low solubility and high hydrophobicity and there are no standard methods to study release processes. Here we describe an infinite sink method to investigate the leaching of phthalates from PVC into the aqueous phase. Spiking and leaching experiments using bis(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate as a model phthalate enabled the validation and evaluation of the designed infinite sink method. The developed method offers:

  • a low-cost and simple approach to investigate leaching of phthalates from PVC into aqueous environments
  • the use of a high-surface activated carbon powder as an infinite sink
  • a tool to elucidate the transport fluxes of plastics and additives
Charlotte Henkel, Thorsten Hüffer, Thilo Hofmann
2019 - MethodsX, 6: 2729-2734

Opportunities for examining the natural nanogeochemical environment using recent advances in nanoparticle analysis

The characterization of engineered nanoparticles (ENPs) has been a main pillar in the advancement of nanotechnology in recent decades. Because the properties of ENPs are closely linked to their size, shape, morphology, and surface coatings, development of nanoanalysis methods capable of assessing these parameters was necessary. Many advanced instruments and data analysis tools have now been established for analysis of ENPs in complex matrices, providing a comprehensive assessment of not only their intended virtues, but also the unintended consequences of their manufacture, use, and disposal. Current generation electron microscopy enables atom-scale imaging. Hyphenated (FFF-ICP-MS), and single particle (spICP-MS) techniques now possess the requisite sensitivity and elemental selectivity to quantify and characterize inorganic ENPs. These tools also provide a means to examine processes involving naturally-occurring nanoparticles (NNPs) to a degree not previously attainable. Though colloids and nanominerals have been investigated for decades, modern nanoanalysis offers a wealth of opportunities to improve our understanding of the natural nanogeochemical environment. Applying nanoanalysis on a single particle basis may lead to a more mechanistic understanding of particle formation and reactivity, global biogeochemical cycling, quantifying nanoparticle transport and impacts as they relate to hydrochemical and geochemical factors, and possibly differentiating ENPs from NNPs.

Manuel D. Montaño, Frank von der Kammer, Chad W. Cuss, James F. Ranville
2019 - Journal of Analytical Atomic Spectrometry, 34: 1768-1772

Improved extraction efficiency of natural nanomaterials in soils to facilitate their characterization using a multimethod approach

Characterization of natural nanomaterial (NNM) physicochemical properties – such as size, size distribution, elemental composition and elemental ratios - is often hindered by lack of methods to disperse NNMs from environmental samples. This study evaluates the effect of extractant composition, pH, and ionic strength on soil NNM extraction in term of recovery and release of primary particles/small aggregate sizes (i.e., <200 nm). The extracted NNMs were characterized for hydrodynamic diameter and zeta potential by dynamic light scattering and laser Doppler electrophoresis, natural organic matter desorption by UV–Vis spectroscopy, element composition by inductively coupled plasma-mass spectroscopy (ICP-MS), size based elemental distribution by field flow fractionation coupled to ICP-MS, and morphology by transmission electron microscopy. The extracted NNM concentrations increased following the order of NaOH ≤ Na2CO3 < Na2C2O4 < Na4P2O7. Na4P2O7 was the most efficient extractant and results in 2–12 folds higher NNM extraction than other extractants. The Na4P2O7 extracted NNMs exhibited narrower size distribution with smaller modal size relative to NaOH, Na2CO3, Na2C2O4 extracted NNMs. Thus, Na4P2O7 enhances the extraction of primary NNMs and/or smaller NNM aggregates (i.e., size <200 nm). Na4P2O7 promote soil microaggregates breakup and release of NNMs by reducing free multivalent cation concentration in soil pore water by forming metal-phosphate complexes and by enhancing NNM surface charge via phosphate sorption on NNM surfaces. Additionally, the extracted NNM concentrations increased with the increase in extractant concentration and pH, except at 100 mM where the high ionic strength might have induced NNM aggregation. The improved NNM-extraction will improve the overall understanding of the physicochemical properties of NNMs in environmental systems. This study presents the key properties of NNMs that can be used as background information to differentiate engineered nanomaterials (ENMs) from NNMs in complex environmental media.

Frédéric Loosli, Zebang Yi, Jingjing Wang, Mohammed Baalousha
2019 - Science of The Total Environment, 677: 34-46

Lecture series

Traces in the absolute dark: Cave sediments and their unique record of long-term terrestrial environmental change

Prof. Dr Christoph Spötl
Quaternary Research Group, University of Innsbruck, Austria
16.12.2019
16:30 h
Eberhard Clar-Saal (2B 204), Althanstrasse 14 UZA II, 1090 Vienna

The environment as training ground: evolution and biology of intracellular microbes

Prof. Dr Matthias Horn
Department of Microbiology and Ecosystem Science, University of Vienna, Austria
20.01.2020
16:30 h
Eberhard Clar-Saal (2B 204), Althanstrasse 14 UZA II, 1090 Vienna

EPR as a tool to investigate terrestrial materials

Prof. Dr Marc Pignitter
Department of Physiological Chemistry, University of Vienna, Austria
27.01.2020
16:30 h
Eberhard Clar-Saal (2B 204), Althanstrasse 14 UZA II, 1090 Vienna