• We investigate pollutants and nutrients in the environment.

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

  • We explore biochemical reactions that shape the environment.

  • We study DNA preservation in rocks to investigate environmental biomes.

  • We explore the nanoscale to understand processes of global relevance.

  • We use models to quantify processes and mechanisms.


Latest publications

New guidance brings clarity to environmental hazard and behaviour testing of nanomaterials

Elijah Joel Petersen, Greg Gerard Goss, Frank von der Kammer, Alan James Kennedy
2021 - Nature Nanotechnology, 16: 482–483

A critical evaluation of short columns for estimating the attachment efficiency of engineered nanomaterials in natural soils

Short, saturated packed columns are used frequently to estimate the attachment efficiency (α) of engineered nanomaterials (ENMs) in relatively homogeneous porous media, but a combined experimental and theoretical approach to obtain α-values for heterogeneous natural soils has not yet been agreed upon. Accurately determined α-values that can be used to study and predict ENM transport in natural soils should vary with ENM and soil properties, but not with experimental settings. We investigated the effect of experimental conditions, and used different methods to obtain soil parameters, essential to calculate α. We applied 150 different approaches onto 52 transport experiments using short columns with 5 different natural soils and 20 and 80 nm gold- or 27 nm silver sulphide ENMs. The choice of column end-filter material and pore size appeared critical to avoid overestimating α owing to filter – ENM interactions and/or incomplete saturation of the column. Using a low ionic strength (4.4 x 10-5 mol L-1) artificial rain water as an aqueous medium avoided ENM homo- or heteroaggregation in all soils, as confirmed by single-particle inductively coupled plasma - time of flight mass spectrometry. ENM breakthrough curves could be modelled using colloid filtration theory assuming irreversible attachment only. α-values calculated from this model, having the grain size represented by a single average size, accounting for dispersivity and effective porosity based on a prior inert tracer test, explained up to 42 % of the variance in α as revealed by partial least squares analysis. However, column length and dispersivity remained as important experimental parameters, which calls for further standardisation efforts of column tests with ENMs in natural soils, preferably cross-validated with batch tests.

Knapp Karin Norrfors, Vesna Micić, Olga Borovinskaya, Frank von der Kammer, Thilo Hofmann, Geert Cornelis
2021 - Environmental Science: Nano, in press

Towards more Sustainable Peptide- based Antibiotics: Stable in Human Blood, Enzymatically Hydrolyzed in Wastewater?

The emergence and spread of antibiotic resistance is a major societal challenge and new antibiotics are needed to successfully fight bacterial infections. Because the release of antibiotics into wastewater and downstream environments is expected to contribute to the problem of antibiotic resistance, it would be beneficial to consider the environmental fate of antibiotics in the development of novel antibiotics. In this article, we discuss the possibility of designing peptide-based antibiotics that are stable during treatment (e.g. in human blood), but rapidly inactivated through hydrolysis by peptidases after their secretion into wastewater. In the first part, we review studies on the biotransformation of peptide-based antibiotics during biological wastewater treatment and on the specificity of dissolved extracellular peptidases derived from wastewater. In the second part, we present first results of our endeavour to identify peptide bonds that are stable in human blood plasma and susceptible to hydrolysis by the industrially produced peptidase Subtilisin A.

Michael Zumstein, Kathrin Fenner
2021 - CHIMIA International Journal for Chemistry, 75: 267-271

Lecture series

Microbial metabolites for metal scavenging, defense, and signaling

Prof. Dr. Thomas Böttcher
Department of Biological Chemistry, Department of Microbiology and Ecosystem Science, University of Vienna, Austria
17:00 h