• 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

Eco-Corona Dictates Mobility of Nanoplastics in Saturated Porous Media: The Critical Role of Preferential Binding of Macromolecules

Nanoplastics are an increasing environmental concern. In aquatic environments, nanoplastics will acquire an eco-corona by interacting with macromolecules (e.g., humic substances and extracellular polymeric substances (EPS)). Here, we show that the properties of the eco-corona and, consequently, its ability to enhance the transport of nanoplastics vary significantly with the surface functionality of nanoplastics and sources of macromolecules. The eco-corona derived from the EPS of Gram-negative Escherichia coli MG1655 enhances the transport of polystyrene (PS) nanospheres in saturated porous media to a much greater extent than the eco-corona derived from soil humic acid and fulvic acid. In comparison, the eco-corona from all three sources significantly enhance the transport of carboxylated PS (HOOC-PS). We show that the eco-corona inhibits the deposition of the two types of nanoplastics to the porous media mainly via steric repulsion. Accordingly, an eco-corona consisting of a higher mass of larger-sized macromolecules is generally more effective in enhancing transport. Notably, HOOC-PS tends to acquire macromolecules of lower hydrophobicity than PS. The more disordered and flexible structures of such macromolecules may result in greater elastic repulsion between the nanoplastics and sand grains and, consequently, greater transport enhancement. The findings of this study highlight the critical role of eco-corona formation in regulating the mobility of nanoplastics, as well as the complexity of this process.

Meiling Zhu, Zhanhua Zhang, Tong Zhang, Thilo Hofmann, Wei Chen
2023 - Environ. Sci. Technol., 57: 331-339

Towards Harmonisation of Testing of Nanomaterials for EU Regulatory Requirements on Chemical Safety – A Proposal for Further Actions

Over the recent years, EU chemicals legislation, guidance and test guidelines have been developed or adapted for nanomaterials to facilitate safe use of nanomaterials. This paper provides an overview of the information requirements across different EU regulatory areas. For each information requirement, a group of 22 experts identified potential needs for further action to accommodate guidance and test guidelines to nanomaterials. Eleven different needs for action were identified, capturing twenty-two information requirements that are specific to nanomaterials and relevant to multiple regulatory areas. These were further reduced to three overarching issues: 1) resolve issues around nanomaterial dispersion stability and dosing in toxicity testing, in particular for human health endpoints, 2) further develop tests or guidance on degradation and transformation of organic nanomaterials or nanomaterials with organic components, and 3) further develop tests and guidance to measure (a)cellular reactivity of nanomaterials. Efforts towards addressing these issues will result in better fit-for-purpose test methods for (EU) regulatory compliance. Moreover, it secures validity of hazard and risk assessments of nanomaterials. The results of the study accentuate the need for a structural process of identification of information needs and knowledge generation, preferably as part of risk governance and closely connected to technological innovation policy.

Eric A. J. Bleeker, Elmer Swart, Hedwig Braakhuis, Maria Luisa Fernandez Cruz, Steffi Friedrichs, Ilse Gosens, Frank Herzberg, Keld Alstrup Jensen, Frank von der Kammer, Jolinde A.B. Kettelarij, José María Navas, Kirsten Rasmussen, Kathrin Schwirn, Maaike Visser
2023 - Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology, in press

Iron Nitride Nanoparticles for Rapid Dechlorination of Mixed Chlorinated Ethene Contamination

Sulfidation and, more recently, nitriding have been recognized as promising modifications to enhance the selectivity of nanoscale zero-valent iron (nZVI) particles for trichloroethene (TCE). Herein, we investigated the performance of iron nitride (FexN) nanoparticles in the removal of a broader range of chlorinated ethenes (CEs), including tetrachloroethene (PCE), cis-1,2-dichloroethene (cis-DCE), and their mixture with TCE, and compared it to the performance of sulfidated nZVI (S-nZVI) prepared from the same precursor nZVI. Two distinct types of iron nitride (FexN) nanoparticles, containing γ′-Fe4N and ε-Fe2–3N phases, exhibited substantially higher PCE and cis-DCE dechlorination rates compared to S-nZVI. A similar effect was observed with a CE mixture, which was completely dechlorinated by both types of FexN nanoparticles within 10 days, whereas S-nZVI was able to remove only about half of the amount, most of which being TCE. Density functional theory calculations further revealed that the cleavage of the first C–Cl bond was the rate-limiting step for all CEs dechlorinated on the γ′-Fe4N(001) surface, with the reaction barriers of PCE and cis-DCE being 29.9, and 40.8 kJ mol–1, respectively. FexN nanoparticles proved to be highly effective in the remediation of PCE, cis-DCE, and mixed CE contamination.

Miroslav Brumovský, Vesna Micić, Jana Oborná, Jan Filip, Thilo Hofmann, Daniel Tunega
2023 - Journal of Hazardous Materials, in press