Our lab is currently focused on the environmental implications of nanotechnology, which continues to touch our day-to-day lives in new ways. While there are many potential benefits of these novel materials, they are not without risks. As their uses continue to grow, a proactive assessment of nanoparticle behavior in natural waters in necessary. A list of recent publications from our lab can be found on Dr. Mullaugh’s Google Scholar Profile.
My lab consists of undergraduate research students and we use laboratory experiments to investigate the chemical reactions that help us understand the behavior and fate of nanoparticles in a variety of aqueous environments. This experimental approach allows us to control various water quality parameters such as dissolved oxygen, pH and organic material. Our studies have mostly focused on silver nanoparticles because they are among the most common type of nanomaterial in consumer goods today, but we also investigate the behaviors of other metal-containing nanoparticles like copper oxide and zinc oxide. We use a suite a chemical analyses to fully characterize nanoparticles in our lab.
My lab has recently begun to examine how nanotechnology could also play a beneficial role in preserving and restoring water resources. Magnetic particles can be used to remove pollutants from water through adsorption of the contaminants to the particles surface. When the particles are nano-sized, their high relative surface area gives a large adsorption capacity for relatively little material. Magnetite particles can be produced economically and without specialized facilities, making them an attractive approach when trying to address water scarcity in low-resource areas. Furthermore, they can be cleaned and reused, further improving their overall sustainability.