Environmental Nanoscience

Investigating metal concentrations in nanoparticle samples

Nanoscience is the science at the nanoscale, where ‘nano’ refers to processes that occur on the size range between 1 and 100 nm. At this length scale, material properties can be dominated by size-dependent features, such as quantum confinement and surface plasmon resonance.

In simple terms, within the nanoscale materials (nanomaterials) can behave in novel and unexpected ways. Additionally, due to their very small size, the surface area of nanomaterials is exceptionally high, a feature that also influences their properties enormously, and leads to high reactivity, and a large area for binding of biomolecules and other environmental compounds.  These properties can be exploited for a diverse range of applications relevant to environmental and human health. Examples include environmental remediation and the sensing and controlled delivery or chemicals to the environment (eg crops) and drugs to humans. 

Processes at the nanoscale have also been linked to adverse outcomes on human and environmental health. It is possible that the very same physicochemical properties that give nanomaterials their unique behaviour may turn them into hazardous substances, due to, for example, their ability to cross biological barriers or induce fast release of a toxic cargo. 

Research areas

  • Engineered nanomaterial and advanced material synthesis and characterization, covering a wide range of materials (including nanohybrids, MOFs, MXenes, Graphene Family Materials) and applications
  • Engineered nanomaterial behaviour in aqueous media, particularly in terms of the effects on solubility and agglomeration of media organic and inorganic components
  • Stable isotope labeled nanomaterials synthesis and characterization
  • Nano-bio interactions, in vitro and in vivo 
  • Understanding the role of proteins and other macromolecules in mediating nanoparticle uptake by and impact on biological systems, including biofilms, daphnia and cells 
  • Method development related to single-particle detection including via single particle and single cell ICP-MS
  • Regulatory aspects such as the definition of nanomaterials, nanopesticides, nanomaterials in food, nanoparticle ontologies etc. 
  • Development of safe and sustainable by design concepts in materials and chemicals
  • Quantitative structure/property-activity relationships (QSARs) and approaches to grouping and read-across 
  • Molecular simulations of nanoparticle reactivity and links to toxicity
  • Applications of nanomaterials and advanced materials in agriculture and forestry research
  • Nanoparticles in atmospheric depositions (dust, rainwater) and their role in controlling the bioavailability of biogeochemically important nutrients and trace metals to the marine microorganisms 
  • Applications of nanomaterials and biomaterials (e.g. biochar) for environmental remediation 

Research funding

Scientists at Birmingham are international leaders in nanoscience and play a leading role in the translation of scientific advances towards health and environmental applications. We coordinate or participate in a number of large project consortia including: SABYDOMAMOZARTACCORDsIRISS

We carry out our work in state-of-the-art analytical facilities in Birmingham, including the dedicated facility FENAC (Facility for Environmental Nanoscience Analysis and Characterisation).

Postgraduate opportunities

MRes in Environmental and Biological Nanoscience

PhD Funding Sources

We are part of the CENTA DTP which is the first port of call for funding.