Exposure and toxicity of nanomaterials

The amount of engineered nanomaterials is increasing rapidly and the risks posed by them to human have drawn significant attention. Wang group investigates the environmental and health impacts of emerging nanomaterials.

Wang group performed extensive studies on exposure and toxicity of nanomaterials. A previous SNF project on nano-composites focused on release and health risks of carbon nanotubes (Schlagenhauf et al. 2015a, b; Wang et al. 2015). Our study was the first to show release of free-standing individual carbon nanotubes from nano-composites during abrasion processes (Figure below). We developed a new analytical method to quantify the amount of released carbon nanotubes by labeling them with metal ions (Schlagenhauf et al. 2015a). Even with the release, toxicity studies of the abraded particles showed no acute toxic effects (Schlagenhauf et al. 2015a, b). Currently we are working on an SNF project focusing on graphene based nanomaterials and an EU Horizon2020 project on nanomaterial grouping. Release of nanomaterials leads to the question where they will eventually deposit. The two projects funded by the Swiss Federal Office for Environment (BAFU) investigate nanomaterials in the waste processes. We characterized fly ashes from Swiss waste incineration plants and determined the ash fraction in the nanometer range. We also investigated nanomaterials in the landfill leachate (He et al. 2017).


Schlagenhauf, L., Buerki-Thurnherr, T., Kuo, Y-Y., Wichser, A., Nüesch, F., Wick, P. and Wang, J. (2015a) Carbon nanotubes released from an epoxy-based nanocomposite: quantification and particle toxicity, Environmental Science & Technology, 49 (17), 10616–10623, https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.est.5b02750.


Schlagenhauf, L., Kianfar, B., Buerki-Thurnherr, T., Kuo, Y-Y., Wichser, A., Nüesch, F., Wick, P. and Wang, J. (2015b) Weathering of a carbon nanotube / epoxy nanocomposite under UV Light and in water bath: impact on abraded particles, Nanoscale, 2015, 7, 18524 – 18536, https://doi.org/10.1039/C5NR05387K.

Wang, J., Bahk, Y.K., Chen, S-C., Pui, D.Y.H. (2015) Characteristics of airborne fractal-like agglomerates of carbon nanotubes, Carbon, 93, 441–450, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.carbon.2015.05.079.


He, X., Mitrano, D.M., Nowack, B., Bahk, Y.K., Figi, R., Schreiner, C., Bürki, M., Wang, J. (2017) Agglomeration potential of TiO2 in synthetic leachates made from the fly ash of different incinerated wastes. Environmental Pollution, 223, 616 – 623, DOI: 10.1016/j.envpol.2017.01.065.