Quantum Dots and the Environment
Our group has so far demonstrated the synthesis of a variety of nanomaterials that have use for a lot of applications. We are also examining how biological species may interact if quantum dots were improperly disposed of and entered the environment. Specifically, we are studying their uptake by a variety of plant species. Shown here are a series of seedlings that have been germinated in a clean water control (left), in aqueous large QDs (middle) and very small quantum dots in water (right). You can tell that the plants are severely affected by the presence of nanomaterials in their environment.
Our group has also shown that flowering plants may uptake CdSe/ZnS QDs into their vasculature. Shown here are green-emitting nanocrystals that entered the stem of a flower. This indicates that nanomaterials may permeate flowering plants if they can enter through the root system.
Overall, we are showing that if the world uses nanotechnology in a widespread manner, we will need to carefully dispose of the materials as their interactions with the environment may be significant.
These studies are on-going. We also collaborate with the Darnault group at Clemson University to study how nanocrystals are transported through the soil, see our publication in the Journal of Contaminant Hydrology, 2010, 118, 184-198 and other publications.