Welcome to the Environmental Nanoscience Research Group at Virginia Tech. We are experimentalists with scientific research and teaching interests at the intersections of mineralogy, Earth and environmental sciences, and nanoscience and nanotechnology. Our group of scientists and engineers investigate how the smallest minerals, known as nanoparticles (NPs) are formed, how they react with their surroundings, and change with time and space in complex engineered systems and the environment.
Our background and expertise in nanoparticle synthesis, materials characterization, and in development of in situ analysis techniques allows us to advance two main areas of research: 1) deciphering nanoparticle formation processes, and 2) establishing fundamental property-behavior relationships for nanoparticles and nanostructures. Our current research in these areas is aimed at understanding dynamic molecular-level processes that include aggregation and growth of calcium phosphates and carbonates, ferric hydroxides and hydroxylsulfates, and aluminosilicates, as well as surface chemical reactions (e.g., adsorption and desorption, dissolution-precipitation, and reduction-oxidation) of nanoparticles and nanocatalysts.
The questions that inspire and direct our work are important for three reasons:
- Natural NPs and nanoscale minerals are abundant and integral to understanding the behavior of many Earth and environmental systems
- Releases of anthropogenic NPs have potential impacts on human and ecosystem health
- Engineered NPs (ideally inspired by nature) are crucial to developing next-generation technologies associated with energy production, radioactive waste disposal, and water treatment, and therefore are important to the sustainability of our planet.