Our students

Project title

Environmental risk assessment of nanomaterials for soil and groundwater remediation

Thesis title

Development of methodologies for the standard characterisation of zero-valent iron nanoparticles and their complex environmental interactions using field-flow fractionation

Project description

Current progress in the nanotechnology sector indicates that large amounts of manufactured nanomaterials could be intentionally released to the environment for the purposes of contaminated soil/groundwater remediation. Risk assessment of these technologies is urgently required to address uncertainties regarding their potential side effects upon release to the environment. Evidence is mounting that the transport of low-solubility contaminants may be facilitated by the presence of naturally occurring environmental nanoparticles. This suggests that manufactured nanomaterials used for remediation purposes may also, as a side effect, promote the movement and dispersion of contaminants away from the primary zone of contamination. However, to understand the fate of nanoparticles and its complex interactions with the environment, it is necessary to be able to separate and characterise these nanoparticles and this is one of the key challenges that hinder risk assessment of these materials. Although there are numerous techniques for producing, sorting and characterising nanoparticles, there is still a lack of standard measurement technique that can reliably separate and measure the particle size without perturbing the sample properties and therefore new analytical techniques are essential. Field Flow Fractionation (FFF) is one of the most powerful and promising techniques which can be applied for measuring and characterising nanoparticles.

Student profile

Laura completed a Master Degree in Environmental Water Management from the School of Applied Science at the University of Cranfield, England in Sept. 2010. During her M.Sc. thesis, she worked on the loss of pesticides through different soil types leading to surface water contamination. Laura also received a Master Degree in Process Engineering from the University of Technology of Compiègne, France in Nov. 2010. She was involved in many projects during her study especially in industrial design of water treatment plants. She also worked as an Engineer Assistant for Veolia Environment in the development and optimization of a pilot which combines ion exchange resins and ultrafiltration membranes for the elimination of Organic Matters in drinking water. From April to October 2011, Laura worked together with Dr. H.K. Shon and Sherub Phuntsho on reviewing and developing novel draw solutes in forward osmosis process and recently published a review paper on the subject.


Chekli, L, Phuntsho, S, Roy, M, Lombi, E, Donner, E & Shon, HK 2013, ‘Assessing the aggregation behaviour of iron oxide nanoparticles under relevant environmental conditions using a multi-method approach,’ Water Research, vol. 47, iss. 13, pp. 4585–4599.

Chekli, L., Phuntsho, S., Roy, M. & Shon, HK 2013, ‘Characterisation of Fe-oxide nanoparticles coated with humic acid and Suwannee River natural organic matter,’ Science of the Total Environment, vol. 461–462, pp. 19–27.