About Us

What is nanoscience and technology?
The understanding and control of matter at dimensions between approximately 1 and 100 nm, where unique phenomena enable novel applications not feasible when working with bulk materials or even with single atoms or molecules. (National Nanotechnology Initiative, NNI).

What Is Environmental Nanoscience?

Environmental nanoscience is the study of natural, incidental and anthropogenic materials at the nanoscale. Our work in environmental nanoscience revolves around two fundamental and interrelated questions: “How do different crystallization processes affect the basic atomic structural, physical and chemical attributes of nanosized and nanostructured materials?” and, in turn, “How do these factors relate to and affect the fundamental behavior and/or function of nanomaterials in natural or artificial (applied) systems?”

Our research related to these questions can be partitioned into 3 main categories that address significant challenges in our understanding of nanoparticle formation and behavior: (i) quantitative assessment of structure-property relationships in natural and engineered nanomaterials, (ii) deciphering the diversity of pathways and mechanisms involved in nanoparticle crystallization, and (iii) developing new methodologies for probing novel mechanisms of nanoparticle formation in real time (i.e., in situ).

We implement a suite of advanced scattering, spectroscopic, imaging, and computational tools to obtain and interpret atomic-scale information that we use to develop holistic, 3D models of nanoparticle structure. A unique and key aspect of our current research is that we are striving to understand the concomitant evolution of nanoparticle structure and properties by measuring crystallizing systems in real time. Developing new knowledge in these areas will benefit our understanding of geological and environmental processes, the potential impacts of engineered nanoparticles to human and ecosystem health, and potentially to new energy-related applications involving NPs.

Collaborations and Partnerships

We work with a variety of national and international partners in both leading and supporting roles.

Lu Group, VT Chemical Engineering

We are currently working with Chang Lu an expert in microfluidics device design, fabrication, and application to develop custom reaction chambers for real-time studies of crystallization processes.

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Sector 11, Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Lab

We work extensively at synchrotron facilities like the Advanced Photon Source (APS), Argonne National Laboratory (Argonne, IL) and the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lab (SSRL).

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Murayama Lab, Materials Science & Engineering

High-resolution electron microscopy methods are indispensable for nanoscience research. We work closely with Mitsu Murayama and his group at the NCFL to collect physical and chemical data on natural and synthetic nanoparticles.

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Facilities and Resources

We implement a suite of advanced scattering, spectroscopic, imaging, and computational tools to obtain and interpret atomic-scale information that is used to develop holistic, 3D models of nanoparticle structure.


Derring Hall Lab 5093D

This is a wet chemistry laboratory equipped with:

X-ray Diffractometer [Rigaku Mini-Flex, 2011]

UV-Vis Spectrophotometer [Beckman Coulter]

Learn more about the instruments and facilities



The Nanoscale Characterization and Fabrication Laboratory is equipped with state-of-the-art research equipment. Some instruments frequently used by VTNano include:

FEI Titan 80-300kV TEM

JEOL 2100 200kV TEM w/ cryo capabilities

FEI Quanta 600 FEG E-SEM

Learn More about the VT NCFL Laboratory


Kelly Hall Lab 230

This laboratory is shared by researchers across numerous disciplines and facilitates a strong interdisciplinary approach to solving modern research questions. Among the instruments in the facility are:

Dynamic Light Scattering [Malvern Zetasizer NanoZS, 2010]

N2-Sorption for BET Surface Area and Porosity Measurements [Quantachrome AS-1, 2012]

Raman/Atomic Force Microscope [Wiitec, 2009]

Atomic Force Microscope [Veeco Multimode]

UV-Vis-NIR Spectrophotometer [Varian 5000]

Learn More about the instruments in Kelly Hall


Empyrian NanoEdition by Panalytical

The Empyrean by PANalytical is a versatile X-ray scattering platform that enables a variety of state-of-the-art X-ray scattering techniques including:
– High-resolution powder X-ray diffraction
– Total X-ray scattering for Pair Distribution Function (PDF) analysis
– Combined small-angle and wide-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS/WAXS)

The Empyrean is unique in its ability to measure atomic structural data on materials ranging from crystalline to partially crystalline to amorphous, including nanosized solids as both dry powders and liquid suspensions. Studies of materials at non-ambient temperature, pressure, or other environmental conditions will also be possible. The instrument is housed in the existing VT Crystallography Laboratory located in the Integrated Life Sciences Building, which is next to the NanoEarth headquarters in the Nanoscale Characterization and Fabrication Laboratory (NCFL) in the CRC

Learn More about the Empyrian NanoEdition by Panalytical


To learn more about the NSF Geobiology and Low-temperature Geochemistry program click here

Learn more about the VT Institute of Critical Technology and Applied Science

Learn more about the Interdisciplinary Graduate Education Program in Sustainable Nanotechnology

Learn more about the VT Department of Geosciences

Virginia Tech Environmental Nanosciences

Office Address
5057 Derring Hall
Blacksburg, VA 24061
Phone: +1.540-231-3299
Fax: +1.540.231.3386
Email: mfrede2@vt.edu

Mailing Address
1405 Perry Street
4044 Derring Hall (0420)
Blacksburg, VA 24061

© 2016 Virginia Tech Environmental Nanosciences