Projects

Our environmental nanoscience research is focused on understanding how nanoparticles form, what are the atomic structure and physico-chemical characteristics, and how do these relate to nanoparticle properties including chemical behavior and reactivity. We study both natural nanoparticles and their synthetic analogues.

Mineral Growth by Nanoparticle Aggregation

Crystallization by particle attachment (CPA) is the non-classical process whereby solids grow by stepwise addition and attachment of particles ranging from multi-ion complexes to nanoparticles. Developing a comprehensive, quantitative understanding of CPA will deepen our understanding of many low-temperature mineral-forming processes, as well as provide insights into novel synthesis methods for technological applications. However, this potential cannot be fully realized without new information on the specific steps involved in CPA, as well as how those steps are connected.

Current knowledge gaps are due to the lack of experimental methodologies for making direct, real-time observations of CPA processes in solution. Furthermore, much research is still based on samples synthesized at randomly chosen (ad hoc) conditions, which are often not representative of that found in nature. Few studies have taken a fully systematic approach to characterizing the structure and composition of both the precursors (monomers, multi-ion complexes and nanoparticles) and final solids as a function of synthesis (formation) conditions. Furthermore, it is not clear how the aggregation of particles that leads to CPA is affected by hydrodynamic conditions, and how this fits into existing theoretical models of particle-particle interactions and aggregation behavior used extensively in water treatment technologies.

New systematic and real-time approaches to study CPA are needed to produce quantitative, self-consistent models of (nano)mineral formation in low-temperature aqueous conditions. These new models will not only lead to a more thorough understanding of the biogeochemical cycling of nutrients/metals, but will also help develop better strategies for environmental remediation.

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X-ray Scattering

Non-Classical Crystallization

Nano-minerals

Nanoparticle Structures

Thorough analysis of the structure of nanoparticles is crucial for proper understanding of their underlying properties and behavior. Different structures exhibit different chemical properties and affinities which is important in not only contaminant transport in the environment but also in the design of novel nanomaterials with specific capabilities.

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X-ray Scattering

EnviroNano Outreach & Teaching

Non-Classical Crystallization

Nano-minerals

Structure-Property Relationships

Different structures in nanomaterials exhibit different properties and there are many gaps in current understanding of these structure-property relationships. These structure-property relationships have implications not only in understanding how environmental systems work but also in alternative energy and catalysis research.

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3D Printing

Nano-minerals

Current Projects

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3D Printing

X-ray Scattering

EnviroNano Outreach & Teaching

Nano-minerals


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