The Norman Transcript

Local news

March 17, 2006

Big money for little research project

• OU receives $375,000 nanotech development grant

By Althea Peterson

Transcript Staff Writer

School is still out for spring break, but that doesn’t keep some from looking at the finer details of life.

Those finer details are nanomaterials, or tiny particles created from manufactured products. This is the subject of Tohren Kibbey’s latest research at the University of Oklahoma. Kibbey, associate professor of environmental engineering, is the principal investigator of an Environmental Protection Agency project to find the effect of nanomaterials on human health and the environment.

While nanomaterials are 80 thousand times smaller than a human hair, the effect they potentially can have on health and the environment is enormous.

“The hope is to learn more about how these things move,” Kibbey said. “The idea behind it is that anything that is widely used has the possibility of spreading to the environment.”

The EPA awarded a $375,000 grant to the University of Oklahoma for researching nanomaterials interaction with water and soil. OU is one of 14 institutions receiving grants totaling $5 million for nanotechnology research.

Dr. George Gray, assistant administrator for EPA’s office of research, said the additional research in nanotechnology will help the EPA understand nanomaterial’s impact on people’s lives.

“This emerging field has the potential to transform environmental protection,” Gray said in a press release. “Researchers are now testing iron nanoparticles that could clean up pollutants in large areas of groundwater cheaper and more effectively than any existing techniques.”

Kibbey said OU’s focus of the research will be how weather can affect the dispensing of these tiny nanomaterials in the environment.

“We’re just getting started,” Kibbey said. “We have a couple of students working on this right now.”

Because it is unsure whether or not nanomaterials can be a health or environmental hazard, Gray said this research will help shed some light on the subject.

“We must understand whether nanomaterials could negatively impact health or the environment,” Gray said. “This research will help determine the viability of nanotechnology as a tool for protecting our environment.”

David Sabatini, OU professor of civil engineering and environmental science, is the other investigator on the research project.

Althea Peterson


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