Nanotechnology Meets Clams
Ambience: Lab Sounds – Bubbles in water
Nanoparticles tiny bits of matter with useful properties, are now found in hundreds of products from suntan lotion to toothpaste. Scientists are finding ways to see how these nanoparticles might effect the environment. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.
Vikesland: Clams, which are filter feeding organisms, they suck large volumes of water through their bodies everyday as part of their normal life cycle. We’re looking at how this filter feeding process results in the potential accumulation of nano particles within the clam’s body.
We’re in a laboratory at Virginia Tech with Peter Vikesland, a professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering.
Vikesland: So the clams could be – you could think of the as sentinels. What we’re trying to see is, are they going to remove nano particles that might be present out in the environment, or whether they are just simply pulling nanoparticles out of suspension and then re-releasing them within their feces.
So what we have found with the clams is that they take nano particles out of suspension, so out of the water, retain a good percentage of them within their actual tissue, and then what they don’t retain they re-release to the water. But instead of the nano particles being individual and all by themselves, they’re now associated with one another and accumulate at the bottom of the reaction vessel.
The data to date suggests that the total numbers of manufactured nano particles that are out in waterways are really low. Toxicity doesn’t seem to be that high. so I think from a real world perspective there isn’t that much concern as of yet.
Pulse of the Planet is made possible in part by the Center for Earth and Environmental Nanotechnology and the National Science Foundation. You can hear this and previous programs on our podcast.