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Environmental Nanoscience and Risk

Center of Economic Excellence



Award Amount

$3 million

External Funding Above Match

$4.5 million

Research Focus

Understand the fundamental properties of nanomaterial and nanomaterials-environment interaction and use these principles to understand and help reduce impacts of nanomaterials used as well as develop and innovate nanotechnological applications.

University Partner

University of South Carolina

Private Sector Partner (s)

Multiple Industry Partners

Nanotechnology involves the manipulation of matter on a molecular scale. Nanoparticles can behave very differently than larger particles of the same matter because of their higher surface-to-volume ratios and higher reactivities with other matter. Different properties can be useful in many applications, from health and beauty products to electronics. However, because nanomaterials are small enough to cross cell membranes, some of these materials are potentially toxic to living things, including humans.
The Center will focus on the impact of nanotechnology on the environment, specifically, the scientific, technological, health, economic, legal, and societal effects. The Center will build on the University of South Carolina's (USC) strong existing program of research in nanoscience, which includes the extensive facilities of the USC NanoCenter, the Keck Laboratory for nanobioparticle research, and partnerships with federal agencies and laboratories.
Among the areas of research is the environmental impact of nanoparticles on estuarine sediments and organisms. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has awarded the Center funding totaling more than $375,000 to study the effect of single-walled carbon nanotubes on estuarine sediments and organisms.

The Center provides South Carolina with an excellent opportunity to be a national leader in nanoenvironmental research and commercial applications. There is a growing demand for environmental health services in nanotechnology manufacturing and product assessment. Risk assessment tools will be needed to assure that socioeconomic benefits of nanotechnology are delivered without unacceptable risks of harmful effects on living systems and the environment.

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