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Nano-Safety Research Group

Specialists in the assessment of nanomaterial toxicity to human health and the environment

Iain Hannah

Ecotoxicological impact of silver nanoparticles 

Nanomaterials, defined as being <100 nm in at least one dimension, display extraordinary properties associated with scale, which has led to a rapidly expanding number of applications. Unlike bulk silver, silver nanomaterials (Ag-NMs) offer enhanced anti-microbial properties and are therefore utilised in socks, deodorants and wound dressings.

While nanomaterials hold considerable promise there are still recognised gaps in our understanding of their behaviour and the consequences for human health and the environment, especially as their expanding use will inevitably result in their transmission to the broader environment. In particular, the use of Ag-NMs in toiletries may enhance this transmission through waste water, where they may present a risk to bacterial communities at key nodes in the waste water treatment process.

Thus, Iain's project looks at their effect of silver nanomaterials on microbial communities of waste-water treatment plants. 

The main objectives of this project are:
I. Characterisation of the behaviour of Ag-NMs in a waste water treatment facility;
II. Mechanistic characterisation of their antimicrobial activity;
III. Characterisation of microbial communities in waste-water treatment plants.


Dr Mark Hartl, School of Life Sciences,Heriot-Watt University

Prof. Teresa Fernandes, School of Life Sciences, Heriot-Watt University

Project funder

Heriot-Watt University and the Marine Alliance of Science and Technology, Scotland. Iain is a MASTS-Prize Student. 

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