Nanotechnology in water applications

NanoNextNL is a consortium directed at research in the field of micro- and nanotechnology. More than one hundred companies, universities, knowledge organisations and university medical centres make up the consortium. As a result of developments in nanotechnology, nanoparticles are increasingly used in all kinds of products. The impact of these particles – including on public health – in the event they end up in drinking water sources is not clear. This is why it is important that methods be developed to measure the presence of nanoparticles, even in the smallest quantities. The results of such measurements can be used to understand the significance of nanoparticles for wastewater treatment, drinking water treatment and the environment. NanoNextNL’s total budget amounts to € 250 million, half of which is funded by the participants and the other by the Dutch government.

Within NanoNextNL, KWR carries out research into possible applications of micro- and nanotechnology, and the associated benefits and disadvantages. For example, we study the effects of catalysts in treatment systems on the transformation of dissolved materials with low molecular weights (e.g., pharmaceuticals), and on the removal of nanoparticles from water. We have also set up an initial indicative monitoring system for the presence of nanoparticles in the environment in the Netherlands. Knowledge about the behaviour of nanoparticles is useful in the process of designing new membranes to remove them.

Doctoral research and development of sensitive measurement methods

Two doctoral candidates (one at KWR and one at the University of Twente) are working in the project on different research questions. One focuses on the presence and removal of nanoparticles in drinking water and wastewater, while the other aims at understanding membrane fouling by nanoparticles. Our labs have moreover successfully developed sensitive measurement methods for organic nanoparticles – namely the commonly used fullerenes – and for inorganic nanoparticles.