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Centre for

Marine Biodiversity and Biotechnology

From the shoreline to the deep ocean, tackling issues from pure ecology
and physiology to aquaculture, marine spatial planning and conservation.

Ecotoxicological impact of silver nanoparticles 

Nano-materials, 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 nano-particles (Ag-NPs) offer enhanced anti-microbial properties and are therefore utilised in socks, deodorants and wound dressings.

While nano-materials 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-NPs 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, our first project on silver nanoparticles looks at their effect on microbial communities of waste-water treatment plants. 

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

This project is being conducted by Iain Hannah, supervised by Dr Mark Hartl, and funded by Heriot-Watt University and MASTS

Silvernano

The second project is looking at the ecological effect of silver nanoparticles on estuarine microbial communities. The main objectives of this project are:

I. Characterisation of the behaviour of Ag-NPs in estuarine water and sediments;
II. Impact of Ag-NPs on estuarine microbial communities in sediments and overlying water;

This project is being conducted by Virginia Echavarri Bravo, supervised by Dr Mark Hartl, and funded by Heriot-Watt University's Environment and Climate Change Theme