Brandi Klingerman | November 23, 2017
Although the United States had its industrial revolution in the 1800s, other countries are now experiencing their manufacturing boom in the 21st century. This means that more advanced manufactured materials are being produced, including, for example, engineered nanoparticles whose exact impact on the environment and human health are unknown, but whose effects could be quite negative. To better understand such threats, researchers are using the Notre Dame Linked Experimental Ecosystem Facility (ND-LEEF) to study how these engineered nanoparticles will move and spread in the natural environment.
In explaining this research, Diogo Bolster, associate professor and Frank M. Freimann Collegiate Chair in Hydrology and associate director of the Environmental Change Initiative, said, “When it comes to understanding how the natural environment works, it is imperative to realize how small differences can create very complex settings that profoundly impact how air or water flows through nature. For this study, we will develop models that can account for these complexities and still relay accurate data as it pertains to such small in size, yet significant, environmental contaminants.”
For the project, Bolster and Kyle Doudrick, assistant professor of civil & environmental engineering & earth sciences, will use ND-LEEF, a globally unique research facility that houses two artificial experimental watersheds which each consist of a pond, streams, and wetland. This will provide the Notre Dame researchers the control needed to gather realistic data.
Bolster continued, “Experiments are vital to validating any theory, but when it comes to the natural environment, laboratories impose a level of control which limits the impact of your results. On the other hand, the limitation of using an actual stream or river is that you do not know enough about the body of water to make inferences about your theory. ND-LEEF provides the best of both: you can conduct large-scale experiments in a natural environment and also know the composition of all of the materials in the stream.”