Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Testing and Research
We asked our early stage researchers to tell us a bit about themselves and the work they will be conducting as part of the NanoFASE project. Veronique, who is working with Bernd Nowack tells us more about her work in NanoFASE and her research interests in general.
I am French and completed most of my studies at the University of Strasbourg, where I obtained my Ph.D. in Environmental Sciences in September 2015. My work there was threefold: 1) to assess the releases of TiO2 ENMs from a production plant to water and soil, 2) to study ENM behaviour in river water through laboratory experiments and 3) to model their ecotoxicological impacts and risks to the local aquatic ecosystem.
I am now a postdoctoral researcher at Empa in St. Gallen, Switzerland, where I work full time on the NanoFASE project. My goal is to provide a model for estimating the releases of engineered nanomaterials from the different stages of their life cycle (production, manufacturing, use and end-of-life) to various environmental compartments. Special emphasis is placed on the recycling flows, which present high uncertainties in the current state of knowledge.
To deal with these uncertainties, I use a method called Probabilistic Material Flow Analysis. The inputs to the model are the masses of ENMs produced, their allocations among different types of products and the transfer coefficients describing the fractions of ENM going from one compartment to another (e.g. from use to recycling, or waste incineration to landfills). All these numbers are represented by probability distributions, which are generated and combined in a code. The model provides the masses and forms in which nano-TiO2, nano-Ag, nano-ZnO and nano-CeO2, among others, are released from each stage of their life cycle.
I think that the biggest challenge in this type of assessment is to collect sufficient and reliable data. Research on nanotechnologies is not so old, so data are scarce, especially regarding their behaviour and fate in recycling systems.
Apart from environmental risks of pollutants and ecology in general, I am very interested in cooking (and growing food), hiking, traveling… And to continue discovering the world, one piece at a time!