Nanomaterials and the Environment

Professor Enzo Lombi

As new technologies are developed, new environmental risks can emerge and new types of waste is produced. Professor Enzo Lombi is investigating if manufactured nanomaterials have any effect on the Australian environment and how potential damage can be prevented.

Thousands of every-day consumer products now contain engineered nanomaterials, for example; sunscreens, shampoos, room fresheners, laundry products, textiles and biomedical products. Engineered nanomaterials are made to take on unique optical, magnetic, electrical and other properties to deliver a specific benefit. We can buy sunscreens made with nanoparticles designed to reflect and scatter UV radiation, socks made with nanoparticles which have anti-microbial properties so that the socks smell less and require fewer washes, and consume nice looking sugared donuts containing titanium dioxide nanoparticles which help prevent sugar clumping.

As well as using nanomaterials in products we wear and eat, they are also being increasingly used to improve our health. The emerging field of nanomedicine is, for example, bringing us new targeted drug delivery systems, and new biomaterials such as wound dressings which incorporate silver nanoparticles to prevent infection and improve the healing process.

Professor Lombi is seeking to identify any new risks by modelling the various pathways in which different nanoparticles can find their way into the Australian environment. Working closely with other UniSA researchers who are developing these beneficial nanomaterial products, they continue to ensure they will be safe and sustainable.

Professor Lombi works with industry and government partners to ensure his research findings are relevant, and disseminated quickly and easily to industry and government stakeholders.