NanH20 (Nanoparticles in water)

About the project

The project concerns nanoparticles present in aquatic environments and, in the context of risk assessment, aims to improve the understanding of nanoparticle transfer mechanisms in underground water. The approach proposes a global method which includes:

  • a contribution to the characterisation of nanoparticles in the water. This contribution does not simply relate to the development of an analytical method adapted to determining concentrations in water, but also includes reflecting on the physico-chemical characteristics to be determined in addition to the concentration (and agglomeration/dispersion characteristics, in particular).
  • a detailed study of the transfer mechanisms in underground water based (1) on a small-scale study in controlled laboratory conditions and (2) on an experimental channel on site (large-scale tracking tests). The development of modelling approaches is also planned with nanoparticles having colloidal behaviour requiring less conventional approaches for predicting their future in underground water.


The project’s general objective is to develop methods for characterising and assessing risks for nanoparticles in water. Specifically:

  • developing analytical methods for the assay of nanoparticles in water
  • providing recommendations concerning the physico-chemical properties of the nanoparticles requiring measurement, ion addition to their concentration, to assess the risks related thereto
  • developing knowledge of the mobility and future of nanoparticles in underground waters to better characterise their transfer to underground water intakes, for example.

The project aims to complement the work programme proposed in the context of the NANOGRa project (Moerman ISSeP tender 2013). The latter includes a relatively detailed evaluation of the “source” components and the “impact” of the risk. The NanH2O project is mainly interested in the “transfer” component of the risk for water/underground water aspects. In the NANOGRA project, it is assays in sediment and biota which are proposed. The NanH2O project proposes the development of an assay method in the waters.

Scientific approach

    • WP1: Selection of the types of nanoparticles to be studied
      The nanoparticles present in the environment are of various types and natures. The proposal is to focus research efforts on a limited number of nanoparticles selected based on their occurrence in the environment, depending on the types of application concerned or due to high toxicity already established. This choice will be made in line with the options selected in the context of the NANOGRA project

      • WP 1.1 Choice of the nanoparticles to be studied
        State of knowledge concerning nanoparticles in aquatic environments and identification of a limited number (2 or 3) of nanoparticles
      • WP 1.2 Physico-chemical properties of the nanoparticles selected
        Characterisation of the nanoparticles selected in WP1.1. Determination of the basic physico-chemical properties (size, form, surface load, etc.) and agglomeration/dispersion properties
    • WP2: Development of laboratory methods for measuring nanoparticles in water
      Laboratory method to be developed based on (i) equipment already available to the ISSeP, (ii) options selected in the context of the NANOGRA project, and (iii) the expertise already available at the ULg.
    • WP3: Characterisation of the transport of nanoparticles in porous environments – Laboratory scale
      Collaborations to be developed with the ULg

      • WP 3.1 Column tests – classic inert tracers
      • WP 3.2 Column tests – nanoparticles
      • WP 3.2 Modelling of transport at laboratory scale
    • WP4: Characterisation of the transport of nanoparticles in porous environments – Site scale
      Collaborations to be developed with the ULg and EWTS (classic tracing tests)

      • WP 4.1 Choice of pilot site and preliminary characterisations
      • WP 4.2 Tracing tests at site level – classic inert tracers and nanoparticles
      • WP 4.3 Modelling of transport at site scale