Associate professor of chemistry
“I wanted to do research with undergraduate students, not just students studying for a PhD. Here at Missouri State, some of my best research has been done by undergraduates. … Students have come up with ideas that have led to new processes, and I have published articles in journals with the students who are in the lab with me.” — Dr. Adam Wanekaya
These days, “nanomaterials” — extremely tiny materials — are in many consumer goods.
Silver, known for antibacterial and anti-odor properties, may be found in everything from athletic wear to cutting boards. Zinc oxide, which prevents sun damage, has been used in sunscreen and woven into fabric for clothing. Carbon-based nanomaterials are found in cell phones
One thing is sure: The trend of nanotechnology means we are all more likely to buy goods containing these tiny particles, and, later, dispose of these products.
What’s less certain is the effect of these nanomaterials on the environment as these goods decompose in landfills.
Wanekaya has been leading a project with undergraduate and graduate students who are studying how nanomaterials age in an accelerated weathering chamber. The research shows how these particles will react in conditions similar to those they would experience outdoors.
In a few days or weeks, the accelerated weathering chamber can reproduce the decomposition that would occur in months or years outdoors.
The team wants to make sure decomposing nanomaterials won’t be a problem later.
“What is the fate of those particles after three, 10, 20 years? We want to make sure they don’t contribute to diseases such as leukemia, or cause harm to plants, animals or the environment,” Wanekaya said.
“Some of us recall how asbestos was previously thought to be a wonder material, only to later realize it was the cause of many deadly diseases.”