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Westerhoff earns prize for water-quality research


January 04, 2007

Research into some of the environmental implications of the nanotechnology revolution will be supported by a $100,000 prize awarded recently to Paul Westerhoff, an associate professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering of ASU's Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering.

The funding comes with Westerhoff's selection as winner of the 2006 Paul L. Busch Award from the Water Environment Research Foundation Endowment for Innovation in Applied Water Quality Research.

The award recognizes Westerhoff for his forward-looking approach to developing techniques to quantify the capability of wastewater treatment plants to remove commercial nanomaterials. He is examining the impact of the increasing presence of nanomaterials in rivers, lakes and streams.

Commercial nanomaterials are used in hundreds of new consumer products, including cosmetics, sunscreen lotions and air fresheners.

While the emergence of nanotechnology is bringing advanced products and advances in science and medicine, Westerhoff says, “little is known about the impact of manufactured nanomaterials on ecosystems, the environment and human health.”

Using his and other quantification tools, he will seek to identify the characteristics of naturally occurring biogenic nanomaterials that are produced by bacteria in biological wastewater treatment plants.

The work is “an important first step in ensuring that the water-quality community has the tools and fundamental knowledge it needs to properly manage nanomaterials,” says Glenn Reinhardt, the foundation's executive director.