NanoEarth Workshop 2018

Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA

April 19-22, 2018


Michael Hochella, Virginia Tech/PNNL (USA); David Mogk, Montana State University (USA); Jim Ranville, Colorado School of Mines (USA)

(This workshop is by invitation. Details of workshop outcomes will be posted for community use).

Participant Workspace
(limited access)

Workshop Overview

Our focus in this project is on incidental nanoparticles (defined as those unintentionally produced due to any form of direct or indirect human-related influence) as these are heavily understudied in the geo- and environmental fields of nanoscience, yet they are thought to be more abundant relative to engineered nanomaterials now in the natural and built environments, and they may even rival natural nanoparticles in some or many compartments in the natural environment.

This massive production of previously unknown incidental nanoparticles that have regional and global human and environmental health consequences is a great example of highly relevant geo-convergent science. A good example is the recent report on Magnéli phases (TixO2x-1 with 4 ≤ x ≤ 9) that are an incidental product of coal combustion (Yang Y., Chen B., Hower J., Schindler M., Winkler C., Brandt J., Di Giulio R., Liu M., Fu Y., Zhang L., Priya S., Hochella M.F. Jr., 2017, Discovery and ramifications of incidental Magnéli phase generation and release from industrial coal burning. Nature Communications; This is the kind of convergent science and impact that Marcia McNutt is talking about: "If more geoscientists started working in this [convergent] matter, what outcomes might ensue? At the very least, new partnerships will arise between dissimilar disciplines, and new career paths will emerge for students. We might find new industries clustered around convergence institutes in the geosciences. My hope is that geosciences will be increasingly perceived as contributing to competitiveness, resiliency, health, and quality of life." To date, examples of geo-convergent science that also bring in the nanoscience and technology revolution are relatively rare, when in fact studies of usefulness and applicability should be quite common.

The NanoEarth 2018 Workshop will explore this exceptionally fertile ground from fundamental to applied directions and applications. This includes, but is not limited to: computational and experimental understanding of the reactivity of nanoparticles that can occur in natural, engineered, and mixed environments; measurement, characterization, and quantification of nanoparticles in complex environmental media (gaseous, aqueous, soil/sediment, living organisms, and rocks); abiotic/biotic interactions at the nanoscale; atmospheric, oceanic, and/or continental incidental nanomaterial generation and consequences, from pollution to resource recovery consequences; bioavailability and impacts on human health; and so on. A group of experts has been assembled will address these topics, and more.

Workshop Goals

  • Share participants' experiences and successes to define the breadth and scope of nanoscience in the Earth and environmental sciences.
  • Discover, aggregate, and organize modern methods in nanoscience (including protocols that may be lab-specific and not generally accessible) and applications, and disseminate these references and resources to the larger community to help recruit broader participation.
  • Synthesize these ideas and projections into a coherent story, developed by expert writing groups on each topic, including development of comprehensive bibliographies, and image/figure libraries.
  • The products of the workshop will be: 1) a perspective and trend-setting paper for the journal Science, similar to Hochella, M. F., 2008, Nanominerals, Mineral Nanoparticles, and Earth Systems, Science, v. 319, 1631; DOI: 10.1126/science.1141134. That paper has received nearly 500 citations to date, still increasing by approximately 60 citations per year; and 2) a permanent website for which workshop participants will build a library of resources that document modern methods and applications in conducting nanoscience in the Earth and environmental sciences and engineering.


This workshop is by invitation only. (See Particpant List)

Workshop Program and Format

Participants are asked to prepare for this workshop by: 1) reading a small set of recommended articles so that all participants will have a common context for this workshop (to be posted on this website), and 2) pre-assemble a collection of essential references, resources (e.g., URLs to related sites), images and figures on assigned topics that will provide the raw materials to prepare the new manuscript.

At the workshop, there will be a series of invited short lectures, interactive panel discussions, and small working groups to investigate many dimensions of nanoscience in the Earth and environmental sciences. An introductory session will introduce participants, key topics, project goals and expectations, outcomes, process and logistics. We plan to have an initial set of short talks on key research topics by invited experts, followed by whole-group discussions to identify key elements that should be included in the journal article. A series of expert small-working groups will further explore these topics and identify key ideas, references and resources that should be addressed. This is a writing/working workshop, and there will be significant time for either small group or individual writing of assigned sections. The last morning will entail a round-robin internal review of the assigned sections of the manuscript, as all will have general knowledge across many topics and everyone is in a position to provide useful feedback. The goal is to leave the workshop with a nearly complete full draft of the manuscript. Participants will also leave with an action plan about any further assignments needed to complete the manuscript.

The detailed program is in development and will posted in the near future.


The goal of this workshop is to develop the review article and supporting resources on the website. To ensure success of the project, participants are expected:

  • In advance of the workshop, familiarize themselves with the resources and information available on the workshop website.
  • During the workshop, develop and contribute research ideas (key questions, methods, applications) to engage the larger geoscience community in Nanoscience.
  • Contribute to small group and individual writing assignments, and contribute resources, references, images, figures for posting to the related website.
  • To optimize workshop outcomes, participants are encouraged to participate in all workshop activities, including pre-workshop preparations, scheduled workshop sessions, online discussions and small group work, and follow-on activities.

Registration and Cost

All travel expenses and accommodations will be covered by our grant from the National Science Foundation.


NSF Logo This workshop is funded through the National Science Foundation from the Division of Earth Sciences and from related grants from the National Science Foundation National Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure program. Contributing projects are the Montana Nanotechnology Facility (MONT, Montana State University; NSF Grant 1542210), and Virginia Tech National Center for Earth and Environmental Nanotechnology Infrastructure (NanoEarth; NSF Grant 1542100). Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.


Please contact David Mogk (, Michael Hochella (, or Jim Ranville (

      Next Page »