The COINS center has made signficant acheivements in science and technology which have potential in providing ground breaking societal benefits. Particularly, the areas of environmental monitoring and national security will gain from our advances in creating widely distributed, low-cost monitoring and sensing devices. The COINS sensing platform wil be portable, mobile, easily implementable, and provide real-time feedback, providing the following environmental monitoring benefits:

  • Monitor where people live and spend time — especially in communities of concern, hazardous worksites, and source-impacted areas and understand the shapes of source plumes and pollutant isopleths.
  • Monitor in real time to capture concentration peaks, and not just averages, and to allow more immediate access to the data, rather than requiring careful handling and transportation to a lab where it can be analyzed.
  • Monitor at low detection levels for hazardous and toxic pollutants.
  • Monitor for specific chemicals that are suspected of affecting health.

Understanding the Biological Toxicity of Nanowires

Chris Vulpe (UCB), Ben Gilbert (LBNL), and Peidong Yang (UCB)

The COINS nanotoxicology team that includes toxicologists from the UCB College of Natural Resources as well as natural scientists from Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory has made two interesting findings about silver nanowire (AgNW) toxicity and exposure to ecological-indicator organism Daphnia magna. First, the toxicity of the AgNWs is not entirely due to ionic silver in solution from degraded AgNWs. There exists a debate in ecotoxicology about whether nano particle toxicity is due to the particle or to the components of the particle. We have shown that the amount of silver in solution is not enough to cause the toxicity we see when daphnids are exposed to AgNWs. Furthermore, gene expression profiles generated from exposure to Ag+ or to AgNWs are unique, which indicates different modes of toxicity. The other interesting finding is that the AgNWs appear to get absorbed into the Daphnia hemolymph (blood-like fluid) through the gut, in contrast to work done by colleagues that shows similarly-shaped carbon nanotubes get stuck in the gut and do not cross the intestinal epithelial.


SEM images of AgNWs extracted from Daphnia hemolymph. The silica coating (left) has degraded, while the polyvinyl pyrrolidinone coating appears to have stringy attachments.


Risk Assessment of the Biological Toxicity of Nanowires

Chris Vulpe (UCB), Ben Gilbert (LBNL), and Peidong Yang (UCB)

COINS has incorporated a team that includes toxicologists from the UCB College of Natural Resources as well as natural scientists from Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory. This group identified the importance of nanowires as a distinct class of nanomaterial that has numerous applications in COINS devices yet for which almost no nanotoxicity research has been performed. COINS nanowire applications include photovoltaics and resonators, and hence the results of this project will aid COINS in minimizing the EH&S impacts of the PANDA platform.

We have initiated an integrated assessment of the toxicity of one type of nanowire (silver nanowires), to review current research on nanowire applications and toxicity, and to establish the societal context of nanowire research.

This work was performed under the auspices of the National Science Foundation by University of California Berkeley under Grant No. 0425914.

Silver nanowires internalized in A549 cancer cell. Although the nanwires have penetrated the cell, it seems to continue to function normally.