Project R-4718


Unraveling unknown environmental impacts of a new booming industry: nano-silver's effects on plants and their associated microbial plant growth promoting community (Research)


Nanomaterial's booming industry has evoked the development of "nano(eco-)toxicology", a separate scientific discipline still in its infancy stage. My research proposal tackles knowledge hiatuses about nanomaterial environmental impact. It focusses on the influence of silver nanoparticles on plants and their associated microbial community, a heretofore uncovered subject in scientific literature. At the same time, because micro-organisms are the primary target of focus of nano-silver's toxicity, a great scenario is created to investigate the role of a healthy plant-microbe interaction. To achieve this, results of my preliminary research on this topic are used, and consequently I investigate (1) the effect of silver nanoparticles on Zea mays and Arabidopsis thaliana, on the genetic as well as on the whole plant level; (2) the uptake and localisation of nano-silver by Zea mays; (3) the effect of the nanoparticles on survival and composition of Zea mays' associated microbial community; and (4) the role of the plant-microbe interaction into more detail by experiments involving modifications in the associated microbial community. Performing this study in the Centre for Environmental Sciences of Hasselt University and in the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station (USA), ensures experience with plant-bacteria interactions and nanotoxicology. Therefore, the stage is set for this study to contribute to a highly contemporary research issue of both scientific and social interest.

Period of project

01 October 2013 - 30 September 2015