Researcher from Roskilde University receives DKK 5,800,000 for research in nanoparticles

Associate Professor Henriette Selck received the grant from VILLUM FONDEN for her research in metal nanoparticles and their impact on freshwater systems.

More and more artificial metal nanoparticles discharge to freshwater systems such as lakes and from the lakes; they can spread to organisms in fresh water such as worms, snails and fish.

Associate Professor Henriette Selck from the Department of Environmental, Social and Spatial Change at Roskilde University will research how these tiny nanoparticles are absorbed in aquatic animals and transferred into the environment. Her research is now being supported by DKK 5,800,000 from VILLUM FONDEN for the project “Implementation of novel tools to assess metal nanoparticle uptake and trophic transfer; Nano Transfer”.

"The challenge is that we know incredibly little about this transfer, because the methods to determine these particles in sediments and tissues have not been sufficient.

However this project will help to create more knowledge in the area," says Henriette Selck.

A better understanding

Nano-sized particles has some unique properties compared to larger particles. They can, among other things, have enhanced or completely new physical and chemical properties, which means that they can be electrically charged and react faster and/or stronger which is of great user value. The nanoparticles have been used in products such as sunscreen, cosmetics, plastics, pesticides and as antibacterial agents. Nanoparticles are discharged to the environment through, for example, wastewater treatment plants and pesticide use. The artificially fabricated metal nanoparticles that are derived into for example a lake will settle and accumulate in sediment where small benthic organisms such as worms and snails can absorb the nanoparticles. When fish eat these organisms, the metal nanoparticles will be transferred to the fish, which then perhaps later are eaten by humans.

In her research project Henriette Selck will combine new and advanced techniques to achieve a greater understanding of how accessible these particles are both for the inclusion in the benthic fauna, and the transfer through the food chain to fish. ”Through the project, we will gain a greater understanding of how these nanoparticles are transferred through the food chain. The vision is that this improved understanding will form the basis for a better environmental regulation in order to achieve safer use of these particles", says Henriette Selck adding:

"Some metal nanoparticles have shown increased toxicity compared to larger particles of the same metal, but at present it is not possible to generalize. Therefore, we cannot assess whether we are sufficiently able to risk assess nanoparticles properly. But we expect that our increased use of nanoparticles will increase emissions to the environment and the risk of adverse effects in animals and eventually in humans", she notes.

VILLUM FONDEN support research in the technical and natural sciences.

For further information

Associate professor Henriette Selck, T +45 46 74 29 83, e-mail:

Communication and press, Tim Houman, T +45 46 74 33 45, e-mail: