Nanotechnology is concerned with materials at the nanometre scale, and is expected to be the basis of many of the key innovations of the 21st century. It bridges all aspects of science, touching medicine, physics, engineering and chemistry, and promises the development of new processes and materials with unique properties. IOM is at the centre of the European research initiative to ensure that new nanomaterials are safe.
Our researchers work closely with the SAFENANO team in providing services to industry and others. Our research work in this field is generally focussed on the increasing requirement for public policy and guidance on the use of nanomaterials and nanotechnology.
Exposure to engineered nanomaterials
IOM has expertise in measuring and estimating the airborne concentration of nanoparticles using mathematical models. We have state-of-the-art portable instrumentation and laboratory facilities for characterising key physico-chemical properties of particulate materials, as well as a facility for conducting controlled experiments on nanomaterials often related to consumer products.
Potential hazards from nanomaterials
We have a team of particle and fibre toxicologists and other exposure scientists working on improving our understanding of the hazard from nanomaterials. Our research ranges from particle characterisation, through modelling of the dose at critical target organs, to the interpretation of the results of toxicology tests using advanced statistical analysis. Our data scientists have helped build databanks containing extensive research outputs.
Through numerous research projects (for example www.enpra.eu and www.marina-fp7.eu) we have been developing a novel integrated approach for risk assessment of nanomaterials. We have adapted the traditional chemical risk assessment approach to be relevant to nanoparticles. This approach relies upon hazard identification, dose-response assessment, exposure assessment along with risk characterisation and risk management.
Product life-cycle analysis
Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a method for estimating and assessing the resource usage and environmental and health impacts attributable to the entire life cycle of a product - from raw material extraction, through material production and manufacturing, to use and to end-of-life treatment and final disposal. Use of a "life cycle approach" in relation to nanotechnology can help identify where the maximum health impact could occur, providing the opportunity for process or design modifications to minimise these impacts.