Nanotechnology

Introduction.

Nanotechnology is defined by The British Standards Institution (BSI) as the:  “Design, characterisation, production and application of structures, devices and systems by controlling shape and size in the nanoscale, which covers the size range from approximately 1nm to 100nm.”  Nanotechnology provides a significant opportunity to address global challenges.  This is leading to intense global competition to commercialise different products enabled by nanotechnology.

Applications.

Nanotechnology is an emerging technology that has been applied to the development of products and processes across many industries particularly over the past ten years. Products are now available in markets ranging from consumer products through medical products to plastics and coatings and electronics products. 

The main fields where nanomaterials have been employed include:Nanotechnology_applications

  • Textiles – Coatings, smart materials and sensors, nanofibres;
  • Energy – Photovoltaic film coatings, fuel cells and batteries, thermoelectric materials, and aerogels;
  • Biomedical & Healthcare– Nanoscale biosensors and imaging, nanocoatings on surfaces and implants, and nano particulate drug delivery;
  • Environmental – Nano porous membranes, chemical and bio nano sensors, nanoparticles and nanocoatings;
  • ICT & Electronics – Carbon nanotubes, nanowires, nanoscale memory, printed electronics, NEMS, spintronics and quantum dots;
  • Food agriculture – Nanosensors, encapsulation, nano coatings, nanocomposites and nanoporous membranes;
  • Construction – Nanoscale sensors and smart materials, nanocomposites, nanocoatings and additives to concrete;
  • Aerospace & defence – Nanocomposites, electronics & sensors, nano coatings, energy devices & fuel additives and smart materials;
  • Automotive – Nanocoatings, composite fillers, additives in catalysts & lubricants, fuel cells and smart materials;

As part of a report prepared by the department of Business, Innovation and Skills, the economic impact of nanotechnology was discussed, in which a report from Lux Research published in 2006  was referenced.  In this report it was quoted that nanotechnology was incorporated into more than $30 billion in manufactured goods in 2005.  Furthermore, projections indicate that by 2014, $2.6 trillion in manufactured goods will incorporate nanotechnology.

It is estimated that the UK accounts for around 5-15% of the global nanotechnology market.  Currently, nano-enabled products account for almost 90% for global nanotechnology revenue in 2009.  These figures highlight the vast market opportunities there are for nanotechnology and nano-enabled products in future years. 

Health & Safety.

The safety implications of nanomaterials continues to be a topic of much debate.  A number of conflicting articles, publications and press releases have discussed the toxicological effects of nanoparticles on various biological systems.  In a recent BASF press release the safety of nanomaterials was discussed.  To summarise, “How a nanoparticle behaves in the body is determined by the properties of the substance it consists of.  The size of the particles is of secondary importance.”

Following the completion of an EU-funded FP7 nanotoxicology project, NanoSustain, the project coordinator discussed the results: “Overall results suggest and confirm the basic assumption that any human toxicity associated with nano-properties or nano-structures may be masked or even eliminated when free nanoparticles become embedded, bound or incorporated in the solid matrix of a product or environmental substrate.”

At Promethean Particles, we believe that as part of a responsible research and development process, concerns about environmental, health and safety issues must be considered.  For this reason, Promethean Particles is actively involved in an another FP7 nanotoxicology project, NanoMILE, which aims to establish a fundamental understanding of the mechanisms of nanomaterial interactions with living systems and the environment.

The benefits of Promethean’s technology include:

  • All particles are produced in dispersion; not as dry powders.  By avoiding dry powders, Promethean avoid the health and safety risks associated with inhaling fine particulates from synthesis through to incorporation into the end product.
  • Using our one-step formulation process, we can provide bespoke synthesis of safer-by-design nanomaterials.

Policy & Regulation.

Promethean is a corporate member of the Nanotechnologies Industries Association and committed to actively participating in the development of an appropriate regulatory environment and engaging with relevant stakeholders.  We also adhere to the Responsible NanoCode.

Although there are no explicit requirements for nanomaterials under REACH or CLP, they meet the regulations’ substance definition and therefore the provisions apply. In 2011, the European Commission released a specific recommendation on the definition of a nanomaterial. The recommendation should be used in different European regulations, including REACH and CLP.  

REACH stands for Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of CHemicals.  The legislation was brought into force on 1st June 2007.  “REACH is a regulation of the European Union, adopted to improve the protection of human health and the environment from the risks that can be posed by chemicals, while enhancing the competitiveness of the EU chemicals industry. It also promotes alternative methods for the hazard assessment of substances in order to reduce the number of tests on animals.”  The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) was set up to implement, regulate and enforce the REACH legislation.

CLP stands for Classification, Labelling and Packing of chemicals.  The legislation ensures that the hazards presented by chemicals are clearly communicated to workers and consumers in the European Union.

To find out more about nanomaterials and nanotechnology, the following websites are very informative with regards to potential applications, health & safety, policies and regulations:

 

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