Removing risk to unleash the full potential of Nanomaterials

removingriskThe EU NANOREG project is developing the next generation of reliable and comparable experimental data on the environmental, health and safety aspects of nanomaterials. NANOREG, which began in March 2013, has already successfully established the basic conditions for its R&D work and will now move on to deliver on its key objectives.

Nanomaterials are chemical substances or materials that are manufactured at an incredibly small scale (down to 10 000 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair). Experts believe they have the potential to contribute significantly to Europe’s industrial competitiveness, and are already used in hundreds of products ranging from batteries and paint to anti-bacterial clothing and medical equipment.

In order to fully capitalise on this potential market however, the safety of nanomaterials must be beyond reproach. This means dispelling any scientific uncertainty about their effects on either humans or the environment. As these nanomaterials are often unique and have never been on the market before, assessments must be done on a case-by-case basis using globally recognised and approved methods.

NANOREG, which will receive a total of EUR 10 million in EU funding, aims to support organisations involved in the standardisation and regulation of nanomaterials by developing a practical assessment toolbox. This toolbox will contain relevant instruments to aid risk assessment, toxicity testing and exposure measurements.

The project also aims to establish closer collaboration between authorities, industry and researchers in order to develop new efficient and practically applicable risk management approaches. To this end, the toolbox is being developed in close cooperation with organisations including the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN) and the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO).

Regular meetings have also been set up with policy makers in partner countries, along with global standardisation institutions in countries like the US, Canada, Australia, Japan and Russia. It is hoped that the project’s cross-border interdisciplinary approach will significantly contribute to removing risk from the use of nanomaterials in industrial and consumer products.

The project began by analysing existing knowledge and combining this with a study of the needs of regulatory authorities. This enabled the team to identify any knowledge gaps. Three key gaps were discovered: characteristics that influence the risk of nanomaterials in the environment and humans; standardised methods to determine these characteristics; and nano-specific strategies and approaches. From these three main gaps, sixteen regulatory needs were generated, which will help inform the contents of the toolbox.

The long term objective of NANOREG is to ensure that the innovative and economic potential of nanomaterials is not put at risk simply because and safety issues have not been fully addressed. The development of more efficient risk management approaches will also ensure that the time it takes to market new is as short as possible.

Explore further: A golden thread through the labyrinth of nanomaterials

More information: For further information please visit NANOREG:

University of Waterloo: Dr Christoph Deneke – Waterloo Institute for Nanotechnology (WIN) Seminar

nanotech20conceptPublished on Mar 24, 2015

Dr. Christoph Deneke, Scientific Head at the Laboratory for Surface Science, Brazilian Nanotechnology National Laboratory (LNNano)/CNPEM, Brazil, delivered a WIN seminar entitled “Nanometer Thick Membranes as Substrates for InAs Growth”.

Waterloo Institute for Nanotechnology – Centre of Excellence for Nanotechnology and its Applications

Published on Apr 15, 2015

The Waterloo Institute for Nanotechnology (WIN) was featured on MRS TV at the Materials Research Society (MRS) 2014 Fall Meeting. WIN Executive Director, Dr Arthur Carty, gave an overview of the institute, and WIN researchers – Zbig Wasilewski, William Wong, Linda Nazar, Frank Gu – talked about their research.

Coming JUNE ~ 2015 ~ “Great Things from Small Things!” ~ Watch Our New Video for Details

nanotech20concept“Harnessing the transformational POWER of Nanotechnology will usher our world into the age of the ‘2nd Great Industrial Revolution’. Nanotechnology  will impact almost every aspect of our daily lives, from clean abundant Renewable Energy, Wearable-Sensory Textiles, Displays & Electronics to Bio-Medical, Diagnostics, Life-Saving Drug Therapies, Agriculture, Water Filtration, Waste Water Remediation and Desalination.south-africa-ii-nanotechnology-india-brazil_261.jpg GNT is very excited to be a part of this Revolution’. Bringing together leading ‘Nano-University Research Programs’ with Marketplace & Industry Leaders , engaging our Proprietary Business Model, fostering in a new paradigm in nanotechnology innovation.”

~ Bruce W. Hoy, C.E.O. of Genesis Nanotechnology, Inc. ~

KAIST Lab team develops Hyper-stretchable Elastic-Composite Energy Harvester: Applications: Flexible Electronics

Elastic Energy 041415 akaistresearA research team led by Professor Keon Jae Lee of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) has developed a hyper-stretchable elastic-composite energy harvesting device called a nanogenerator.

Flexible electronics have come into the market and are enabling new technologies like flexible displays in mobile phone, , and the Internet of Things (IoTs). However, is the degree of flexibility enough for most applications? For many flexible devices, elasticity is a very important issue. For example, wearable/biomedical devices and electronic skins (e-skins) should stretch to conform to arbitrarily curved surfaces and moving body parts such as joints, diaphragms, and tendons. They must be able to withstand the repeated and prolonged mechanical stresses of stretching. In particular, the development of elastic energy devices is regarded as critical to establish power supplies in stretchable applications.

Although several researchers have explored diverse stretchable electronics, due to the absence of the appropriate device structures and correspondingly electrodes, researchers have not developed ultra-stretchable and fully-reversible energy conversion devices properly.

Recently, researchers from KAIST and Seoul National University (SNU) have collaborated and demonstrated a facile methodology to obtain a high-performance and hyper-stretchable elastic-composite generator (SEG) using very long silver nanowire-based stretchable electrodes. Their stretchable piezoelectric generator can harvest mechanical energy to produce high power output (~4 V) with large elasticity (~250%) and excellent durability (over 104 cycles). These noteworthy results were achieved by the non-destructive stress- relaxation ability of the unique electrodes as well as the good piezoelectricity of the device components. The new SEG can be applied to a wide-variety of wearable energy-harvesters to transduce biomechanical-stretching energy from the body (or machines) to electrical .

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Top row shows schematics of hyper-stretchable elastic-composite generator (SEG) enabled by very long silver nanowire-based stretchable electrodes. The bottom row shows the SEG energy harvester stretched by human hands over 200% strain. Credit: KAIST 

Professor Lee said, “This exciting approach introduces an ultra-stretchable piezoelectric generator. It can open avenues for power supplies in universal wearable and biomedical applications as well as self-powered ultra-stretchable electronics.”

This result was published online in the March issue of Advanced Materials, which is entitled “A Hyper-Stretchable Elastic-Composite Energy Harvester.”

Explore further: Nanoengineers develop basis for electronics that stretch at the molecular level

Making Fuel Cell Technology Cheaper: Insights into Potential Substitutes for Costly Platinum in Fuel Cell Catalysts

Fule Cells 041415 insightsintoPlatinum’s scarcity hinders widespread use of fuel cells, which provide power efficiently and without pollutants. Replacing some or all of this rare and expensive metal with common metals in a reactive, highly tunable nanoparticle form may expand fuel cell use. At Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, scientists made such metal nanoparticles with a new gas-based technique and ion soft landing. As an added benefit, the particles are bare, without a capping layer that coats their surfaces and reduces their reactivity.

Replacing inefficient and polluting combustion engines with fuel cells is not currently feasible because the cells require platinum-based catalysts. The PNNL study shows how to create particles with a similar reactivity to platinum that replace some of the platinum with Earth-abundant metals. The implications of this new preparation technique go far beyond fuel cells. It may be used to create alloy nanomaterials for solar cells, heterogeneous catalysts for a variety of chemical reactions, and energy storage devices.

“The new method gives scientists fine control over the composition and morphology of the alloy on surfaces,” said Dr. Grant Johnson, a PNNL physical chemist who led the study.

Fule Cells 041415 insightsinto

Scientists at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory created metal alloy particles using a technique that involves magnetron sputtering and gas aggregation. They placed them on a surface using ion soft landing techniques. Credit: Johnson et …more

The team created the nanoparticles using magnetron sputtering and gas aggregation. They placed them on a surface using ion soft landing techniques devised at PNNL. The result is a layer of bare nanoparticles made from two different metals that is free of capping layers, residual reactants, and solvent molecules that are unavoidable with particles synthesized in solution.

The process begins when the scientists load 1-inch-diameter metal discs into an instrument that combines particle formation and ion deposition. Once the metals are locked into a vacuum chamber in the aggregation region, argon gas is introduced. In the presence of a large voltage the argon becomes ionized and vaporizes the metals through sputtering. The metal ions travel through a cooled region where they collide with each other and stick together. The result is bare ionic that are about 4 to 10 nanometers across. The mass spectrometer filters the ionic particles, removing those that don’t meet the desired size. The filtered particles are then soft landed onto a surface of choice, such as glassy carbon, a commonly used electrode material.

Creating the alloy particles in the gas phase provides a host of benefits. The conventional solution-based approach often results in clumps of the different metals, rather than homogeneous nanoparticles with the desired shape. Further, the particles lack a capping layer. This eliminates the need to remove these layers and clean the particles, which makes them more efficient to use.

“An important benefit is that it allows us to skirt certain thermodynamic limitations that occur when the particles are created in solution,” said Johnson. “This allows us to create alloys with consistent elemental constituents and conformation. Furthermore, the kinetically limited gas-phase approach also enables the deposition of intermediate species that would react away in solution.”

The coverage of the resulting surface is controlled by how long the particles are aimed at the surface and the intensity of the ion beam. At relatively short time frames on flat surfaces, the nanoparticles bind randomly. Leave the process running longer and a continuous film forms. Stepped surfaces result in the nanoparticles forming linear chains on the step edges at low coverage. With longer times and a surface with defects, the particles cluster on the imperfections, providing a way to tailor surfaces with particle-rich areas and adjacent open spaces. The characterization experiments were done using the atomic force microscope, scanning and transmission electron microscopes, as well as other tools in DOE’s EMSL, a national scientific user facility.

While this work focuses on single nanoparticles, the final result is an extended array with implications that stretch from the atomic scale to the mesoscale. “Mesoscale research is about how things work together in extended arrays,” said Johnson, “and, that’s exactly what we’ve successfully built here.”

The researchers are now exploring different metal combinations with various platinum ratios to get the desired characteristics for catalysts. They plan on further studying these particles in the new in situ transmission electron microscope, planned to open in EMSL in 2015, to understand how the evolve in reactive environments.

Explore further: New nanomaterials will boost renewable energy

Lawrence Livemoore National Laboratory: Carbon Nanotubes Usher Molecules In And Out Of Cell Membranes

Cell membrane carbon nanotubes

Artificial Pores 041415 noy-cnt-porin-large

Credit: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Depiction of carbon nanotube (gray) inserted into a cell membrane, with a single strand of DNA (gold) passing through the nanotube.

Depiction of carbon nanotube (gray) inserted into a cell membrane, with a single strand of DNA (gold) passing through the nanotube.

The membrane is a really important part of a cell—it keeps the organelles and useful chemicals in, and other things out. But the membrane also needs to be selectively permeable, letting in the right molecules (like DNA or water) when they approach the cell. Though scientists have been able to make synthetic membranes, used in manufacturing pharmaceuticals and to treat water, they haven’t been able to make them permeable as in the natural world. But according to a paper published in Nature, a team of international researchers has now been able to make both artificial and natural membranes permeable by inserting carbon nanotubes that work like little tunnels.

The researchers found that, if they coated the tubes with lipids, they slid right through the cell membrane, puncturing it without destroying it. Most impressively, the tube insert doesn’t appear to leak around the edges. By giving the nanotubes a slight charge, the researchers found that they could selectively transport certain molecules, just like channels in natural membranes do.

The researchers are excited about potential applications for the newly porous membranes, which haven’t been fully explored. They might look into biological applications, such as artificial lungs or kidneys, though the channels may have to become a bit more selective before that is possible, as well as improvements to artificial membranes.