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Analytical techniques and tools in support of nanomaterial risk assessment

The objective is to develop new, or further improve, relevant analytical methods and corresponding equipment, relevant to hazard and exposure testing strategies, that enable characterisation of ensembles of nanomaterials particle sizes, complex shapes, surface area and surface chemistry, coating stability or multiple composition (multicomposites engineered nanomaterials), including the necessary building up of confidence through benchmarking. The analytics could also enable studying the longer term fate of particles following their interactions with in complex matrices, i.e. in living systems, or longer term environmental fate, e.g. after wear and tear or weathering.

Established methods, including related equipment, should be brought to Technology Readiness Level 6 and beyond, whereas those based on new concepts are expected to reach TRL 5.

This topic is particularly suitable for SMEs and for international cooperation.

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU between EUR 5 and 7 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

Nanomaterials are very diverse groups of materials with greatly varying properties. Thorough physico-chemical characterisation of nanomaterials, in their pristine forms but also in the tested environment, is nowadays being recognised as essential for sound assessment of their biological and environmental properties. In order to enable prediction of impacts, itself nowadays a pre-requirement for insuring industrial activity, a classification based on key parameters or biological interactions should be established and scientific foundations established on very well defined and characterised systems. Yet, suitable analytical techniques, instrumentation and equipment for the testing of nanomaterials properties, skilful operators, and inter-laboratory studies that would establish confidence are still lacking, even in the “simple”, and most addressed, case of particle size distribution measurements which many laboratories struggle to tackle adequately when confronted with poly-dispersed materials. At the lower limits of the nano-scale these same problems aggravate further. An additional factor is the high cost of the available techniques something that hinders smaller laboratories, innovation oriented SMEs, and discourages start-ups.

  • Enable the identification of key descriptors that can be used to reveal correlations associated with health and environmental impacts and meaningful basis for grouping, read-across and QSARs purposes;
  • Increased confidence in nanosafety studies and findings through sound physico-chemical characterisation methods and standard operating procedures;
  • Reduced costs related to the physico-chemical characterisation of nanomaterials in relevant environments;
  • On top of safety related objectives, proposals should seek synergies with applications of the methods in other areas such as quality control, product traceability, labelling and counterfeiting.