Nanomaterials have become present in our daily life, they could be found in food, cosmetics, textiles, paints, electronic devices, etc. The Consumer Product Inventory (CPI) lists nearly 2000 consumer products which contain such nanomaterials (from over 700 companies in more than 30 countries). Metallic and metal-oxide particles are the most abundant group (about 650 products) with silver, titanium, zinc and gold the most widely used materials.
The current trend in nanotechnology is the modification of materials so that they present specific desired properties for the use in different industrial sectors and to serve different purposes. However, the same properties that make nanomaterials desirable in these various applications have the potential to alter biological properties, generating a new material, with potential unknown health risks for humans, the environment and safety. Therefore, it is very important to develop instruments and methodologies for adequate physico-chemical characterisation of nanomaterials.
Nanoparticle characterisation needs can be classified according to the three key questions:
- What does the nanomaterial look like?
- What is the nanomaterial made of?
- What factors affect how the nanomaterial interacts?
To address these questions, a number of techniques are currently being used, however until today, this multi-technique approach has been performed on separate, expensive, instruments. The project aims at developing ONE SINGLE instrument that will provide the answers to ALL of the three key questions.
In the framework of the European H2020 project npSCOPE, an instrument that couples the extraordinarily high resolution of the recently commercialised helium-ion microscope with sensors for composition (a mass spectrometer) and 3D visualisation (transmitted ion detector) will be developed. The aim is to more fully characterise individual nanoparticles and their interaction with their biological environments (water, soil, body fluid, human cells and tissue, etc.) and to better understand the risks they might pose to human health or the environment.
The new integrated microscopy tool advanced from existing technologies and adapted specifically for the purpose of providing quick and concise analyses of nanoparticular material that can even be embedded in complex and biological matrices aims to provide a more efficient, comprehensive and accurate data in one to nanoparticle toxicology studies.
The development of the npSCOPE, will not only reinforce the leading position of Europe in the field of nanotechnology and in the field of advanced instrumentation, but also aims to:
- Allow an increased confidence in the determination of physico-chemical features, providing more reliable and consistent data for safety evaluation of nanomaterials. As well as quality control.
- Reduce costs and optimize time related to physico-chemical characterisation of nanomaterials, being a more accessible instrument than traditional approaches.
- Seek synergies in other areas such as quality control, product traceability, labelling and counterfeiting. For example, raising quality control in nanomedicine or detecting counterfeiting on cosmetic products.
1 January 2017 – 30 June 2021