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Our mission is to ensure that students, faculty and staff working in the various Center for High-Rate Nanomanufacturing (CHN) laboratories are working safely and to perform fundamental research on methods to measure and control nanoparticles exposures. The goal of the CHN is to develop and produce nanoscale devices in an environmentally responsible manner, both the products themselves and the manufacturing processes should be protective of the workers and the environment.

The Challenge

At this time, little is known about the potential toxicity of nanoparticles, especially engineered nanoparticles. We must take a precautionary approach to working with nanoparticles. The importance of this research is that the engineered nanoparticles studied here are materials in a new category where exposure data are not available and the toxicological information is limited.

Our environmental health and safety team are pioneers, performing important research regarding exposure assessment to airborne nanoparticles in various processes taking place on campus and in industry.   

This research includes efforts to answer concerns with regard to 

  • What is the safe protocol of working with nanomaterials?
  • Does the laboratory fume hood work well for protection against exposure to nanomaterials? 
  • What is the magnitude of exposure during various applications of nanomaterials?

With regard to respiratory exposures to engineered nanoparticles, there continues to be a shortage of published data. The papers published by our group represent a significant fraction of all relevant papers published in the past year. To address this lack of information on possible exposure, we have assembled a set of sophisticated air-monitoring equipment to assess possible exposures associated with handling nanoparticles both in CHN laboratories and at outside companies and laboratories (using funding supplied by those organizations). Elevated airborne nanoparticles concentrations were detected in several manufacturing facilities and laboratories. The quantity of data collected to date exceeds any such monitoring reported in the peer-reviewed literature and has ensured that research work in the CHN and at the outside facilities where we have worked is being undertaken without significant exposures to students and faculty.