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Our mission is to ensure that students, faculty and staff in the nanomanufacturing laboratories are working safely, as well as (ii) to perform fundamental research on methods to measure and control nanoparticles exposures, and to probe their toxicological properties. The goal is to develop and produce nanoscale devices and nano-enabled products in an environmentally responsible manner.
New engineered nanomaterials (ENM) with unique physico-chemical properties are synthesized on a regular basis. More recent examples include 2-D materials such as graphenes, graphene oxides, and boron nitride nanotubes. Engineered and incidental nanomaterials may be released along the life cycle of nano-enabled product, from their synthesis to recycling and end of life disposal. Due to process-driven modifications, the physico-chemical properties of these released nanoparticles often is quite different from that of original materials. The toxicological properties of emitted nanoparticles are often quite distinct from that of raw materials, and hence not known. The importance of this research is that the engineered nanoparticles studied here are materials in a new category where quantitative methods, exposure data, and toxicological information are often non-existent or limited. We routinely study novel exposure scenarios.
Our interdisciplinary NanoEHS team performs important research regarding process optimization, methods for quantitation of novel ENM, exposure assessment to airborne nanoparticles in various processes taking place on campus and in industry, and in vitro and human toxicological assessment. We utilize the latest state-of-the art technologies and testing platforms to study such problems.
This research includes efforts to answer concerns with regard to:
What are the safer practices of working with nanomaterials?
What is the magnitude of exposure during various applications of nanomaterials?
Are existing controls effective at protecting against airborne exposures to nanoparticles?
How toxic are these raw/emitted nanoparticles?
How do modifications in nanomanufacturing processes or nanomaterial properties impact exposure and risk profiles along the life-cycle of nano-enabled products?
What are the optimum process parameters that produce maximum product performance with minimal exposures?
The following are the basic themes of the NanoEHS research being performed at UMass Lowell:
Training on NanoEHS issues
Safe handling of new materials
PPEs – testing and evaluation of controls
Updates on regulatory developments
Responding to custom needs
Exposure Assessment & Evaluation of Controls during testing, scaling-up and transfer of new technologies
Assessing exposures to new materials, products, and processes;
Evaluate existing controls
Recommend alternatives & reassess
Metrology and materials characterization
Develop and test de novo methods for measuring & characterizing novel materials in pristine form & in complex systems
Comprehensive PCM characterization of materials
Characterization of waste & additive leaching
Updates/Participation on ASTM standard development efforts
Toxicity screening and testing of novel materials
Comprehensive in vitro toxicity assessment (in relevant cell lines and co-culture systems)
In vivo animal testing at relevant doses & product formulations (collaborators)
In vivo human monitoring
Consultancy in related issues (relevant doses, dose rates, dosimetry, methods/platforms)
Troubleshooting & Intervention Research
Investigate problems & customer concerns
Develop technological interventions to solve problems
Some examples of ongoing research include:
1. Physico-chemical and toxicological characterization of nanoparticle emissions during manufacturing and end-of-life recycling of carbon nanotubes, graphenes, other nanocomposites, and new emerging nano-enabling technologies;
2. Airway inflammation and systemic oxidative stress following nanoparticles from printers and photocopiers: mechanistic insights.
3. Exposures and risks from emerging nano-enabled technologies, such as 3-D printing, BN nanotube synthesis and alike.
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Boonruksa et al Ann Occup Hyg. 2016; 60(1):40-55. doi: 10.1093/annhyg/mev073
Boonruksa et al J Exp Science Environ Epi 2016; in press
Zhang et al Environ. Sci.: Nano, 2016; 00, 1-9, DOI: 10.1039/C5EN00253B