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.

The Challenge

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?

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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  

 Toxicology developments 

 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

 Data interpretation

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 

 Case studies

 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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Pal et al ACS Nano 2014; 3;8(9):9003-15. doi: 10.1021/nn502219q  

Hsieh et al Small. 2013; 9(9-10):1853-65. doi: 10.1002/smll.201201995 

 Martin et al J Hazard Mater. 2015; 298:351-60. doi: 10.1016/j.jhazmat.2015.06.021  

 Khatri et al Particle and Fiber Toxicology, 2013; 10:42 doi:10.1186/1743-8977-10-42 

 Khatri et al Nanotoxicology, 2013; 7(5):1014-27. doi: 10.3109/17435390.2012.691998  

 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