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Functional Assays for Nanomaterial Risks

Innovation in addressing nanomaterial risks across their lifecycle

Developing new ways to assess and compare the risks associated with nanomaterials across their life cycle


Engineered nanomaterials are funding increasing uses in products. Yet we still lack robust ways of evaluating potential environmental impacts through the product life cycle – from it’s initial manufacture to disposal and recycling. There continues to be a need for innovative new approaches to assessing and comparing hazards and risks over nanotechnology-enabled product life cycles.


This project is developing a suite of functional assays to characterize nanomaterial properties and determine their impact on the nanomaterial’s environmental behavior. We are examining a wide range of unique nanomaterials and comparing their outcomes on novel risk-profiling radar plots, to allow for designers to make more informed decisions when developing novel nanotechnologies.


Our research will provide a new tool allowing developers to better engineer nanomaterials that are safe by design.


Increases in use of engineered nanomaterials have generated a need to define their behaviors and impacts in the environment. Nanomaterials are highly reactive, which can result in transformations during their life cycles. It is useful to characterize multiple outcome-oriented properties using functional assays to compliment physical and chemical fundamental properties (size, shape, structure, etc…) of engineered nanomaterials.

We use nano-metrological functional assays (< 1day experimental time) because each assay indicates a specific environmental behavior or mechanism that can be related to the intrinsic nanomaterial properties in a generalizable fashion suitable for nanomaterial design within a life cycle perspective.


The project is part of the EPA-funded Life Cycle of nanomaterials program (LCnano), a research collaboration between more than ten Universities.


Justin Kidd (PhD Student)


Justin Kidd
Graduate Research Associate

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Further Information

Example of a nanomaterial risk radar plot, showing changes in various risk-related parameters at three different life cycle points