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CNR: Alamanacco della Scienza


N. 10 - 12 giu 2013
ISSN 2037-4801

International info   a cura di Cecilia Migali


Nanodevice project coordinated by Finland

The European Commission has labelled the Nanodevice project, co-ordinated by the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (Fioh), a success story. It lasted four years and comprised 26 partners. It was among the top ten best projects in the 2012 Industrial Technologies Best Project Award competition, which sought to discover the European nanotechnology project with the most impact on the economy and on society. The best project had to be able to promote European competitiveness by creating new products and processes. The four-year Nansolutions project, which started this year, has 35 partners from all over the world, representing universities, research institutes, and enterprises. The Eu's seventh framework programme is providing a total of 20 million euro to fund these two research projects.

During this project, the Fioh together with industrial device manufacturers, research institutes and universities, developed measuring devices for evaluating the concentration of industrial nanoparticles in the air.

They are easy to use, portable, and inexpensive. The smallest ones can be attached to one's breast pocket and the cheapest cost only two hundred euros. Their use requires no special training. "The new devices serve both enterprises and authorities. Even a small company can now buy its own device and measure concentrations regularly. Until now the prices of such devices have been far too high for most enterprises. Their use has also required special training", claims Kai Savolainen, research professor at Fioh. Authorities can use the measurements taken to define limit values for different industrial nanoparticles. As of yet, no country has mandatory, or even recommended limit values.

"It has not been possible to establish new legislation ensuring the safety of nanotechnology, because until now, we have had no trustworthy knowledge of real concentrations at workplaces", says Savolainen. Nanosafety requires completely new risk assessment methods "not only is knowledge regarding particle concentrations insufficient, but current evaluation methods do not meet requirements. Using the existing slow, expensive procedures, it would take decades to study the characteristics of all the known industrial nanoparticles", explains Fioh's research professor Harri Alenius.

In order to ensure workers' safety and the competitiveness of nanotechnology, we need completely new methods for assessing the disadvantages of, exposure to, and risks presented by industrial nanoparticles. Finding these methods is the aim of the new Nanosolutions research project. It attempts to identify the characteristics of industrial nanoparticles which predict their potential disadvantages. Another goal is to develop a computer programme that can use the characteristics of industrial nanoparticles to predict the risks they may present to both health and the environment. "If the project is a success, it will be revolutionary in the field of nanotechnology safety", continues Alenius.

Fonte: Kai Savolainen, the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, tel. 358 30 474 2200, email Kai.Savolainen@ttl.fi