Case 2: Systematic studies of commercially relevant nanomaterials


The use of new types of industrial products containing nanoparticles is increasing rapidly and it is crucial to quickly find out if there are any hazards that the product developers haven’t thought of yet. The prospect is to give input to the regulatory authorities regarding which types of particles should be regulated and which do not need regulation. The program will conduct systematic studies of nanomaterials selected based on their industrial importance.


(a) Silica nanoparticles

The consortium studies how organic molecules naturally found in runoff waters, streams and lakes interact with silica nanoparticles. The interaction vary depending on the size and surface charge of the molecules, as well as the pH and salt concentration of the molecular suspensions.

A theoretical model that describes the surface charging of silica nanoparticles of various sizes at different pH as well as in different salt solutions has been developed in the program. The prediction is that the surface charge of silica nanoparticles in a salt solution increases as the particle size decreases.


“To completely understand the fate and potential hazards of a certain kind of nanoparticles, we need to understand how the particles interact with water, organic molecules, mineral surfaces, and living organisms of many different kinds.”

Jörgen Rosenqvist, researcher, University of Gothenburg


The team has also found that industrially produced silica nanoparticles only seldom aggregate when they encounter natural organic matter. This is an important clue to the fate of these particles, as aggregation is a necessary first step towards sedimentation.

About silica

Silica nanoparticles (synonymous with colloidal silica) are likely by far the largest industrial product based on discrete nanoparticles in the world. Silica nanomaterials are already used in many situations which have led to more environmentally friendly technology; e.g. replacement of organic solvents in paints by water-based systems and drastically reduced water consumption in papermaking. AkzoNobel PPC have a vast experience in the synthesis of variants of silica nanoparticles, evident through a large patent portfolio and extensive research activities. They ensure world-leading expertise in the synthesis of silica particles.


(b) Metallic nanoparticles

Engineered nanoparticles of metals and metal oxides show rapidly emerging use in different applications and products placed on the global market. Metallic and oxidic NPs are furthermore non-intentionally generated in many technical applications, e.g. from brake pads, asphalt, tyres, wear of contact wires of trains and subway cars, and during different kinds of manufacturing. A selection of metal nanoparticles will be studied, based on their relevance for emissions in traffic (see Case 1).

Nanomaterial product development is also expected to contribute to the solution of environmental problems (see Case 3).

Work Packages (WP) that are dealing with this case: WP 1, WP 2, WP 3

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