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Posted: Mar 30, 2012
EU project SANOWORK investigates health and environmental impact of nanomaterials
(Nanowerk News) Scientists from the University of Limerick (UL) have joined a European Commission (EC) funded project, SANOWORK that aims to assess and manage potential risks associated with nanomaterials.
SANOWORK involves collaboration between 8 academic and public research bodies and 5 industrial manufacturers of nanomaterials from across Europe who will participate in the € 4.7 M EC FP7-NMP research project.
Nanomaterials have dimensions smaller than 100 nanometers, which is a several thousand times smaller than the width of a strand of hair. The smaller size in nanomaterials gives rise to extraordinary properties that hold vast promise for innovation in virtually every industry and public endeavour including health, electronics, transportation, the environment. It has been heralded by many as "the next industrial revolution" with an income in excess of a trillion euros forecasted by 2020.
"While the economic potential for nanomaterials is truly huge, the health and environmental impact of this new technology is relatively unknown"; explains Dr. Syed Tofail, Materials and Surface Science Institute (MSSI), and leader of the UL team in the SANOWORK consortium. "The current gap in knowledge makes it difficult to qualify and manage potential risks that may be associated with nanomaterials"; he adds.
The project aims to address the general lack of adequate knowledge on the potential health and environmental impact of nanomaterials. "The lack of knowledge is particularly problematic for insurance companies involved in underwriting risks associated with nanomaterials production"; observes Dr. Martin Mullins, a member of the UL team and a Lecturer in Risk Management, Kemmy Business School (KBS) of UL.
"UL's contribution to the SANOWORK project will help the insurance industry to take informed decisions in ascertaining risk premiums. No industry can be sustainable in the long term without proper backing from the insurance community"; Dr. Mullins adds.
Professor Noel O'Dowd, Director, MSSI notes that "since the inception of MSSI in 1998 it has received over €20million funding from the Higher Education Authority (HEA), Ireland to build critical infrastructure and state of the art characterisation equipment that are important for the success of far-reaching projects such as SANOWORK".
Dr. Mary Shire, Vice President Research, UL considers the collaboration between the materials scientists from MSSI and insurance/finance specialists from the Kemmy Business School as a significant trend-setting example of interdisciplinary research. "This project also shows the strength of UL in translational research where academic research strongly impacts the industrial community. I am particularly pleased to know that UL will be working very closely with 5 partners who are at the forefront of manufacturing nanomaterials on an industrial scale."
Nanotechnology has been identified as a platform science and technology that is relevant to seven out of the fourteen Research Priority Areas for Ireland in the recent Report of the Research Prioritisation Project Steering Group.
Six members of UL team are currently in Faenza, Italy to participate in the kick off meeting of SANOWORK that commenced on 01 March, 2012. SANOWORK is coordinated by Dr. Anna Costa of Institute of Science and Technology of Ceramics (ISTEC), National Research Council of Italy (CNR,IT).