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A new report by the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) presents an in-depth review of methods available to measure the size of nanoparticles. Following the adoption of the definition of the term 'nanomaterial' in October 2011, this report identifies relevant measurement methods and key challenges for measuring nanoparticle size in the regulatory context. The report underlines that no single measurement method can be used for all materials to determine if each of them falls within the regulatory definition. Different methods will be required depending on the material under investigation.
The report gives an overview of the capabilities of currently available measurement methods, including techniques such as electron microscopy, dynamic light scattering and centrifugal liquid sedimentation, among others. It also identifies measurement issues that remain to be solved.
The conclusions highlight the practical challenges of measuring materials with widely varying properties. None of the currently available methods can determine whether all kinds of potential nanomaterials meet the regulatory definition or not. Therefore, a proper combination of measurement methods is required. The reliabiliy of each of the measurement methods used in such combined, tiered approaches will need to be thoroughly checked in dedicated method validation studies.
In October 2011, the European Commission adopted Recommendation 2011/696/EU on a common definition of the term "nanomaterial" to facilitate the regulation of products containing such materials. The objective was twofold: to ensure their safety and to enhance innovation and help industry.
In essence, a nanomaterial is defined as a "natural, incidental or manufactured material containing particles, in an unbound state or as an aggregate or as an agglomerate and where, for 50 % or more of the particles in the number size distribution, one or more external dimensions is in the size range 1 nm-100 nm". Proper implementation of this definition requires appropriate tools and methodologies for which measurement aspects are crucial.
Following publications by JRC scientists in academic journals, the report is the first comprehensive overview on the topic because it specifically assesses the suitability of available measurement methods for implementing the European Commission's definition.
About European Commission, Joint Research Centre (JRC)
Europe faces public concern about complex issues such as food contamination, genetic modification, chemical hazards, global change pollution, effects on health and nuclear safety. The Joint Research Centre (JRC), a Directorate General of the European Commission, supports EU policy makers in the conception, development, implementation and monitoring of policies to tackle such trans-national and global problems.
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