Progress in the Commercialization of Graphene

European Plastics News posted an article on it's site last week,("Graphene developers seek routes out of the lab"), focusing on challenges to and progress in the commercialization of graphene, specifically its "potential as a mutlifunctional reinforcement in composites".

Among the challenges the article raises are:

1) Entangling of 3D carbon nanotubes (CNTS) bundles

2) Individual graphite sheets restacking themselves

3) Handling of such shets during transportation to processing facilities

4) Reduction of costs of production and transportation

5) A need to develop standard operating procedures for potential health hazards

While these challenges may seem daunting, the success of three companies - Vorbeck Materials of Maryland,Cabot Corporation of Massachusetts, and Thomas Swan & Co., based in the United Kingdom - are highlighted.

The article also discusses the ongoing support of  the European Commission (EC) and the UK's government of research in graphene and how to commercialize it.:

The European Commission is planning to channel €1bn over 10 years into co-ordinated graphene research and commercialisation. The UK government has announced it wants to spend another £50m (€60.7m) to keep the UK at the forefront of graphene research, with the University of Manchester set to host a national institute of graphene research. Commercialisation of graphene by this route could arrive by late 2012.

Converted in US dollars, the EC will be spending $1.278 billion and the UK $78.153 million.

Massachusetts Issues Nano-EHS Guidance Document

This article originally appeared on the National Nanomanufacturing Network's InterNano website on August 25, 2010.  It is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported.

Massachusetts’ Office of Technical Assistance and Technology (OTA) recently released its “OTA Technology Guidance Document: Nanotechnology - Considerations for Safe Development” which has been in development for the past couple of years. The document begins by noting the tremendous positive influence nanotechnology is predicted to have in the fields of biomedical devices, electronics, clean energy, and materials engineering, while at the same time acknowledging that “there are indications of potential harm from certain exposures and release of engineered nanoparticles.” OTA also believes that there “is little uncertainty” regarding available means to prevent potential workplace exposure to nanoscale materials. Simply put, despite unknown EHS risks, there is more than adequate knowledge to control potential exposure in OTA’s view.

The end of the report contains a bibliography of existing resources covering state-of-the-art workplace good practices for nanoscale materials. The bibliography includes the “usual suspect” documents and websites published by NIOSH, ICON, German government, British Standards Institute, ED/DuPont, NanoSafe, and ASTM. From these primary sources, OTA distills a basic set of good practices for entities working with nanoscale materials in Massachusetts.

First, establish a risk reduction plan for facilities working with nanoscale materials. Such a plan should have two levels. First, it should attempt to protect against direct and immediate worker exposure. Second, it should also attempt to protect against possible releases during transport, use, and disposal after the nanoscale materials leave the manufacturing facility.

Second, evaluate potential worker exposure to nanoscale materials during the manufacturing process and then implement a hierarchy of exposure controls, including: substituting source materials with non-nano substances where appropriate, implementing engineering controls, using administrative controls, and requiring the use of personal protective equipment. This is all standard NIOSH-fare drawn from NIOSH’s excellent “Approaches to Safe Nanotechnology: Managing the Risks and Safety Concerns Associated with Engineered Nanoparticles.” OTA’s guidance document, however, does a good job of drawing out the most important “nuggets” of information from the NIOSH document in a few short pages.

Third, analyze whether unintentional release of nanoscale materials may occur with consumer use or disposal of the product. Along these lines, OTA recommends companies consider: labeling products as already suggested by BSI and the EU, warning potentially affected downstream users and others regarding potential EHS risks through the use of the Material Safety Data Sheets and other written warnings, complying with existing environmental laws such as the Toxic Substances Control Act, conducting an open and transparent risk and hazard testing regime for the product throughout its complete lifecycle, and recognizing that proactive prevention of EHS concerns is required for successful commercialization of nanotechnology.

In the end, OTA’s document is a helpful quick reference guide, but it does not cover any new ground or delve deeply into its existing source material. Businesses involved in nanomanufacturing should still consult the underlying source material cited in the document, as well as EHS and legal experts as necessary. Massachusetts should be commended, however, for putting out this basic guidance document and attempting to proactively address these issues.

New National Nanomanufacturing Network Newsletter

The National Nanomanufacuring Network (NNN) at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst just published its October newsletter which you can find here.  There is a nice article by Barbara Beck and Chris Long from Gradient regarding the recent Song nanoparticle study from China which was my first contributing editor piece for NNN's InterNano.  Please read the newsletter and follow NNN's valuable work.

Massachusetts Interagency Nanotechnology Committee

Inside EPA is reporting that the Massachusetts Interagency Nanotechnology Committee is developing a set of "best practices" for labs and companies working with materials in order to protect nano-sector workers, the public, and the environment from potentially harmful exposures.

The interagency group was formed in April 2007 and has since held one workshop on nanotechnology risks in November 2007, and was seeking to create a website as an information clearinghouse for nanotechnology.  The proceedings have been published and are available for review, however, the on-line clearinghouse could not be located.

The best management practices are reportedly going through "internal review" and then will be revealed to "stakeholders" before full publication.  The group plans to build its best management practices on knowledge gained from prior attempts, such as by NIOSH and the Nano Risk Framework.

Another set of best management practices is another example of the level of attention nanotechnology continues to get, especially by state and local governments.  These new publications also serve as an iterative process for the prior versions that may or may not be continually revised.  By using prior attempts at developing best management practices, current versions can revise the information, and maintain developed institutional knowledge, in an effort to reach better sets of principles.

Should we find the Committee's best management practices when published, or locate the on-line clearinghouse, we will be sure to update this post.