Thermal Decomposition/incineration of Nano-Enabled Products (NEPs): Environmental Health and Safety Implications

Project Details


PI: Philip K. Demokritou

Proposal Number: CBET - 1436450

Nano-sized materials have enabled an increasing number of new materials to be produced. These manufactured products are called Nano-Enabled Products (NEPs). Because of the extremely small sizes of the nano-material components, there are additional physical, chemical, and physiological hazards not attributed to their bulk counterparts. The proliferation of NEPs thus poses potential environmental health and safety (EHS) risks during their life cycle, including their disposal at the end of their life-cycle. Specifically, NEPs decompose and release nano-materials under elevated temperatures when they are incinerated for their final disposal or under incidental fires. The proposed study is to generate a data base and to provide knowledge on the fundamentals of how such thermal decomposition takes place. With this knowledge it should be possible to design safer NEPs. That is, the 'safer-by-design' capability will help to remove risk-uncertainties of NEPs and contribute to the sustainability of the nano-technology industry. Besides contributions to industry, the proposed study will involve students in research and train K-12 teachers and students in Boston area public schools and the Edward M. Kennedy Academy of Health Careers.

Thermal decomposition of NEPs, either in incineration facilities or in incidental fires, may release nano-scale materials used in their synthesis and produce air and soil hazards and potential threats and risks to the environmental and human health. There is a major knowledge gap on the fundamentals of thermal decomposition of widely used families of NEPs, potential nano-release mechanisms, and characteristics of byproducts and potential nano-EHS implications. In order to fill this large knowledge gap, a new methodological approach, using both in-vitro and in-vivo experiments, is proposed to the current nano-risk assessment paradigm to address EHS implications of NEPs during incineration: 1) Develop 'best practice' methods suitable for the generation, physico-chemical and toxicological characterization of realistic exposures associated with thermal decomposition of NEPs; 2) Demonstrate the reproducibility of these methods and build our knowledge on factors influencing nano-release for representative classes of NEPs currently in the market; and 3) Utilize the developed methods and knowledge to generate 'safer by design' NEPs and exposure control strategies.

Effective start/end date12/1/1411/30/18


  • National Science Foundation: $375,001.00


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