QualityNano - A pan-European infrastructure for quality in nanomaterials safety testing

Project No. IFA 3140


completed 12/2015


The potential hazards presented by nanotechnology have for many years been a source of uncertainty. Research results – in some cases conflicting – have resulted in nanomaterials at the workplace giving rise to anxiety and fear. Closer examination of the subject shows that on the one hand, nanomaterials are used in research that are not adequately described, and on the other are being studied in different ways. The properties (dimensions, geometry, coating, etc.) of a given substance under test, such as titanium dioxide, may however vary widely, and the results of individual research projects cannot be considered applicable to nanoscale titanium dioxide in general. This had in fact occurred in the case of carbon nanotubes, which in the form of rigid fibres may present a health risk similar to that of asbestos, but which in the form of soft fibres are found in many tests to exhibit no negative effects.

This resulted in a need for researchers to agree upon certain very precisely defined test substances, and for research to be conducted into the health hazards presented by these substances.

This was the objective of the QualityNano project. The scope of the project extended to supporting sharing and harmonization of the test protocols. A third objective was the promotion of dialogue between researchers regarding the measurement and analysis systems employed. The project enabled not only its participants, but any interested party to observe the work of research institutions and their laboratories, and covered the resulting costs.


QualityNano provided the participants in the project and a great many researchers with access to laboratory facilities and services in the sphere of nanotechnology and materials research. For this purpose, the DGUV made a nanoparticle test facility available at the Institute for Research on Hazardous Substances (IGF) of the German Social Accident Insurance Institution for the raw materials and chemical industry, together with measurement engineers and research staff from the Institute for Occupational Safety and Health of the German Social Accident Insurance (IFA).

QualityNano has cooperated with research teams – both newly formed and developing a new orientation – from the disciplines of medicine, biology, energy and materials science, and has stepped up the development of new (safer, responsible and economically viable) technologies. The DGUV's contribution has involved dialogue between the IFA and the Centre for Research on Adaptive Nanostructures and Nanodevices (CRANN) in Ireland.

QualityNano has consulted a range of experts in the spheres of regulation and standardization, and informed them of the project results. The IFA has conducted a literature survey in this field and discussed it with further project partners. A website has been set up on which the results obtained by individual project partners can be used and shared. Whilst the project was still in progress, the knowledge produced collectively was presented at a number of national and international conferences (including the EU-US workshop: "Bridging NanoEHS Research Efforts"), and compiled in training resources. Several training courses were held.


The project has led to dialogue between hundreds of researchers and has thus been able to advance the (further) development and harmonization worldwide of toxicological laboratory tests and standards. Together with the IGF, the IFA has made a NanoTest Center available for the measurement of airborne nanoparticles. Owing to the major need for dialogue and for comparison of the standards and methods applied in toxicology, it was however not possible for the work on specifications and testing of airborne nanoparticles to be addressed adequately in the project. Consequently, the capacity of the nanoparticle test facility at the Institute for Research on Haz-ardous Substances (IGF) of the German Social Accident Insurance Institution for the raw mate-rials and chemical industry (BG RCI) was not exploited to the full.

One focus of the project lay upon the development of training courses and materials for quality-assured research into nanomaterials. For this purpose, a number of model documents and publications were made available on the project's website. With the IFA's support, a literature survey was also conducted of workplace measurements of nanoparticles. It was however no longer possible within the project to address the training of personnel tasked with performing measurements.

Standardized nanoparticles were described in the project in the form of positive and negative controls that can be used by different research institutes for the testing of nanoparticle toxicology. The IFA assisted in drawing up the list of candidate substances for this purpose. Preliminary recommendations for nanotoxicology research were published by the project partners in a number of articles, and the observations made were communicated to other projects.

Uniform test protocols for nanotoxicology research were also developed and evaluated in round-robin tests. The observations made by the IFA were shared within the project. The conclusion was that above all, uniform quality management is required in order to eliminate possible sources of error. Articles describing possible sources of error were published by the project partners. Other projects were also prompted to develop a uniform quality management system for testing in nanoparticle toxicology. A number of laboratories discussed the options available for the detection, recovery, analysis and interpretation of nanomaterial by means of particular microscopy technologies. This was also discussed between the IFA and the Centre for Research on Adaptive Nanostructures and Nanodevices (CRANN) at Trinity College Dublin.

Owing to the complexity and the primarily basic nature of the research, the research and development results should be exploited in subsequent projects. The need for more precise specifications of nanomaterial in commercial use, the development of standardized methods for the measurement of nanomaterial at workplaces, and the setting of limits for assessment of exposure to nanomaterial were formulated and communicated as tasks for future projects.

Last Update:

6 Aug 2018


Financed by:
  • Europäische Kommission – Generaldirektion – Forschung und Innovation (RTD)
Research institution(s):
  • Institut für Arbeitsschutz der Deutschen Gesetzlichen Unfallversicherung (IFA)
  • University College Dublin, National University of Ireland
  • Natural history museum
  • Institute of Occupational Medicine
  • JRC - Joint Research Centre - European Commission
  • Bundesinstitut für Risikobewertung
  • Karlsruher Institut für Technologie
  • Facultés Universitaires Notre-Dame de la Paix de Namur
  • Institut universitaire romand de Santé au Travail
  • University of Leeds
  • Norsk institutt for luftforskning
  • Helmholtz Zentrum München Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Gesundheit und Umwelt GmbH
  • Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München
  • Asociación Centro de Investigación Cooperativa en Biomateriales
  • Uppsala Universitet
  • Catalan Institute of Nanotechnology
  • Stichting Dienst Landbouwkundig Onderzoek
  • Wageningen Universiteit
  • Tel Aviv University
  • Vlaamse instelling voor technologisch onderzoek N. V.
  • Slovenska zdravotnicka univerzita v Bratislave

-cross sectoral-

Type of hazard:

dangerous substances


exposure, dust, fibers, particles, dust, fibers, particles

Description, key words:

Research infrastructure for nanosafety assessment, share scientific best practice, Joint Research Activities (JRA), Networking Activities (NA) and provision of Transnational Access (TA) functions

Further information