Companies test Safe-by-Design and are positive. This is evident from work by the European project NanoReg2. The nanotechnology companies saw the opportunity to reduce risks early in the innovation process. It turns out to be difficult to choose the most suitable Safe-by-Design measures.
Safe-by-Design aims to minimize risks to health and the environment. The earlier in the innovation process these potential risks are known, the sooner companies can do something about them. To do this, they have to look at the functionality of a nanomaterial. But also to safety and the costs involved.

What did the study show?

In this NanoReg2 project, 6 companies have introduced Safe-by-Design. They applied Safe-by-Design measures for nanomaterials, nanoproducts or nanomaterial production processes. This led to favorable results for the participating companies:

  • Avanzare no longer has liquid waste and employees hardly use powdered graphene.
  • Group Antolin reduced workers’ exposure to carbon nanofibers. And chose the best carbon nanofiber making method.
  • HIQ-nano has compared the toxicity of two materials and devised new solutions for the safest possible material.
  • NanoGap reduced silver waste by 50%.
  • Nanomakers reduced the risk of explosion and worker exposure. And they have assessed the financial feasibility of the measures.

What is required for Safe-by-Design?

  • Broad knowledge for the introduction of Safe-by-Design in the nanotechnology sector. Topics such as materials science, chemical engineering, harmfulness, exposure and risk, and handling large amounts of data are all important.
  • Data sharing is necessary to streamline the implementation of Safe-by-Design. This also helps make it affordable for businesses.
  • Data on physicochemical properties, hazards and exposure must be collected in robust and reliable databases. And these databases must be accessible.
  • Training on the use of databases and risk assessment tools. This would facilitate the introduction of Safe-by-Design and promote the development of sustainable nanoproducts.

What does the RIVM National Institute for Public Health and the Environment think?

Materials, products and processes must be safe from the outset. Safe materials, products and processes are a precondition for a circular economy and a safe living environment. Not enough is known about possible adverse health effects of a large number of nanomaterials. This requires new smart ways. These should reduce the uncertainty about the safety of nanomaterials. Safe-by-Design can be very helpful in this, together with the developed instruments that go with it. It is an effective approach to develop safe innovations in a smart way.

Embedding of Safe-by-Design

The companies participating in the project used a number of tools and measures. This can be seen in the Safe-by-Design examples from practice. It is an important development towards embedding Safe-by-Design in companies. In addition, NanoReg2 has taken a step to allow companies, researchers and risk assessors to cooperate in the development of Safe-by-Design. This should lead to safe nanomaterials that are also suitable for a circular economy.

The published article shows the benefits of introducing Safe-by-Design at companies. But it also shows that it is custom work. Knowledge and availability of data play an important role. The GO FAIR AdvancedNano Implementation network can play a major role for the availability of data. These points are important for Safe-by-Design to be successful.

Source RIVM

The concept of Safe-by-Design aims to integrate safe manufacturing, safe production and responsible waste management in the innovation process at the earliest possible. Safe-by-Design requires a timely dialogue between relevant stakeholders. Within NanoNextNL  the concept of Safe-by-Design was further developed within the Risk Analysis and Technology Assessment theme (RATA) and applied in the Valorisation Programme.

*click to enlarge image

Safe-by-Design tools for research and development

NanoNextNL developed unique Safe-by-Design tools ready for application in research and development:

  • Safe-by-Design tools for researchers and technology developers
  • Safe-by-Design tools for starting entrepreneurs
  • Safe-by-Design tools for entrepreneurs
  • Safe-by-Design tools for interaction with society

Safe-by-Design tools for researchers and technology developers

Technology assessment tools for researchers and technology developers: Toolbox Constructive Technology Assessment

With these tools insights into the economic, societal, ethical and legal aspects can be gained at an early stage in the development process. The tools are classified according to the development stage and applications. For more information:

Safe-by-Design tool for starting entrepreneurs

As part of the NanoNextNL Valorisation Programme business case owners have been asked to perform a Safety and Society Check.

Risk levels for safety and society are indicated with arrows based on expertise of business case owners and an independent expert; left for safety and right for society.

Starting entrepreneurs used the following questionnaire to execute the Safety and Society Check : RATA questionnaire Valorisation Programme (pdf)

Safe-by-Design tools for entrepreneurs

The Golden Egg Check, an online tool used within the NanoNextNL Valorisation Programme, was extended with risk analysis and technology assessment.

Entrepreneurs used the following questionnaire for a Safety and Society Check as part of the Golden Egg Check: RATA questionnaire Valorisation Programme (pdf)

Safe-by-Design tools for interaction with society

Safe-by-Design intends to stimulate representatives from business, science, government and civil society to discuss societal responses and challenges tot nanotechnology. The Societal Incubator is used as an experimental tool to explore the sentiments of involved stakeholders and is under construction.

Read more

A new type of sensor has the potential to replace sniffer dogs when it comes to detecting explosives such as TNT. This week, researchers from a number of institutions including TU Delft are publishing an article about this subject in the American Chemical Society’s journal Nano Letters. The research in Nano Letters was also supported by NanoNextNL and NWO.

Cage structures

‘For the first time ever, we have used molecules with a lantern-type cage structure to fabricate sensitive nanosensors that can detect explosive substances such as TNT’, says researcher Louis de Smet (affiliated with TU Delft and Wageningen University).

‘These cage structures have a capacity of about 1 cubic nanometre, which precisely accommodates a single TNT molecule.’ Researchers from TU Delft, the University of Twente, Philips Research, the City University of Hong Kong and the University of Melbourne have chemically bound an ultrathin layer of these specially developed cages to the surface of a sensor chip containing a few dozen sensitive nanosensors. A single cage is not sufficient for detection purposes.


‘Porous molecules are used quite often to capture ambient molecules’, explains De Smet. ‘In the case of relatively small molecules, as with explosives, the challenge is to ensure that the cage structure is not only the right size but that it also has the right anchor points so that the molecule can click into place – thus rendering it detectable. For this work, we therefore use layers consisting of so-called MOP molecules (Metal-Organic Polyhedra). Through variation with a large number of geometric and electronic properties of these complex cage molecules, we are able to capture the ‘explosive’ molecules we are looking for. And the presence of such a molecule also causes the electrical conductance of the underlying silicon nanowires to change in a very characteristic way. We can measure this and thus confirm that we have actually found TNT molecules from an explosive.’

Sniffer dog

‘Eventually, we may be able to use this type of sensor to detect explosives – in a war situation, for example, or when facing a terrorist threat’, says De Smet. ‘Currently, very different, qualitative methods are mainly used for this, involving chemical reactions causing colour changes, for instance, or the deployment of sniffer dogs. The great thing about our method is that you can not only detect whether there are traces of TNT but you can also determine the amount.’

Mrs Cao, PhD candidate at TU Delft and Dr Zhu, postdoctoral researcher at the University of Twente initiated this work and performed the experiments, while Dr Shang did the computational work. Dr Klootwijk, Prof Sudhölter, Prof Huskens and Dr De Smet supervised the project.

The research in Nano Letters was also supported by NanoNextNL and NWO: Metal−Organic Polyhedra-Coated Si Nanowires for the Sensitive Detection of Trace Explosives. Anping Cao, Wei Zhu, Jin Shang, Johan Klootwijk, Ernst Sudhölter, Jurriaan Huskens, Louis de Smet, Nano Letters, 2016.

Source: Delft University of Technology