Tag Archives: European Union 7th Framework Programme

Opportunity for companies to take a survey on risk management and nanotechnology

A June 8, 2015 news item on Nanowerk features a European Union (EU) Framework Programme 7 (FP7) nanotechnology risk management project and survey,

The EU FP7 Sustainable Nanotechnologies (SUN) project is based on the idea that the current knowledge on environmental and health risks of nanomaterials – while limited – can nevertheless guide nanomanufacturing to avoid liabilities if an integrated approach addressing the complete product lifecycle is applied. SUN aims to evaluate the risks along the supply chains of engineered nanomaterials and incorporate the results into tools and guidelines for sustainable nanomanufacturing.

A May 26, 2015 SUN press release by Stella Stoycheva, which originated the news item, provides more details,

… A key objective of  Sustainable Nanotechnologies (SUN) is to build the SUN Decision Support System (SUNDS) to facilitate safe and sustainable nanomanufacturing and risk management. It will integrate tools for ecological and human health risk assessment, lifecycle assessment, economic assessment and social impact assessment within a sustainability assessment framework. We are currently developing the Technological Alternatives and Risk Management Measures (TARMM) inventory and are looking for companies to fill in a short survey.

… We would appreciate responses from personnel of companies involved in nanotechnology-related activities who are familiar with the risk management practices.

You can go here to take the survey. The focus is on companies and there don’t seem to be any geographic requirements such as only EU companies can participate.

The use of graphene scanners in art conservation

A May 20, 2015 news item on phys.org describes a new method of examining art work without damaging it,

Museum curators, art restorers, archaeologists and the broader public will soon be able to learn much more about paintings and other historic objects, thanks to an EU project which has become a pioneer in non-invasive art exploration techniques, based on a graphene scanner.

Researchers working on INSIDDE [INtegration of cost-effective Solutions for Imaging, Detection, and Digitisation of hidden Elements in paintings], which received a EUR 2.9 million investment from FP7 ICT Research Programme, have developed a graphene scanner that can explore under the surface of a painting, or through the dirt covering an ancient object unearthed in an archaeological dig, without touching it.

‘As well as showing sketches or previous paintings that have remained hidden beneath a particular artwork, the scanner, together with post-processing techniques, will allow us to identify and distinguish brushstrokes to understand the creative process,’ explained Javier Gutiérrez, of Spanish technology company Treelogic, which is leading the project.

A May 19, 2015 CORDIS press release, which originated the news item, provides more details about the graphene scanner’s cabilities,

The challenge in this field is to develop advanced technologies that avoid damaging the artwork under examination. Solvents and their potential side effects are progressively being replaced by the likes of lasers, to removed dirt and varnish from paintings. Limestone-producing bacteria can be used to fill cracks in sculptures. INSIDDE is taking a step further in this direction by using terahertz, a frequency band lying between microwave and infrared in the electromagnetic spectrum.

Until graphene, considered to be one of the materials of the future, came along it was difficult to generate terahertz frequencies to acquire such detail. Graphene in this application acts as a frequency multiplier, allowing scientists to reveal previously hidden features such as brushstroke textures, pigments and defects, without harming the work.

Although X-ray and infrared reflectography are used elsewhere to carry out this type of study, they heat the object and cannot reach the intermediate layers between the gesso and the varnish in paintings, or other characteristic elements in ceramics. INSIDDE’s device, using terahertz frequency, works in these intermediate layers and does not heat the object.

In conjunction with a commercial scanner mapping the art’s upper layers, it can generate full 3D data from the object in a completely non-intrusive way and processes this data to extract and interpret features invisible to the naked eye, in a way that has never been done before.

INSIDDE is developing this technology to benefit the general public, too. The 2D and 3D digital models it is producing will be uploaded to the Europeana network and the project aims to make the results available through a smartphone and tablet app to be exploited by local and regional museums. The app is currently being trialled at one of the partners, the Asturias Fine Art Museum in Oviedo. It shows the different layers of the painting the visitor is looking at and provides additional information and audio.

The press release notes that the technology offers some new possibilities,

Although the scanner is still in its trial and calibration phase, the project participants have already unveiled some promising results. Marta Flórez, of the Asturias Fine Art Museum, explained: ‘Using the prototype, we have been able to distinguish clearly between different pigments, which in some cases will avoid having to puncture the painting in order to find out what materials the artist used.’

The prototype is also being validated with some recently unearthed 3rd Century pottery from the Stara Zagora regional history museum in Bulgaria. When the project ends in December 2015, one of the options the consortium is assessing is putting this cost-effective solution at the service of smaller local and regional museums without art restoration departments so that they too, like the bigger museums, can make important discoveries about their collections.

You can find out more about INSIDDE here.

The long road to commercializing nanotechnology-enabled products in Europe: the IP Nanoker Project

IP Nanoker, a nanotechnology commercialization project, was a European Union 7th Framework Programme-funded project from 2005 – 2009. So, how does IP Nanoker end up in a June 11, 2014 news item on Nanowerk? The road to commercialization is not only long, it is also winding as this news item points out in an illuminating fashion,

Superior hip, knee and dental implants, a new generation of transparent airplane windows and more durable coatings for automotive engines are just some of the products made possible – and cheaper – by the EU-funded IP NANOKER project. Many of these materials are now heading to market, boosting Europe’s competitiveness and creating jobs.

Launched back in 2005, the four-year project set out to build upon Europe’s expertise and knowledge in nanoceramics and nanocomposites.

Nanocomposites entirely made up of ceramic and metallic nanoscale particles – particles that are usually between 1 and 100 nanometres in size – are a broad new class of engineered materials that combine excellent mechanical performance with critical functionalities such as transparency, biocompatibility, and wear resistance.

These materials offer improvements over conventional materials. For some advanced optical applications – such as windows for aircraft – glass is too brittle. Nanoceramics offer both transparency and toughness, and thanks to IP NANOKER, can now be manufactured at a significantly reduced cost.
Indeed, one of the most important outcomes of IP NANOKER has been the development of new dense nanostructured materials as hard as diamond. The fabrication of these super hard materials require extreme conditions of high temperature and pressure, which is why IP NANOKER project partners developed a customised Spark Plasma Sintering machine.

“This new equipment is the largest in the world (12 metres high, 6 metres wide and 5 metres deep), and features a pressing force up to 400 tonnes and will allow the fabrication of near-net shaped products up to 400mm in diameter”, explains project coordinator Ramon Torrecillas from Spain’s Council for Scientific Research (CSIC).

This is obviously a distilled and simplified version of what occurred but, first, they developed the technology, then they developed a machine that would allow them to manufacture their nanotechnology-enabled materials. It’s unclear as to whether or not the machine was developed during the project years of 2005 – 2009 but the project can trace its impact in other ways (from the March 27, 2014 European Union news release), which originated the news item,

The project promises to have a long-lasting impact. In 2013, some former IP NANOKER partners launched a public-private initiative with the objective of bridging the gap between research and industry and boosting the industrial application of Spark Plasma Sintering in the development of nanostructured multifunctional materials.

Potential new nanomaterial-based products hitting the market soon include ultra-hard cutting and mining tools, tough ceramic armour and mirrors for space telescopes.

“Another positive result arising from IP NANOKER was the launch in 2011 of Nanoker Research, a Spanish spin-off company,” says Prof Torrecillas. “This company was formed by researchers from two of the project partners, CSIC and Cerámica Industrial Montgatina, and currently employs 19 people.”
IP NANOKER was also instrumental in creating the Nanomaterials and Nanotechnology Research Centre (CINN) in Spain, a joint initiative of the CSIC, the University of Oviedo and the Regional Government of Asturias.

As a result of its economic and societal impact, IP NANOKER was selected as project finalist in two European project competitions: Industrial Technologies 2012 and Euronanoforum 2013.
Some three years after its completion, the positive effects of the project are still being felt. Prof Torrecillas is delighted with the results, and argues that only a pan-European project could have achieved such ambitious goals.

“As an industry-led project, IP NANOKER provided a suitable framework for research on top-end applications that require not only costly technologies but also very specific know-how,” he says. “Thus, bringing together the best European experts in materials science, chemistry, physics and engineering and focusing the work of these multidisciplinary teams on specific applications, was the only way to face the project challenges.”

The technology for producing these materials/coatings has yet to be truly commercialized. They face a somewhat tumultuous future as they develop markets for their products and build up manufacturing capabilities almost simultaneously.

They will definitely use ‘push’ strategies, i.e., try to convince car manufacturers, hip implant manufacturers,etc. their materials are a necessity for improved sales of the product (car, hip implant, etc.).

They could also use ‘pull’ strategies with retailers (convince them their sales will improve) and or the general public (this will make your life easier, better, more exciting, safer, etc.). The hope with a pull strategy is that retailers and/or the general public will start demanding these improved products (car, hip implants, etc.) and the manufacturers will be clamouring for your nanotechnology-enabled materials.

Of course, if you manage to create a big demand, then you have the problem of delivering your product, which brings this post back to manufacturing and having to address capacity issues. You will also have competitors, which likely means the technology and/or  the buyers’ ideas about the technology, will evolve, at least in the short term, while the market (as they say) shakes out.

If you want to read more about some of the issues associated with commercializing nanotechnology-enabled products, there’s this Feb. 10, 2014 post titled, ‘Valley of Death’, ‘Manufacturing Middle’, and other concerns in new government report about the future of nanomanufacturing in the US‘ about a report from the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) and a May 23, 2014 post titled, ‘Competition, collaboration, and a smaller budget: the US nano community responds‘, which touches on some commercialization issues, albeit, within a very different context.

One final note, it’s interesting to note that the March 2014 news release about IP Nanoker is on a Horizon 2020 (this replaces the European Union’s 7th Framework Programme) news website. I expect officials want to emphasize the reach and impact these funded projects have over time.

NanoValid invites you to a Sept. 2013 workshop on the Advanced Characterization of Nanomaterial

I received (Aug. 5, 2013) an announcement, which I’m passing on here, about a workshop taking place in Spain this coming September (2013),

The EC-funded NanoValid Project (www.nanovalid.eu) invites you to register for the last remaining places at the “Advanced Characterization of Nanomaterials” workshop organised by the University of Zaragoza and the Institute of Nanoscience of Aragon (INA).

When: September 16th – 20th 2013

Where: University of Zaragoza, Institute of Nanoscience of Aragon


The characterization of nanomaterials is a challenging topic that requires in-depth knowledge of physicochemical techniques and state-of-the-art devices. This workshop contributes to continuous training of analytical procedures at the nanoscale for enhancing current knowledge and developing novel materials and procedures in nanotechnology.


•             Addresses both PhD students and Post-Doc researchers

•             Access to advanced techniques of nanotechnology

•             Fully qualified scientific and technical personnel

•             Open poster and oral communication sessions


€ 525:    This includes workshop fees, a welcome reception, lunches, coffee-breaks & booklet.

Optional banquet in a traditional Aragonese cuisine venue (€50)


The full programme includes theory sessions, practical demonstrations and training sessions, as well as oral and poster presentations (…).





M. Pilar Lobera, PhD (plobera@unizar.es); Francisco Balas, PhD (fbalas@unizar.es)


Not having previously investigated the NanoValid project, I checked out the homepage,

The EU FP7 large-scale integrating project NanoValid (contract: 263147) has been launched on the 1st of November 2011, as one of the “flagship” nanosafety projects. The project consists of 24 European partners from 14 different countries and 6 partners from Brazil, Canada, India and the US and will run from 2011 to 2015, with a total budget of more than 13 mio EUR (EC contribution 9.6 mio EUR). [emphasis mine] Main objective of NanoValid is to develop a set of reliable reference methods and materials for the fabrication, physicochemical (pc) characterization, hazard identification and exposure assessment of engineered nanomaterials (EN), including methods for dispersion control and labelling of ENs. Based on newly established reference methods, current approaches and strategies for risk and life cycle assessment will be improved, modified and further developed, and their feasibility assessed by means of practical case studies.

In cooperation with other relevant projects, such as MARINA and QNano, and relevant standardization bodies, such as the OECD [Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development] WPMN [Working Party on Manufactured Nanomaterials], existing industrial or newly designed ENs will be subjected to a rigid and comprehensive inter-laboratory validation campaign that includes the currently most advanced methods and instruments for measuring and characterizing of ENs, to generate accurate and reproducible material data and standardized method protocols, also for tracing and quantifying nanoparticles (NP) in complex matrices. The stability and behaviour of selected NP will be monitored and tested in a variety of relevant environmental samples and test media to derive optimum and reproducible fabrication, measurement and test conditions.

The validated characterization methods will be used to design well-defined certified reference materials, which in turn will help to validate, adapt, modify and further develop current biological approaches (in vitro, in vivo and in silico) for assessing hazard and exposure of ENs, and associated risks to human health and the environment. Effects of chronic and accumulative exposure and of exposure under real-life conditions, where ENPs [engineered nanoparticles] are likely to act as components of complex mixtures, will be duly taken into account.

It was a little surprising to find Canada listed as one of the project partners. I also found this map of the consortium participants which lists McGill University specifically as the Canadian participant.

I briefly mentioned NanoValid in a June 19, 2012 posting which featured a listing of Environmental, Health and Safety projects being funded by the European Union’s 7th Framework Programme.

Picosun Oy and atomic layer deposition (ALD)

Finnish company, Picosun Oy, reports in a Jan. 2, 2012 news item on Nanowerk about a successful research project on solar cells undertaken as part of the European Union 7th Framework Programme. From the news item on Nanowerk,

… The goal of this multinational, inter-European, three years (2009-2011) project combining the efforts of both scientific and industrial partners has been to dramatically increase the efficiency of solar cells and reduce the costs of their manufacturing. This has been achieved with novel, innovative, silicon nanorod based concept. The amount of active photovoltaic material (Si) can be significantly reduced by growing the light-trapping nanorod “forests” (thickness from < 1µm to a few µm at most) on cheaper substrates such as glass or flexible foils. …

An ultrathin ALD-deposited Al2O3 film serves ideally this purpose, and the gas-phase, surface-controlled and self-limiting nature of the ALD process ensures that even the deepest and narrowest between-the-rods nooks and crannies will be reliably covered with 100 % uniform, conformal and pinhole- and defect-free passivation film. Another central cell component where ALD has shown its indispensability is the transparent conductive oxide (TCO) layer that works as the current collector on the top of the cell. Different TCO deposition methods were investigated in the course of the project, and ALD turned out to be the ideal method regarding both the TCO film quality and the scalability of the technique, due to Picosun’s fast, efficient and easy-to-use HVM (High Volume Manufacturing) batch ALD system, which was developed specifically during the project ROD-SOL.

“Solar photovoltaics still remains one of the fastest growing industries in the world. To enable more efficient utilization of this free, clean energy, the efficiencies of the solar cells have to increase and their manufacturing costs decrease. ROD-SOL’s silicon nanorod cell concept shows promising potential to this, and we at Picosun have been especially satisfied of the ALD’s central role in realizing this novel, innovative, high efficiency solar electricity converter”, states Picosun’s Managing Director Juhana Kostamo.

More technical details are available in the news item on Nanowerk. I last wrote about Picosun Oy in a July 11, 2011 posting about a collaboration between the company and Carleton University researchers Sean Barry and Jason Coyle on a technique for plasma-enhanced atomic layer deposition.