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Environmental Health and Safety of Nanotechnology


Tuesday, October 20, 2015, 12:00pm

The Environmental Health and Safety of Nanotechnology (Nano EHS) program provides support to examine and mitigate the environmental effects of nanotechnologies.  Fundamental research is sought to understand, evaluate, and lessen the impact of nanotechnology on the environment and biological systems. 

The program emphasizes engineering principles underlying the environmental health and safety impacts of nanotechnology.  Innovative methods related to clean nanomaterials production processes, waste reduction, recycling, and industrial ecology of nanotechnology are also of interest.  

Transformative research in the area of nanoEHS includes the following:

  • Understanding, measuring, mitigating, and preventing adverse effects of nanotechnology on the environment and biological systems
  • Nanotechnology environmental health and safety impacts
  • Predictive methodology for the interaction of nanoparticles with the environment and with the human body, including predictive approaches for toxicity
  • Fate and transport of engineered nanoparticles and their by-products
  • Risk assessment and management of the effect of nanomaterials in the environment
  • Proposals may address methods to characterize and quantify the release of nanomaterials from intermediate materials or finished products during use or disposal scenarios.

1. Complex and heterogeneous engineered nanomaterials.

The nanomaterials of today and tomorrow are moving from simple, homogeneous, single- element objects to heterogeneous structured materials.  Research on the environmental and health implications of these nanomaterials is only in the beginning stages and much work is needed on complex and heterogeneous nanomaterials.   NOTE: Proposals addressing silver or gold nanomaterials will be given low priority. 

2. Detailed materials characterization.

To get meaningful results in nano EHS studies it is necessary to know what material is being used and what properties of the material might cause the effects on living systems.  Characterization is a necessary part of all nanoEHS research.

3. Prevention of adverse impacts.

This is an important research area. It includes both applying environmentally benign synthesis methods in engineering and manufacturing nanomaterials as well using nanotechnology in preventing adverse impacts in current non-nano synthesis and manufacturing processes.

4. Research takes a systems approach.

Whether the impacted system is a natural system or an industrial system, the EHS research must start from a systems view to justify how and where adverse impacts could occur. Research may include models and statistical techniques used to identify priorities for study within systems.

5. Fundamental tools need to be developed.

Monitoring instrumentation, sensors, models, and metrology are but a few of the tools  needed for measuring nanomaterials'  impact on the environment, health or safety.  Fundamental work on standards for measurements are also needed.

6. Nano EHS research informs and enables responsible development and sustainability.

There is a great opportunity for partnership with sustainability programs in the nano EHS area, particularly in applications that improve EHS.  For example, nanomaterials and membranes can enhance water treatment or contribute to efficient energy technologies and slow down greenhouse gas production and resource depletion.

Proposals may address methods to characterize and quantify the presence of nanomaterials in products, and the release of nanomaterials from intermediate materials or finished products during consumer use or disposal scenarios.

NOTE:  For proposals involving any aspect of chemistry, including but not limited to biochemistry or physical chemistry, consider making proposal submissions to this program (1179) with the Proposal Title as:  ‘SusChEM: Name of Your Proposal'.  See SusChEM - New NSF Emphasis Area.  Likewise for proposals involving sustainable engineering.

Current areas of support for this program do not include biomedical and nanotoxicology topics involving clinical trials.

The duration of unsolicited awards is generally one to three years.  The average annual award size for the program is $100,000.  Proposals requesting a substantially higher amount than this, without prior consultation with the Program Director, may be returned without review. 

Innovative proposals outside of these specific interest areas can be considered.  However, prior to submission, it is recommended that the PI contact the Program Director to avoid the possibility of the proposal being returned without review.


The official announcement and description of this opportunity may be found on the funding agency's website: