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Nano coalition unveils environmental, health and safety database

The International Council on Nanotechnology (ICON) and Rice University's Center for Biological and Environmental Nanotechnology (CBEN) today launched the world's first online database of scientific findings related to the benefits and risks of nanotechnology. The database can be accessed at http://icon.rice.edu/research.cfm.

This environmental health and safety (EHS) database marks the first effort to integrate the vast and diverse scientific literature on the impacts of nanoparticles, which are tiny pieces of matter with dimensions measuring between 1 and 100 nanometers and containing between tens and thousands of atoms. (One nanometer is one-billionth of a meter or approximately 60,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair.) The database is the result of the collected efforts of Rice researchers, the chemical industry and the U.S. Department of Energy. This database will be updated and enhanced over the next year.

Many nanoparticles exhibit unique chemical, electrical, optical and physical properties by virtue of their size, shape or surface characteristics. The great diversity of nanoparticle types that have already been created has made it difficult for scientists to make general statements about the potential safety hazards that nanoparticles might pose to living organisms. This problem is exacerbated by the limited scientific data on the topic. While there is a significant body of research on the impacts of incidental nanoparticles - a class of particles that are the unintentional byproduct of another process, such as combustion, and are often referred to as ultrafine particles - the specific effects of only a few engineered nanomaterials have been studied. This shortfall in scientific knowledge is beginning to be addressed through targeted research funding programs and other initiatives. However, nanotechnology's breadth poses unique challenges in this regard, and knowing which questions new r
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Contact: Jade Boyd
jadeboyd@rice.edu
713-348-6778
Rice University
19-Aug-2005


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