Innovative nanoparticles have the potential to significantly improve our lives. The advantages they bring in advanced electronics and opto-electronics, efficient photovoltaics, highly sensitive disease diagnostics, selective catalysis, improved agrochemicals and many other applications have been unequivocally demonstrated. The major challenge for industry is to translate these improvements into reliable, useful and safe products. A recurring and common issue is the notorious irreproducibility of nanoparticle synthesis, which is typically sensitive to small variations in reaction conditions. It is possible to mitigate these sensitivities by advanced process control, but only if measurement methods are available to identify the variability in the synthesised nanoparticles. This project extends nanometrology beyond the well-established measurement of size to enable routine monitoring of particle number concentration and chemistry. These measurements represent major progress in supporting the production of reliable nanomaterials. Through these advances in measurement, nanomaterial suppliers and users can have confidence that batch-to-batch variability will be minimised and, by providing international standards for these measurements, world-wide trade in nanomaterials and European competitiveness will be enhanced.

Typically more than half of the nanoparticles produced for high performance applications fail to meet specifications. Numerous cycles of production and measurement are required to optimise processes and counteract this failure rate. The current cost of validating nanomaterials by electron microscopy is approximately € 2000 per sample; this could be reduced by an order of magnitude through the provision of guidance, standards and more cost effective methods as intended by this project. We envisage that these standards will strengthen and grow the current € 3 bn market in high performance nanoparticles.

The emerging nanomaterials industry in Europe is at a critical juncture. The EU is rightly seen as the most cautious and conservative market for nanotechnological products because of imminent regulation and reporting requirements. It is imperative, therefore, that the EU is seen to be leading the global community in providing measurements and standards in support of its legislative ambitions. The European Commission has challenged nanomaterials manufacturers to state the composition of their materials. Those industries that meet the challenge will improve their productivity and competitiveness because of their greater understanding of their own products and their ability to provide specifications to their suppliers. This project offers a coordinated effort to establish the measurement framework to support EU companies in the production of better, more competitive products, develop methods and instrumentation to measure nanoparticles and to meet EU regulatory requirements.

The project will contribute to an improved acceptance of nanotechnology and nanotechnology-based products by society through the dissemination of validated protocols for measurement of nanoparticle number concentration and surface chemistry. This will help to provide a reliable basis for the acceptance of nanoparticle-containing products by the consumer. Moreover, by improving the measurement of nanoparticles produced for innovative applications, this project will enable industry to finely control the production of nanoparticles so that more reliable, efficient and new products can be generated with higher performance. Specific output targets of this project are particles designed for the medical and electronic industries, which have substantial societal impact in terms of improving health and quality of life.