new research project is investigating the effects
of nanoparticles at the research and development
stage on people's health and the environment. These
particles, which are less than 100 nanometres in
size, are being developed, among other applications,
for surface finishing, for catalysts and fuel cells
or for use in the electrical industry.
The INOS research project (Identification and Assessment of the Effects of Engineered
Nanoparticles on Human and Environmental Health) is planned for three years and
has received financial support of over one million euro from the German Ministry
The aim is to create a scientifically-based data base where anyone can find information
about the potential risks of nanoparticles. Experience with other emerging technologies
has shown that they are only accepted by society if possible health effects are
analysed and published early on. Nanotechnologies are considered the growth market
of the future.
The Federal Ministry of Research expects the world market for products influenced
by nanotechnologies to increase ten-fold in the next few years, to a total of
one trillion euro. However, small and mid-sized companies in particular are often
not capable of testing the risks of nanoparticles to any great extent or over
a long time by their own means.
This is why a certified laboratory shall be established following the research
project; one which will mainly act as a contact partner to mid-sized firms, coordinating
and carrying out analyses of the possible risks of nanoparticles.
Research institutes and companies from Dresden and Leipzig involved in material
sciences, environmental sciences and medicine have therefore come together to
form a research consortium. Taking part are the Max Bergmann Centre for Biomaterials
(MBZ), the “Carl Gustav Carus” medical faculty of Dresden University of Technology,
the Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems (IKTS) and Namos
GmbH from Dresden, as well as the Leipzig-Halle Centre for Environmental Research
One thousandth the diameter of a human hair – that is how small they are, these
synthetically-produced nanoparticles we are hearing more and more about in many
branches of industry, and also in the public domain. What are synthetic nanoparticles
and what makes them so attractive?
The word “nano” comes from Greek and means “dwarf”. Typically, particles below
100 nanometres in size (one billionth of a metre) are termed nanoparticles. This
is the range in which materials can sometimes take on entirely new characteristics
because of their small size. For example, carbon nanotubes have a greater tensile
strength than steel, are very good electrical conductors and conduct heat better
than diamonds, until now the best-known heat conductors. Products made of nanoparticles
can, for example, absorb considerably more light or be used as far more effective
catalysts, as they have a larger surface with the same mass compared with larger
This is why improved or entirely new solutions are expected from nanotechnology
in information technology, medicine, environmental technology, cosmetics and
materials. Yet how do things stand with nanoparticles' compatibility with human
beings and the environment? What happens if particles which are a thousand times
smaller than human cells come into contact with these cells?
These are the questions the INOS research consortium is dedicated to answering.
Within this project, scientists are examining whether and under what conditions
nanoparticles, which could in future be of importance for engineering, the chemicals
industry, energy management and microelectronics, can produce undesired effects
on the cells of human beings and fish.
The testing will first be carried out in vitro, i.e. outside the organisms, using
different cell cultures, and the results will then be made available to the public
in a freely accessible data base. Methods are being developed which will allow
a large number of particles to be examined under predefined conditions for their
effects on cells, with no animal testing, giving prior indication of any potential
What the researchers are particularly interested in here is whether the function
and viability of cells of the nervous system, lungs, intestines or the skin are
influenced and if genetic damage or changes in immunoregulation are possible.
More specialised information:
Prof. Wolfgang Pompe
Max Bergmann Centre for Biomaterials (MBZ)
Telephone: +49 (0) 351- 463-31420
Dr. Kristin Schirmer
Leipzig-Halle Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ)
Telephone: +49 (0) 341-235-2699
Doris Böhme/ Tilo Arnhold
UFZ press office
Telephone: +49 (0) 341-235-2278
Prof. Hrissanthi Ikonomidou
Dresden University of Technology
Tel: +49 (0) 351-4582230
Dr. Volkmar Richter
Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems
Telephone: +49 (0) 351-2553-614
Dr. Jürgen Hofinger
Tel.: +49 (0) 351-796 572-0
The Max Bergmann Centre for Biomaterials, Dresden (MBZ) was founded in 2002 as
a joint facility of the University of Technology (TUD) and the Leibniz Institute
of Polymer Research e.V. (IPF). The centre brings together both centres' activities
in the field of medical research into biomaterials. At the working group for
materials science and nanotechnology at the Institute for Materials Science,
Dresden University of Technology, research has been carried out into nanotechnology
themes and medical biomaterials development for many years.
The Department for Neuropediatrics (i.e. neuropathy in children) was founded
in October 2004 at the “Carl Gustav Carus” medical faculty, Dresden University
of Technology. The aim of the department's research work is to identify and characterise
the mechanisms of deterioration and dysfunction in nerve cells in the developing
and adult brain.
Namos GmbH (previously BoneMaster) was founded in 1998 on the basis of research
results from Dresden University of Technology. With the help of a Federal Government
project to support new business start-ups, a process for coating bone implants
was developed and brought to production. Since 2002, Namos GmbH has been developing
surface coatings whose properties have been considerably improved with the help
The Dresden Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems (IKTS)
came into being in 1992. The central themes of its research are developments
in materials, processes and components in the fields of structural ceramics,
functional ceramics and carbides. In this research great importance is placed
on the targeted development of microstructures and interfaces. The IKTS has long
experience in the manufacture, characterisation and processing of nanoscale powders.
The scientists of the UFZ Centre for Environmental Research (Umweltforschungszentrum
Leipzig-Halle) study the complex interactions between humans and the environment
in cultivated and damaged landscapes. They develop concepts and processes to
help secure the natural foundations of human life for future generations.
The UFZ has around 800 employees and is a member of the Helmholtz Association
which, with 15 research centres and an annual budget of around 2.2 billion Euro,
is Germany's largest scientific research community. The 24,000 employees of the
Helmholtz Association undertake research in the fields of structure of matter,
earth and environment, transport and space, health, energy and key technologies.
Here is the research project's databank in future online:
Further links on the theme of nano technologies:
Federal Ministry for Education and Research brochure “Wunderwelt Werkstoffe”: