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Reference materials for nanotechnologies

Nanotechnologies make use of the properties of nanomaterials. Characterising the properties of nanomaterials, and their structure at the nanoscale (1 nm to 100 nm), requires advanced measurement methods. These methods are often complex or new. Certified reference materials are the much needed tools to monitor the performance of these methods and to help laboratories develop confidence in their measurement results.

The JRC's Institute for Reference Materials and Measurements (IRMM) produces a wide range of certified reference materials; an exhaustive list can be retrieved via the online catalogue for reference materials. Recently released reference nanomaterials include nanoparticle materials with certified average particle sizes.

Characterisation of nanoparticles

Nanoparticles (particles with an external size smaller than 100 nm) are used in many applications, such as paints, coatings, electronics, cosmetics and food. Reliable measurements of the properties of nanoparticles are crucial to develop new products, but also to determine whether specific nanomaterials pose a risk to health and the environment, or not. To support the laboratories measuring and testing nanoparticles, IRMM develops certified nanoparticle reference materials based on relevant industrially produced particles.

Development and standardisation of new measurement methods 

The certification of reference materials critically depends on the availability of reliable measurement methods. In a relatively young scientific area such as nanotechnology, many new methods are being developed and proposed for use, also in the regulatory context. IRMM, in support of its main customers (the EC policy services), is therefore permanently evaluating the relevance and reliability of proposed measurement methods. In a JRC reference report, candidate measurement methods for implementation of the EC Recommendation on the definition of nanomaterial are investigated.