NNUM 2019

Safety is highly prioritised  in DTU Nanolabs cleanroom, when working with nanoparticles, which can be potentially harmful to health. Especially when working with thin fibers and free powder. 

In DTU Nanolabs cleanroom scientists and technicians develop, test and produce many different materials and components. It is important to be extra careful when working with nanomaterials. Therefore, we have procedures and rules to ensure that a risk assessment is always prepared for risky processes, also when work involves nanoparticles.

Nanoparticles occur in many places in our daily environment, from candles, fireplaces, cooking and exhaust from cars, etc. Nanoparticles are a common term for all substances where the primary particles have at least one dimension less than 100 nm.

Nanoparticles can have different shapes - eg. fiber, sheet and spherical, as well as aggregates. The long thin fibers, which are not water soluble, are considered to be the most dangerous.

Following the precautionary principle

Since data is not always available for the harmful effects of individual nanoparticles, DTU applies the precautionary principle and assumes that they are harmful. Therefore, it is always necessary to consider whether a working process can generate nanoparticles.

DTU has a guideline for handling nanoparticles to be implemented in these local risk assessments. This is necessary as nanoparticles may only be handled in approved equipment during approved procedures. This is to protect the individual employee, colleagues, service personnel, as well as the external environment from the exposure of hazardous nanoparticles.

At DTU Nanolab, it is a  standard procedure that all new substances and processes must be approved by the Working Environment Committee. This is done by sending a risk assessment to the committee describing the entire work process, as well as the dangers that may be associated with the process and how to avoid these dangers.

Large air replacement

There is a big difference between whether the nanoparticles are in a suspension or as a free powder. It is nanoparticles as a free powder that we are nervous about, and since we have a very large air exchange in the cleanroom and thereby a huge circulation of air, it will quickly cause particles to spread. Therefore nanoparticles at DTU Nanolab can only be handled outside the cleanroom in the fume cupboard or flow box.

Majken Becker, safety coordinator