National Physical Laboratory

Measuring nanoparticles to improve air quality

NPL helps a UK company develop an award-winning device that measures airborne nanoparticles in the environment and workplace, helping to improve air quality.

Naneum's device (the award winning Nano-ID NPS500) was designed specifically for mobile workers, who need to measure nanoparticles in a range of environments (image courtesy of Naneum)
Naneum's device (the award winning Nano-ID
NPS500) was designed specifically for mobile
workers, who need to measure nanoparticles
in a range of environments (image courtesy
of Naneum)

The Challenge

The impact on human health of airborne nanoparticles is an area of growing concern. Nanoparticles are produced from both natural and man-made sources with a substantial fraction coming from combustion and traffic.

Humanity's incomplete knowledge about the environmental and health effects of nanoparticles coupled with their increasing use for industrial applications requires a precautionary approach to exposure.

Key to the determination of the amount of nanoparticles in the atmosphere or workplace is the availability of suitable methods of measurement. Instrumentation that will measure nanoparticles has been around for several years, but the reliability and equivalence of measurements between different instrument types as well as their performance characteristics have yet to be established in most cases.

The Solution

Canterbury-based company Naneum developed a portable 'scanning mobility particle sizer', the Nanoparticle Size Spectrometer (Nano-ID NPS500). This device can detect nanoparticles in the environment, and is intended for use in a range of markets, such as: Nanotechnology; Aerosol Science; Environmental Research; Industrial Hygiene; Health/Toxicology; Indoor/Outdoor Air Quality.

Of course, as with all new technology, the device needed to be tested to be sure that it was performing correctly. So Naneum brought it to NPL's dedicated facility - the Airborne Nanoparticle Laboratory, to undergo a measurement comparison exercise. This facility generated a range of aerosolised nanoparticles - the results of which were analysed with the help of NPL scientists.

NPL was able to confirm that Naneum's device was performing correctly, which was a major step towards the eventual validation of the device.

The Impact

The support and confidence which NPL provided, helped Naneum validate the Nano-ID NPS500 and sped up the process of getting it to market.

The product fills a gap in the market for a portable research-grade instrument and sales for the product's first two years were forecast at more than £1.5 million.

In October 2012 Naneum won an Innovation Award from the Institute of Physics (IOP) for their development of the Nano-ID NPS500.

Contact: Paul Quincey

Find out more about NPL's research in Chemical Metrology and Environmental Measurement

Last Updated: 28 Nov 2012
Created: 11 Nov 2010

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