Current Projects

NanoFATE - Nanoparticle Fate Assessment and Toxicity in the Environment
Professor Chris Grovenor, Dr. Alison Crossley, Dr Kerstin Jurkschat, Dr Colin Johnston
Nanotechnology is a major growth industry which faces the risk of not realising its full economic and societal benefits due to public concerns over the safety of nanoparticles. Concerns are largely based around uncertainties about what the human and environmental costs of their use may be. NanoFATE is an EU FP VII funded multipartner collaborative project led by the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology. NanoFATE has been conceived to fill knowledge and methodological gaps currently impeding sound assessment of environmental risks posed by engineered nanoparticles (ENPs). Our vision is to assess environmental ENP fate and risk in for example high volume products for which recycling is not an option, namely; fuel additives, polishing agents, personal care products and antibacterial products. To represent these products commercial ENPs of CeO2 ,ZnO and Ag will be followed through their postproduction life cycles, i.e. from environmental entry as “spent product”, through waste treatment to their final fates and potential toxic effects. This will test the applicability of current fate and risk assessment methods and identify improvements required for assessment of ENPs at an early stage.

Programme FP7-NMP Project Reference: 247739


NanoTOES - Nanoparticle Training of Experts in Safety

The NanoTOES project is a Marie Curie Initial Training Network focused on research to assess the health and environmental impacts of nanotechnology products. This research studentship is in collaboration with the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Wallingford Oxfordshire, and aims to determine toxicity for a range of metal and metal oxide based synthetic nanoparticles. The research will focus in particular on toxic effects on the biochemistry (gene expression, protein biology, cell biology) and behavioral and population ecology of the model nematode Caenorhabditis elegans.

The 6 main objectives of this project are:

  1. Identify mechanisms by which nanomaterials induce cellular stress and immune activation.
  2. Correlate size, shape, composition, coating of nanomaterials with defined cellular responses.
  3. Distinguish cell-specific from general cellular responses for cells from selected tissues.
  4. Identify the relevance of bystander substances and contaminants for nanotoxicity.
  5. Analyse the influence of biological compounds and entities on engineered NP.
  6. Develop and modify laboratory methods to allow their application in the work-place and in the environment.

Programme FP7-NMP Project Reference: 264506


Lead free solder development and analysis for aerospace applications
S. Godard-Desmarest, Dr. C. Johnston, Professor P.S. Grant.
Due to safety considerations, the aerospace industry is largely exempt from legislation prohibiting the use of lead in interconnects in electronic assemblies, and lead continues to be used in avionics. This situation is unlikely to continue because of further legislation and difficulties in sourcing lead-containing materials and assemblies from suppliers. In contrast to domestic electronics where lead free solders are now standard and reliable, there are no current widely accepted "drop-in" replacement materials for lead solders that meet the more stringent and hostile aerospace standards for reliability. There is now a pressing need to develop underpinning scientific understanding of the factors governing lifetime of existing and future lead free solder materials for critical aerospace applications. Previous work at Oxford has shown that nanoindentation can be used to measure the mechanical properties and constitutive behaviour of ball grid array solders as a function of temperature, and that with careful interpretation, this data can be used in simulations of stress-strain that in turn can be correlated to reliability performance. The significance of the approach is that unlike previous approaches that have relied on time-consuming and costly mechanical testing of bulk materials to obtain basic property data, the nanoindentation and modelling route offers the potential to identify more rapidly promising lead free alloys that meet aerospace requirements, usually quick methods and very small amounts of candidate materials. The project will build on the approach established at Oxford to study a variety of promising new lead free solder compositions for aerospace applications. Ball grid array joints are made in-house so that full process history data can be captured and reproducibility assured. These assemblies are probed by nanoindentation and the key mechanical behaviour (yield, temperature dependent creep, etc) captured and interpreted in a form suitable for input into a numerical model of stress-strain accumulation. In this way, the potential of alloys can be firstly ranked qualitatively, and then the most promising alloys studied in more detail by further probing and modelling, and thermal cycling or assemblies using equipment at Oxford and at industrial partners. This project is sponsored by EPSRC, Goodrich and Oxatech.