How safe is that nanoparticle?

The world’s first database of scientific findings related to the benefits and risks of nanotechnology is now online.

The International Council on Nanotechnology (ICON) and RiceUniversity‘s Center for Biological and Environmental Nanotechnology (CBEN) have launched the world’s first online database of scientific findings related to the benefits and risks of nanotechnology.

This environmental health and safety (EHS) database marks the first effort to integrate the vast and diverse scientific literature on the impacts of nanoparticles.

The database is the result of the collected efforts of Rice researchers, the chemical industry and the US Department of Energy.

“An informed decision about how to ensure the safety of nanomaterials requires a comprehensive review of where we are and where we’ve been with prior research,” said Dr. Jack Solomon, chairman of the Chemical Industry Vision2020 Technology Partnership. “By gathering findings that are scattered throughout the literatures of biomedical application developers, toxicologists, environmental engineers and nanomaterials scientists, we are helping researchers and government funding agencies to see the big picture.”

In addition to standard search terms such as author, year and keywords, papers in the database will be able to be sorted according to type of particle and the type of experiment — whether it measured a hazard or the potential for exposure, for instance. In addition, users can find out whether the nanoparticle was intentionally engineered or is the incidental byproduct of another process, like the ultrafine particles that result from combustion of diesel fuel.

These functions will be added to the database in the next few months. For now, the database archives articles that have appeared in peer-reviewed scientific journals. In the future, a separate archive of policy reports and commentaries on key papers in the field will be established.

The freely available database is maintained by ICON as a public service. ICON, a coalition of academic, industrial, governmental and civil society organisations, is administered by CBEN.

The database can be accessed at