NCCLCs: Life Cycle of Nanomaterials (LCnano)

EPA Grant Number: RD835580
Title: NCCLCs: Life Cycle of Nanomaterials (LCnano)
Investigators: Westerhoff, Paul , Hutchison, James E. , Fairbrother, D. Howard , Plata, Desirée L. , Theis, Thomas L.
Current Investigators: Westerhoff, Paul , Fairbrother, D. Howard , Theis, Thomas L. , Hutchison, James E. , Plata, Desirée L.
Institution: Arizona State University , Duke University , Oregon State University , Purdue University , University of Oregon , Yale University , The Johns Hopkins University , Carnegie Mellon University , Colorado School of Mines , University of Illinois at Chicago
Current Institution: Arizona State University , Carnegie Mellon University , Colorado School of Mines , Duke University , Oregon State University , Purdue University , The Johns Hopkins University , University of Illinois at Chicago , University of Oregon , Yale University
EPA Project Officer: Lasat, Mitch
Project Period: March 19, 2014 through March 18, 2018 (Extended to August 30, 2019)
Project Amount: $5,000,000
RFA: EPA/NSF Networks for Characterizing Chemical Life Cycle (NCCLCs) (2013) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Chemical Safety for Sustainability


Because engineered nanomaterials (NMs) have transformative benefits to individuals and society, they are being incorporated into many products. However, tremendous uncertainty presently exists in our ability to predict or manage risks from nano-enabled products across their life cycles. This project involves an interdisciplinary team of chemists, toxicologists, scientists, engineers, and social scientists to evaluate the trade-offs between intended function of NMs in products and risks to humans and the environment across their life cycle from creation, through use and disposal.


We hypothesize that the desirable physicochemical properties that create unique NM functionality can also influence inherent hazards and potential exposure routes. LCnano’s overarching goal is to elucidate NM property-exposure and property-hazard relationships from a life cycle perspective and to provide predictive models for unintended implications of NMs that will improve design of safe nano-enabled products and processes. To inform risk managers, LCnano will employ high throughput functional assays to quantify material attributes that serve as proxies for short- and long-term risk (material exposure, hazard, reactivity, and distribution). To inform designers of nano-enabled products about balances between performance and risk, LCnano will evaluate nano-enabled products for facilitating direct and translational methods in the development of material property-exposure and property-hazard relationships for identifying and subsequently minimizing risk for a wide array of existing products, helping ensure sustainable design of future, transformative nano-enabled products.


LCnano will systematically evaluate four product lines expected to have variable NM release rates (i.e., dispersed in liquids used in industrial manufacturing (e.g., polishing agents), dispersed in products (e.g., foods), embedded in composite polymers (e.g., thermoplastics, membranes for water filtration), and coated on the surfaces of flexible polymeric materials (e.g., textiles) using four high-volume NMs (titanium dioxide, silicon dioxide, nano-silver, and multi-wall carbon nanotubes) that exhibit properties unique from each other and properties similar to other emerging NMs. Experiments conducted using model and commercial nano-enabled products will evaluate yield and byproducts during NM synthesis and examine release rates and characteristics using novel nanometrology.

Expected Results:

The evaluations in LCnano are expected to (i) reduce uncertainty in risks from nano-enabled products for the public, manufacturing communities, and regulatory agencies, (ii) provide the framework for existing and future nano-enabled product designs that preserve commercial value while minimizing adverse environmental health and safety effects, (iii) train a diverse group of undergraduate, graduate, and post-doctoral scientists to work as a network and produce integrated research products, and (iv) educate the public on the importance of the life cycle perspective for maximizing the benefits of nano-enabled products.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 138 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 76 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

nanotechnology, exposure, risk, ecological effects, bioavailability, particulates, effluent, metals, aquatic, water, life cycle analysis, Bayesian, environmental chemistry, engineering, modeling, measurement methods;

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2014 Progress Report
  • 2015 Progress Report
  • 2016 Progress Report
  • 2017 Progress Report
  • 2018 Progress Report
  • Final Report