Apr 05

Nanotechnology standardisation: for materials 100,000 times smaller than this full stop.


As the impact of nanotechnologies on human life becomes more prevalent, it is increasingly important to be able to characterise nanomaterials within biological systems and understand their behaviour in order to protect human health and the environment.

Significant efforts are being made to ensure the appropriate regulatory frameworks are in place to support this enabling technology. Alongside this, international and national standardisation efforts play a critical role in ensuring that the full potential of nanotechnology is realised and that it is safely integrated into society. LGC is involved in supporting both these areas through our involvement in a variety of organisations.


LGC provides advice to UK government (Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy) on proposed amendments to the European Cosmetic Products Regulation (EC No 1223/2009). These amendments are considering the inclusion of nanomaterials as authorised cosmetic ingredients and are discussed at meetings of the EU Working Group and Standing Committee on Cosmetic Products.

The characterisation of a nanomaterial, i.e. understanding which analytical methods are appropriate and their associated limitations, is considered an important aspect in ensuring the specification described in legislation can be demonstrated through repeatable and accurate measurements.


LGC supports the standardisation of measurements in the nanotechnology field through our representation on the ISO (International Organization for Standardization) Technical Committee for Nanotechnologies (TC 229) and its British Standards Institution equivalent (BSI NTI/001). These committees meet regularly to discuss ongoing and future standardisation activities in the nanotechnology area.

Recently (March 2017) a new ISO Technical Specification (TS 19590) was released that outlines an inorganic mass spectrometry method (single particle inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry, spICP-MS) for determining the size distribution and concentration of nanoparticles in aqueous media. Scientists from LGC provided input to this specification based on our expertise in this area[ii].

Another area of ISO activity is the development of a new TS on the analysis of nano-objects using the gentle separation technique of field flow fractionation (TS 21362). Dorota Bartczak, a Researcher in the Inorganic Analysis Team and LGC representative at ISO/BSI for nanotechnologies, has been registered as the nominated UK expert for the new TS[iii] [iv]. Development of the TS is being led by representatives of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (USA) and the National Metrology Institute (Japan), and is currently at the Working Draft stage.


LGC’s involvement supporting the development of nanotechnology regulation, and the underpinning standardisation efforts required at both a national and international level, recognises both the individual expertise of our scientists and LGC’s reputation in this field.

LGC’s input will help ensure current and future consumer safety and ultimately protect human health and the environment whilst supporting the growth and development of this enabling technology.


LGC, the National Measurement Laboratory and Designated Institute for chemical and bio-measurement


[i] Defined by recent EU regulation to be cosmetics, foods and biocides where more than half the particles are between 1 and 100 nm in size.

[ii]  Analysis of 10 nm gold nanoparticles using the high sensitivity of the Agilent 8900 ICP-QQQ. Agilent Application Note (2016)

[iii] Determination of size- and number-based concentration of silica nanoparticles in a complex biological matrix by online techniques. Bartczak D, Vincent P, Goenaga-Infante H. Anal Chem (2015) 87:5482-5485. DOI: 10.1021/acs.analchem.5b01052

[iv] LGC supporting innovation: working with Malvern Instruments. LGC Case Study (2016)

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