Broader scientific overview
Nanoscience and nanotechnology have made a revolutionary impact on the scientific community with many new interesting research fields. New applications and products emerge in many different fields e.g. electronics, energy, environment, healthcare/medicine, advanced materials (see for a recent inventory: (http://www.nanotechproject.org/) and these developments will most probably change our society. It is of utmost importance that in parallel with the development of nanoscience and nanotechnology regulatory work is performed that defines, standardizes and characterizes the applied nanomaterials and nanostructures that is a major part in the above mentioned applications. This standardisation and characterization is essential for the quality of future products and for an inventory and regulation of hazardous materials and waste management.
The NanoMag project addresses exactly this task in the field of magnetic nanoparticles that can be used for medical applications. An important class of nanomaterials that finds its application in for instance the healthcare area (i.e. imaging, therapy and diagnostics) concerns magnetic nanoparticles (MNPs).
These particles have been subject of extensive research since about 1930 when William Fuller Brown and Louis Néel discussed the concept of magnetic single domain particles. A single-domain particle was defined as a particle with all its spins in the same direction, i.e. with only one direction of magnetization in the particle. Typically, any spherical magnetic particle below about 80 nm is in such a single-domain state. Single core magnetic nanoparticles with sizes from a few nanometers as well as multi-core composite particles that can contain a distribution of single-domain nanoparticles are already applied in the areas of diagnosis, therapy, actuating and imaging. In parallel with the drastically increased biomedical applications using MNPs many different characterization and analysis methods have been developed in the field of magnetic nanoparticle research. In spite of these developments we have not defined and standardized ways of analysing these nanostructures. During the years, questions were raised regarding the correlation between the structural and magnetic properties of the nanoparticles that emerged from applications and the results of the different analyzing methods. These questions underline the need to revisit, improve and standardize the analyzing methods.
The NanoMag concept is to improve and redefine existing analysis methods and in some cases, to develop new analysis methods for magnetic nanostructures. Using improved manufacturing technologies we will synthesize magnetic nanoparticles with specific properties that will be analyzed with a multitude of characterization techniques (focusing on both structural as well as magnetic properties) and bring the experimental results together to obtain a self-consistent picture that describes how structural and magnetic properties are interrelated. This extensive survey will be used to define standard measurements and techniques which are necessary for defining a magnetic nanostructure and quality control.
NanoMag brings together Europe’s and internationally leading experts in; manufacturing of magnetic single-core nanoparticles and magnetic multi-core particles, analyzing and characterization of magnetic nanostructures and national metrology institutes. In the consortium we have gathered partners within research institutes, universities and metrology institutes, all carrying out front end research and developing applications in the field of MNPs.
In the project it is very important that metrology institutions are closely connected to all activities in the work packages. The metrology institutions will work on the standardization strategies using all the results from the WP’s in the NanoMag project and the analysis phase will include discussions and analysis of the result and will list recommendations of characterization and standardization methods on MNPs. NanoMag meets the objectives of the current call in the following significant ways and will contribute significantly to the magnetic nanoparticle metrology standards in the EU, the alignment with the objectives of the call are shown in the table below.
The strategic objectives are:
To identify analysis and characterization techniques that can be used as standardization measurements in the field of magnetic nanoparticle research and development and that will provide valuables tools to the manufacturing process of magnetic nanoparticles and the regulatory work on magnetic nanoparticles.
Use new or improved analysis techniques to control the properties of magnetic nanoparticles that improve their specific application.
Promote the standardization techniques so they can be used both in research as well in industry, SME or large companies.
Provide/enable a traceable route for novel characterization techniques from a laboratory research towards the basis of new metrological standards, which do currently not exist in the area of magnetic nanoparticles. The achievement of the strategic goals of the NanoMag concept requires the advancement in several complimentary characterization technologies.
The specific technical objectives are:
Correlate the magnetic and structural properties of magnetic nanoparticles.
Develop new analysis techniques and models in the field of magnetic nanoparticles.
Improve the traceability of the total magnetic nanoparticle “life time” from manufacturing to the specific application. To present standardized procedures for manufacturing magnetic nanoparticles with specific properties, for instance the size and size distribution and the aggregation state for a given material.