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Toxicity study of nanomaterials: nanotubes, graphene, photovoltaic nanowires

László Forró (EPFL, Switzerland)
Fri, 15/04/2016 - 2:00pm to 3:00pm
CA2DM Theory Common (S16-06)
Slaven Garaj
Event Type: 


A major contribution of nanotechnology to our life is the controlled synthesis of a large variety of nanomaterials. Due to their unique physico-chemical properties these nanostructures are considered to be of great benefit for many applications within engineering, electronics, alternative energy production or nanomedicine. Although the expectations are large concerning the improvement of our everyday life due to the engineered nanomaterials, there is a forecasted expansion of their manufacturing, which makes likely that intentional and unintentional human and environmental exposure will increase in the near future. As a result there is a growing worry related to their possible health hazards, as some of them strongly resemble to asbestos. Motivated by this issue, we have investigated the acute cellular toxicity associated with five model nanomaterials, namely carbon nanotubes, boron nitride nanotubes, titanium dioxide nanofilaments, photovoltaic perovskite nanowires and graphene oxide in vitro using a multitude of techniques. Our findings highlight an important role of distinct physico-chemical properties such as the shape in case of carbon based nanomaterials, the surface modification and geometry (length, width) relevant to the toxicity of titanium dioxide nanofilaments and the tortuosity in determining the toxic potential of boron nitride nanotubes. In addition to the identified nanomaterial characteristics, we pinpoint that the target cell type is also a critical determinant of the cellular response, which is variable between different cell types and is likely linked to their physiological function.

Acknowledgment: The work is performed in collaboration with Ines Benmessaoud, Anne- Laure Mahul, Hilal Lashuel, Massimo Spina, Bohumil Maco, Endre Horvath, Lenke Horvath, Arnaud Magrez and Beat Schwaller.

Speaker's bio

Lazslo Forro is a Full Professor at the Institute of Physics of the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausane (EPFL), in Switzerland, and director of the EPFL Laboratory for the Physics of Complex Materials (LPCM). The activity of the LPCM covers a broad range of topics, from superconductivity to the movement of dislocations, to living cells, all with complexity as the common denominator. The lab provides a single crystal growth facility with nano-sized to macroscopic samples, synthesizing  more than 100 different compounds. Through studying the basic physical properties of novel electronic materials like cuprate or pnictide superconductors, organic kagome lattices, low-dimensional conductors, graphene, magnetic semiconductors or anatase single crystals, one of the goals of LPCM beyond the exciting physics they reveal, is to learn how one can improve the materials quality. The group is also strongly involved in establishing bridges between the physical and biological sciences, the hard and soft matter themes. One result of this effort is the bi-annual organization of the international conference “From Solid State to Biophysics”.

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