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DaNa 4.0

DaNa4.0 – Data on new, innovative and safe application related materials

DaNa4.0 is a science communication project dealing with the safety of novel materials. The project deals with questions whether certain materials could be harmful to humans and/or the environment or whether and how humans and the environment could come into contact with these materials.

A new, innovative material is interesting for the DaNa project if it is being worked on in research projects, is already included in a product or is mentioned in the press. Then we conduct an intensive literature search and evaluation with the help of our “Literature Criteria Checklist“.

Complex, toxicological questions from current materials research are prepared in a generally understandable way and presented in a way that is understandable for non-scientists (interested consumers, journalists, politicians, NGOs etc.). These topics are communicated via the website, brochures and info flyers in an interdisciplinary approach with scientists from human toxicology, ecotoxicology, biology, physics and chemistry.


NanoINHAL – In-vitro test methods for airborne nanomaterials to investigate toxic potential and uptake after inhalation exposure using innovative organ-on-a-chip technology


Inhalation is an important route of administration for nanomaterials and other innovative nano- and microscale materials. Therefore, the lung is an important target organ for acute toxic effects, while at the same time its barrier function determines the systemic absorption of materials and their resulting effects on other organs.

The aim of the joint NanoINHAL project is to develop an innovative test system for airborne nanomaterials combining the expertise of the partners in the field of in vitro testing.

The Fraunhofer ITEM in cooperation with the Fraunhofer SCAI has developed a cell exposure system (P.R.I.T. EXPO Cube) that enables the exposure of cell cultures and tissue sections to airborne substances and particles. The suitability of the device for nanoparticle testing has been demonstrated in the InhalT90 and NanoCOLT projects.

The Technical University of Berlin and TissUse are developing organ-on-a-chip systems that allow cell and tissue models to be perfused with medium while simultaneously connecting various organ systems. Such multi-organ systems maintain the function of the organs stable over weeks, making them suitable for long-term studies with repeated substance exposure.

By combining both technologies mentioned above, NanoINHALs’ aim is to develop an on-site test system, which is able to carry out long-term studies with daily repeated real exposure. In addition to the direct effects on the human airway models, the system simultaneously generates data for absorption and effects on secondary organs. Ultimately, the test system will be further assessed in a case study to evaluate the hazard potential of nanoparticles in additive manufacturing processes, such as 3D printing.



InnoMat.Life – Innovative Materials and new production processes: Safety along the Life Cycle and in industrial value chains

In the last 20 years nanosafety research has intensely investigated possible adverse effects of nanomaterials and their mitigation. The focus was on nanomaterials composed of single substances with narrow size distribution and mainly spheroidal geometry such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide with some additional research on carbon nanotubes and graphene.

However, many more material variants can be found on the market already. Often hybrid materials are used, which are composed of two or more chemical substances. Many of the industrially used materials are polydisperse, meaning that they contain particles in a broad size distribution including sizes beyond the nanoscale. Moreover, in many industrial applications material systems are applied, which change their structure during production or application such as in additive manufacturing. Currently, it remains unclear to which extent the findings of nanosafety research can be applied to these more complex material types.

The overarching aim of the InnoMat.Life project is the establishment of criteria and similarity concepts that allow for a grouping based on hazard or risk profiles of those innovative and/or more complex material types. InnoMat.Life focuses on three material classes: (1) polydisperse materials for industrial applications such as metals or polymer powders for additive manufacturing or 3D printing, (2) materials with other and potentially critical morphologies such as rods, plates or fibres and (3) hybrid materials such as mixed organic and inorganic structures. The project addresses exposure and hazards for human and the environment and also considers the whole life cycle of these complex materials from synthesis to disposal.

To achieve these goals the project combines expertise from academia, competent authorities and industry. The results will be presented and discussed in national and international panels and committees to ensure a regulatory applicability of the outcomes from the beginning. The knowledge obtained in the project will support the faster development of safe innovative material systems and allow for timely assessment of possible risks.

Project Website:



CarboBreak – Prerequisites and mechanisms for the release of alveolar fibrous carbon fibre fragments

For the fibres themselves and the polymer composites produced out of them, pre-investigations showed a partially strong tendency towards splintering at mechanical stress and mechanical processing. Up to now it is still unresolved how strong the potential is for releasing alveolar fragments within the entire life cycle of the fibres when stressed mechanically.

Image of carbon fiber fragments in the micrometer range taken with a scanning electron microscope

Scanning electron microscope image of carbon fibres and critical & health-relevant carbon fibre fragments © BAuA

In the light of the asbestos problem, the development of material-related expertise on the fracture behaviour of carbon fibres varying in types and provenience is urgently needed. The material conditions of the fibres leading to the formation of alveolar fibrous fragments have to be examined.

Insight into the carbon fiber pilot plant of STFI with equipment and laboratory staff

Occupational safety measures in the carbon fibre pilot plant of the STFI © Sächsisches Textilforschungsinstitut e.V.

The increasing importance of carbon fibres especially for lightweight and high-performance applications requires a deeper insight in dust and fibre releasing processes due to the high persistence of graphitic raw materials in biological systems. Joint cross-sectoral efforts of different disciplines such as safety research, materials science and product development are needed.

Objective of the CarboBreak project is a deeper understanding of the splintering behaviour of carbon fibres as well as the investigation of the releasing processes of alveolar fragments from carbon fibres and fibre composites manufactured from carbon material at mechanical stress. Main output of the project will be recommendations concerning work procedures and personal safety as well as the definition of ideal respectively optimised process parameters. The results of CarboBreak provide fundamental contributions for the development of application-safe material innovations.

  • Project Flyer for Download (PDF, 4 MB )
  • Project Poster (2021) “CarboBreak – Conditions and Mechanisms for releasing Alveolar Fibrous Carbon Fibre Fragments” (PDF, 816 KB )



MetalSafety – Development of evaluation concepts for fibrous and granular metal compounds – bioavailability, toxicological efficacy profiles and comparative in vitro, ex vivo and in vivo studies


Metals and their compounds are ubiquitously present in our daily life, for example as components of stainless steel, catalysts, and pigments. Furthermore, metal compounds are being used in numerous innovative processes such as inks for 3D printing or as semiconductors in electronic engineering and medical devices. Apart from granular compounds of different particle sizes, the use of metal-based fibrous materials, so-called nanowires, in various products is increasing. However, many metals and their compounds reveal inflammatory and/or even carcinogenic potentials. Hereby, the toxicity often depends on the respective metal species; decisive factors are oxidation state and solubility and – in case of metal particles – their size (nano-/micro-scaled) as well as structure (granular or fibrous).

The aim of the scientific project MetalSafety is to design comparatively easy-to-use in vitro models for the toxicological evaluation and grouping of different metal-based compounds, which differ in their solubility and bioavailability. One main focus within this project lies on metal-based nanowires, since their toxicological potentials are hardly known. The toxicological profiles of these fibrous structures will be compared to the respective nano-scaled granular as well as water-soluble compounds.

For this purpose, an air-liquid interface (ALI) exposure system will be established to apply fibrous as well as granular structures on in vitro cellular models and to directly measure the deposited mass of the respective compound. The toxicological “finger prints” will be assessed using gene expression profiles, complemented by solubility, uptake and genotoxicity studies.

Afterwards, the results will be compared to complex ex vivo as well as in vivo studies and evaluated with regard to their predictability of the toxicological potential, the mode of action and the dose-response relationship. Species differences between human and rat with respect to toxicodynamic interactions will be obtained on the level of cell culture and precision cut lung slices (PCLS). The respective results will finally compared with data from in vivo studies in rats.

Altogether, the identification of relevant modes of actions by different metals and their compounds is an important prerequisite for a scientific-based derivation of workplace and environmental exposure limit values, including new, innovative metal fibres and granular metal compounds.

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