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nanoGEM – Nanostructured Materials – health, exposure and material properties


The NanoGEM research project, funded by the BMBF and industry, was an integrative interdisciplinary project that carried out various research activities on nanosafety, exposure, risk, and toxicology in a combined effort of academia, authorities and industry. The results and findings obtained within NanoGEM were published in international journals (see NanoGEM publications) and included in the international harmonisation process and the public dialogue. In addition, practical safety proposals and standard operating procedures (SOP) were developed and published.

The specific research activities were divided into seven work packages. Knowledge of the basic properties of nanomaterials (NM) plays an essential role in the investigation and assessment of safety issues relevant to humans and the environment.

NanoGEM Project Description

NanoGEM Project Description

The work packages “production, functionalisation and characterisation of nanomaterials” mainly dealt with the development and allocation of new materials with modified basic properties, and modified surfaces in particular. The surfaces of selected nanomaterials such as silver (Ag), silicon dioxide (SiO2), and zirconium dioxide (ZrO2) were specifically modified and thoroughly characterised in water and relevant biological media together with other reference and comparison materials. Labelling of silicon dioxide and titanium dioxide (TiO2) nanoparticles with the fluorescent marker FITC (fluoresceine isothiocyanate) allowed for identification, localisation and mobility tracking of these nanoparticles in different media.

Studies within the work package “exposure – measuring techniques and scenarios” investigated the basic principles required for exposure assessment, release mechanisms and measuring strategies. The results of the main questions like “Is it possible to reproduce and simulate certain release scenarios in the laboratory in a comparable way?” and “Which measuring techniques and strategies can be used for exposure studies?” were integrated into a testing strategy which meanwhile has been included in the OECD program of the Working Party of Manufactured Nanomaterials (WPMN).

In a special work package called “cross-cutting issues: nanomaterial modifications”, modifications of the properties of nanomaterials over the entire life cycles were analysed placing emphasis on the lungs as the most health-relevant routes of entry of nanomaterials into the body.

Surface functionalisation had an essential influence on the adsorption behaviour of the lung surfactant lipids’ towards the nanomaterials such that after attachment of the different components (lipids, proteins, organic compounds), there was no direct contact between the surface of the nanomaterials and the surrounding medium. In the alveoli or at the air-epithelium interface, the once stable suspensions of the respective nanoparticles (SiO2 FITC, adsorptively labelled ZrO2) agglomerated over the entire observation period (30 – 180 min) resulting from the interaction with the proteins of the lung alveoli.

Within the topicnanoparticle toxicology: material properties and effects”, in vitro and in vivo analyses were carried out on sensitised mice, among others. Whereas, in both scenarios, the unmodified silicon dioxide nanomaterials were found to cause the strongest effects, no significant reactions were observed in the amino- and phosphate-functionalised SiO2 materials. The risk-related studies revealed that the risk potential of a substance can be changed through surface modification and that this may lead to a better matrix integration.

For risk assessment, various data on chemical safety, occupational health and safety, and consumer protection were compiled and evaluated. For the derivation of the risk assessment of nanomaterials within the context of chemical safety legislation specific data on the endpoints related to the three selected nanoscale materials silicon dioxide, silver, and zirconium dioxide were collected and analysed. The evaluation revealed that, in view of the fact that no solely nano-specific modes of action have been identified so far and that conventional risk assessment principles can also be applied to nanomaterials.

Wohlleben W., Kuhlbusch T.A.J., Schnekenburger J., Lehr C.M. (2015). Safety of Nanomaterials along Their Lifecycle: Release, Exposure, and Human Hazards. Taylor & Francis Inc, CRC Press, pp. 472. ISBN: 9781466567863.



Wohlleben W., Kuhlbusch T.A.J., Schnekenburger J., Lehr C.M. (2015). Safety of Nanomaterials along Their Lifecycle: Release, Exposure, and Human Hazards. Taylor & Francis Inc, CRC Press, pp. 472. ISBN: 9781466567863.




Project Lead

PD Dr. Thomas Kuhlbusch, Institute of Energy and Environmental Technology e.V. (IUTA), Duisburg (DE)

Grant Number: BMBF - FKZ 03X0105
Duration: 01.08.2010 - 31.07.2013 (extended to 31.10.2013)

Project Lead


Project Partners

Institute of Energy and Environmental Technology e.V. (IUTA), Duisburg (DE)
BASF Logo gruen Product Safety
BASF SE - Nanotechnology, Ludwigshafen (DE)
Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA) Logo German
Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA), Berlin (DE)
German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) Logo German
Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), Berlin (DE)
Biomedical Technology Center, University of Muenster, Muenster (DE)
IBE R&D Institute for Lung Health gGmbH Logo
IBE R&D Institute for Lung Health gGmbH, Muenster (DE)
Center of Allergy & Environment Muenchen (ZAUM), TU Muenchen and Helmholtz Centre Muenchen, Muenchen (DE)
Bayer Technology Services GmbH Logo
Bayer Technology Services GmbH, Leverkusen (DE)
ayer Material-Science Logo
Bayer Material Science AG, Leverkusen (DE)
ItN Nanocation Logo
ItN Nanovation AG, Saarbruecken (DE)
IGF Logo Deutsch
Institute for the Research on Hazardous Substances (IGF) of the Professional Association for Raw Materials and Chemical Industry (BG-RCI), Bochum (DE)
FH Dortmund Logo
Biomedical Imaging Group (BIG), University of Applied Science and Arts Dortmund, Dortmund (DE)
Saarland University Logo
Biopharmaceutics and Pharmaceutical Technology, Saarland University, Saarbruecken (DE)

Associated Partners

Bayer HealthCare
CeNIDE - Center for Nanointegration Duisburg-Essen
Friedrich Schiller University Jena, Institute of Physical Chemistry (IPC)
University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf
Tascon GmbH



  • Silge A., Brautigam K., Bocklitz T., Rosch P., Vennemann A., Schmitz I., Popp J., Wiemann M. (2015). ZrO nanoparticles labeled via a native protein corona: detection by fluorescence microscopy and Raman microspectroscopy in rat lungs. Analyst, DOI:10.1039/c5an00942a


  • Buesen R., Landsiedel R., Sauer U.G., Wohlleben W., Groeters S., Strauss V., Kamp H., Van Ravenzwaay B. (2014). Effects of SiO(2), ZrO(2), and BaSO(4) nanomaterials with or without surface functionalization upon 28-day oral exposure to rats. Arch Toxicol, 88(10): 1881-1906.
  • Bräutigam K., Bocklitz T., Silge A., Dierker C., Ossig R., Schnekenburger J., Cialla D., Rösch P., Popp J. (2014). Comparative two- and three-dimensional analysis of nanoparticle localization in different cell types by Raman spectroscopic imaging. Journal of Molecular Structure, 1073(0): 44-50.
  • Landsiedel R., Ma-Hock L., Hofmann T., Wiemann M., Strauss V., Treumann S., Wohlleben W., Groters S., Wiench K., Van Ravenzwaay B. (2014). Application of short-term inhalation studies to assess the inhalation toxicity of nanomaterials. Part Fibre Toxicol, 11(1): 16.
  • Wagner, T., H.-G. Lipinski, M. Wiemann (2014). Dark field nanoparticle tracking analysis for size characterization of plasmonic and non-plasmonic particles. J Nanopart Res 16(5): 1-10.
  • Wohlleben W., Vilar G., Fernandez-Rosas E., Gonzalez-Galvez D., Gabriel C., Hirth S., Frechen T., Stanley D., Gorham J., Sung L.P., Hsueh H.C., Chuang Y.F., Nguyen T., Vazquez-Campos S. (2014). A pilot interlaboratory comparison of protocols that simulate aging of nanocomposites and detect released fragments.Environ Chem, 11(4): 402-418.


  • Wagner T., M. Wiemann, I. Schmitz, H.-G. Lipinski (2013). A Cluster-Based Method for Improving Analysis of Polydisperse Particle Size Distributions Obtained by Nanoparticle Tracking. Journal of Nanoparticles (2013) 2013, 936150.
  • Kaminski H., T.A.J. Kuhlbusch, S. Rath, U. Goetz, M. Sprenger, D. Wels, J. Polloczek, V. Bachmann, H.-J. Kiesling, A. Schwiegelshohn, N. Dziurowitz, C. Monz, D. Dahmann, C. Asbach (2013). Comparability of mobility particle sizers and diffusion chargers. Journal of Aerosol Science 57 (2013) 156–178.
  • Plitzko S., N. Dziurowitz, C. Thim, Ch. Asbach, H. Kaminski, M. Voetz, U. Goetz, D. Dahmann (2013). Messung der inhalativen Exposition gegenueber Nanomaterialien - Moeglichkeiten und Grenzen. Gefahrstoffe - Reinhaltung der Luft" 73(2013) Nr. 7/8, S. 295-301.


  • Hellack B., T. Huelser, E. Izak, T. Kuhlbusch, F. Meyer, M. Spree, M. Voetz, H. Wiggers, W. Wohlleben (2012). Characterization report for all nanoGEM materials. Deliverable 1.2.1 (Sept. 2012). [Report]
  • Asbach C., H. Kaminski, D. Von Barany, T.A.J. Kuhlbusch, C.Monz, N. Dziurowitz, J. Pelzer, K. Berlin, S. Dietrich, U. Goetz, H.-J. Kiesling, R. Schierl, D. Dahmann (2012). Comparability of portable nanoparticle exposure monitors. Annals of Occupational Hygiene 56 (2012) 606.

  • nanoGEM Konsortium (2013). Nanostrukturierte Materialien - Gesundheit, Exposition und Materialeigenschaften : nanoGEM ; gemeinsamer Abschlussbericht; . Konsortialleitung: Thomas A. J. Kuhlbusch, Institut für Energie- und Umwelttechnik e.V. (IUTA), Bereich Luftreinhaltung & Nachhaltige Nanotechnologie; FKZ 03X0105 A-I, K, M-O, TIB Hannover.
  • University of Applied Science and Arts Dortmund, Biomedical Imaging Group (2014). NanoGEM - nanostrukturierte Materialien - Gesundheit , Exposition und Materialeigenschaften : Abschlussbericht NanoGEM; Lipinski, Hans-Gerd; Fachbereich Informatik, Fachhochschule Dortmund, FKZ 03X01105G; TIB Hannover
  • Medical Faculty Muenster and University of Muenster (2014). Nanostrukturierte Materialien - Gesundheit, Exposition und Materialeigenschaften : Teilvorhaben: Charakterisierung von Wirkungsmechnismen ; Abschlussbericht Laufzeit: 01.08.2010 - 31.07.2013; Schnekenburger, Jürgen; Ossig, Rainer; Hahn Daniela, Universität Münster, FKZ 03X0105M, TIB Hannover.

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