Name of the infrastructure: NHM-TA
Location (town, country): London, UK
Web site address: www.nhm.ac.uk
Legal name of organisation operating the infrastructure: The Natural History Museum
Location of organisation (town, country): London, UK
Description of the Infrastructure
MATERIALS AND EXPERTISE:
The key component of the NHM offer is the unique collection of reference materials and , protocols and expertise specifically designed for nanotoxicology. In addition, NHM has state-of-the-art analytical facilities, a clean lab (available from early 2010) and a well-established environmental biology lab. NHM currently offers internationally unique expertise in labelling nanomaterials using stable isotopes. Support is also available for the development of optimum dispersions by design of the nanoparticle and/or media properties. A unique accumulation of expertise is available through material scientists, chemists and biologists, all specialising in different aspects of nanomaterial safety, available in one central London location. Fourteen dedicated core-funded staff staff supports all facilities. Such a combination of expertise and facilities is unique in Europe.
NHM has an internationally renowned research base of more than 90 full time researchers, supported by some 110 curatorial and 28 technical staff. The latter will provide key expertise to support Users when accessing NHM state-of-the-art analytical facilities.
NHM together with Imperial College London have set up NaNoRISK (http://www.nhm.ac.uk/research-curation/research/nanorisk/index.html), to provide a joint centre of excellence for the study of nano-sized materials in relation to the environment and human health. NHM offers Users an opportunity to work with high-calibre researchers from around the globe in a dynamic working environment (last year NHM hosted more than 15,000 scientific visitor days). NHM also hosts some 120 PhD students and jointly runs 3 Masters programmes. To all Users, individually-tailored training in the use of specific analytical facilities will be provided as a minor component of the researcher’s visit, ensuring Health and Safety regulations are adhered to.
SUPPORTING FACILITIES AND SERVICES:
NHM will be offering access to all four components listed in the project, as follows:
Nanolab: A dedicated clean lab suite (comprising of a clean synthesis and an analysis lab) available from early 2010 will be offered in addition to existing sample preparation facilities. The clean synthesis lab is built using the highest standards in equipment and materials to guarantee a particulate-free environment (e.g. non-shedding surface coatings, laminar flow cabinets working to ISO 9001 and ISO 13485: MD79359 standards). The analysis lab will house surface analysis (BET) and light scattering (DLS, zeta-potential, NTA) instrumentation and a newly acquired (July 2009) top of the range scanning probe microscope (AFM, Asylum Research). The facility will be supported by one core-funded technical staff member. Further synthesis facilities are available in a standard chemistry lab, equipped with laminar flow cabinets and fume cupboards.
Chemical and ICP lab: The lab is equipped to carry out sample preparation and qualitative and quantitative analysis of a wide range of sample types originating from environmental, biological and earth science studies. Modern instrumental and classical chemical techniques are used, often in combination, to measure sample components from sub parts per trillion (10-12) to tens of percent concentrations, and to make isotopic ratio measurements. Sample preparation / dissolution procedures (including microwave digestion, fluxing, column chemistry, 3 auto-titration units and 2 clean laboratories). Expertise and analytical facilities for stable isotopic labelling are available. The facility includes access to quadrupole ICP-MS (inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry), laser-ablation ICP-MS and multi-collector ICP-MS for the measurement of concentrations of specific isotopes in labelled materials. The facilities are supported by 2 technical staff members.
Analytical, Imaging and Structural Facility (AISF): encompasses state-of-the-art analytical, high-resolution, low-voltage and variable pressure scanning electron microscopes; electron probe microanalysis; transmission electron microscopy; cathodoluminescence, confocal microscopy, inductively coupled plasma atomic emission and infra-red spectroscopy. Includes recently purchased ultra high resolution (summer 09) FE-SEM with cathodoluminescence (http://www.nhm.ac.uk/research-curation/science-facilities/analytical-imaging/imaging/high-resolution-sem/ultraplus/ index.html). X-ray diffraction suite including single crystal, scanning and position sensitive instruments (PSD), a PSD with a high-brightness microbeam and a new high resolution diffractometer (summer 09). The X-ray diffraction suite is one of the best-equipped and supported facilities at international level. All AISF equipment is housed in purpose-built laboratories, with a staff complement of 12 full-time technical support staff.
Particle exposure assessment:
Biology Environmental biology lab: a lab offering expertise and support in the study of bioavailability of nanomaterials. The lab has field-collecting and exposure studies equipment, including temperature-controlled aquarium facilities, double distilled water system, microbalances, dissecting microscopes, water baths, fume cupboard extraction system and all devices for ultra clean acid digestion and EM fixation. Extensive staff expertise working with model marine and fresh water organisms. There is 1 dedicated supporting technical staff.
Research supported by the infrastructure
NHM’s research is organised into a Framework with 6 specific foci: 1. What determines biological diversity in a changing world? 2. How do large-scale physical and biological processes and their interactions influence the evolution of the Earth and other planets? 3. The relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning; 4. How do interactions between hosts and their parasites impact on disease epidemiology and control? 5. The diversity of phenotypes, genes and genomes and their relation to environment and evolution? and 6. Assembling the tree of Life. All NHM core funded researchers have a 5 year research plan which is externally-peer-reviewed and forms the bedrock of the scientific endeavour at NHM; these plans use the 6 specific foci facilitating integration and cross-Departmental (and as importantly external) collaboration. More specifically, research on nanosafety is part of focus 1, at NHM and aims to develop understanding of the potential for toxicity of specific physiochemical properties of nanomaterials, to link such properties with toxicity mechanisms and to study the effects of uptake of nanomaterials by aquatic and terrestrial organisms. Specific projects can be grouped under the 4 components as follows:
Expertise is available on a whole range of metal, metal oxide/ sulphide/ selenide nanoparticle synthesis (SiO2, TiO2, CeO2, ZnO, CuO, Ag, Au, CdS, CdSe, calcium phosphates, iron oxides), using tested protocols capable of providing particles of well defined properties (including mono-dispersity, range of sizes, structures, surface modifications). Principles of nanosafety specific synthesis include using the same protocol to produce different particle sizes (thus eliminating differences in behaviour due to different synthesis method); protocols generated to produce particles ranging from sub-10nm to bulk-sized particles (>200nm) where possible. Protocols developed based on “green-synthesis”, using non-toxic chemicals and avoiding, where possible, capping agents. Where capping agents used, protocols developed for the study of effects on particle solubility. Expertise on synthesising very small (sub-10nm) nanoparticles. For QNano, the only particles that will be offered are TiO2, SiO2, ZnO, CuO and Ag.
ZnO nanoparticles labelled with stable isotopes specifically to be used to trace uptake by organisms have been developed and tested. Currently developing protocols for CuO and TiO2. NHM is currently the only team, internationally, with demonstrated expertise in stable isotopic labelling. For QNano, the only labelled particles that will be offered are 100nm ZnO.
Particle characterisation of metal, metal oxides/sulphides/selenides, as well as multi-wall carbon nanotubes. Studies of the reactivity of nanoparticles (solubility, aggregation, behaviour in biological and environmental media). Particular strengths include optical (TEM, SEM, AFM), wet chemical (ICP) and structural (XRD) characterisation. Surface reactivity, for example solubility and aggregation/agglomeration. Particle characterisation in aqueous media using scattering and tracking methods. Protocols for synthetic media to simulate environmental and biological media, well research for their compatibility and effects on nanoparticle suspensions. Dispersion techniques, development of stable suspensions, expertise on assessing shelf-life for dispersions.
Particle exposure studies:
Experience working with a variety of organisms (snails, worms) and human cells, collaboratively and in-house. Particular strength in interdisciplinary work. Unique experience in dietborne nanoparticle dosing and working with stable isotope labelled nanoparticles.
Services currently on offer and scientific highlights
NHM offers a dynamic interdisciplinary research environment, the particular strength of which is the close collaboration of scientists from a range of disciplines, specifically material scientists, environmental chemists and biologists and the availability of full technical support when accessing analytical equipment. The range of available instrumentation offered via NHM-TA is listed in Appendix 2 of Part B of the DoW.