OPEN LAB APPLICATION FOR THE CHARACTERIZATION OF NANOMATERIALS BY TRANSMISSION ELECTRON MICROSCOPY
Karine Vandermeiren(1), Eveline Verleysen(1), Jan Mast(1), Joris Van Loco*(1)
1) Sciensano, Belgium
*Corresponding author - E-mail: Joris.VanLoco@sciensano.be
Applications of nanotechnologies in the food sector are rapidly growing in several areas such as food processing, packaging, nutraceutical delivery, quality control, and functional foods to even the use of nanosensors to assure food quality and safety. Since it is widely expected that more and more nanotechnology based products will become available in the European Union over the coming years, the European Commission (EC) has developed a Recommendation that provides a basis to determine whether a material should be considered as a nanomaterial (NM) for legislative and policy purposes in the EU (2011/696/EU). The aim is to further apply and adapt this current Recommendation to sector specific needs such as food and food contact materials, biocidal products, cosmetics and medical devices. As a consequence there is a growing need for validated characterization methods and for certified materials facilitating the implementation of the EC Recommendation and sector-specific regulations. The physical and chemical characterization of NM in complex matrices like food is an extremely challenging task requiring expert knowledge and modern instrumentation. The application of electron microscopy (EM) for the characterization of NM is advised in several international guidelines, including guidelines of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the Scientific Committee on emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR). However, EM based methodologies are cost- and labor-intensive and such dedicated infrastructures remain limited to specialized research institutions. Over the last years the National Reference Laboratory for Nanomaterials in Food of Sciensano (Belgium) has acquired high level expertise and instrumentation to measure the size, morphology, crystallographic structure and chemical composition of a wide range of NM by EM. Identification and measurement of particles can be performed in complex matrices such as food, cosmetics, medicines and environmental samples. A high degree of automation of the EM imaging and image analysis was recently developed to facilitate the measurement of particle size and shape distributions. Within the context of the METROFOOD-RI “Infrastructure for promoting Metrology in Food and Nutrition” this facility will be further developed as a test case for an open laboratory application to be shared with interested universities, research institutes or companies, ultimately allowing remote operation of the EM and monitoring via VPN-connection.