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​Nanocharacterization and nanosafety: a facility unique in Europe serving our industrial partners


Published on 7 May 2019

Liten’s nanocharacterization and nanosafety programs leverage two platforms equipped with advanced machines and instruments that our industrial and academic partners can access to address their nanomaterials-related issues.

The nanocharacterization platform (PFNC), which is shared by the three CEA Grenoble institutes Inac, Leti, and Liten, was set up in 2006 and provides our industrial and academic partners with unparalleled equipment and trained expert staff. The 3,000 m2 facility houses 80 researchers and technicians and 40 machines and instruments organized in eight centers of expertise: X-ray analysis, ion beam analysis, surface analysis, scanning probe microscopy, magnetic resonance, optics, sample preparation, and electron microscopy. The PFNC is also home to one of the world’s most powerful transmission electron microscopes, with resolutions of 0.5Å. Liten researchers are assigned to six of these eight centers of expertise. 

The benefit of the platform is that it provides access to the know-how of researchers working on the same topic but using different equipment or, conversely, researchers using the same equipment to explore different topics. This ensures that our partners receive a comprehensive response to their needs. And, for partners seeking very specific characterization services (with very high sensitivity, for example), the CEA enjoys strong relationships with Grenoble’s large instruments at the ILL and ESRF.

The second platform is devoted to nanosafety (PNS). Founded in 2013, it operates similarly to the PFNC in that resources are pooled and knowledge is shared. The CEA has been investigating safety for researchers handling nanometric substances since the early 2000s. In 2009, the French government tasked the CEA with transferring its nanosafety expertise to industry under the nano-Innov plan. The nanosafety platform is the result of this initiative.

Rather than waiting for the results of research on the toxicity of nanomaterials, the CEA decided to move forward developing and implementing concrete measures to reduce nanomaterials-related industrial, public health, and environmental risks. The platform is used to study all protection and safety related aspects of handling and integrating nanomaterials at all stages of the nanomaterial lifecycle.

Today, Liten is uniquely positioned as a leading center of expertise on measuring exposure in the workplace and can respond to industrial partners’ unique requests. We can provide a full range of services that include performing audits, writing best practices and safety guides, and assisting our partners with required nanomaterials filings (for organizations handling more than 100 grams per year of nanomaterials). With a track record of more than 300 measurement campaigns at industrial workstations, Liten is at the forefront of the European nanosafety market. We also offer innovative individual monitoring equipment and sample-gathering supplies to help organizations measure worker exposure. At the same time, we have researchers investigating the aging mechanisms that affect manufactured products containing nanomaterials and that could result in the release of nanoparticles. The results of this research are used to help manufacturers make safe products.
Finally, with know-how in both nanocharacterization and nanosafety, Liten is uniquely positioned to address a variety of nanomaterials issues.


A big-picture view and in-depth knowledge of nanocharacterization and nanosafety

  • A single point of contact for access to all of the equipment and expert staff at both platforms, offering resources unrivalled by any other institute in Europe

  • Access to the platforms’ nanosafety-related services as well as to the broader CEA service lineup

  • An integrated approach encompassing R&D and services, giving our partners a single contact for both aspects meaning shorter lead times and more cost-effective measurement and testing than with separate providers

  • Independent testing conducted by a public research organization; our partners can leverage the results to take the necessary safety precautions with no conflict of interest



There are currently no EU research projects devoted specifically to nanocharacterization. However, nanocharacterization is often used in materials-related projects. For instance, Liten is involved in the Baccara project to characterize electrode materials for lithium-ion batteries, and took part in the 3D Hipmas project, now completed, on metallurgical materials.


Liten is involved in many national and EU research projects: 

  • NanoMet (backed by the French Single Interministerial Fund), a project to help small and mid-sized businesses characterize their nanomaterials. Liten researchers are helping determine which equipment and protocols should be used. 

  • GUIDEnano, an EU research program on abrasion, with investigations of the degradation mechanisms that could potentially result in the release of nanoparticles; the end goal is to manufacture safe products.

  • Basmati, an EU project on electrode materials for lithium-ion batteries.  

  • 10 people assigned to nanocharacterization

  • 15 people assigned to nanosafety

  • 10 patents for nanosafety

  • Publications: 

Zuin S, Massari A, Ferrari A, Golanski L. April 1, 2014. Formulation effects on the release of silica dioxide nanoparticles from paint debris to water. Science of the Total Environment 476–477: 298–307.

Golanski L,  Guiot A,  Pras M,  Malarde M,  Tardif F. July 2012. Release-ability of nano fillers from different nanomaterials (toward the acceptability of nanoproduct). Journal of Nanoparticle Research 14(7): 1–9.

Motellier S, Guiot A, Legros S, Fiorentino B. September 16, 2014. Elemental recoveries for metal oxide nanoparticles analysed by direct injection ICP-MS: Influence of particle size, agglomeration state and sample matrix. Journal of Analytical Atomic Spectrometry 29: 2294–2301.

Fiorentino B, Golanski L, Guiot A, Damlencourt JF, Boutry D. March 2015. Influence of paints formulations on nanoparticles release during their life cycle. Journal of Nanoparticle Research 17: 149.

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