Nanomaterials are comprised of very small particles that provide many of the products we use increased strength, chemical reactivity or conductivity. They can also be the by-product of e.g. industrial processes or they can occur naturally, as with soot from forest fires or volcanic ash. The particles range in size from approximately 1 to 100 nanometres; that is 1 / 1,000,000,000th of a metre. Due to their small size they can readily enter our bodies through a number of exposure routes, of which inhalation, ingestion or absorption through the skin, as well as injection into the circulation are dominant. These particles have unique properties compared to their larger counterparts and we are only beginning to understand what their health effects may be. The purpose of this module is to give an introduction into the field of nanoscience, nanotechnology and the potential risks posed by this new Industrial Age to humans.
The field of nanotechnology is ever increasing in size, and the number of nano-sized (1-100nm) particles being produced on a daily basis is at the tonnage level. Although nanotechnology-based applications are considered to be advantageous for a plethora of human activities, the potential risks posed by human exposure to nanoparticles is a constantly developing field of research. The purpose of this module therefore is to introduce to the student to particle toxicology and how it can impact upon human health. Further to this, the students will undertake a specific practical component to complement that of the theoretical content of the module. To this extent, the students will undertake a week-long, 'mini-project', covering the major areas of nanoparticle toxicology. From this approach, it is intended that the student will experience the key points of the field.