LEXINGTON, Ky. (Aug. 20, 2008) –
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has awarded the largest single EPA Science to Achieve Results (STAR) grant for the study of nanotechnology to the University of Kentucky. The $2 million grant will be used to investigate how the sizes and shapes of nanoparticles affect their ability to enter the brain.
The research team is a multi-collaborative effort led by Robert Yokel, professor in the department of pharmaceutical sciences at UK's College of Pharmacy. The team includes expertise from UK's Center for Applied Energy Research, chemistry, engineering and the department of anatomical sciences at the University of Louisville's School of Medicine.
The research team, led by Yokel, will study potential health impacts of nano-sized cerium oxide, as a model (or example) of nanoscale material. It is used as a diesel fuel additive. Used presently in Europe, it is claimed to improve fuel efficiency, suppress soot from exhaust and reduce the concentration of other ultra-fine particles in air that have known health effects. Ceria nanoparticles are a key abrasive nanomaterial for chemical-mechanical planarization (CMP) of advanced integrated circuits. The research project will be funded for four years.
"I applaud Dr. Yokel and his research team for earning such a prestigious award," said UK President Lee T. Todd Jr. "It is an honor that the EPA STAR program selected UK for the largest single grant it has ever awarded for nanotechnology research. This award is a perfect example of why it is so important that Kentucky has a world-class research university, as it shows that the leading faculty and researchers that we have been able to recruit and retain here at UK are among the best in the world."
"Our research will study the structural and chemical properties of manufactured nanoscale materials, being developed here at UK and elsewhere to identify the properties that influence their distribution in the body, particularly the brain," Yokel said.
Nanotechnology is the science of manipulating extremely small particles – ranging in size from 1 to 100 nanometers. The physical, chemical, electronic and optical properties of these nanoparticles may be different from the larger form of the same material. As such, nanomaterials may have unique impacts on the environment and human health.
As nanotechnology progresses from research and development to commercialization and use, it is likely that manufactured nanomaterials will be released into the environment. The EPA is charged with protecting human health and the environment, as well as ensuring that the uses of engineered nanotechnology products occur without unreasonable harm to human health or the environment. This research will provide relevant information needed for risk assessments that can inform decision making related to nanotechnology products.
"I am proud to award this research grant to the University of Kentucky," said Russell L. Wright Jr., deputy regional administrator (acting) for EPA Region 4 in Atlanta, Ga. "Nanotechnology is an exciting new field with the potential to transform environmental protection. With nanomaterial use increasing every day across industries from health care to manufacturing, it is essential that we understand the implications of nanotechnology for human health and the environment."