Understanding “Nano”

You may have seen references to one or more of the following recently in your inbox:

“Safe Nanotechnology in the Workplace”

“Approaches to Safe Nanotechnology: Managing the Health and Safety Concerns Associated with Engineered Nanomaterials”

“General Safe Practices for Working

with Engineered Nanomaterials in

Research Laboratories”

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has published several guidance documents recently dealing with the use of, and exposure to, nanomaterials. Nanoparticles are engineered materials and are in the range of billionths of a meter in size. There are more unknowns than answers in this newly discovered area of materials science. Nanotoxicity, personal protective equipment, and engineering controls are all in the process of being studied and developed for the laboratories and industries where occupational exposures can be anticipated.

The purpose of this communication is to make sure that Troy customers, and others who use chemical pretreatments, understand the difference between what is often referred to in our industry as “nanotechnology” and the nanotechnology referred to by NIOSH. Not all pretreatment suppliers refer to their product families the same way, especially when it comes to non-phosphate conversion coatings. Some say “nano”, some say “transition metal”, and some come right out and call it by its chemical term, “zirconate”. All of these words and phrases refer to the same basic chemistry. That’s not to say they’re all the same or that there aren’t differences in chemistry or functional materials in a particular supplier’s formula. The point is that none of them contain nanoparticles as defined by NIOSH. The term “nano” as applied to these non-phosphate conversion coatings is a more a marketing term than a technical term. It refers to the fact that these chemistries result in a coating that is only nanometers thick, as opposed to the previous generation phosphatizers which provide a coating thick enough to be weighed with conventional balances. This is why you as a customer can’t specify coating weight with non-phosphate conversion coatings.

These products should be handled with proper care in accordance with the manufacturer’s MSDSand do contain some residual acid, but they are known and understood chemical products, not engineered materials or particles that can be inhaled or ingested by workers.