$125K Grant Awarded for Material Testing Research
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recently awarded a $125,000 grant for the development of a standardized method to characterize the release of nanoparticle-based coatings from various coated surfaces.
According to the Commission’s statement of work, “The objectives of the research that Elon University will conduct are to determine applicability, feasibility, reproducibility, and reliability of the CPSC surface wiping method on surfaces beyond the previously examined lumber.
“The research will provide CPSC with information on characteristics of surfaces appropriate for the surface wiping method. The research will also investigate how changes in coating formulation (i.e., water or paint) influence release results.”
Associate professor of chemistry at Elon University Justin Clar will use the awarded funding to work alongside undergraduate researchers over the next year to create a standard suitable for testing the safety of materials.
According to the university, Clar was selected as the grant recipient for his research expertise in the field of nanoparticle release from surfaces and past research using the CPSC’s wipe methodology. In 2020 and 2021, Clar and undergraduate researchers Sydney Thornton and Sarah Boggins co-authored papers testing the release of zinc oxide nanoparticles from surface-coated lumber.
“The big goal is standardization. There are lots of methods to test the release of materials from surfaces but the results are divergent depending on the method used,” Clar said regarding the current research project. “Having a standardized method makes it easier to compare results because everyone is using the same test.”
The transfer of nanoparticle-based coatings from various surfaces—such as drywall, hardwood flooring and plastics—will be tested using a surface-wiping method. This method will reportedly simulate hand or skin contact and examine if it can be used effectively to safely test different materials.
In an article published by the university, writers indicate that current manual wipe tests are unable to yield reliable or standardized data as the varying sizes of hands, the amount of pressure applied and the way a hand is moved over a surface offers too many variables to remain consistent.
To remove the “guesswork” from this form of testing, Clar is hoping to develop a method in which a sample cloth and weight would be pulled over a surface for testing the safety of materials. After a surface is wiped, the cloth would then be analyzed to measure and characterize the nanoparticles released from the surface.
The study will also investigate the release of metal oxide nanoparticle coatings from a variety of surfaces with different levels of roughness, porosity and chemical identity. These findings will then be compared to data generated on the same surfaces using alternative sampling methods published through the National Institution of Occupation Health and Safety.
During this process, Clar will mentor at least two undergraduates, sharing his plans to apply for extensions and introduce more undergraduate researchers to the project as it continues in future academic years.
As a result of the study, the Commission plans to apply the surface wiping method to a wider variety of materials and publish the wipe methodology with the International Standards Organization to standardize data received in materials testing.