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Nanotechnology is one BASF's key future issues. With the growth cluster nanotechnology, BASF is investing €180 million in research and development alone in the period up to 2008. We are concentrating our R&D activities in the three technology areas nanostructured materials, nanostructured surfaces and nanoparticles. Our guiding principle: we use nanotechnology wherever it offers benefits for our customers.
For example, we are engaged in developing nanoporous foams. These novel foams feature greatly improved insulating properties compared to established insulating materials. These future insulating materials could allow us to make an important contribution to improving energy efficiency and sustainability.
Another research topic concerns structures with nanometer sized pores organized in the form of cubes. They consist of a three-dimensional metal-organic framework and are capable of storing hydrogen. The enlarged specific surface area and the high porosity of these "nanocubes" make them suitable as a storage medium for comparatively large amounts of hydrogen. As a rechargeable storage medium for miniature fuel cells, in future they could replace conventional rechargeable batteries in mobile electronic equipment such as laptops or cell phones.
We classify our nanomaterials into nanostructured products and products that contain nanoparticles. Nanostructured products have nanostructured surfaces or cavities in the nanometer range, such nanoporous foams or MOFs. These products present no risk resulting from the presence of nanostructures.
In our products that contain nanoparticles, they are immobilized in a matrix. As with all our products, we assess them using methods approved under chemical legislation. Based on the current scientific state of the art and our existing knowledge, we consider these products not to present any health risks. For example, we were able to demonstrate in a study that nanoparticles in sunscreen formulations are not absorbed by the healthy skin. The studies conducted as a part of the EU Nanoderm project reached the same conclusions.
For free nanoparticles, however, we see a need for further research. We are also participating in safety research projects at national and international level. Two examples are the EU project Nanosafe 2 and the Nanocare project sponsored by the German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). We are also conducting a further research project for the assessment of nanoparticles in our Toxicology department.