Stakeholder Spotlight - LNE
Tell us a little about your organisation. How do the areas of nanotechnology and sustainability impact your work?
LNE (Laboratoire National de métrologie et d’Essais) is a state-owned enterprise, attached to the French Ministry of Industry. By developing a comprehensive range of measurement capabilities as well as state-of-the-art equipment and applying them via appropriate standards in all spheres of daily life, LNE plays a key role in supporting the performance and competitiveness of the industry in every sector of the economy and in promoting a safer and more sustainable society. This core activity covers five key spheres:
• research and technology transfer in measurement science,
• testing and calibration,
• technical and regulatory assistance,
• training and informing.
In particular, LNE is the French National Metrology Institute (NMI) and an internationally recognised testing laboratory accredited by the French Accreditation Committee COFRAC for calibration, tests, certification of products and certification of management systems under the ISO 17000 family of standards.
LNE Nanotech Institute was inaugurated in February 2018 to gather LNE’s activities, expertise and capabilities on nanomaterials and nanotechnologies (nano-objects/nanoparticle, 2D material/graphene and nanodevices) and to be able to capitalise on more than 12 years of experience in this field of nanoscale characterisation. Its objective is to support industry, academic sector, governmental agencies and civil society in the development of reliable and harmonised measurement methods and acts as a bridge toward standardisation bodies to support especially quality control, risk assessment and regulatory requirements.
The production of data is the basis of all decision-making processes and the future of nanotechnologies and their full economic and societal acceptability to meet the challenges of our societies is inseparable from the fact that we have the relevant and recognised tools necessary for the production of indisputable data in which all the players concerned can have confidence.
LNE developed over the last 12 years different analytical platforms dedicated to measurement and testing at the nanoscale in which R&D activities are carried out and services (calibration, testing, training…) proposed to industry and governmental agencies:
– CARMEN platform that brings together the capabilities to draw up the identity card of a nanoparticle or graphene flakes (DLS, SMLS, BET, Zeta-meter, SEM-EDX, AFM, XRD, RAMAN, sp ICP-MS, A4F-UV-DRI-MALS);
– MONA platform is dedicated to the generation of controlled aerosol (vortex-shaker, atomiser, electrospray, spark generator…) and the characterisation (CPC, SMPS, APS, DMS, TEOM, DLPI…) and sampling (MPS…) of airborne nano-objects;
– NAEL platform dedicated to the characterisation of material electrical properties at the nm scale (4-point measuring station, C-AFM, SMM, KPFM…);
– MATIS platform dedicated to the characterisation of material thermal properties (SThM…);
– Instrumented bench to simulate the thermal degradation of nanocomposites.
What is the newest/most innovative development in nanotechnology that you and/or your organisation is excited about now?
LNE Nanotech Institute is working on harmonising and validating SOPs for nanomaterials characterisation to support nanofabrication process quality control or regulatory requirements implementation.
But we are also developing unique approaches at the forefront of what science can do today by addressing single nanoparticle metrology through the implementation of hybrid metrology approaches. We have developed lithographically grown labelled Si substrates to be able to find exactly the same nanoparticles via different complementary instruments. This allows us to acquire information on the size of nanoparticles in the plane by scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and according to their height by atomic force microscopy (AFM). The expertise that we have developed over many years in the metrology of these techniques allows us to associate real measurement uncertainties with the data produced, taking into account the main influencing factors (and not only the contribution to the uncertainty due to the repeatability or reproducibility of the measurement) and to be able to determine the dimensional parameters of nano-objects in the 3 dimensions of space with only a few nanometres of uncertainty. This hybrid metrology approach makes it possible to take advantage of the benefits of complementary techniques and to improve our knowledge of these objects. These approaches have already been put to good use in response to industrial problems and are used today to develop an ISO standard for graphene characterisation.
In parallel, we are making progress on questions of correlative metrology, where the objective this time is to gain knowledge of the same single objects but for different properties. The SEM or AFM instruments are thus complemented here by EDX spectroscopy with the latest generation of detectors with lateral resolutions of about twenty nanometres in order to be able to access the elemental chemical composition of these unique objects in addition to their size.
Finally, we have also developed an electron microscopy image processing approach based on the use of AI and more particularly Machine Learning to reduce the processing time of these data while improving reliability. A demonstrator is now available for the case of titanium dioxide and should be extended to other types of particles. The advantage is that we are now able to take into account particles contained in agglomerates or aggregates, which makes it possible to use the maximum amount of information available on the images!
What, in your opinion, is the most important thing (tool, process, support, etc.) that is needed right now to help grow and strengthen the nanotechnology community?
The development of the field of nanotechnologies requires work on trust between the different actors involved. This requires the production of characterisation data in which everyone can have confidence because the data are the basis for the decision-making process (scale-up, quality control, regulatory compliance, risk assessment, etc.). The various actors must therefore implement relevant, recognised and shared characterisation and testing methods. This means that it is imperative that they are aware of the existing recommendations, good practices and standards and the setting up of a portal providing this information in a centralised and simple manner is therefore essential! The other advantage of this centralisation of reference documents is that it will be easier to exchange good practices between different sectors to avoid reinventing the wheel each time.
Support for the world of standardisation is also crucial in order to better promote and share R&D&I expertise. Its operation can be complex and unclear for research players and time-consuming for start-ups and SMEs. The existence of an interface that provides a relay, project support or deciphering of the mechanisms of standardisation entities would be an asset.
LNE is highly involved in this process, chairing the AFNOR/X457 Nanotechnologies standardisation committee at French level and contributing to efforts in this field at European (CEN/TC 352 Nanotechnologies & CEN/TC 137 Assessment of workplace exposure) and international (ISO/TC 229 Nanotechnologies & ASTM/E56 Nanotechnologies) levels. LNE is also representing France within VAMAS (Versailles Project on Advanced Materials and Standards), which acts as a pre-standardisation entity at the international level to validate characterisation methods through the organisation of interlaboratory comparisons and is working on the implementation of a European Metrology Network (EMN) on Advanced Manufacturing and Advanced Materials under the auspice of EURAMET.
What, in your opinion, are important factors or influences that will affect the direction of the nanotechnology community in the future?
The clear and indisputable demonstration of the added value of nanotechnologies compared to more traditional technologies is a must, which will determine the applications or sectors that will use them in the future. Without this, reticence (whether economic on the part of industrial players or ethical on the part of civil society) is likely to limit the future development of industrial applications based on nanomaterials.
The issue of a harmonised regulatory definition of what is to be considered a nanomaterial and the provision of harmonised analytical methodologies is the other critical factor.
Interviewee person: Dr. Georges Favre (Head LNE Nanotech Institute & Chair of French Standardisation Committee AFNOR/X457 Nanotechnologies)
For more information, please visit: LNE | LNE, Laboratoire national de métrologie et d’essais