Photonics - Overview - EHS Text

Photonics includes the generation, emission, transmission, modulation, signal processing, switching, amplification, and detection/sensing of light. The commercial applications of nanotechnology in the field of photonics include: lasers and parts thereof, nano-engineered photonics materials, communications & all-optical signal processing, and nanoscale functional imaging and spectroscopy. Products for the sector photonics range from communication technology such as Low-Power 100 Gb/s Optical Engine by Mellanox Technologies and Rings of fire by HP to laser devices such as the Comb-Laser by Innolume.

A number of nanoparticles have been identified in the overview of commercially-available products as being used in photonic products:

  • Gallium nitride nanowires
  • Germanium nanoparticles
  • Graphene
  • Silicon dioxide (silica), crystalline
  • Silicon dioxide (silica), synthetic amorphous
  • Single-walled carbon nanotube (SWCNT)
  • Titanium dioxide (titania, rutile, anatase)

The basis for the EHS evaluation was “Stoffenmanager Nano” application [1,2] a risk-banding tool developed for employers and employ­ees to prioritise health risks occurring as a result of respiratory exposure to nanoparticles for a broad range of worker scenarios.

The respiratory route is the main route of exposure for many occupational scenarios, while the oral route of exposure is considered minor and sufficiently covered, from a safety point of view, by good hygiene practices established in production facilities as prescribed through general welfare provisions in national health and safety legislation in EU countries [3]. In view of the nature of the products in this sector, oral exposure of consumers is also considered to be minor.

The dermal route may be the main route of exposure for some substances or exposure situations, and cause local effects on the skin or systemic effects after absorption into the body [4]. However, nanoparticles as such are very unlikely to penetrate the skin [5] and consequently nano-specific systemic toxicity via the dermal route is improbable. Therefore, when evaluating risks from nanotechnology for the respiratory route, the most important aspects of occupational and consumer safety are covered.

In summary, the highest concern for workers and consumers comes from gallium nitride nanowires, crystalline silica and single-walled carbon nanotubes, with respect to use and production. Furthermore, there is a moderate risk to workers from amorphous silica and a low risk from the use and production of titania and from the use of amorphous silica and titania.

1 Marquart, H., Heussen, H., Le Feber, M., Noy, D., Tielemans, E., Schinkel, J., West, J., Van Der Schaaf, D., 2008. 'Stoffenmanager', a web-based control banding tool using an exposure process model. Ann. Occup. Hyg. 52, 429-441.

2 Van Duuren-Stuurman, B., Vink, S., Verbist, K.J.M., Heussen, H.G.A., Brouwer, D., Kroese, D.E.D., Van Niftrik, M.F.J., Tielemans, E., Fransman, W., 2012. Stoffenmanager Nano version 1.0: a web-based tool for risk prioritization of airborne manufactured nano objects. Ann. Occup. Hyg. 56, 525-541.

3 ECHA, 2012. Chapter R.14: Occupational exposure estimation in: Anonymous Guidance on Information Requirements and Chemical Safety Assessment., Version: 2.1 ed. European Chemicals Agency, Helsinki, Finland.

4 Ibid

5 Watkinson, A.C., Bunge, A.L., Hadgraft, J., Lane, M.E., 2013. Nanoparticles do not penetrate human skin - A theoretical perspective. Pharm. Res. 30, 1943-1946

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