North­eastern University’s Center for High-​​rate Nanoman­u­fac­turing (CHN), a National Sci­ence Foundation-​​funded Nanoscale Sci­ence and Engi­neering Center, has signed an agree­ment with fed­eral health researchers to advance research and guid­ance for occu­pa­tional safety and health in nan­otech­nology, marking a sig­nif­i­cant step for­ward in the emerging field.

According to the agree­ment, CHN at North­eastern Uni­ver­sity with its core partner institutions—the Uni­ver­sity of Mass­a­chu­setts Lowell, and the Uni­ver­sity of New Hampshire—will col­lab­o­rate with the National Insti­tute for Occu­pa­tional Safety and Health (NIOSH) to advance work­place health and safety stan­dards and prac­tices, and act as a global resource for research, edu­ca­tion and infor­ma­tion dis­sem­i­na­tion in nan­otech­nology safety and health.

The part­ners will pursue research on worker and con­sumer pro­tec­tion from expo­sures as well as on the tox­i­city of nano­ma­te­rials and their life cycle and envi­ron­mental impacts.

We’re very happy about this part­ner­ship,” said Ahmed Bus­naina, CHN director and the William Lin­coln Smith Pro­fessor of Mechan­ical and Indus­trial Engi­neering at North­eastern. “We need to make sure the process is safe and that we are pro­tecting workers.”

He said the agree­ment will lead to new research col­lab­o­ra­tions among its industry part­ners, and also builds on the strong inter­dis­ci­pli­nary research in nanomed­i­cine already taking place at North­eastern, including at the George J. Kostas Nanoscale Tech­nology and Man­u­fac­turing Research Center.

NIOSH Director John Howard vis­ited North­eastern on Sept. 20 to sign the agree­ment, which he said is extremely impor­tant to advancing nan­otech­nology safety research, given the field’s poten­tial soci­etal benefits.

The part­ner­ship advances Northeastern’s mis­sion to develop inno­v­a­tive, use-​​inspired research that solves global chal­lenges in areas such as health, secu­rity and sustainability.

CHN’s mis­sion is four-​​fold: to bridge the gap between nanoscale sci­ence research and the cre­ation of com­mer­cial prod­ucts; to develop processes and tools that will enable high-​​rate/​high-​​volume nanoscale man­u­fac­turing; to deliver edu­ca­tional infor­ma­tion about nanoman­u­fac­turing to the work­force through part­ner­ships among industry, uni­ver­si­ties and K-​​12 teachers and stu­dents; and to over­come bar­riers to commercialization.

The global market for nan­otech­nology is pro­jected to be at least $1 tril­lion by 2015, according to the National Sci­ence Foundation.