What measures have to be taken to work with nanomaterials?
The technology is still developing, so the regulatory requirements still contain a lot of uncertainties. This makes day-to-day work with nanomaterials difficult. At Polycompound we are trying to guarantee safety as best we can. We have special filter equipment, the rooms where the CNTs are transferred and processed are hermetically sealed and our staff wear special full-protection overalls.
Have you had confirmation that your production is safe?
The standard measurement of so-called Threshold Limit Values with nanoparticles does not yield any satisfactory and conclusive results, because the results are influenced by the nano concentration in the environment. To be sure, we had our filters tested by electron scanning microscopy and the particles analysed and counted. The result showed that our safety system offers optimum protection. But since investigations using an electron scanning microscope are very time-consuming, my hope for the future lies with a kind of dosimeter that indicates immediately when the concentration of certain nanoparticles is too high.
What is the motivation behind your cooperation with the federal offices?
I would like to pass on the knowledge that we have as processers of nanoparticles. At Polycompound we process more than 1000 kilograms of CNTs a year. That corresponds to several truck loads. I want to highlight the current position of the industry, to draw attention to problems and to represent the interests of the industry. When the safety matrix was presented in Bern, for example, I pointed out that industrial partners need guidance on how to complete the complicated matrix. And a guide in three languages was actually produced – so we are being heard. Such working groups facilitate exchanges between different groups and encourages thinking about issues that do not necessarily concern us as service providers.
The way in which a plastic combined with nanoparticles is processed further. We produce compounds, and the manufacturer sells these as additives. The manufacturer, we as processors and the suppliers know that CNTs are a component of the plastic. But how does someone who has to polish a plastic plate know whether nanoparticles have been incorporated in the plastic? This issue has only been vaguely touched on, and the declaration is still unclear.
Interview: Ralf Dümpelmann and Nadine Nikulski, i-net
Polycompound modifies and refines plastics according to customer specifications, so that they possess certain properties. The company produces customized compounds – from the smallest quantity to several hundred tonnes. Since the company was founded in 1988, its capital has been its knowledge of processes and the development of the right technology for plastics processing. As a Swiss company in private ownership the company strives for a long-term and sustainable relationship with its customers and partners.
Polycompound is an independent contract compounder that produces on behalf of its international clientele in strict confidence. In the field of nanotechnology the company produces so-called additive master batches, in which the additives are bound in the plastic in high concentrations. It is only this step that allows the safe handling of nanomaterials by processors. These additives confer certain properties on materials, such as conductivity, flame retardation or greater resilience.
Federal office information on nanotechnology