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Environmental Health and Safety of Nanotechnology


Name Email Phone Room
Barbara  Karn bkarn@nsf.gov (703) 292-7949  565 S  

To 2014 Applicants: Please note that NSF 13-1 explicitly states the requirements for addressing BOTH the Intellectual Merit (IM) and the Broader Impact (BI) review criteria for NSF proposals. In addition to addressing IM and BI separately in the Project Summary, a separate section on BI needs to be included in the Proposal Description (GPG: "The Project Description must contain, as a separate section within the narrative, a discussion of the broader impacts of the proposed activities") .  Furthermore, when reporting results from Prior NSF Support, two separate sections addressing explicitly IM and BI need to be included within this portion of the proposal. (GPG: " ... a summary of the results of the completed work, including accomplishments, described in two separate sections, related to the Intellectual Merit and Broader Impact activities supported by the award").

If any of these requirements (or any other requirement from NSF 13-1 document) are not met, the proposal will not pass the NSF compliance check and will be returned without review. We would like to avoid such unfortunate instances for our Division.


Apply to PD 14-1179 as follows:

For full proposals submitted via FastLane: standard Grant Proposal Guidelines apply.
For full proposals submitted via Grants.gov: NSF Grants.gov Application Guide; A Guide for the Preparation and Submission of NSF Applications via Grants.gov Guidelines apply (Note: The NSF Grants.gov Application Guide is available on the Grants.gov website and on the NSF website at: http://www.nsf.gov/publications/pub_summ.jsp?ods_key=grantsgovguide)


Full Proposal Window:  January 15, 2015 - February 19, 2015


The Environmental Health and Safety of Nanotechnology (Nano EHS) program provides support to examine and mitigate the environmental effects of nanotechnologies.  Fundamental research is sought to understand, evaluate, and lessen the impact of nanotechnology on the environment and biological systems. 

The program emphasizes engineering principles underlying the environmental health and safety impacts of nanotechnology.  Innovative methods related to clean nanomaterials production processes, waste reduction, recycling, and industrial ecology of nanotechnology are also of interest.  

Transformative research in the area of nanoEHS includes the following:

  • Understanding, measuring, mitigating, and preventing adverse effects of nanotechnology on the environment and biological systems
  • Nanotechnology environmental health and safety impacts
  • Predictive methodology for the interaction of nanoparticles with the environment and with the human body, including predictive approaches for toxicity
  • Fate and transport of engineered nanoparticles and their by-products
  • Risk assessment and management of the effect of nanomaterials in the environment
  • Proposals may address methods to characterize and quantify the release of nanomaterials from intermediate materials or finished products during use or disposal scenarios.

1. Complex and heterogeneous engineered nanomaterials.

The nanomaterials of today and tomorrow are moving from simple, homogeneous, single- element objects to heterogeneous structured materials.  Research on the environmental and health implications of these nanomaterials is only in the beginning stages and much work is needed on complex and heterogeneous nanomaterials.   NOTE: Proposals addressing silver or gold nanomaterials will be given low priority. 

2. Detailed materials characterization.

To get meaningful results in nano EHS studies it is necessary to know what material is being used and what properties of the material might cause the effects on living systems.  Characterization is a necessary part of all nanoEHS research.

3. Prevention of adverse impacts.

This is an important research area. It includes both applying environmentally benign synthesis methods in engineering and manufacturing nanomaterials as well using nanotechnology in preventing adverse impacts in current non-nano synthesis and manufacturing processes.

4. Research takes a systems approach.

Whether the impacted system is a natural system or an industrial system, the EHS research must start from a systems view to justify how and where adverse impacts could occur. Research may include models and statistical techniques used to identify priorities for study within systems.

5. Fundamental tools need to be developed.

Monitoring instrumentation, sensors, models, and metrology are but a few of the tools  needed for measuring nanomaterials'  impact on the environment, health or safety.  Fundamental work on standards for measurements are also needed.

6. Nano EHS research informs and enables responsible development and sustainability.

There is a great opportunity for partnership with sustainability programs in the nano EHS area, particularly in applications that improve EHS.  For example, nanomaterials and membranes can enhance water treatment or contribute to efficient energy technologies and slow down greenhouse gas production and resource depletion.

Proposals may address methods to characterize and quantify the presence of nanomaterials in products, and the release of nanomaterials from intermediate materials or finished products during consumer use or disposal scenarios.

NOTE:  For proposals involving any aspect of chemistry, including but not limited to biochemistry or physical chemistry, consider making proposal submissions to this program (1179) with the Proposal Title as:  ‘SusChEM: Name of Your Proposal'.  See SusChEM - New NSF Emphasis Area.  Likewise for proposals involving sustainable engineering.

Current areas of support for this program do not include biomedical and nanotoxicology topics involving clinical trials.

The duration of unsolicited awards is generally one to three years.  The average annual award size for the program is $100,000.  Proposals requesting a substantially higher amount than this, without prior consultation with the Program Director, may be returned without review. 

Innovative proposals outside of these specific interest areas can be considered.  However, prior to submission, it is recommended that the PI contact the Program Director to avoid the possibility of the proposal being returned without review.



Proposals should address the novelty and/or potentially transformative nature http://www.nsf.gov/about/transformative_research/faq.jsp  of the concept being proposed, compared to previous work in the field.  Also, it is important to address why the proposed work is important in terms of engineering science, as well as to also project the potential impact on society and /or industry of success in the research.  The novelty or potentially transformative nature of the research should be included, as a minimum, in the Project Summary of each proposal.

Proposals submitted to this program are subject to the scope of the program's description and the availability of funds.  Decisions about particular proposals are often very difficult to make and factors other than reviewer comments and ratings enter into the decision.  Comments by a reviewer must sometimes be considered in the context of other reviews by the same person. The Program Director often has additional information not available to reviewers (such as project reports). Maintaining appropriate balance among subfields, the availability of other funding, the total amount of funds available to the program, and general Foundation policies and priorities are also important decision factors. 

Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) program proposals are strongly encouraged.  Award duration is five years.  The submission deadline for Engineering CAREER proposals is in July every year. Please see the following URL for more information:  http://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=503214

Proposals for Conferences, Workshops, and Supplements:  Proposals involving these activities should ideally be submitted during the regular annual proposal window.  PIs are strongly encouraged to discuss their requests with the Program Director before submission of the proposal.

Grants for Rapid Response Research (RAPID) and EArly-concept Grants for Exploratory Research (EAGER) are also considered when appropriate.  Please note that proposals of these types must be discussed with the Program Director before submission.  Further details are available in the Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide (PAPPG) download.

Unsolicited proposals received outside of the Announced Proposal Window dates will be returned without review.



Environmental Engineering and Sustainability

What Has Been Funded (Recent Awards Made Through This Program, with Abstracts)

Map of Recent Awards Made Through This Program


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