Is my powder sample considered a Nanomaterial?

Based on recommended definition of nanomaterials adopted by the European Commission in 2022 [1], Alfatestlab can provide reliable characterization of your powdered sample, allowing you to answer the question: is it a nanomaterial?

The analytical pathway for powders starts with a screening method based on the VSSA measurement i.e. Volume specific surface area measurement [2]. The volume-specific surface area (VSSA), defined as the product of the specific surface area from Brunauer–Emmett–Teller (BET) measurements and skeletal density from gas pycnometry, is used as an exclusion criterion for nanomaterials. More precisely, a material with a specific surface area by volume smaller than 6 m2/cm3 is not considered a nanomaterial.

Figure 1. Updated analysis and decision flow scheme following the 2022-Recommendation for the definition of a nanomaterial [2]

Alfatestlab is accredited ISO 17025 (the international standard for testing and calibration laboratories) by Accredia. Under this accreditation, Alfatest provides accredited BET Specific Surface Area measurements (SSA) according to ISO 9277. Performing also Real Density measurement by gas pycnometry, we can easily calculate the Volumetric Specific Surface Area (VSSA) of your powder, the first essential step to assess if your powdered sample is considered a nanomaterial.

Figure 2. VSSA measurement

Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) as confirmatory qualitative step provides an additional insight in particles size and morphology. At Alfatestlab we can provide a particle size distribution in number from SEM images and evaluate x50, x50 being the main property for identifying a material as a nanomaterial, i.e., the median of the particle number-based distribution of particle external dimensions (“size”).

Figure 3. Particlemetric Automated SEM analysis: selection of particles (top) and particle size distribution in number from all frames (bottom)

In the table below are highlighted with * the analytical techniques available at Alfatestlab to characterize nanomaterials according to Nanodefine guidelines [3]. Do not hesitate to contact us to discuss about your samples characterization:


[1] European Commission. Commission Recommendation of 10 June 2022 on the definition of nanomaterial (2022/C 229/01). Off. J. Eur. Union 2022, C 229, 1.

[2] Nanomaterials 2023, 13, 990.

[3] The NanoDefine Methods Manual. Part 1: The NanoDefiner Framework and Tools – JRC Technical report, 2020

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