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(EPSRC DTP) Lifecycle exposure and risk assessment for graphene and other carbon based nanomaterials

Project Description

The University of Manchester (UoM) is leading the research and knowledge transfer on the production and use of carbon based two dimensional materials (2D materials), through the National Graphene Institute (NGI, part of the Henry Royce Institute, the UK National Institute for Advanced Materials Research and Innovation) and the Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre (GEIC). 2D carbon based materials such as graphene are novel materials that present opportunities for technological breakthroughs and consequently there has been substantial government and industry investment in this area (worldwide market could reach >£300m by 2022). However, some carbon based high aspect ratio nanomaterials are potentially harmful to humans when inhaled and these concerns have been expressed about graphene and other 2D materials, but the evidence base needs to be developed. In addition, not enough is known about the potential for personal exposure to graphene during life cycle of these materials, including manufacturing, use, disposal and recycling of graphene and graphene enabled products.

This PhD project will aim to develop and implement a safe by design approach for the development of graphene materials and their applications. Specifically the project will: i) produce a lifecycle map of tasks using graphene undertaken by laboratories at the University of Manchester and its industry partners, and to identify where there is greatest risk for personal exposure; ii) identify emission hotspots and characterise airborne exposure based on sampling, analysis and metrology; iii) obtain estimates of potential exposure to graphene and to use these to inform appropriate toxicological studies to investigate hazardous properties; iv) combine the lifecycle maps, the exposure data and the hazardous properties of graphene to determine risk; v) work with other expert bodies to start developing guidance for Universities and business on Safe by Design and safe handling of graphene and other 2D materials.

This PhD will be conducted under the Thomas Ashton Institute, which is a partnership between the University of Manchester (UoM) and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Science Division. The PhD student will be supported and supervised by senior scientists from UoM (Prof Martie van Tongeren, Dr Cyrill Bussy) and HSE (Dr Delphine Bard and Dr Gareth Evans,). The PhD student will be associated to the Graphene NOWNANO doctoral training centre, providing access to a network of about 60 fellow PhD postgraduate research students, and a dedicated doctoral training in graphene sciences and technologies, as well as dedicated media, communication, public engagement, and business courses.

Applications are invited from UK/EU nationals only. Applicants must have obtained, or be about to obtain, at least an upper second class honours degree (or equivalent) in a relevant subject.

For information on how to apply for this project, please visit the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health Doctoral Academy website (

Funding Notes

EPSRC DTP studentship with funding for a duration of 3.5 years to commence in September 2020. The studentship covers UK/EU tuition fees and an annual minimum stipend £15,285 per annum. Due to funding restrictions, the studentship is open to UK and EU nationals with 3 years residency in the UK.

As an equal opportunities institution we welcome applicants from all sections of the community regardless of gender, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation and transgender status. All appointments are made on merit.


Considerations for Safe Innovation: The Case of Graphene. ACS Nano, 2017, 11 (10), pp 9574–9593.

Safety Assessment of Graphene-Based Materials: Focus on Human Health and the Environment. ACS Nano. 2018 Nov 27; 12(11):10582-10620.

Occupational exposure to graphene based nanomaterials: risk assessment. Nanoscale. 2018 Aug 30;10(34):15894-15903

"Just Carbon": Ideas About Graphene Risks by Graphene Researchers and Innovation Advisors. Nanoethics. 2018;12(3):199-210.

Probabilistic approach for the risk assessment of nanomaterials: A case study for graphene nanoplatelets. Int J Hyg Environ Health. 2019 ;222(1):76-83.

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