Stakeholder Spotlight – PTB

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Tell us a little about your organisation. How do the areas of nanotechnology and sustainability impact your work?

Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB) is the national metrology institute of Germany. Our work covers all fields of metrology. Of course, nanometrology is an important aspect of our work and many of our 1900 employees have tasks concerned with nanometrology.

I am a member of the Metrology for Magnetic Nanoparticles (MNP) group, which has four main tasks: 1. physico-chemical characterisation of MNP 2. quantitative measurement of MNP content in tissue samples 3. noninvasive imaging of MNP content  in tissue and 4. standardisation of MNP. We cooperate with medical doctors, chemists, biologists, MNP and device manufacturers and other metrological institutions. Sustainability is one of the overarching goals of our work and our contribution is to provide in a transparent way the required knowledge and tools for academia, industry, and society in general.

What is the newest/most innovative development in nanotechnology that your organisation is excited about now?

I have been working in the field for over 20 years now and it is exciting to be part of a longer movement where magnetic nanoparticles gradually leave the academic sector and become an industrial product with many applications in biomedicine, consumer electronics, wastewater cleaning and many other areas.

TEM image of “synomag” (micromod GmbH) magnetic nanoflowers

What, in your opinion, is the most important thing (tool, process, support, etc.) that is needed right now to help grow and strengthen the nanotechnology community

In my opinion, we need to enable industrial product quality management throughout the whole nanotechnology value chain from manufacturing to application and disposal. This requires definition of processes, transfer protocols and measurement tools, preferably in international standards.

What, in your opinion, are important factors or influences that will affect the direction of the nanotechnology community in the future?

Nanotechnology has already big achievements in many application fields. Decisive for the future is, in my opinion, an attitude of transparency, reproducibility and verifiability. Nanotechnology should reach the quality standard of other industrial areas.

Written by: Dr. Uwe Steinhoff, (PTB, Metrology of magnetic nanoparticles, Berlin). For more information in PTB, visit their website: Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (