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Nanomaterial Uses

Comparison with Findings from other Commercial Data Gathering Activities

As per the RCC Nanotechnology Work Plan, the two countries also shared information and lessons learned from other commercial data gathering activities. This information is summarized below, and, where possible, compared with the information on nanomaterials notified under the Canada/US Programs.

United States

To supplement the data gathered through PMNs, the US also looked at data gathered through the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Nanoscale Materials Stewardship Program (NMSP)[1].  In 2008, the NMSP requested voluntary submissions of information from manufacturers, importers, processors and users of nanomaterials. From 2008 - 2009, 29 companies and trade associations submitted information to the US EPA on a total of 123 nanoscale materials based on 58 different chemicals. (Although there was some overlap, these 123 materials are not the same as the approximately 130 notices reviewed by the US New Chemicals Program noted previously.)  Approximately 75 – 80% of these submissions included some type of use information although the information was very limited (e.g., no submission contained sufficient information for EPA to conduct an exposure assessment without the use of generic industry exposure scenarios).

When the US EPA compared the information obtained through the NMSP with other available information, including the Woodrow Wilson Project on Emerging Nanotechnology Consumer Products Inventory[2] and the Nanowerk[3] Nanomaterials Database[4], it was estimated that there were over 200 existing nanomaterials being produced for commercial and R&D purposes in the US. The US EPA acknowledged that this type of comparison has significant limitations because none of the databases was designed to answer questions regarding any specific company’s production or use of a particular nanoscale material, many of the nanomaterials in the databases could be excluded from or exempt from TSCA regulation (e.g., for research and development or pesticide or food/drug-related uses), and none of the databases provided the specific molecular identity and form of a particular nanoscale material for verification.

Post-analysis, 28 of the 200+ existing chemicals being produced at the nanoscale were included in the NMSP nanomaterials submissions[5]; these 28 are included in the 130 nanomaterials assessed by the US New Chemicals Program.  The chemicals were generically identified as metals, metal oxides, carbon nanotubes, amorphous silica, organic polymers, and nanoclays.  Reported uses were similar to what had been notified as PMNs, including imaging agents, plastic additives, catalysts, coatings, ingredients in sunscreens, cells for batteries, and composite parts for marine, aircraft, and automobile applications. No particular uses predominated.

The NMSP is considered a limited success primarily due to under-participation, and because a number of environmental health and safety data gaps still exist.  Many submissions were for research and development only, and a significant number were also submitted as PMNs, although some were submitted after NMSP. The NMSP did, to a limited degree, improve the US EPA’s understanding of nanomaterials and the nanomaterials industry, contribute to EPA’s engagement with other agencies and international bodies, and inform next steps on regulatory and research issues.


In Canada, the federal Department of Industry maintains Company Directories for Nanotechnologies, organized under broad categories such as Nanotechnology Appliers or Users, and Nanotechnology Producers; as well as by Advanced Materials, including Advanced Metals, Ceramics and Composite Materials.  There are approximately 120 companies[6] listed in the directories: inclusion is voluntary, and all listed information is provided by the companies. The information provided varies widely by company, and may include: company information; product, service or licensing information; technology and market profiles; and, sector information[7]. The database is not comprehensive as companies involved in nanotechnology may or may not have self-identified. As well, the database is limited as the type of nanomaterial being used is not generally identified.

There are several provincial nanotechnology associations in Canada who have undertaken efforts to identify companies involved in nanotechnology, and nanomaterials and nanomaterial uses within their jurisdictions. In 2009 Alberta Innovates Technology Futures (formerly Alberta Ingenuity, Alberta Research Council, iCORE, and nanoAlberta) produced an asset map, designed to “to present a snapshot of nanotech activity in the province”[8]. The report identified 22 nanotechnology companies operating in Alberta and placed them into five categories based on industrial uses: nano-intermediates (38%); nano-enabled products (33%); nano-services (13%); nanomaterials (12%); and nano-tools (4%).

Another provincial association, NanoQuébec, also looked at nanotechnology research and industrial activities within its provincial boundaries[9]. It identified that at least 64 companies in Québec are using and/or testing nanomaterials for commercial purposes. The main nanomaterials being used in Québec were found to be nanocrystalline cellulose (NCC), carbon nanotubes, and quantum dots. Intended uses included:  industrial and medical membranes, protective coatings, imaging devices and agents, drugs, lab-on-a-chip applications, paper, printed electronics applications, fuel cells, solar cells, textiles, security clothing, and food packaging.

Information on nanotechnologies in Canada was also gathered from the online database Nanowerk[10] also used by the US EPA for its 2008 research. Although this database is not rigourously collated or validated, and may therefore contain out-of-date or inaccurate information, the New Substances Program was able to use some of the Nanowerk data by doing additional verification (e.g., web searches).

Based on information gathered from these sources, approximately 100 companies have been identified which appear to be manufacturing, importing or using nanomaterials in Canada.  Analysis indicates there are a similar number of nanomaterial producers and of nanomaterial integrators (companies who integrate nanomaterials in other materials or products along the value chain) in Canada. Geographic clusters of nanotechnology companies can be found in Toronto, Vancouver, Montréal and Ottawa. The primary nanomaterials being produced or being used for commercial purposes in Canada are: nanoparticle metals (e.g. iron, copper), metal oxides, metalloids (e.g., silica), carbon nanotubes, and organic (e.g., NCC). The main use categories for these nanomaterials are: coatings, composites, and dyes/pigments/inks. These overall findings are consistent with information received through notifications to the Canadian New Substances Program.

Global Trends

A report on the global nanotechnology industry released in January 2013 by Future Markets, a London, UK-based technology consulting firm with an expertise in nanotechnology, provided a review of the main nanomaterials suppliers and user markets for 30 nanomaterials[11]. The report also forecasted nanomaterial production and demand for nanomaterials by end-user market from 2010 through to 2020.  (It should be noted that the nanomaterials identified in the Future Markets report may not be consistent with nanomaterials that the Canada/US Programs consider to be nanomaterials.) The report predicts that the global nanotechnology market will continue to grow over the coming decade, but also highlights the difficulty of obtaining accurate information on nanomaterial use, both current and projected. Its estimates for annual global nanomaterial production in 2010 varied from a conservative 400,000 tons to an “optimistic” 1 million tons; 2020 production estimates ranged from 1 million to 6 million tons.

In 2012, the largest global marketplace applications identified for nanomaterials by the Future Markets report were paints and coatings (19%), medical applications (14%), and electronics/optics (14%); the report predicts that most innovation and growth will occur in medical applications and electronics/optics. Cosmetics/personal care (10%) and composites (8%) were also identified as major areas of marketplace application. (The percentages cited above represent the estimated percentage of total global demand in 2012 for nanomaterials in those areas.) These findings suggest that coatings are currently the major commercially-relevant use of nanomaterials, which is consistent with notifications to the Canada/US Programs.  

[1] United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA). January 2009. Nanoscale Materials Stewardship Program Interim Report.

[2] Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies (PEN) 2008. Nanotechnology Consumer Products Inventory. Available online at: Accessed December 15, 2008.

[3] Nanowerk is a for-profit nanotechnology portal with offices in the US and Europe; the US used the data available when they did their research, in 2008.

[4] Nanowerk. 2008. Nanomaterials Database. Available at Accessed December 15, 2008.

[5] United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA). January 2009. Nanoscale Materials Stewardship Program Interim Report.

[6] Researchers validated those companies listed in the Industry Canada database to ensure they were still producing and/or using nanomaterials.

[7] Industry Canada. 2011. Company Directories for Nanotechnologies. Available online at:

[8]Alberta Innovates – Technology Futures/NanoAlberta. 2009. Creating Opportunity: Alberta’s Nanotechnology Asset Map 2009.  

[9] NanoQuebec. 2013. Mapping of Quebec Companies Using Nanomaterials in their Product Development and Highlight of Main Market/Application Trends.

[10] Nanowerk. 2013. Nanotechnology companies in Canada. Available online at:

[11] Future Markets Inc. 2013. The Global Nanotechnologies and Nanomaterials Industry.