Partner Description

ETHZ is a public University in Zurich/Switzerland focusing on the technical mathematical and natural science areas with ca. 18’000 students, and 500 faculty. The University regularly ranks among the top 10 best universities of the world.

The group of Prof. Wendelin Stark is situated in the Institute of Chemical and Bioengineering within the Department of Chemistry and Applied Biosciences. The group currently comprises 3 Postdocs, 15 PhD students, and several Master students. Whereas the field of interest is broad within the scope of “Functional Materials”, the largest impact has been made in the topics of a) nanotoxicology, b) synthesis of carbon coated metallic nanoparticles and c) novel functional biomedical materials/devices.

Our laboratory is fully equipped for the formation of novel materials (including chemical synthesis, and a strong focus on mixing technologies) as well as characterization tools required for materials analysis (including modern chemical analytics and electron microscopy).

Our research group has > 10 years experience in evaluating both the technical opportunity of novel materials, as also the potential harmful impact of such a technology. The risk side is best displayed in terms of nanotoxicology, where in 2005 we were a leading group establishing the difference nanoparticles have in their toxicological potential compared to the traditional profiling of toxic chemicals.

On the technical opportunity side our research group has significant exchange with industry, including several industrially funded research projects, with industrial partners as small as SMEs, and as large as global Fortune-100 companies. Also it may be added that our research group has resulted in the formation of 7 Spin-Off companies (since 2007), often involving former PhD students and technologies they have developed during their work in our group.

Role in the Project

In the S4CE project, ETH is responsible for the ecotoxicological assessment of novel environmental tracers based on synthetic DNA barcodes encapsulated in silica particles. Due to the low detection limit of DNA (one molecule), the variability of DNA barcodes (billions of possible codes) and the high chemical stability of the silica shell, such particles may be considered as ideal product and product flow tracers. To ensure that such tracers can be used in the environment we are currently investigating the ecotoxicological impact of these materials.


Prof. Dr. Robert Grass, is a titulary Professor at ETH Zurich working on magnetic nanomaterials as well as the digitalization of chemistry using synthetic DNA. He is a co-founder of 3 ETH Spin-Off companies.

Professor Dr. Wendelin J. Stark develops nanomaterial-based solutions for industrial and medical markets. He has commercialized over 20 products and cofounded nine companies. He has further formulated key mechanisms in nanomaterial/biology interactions that today form the regulatory basis for industrial nanotech products in Switzerland.

Julian Koch, MSc, studied Chemical Engineering at EPFL in Lausanne and is currently pursuing his PhD at ETH. His research interests are environmental and medical tracing using DNA barcodes encapsulated in silica nanoparticles.