NICPB in the series “TeadusEST”

In the “TeadusEST” program of March 9, the activities of NICPB led by Urmas Nagel in the field of nanotechnology were introduced. Among other topics, the head of the environmental toxicology laboratory Anne Kahru gave an overview of nanoecotoxicology.

Episode description: The world we are all familiar with changes beyond recognition when viewed at very tiny dimensions, and these nanoscale processes can seem completely mind-boggling. Let’s find out why this is so and what opportunities the nanoworld opens up for humanity. Host-editor Piret Järvis-Milder, editor Kaur Maran, director Liis Lindmaa, producer Anatoli Tafitšuk, producer Ulm Production. The program is produced in cooperation with the Estonian Science Agency.

Watch the show here:

Head of Environmental Toxicology Anne Kahru’s interview on Vikerradio’s program “Ökoskoop”

On March 6, Anne Kahru, head of the environmental toxicology laboratory, gave an interview about neonicotinoids in the radio program “Ökoskoop”. Results from the recently published EASAC report of the Research Council of European Academies were discussed in more detail.

Listen to the program (neonicotinoids part at 00:00-29:55):

Neonicotinoids and their substitutes in sustainable pest control

Since restrictions on three neonicotinoids were introduced in 2018 in the European Union (EU), other insecticides with similar modes of action have entered the EU market, raising concerns that they may pose similar risks to honeybees and other non-target species. Anne Kahru, KBFI’s leading researcher and head of the environmental toxicology laboratory, also participated in the report’s working group by mapping the current state of the scientific literature on ecotoxicology.

Debate is underway on the sustainable use of pesticides, on how to evaluate the environmental risk of existing and new pesticides, and on adapting regulations with the European Green Deal, Farm to Fork, and Biodiversity strategies.

Link to study:

International Conference EcoBalt 2023 will take place in Tallinn, 09 – 11 October 2023

The Laboratory of Environmental Toxicology at NICPB together with the Chair of Analytical Chemistry at the University of Tartu is organizing an international conference EcoBalt 2023. The 23rd environmental chemistry conference will take place on 9 – 11 October, 2023, in Tallinn. The conference follows the previous successful conferences organized in Riga (2021), Vilnius (2018) and Tartu (2016). The topics of EcoBalt 2023 will include Environmental Chemistry, Environmental Toxicology, Analytical Chemistry, Green and Sustainable Chemistry, and Implications and Applications of Nanomaterials.

Abstract submission and registration will open on 1 March, 2023.

Conference website.

Contact: Monika Mortimer,

Dissertation defence: Maria Volokhova

Graduate student Maria Volokhova  defended her PhD thesis “Magnetic Nanomaterials Synthesis and Functionalization for Biomedical Applications” on the 4th of July 2022 in the room SCI-109 (Akadeemia tee 15, Tallinn).

Supervisor:  Liis Seinberg PhD (National Institute of Chemical Physics and Biophysics).

Opponents: Associate Prof Yoij Kobayashi (King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia).

Associate Prof Janno Torop (Tartu Ülikool, Estonia).

KBFI is going to participate in the 1.5 million R&D grant in muon tomography from the Estonian Business and Innovation Agency

We are happy to announce that a joint R&D project in muon tomography between KBFI and the tech company GScan OÜ is granted with 1.5 million euros. The project title is ‘Parcel and luggage scanner based on natural atmospheric radiation’ (project no 2014- 2020.4.02.22-0411) and the time period from Sept 20, 2021 to Dec 31, 2023.

In the project, GScan will develop a fully automatic system based on natural atmospheric radiation tomograph. The device is intended for use in customs and security systems: luggage, scanning people, cars, containers, etc. Technology detects objects atomic composition and automatically signals explosives, drugs,  prohibited, dangerous or undeclared goods. KBFI researches and develops the tomography and reconstruction algorithms and detector technology.

The project aims to further develop existing technology in order to reduce the cost of the tomograph. The project will be further developed detector technology, signal processing electronics and reconstruction algorithms, as the most important factors influencing the cost of the device. During the project a prototype based on the new technology is completed and pilot measurements are carried out at the end consumer. The cost of the technology is estimated on the basis of the created prototype reduction compared to the current situation.

The project is financed by the European Regional Development Fund with €1 468 500. GScan is financed with €1 332 000 and KBFI is financed with €136 500.

NCIPB Environmental Toxicology PhD student Elise Joonas defended her doctoral thesis on May 12th at University of Tartu

Elise Joonas successfully defended her doctoral thesis “Evaluation of metal contaminant hazard on microalgae with environmentally relevant testing strategies” on May 12th at University of Tartu.

Prof. Kalle Olli, Estonian University of Life Sciences and University of Tartu
Dr. Villem Aruoja, National Institute of Chemical Physics and Biophysics
Dr. Anne Kahru, National Institute of Chemical Physics and Biophysics

Dr. Giulia Cheloni, French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) (France)


Waterbodies are particularly at risk of anthropogenic metal contamination, because they are the final sink for these non-degradable substances. In this thesis, the hazard of metal contaminants was tested on microalgae – the basis of aquatic food webs. Focus was chiefly on emerging pollutants – metal oxide nanoparticles and doped rare earth element oxides. These materials are critical in sustainable energy production, but need to be thoroughly characterized for toxic effects due to their high bioactivity and potential for multifaceted toxic effects, respectively. In parallel, the known algicide copper was used in developing novel multispecies assays. Contaminant effects were studied in non-standard environmentally relevant experiments to better understand, how results translate from lab to field. We saw that metal nanoparticles were less toxic in natural water compared to usual synthetic medium, due to the protective effect of natural dissolved organic matter. Due to an up to 50-fold difference in resilience to inhibition by nanoparticles, it is useful to conduct experiments on various species. By measuring non-standard parameters, we found that rare earth elements affect algae either by directly damaging membranes or indirectly by binding essential nutrients. Titanium dioxide nanoparticles hindered growth by amassing around algal cells, while a non-standard stress parameter showed the cells’ photosynthetic capacity within these clumps was not greatly damaged. In multispecies assays algae were generally indifferent to the presence of other species in their response to copper. Cultures containing a mix of species produced more biomass even in contaminated water, due to the multispecies mix more likely containing highly productive or more toxicant-resilient species. Finally, we recommend to focus more on algal functional traits in ecotoxicology. Traits were good predictors of biomass production ability and resiliency to toxicants.

Indrek Reile won the Grand Prix Award for the presentation at the Researchers Night Festival

Senior Scientist at the National Institute of Chemical Physics and Biophysics, Dr. Indrek Reile received the Public Choice Award for a presentation “Chemicals around us: how chemical analysis could aid in solving the present-day challenges” at the annual Researchers Night Festival.

Career opportunities with NICPB

The laboratories of NICPB invite PhD students and postdoctoral researchers as well as Master’s and Bachelor students who are interested in a scientific career and outstanding research to join our research teams.

NICPB also welcomes ideas and proposals for extending the research groups and developing our research fields from postdocs as well as independent researchers. For financial support, we would encourage you to consider the following programmes: Mobilitas +, ETAg personal research funding, Horizon 2020, Horizon Europe, etc.

New research topics for students and postdoctoral researchers will be posted here in November, 2020. For interest to join a research topic in NICPB before, we would ask you to take a look at the laboratory webpages and contact the Head of the Laboratory or the research group about joining the research team of interest.

Additional information about NICPB research programmes, researchers and infrastructure can be found on the laboratory webpages.

Estonia has signed the membership agreement with CERN

Estonia has signed the membership agreement with CERN. With this agreement Estonia has become an Associate Member in the Pre-Stage to Membership of CERN.

See the CERN press release.

NICPB physicist Girsh Blumberg received the ERC Advanced Grant for studies in superconductivity

The European Research Council (ERC) has awarded a competitive 2.5 Million Euros advanced research grant to the principal investigator Girsh Blumberg and a team of researchers from the National Institute of Chemical Physics and Biophysics in Tallinn, Estonia (NICPB) to develop the instrumentation that would enable a study “How do superconductors break time-reversal symmetry?” The work in Tallinn builds on PI-s expertise in studying strongly correlated electron systems and on the expertise of NICPB in the field of terahertz spectroscopy and low temperature physics.
Superconductors are used to build magnets for MRI machines and quantum computers, but even 109 years after the discovery of superconductivity we understand its microscopic mechanisms only in the simplest cases. This research focuses on studying the basic symmetries of superconductors in order to reveal new properties that could prove useful for building new devices including quantum computers. The symmetries observed in nature give rise to conservation laws and the properties of particles. Among the most important of these symmetries is time-reversal – breaking this symmetry leads to a variety of physical effects in condensed matter physics, especially in superconductors.
Our everyday experience shows that past and future are not symmetric: we cannot predict the future just based on our experience from the past! This is captured by the time-asymmetry of the second law of thermodynamics, which says that the entropy always increases.
In contrast, most laws of physics satisfy time-symmetry: such include Newton’s laws, Einstein’s laws, and the basic laws of quantum mechanics. Time-reversal symmetry implies that the equations of motion do not inherently contain a direction for time. Time-reversal symmetry is the motion-reversed symmetry. However, in a system with a magnetic field, the reversed motion of an electron breaks the Newton’s laws, and thus we call the time-reversal symmetry (motion-reversed symmetry) broken. Therefore, the appearance of spontaneous magnetic field is often taken as a signature of broken time-reversal symmetry.
In the context of condensed matter physics, time-reversal symmetry breaking usually implies something that behaves like a magnetic field. Conventional superconductors (lossless conductors of charge current) are robust diamagnets: materials that expel magnetic fields (through the Meissner effect). It would therefore be highly unexpected if a superconducting material would support spontaneous magnetic fields.
Nevertheless, such spontaneously broken time-reversal symmetry states have been suggested for unconventional superconductors, but their identification remains experimentally controversial. For some unconventional superconductors, when these materials are being cooled into the superconducting state, something like a spontaneous magnetization appears. Particularly interesting are unconventional superconductors for which the superconducting state is protected topologically and vortices of the supercurrent can host unconventional particles (Majorana fermions) with potential use in quantum computing applications. However, in striking contrast to the unconventional A phase of superfluid 3He where broken rotational symmetry was directly observed, identification of broken time-reversal symmetry for the superconductors has presented a challenge. The ‘smoking gun’ experiments which could confirm time-reversal symmetry breaking are experiments which are sensitive to a very tiny magnetization. Such novel probes will be developed at NICPB.

Additional info:
Girš Blumberg,
Urmas Nagel,, +372 5690 1425


NICPB Activity Report 2019

The new NICPB activity report has been published. It summarises the developments and major achievements during the 2017 – May 2019 period.

Further reading: Activity report May 2019.

An interview about the antimicrobial properties of silver nanoparticles at the portal

A PhD student from the Laboratory of Environmental Toxicology and the Tallinn University of Technology Anna-Liisa Kubo (supervisors Dr Anne Kahru and Dr Olesja Bondarenko) was interviewed by the portal concerning their recent paper in Colloids and Surfaces B: Biointerfaces  on the antimicrobial properties of silver nanoparticles.

Silver is a well-known antimicrobial which toxic effects can be tuned by altering the size and the surface properties of nanoparticles containing this noble metal. Moreover, the antimicrobial effects are dependent on the target bacteria. The work was done in collaboration with a team of Dr Ivana Vinkovič-Vrček from the Croatian Institute for Medical Research and Occupational Health.

The article is available here.

Defended PhD thesis: Sandra Käosaar

Sandra Käosaar defended her doctoral thesis in Tallinn University of Technology (TUT) on 14 of September 2018.

„Toxicological Profiling of Silver and Copper Oxide Nanoparticles on Saccharomyces cerevisiae BY4741 Wild-Type and Single-gene deletion mutants”

The main aim of the doctoral study was to elucidate Ag and CuO NPs toxicity mechanisms to the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae BY4741. Yeast S. cerevisiae was used as a eukaryotic and fungal cell model. Wild-type and its single-gene deletion mutants were comparatively studied. Mutants, sensitive to the ionic and oxidative stress, and cell wall/membrane disturbing agents were applied. To clarify the role of endocytosis in the uptake of NPs by the cells, endocytosis-defective strain (end3D) was used. Use of singe-gene deletion mutants for the profiling of NPs is a novel and promising method in the nanotoxicology studies.

Results showed that the toxicity of Ag and CuO NPs to the yeast cells was mainly caused by the shed of metal ions and can be modulated by the size and surface-coating of NPs and test environment. To our knowledge, that was the first study showing the entry of Ag NPs into the yeast cells by the endocytosis and that the blocking of endocytosis could be one strategy to increase the toxicity of Ag NPs to the yeast cells.

In this work the novel method for assessing the biocidal efficiency of NPs against yeast, bacteria and algae were developed. In this method deionized (DI) water as a non-modulating test environment for the NPs testing is used. The viability of yeast, bacterial and algal cells during 24-h incubation in DI water did not decrease. Possibility to use DI water as a test environment for the microbes can be regarded as a paradigm change, as DI water has been considered so far as not suitable test environment for the microbes due to its hypotonic nature.

The Doctoral thesis was prepared in the Laboratory of Environmental Toxicology, National Institute of Chemical Physics and Biophysics (NICPB).

Supervisor: Dr. Kaja Kasemets (NICPB, senior researcher); Co-supervisors Dr. Anne Kahru (NICPB, leading scientist) and Prof Andres Öpik (TUT).

Opponents: Dr Olga Muter (Latvian University, Riga) and Prof Maia Kivisaar (Tartu University, Estonia).

NICPB joins an European collaboration for developing vaccine adjuvants

Dr. Olesja Bondarenko from the Laboratory of Environmental Toxicology has joined the European Network of Vaccine Adjuvants (ENOVA), which brings together European experts and stakeholders working in different areas of adjuvant and vaccine research and development. ENOVA is funded by COST through the EU Framework Programme Horizon 2020 and is coordinated by the Vaccine Formulation Institute.

The goals of the network are to facilitate communication and to exchange of information on adjuvants and vaccine formulation among its members, to promote the best use of existing adjuvant technologies, and to encourage and support the development of novel adjuvants and vaccines. Currently organizations from 28 countries joined ENOVA.

Please visit the project website for further information:

Conference “Innovation in the Research of Environmental Protection” in Estonian University of Life Sciences on February 7th

The conference on “Innovation in the Research of Environmental Protection” in commemoration of the 70th anniversary of Professor Henri-Charles Dubourguier will be held in Estonian University of Life Sciences on February 7th, 2018.

Find more information and register to the conference in here, additional information also available in Facebook.

Laboratory of Environmental Toxicology hosted COST AMICI scientific seminar

On November 16th-17th, 2017 the joint seminar of the COST AMICI (Anti-MIcrobial Coating Innovations to Prevent Infectious Diseases, 2016-2020) Network Core Group and the Working Group 3 was held in the National Institute of Chemical Physics and Biophysics. The scientific programme of WG3 Meeting in Tallinn was devoted to development and spreading microbial antibiotic resistance – one of the most urgent medial problems worldwide as antimicrobial coatings (AMCs) that should keep bacteria away or inhibit their growth, can also favour the emergence of microbial resistance to both the coating materials as well as to the traditional antibiotics. The chair of the seminar was dr. Anne Kahru, the head of the WG3 on risk-benefit analysis for the environmental aspects of the project and the antimicrobial coatings and the Head of the Laboratory of Environmental Toxiology.

Lectures were given by prof. Tanel Tenson (University of Tartu), prof. Irja Lutsar (University of Tartu), dr. Pille Märtin (Western Tallinn Hospital, Estonian Health Board), dr. Siiri Kõljalg (University of Tartu, Tartu University Hospital), dr. Theofilos Papadopoulos (Greece), dr. Maria Olívia Pereira ((University of Minho, Braga, Portugal) ja dr. Martijn Riool (University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands).




Public Competition

National Institute of Chemical Physics and Biophysics announces


To fulfil the permanent position of research staff from 01 July 2017 as follows

Research Professor in Cell Bioenergetics              1 position

The requirements to the candidates are set forth in „KBFI teadustöötaja ametijuhend“ and the conditions and procedures of the competition and election are established in the „KBFI teadustöötajate valimise ja atesteerimise ning teaduslike struktuuriüksuste juhtide valimise tingimused ja kord“ (in Estonian only), both to be found on our web-site


The applications shall be submitted to the name of the Director of the NICPB electronically to by 31 March, 2017 at 16:00 hrs EET in English.

The Application shall include:

Written statement;

Copy of Identification;

Copies of Diploma and Evidence of Estonian doctoral degree or foreign qualifications equal thereto;

Curriculum Vitae and full list of candidate’s publications in Thomson Reuters WoS database journals;

Up to 5 most important publications during the last 5 years, and

A vision statement for the next 5 years.


Additional information: Science Secretary Kristian Sülluste, Phone +372 6398 391, e-mail

Defence of the PhD Thesis on January 30, 2017


International Science Advisory Board convenes in Tallinn on September 26-27, 2016

In order to evaluate the scientific research carried out in the Institute and to assess the position of NICPB on the Estonian R&D landscape, the International Science Advisory Board (SAB) convenes in Tallinn on September 26 to 27, 2016.

Dr Liis Seinberg has been honoured with the JSPM Award for Advanced Research in Japan

Dr Liis Seinberg and her colleagues prof Shinpei Yamamoto and prof Hiroshi Kageyama received the JSPM (Japan Society of Powder and Powder Metallurgy) Award for Advanced Research.

The research was performed during Liis Seinberg’s PhD studies in Kyoto University.  The work was supervised by prof Shinpei Yamamoto (Institute for  Integrated Cell-Material Sciences, Kyoto University) ja prof Hiroshi Kageyama (Kyoto University). The thesis “Low temperature Synthesis and Properties of Ferromagnetic-Metal Nanomaterials and Square-Planar Coordinated Iron Oxides” featured five high impact publications.

The award ceremony was in Japan on May 24th 2016.



Urmas Nagel is the new director of the NICPB

Today, on April 08, 2016, the Science Council of NICPB elected Urmas Nagel the new director of the Institute for the next five year period. Dr Nagel will assume office on April 29, 2016.

Announcement of Public Contest for the post of the Director of NICPB

The Science Council of NICPB announces


for the position of the Director of NICPB


According to the NICPB Act, the candidate should be:

1) an Estonian citizen who is proficient in the official language (i.e Estonian) to the extent provided by law;

2) a doctorate in Estonia or who has acquired an academic degree equal thereto in another country;

3)  less than 65 years of age.

Deadline for submitting the applications is 22 January 2016 at 16:00 (EET).

Further information: see the announcement (in Estonian) KBFI direktori konkursi kuulutus_2015-12-07

The Science Council elected members

On the 7th December 2015 session the Science Council of NICPB elected the Vice-Rector for Research of the Tallinn University of Technology, Prof Renno Veinthal as its new member and re-elected Research Professor of NICPB, Dr Toomas Rõõm to the Council.

President awards young scientist Elmo Tempel

Cultural Foundation of th President of the Republic of Estonia  granted the Young Scientists Award of 2013 to NICPB scientist, astrophysicist Elmo Tempel.

Read more: Young Scientist Award


Contact Information