Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Picture of the day

Magnetic field lines in a bacterial cell

University of Cambridge Department of Materials Science & Metallurgy Gallery, Magnetic field lines in a bacterial cell

The image shows the magnetic field lines in a single bacterial cell. The fine white lines are the magnetic field lines in the cell, which were measured using off-axis electron holography. Such bacteria live in sediments and bodies of water, and move parallel to geomagnetic field lines as a result of the torque exerted on their magnetosome chains by the earth's magnetic field. (click to see full sized version)

Acknowledgments: Richard Frankel, Mihaly Posfai, Peter Buseck

Visit the University of Cambridge Department of Materials Science & Metallurgy Gallery.

I will post the others in this series over time. To see it all now, visit the Nanotechnology Now Gallery.

Quote of the day

"Progress toward MNT means progress in building productive molecular machine systems - advancing through a series of steps in which each generation of tools can build tools of the next generation. How can this process start? It already has. Laboratory researchers today can design and make atomically precise nanoscale components from polymeric materials. Some of these materials are as strong and stiff as polycarbonate and epoxy resins. Like epoxy, these polymers can be used to bind together particles and fibers of other materials - stronger, stiffer, more diverse materials - to form composite structures. If the parts are atomically precise and designed properly, they can self-assemble in solution to form large, complex structures, including machines."

~K. Eric Drexler: a researcher, author, and policy advocate focused on emerging technologies and their consequences for the future. He pioneered studies of productive nanosystems and their products (the still-theoretical field originally termed "nanotechnology").

2057 - The City

Last night I watched 2057 – The City. See yesterday’s post on The World for more on the series.

The theme for this production could be titled "A Boy and His Holo-Pet" or possibly "Boy Crashes City ‘Net." Without giving away too much detail, I’ll say that this production was as good overall as The World. Covered here: holographic pets, self-guided networked cars, smart homes, robotics, police force technologies, intelligent surveillance, and holographic data storage.

Michio Kaku makes one very pertinent statement: "As we become more dependent on technology, just remember …computers can crash, technology can fail."

I highly recommend that you add this one to your list to watch.

In a future blog note I’ll review the other program in the series: The Body.

To learn more about this program, visit:

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Picture of the day

Magnetic Rock

University of Cambridge Department of Materials Science & Metallurgy Gallery, Magnetic Rock

The image shows the magnetic microstructure in a natural, finely exsolved intergrowth of magnetite blocks in an ulvospinel matrix, which is influenced both by the shapes of the individual magnetite blocks and by magnetostatic interactions between them. Different colours correspond to different directions of magnetic induction in the sample. (click to see full sized version)

Acknowledgments: Richard Harrison, Andrew Putnis, Rafal Dunin-Borkowski

Visit the University of Cambridge Department of Materials Science & Metallurgy Gallery.

I will post the others in this series over time. To see it all now, visit the Nanotechnology Now Gallery.

Quote of the day

"What if someone said, 'Here's a new technology that's going to change the world, but it will kill 50,000 people a year.' Would we allow it? But that's exactly what the car has done for us. It's too simplistic to say it's going to be a worse world or a better world. It's going to be a different world."

~Davis Baird, Dean of the South Carolina Honors College.


Last night I watched 2057 – The World. 2057 is a Discovery Channel production, featuring Michio Kaku as "guide."

The theme for the 2057 programs is technologies that will most change the world in the next 50 years. Included among those technologies are those that we talk a lot about on this blog: nanoscale materials, solar energy, nanotubes for space applications, and others.

In The World, the primary theme is the development of super efficient solar cells (being done in a lab 250 miles above the Earth’s surface, tethered like a space elevator), and a growing conflict between the US and China over oil. Not wanting to spoil the plot for you, I’ll stop there, and say that this is a great production, with excellent CGI, descriptive narration, and real world examples of today’s technologies.

I highly recommend that you add this one to your list to watch.

In a future blog note I’ll review the other two programs in the series: The City, and The Body.

To learn more about this program, visit:

Monday, January 29, 2007

Picture of the day

Magnetic domains in a thin cobalt film

University of Cambridge Department of Materials Science & Metallurgy Gallery, Magnetic domains in a thin cobalt film

The colours in the image show the different directions of the magnetic field in a layer of polycrystalline cobalt that has a thickness of only 20nm. The direction of the magnetic field in the film changes at the positions of domain walls. The field of view is approximately 200µm. The image was acquired using the Fresnel mode of Lorentz microscopy in a field emission gun transmission electron microscope. It was recorded out of focus to enhance the contrast of the domain walls, and then converted to a colour induction map by applying the Transport of Intensity Equation to the image intensity. (click to see full sized version)

Acknowledgments: Anke Husmann, Martha McCartney, Chris Boothroyd, Rafal Dunin-Borkowski

Visit the University of Cambridge Department of Materials Science & Metallurgy Gallery.

I will post the others in this series over time. To see it all now, visit the Nanotechnology Now Gallery.

Quote of the day

"The first nanoscale computer memory device is slated to hit the streets this year. In 2007, the Food and Drug Administration is expected to have approved the first medical device incorporating nanotechnology, and by 2008, nanotechnology enabled solar cells (as thin as wallpaper) will be rolling off presses in California and Japan. As a result, the computer, medical device and energy industries are likely to undergo significant change."

~Jack Uldrich link

Nanotech Videos

Over the weekend, and in the course of doing research for a client, I happened upon YouTube’s nanotechnology video collection.

Let’s start with a summary of the best.

For a bit of history, I recommend the series titled Nanotopia (parts 1 through 6).

Although a bit dated, there is a good nanoscale materials primer by Sandia National Lab, titled Nanotechnology - Thinking Big in a Nano sized World.

There are also a couple futuristic presentations, such as Nanotechnology – Age of Convergence (nanomedicine) and for the military-minded, see Nanotechnology – Super Soldier Suit.

Included in the list is an excerpt from “N” is for Nanotechnology. I reviewed this one in 2005 (see You can order a copy of the full 30-minute video from my review page.

Nanotech Assembler and Nanofactory Animation are low-rez versions of the nanofactory video, from an excellent production by Lizard Fire Studios in collaboration with Dr. K. Eric Drexler. I recommend visiting where you can choose from one of three versions.

There are several short productions that cover university work, including Bruker AXS and SUNY CNSE Nanotechnology Customer, Inside CNSE – GetNANO, and Duffield Hall Nanotechnology Center Engineering Quad Cornell (a student with a camcorder).

In the “pluck your heart-strings” category, there is a PSA titled First Lego League: Nanotechnology and HIV/ADIS. This one might also be listed under “futuristic” – the context makes it hard to determine if they are talking about near-term nanomedicine or nanorobotic enabled medicine.

I also found 2 videos promoting a product that makes claims that, in my opinion, are dubious at best. Curiously enough, YouTube has them listed in several categories, including “pyramid scheme” and “scam.” They are The Lifewave Patch Hospital and What is Nanotechnology? Don’t expect to learn about nanotechnology from these two.

When I had completed my research, I counted over 2 dozen videos, and over 2 dozen different and sometimes conflicting definitions of “nanotechnology.” Given this wide variation in definitions, it should come as no surprise that governments and regulatory bodies around the world are having a hard time figuring out how and when to apply regulations to products that incorporate nanoscale materials.

…and there are a bunch of clips from movies, adverts, high school productions, etcetera, most of which can only be classified as having a very loose relationship to nanotechnology. The point being that whereas 5 years ago there were less than a handful of videos available over the internet, today there are dozens.

See them all, here

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Neil deGrasse Tyson on the Space Elevator

Dr. Tyson, in conjunction with NOVA Science Now, presents an excellent short program on the Space Elevator.

Minus the hype of other bits I’ve seen, Dr. Tyson articulates a simple to understand overview of a grandiose vision.

Regardless of your opinion on the feasibility of the SE, I highly recommend this program, first presented on January 9th, 2007.

Also visit Dr. Tyson’s personal website, at

Friday, January 26, 2007

Picture of the day

Magnetic field of an iron crystal inside a carbon nanotube

University of Cambridge Department of Materials Science & Metallurgy Gallery, Magnetic field of an iron crystal inside a carbon nanotube

This image won First Prize in the "Science Close-Up" category in the Daily Telegraph Visions of Science competition. The image shows a multi-walled carbon nanotube, approximately 190nm in diameter, containing a 35-nm-diameter iron crystal encapsulated inside it. Electron holography has been used to obtain a map of the magnetic field surrounding the iron particle, at a spatial resolution of approximately 5nm. The magnetic phase contours show that the particle contains a single magnetic domain. An external magnetic field could be applied to such particles to exert a torque on the surrounding nanotube. (click to see full sized version)

Acknowledgments: Takeshi Kasama, Rafal Dunin-Borkowski, Krzysztof Koziol, Alan Windle

Visit the University of Cambridge Department of Materials Science & Metallurgy Gallery.

I will post the others in this series over time. To see it all now, visit the Nanotechnology Now Gallery.

Quote of the day

"The future is not a roulette wheel that we sit back and watch as worried spectators. It's a matter of work. We should see the risks, see the possibilities, and do what we can to make sure that future outcomes are the ones that we desire."

~Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University

Interview with Adriana Vela

Today, I would like to call your attention to an interview I did with Adriana Vela, Founder & Chair, NanoBioNexus. In addition to creating and running the community building non-profit, Adriana is both a friend and colleague. She is well versed in the nuances pertaining to community outreach and education for applications of nanotechnology and oncology, as well as for partnering and investment opportunities in nanobiotechnology.

RR: How are advances in nanotechnology enabling biotechnology?

Nanotechnology is an interdisciplinary science that combines chemistry, physics, biology and mechanical engineering. Nanotechnology is generating substantial new insights into how biological systems work and this will lead to the design and creation of entirely new classes of nanofabricated devices and systems. Nanotechnology facilitates new methods for scientific exploration thus increasing the understanding of how biological systems work and accelerating our ability to address diseases at the cellular level.

RR: What is the most important point that nanobiotech companies and research institutions need to consider prior to forming a partnership?

As an enabling technology, nanotechnology has millions of potential applications, most of which have not even been thought of yet. This can be a double-edge sword in that the original (potential) applications of the technology may be set aside when product-development partners use the technology in ways that differ from the original vision. So the point is: don't get discouraged if your technology doesn't end up being used as you envisioned.

RR: On your web site you ask the question "Why is it important to pay attention to nanotechnology?"

In response, what do you tell prospective partners? Ultimately, the answer to this question is different for every individual. In general, I make the point that nanotechnology is a transformative technology not so different from the locomotive in the 18th century, electricity in the 20th century, and the internet in recent times. From a materials standpoint, nanotechnology introduces novel properties and functions, so it is not that different from when plastic first arrived on the scene. Back in 1907, Nobody could foresee the plethora of uses of plastics. With such capacity and potential, it is important to pay attention to nanotechnology and understand how that might affect you from the health, environment, and business or investment opportunity perspectives.

There are many ways that NanoBioNexus can help you with your nanobiotech goals and questions. As stated on their home page "NanoBioNexus aims to demystify the constantly evolving developments in nanobiotechnology and highlight the implications to society."

I encourage you to visit the their website to learn more.

To read the entire interview, visit:

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Picture of the day

'Dancing' quantum dot

University of Cambridge Department of Materials Science & Metallurgy Gallery, dancing quantum dot

Plan view bright field transmission electron micrograph of a germanium/silicon quantum dot in a silicon matrix. The quantum dot, grown by molecular beam epitaxy, is coherently strained due to Ge/Si crystal lattice mismatches giving rise to strain induced banding contours. The straight edge at the top left shows the Si 110 plane. Field of view is approximately 620nm wide. (click to see full sized version)

Acknowledgments: Diana Zhi, Paul Midgley, Rafal Dunin-Borkowski, Don W. Pashley, Bruce A. Joyce

Visit the University of Cambridge Department of Materials Science & Metallurgy Gallery.

I will post the others in this series over time. To see it all now, visit the Nanotechnology Now Gallery.

Quote of the day

If nanotechnology ... at maturity achieves even a fraction of its promise, it will force the reassessment of global markets and economies and industries on a scale never experienced before in human history. Imagine the emergence of a nanochip that tomorrow would deliver over 50 gigahertz of speed with the processing power of ten supercomputers for the price of a quartz watch and smaller than a key chain. What might the economic impact on the computer industry be overnight? Imagine a super strong and inexpensive material to be used for pipe insulation, construction and manufacturing that would eliminate the market for steel and plastic. How might that influence the economy?

~Dr. James Canton, CEO & Chairman, Institute for Global Futures

Muddying the waters

The History channel is rerunning a 2004 episode titled “Doomsday Tech” in which they profile 4 scenarios, including gray goo.

If you want to learn about nanotechnology and molecular manufacturing, don’t count on this program for instruction; it is both confusing and incomplete.

If, however, you want to learn more about global warming, peak oil, nuclear Armageddon, a new ice age, this looks like a good program to watch.

They point out that the “stunning level of technological progress human beings have achieved in a very short time” has a dark side “we’ve reached a pivotal moment in human history when we as a species possess technologies that could destroy us.”

Yes, gloom and doom; but what did you expect with that title?

Not all of it though: they also discuss alternate energy in the forms of wind power, solar power, tidal (wave) power, hybrid cars, geothermal and hydrogen (fuel cells), so it’s not all a bad trip.

My earlier point about not counting on this program to learn about nanotech starts with scenario #4: Gray Goo. Everybody that has paid attention to this issue knows that gray goo is more of a public perception issue rather than a scientific one. My friends at the Center for Responsible talk about this issue in depth at Grey Goo is a Small Issue ( To put it in plain terms, molecular manufacturing doesn’t need self-replicating nanorobots (a.k.a. free-floating autonomous assemblers, as was highlighted in the program).

Much more important and likely molecular manufacturing "bad news" scenarios include (but are not limited to) this list, compiled by CRN:

Economic disruption from an abundance of cheap products
Economic oppression from artificially inflated prices
Personal risk from criminal or terrorist use
Personal or social risk from abusive restrictions
Social disruption from new products/lifestyles
Unstable arms race
Collective environmental damage from unregulated products
Black market in nanotech (increases other risks)
Competing nanotech programs (increases other risks)
Attempted relinquishment (increases other risks)

Back to the program. I also find fault in the way they use “nanotechnology” and “molecular manufacturing” interchangeably, as if the terms meant the same thing. At one time they did, but the day is long since past when old-school scientists and industry co-opted the term “nanotechnology” and rewrote its definition to mean “materials in the .1 nm to 100 nm range, which often exhibit unique properties.” Whereas “molecular manufacturing” means “the building of complex structures by mechanochemical processes.”

Their descriptions (backed by background images of a nanofactory) serve only to further confuse an already confusing subject. At one moment they talk about tiny robots, and at another about super strong materials.

And not once do they talk about the nanofactory, which is featured prominently as background animations.

All in all, a very confusing portrayal of a very important topic; one which left me disappointed with an organization known for its unbiased and accurate programs.

Don’t get me wrong, I did like the information about the first three scenarios. They seem to follow conventional wisdom, and present it in no scarier terms than other portrayals I have seen and read.

One thing I took away from the program, which I watched three times, was a closing quote by Sir Martin Rees:

What we’re seeing in this century is new technologies, which produce greater risk and greater opportunities. We have to insure that we can harness the opportunities and avoid the risks of misuse.

His quote absolutely applies to molecular manufacturing.

To learn more about nanotechnology and molecular manufacturing, visit:

What is Nanotechnology? -

What are the benefits? -

What are the dangers? -

You can buy the video here or watch your listings for a repeat of the program.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Picture of the day

"Molecular Shuttlecock"

Heinrich Jaeger and Ward Lopes, Nanochain

A molecular shuttlecock, with a buckyball for a head and rod-like structures to form the tail. These shuttlecocks can be stacked like their giant counterparts, but display odd liquid-crystal behaviors.

Image Courtesy of and Copyright © Accelrys.

To learn more, read the press release Batting around molecular shuttlecocks.

Quote of the day

How do today's nanoscale technologies differ from tomorrow's advanced nanotechnology, sometimes called molecular manufacturing? Here is one way to explain it: today's nanotechnologies use big machines to make small products -- by contrast, molecular manufacturing will use small machines to make big products. That sounds simple, but it is really a profound distinction.

From Nanotech Today vs. Nanotech Tomorrow

In molecular nanotechnology (also called molecular manufacturing), assembly is guided by computer controlled nanoscale equipment. That means that the complexity of the output can be increased by feeding in new computer instructions, and a relatively simple manufacturing system can build products that have greater physical complexity.

~Chris Phoenix, Director of Research, the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology

British Breakthrough Highlights Nanotechnology Policy Gap

Breaking my rule again today, for an important press release by my friends at the Center for Responsible Nanotechnolgy. You'll be seeing this in quite a few other places soon, and likely hearing plenty about it later.

NEW YORK, January 24, 2007 - An urgent need for new nanotechnology
policy is highlighted by breakthrough results from a recent British
government funded project. For the first time ever, a group of
high-level scientists assembled for the purpose of inventing something
as close as they could get to the long-sought nanotechnology goal of
building precise products atom by atom. The remarkably advanced
projects those scientists produced -- which they hope to complete in
three to five few years -- suggest that the era of molecular
manufacturing could arrive far more swiftly than previously imagined.

"What this shows, even more strongly than before, is the critical
necessity of additional work on implications and policy," said Mike
Treder, Executive Director of the Center for Responsible
Nanotechnology (CRN). "Existing nanotechnology policies, and most
proposed policies, do not address huge new areas of concern raised by
tomorrow's revolutionary manufacturing potential. That gap could be

Nanofactories will use vast arrays of tiny machines to fasten single
molecules together quickly and precisely, allowing engineers,
designers, and potentially anyone else to make powerful products at
the touch of a button. In a single week of intense interdisciplinary
work, an "IDEAS Factory on the Software Control of Matter" produced
three ground-breaking research proposals that bring the nanofactory
concept closer to reality. The project was sponsored by the UK's
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), a national
science agency that also will fund the proposals.

"If, as expected, nanofactories can be used to build more
nanofactories, then the impacts on society may be extreme," said
Treder. "From remarkable advances in health care, environmental
repair, and poverty reduction, to severe economic disruption,
political upheaval, and the possibility of a new arms race: all these
implications and more must be understood. Now it appears that our time
to prepare is getting shorter."

The goals of the IDEAS Factory project were audacious: to make
progress toward the vision of a "matter compiler" that could build
atomically precise products under computer control. The
forward-looking proposals coming from the IDEAS Factory should expand
expectations as to what's possible at the nanoscale, and hold the
potential to accelerate the development of nanofactory systems.

"This shows that molecular manufacturing, which has been considered a
far-future result of nanotechnology, is now a fruitful topic for
current scientific attention," said CRN Director of Research Chris
Phoenix. "We expect that the IDEAS Factory will be a trend leader,
inducing other nanoscientists to use molecular manufacturing as an
inspiration and target for their work."

Participants in the IDEAS Factory designed research projects using an
innovative process in which scientists from many different fields work
together to bypass the conventional limitations of their fields. The
three proposals they developed are expected to accomplish in just a
few years what might have taken twenty with traditional approaches.
Funding has already been assured by the EPSRC and experimental work
will begin shortly.


The Center for Responsible Nanotechnology ( has been
raising awareness about the severe societal and environmental
implications of advanced nanotechnology, and the urgent need for new
policy, since 2002. CRN is an affiliate of World Care, an
international, non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization. The opinions of CRN
do not necessarily represent those of World Care.


What is the IDEAS Factory? -
What is nanotechnology? -
What is molecular manufacturing? -
What is a nanofactory? -

This is the paragraph that you should keep in mind in the coming weeks, and the one that will generate a lot of chatter:

For the first time ever, a group of high-level scientists assembled for the purpose of inventing something as close as they could get to the long-sought nanotechnology goal of building precise products atom by atom. The remarkably advanced projects those scientists produced -- which they hope to complete in three to five few years -- suggest that the era of molecular manufacturing could arrive far more swiftly than previously imagined.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Picture of the day


Heinrich Jaeger and Ward Lopes, Nanochain

False-color transmission electron microscope image of self-assembled gold nanochains produced at the University of Chicago. The center-to-center spacing between neighboring chains measures 50 nanometers. Individual gold nanoparticles measure 5 to 10 nanometers and self-assemble inside the polystyrene domains of a thin copolymer film. Polymethylmethacrylate domains of the film, on either side of the chains, do not contain nanoparticles and appear dark. (click to see full sized version)

Image Courtesy of and Copyright &#0169 Heinrich Jaeger and Ward Lopes.

Read the press release University of Chicago physicists pioneer method for nanotechnology fabrication.

Quote of the day

Much social unrest can be traced directly to material poverty, ill health, and ignorance. Molecular manufacturing can eliminate material poverty—at least by today's standards; post-MM standards may be considerably higher. Products of molecular manufacturing can greatly improve health by eliminating conditions that cause disease, including poor sanitation, insects, and malnutrition. Widespread availability of computers and communication devices can provide exposure to other cultures and diverse points of view, and create an understanding of a broader social context in which to evaluate actions and beliefs. (Unfortunately, mass communication also gives demagogues a wider audience, which may undo some of this benefit.) MM certainly will not cure or prevent social unrest, but it will remove many tangible causes of distress.

From: Benefits of Molecular Manufacturing

When ignorance comes a-knocking, answer with the shotgun of science.

"Tod" (Tony Daniel - Superluminal)

State of the Nanomaterials

In 2004 I interviewed companies about their nanoscale materials. Today, I’d like to present their answers to my last question, along with miscellaneous notes and updates on each, and some observations I made along the way.

RR: What new types of materials do you expect to be creating in 5 years, and what properties do you expect them to exhibit that differ from today's materials?

David Carnahan, President NanoLab: Outside of our internal device development efforts, we are also working to expand our offerings of nanoparticles, nanowires, etc. The ability to grow, place or manipulate these particles on various substrates will be important to device manufacturers. For the nanotubes, we look to a strong future in advanced composites.

(RR) NanoLab has expanded their product list, and appears to be (as they said they would) putting greater effort into nanotubes. Their bulk MWCNT prices are among the lowest I have seen (100 grams @ $8/gr). See

Jason Lemkin, Chief Business Officer NanoGram Devices Corporation: We have developed almost 100 nanoscale compositions and are focused on the biomedical and energy storage spaces.

(RR) In 2004, NanoGram Devices Corporation was sold for $45 million to Wilson Greatbatch Technologies.

Patrick Collins, Marketing Director Hyperion Catalysis: In addition to being used as a conductive additive, there has been recent work by a number of researchers that indicates that nanotubes are an excellent non-halogenated flame retardant for plastics. They are effective at the same low loading as in ESD applications, thus giving better retention of the resin's physical properties.

(RR) They now produce multiple tons of MWCNT, but only as part of other products such as thermoplastic resins (nylon, polycarbonate, polyesters, PEEK, PEI and others). The incorporation of nanotubes into resins appears to have huge potential, potentially effecting several major industries, such as aerospace, military, and automobile.

Sharron G. Penn, Ph.D., Director of Chemistry, Nanoplex Technologies: Nanoplex Technologies Inc. is continuing to develop future generations of encoded nanoparticles for a variety of applications.

(RR) Nanoplex Technologies is now part of the Oxonica family. They remain in the business of “detection technologies enabling a full spectrum of transformational diagnostic tools that bridge the healthcare market from drug discovery, to the clinical laboratory and point-of-care.”

Jessica Lu, General Manager Nanocs: We are developing our series products with better performance and more functions. (Functional nanocrystals with special optical, electrical, magnetic properties and bioactivity, including carbon nanotubes, conducting and semiconducting nanocrystals, nano magnetic particles and related nanoscale thin film.)

(RR) Nanocs remains in the nanotube, nanoparticle, and tools business.

Julien Roux, Market Analyst and Business Development Manager, Nanoledge: Nanoledge develops a unique nanotube macroscopic fiber. This fiber will be used as mechanical reinforcement, and is composed of more than 60% in weight of carbon nanotubes, aligned in the fiber.

(RR) Nanoledge remains in the nanotube business. They now offer a CNT filled resin (the nanotubes being supplied by Arkema).

Jonathon Foreman, Marketing and Sales Manager NexTech Materials: We plan to vastly increase our efforts in catalysis and sensor materials.

(RR) Their emphasis (as shown on their website) is now fuel cell and fuel processing components; Catalyst and Sensors, and SOFC and Components.

Olivier Decroly, Sales & Applications Manager Nanocyl: Carbon nanotubes with more controlled properties: electronics, surface chemistry, geometry - these will be true nanoengineered materials.

(RR) Nanocly remains in the nanotube business, offering multiple varieties. Their current list of applications is impressive (

Keith A. Blakely, CEO NanoDynamics: We anticipate that over the next several years, NanoDynamics will be expanding its commercial product offering to include a much wider range of specific metals and metal oxides for various applications in semiconductor, microelectronic, biomedical, catalysis, and energy applications. We also anticipate that our efforts in nanostructured carbon will permit the incorporation of nanotubes into more and more composite applications, where the exceptional strength of CNTs will enhance the performance of numerous polymer-based materials.

(RR) To-date NanoDynamics’ most visible product remains the NDMX golf ball, which isn’t to say that they aren’t worth watching, quite the contrary. Keep an eye on their fuel cell materials, life sciences, and nano-enabled materials.

Katrin Mohrlueder, NanoDel Technologies GmbH: (We) expect to create nanoparticles or nanocapsules consisting of alternative biodegradable polymers and or co-polymers having a particular surface for the targeted delivery of drugs to specific sites within the body (organ-specific drug targeting, e.g. lungs, gastro-intestinal-tract). This can be done either by modifying the surface of the nanoparticles using standard organic chemistry or by adsorption of antibodies.

(RR) Worth watching: their blood brain barrier nanoparticles. Take a look at Doxorubicin, a patent-protected nanoparticle/doxorubicin formulation for the treatment of brain tumors.

Wayne Daniell, CEO NanoScape AG: We aim to make hybrid materials combining the advantages of mixed meso and microporosity, with enhanced selectivity to both adduct and product, and combine nanocrystalline materials with microcrystalline, to ensure thermal stability and longevity.

(RR) “Novel materials combined with surface functionalization, coating and encapsulation technologies.” Nanocrystalline materials: “They form a highly flexible materials platform from which, through structural modification and surface functionalization, a plethora of further tailor-made products can be realized.” The reason I make more of this is due to their excellent description as to why nanoscale materials radically change the game.

Mark Wilson Ph.D., NanoHorizons: In the next five years we plan to be developing nanostructured materials in such areas as: chemical sensors and processes for manufacturing flexible electronic devices. Our sensor program is oriented toward low cost detection of chemicals, including but not limited to water vapor, with extraordinary response speed and sensitivity. Our materials for flexible electronics will allow high performance microelectronics to be placed on flexible substrates. This will allow CMOS logic and memory devices, which must be made at high temperatures, to be placed on low temperature flexible surfaces.

(RR) Keep an eye on their: Matrix-Less MALDI Technology, Photovoltaics and Organic LEDs, and Sensors. I have been watching their anti-ordor nanoscale silver technology, which was recently chosen by Shock Doctor for the sporting goods lines. Here’s what they say: “a nanoscale-engineered additive designed to create permanent anti-odor and antimicrobial protection in fibers and fabrics.” As a racquetball player I can attest to the potential market in this area! (

Cheryl V. Sherman, Powdermet: Powdermet will be producing engineered magnetic materials having higher energy density and lower losses, and greater corrosion and temperature stability than current materials. We will also be producing engineered friction materials with greater temperature capability, reduced wear and more stable friction coefficients. Also, Powdermet will be producing multi-functional materials with properties not yet seen together in the natural word.

(RR) Their product line has expanded. See

Sami Mardini, Kainos Energy Corporation: The compositional versatility and direct conversion of precursors to SOFC layers from using the LRD approach will be leveraged to create high performance materials for SOFC cells, interconnects, and seals. Among the advances these materials will provide are fuel flexibility, lower operating temperature, higher electrocatalytic activity, less degradation, and increased hermeticity without compromising cost.

(RR) I have been watching Kainos Energy Corporation and their energy (fuel cell) technologies for years. This is just one of many companies that stand a chance of making the big bucks with their nanotechnologies. As they say “Recent market projections estimate a $46B global fuel cell market by 2011.” I think we can reasonably extrapolate a trillion-dollar market by the late teens. Think that potential market might spur radical change, massive investment, and a whole new Fortune 500 lineup?

Read the rest of the interview at

A couple things struck me while building this entry:

There are more “legit” nanoscale materials companies now than 2004.

There are more nanoscale materials companies that look like good bets and are receiving solid investment dollars.

There are more nanoscale materials companies making inroads in consumer products.

Energy technologies and high strength-to-weight ratio materials are being taken to the next level by nanoscale materials.

In my opinion, the potential market for nanoscale materials rivals that all but a few. In fact, as mentioned above, we’re likely to see several trillion-dollar markets by the late teens, all of them enabled by nanoscale materials.

In the lifetime of most boomers, nanoscale materials will be a part of many every day things.

Where strength to weight is an important factor, expect to see nanotubes become a significant contributing factor into tomorrow’s advanced aerospace, military, and then consumer products.

Medicine will find many uses for nanoscale materials, in how we diagnose, treat and prevent disease.

In retrospect, none of those observations surprised me, or will surprise anyone who has been watching nanoscale materials. For many years the trend has been towards the nanoscale, simply for the increased surface area. Now we are learning how to exploit the different physical properties exhibited only at the nanoscale. The possibilities seem endless.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Picture of the day


Heinrich Jaeger and Ward Lopes, Nanowire

False-color transmission electron microscope image of self-assembled silver nanowires produced at the University of Chicago. Silver wires in this image are colored blue-grey. The different color shades correspond to different orientations of small crystallites that have flues to form the wires. Polymethylmethacrylate domains between the wires are not wetted by silver metal and appear pinkish. The center-to-center spacing between neighboring wires is 50 nanometers. (click to see full sized version)

Image Courtesy of and Copyright © Heinrich Jaeger and Ward Lopes.

Read the press release University of Chicago physicists pioneer method for nanotechnology fabrication.

Quote of the day

Undoubtedly, nanoscience and nanotechnology constitute a major growth area of scientific and technological research in the new century, with the potential to transform the human condition so radically as to be barely imaginable today.

~Akhlesh Lakhtakia, Editor-in-Chief, Journal of Nanophotonics

Breakthrough nanotech product?

OK, so we’ve got nanopants, nanotech golf club shafts, nanosilver coated washing machines, and several hundred (1) other “nano” products. I have just one question for you: “Have you seen any of these products make a huge dent in their respective markets?” No? Neither have I. Don’t get me wrong, these are all cool products, but none of them, so far, have displaced their “old tech” counterparts to any significant degree.

Well, soon we’ll have, for our homes and offices, white light LED lighting devices. Why does this matter? It matters because these “bulbs” could reduce your lighting bill by 90%. Could white light LED bulbs be the product that brings nanotech into every household? And in so doing be the breakthrough that pundits and investors have been salivating over for the past 6+ years?

In order for those questions to be answered, we must ask another: “What will consumers and businesses buy lots and lots of?” Answer: Firstly, Things that save them money! Consider the previously mentioned 90% reduction in your lighting bill. Consider the impact it could have on your household expenses. Consider the impact it could have on offices, industrial buildings, factories, etc., where every penny saved can and often does mean a penny reduction in product costs. Secondly, things that satisfies their desire to “go green” (which we’ll save for another day). We also have to ask about cost: “What will this product cost over it’s life-span?” We’ll get to that in a bit.

In an article by Pacific Gas and Electric (2) on LED holiday light strands (the colored variety, not the pure white ones), they compare the operating costs of LED strands against mini incandescent and large incandescent strands. The estimated cost of running a strand of large incandescent bulbs for 225 hours is $76.55, and for the mini incandescent, $4.92. The estimated cost of running the LED strand is $.47 – that’s right, 47 cents! Yes, they cost more up front (3), but consider this, they are estimated to last for more than 50,000 hours. Compare that to the average of 750 hours for incandescent bulbs, and 10,000 hours for compact fluorescent bulbs (4), and I think you will reach the same conclusion that many other penny-wise households have: over a fairly short period, LED bulbs save $$$ (the article puts it this way “LED light strings (will) more than pay for themselves within a season or two”).

Referring back to the PG&E article (4), let’s do a little math, using updated cost estimates for compact fluorescent bulbs. A quick search at Google finds several dot-coms selling compact fluorescent bulbs for as little as $10 per. And if memory serves, I have purchased them on sale for as little as $3 per. OK then, on to the calculations.

According to a DOE study done in 1993, US households “contain a total of 523 million lights that are on 1 or more hours a day--282 million of these are on 4 or more hours a day.” For their calculations they used a cost of about $22 each for compact fluorescent bulbs, compared to 75 cents each for incandescent bulbs. They determined that “Potential aggregate U.S. household energy savings for replacement of all incandescent bulbs used more than 4 hours per day amounts to 31.7 billion kWh annually.” And this was in 1993, when we spent ~5 cents per kWh, which would yield nearly $1.6 billion in savings. Today, here in Oregon we are apparently spending ~7.62 cents per kWh (5), whereas in Connecticut they are spending ~17.27 cents per kWh (Note to residents of Connecticut: Don’t be mad at us Oregonians for our “cheap” electricity; we pay more for gasoline than any state except Hawaii). The average across the US was (in Oct. 2006) 10.55 cents/kWh, which, if you use it with the 1993 figure of 31.7 billion kWh savings, comes to ~$3.5 billion. And that, folks, ain’t peanuts!

Without belaboring the math, consider the annual savings now that the cost of a compact fluorescent bulb is no higher than $10 (and on sale at around $3). A rough calculation indicates several billion more in savings.

OK then, how about extrapolating the savings we might realize by replacing incandescent bulbs with LEDs? Well, we can’t, at least not until we get some cost estimates, which currently are unavailable. That said, at the end of the day, I’d pay a premium for them, just as I do now for the compact fluorescent bulbs I use.

Which brings us to an article I read today at Nanotechnology Now, titled Lighting the way - LED for home use will make for most efficient bulb.

PolyBrite International, a maker of “LED collars for dogs, armbands for joggers, batons for the military to land aircraft and batons for police to direct traffic” is set to produce white light LEDs.

“PolyBrite has developed the first screw-in, white-light (LED) bulbs in the typical sizes used in the home, such as the equivalent to 65- and 75-watt bulbs, each using 90 percent less energy than traditional lighting.”

“It used nanotechnology to build a bulb lens from nano-sized silicon that lets through 40 percent more light than is possible with other materials, creating a bright white bulb.”

According to the article, expect to see these bulbs become available to the office market within 60 days, and for the home within the next year.

Like many other households, in an effort to reduce electricity use in our house we have replaced incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs, even though they cost more up front. So if these new LED bulbs live up to their billing, then I won’t be surprised if they become the first major nanotech-enabled products that displaces several old technologies.

As I said earlier, pricing is not currently available, but if they start out even close to the price of compact fluorescent bulbs then expect the market for them to boom. And once it does, expect the price to drop as production scales up. Even if they come in at $40 per, they will, over time, save you money.

And I won’t get into their use in China, with over 1.3 billion potential electric lighting consumers and a rapidly growing industrial capacity; that’s a whole other blog post, for another day.

Oh yeah, did you catch that I didn’t factor in the escalating cost of energy, the worldwide movement to green technologies, and the real cost of oil? Consider these when you think about how rapidly energy saving technologies like these LEDs will start to change the game.



(3) “a string of 35 LED lights costs from $8 to $10, while a string of 100 LED lights retails for $10 to $15”



To learn more, visit these links:

Lighting The Way,CST-FIN-led22.article

The Advantages of LED Lights

High-efficiency Fluorescent Lighting Cost Savings Calculator

Friday, January 19, 2007

Picture of the day

"Neural Interface Biochip"

Charles Ostman, neural interface biochip

Charles Ostman: This 3D rendering of a neural interface biochip is actually a slide from a 4 1/2 minute animation created at the AAC (Academy of Art College) in San Francisco, as part of a visualization project roughly based on portions of a book I have been developing. This animation was eventually shown at SigGraph, on PBS televsion, and has been incorporated in related content for events in the US, Europe, and Asia. (click to see full sized version)

Special thanks to Kevin Cain, then the director of computer graphics animation at AAC, and the spectacular efforts of over 30 students and fellow instructors who worked for approx. 9 months to create this production. Rendered in Maya 3D, and a variety of other rendering applications.

Visit his Evolution into the Next Millennium site.

As with previous pictures, I will post the others in this series over time. To see it all now, visit the Nanotechnology Now Gallery.

Quote of the day

"Nanotechnology, over the course of the next decade, will create a lot of new wealth, and it will also destroy a lot of old wealth - by rendering old businesses as well as business models obsolete. It will not do these things overnight. Instead, it will do so incrementally. As such, now is the time for prudent investors to begin familiarizing themselves with nanotechnology."

~Jack Uldrich link

"A major environmental, medical or safety problem-real or bogus-with a product or application that's labeled 'nanotechnology'- whether it actually is nanotechnology or not-could dampen public confidence and financial investment in nanotechnology's future, and could even lead to unwise regulation. We should not let this happen."

~Neal Lane, former science advisor to U.S. President Bill Clinton

"One of the exciting yet challenging aspects of nanotechnology investing is the rich variety of opportunities -- from new tools that are essential to some aspect of getting a nanotechnology to market in the near term; to materials that disrupt the economics of a market that is large today; to the really cool science that may have a commercial application some day."

~David Aslin, a West Coast partner at 3i link

"With instruments and tools, investors must identify those companies pursuing markets large enough to generate great returns - typically more than the research market. With bulk nanomaterials, it is all too easy to fall into the commodities trap. Investors must identify and bet on those companies in the value chain that are in a position to capture the lion's share of the value-added that their products and technology create."

~Norm Wu, Managing Director of Alameda Capital link

Investing in Nanotechnologies

The following is an interview I did with Charles E. Harris of Harris & Harris Group (NASDAQ: TINY) in 2002. His answers hold true today and are worth reviewing, especially for those of you considering investing in one or more nanotech companies.

Regarding investing in companies developing nanoscale technologies

Given the vast number of nano-this and nano-that companies, how does one go about investing in a company with real potential?

One should approach small tech including nanotechnology the same way that one picks through the many opportunities in other, more mature areas of venture capital. Although no one has a crystal ball, and it is always difficult to pick the long-term winners in any group of early-stage companies, the same fundamental analysis applies to nanotechnology as to all other fields. Thus ideally, a nanotech venture capital investment should feature a great management team, solid business plan in a large market space that does not involve competing head on with the elephants, and proprietary intellectual property as an organizing principle -- and all at a reasonable valuation! If the investment is past the seed stage, the co-investors should also be first rate.

Do you expect to see the same kind of frenzied investing in nanotechnology as happened with the dotcom boom, or have we learned our lesson?

There will not be the sort of ease of entry into small tech including nanotech that there was into the dotcom companies. The better small tech companies have important intellectual property that typically has been the product of years of government sponsored research. Also venture capitalists are approaching small tech, at least so far, very prudently, because of the telecom and dot com hangover. For investors, small tech including nanotech will be more like biotech than like the dot coms -- there will be waves of relative enthusiasm by the capital markets, but the real progress will continue for decades with some great, enduring business franchises being created along the way.

Is there any one nanoscale technology of special interest to you or your firm?

Obviously we like computer memory and drug delivery, given that we have invested in Nantero and NanoPharma. But we want to be diversified so we are looking at a wide variety of nanoscale technologies, excluding only the really futuristic plays.

Read the rest of the interview here

Charles Harris has served as CEO of H&H since July 1984. Prior to then, he was Chairman of the investment advisory subsidiary of Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, Wood, Struthers and Winthrop Management Corp. He is a trustee of Cold Spring Harbor Labs and of the Nidus Center. He is a graduate of Princeton University, and Columbia University Graduate School of Business.

Harris & Harris Group, Inc.®, is a publicly traded venture capital firm exclusively focused on investing in tiny technology. We use the term, "tiny technology," as MIT uses it—tiny technology encompasses nanotechnology, microsystems and microelectromechanical systems (MEMS). In fact, most of our portfolio companies are utilizing nanoscale-enabling technologies.

H&H Home

Their Portfolio

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Picture of the day

"Diamondoid cell-repair nanorobot"

Svidinenko Yuriy, Diamondoid cell-repair nanorobot

Simulation of a simple mobile cell-repair nanorobot and some of it's subsystems. (click to see full sized version)

Yuriy Svidinenko: In this study I'll try to simulate simple mobile cell-repair nanorobot and try to analyse some kind of it's subsystems. A complete functional design of an artificial cell-repairer is beyond the scope of this paper. Here, I want to focus on the purely simulation aspects of the cell repair nanorobot's functions and parts.

See Cell Repair Nanorobot Design And Simulation for details.

As with previous pictures, I will post the others in this series over time. To see it all now, visit the Nanotechnology Now Gallery.

Quote of the day

Molecular manufacturing (MM) can solve many of the world's current problems. For example, water shortage is a serious and growing problem. Most water is used for industry and agriculture; both of these requirements would be greatly reduced by products made by molecular manufacturing. Infectious disease is a continuing scourge in many parts of the world. Simple products like pipes, filters, and mosquito nets can greatly reduce this problem. Information and communication are valuable, but lacking in many places. Computers and display devices would become stunningly cheap. Electrical power is still not available in many areas. The efficient, cheap building of light, strong structures, electrical equipment, and power storage devices would allow the use of solar thermal power as a primary and abundant energy source. Environmental degradation is a serious problem worldwide. High-tech products can allow people to live with much less environmental impact. Many areas of the world cannot rapidly bootstrap a 20th century manufacturing infrastructure. Molecular manufacturing technology can be self-contained and clean; a single packing crate or suitcase could contain all equipment required for a village-scale industrial revolution. Finally, MM will provide cheap and advanced equipment for medical research and health care, making improved medicine widely available. Much social unrest can be traced directly to material poverty, ill health, and ignorance. MM can contribute to great reductions in all of these problems, and in the associated human suffering.

From: Benefits of Molecular Manufacturing

Nanomedicine Education

In an effort to help educate 12 – 18 year olds, the folks at PlayGen have created NanoMission™. NanoMission is a "cutting edge gaming experience which educates players about basic concepts in nanoscience through real world practical applications from microelectronics to drug delivery."

Their press release goes on to say "NanoMission is a learning experience which educates players about basic concepts in nanoscience through real world practical applications from microelectronics to drug delivery. The demo of the first module, nanomedicine, compels the player to select a suitable vehicle to deliver an anti cancer compound, and then navigate through the bloodstream to the site of the tumour, while avoiding the bodies' natural defence mechanisms."

While this tool is aimed primarily at children, adults who are not comfortable with the technologies will find it educational as well.

The following YouTube video takes you inside the bloodstream with a vesicle loaded with anti-cancer molecules.

View the other videos here

Or download the demo here

About PlayGen: Founded in 2001 by gaming industry experts, PlayGen is a London based game development studio with a strong track record in developing serious games for training and learning purposes. See

About Cientifica: Cientifica is the world's leading independent supplier of nanotechnology research and technology information, with activities spanning from consultancy, to business intelligence and investments. See

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Picture of the day

"Coral of Atoms"

Dr. Antonio Siber

A small coral of atoms (blue, perhaps assembled using the tip of atomic force microscope) on an face-centered-cubic surface. (click to see full sized version)

Dr. Antonio Siber, Institute of Physics, Zagreb, Croatia.

See his Image and Video Gallery

As with previous pictures, I will post the others in this series over time. To see it all now, visit the Nanotechnology Now Gallery.

Quote of the day

"The question is not if nanotechnology is going to happen but when. Nanotechnology is fueling advances all across the modern industrial spectrum, and things are happening today. Advances that might be thought of as being ten years away today could, as a result of new developments, be only five years away tomorrow."

From The Next Big Thing Is Really Small: How Nanotechnology Will Change the Future of Your Business.

~Jack Uldrich & Deb Newberry. March 2003

Nanotechnology for Cancer

As I have said in the past, I won’t normally report the news in this space. Today, however, the news reminded me to talk about nanomedicine, and the efforts of one particular group, the NanoTumor Center (Nanotechnology for the Treatment, Understanding and Monitoring of Cancer - NTC).

The NTC is composed of participants from the University of California at San Diego, Santa Barbara, Irvine and Riverside campuses together with the Burnham Institute and NanoBioNexus. “…our main objective at the center is to apply nanotechnology to the treatment, understanding, and monitoring of cancer towards reducing the suffering and death it results in. To realize this objective, we use targeted nanoparticles of various sizes and properties, optimized for detection, sensing, imaging, and therapy.”

“Our focus at the center will be on making nanoparticles stealth in the vascular system, specific as they attach only to the tumor, and capable of penetrating into it without polluting other organs.”

“Our longer-term vision is to ultimately deliver these nanoplatforms as a payload of multifunctional ‘smart motherships,’ capable of detection, identification, imaging and performing measurements, and providing treatment, as well as delivering therapies to residual cancer cells as they circulate in the system.”

Sadik Esener, Ph.D., Principal Investigator and Center Director

On to the news from the NTC

The NCI Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer announced a collaborative, multidisciplinary team of researchers has created nanoparticles that … seek out and bind to the blood vessels surrounding tumors and then attract more nanoparticles to the tumor target. Using this system, the team demonstrated that the homing nanoparticle could be used to deliver a "payload" of an imaging compound, and in the process act as a clotting agent, obstructing as much as 20 percent of the tumor blood vessels.

These findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, come from a research team led by Erkki Ruoslahti, M.D., Ph.D., of the Burnham Institute for Medical Research at the University of California, Santa Barbara, Michael Sailor, Ph.D., of the University of California, San Diego, and Sangeeta Bhatia, Ph.D., of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. All three team leaders are investigators with Centers for Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence, funded by the National Cancer Institute Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer.

From Clot-Mimicking Nanoparticles Attack Tumors

The use of nanoparticles in this fashion is a significant step forward, and just one of many you’ll see from the NTC in the days ahead.

Just today I counted over a dozen new articles on nanotechnologies being applied to medicine. Of course, many of them cover technologies that are years down the road, if in fact they ever see commercial development. Equally “of course” is the fact that a great deal of funding is going into learning about the unique properties that come about when we get below 100 nm, and applying it to medical uses; the corollary to which is that some of these technologies are likely to become part of tomorrow’s world.

I’ll leave you today with this: Expect to see an increasing number of announcements coming from these “nanotechnology for cancer” projects, and pay attention to how rapidly we advance in detection, sensing, imaging, and therapy using nanoscale tools and particles. The field of medicine is about to make a quantum leap forward in how we diagnose, treat and prevent disease, all thanks to our understanding of the nanoscale.

To learn more, visit these web pages:

NanoTumor Center:
-Nanotechnology 101
-Participating Organizations
-The People
-The Projects
-The Cores

Centers for Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence

National Cancer Institute Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Picture of the day

Dreams of Buckminster Fuller

Dr. Chris Ewels, Dreams of Buckminster Fuller

Copyright © Chris Ewels (click to see large version)

Dr. Chris Ewels: Buckminster Fuller, famous for his geodesic dome structures, once designed a dome large enough to cover mid-town Manhattan. Now his structures are reappearing in the chemistry of the nanoscale. So why not extrapolate a little?!

"I'm working in the emerging field of nanotechnology, currently working on the interaction between nanostructures and other atomic and molecular species. I used to work for the Vega Science Trust, a charity that helps the science and technology communities to communicate using television and the Internet. My work involved developing science broadcasting on the Web, TV programme research and development, and more.

In addition I am a computational chemist working on defects in graphite, nanotubes and fullerenes, as well as the interaction between impurities and dislocations in diamond and silicon. Previously I studied point defect behaviour in various semiconductors."

See his Nanotechnology Image Gallery

As with previous pictures, I will post the others in this series over time. To see it all now, visit the Nanotechnology Now Gallery.

Quote of the day

Molecular manufacturing will enable the poorest countries to bypass the difficult and dirty process of the industrial revolution.

Building codes and politics permitting, nanotechnology will make possible revolutions in the construction of buildings. Buildings can be made so energy-efficient and so good at using the solar energy falling on them that most are net energy producers.

What does…(MM) mean for the environment? It means that the human race could feed itself with ordinary, naturally grown, pesticide-free foods while returning more than 90 percent of today's agricultural land to wilds.

From: Unbounding the Future: the Nanotechnology Revolution. Ch. 8: Providing the Basics, and More

The Basics, Pt. II

In keeping with my post titled The Basics, Pt. I I’d like to present an interview I did with my friend Vic Peña, CEO, nanoTITAN, Inc., and Member of the PCAST Nanotechnology Technical Advisory Group (NTAG).

Please talk about some of the social, legal, cultural, ethical, religious, philosophical and political implications of molecular nanotechnology (MNT, a.k.a. molecular manufacturing or MM).

I believe that molecular nanotechnology will profoundly impact the entire socio-economic-technological spectrum of the human experience for the betterment of all humankind. This profound impact will be progressive, with increasing promise to improve the lives of humankind.

As MNT becomes reality, challenges to the framework and values of our present societies worldwide will surface. The legal profession, and political entities, will find that current laws and policies will have to be improved to meet the demands of intellectual property protection, producers' liability, and consumer protection. Most certainly also, National Security.

Concurrent with the development of MNT, political involvement in the establishment of laws and oversight needs to occur. International covenants and treaties will have to be developed to assure the lawful, orderly, and peaceful proliferation of MNT's promise. I would see something akin to the Geneva Convention as a set of guidelines from which to establish an international standard for the use and implementation of MNT worldwide. This said, I would not like a constraining bureaucracy to impede the research and development of the scientific and technological discoveries yet to take place, "for the betterment of all mankind."

There is an educational aspect to this also, as not only will our schools and universities be required to graduate scientists and engineers, but whole new generations of business, law, policy, and social studies graduates will be needed to provide the societal balance required for MNT to have a beneficial effect on humankind.

Finally, ethical, religious, and philosophical beliefs will be tasked, and the tenets upon which these beliefs are built will have to withstand some of the assaults that they will surely experience. Science can be a powerful argument, and our values built upon ethics, religion and philosophy must recognize that a whole new era is upon us.

In your opinion, what should be done - starting right now - to mitigate (if not eliminate) the potential downsides to MNT, as well as to maximize the potential upsides?

I stated earlier, that we (our National Leadership) should be considering a Geneva Convention like structure to focus on the peaceful evolution and development of MNT. Additionally, Educational Institutions as well as Academia should begin preparing for the demands that MNT will bring upon us all. I believe that if people are educated both as a work force, and as consumers, the advantages of MNT will be demanded and the nefarious uses that it can pose will be constrained or at least controlled.

Regarding the nanoscale sciences: Talk a little about education, where we're doing it right, where improvements can be made, and why.

I think that we, the United States of America, are not producing enough talent in the sciences and technologies to maintain our lead in nanotechnology. But beyond the scientists and engineer nanotechnologists, we need to focus on the requirements that nanotechnology will put on our business, legal, policy, and social graduates. One great program recently came to my attention, and that is the "Nano*High" Program at UC Berkley, where every Saturday, lectures and lab tours are offered for free to any interested high school student. This is a great model and should be emulated Nation-wide.

Read the entire interview here

Monday, January 15, 2007

Picture of the day

"The Liftport" - Platform, Lifter, and Counterweight

The Liftport - Platform, Lifter, and Counterweight

The subject of research for more than a century, the space elevator is a unique way to ferry cargo and people into space. Recent advances in technology, most notably the development of carbon nanotube composites, now appear to make building a space elevator feasible. Initial research reports on building the space elevator that draw upon these discoveries have now been completed. As proposed in these reports, the space elevator will consist of a carbon nanotube composite ribbon stretching some 62,000 miles from earth to space. The elevator will be anchored to an offshore sea platform near the equator in the Pacific Ocean, and to a small counterweight in space. Mechanical lifters (robotic elevator cars) will move up and down the ribbon, carrying such items as satellites, solar power systems, and eventually people into space.

The Space Elevator is not a tower, or even an elevator shaft. It's just the elevator cable, without even any big motors at the top to pull things up. Vehicles and their payloads have to pull themselves up the cable with their own motors and power supply.

LiftPort Group Inc., Bremerton, Wash.

See the entire LiftPort Conceptual Engineering Drawings Gallery (Focused on the Space Elevator)

As with previous pictures, I will post the others in this series over time. To see it all now, visit the Nanotechnology Now Gallery.

Quote of the day

Much water today is wasted because it is almost but not entirely pure. Simple, reliable mechanical and electrical treatment technologies can recover brackish or tainted water for agricultural or even domestic use. These technologies require only initial manufacturing and a modest power supply. Physical filters with nanometer-scale pores can remove 100% of bacteria, viruses, and even prions. An electrical separation technology that attracts ions to supercapacitor plates can remove salts and heavy metals. The ability to recycle water from any source for any use can save huge amounts of water, and allow the use of presently unusable water resources. It can also eliminate downstream pollution; a completely effective water filter also permits the generation of quite "dirty" waste streams from agricultural and industrial operations. As long as the waste is contained, it can be filtered, concentrated, and perhaps even purified and used profitably. As with anything built by molecular nanotechnology, initial manufacturing costs for a water treatment system would be extremely low. Power will be cheap. Well-structured filter materials and smaller actuators will allow even the smallest filter elements to be self-monitoring and self-cleaning. Self-contained, small, completely automated filter units can be integrated in systems scalable over a wide range.

From: Benefits of Molecular Manufacturing

My Dream

We have within our grasp a technology that may enable the elevation of all humanity.

Nanotechnology holds the potential to create a world of abundance where no one is lacking for basic needs. Those needs include adequate food, safe water, a clean environment, housing, medical care, education, public safety, fair labor, unrestricted travel, artistic expression and freedom from fear and oppression.

Let me share with you the vision of Dr. K. Eric Drexler and some of the things that become practical with mature nanotechnology (molecular manufacturing):

Nearly free consumer products
PC's billions of times faster then today
Safe and affordable space travel
Virtual end to illness, aging, death
No more pollution and automatic cleanup of existing pollution
End of famine and starvation
Superior education for every child on Earth
Reintroduction of many extinct plants and animals
Terraforming Earth and the Solar System (RR: and move some of our "eggs" out of this one basket we call Earth)

Everything I know and understand about nanotechnology tells me that the time is near when every man, woman and child can live their dream, without cost to another. "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness" is the birthright of all, and with a bit of luck and a lot of planning, it just may be within our reach.

As a great man (*) once said "Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children."

How can you help ensure that MM is developed in safety and for all people? I encourage you to support the mission of the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology and that of the Foresight Nanotech Institute ( and


Friday, January 12, 2007

Picture of the day

Courtesy of and © US Army Natick Soldier Center

Read more about the Objective Force Warrior Program

"MIT's Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies (ISN) is ground zero for warrior chic. Waterproof and germ-proof nanoparticle coatings for bulletproof vests already have been developed at the university. Also on the fabric front is dynamic armor that firms up at the sound of a bullet or transforms into an instant splint. The material is woven from hollow fibers filled with nanometer-scale magnetic particles. In the presence of a magnetic field generated by, say, a hand-held device, the beads line up, stiffening the fabric to 50 times its normal state. Even more sci-fi are ISN's designs for "exomuscle" uniforms that would provide soldiers with super strength, and reflective camouflage suits woven from high-performance mirror fabrics."

~David Pescovitz, Small Times

"Imagine the psychological impact upon a foe when encountering squads of seemingly invincible warriors protected by armor and endowed with superhuman capabilities, such as the ability to leap over 20-foot walls."

~ISN director Ned Thomas

(Read more about this in the Military Nanotechnologies post, below)

Quote of the day

Exactly what do consumers think about nanotechnology? Consider this tidbit: consumers rate it safer than some commonplace, everyday products, including herbicides, chemical disinfectants and food preservatives. The study also shows that the public is pretty savvy in their judgment. They aren't blindly accepting of nano-products, nor are they clueless about risks. They are simply willing to consider both the risk and rewards -- just as they do with other technologies. Quite simply, they knowledgeably -- and enthusiastically -- choose the benefit of nano-enabled products.

(From a national research study conducted by Rice University's Center for Biological and Environmental Nanotechnology (CBEN), University College London (UCL) and the London Business School.)

~Scott E. Rickert, chief executive of Nanofilm, Ltd.

Military Nanotechnologies

In November 2003, I interviewed Professor Ned Thomas, Director of the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies (ISN).

The importance of what he said then bears review again, today.

Here is an excerpt:

RR: What are the greatest challenges facing the creation of the products necessary for the "soldier system of the future?"

NT: Basic research is the forte of universities, and I think MIT is a pretty good one to do basic science and engineering, and to come up with breakthrough discoveries. But that isn't something a soldier can use - that's a discovery, it's a proof-of-concept. So we have industrial partners, and the way that ISN is structured is that we have a number of industry partners that were chosen because of their portfolio of technical abilities and manufacturing capabilities which complement our basic research capabilities.

The customer is the Army - really the individual soldier. So how do you get this guy something that he can wear and break, and come back and tell you "I like it, but make it do this, and make it less that." So you need to be able to make some prototypes and so forth. Universities don't build prototypes and we don't manufacture anything - that's industry stuff. So we have a number of industrial partners - Raytheon and DuPont are two of the big ones who know how to make stuff. Raytheon, for example, is a systems-integrator, so if you think about the soldier as a system, that's the right way to do it, not to think of them as a Christmas tree, where each thing you give them is a separate system. When you hand them this radio and it weighs 20 pounds, nobody thinks much about "How does that affect the rest of what he takes?"

If you're working on an airplane, and you come up with a new design for a landing gear, and you change the weight of the plane by 20 pounds, everybody cares. The avionics guys, the hydraulics guys, the power guys, the fuel guys, all of those guys say "Whoa, whoa, whoa! A 20 pound change in the weight of the plane - why are you doing that? It's affecting me!" So they see it as an integrated system, where any change, anywhere, affects everything. So of course that happens to the soldier too - the guy is affected by whatever you do to him, but nobody much thought about it that way. They would say "Here's a cool thing, carry this," and actually the guy has to carry either this, or he drops something else - he has to make choices. So integrating it, and trying to make all these different capabilities work together, can (help them to) take advantage of one another - they're synergistic rather than antagonistic. This is kind of the over-arching big view of how you pull this all together, and that's a huge challenge, because people like to go off and do their thing, and come up with a great new tool, like a medical monitor. And medical monitoring would be wonderful if you think of the civilian-side uses. When Grandma gets old, she doesn't have to go into the nursing home, she can stay at home, and her bodily functions and physiological conditions are monitored and wirelessly communicated back to some monitoring station that says "Glucose levels too low - Grandma needs to take her medication." So you send her an email to remind her. Or maybe if she's incapacitated you send a nurse to her home and to take care of her. So having an ability to monitor physiological status would be terrific.

Imagine all those guys that went into the World Trade Center, and knew where every one of them was all the time and what condition they were in. Then you know which guys you can rescue, which guys are still alive, etc. That's unbelievably valuable for fire and police and first-responders. Now, at the same time that you are doing this, supposing that all this wireless cool stuff is giving away their position - if you're a soldier, you don't want to be broadcasting "I'm over here!" - it's not just about physiological monitoring, its all these other things that have to be optimized at the same time." So it's back to the airplane-metaphor - yeah it's a great new landing gear, but how does that help us with our fuel and other issues relating to flying the plane?

Read the entire interview here

MIT's Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies (ISN)

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Picture of the day

It is my pleasure to introduce you to the works of Cris Orfescu.

Cris has been a friend for the past four years, one who's work I find both pleasing and informative.

Cris Orfescu, Vitreous reticulated Carbon foam ligaments and micropore

Vitreous reticulated Carbon foam ligaments and micropore

(Go ahead, I dare ya, say that three times real fast!)

Image derived from black and white Scanning Electron Microscope image that was digitized and computer painted.

Learn more at Cris Orfescu's Premiere Artist Portfolio

NANOART - Limited edition prints. Nano-dimensional features of different materials are revealed with an electron microscope after samples have been previously prepared. The image is created by electrons (electric charged particles) rather then photons (particles of light) as in photography. The black and white electron microscope image is digitally processed, computer painted and manipulated, and printed with archival inks on fine art archival paper or canvas - contact the artist for details. All prints are signed and numbered by the artist.

As with previous pictures, I will post the others in this series over time. To see it all now, visit the Nanotechnology Now Gallery.

Quote of the day

RR: In your opinion, what should be done to mitigate (if not eliminate) the potential downsides to MNT, as well as to maximize the potential upsides?

D. M. Berube: Study, study, and study some more. Involve the public, social scientists, and humanists. Vet the claims. Debunk the foolishness. What is needed is the Center for American Technological Preparedness as specified in the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act. Regulators need to use the broad expertise of all the actors noted above to promote safe and effective nanotechnology applications. Personally, I would expect something (like) the Kefauver Amendments to the Food, Drugs and Cosmetics Act applied to nano-products. If coupled with an invigorated Occupational Safety and Health Administration. And a rediscovered Consumer Product Safety Administration. This tripartite may serve as a basis for a regulatory regime for processes and products. Manufacturing might demand a heightened liability regime matched with more standards regulatory structures, such as treaties and agreements.

Read our entire interview here

D. M. Berube is Professor of Rhetoric and Communication Studies, University of South Carolina

The Basics, Pt. I

I had been looking for a way to help folks understand some of the basic re: nanotechnology and molecular manufacturing when I had an epiphany: how better than to let the experts talk.

Hence, the following, and interview I did with Mike Treder and Chris Phoenix, co-founders of the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology (

Treder and Phoenix are leaders in an attempt to both understand the potential for molecular manufacturing and plan for the many roads it may lead us down. They are among a handful of intelligent, forthright and dedicated individuals who have made it their mission in life to look for safe paths that lead to benefits for all the world’s people and downside outcomes for none.

RR: Please describe the difference between molecular manufacturing and other kinds of nanotechnology.

The basic difference is that molecular manufacturing aims to achieve direct programmable control of reactions between individual molecules. Other kinds of nanotechnology produce small and useful objects, but they do it with equipment that is very limited in its ability to inject information to the nanoscale. Most nanotech products are small, simple, or both. Molecular manufacturing is an approach that connects information technology directly to the nanoscale.

Programmable construction of molecular tools will create new ways to manipulate the nanoscale. The smaller the tools, the more material they can process per second-especially relative to their size. Also, the inherent precision of molecule-forming reactions will make it easier to build precise and highly functional products. As the tools shrink and improve, molecular manufacturing will become able to build its own construction equipment. This "nano building nano" approach will allow rapid scaleup of production capacity: exponential manufacturing. Although even primitive molecular manufacturing will be useful, the achievement of exponential manufacturing will be revolutionary.

RR: Do you see the development of that sort of molecular manufacturing as a natural progression from today's nanotech research, or will it require significant new scientific breakthroughs?

We see it as a natural progression. The main breakthrough needed is not in science, but in scientists: the recognition that molecular manufacturing is a very powerful approach to the nanoscale. This is not to downplay the work that will be required to develop it. But we're close to the point, if not already there, where molecular manufacturing can be developed by a very large-scale engineering effort comparable to the Manhattan Project.

Although the goals and methods of molecular manufacturing are straightforward applications of today's science, the achievement of exponential manufacturing could be a very significant practical milestone. The products it could build will depend on the choice of materials and the sophistication of the software. But from what we know so far, it looks like new and powerful products could be developed too quickly for sensible policymaking.

RR: Which kind of nanotechnology has the most significant near-term and long-term concerns, and what are they?

There are two basic concerns associated with today's nanoscale technologies. One is that any powerful technology can have undesirable societal effects. The other concern associated with nanoscale technologies is that some of those technologies produce nanoparticles, and some kinds of nanoparticles are unknown and possibly hazardous classes of chemicals. Industry and regulators should not assume that nanoparticles are safe, and the public and special interest groups should not assume that nanoparticles are dangerous. Ordinary smoke and dirt have been full of nanoparticles for billions of years. But even when they're made of familiar materials, nanoparticles can have new properties that mean they should be treated like any other unfamiliar chemical.

The real nanotechnology revolution will begin with the shift from the production of new materials and products to the production of new systems of production. When we achieve the ability to do automatic, programmed, atomically-precise manufacturing, and when those new systems of production can, on command, produce copies of themselves, then we will have entered the age of exponential general-purpose molecular manufacturing. We expect this to occur ten to fifteen years from now, though with sufficient effort it could conceivably happen in less than ten years.

But when it comes, it will be dramatically transformative. All areas of society will be affected, and unless adequate preparations are made, the economic and geopolitical destabilization could be severely disruptive.

Read the full interview here

Center for Responsible Nanotechnology

Our Vision

Advanced nanotechnology may build machines that are thousands of times more powerful—and hundreds of times cheaper—than today's devices. The humanitarian potential is enormous; so is the potential for misuse. The vision of CRN is a world in which molecular manufacturing is widely used for productive and beneficial purposes, and where malicious uses are limited by effective administration of the technology.

Our Mission

CRN acts to raise awareness of the issues. We believe that even a technology as powerful as molecular manufacturing can be used wisely and well—but that without adequate information, unwise use will be far too common. The mission of CRN is to raise awareness of the issues presented by nanotechnology: the benefits and dangers, and the possibilities for responsible use.

Our Purpose

In order to provide well-grounded and complete information, clear explanation, and workable proposals, CRN studies, clarifies, and researches the issues involved—political, economic, military, humanitarian, and technological. CRN presents the results for both technical and popular audiences, and works to supply the information as effectively as possible. The purpose of CRN is to investigate the ethical, legal, and social implications (ELSI) of molecular manufacturing, and to educate those who will influence its use or be affected by it.

To learn more, visit these links

Timeline for Molecular Manufacturing

Bridges to Safety, and Bridges to Progress

Thirty Essential Nanotechnology Studies