Monday, April 2, 2007

Picture of the day


Chris Ewels, Nanotube

"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."

Courtesy of and Copyright ©Chris Ewels (click to see larger version)

Learn more about Chris at his gallery

To see the entire series, visit the Nanotechnology Now Gallery.

Quote of the day

"The timeline for initial development of assemblers and replicators depends on laboratory breakthroughs that are not easily predicted…if a full assembler actually can be developed within the next 10 to 20 years, and a useful replicator follows shortly thereafter, then an impressive capability for logistics sustainment will arrive during the third decade of the new century."

~Dr. Calvin Shipbaugh

The Weekly Roundup

Here are some of the news bits and press releases that caught my eye last week.

One of the most exciting new developments in pesticides is the prospect of nanopesticides. Nanotechnology is expected to be used to develop pesticides with new or enhanced activity, or more targeted application (such as through microencapsulation or affinity for specific target pests). Some consumer products are already being marketed as using silver nanoparticles with antimicrobial activity. EPA's Office of Pesticide Programs has already formed a Nanotechnology Work Group to develop a regulatory framework for nanopesticides.

(RR: hopefully this means using less pesticide per application, and that those that are used will do the job with fewer nasty side effects. It definitely means that the EPA is getting a jump on regulating the use of this group of nanoscale materials.)

From: Nanotechnology and the regulatory framework for nanopesticides

The European Nanobiocom project is working on the regeneration and repair of bone tissue. Seven other bodies, leaders in innovation within this specialism, are also taking part in the project. The goal is to come up with a substitute for bone tissue that can put the bone right and regenerate in such a way that it carries out similar functions as in its natural state.

(RR: good news for those suffering from degenerative bone diseases and injury.)

From: Nanotechnology creates intelligent materials to regenerate bone tissue

Japanese researchers have now developed a new material that very effectively removes VOCs as well as nitrogen- and sulfur oxides from air at room temperature. As they report in the journal Angewandte Chemie, their system involves a highly porous manganese oxide with gold nanoparticles grown into it.

To prove the effectiveness of their new catalyst, the research team headed by Anil K. Sinha at the Toyota Central R&D Labs carried out tests with acetaldehyde, toluene, and hexane. These three major components of organic air pollution play a role indoors as well as out. All three of these pollutants were very effectively removed from air and degraded by the catalyst—significantly better than with conventional catalyst systems.

(RR: let’s keep our collective fingers crossed, and hope that this technology pans out, resulting in consumer grade products that are cheap and effective.)

From: For clean air

The "Ellipsometria" laboratory in Japan (headed by Azerbaijani scientists) succeeded in controlling nano-structure with light. Nazim Mammadov told the APA that the whole world will be built on nanotechnology in ten years.

(RR: this technology looks promising, as it will allow for finer control of nanostructures. If they are able to scale it up, it may help advance the building of a nanofactory. See

From: Azerbaijan scientist succeeds to control nano-structure with light (requires subscription to read full article)

Enhanced abilities to understand and manipulate matter at the molecular and atomic levels promise a wave of significant new technologies over the next five decades. This paper discusses the range of sciences currently covered by nanotechnology. It begins with a description of what nanotechnology is and how it relates to previous scientific advances. It then describes the most likely future development of different technologies in a variety of fields. The paper also reviews the government's current nanotechnology policy and makes some suggestions for improvement.

(RR: this is important because it lends further credibility to the increasingly popular theory that nanotechnologies will enable “Dramatic breakthroughs” and “will occur in diverse areas such as medicine, communications, computing, energy, and robotics.” It’s also nice to know that “These changes will generate large amounts of wealth” while at the same time recognizing that they will also “force wrenching changes in existing markets and institutions.” My friends, Mike Treder and Chris Phoenix of the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology (, have been making those and other points for years; it’s good to see these memes spreading and gaining momentum.)

From: US Congress Says Nano is "Coming Sooner Than You Think," Predicts Singularity

A new nanotechnology for home laundry is going to enter Chinese market. Clothes can remain the feature of stain resistance up to one month after using this liquid product, which does not contain fluorine, so it can be used in home laundry, according to a new tech demonstration held in Beijing Friday.

(RR: sounds a lot like the products from Nanotex ( Actually, I included this one because it’s a good example of why you should consider a professional translation service. Note: caution about opening the link to the full article: I got quite a few pop-ups, which my blocker caught.)

From: New nanotech for home laundry exhibited in Beijing

Constrained by a small budget, the Nanotechnology Research Center (NTRC) of the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has nonetheless produced 70 peer-reviewed papers since 2004 in areas such as hazard identification and characterization, exposure assessment, risk assessment, and risk management.

(RR: this news should go a long way towards addressing the legitimate concerns regarding our understanding of nanoscale materials. By addressing potential risks now, we stand a greater chance of avoiding another asbestos debacle.)

From: Nanotechnology Respiratory Risks

Andrei Sokolov of the University of Nebraska and Bernard Doudin of the University of Strasbourg have shown how an individual "bit" of data—a one or a zero of the binary code used by computers—might be stored on a single atom.

(RR: this one is filed under “Wow!”)

From: It may be possible to store a bit of data on a single atom and retrieve it

Families bored with their wallpaper could one day be able to change the pattern at the touch of a switch, according to scientists at Manchester University.

Aimin Song…believes changeable wallpaper and computer screens that roll up and go into your pocket are just two possible applications that may soon be available.

His work centers around “plastic electronics technology, which opens up the possibility for very flexible, hi-tech devices being developed.”

(RR: interesting development. Sounds like applications that all us techheads will appreciate. However, I think that our personal communications devices (pcd’s) will soon incorporate “electronic ticket for public transport systems or road charging schemes, and electronic stamps for letters.” On the other hand, the “roll-up information displays” will enable more compact, expandable pcd’s, that will also function as your GPS, ‘net interface, and health monitoring system. Increasingly, we are going to rely on one-device many-function portables. We will, perhaps also functionalize our garments for one-off items such as tickets to a movie or ID that allows access to subscription only entertainment or services.)

From: Switch wallpaper - with a switch

The judges, mostly from Maryland and Ohio, got a crash course in nanotechnology, synthetic biology and environmental biotechnology - all subjects they may have to tangle with in highly technical cases.

"Judges are empowered to do better, understand the issues better and guide the process better," said Rufus King III, Chief Judge of the Superior court of the District of Columbia. "Judges need to be gatekeepers to keep junk science out of the courtroom."

The program is part of the Advanced Science and Technology Adjudication Resource Center's mission to train more science-literate judges.

(RR: educating the decision-makers is one of the very most important steps towards insuring that nanoscale technologies will be prepared for in advance. Educating other stakeholders—you and I and everyone else—is one of the other most important steps. The very fact of the existence of the AS&TARC is encouraging as well.)

From: Judges learn about science behind courtroom cases

The US-based Wilson Center has applauded the UK government's Council for Science and Technology (CST) over its criticism on the slow progress being made for focused research into the hazards associated with nanotechnology.

(RR: this is another example of preparing for nanoscale technologies in advance (in this case, perhaps not, it is yet to be seen. However, I believe it to be overall encouraging. The Wilson Center has proven to be taking a scientific approach towards the need to prepare for nanotechnologies, and is therefore a credible source regarding all things in this area. I applaud their efforts to convince governments to spend more on research as well. Given the current US spending ratio of $1bn to $11m—development to risk research—and couple with the largely accepted belief that nanotech will be a $1Trillion (or more) business by mid-century next, you have to believe that spending more on research, now, is likely to help us avoid potential downsides later. We don’t need another “asbestos.” Enough said.)

From: Wilson Center applauds UK's stance on nanotechnology

Green technology is no longer on the virtuous fringes of the economy. It's big business, and moguls are seeing the potential for big profits. From radical pollution-free fuel cells to smog-eating nanocoatings, nanotechnology is making some startling advances on the green frontier.

… private corporations have also been investing heavily in nanotech research. Of the 30 companies that make up the Dow Jones Industrial Average, 19 have nanotechnology initiatives underway. Some 1,200 nanotech start-up companies have been launched worldwide. And in 2006, corporations are expected to spend more than $10 billion on nanotech R&D.

(RR: it is encouraging to note additional investment in green technologies. It is somewhat disappointing to realize that we’re only starting to see this increase in spending because oil is getting more expensive and the climate does indeed seem to be heating.)

From: Green is Gold

Controlling the growth of carbon nanotubes over large surface areas is essential for making transistors with sufficient current outputs and consistent properties for use in electronic circuits. In a significant advance toward such nanotube-based electronics, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign (UIUC) have grown rows of perfectly aligned carbon nanotubes on quartz crystal and used these arrays to make transistors.

… the nanotubes' properties do not change even if they are transferred to plastics or other substrates. "[The] tubes are physically lifted off quartz and then printed down on target substrate so that it doesn't disturb the position and orientation of the nanotubes," Rogers says. Because of this transfer process, he says that the arrays could be integrated with silicon fabrication to make circuits with interconnected nanotube and silicon devices--the nanotube devices could handle the circuit's high-speed operations. "You don't even think about them as tubes," says Roger. "In effect, it's a thin-film uniform substrate, and you just do your processing."

Right now, the distance between adjacent tubes is 100 nanometers, but theoretically, this separation could go down to only one nanometer without affecting electrical properties.

(RR: one of several recent—and important—advances in our understanding of nanotubes. Do a search on this blog on nanotubes to learn more. Should this pan out it may well enable huge leaps smaller in transistor technology and other nanotube-based electronics, which could lead to ever smaller consumer applications, such as pcd’s that fit on your wrist or are incorporated into your garments.)

From: A Breakthrough in Nanotube Transistors

Venture capital cash is fueling new companies and jobs developing alternative energies like nanotech solar cells and biofuels generated by enzymes and termites. Venture capital for energy and environmental technology in several regions of the world in 2006 nearly doubled from a year earlier to $1.28 billion.

(RR: this is another encouraging example of growth in the nascent clean technologies industry. Research done at our universities has traditionally played a large part in the development of new technologies; nanotechnologies and clean technologies will be no exception.)

From: More U.S. college students studying clean energy

Crumpled kitchen foil that lays flat for reuse. Bent bumpers that straighten overnight. Dents in car doors that disappear when heated with a hairdryer. These and other physical feats may become possible with a technique to make memory metals discovered by researchers at the University of Illinois.

(RR: this falls into the “it will be nice when it happens” buckets.)

From: Technique creates metal memory and could lead to vanishing dents

Raymor Nanotech will begin to offer in the second quarter of 2007 various high purity grades of single-walled carbon nanotubes (C-SWNT) for emerging markets. To achieve this, Raymor Nanotech launched its Purification department in 2006. This department was formed to develop various grades of C-SWNT to rapidly penetrate new markets for applications such as polymer nanocomposite enhancement, batteries/electrodes, supercapacitors, filters, electromagnetic interference shielding, catalyst support, field emission devices, sensors/probes, biomedical devices and nanoelectronic devices.

(RR: Raymor is one of over a dozen companies vying for the title of “largest producer” of nanotubes. Their sorted and purified nanotubes—if priced right—will probably go a long way towards satisfying hundreds of application needs, leading to many bleeding-edge consumer products.)

From: Raymor will Offer Various High Purity Grades of Single-Walled Carbon Nanotubes for Emerging Markets in the Second Quarter of 2007

Alan Garen, professor of molecular biophysics and biochemistry at Yale has received a $100,000 award from the Prostate Cancer Foundation to expand research on the delivery of a targeted therapy for prostate cancer using nanoparticles. The technology uses a synthetic gene encoding an antibody-like molecule that activates an immune response to destroy the tumor blood vessels and associated tumors.

(RR: “Prostate cancer strikes one in six men.” Enough said.)

From: Nanoparticles for delivery of prostate cancer treatment

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