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Foresight Nanotech Institute Weekly News Digest: November 23, 2005

In this issue:

Foresight Nanotechnology Challenges

Foresight has articulated six critical challenges that humanity faces which can be addressed by nanotechnology. In the Weekly News Digest we identify news items, research breakthroughs, and events citing current research and applications providing the stepping stones to solutions to these challenges.

1. Meeting global energy needs with clean solutions

Foresight note: Solar Panel posters are made, according to this article, by printing specialized inks that contain nanoparticles on paper. There has been a successful prototype of this disposable solar panel built and the team is seeking commercialization.

Headline: UCT scientists invent disposable solar panel
News source: BusinessDay

Scientists at the University of Cape Town are exploiting the nano-scale properties of silicon to develop a super-thin disposable solar panel poster which they hope could offer rural dwellers a cheap, alternative source of power.

The voltage and power output of the solar cell is determined by the size of the poster. An A2-sized poster will deliver up to 100W of power, enough to charge a cellphone, power a radio or provide five hours of lighting, said Prof David Britton, a physicist specialising in nanotechnology.

"Many families cannot afford R1000 for a solar panel designed to last 30 years, but they can afford R10 every three to six months for a disposable' panel," he said.
David Britton

2. Providing abundant clean water globally

Foresight note: This is a link to a laboratory in Israel that is doing some interesting work in desalination and nanofiltration.

Headline: Rabin Desalination Laboratory
News source: Technion - Israel Institute of Technology–Grand Water Research Institute website

The aims of the Rabin Desalination Laboratory (RDL) are centered on the need to advance the theory and practice of desalination technologies. Goals are realized by conducting basic and applied research, and by training of students in desalination and related water technologies. Furthermore the RDL seeks to provide desalination related services to the Israeli industries and national agencies. The laboratory goals are further promoted by initiation and participation in activities such as workshops and conferences, which advance public awareness of the need of large-scale desalination for coping with the acute water shortage of Israel and neighboring countries.
Rabin Desalination Laboratory

3. Increasing the health and longevity of human life

Foresight note: This article discusses a successful test, although not used clinically yet, that can spot cancer biomarkers. Chad Mirkin, a Foresight Institute Feynman Prize winner in 2002, is the leader of this team.

Headline: Disease Barcode (now on video)
News source: ScienceCentral News

So Northwestern University chemist Chad Mirkin, director of Northwestern's Institute for Nanotechnology, has developed a test that can very quickly detect tiny amounts of protein in blood, or other body fluids, that indicate diseases. The test would be able to spot the proteins even when they are present in concentrations that pass under the radar of current tests.

"It's simple, very fast... and you have a system that is six orders of magnitude more sensitive than anything out there," Mirkin explains. "It is going to provide many opportunities in terms of developing new tests for new diseases, and creating tests that allow us to follow and treat existing diseases in a much more efficient manner."
Chad Mirkin
2002 Feynman Prize

4. Maximizing the productivity of agriculture

Foresight note: Here is a white paper that discusses nanotechnology applications in food and agriculture, but it also clearly explains nanotech applications for the layperson.

Headline: source: Nanotechnology for Agriculture and Food Systems - A View by H.C. Warad and J. Dutta
News source: Microelectronics, School of Advanced Technologies, Asian Institute of Technology, Thailand

Abstract: Nanotechnology applications in food and agriculture is in its nascent stage and over the next decade we will see increasing uses of tools and techniques developed by nanotechnology to detect carcinogenic pathogens and biosensors for improved and contamination free food and agriculture products. Here we discuss some of these applications that have the potential for wider acceptance in the field of food and agricultural technologies.
White Paper
Dr Joydeep Dutta

5. Making powerful information technology available everywhere

Foresight note: The International Telecommunications Union released a report that studied the use of electronic tags and sensors. Nanotechnology will play a large part as remote controls are embedded to create an "internet of things." Foresight will be monitoring both potential benefits and privacy implications.

Headline: UN predicts 'internet of things'
News source: BBC News by Elizabeth Biddlecombe

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), sensors, robotics and nanotechnology will make processing power increasingly available in smaller and smaller packages so that networked computing dissolves into the fabric of things around us.

The result could mean remote controls embedded in clothing, cars that alert their driver when they have developed a fault, managers who check on workers through the RFID devices embedded in their phones, and bags that remind their owners that they have forgotten something.
International Telecommunications Union

6. Enabling the development of space

Foresight note: This article describes 17 research projects that Iowa Sate is working on for NASA.

Headline: Iowa State University Works on NASA Tasks
News source: ScienceDaily

The projects include finding spacecraft leaks to the latest discoveries in nanotechnology.

Researchers affiliated with Iowa State University's Center for Nondestructive Evaluation are in their fourth year of the study that's focused on finding new materials to monitor the health and safety of spacecraft, as well as developing new methods for inspecting spacecraft

Lectures – Foresight Nanotech Institute

Nanotechnology Applications and Implications
A focus on the health and environmental effects of nanomaterials
December 7, 2005
San Francisco, California

Christine Peterson, Vice President of Public Policy, will be speaking on a "Perspectives from Industry and Regulatory Bodies" panel at this event sponsored by the MIT Stanford UC Berkeley Nanotechnology Forum. Moderated by Robert Haas, Staff Toxicologist at California EPA, the other members of the panel include Anthony Waitz, Managing Partner, Quantum Insight; Margarethe Hofmann, consultant and President, Swiss Association for Materials Science and Technology; and Richard Ekstrom, Buchanan Ingersoll.

13th Foresight Conference on Advanced Nanotechnology
Tutorials and Debate Posted

Nanotechnology Policy: Near-term and Beyond Tutorial
Richard Smith, President of the Nanotechnology Network, offers a general overview of nanotechnology of policy and applications, covers funding and how it is being spent.
Richard Smith
Link to presentation

Molecular Nanotechnology Research Overview Tutorial
David Forrest, U.S. Naval Surface Warfare Center, provides an overview of molecular nanotechnology including history, current status, and projected timeline.
David Forrest
Link to presentation

NanoBio in Humans: Are we ready to cross the Carbon Barrier?

This debate occurred on the Vision Weekend portion of the conference. The Vision Weekend is exclusive to Foresight Participating Members and is normally off-the-record to enable speakers to speak candidly on their ideas about nanotechnology and the future.

Ron Bailey and Alan Goldstein debated NanoBio and have allowed us to post this debate so that those who aren't Participating Members can hear this discussion on whether and how humans need to prepare for the coming of NanoBio.
Ron Bailey, Science Correspondent, Reason Magazine
Alan Goldstein, Biomedical Materials Engineering, Alfred University
Moderator: Derrick Boston, Partner, Guth Christopher and former Senior Vice President, California NanoSystems Institute
Link to debate

Why Become A Foresight Member

Are you curious about nanotechnology and what it means for you? Do you want to know more? Or, are you already informed and believe that nanotechnology can provide solutions to key challenges facing humanity?

Consider becoming an Electronic, Student or Basic Member of Foresight Nanotech Institute, a think tank that has been leading the public debate and education on nanotechnology since 1986.

If you wish to be more involved, consider becoming a Participating Member. Participating members, formerly called Senior Associates, are a mix of technologists, philanthropists, visionaries, policy leaders, engineers, research scientists, artists, and nanotechnology experts.

Foresight Nanotech Institute offers membership levels appropriate to meet the needs and interests of individuals and companies. To find out more about membership follow this link:

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Foresight Partners

If you attend or use any of our partners' events or services, please tell them you heard about it from Foresight Nanotech Institute.

December 4-9, 2005 – 19th Large Installation Systems Administration Conference
Sponsored by USENIX & SAGE
San Diego, California

The annual LISA conference is the meeting place of choice for system, network, database, storage, security, and all other computer-related administrators. Administrators of all specialties and levels of expertise meet at LISA to exchange ideas, sharpen old skills, learn new techniques, debate current issues, and meet colleagues and friends.

January 8-11, 2006 – Industry Strategy Symposium (ISS) US
Sponsored by SEMI
Half Moon Bay, California

What's Driving the Industry? Find out at the 28th Annual Industry Strategy Symposium (ISS) U.S. In order to remain successful, executives must keep pace with the accelerating rate of change in the worldwide semiconductor industry. That means identifying emerging markets and developing products and services that respond to customers needs before they become critically evident. ISS gives you the latest business and economic data you need to make well informed strategic business decisions.

January 31-February 1, 2006 – Nanotech Investing Forum
Sponsored by International Business Forum (IBF)
Rancho Mirage, California

Nanotechnology continues to receive growing attention from venture capital investors. Government, universities/labs, and corporations are fueling the growth of nanotech research into profitable commercial applications.
Event web site

Nanotech Events & News

Script Competition
Deadline: December 15, 2005
Script Competition Sponsored by the Professional Artists Lab and the California Nanosystems Institute

Nanotechnology, Fuel Cells and Ceramic Armor Sessions at the 30th International
Conference and Exposition on Advanced Ceramics and Composites
January 22-27, 2006
Cocoa Beach, Florida
Event web site

Headline: Study: Nanoparticles Could Damage Plant
News Source: SpaceDaily

New Jersey Institute of Technology environmental scientists say a nanoparticle commonly used in industry might have a damaging effect on plant life.

The researchers say nanoparticles of alumina — aluminum oxide — slowed the growth of roots in five species of plants: corn, cucumber, cabbage, carrot and soybean.

Alumina nanoparticles are commonly used in scratch-resistant transparent coatings, some sunscreen lotions and environmental catalysts that reduce pollution.
New Jersey institute of technology press release

Editor’s Pick

Dear readers — When reviewing news for this digest, I often read about something that I think is cool, but it doesn't fit within the usual editorial categories of the News Digest. This section highlights a nanotech advance or idea that I think is especially cool.


This article in the Pittsburg Post Gazette interviewed Christian Schafmeister, the 2005 Foresight Institute Feynman Prize winner for experimental work. One of his comments seemed particular poignant about how frustrating nanotechnology research can be.

"It's a molecular doorstop," he said wistfully, gazing at its structure on his computer monitor. "It doesn't do anything. But it is well-folded."

Don't forget to visit our blog Nanodot and join the discussion led by Christine Peterson.

About The Foresight Nanotech Institute Weekly News Digest

The Foresight Nanotech Institute Weekly News Digest is emailed every week to 15,000 individuals in more than 125 countries. Foresight Nanotech Institute is a member-supported organization. We offer membership levels appropriate to meet the needs and interests of individuals and companies. To find out more about membership follow this link:

Judy Conner, Director of Communications at Foresight Nanotech Institute, is the editor of the Foresight Nanotech Institute Weekly News Digest. If you would like to submit a news item or contact her with comments about the news digest, please send an email to: editor@foresight.org.

Special thanks to Foresight Nanotechnology Challenges Research Volunteer Michelle Hubbard, MSc Candidate, Department of Biology, University of Saskatchewan

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