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Foresight Nanotech Institute Weekly News Digest: November 30, 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: Popular Mechanics awarded Konarka for their innovative thin photovoltaic technology. There were several non-nano innovations honored as well, so most techies will enjoy this website.

Headline: Solar Energy On a Roll
Affordable, film-thin photovoltaic plastic promises to make solar energy mainstream
News source: Popular Mechanics.com by Logan Ward

Konarka Technologies, Inc., was awarded a Popular Mechanics Breakthrough Award 2005. According to Popular Mechanics, this award "salutes the innovators who are shaping the world's future through science and technology — and new products that represent benchmarks of engineering."

Konarka chief scientist and cofounder, Alan J. Heeger and his colleagues were honored for their work in semiconducting polymers that are suspended in solution that can be treated as inks.

Konarka can "print" strips of photovoltaic (PV) plastic as thin as photographic film. As with traditional PV panels, sunlight is converted into electrical energy. The advantage over traditional crystalline silicon on a glass substrate: Konarka's power plastic is 100 times thinner, as well as more pliable, cheaper and easier to mass-produce. Imagine electricity-generating awnings, tents, roofs and even clothing.

"Solar energy is going to happen," said Heeger. "It will happen sooner and on a larger scale if we can provide a lower-cost technology."
Alan J. Heeger

2. Providing abundant clean water globally

Foresight note: This article discusses nano-sponges that sop up specific toxins according to what the particles are coated with.

Headline: Nano-sponges for Toxic Metals
News source: Nano World By Charles Q. Choi, – UPI Technology Correspondent

Microscopic particles honeycombed with holes only nanometers wide soon could help purify industrial runoff, coal plant smoke, crude oil and drinking water of toxic metals, experts told UPI's Nano World.

The particles, made of glass or natural diatomaceous earth, are 5 millionths to 50 millionths of a meter wide and filled with holes a thousand times smaller. The surfaces of these particles can bear a variety of flavors or coatings that soak up specific toxic metals — for instance, sulfurous organic coatings attract mercury, while coppery organic coatings bind to arsenic and radioactive metals known as actinides. The particles' spongy nature gives them an incredible 6,400 square feet to nearly 11,000 square feet of surface area per gram of material with which to draw in toxins.
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

3. Increasing the health and longevity of human life

Foresight note: This article discusses how the collaboration of government, industry and academia will shorten the regulatory review process for nanotech cancer treatments.

Headline: Nanomaterials Laboratory tries to Remove Obstacles
News source: Small Times Magazine by Candace Stuart

Understanding how nanomaterials interact with healthy and diseased cells is critical for getting nanotechnology-based products to patients. The nanomaterials will have to be proven safe and effective. But few industrial or academic labs are competent to tackle the diversity of nanomaterials plus the dynamics of cancer.

To do that, the NCI has brought in the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institute of Standards and Technology as partners. NIST will help characterize nanomaterials such as dendrimers and quantum dots. The FDA will help determine how and when various nanomaterials might be used for treatments and diagnostics. Working together, they hope to develop guidelines and standards for the industry and avoid regulatory barriers.

"If we standardize, we can save 10 years," said Mauro Ferrari, an architect of the alliance who envisioned the lab during the planning phase. He said the lab will help determine which nanotechnologies have the best prospects for commercialization. "Being rigorous in selecting which nanotechnologies will help get them into the service of the suffering population."
Nanomaterials Characterization Laboratory

4. Maximizing the productivity of agriculture

Foresight note: This radio interview with a noted scientist, George Whitesides, discusses how nanotech could solve several problems presented to human kind, including agriculture.

Headline: Interview: George Whitesides
News source: Earth & Sky Radio Series

George Whitesides, the Mallinckrodt Professor of Chemistry at Harvard University, is interviewed by Earth & Sky's Eleanor Imster about nanotechnology as a tool for the 21st century.

"For example," said Dr. Whitesides "in agriculture, a major cost in agriculture is spoilage. Coating fruits and vegetables in such a fashion that one controls the rate at which they ripen, and at which CO2 and ethylene enter and leave the fruit has a great deal to do with their shelf-life and their preservation. This is a combination of chemistry, but chemistry that makes materials that have nanometer-scale functionality pores, and things of that kind."
George M. Whitesides

5. Making powerful information technology available everywhere

Foresight note: Once again scalability is sought in applications for the information technology area. This article discusses the large scale synthesis of nanowires.

Headline: Engineers Make Standardized Bulk Synthesis of Nanowires Possible
News source: Physorg.com

Yale scientists have demonstrated a method to understand effective synthesis of semiconductor nanowires (NWs) for both their quality and quantity, according to a report published in the journal Nanotechnology.

Graduate student Eric Stern in the department of biomedical engineering, along with his colleague Guosheng Cheng, associate research scientist in electrical engineering, systematically varied and tested parameters for producing GaN NWs using an optical lithographic method as a template for testing characteristics of the nanowires.

A nanowire is an ultra-miniaturized cylindrical semiconductor, as small as 1 to 100 nanometers in diameter, and extending as long as a millimeter — or 10,000 times its thickness. One nanometer is approximately a 25-millionth of an inch. GaN was chosen for these experiments as a material commonly employed in synthesis of semiconductors.

Development of reliable NW fabrication will allow the exploration of the next steps in semiconductor miniaturization. This reported technology produces ten-times the number of NWs as previous technology and sets parameters for standardization of NWs.

"This brings nanowires to an interface with the rest of the world of semiconductor research," said Stern. "Until this point, the greatest hurdle for the technology has been the inability to produce more than individual nanowires and to have statistically reproducible synthesis so that the properties of nanowires can be explored."
Yale University

6. Enabling the development of space

Foresight note: NASA gives timeline for nanotechnology applications for space exploration.

Headline: Nanotechnology for NASA Missions – PDF
News source: NASA Ames Research Center

Located on its website, NASA Ames Research Center has a presentation in PDF format the provides a timeline, "NASA Nanotechnology Roadmap," which details the progression of nanotechnology applications for their space exploration missions.
Nanotechnology for NASA Missions PDF

13th Foresight Conference on Advanced Nanotechnology
Abstracts and Presentations Online


The abstracts for contributed talks and posters from the 13th Foresight Conference on Advanced Nanotechnology are online at this link. They are listed in alphabetical order by first author.

Keynote: Nanotechnology is Not Little In Washington

Floyd Kvamme, Co-Chair, President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), and Partner, Kleiner Perkins, gave this keynote at the conference. He discusses the history of PCAST and the National Nanotechnology Initiative, the measure of U.S. Competitiveness and the relationship of the various government funding. There is a slide of the breakdown of the 2006 fiscal budget according to agency.
Floyd Kvamme
Link to presentation

How to Embrace Aspirational Technology: Nanotechnology and the Environment

Adam Werbach, Conservationist and former President, Sierra Club presented a cautionary tale of social values and technology. He also provides some risk management guidelines and ultimately asked conference attendees to understand their ultimate goal outside the laboratory.
Adam Werbach
Link to presentation and audio

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 for Foresight Nanotech Institute, 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.

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.

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

Nanotechnology and the Media: Realities and Risk
December 14, 2005
Washington, DC
Event web site

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: First Inventory of Nanotech Environment & Health Research
News Source: Nanotechnology Now

A new inventory of research into nanotechnology's potential environmental, human health, and safety effects (EH&S) shows the need for more resources, for a coherent risk-related research strategy, and for public-private partnerships and international EH&S research collaborations. These are the key conclusions drawn from the first single inventory of largely government- funded research projects exploring nanotechnology's possible EH&S impacts.

"Nanotechnology's future depends on the willingness of government, business and public interest groups — both at home and abroad — to work together to build consumer trust and to tackle any potential health and environmental issues early. This inventory is a tremendous tool to help achieve this important goal," said Dave Rejeski, Director of the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies.

The inventory was compiled and released by the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. The Project is a partnership of The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Wilson Center.
Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies
Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

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 announces a "Radical advanced nanotechnology theory." The Princeton scientist explains his theory as if he were an architect. Very easy to understand and they also credit Eric Drexler in the press release.

"If one thinks of a nanomaterial as a house, our approach enables a scientist to act as architect, contractor and day laborer all wrapped up in one," said Salvatore Torquato. "We design the components of the house ... so that they will interact with each other in such a way that, when you throw them together randomly, they self-assemble into the desired house."
Press release

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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