Home > Resources > Publications > Weekly News Digest

Foresight Nanotech Institute Weekly News Digest: December 14, 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: There is a lot of research being conducted on nano-sized solutions to improve the scalability and conductivity of solar energy. This article discusses work being done at Michigan State University.

Headline: A place in the sun: Nanotechnology could improve solar cell performance, MSU researcher says
News source: MLive.com by Alex Nixon

More than enough energy to fulfill the world's electricity needs hits the earth every day. Converting the sun's rays into that electricity, however, is both costly and inefficient. But a Michigan State University researcher is working on a way to lower the cost using nanotechnology and plastics.

Incorporating nano-sized particles into thin polymers could make photovoltaic solar cells less expensive than using silicon as a conductive material, said Michael Mackay, MSU professor of chemical engineering and materials science.

Nanotechnology — working with materials 50,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair — has garnered attention for its potential applications in the medical industry. Mackay, on the other hand, seeks research in less crowded fields.

"I try to go where nobody else is," he said. "Where's the crowd not at yet? That's energy."
Michael Mackay

2. Providing abundant clean water globally

Foresight note: This article discusses a water supply test product using a disposable microarray that contains nanoparticles that is very close to market release.

Headline: Water-tampering test kit moving closer to market
News source: Chicago Tribune by Jon Van

A system that can sample a water supply to quickly detect up to 10 biological toxins has been created by a Northbrook-based firm and is ready for customer evaluation. This bioterrorism-alert product was developed by Nanosphere Inc., a start-up with 72 employees that uses technology from Northwestern University and research funding from federal defense agencies.

Intended to protect water supplies at U.S. military bases, embassies and other sensitive installations, the system uses tiny particles that affix themselves to toxic substances such as anthrax and send signals of their presence that can be read easily.

"One test does 10 things," said William Moffitt, Nanosphere's chief executive.

A sample of water is placed upon a microarray containing the mix of nanoparticles that can detect the various biological agents terrorists might release into a water supply.

The microarrays are disposable, so Nanosphere expects to prosper by selling a steady supply of them to customers.

"It's a razor blade/razor business model," Moffitt said.
Nanosphere, Inc.

3. Increasing the health and longevity of human life

Foresight note: This silver nanotechnology treatment is expected to reduce infection in the hospital setting.

Headline: New Nanotechnology Receives FDA Approval — Setting Stage For New Era In Battle Against Hospital Related Infection
News source: Nanotechwire.com

AcryMed Inc. today announced clearance from the Food And Drug Administration (FDA) for the first use of SilvaGard, the company's breakthrough silver nanotechnology that can render existing medical devices impervious to infection-causing bacteria. Unlike any other infection control technology available today, SilvaGard can be used to treat virtually any medical device and its use does not alter the device's original properties. Due to these and other unique attributes, SilvaGard is expected to have a significant impact on the battle against hospital-related infections.
AcryMed, Inc.

4. Maximizing the productivity of agriculture

Foresight note: It was a slow news week in the nanotech and agriculture arena. Here is an announcement of an agreement between the Colleges of Engineering and Agriculture to apply nanotech.

Headline: University of Illinois Scientists Apply Nanotechnology to Problems to Agriculture Research
News source: Soy Research News

Scientists in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) and the College of Engineering (COE) at the University of Illinois are collaborating in research that will allow them to utilize the latest applications in nanotechnology to find solutions for some of the most pressing problems facing Illinois agriculture, including disease management. These new research partnerships and activities are supported by the Soybean Disease Biotechnology Center at the National Soybean Research Laboratory (NSRL), the College of ACES, and the Office of the Vice Chancellor of Research. Funding for the Center is provided by a special grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
University of Illinois

5. Making powerful information technology available everywhere

Foresight note: Nanoelectronics research in some top-level universities got a big push from member companies of the Semiconductor Industry Association.

Headline: Semi Industry Association Announces Nanoelectronics Research Grants
News source: Small Times.com

A consortium of companies has announced its first research grants under the Semiconductor Industry Association's new Nanoelectronics Research Initiative (NRI).

The grants will fund the creation of two new university-based nanoelectronics research centers — one in California and the other centered in New York — as well as support additional research at five National Science Foundation nanoscience centers and at a research group in Texas.

The two new research centers are The Western Institute of Nanoelectronics (WIN) in California and The Institute for Nanoelectronics Discovery and Exploration (INDEX) in Albany, N.Y.

WIN will be headquartered at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science. Participants will come from three University of California campuses (Los Angeles, Berkeley, and Santa Barbara) and Stanford University. The institute will focus on novel spintronics and plasmonic devices. In addition to its NRI funding, it will also receive additional direct support from Intel and the UC Discovery program.

INDEX will be headquartered at the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering of the State University of New York-Albany. It will include also the Georgia Institute of Technology, Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Purdue University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Yale University.
Semiconductor Industry Association
Nanoelectronics Research Initiative

6. Enabling the development of space

Foresight note: This paper discusses how nanotechnology could improve burn and ignition in rocket fuels.

Headline: Emerging Technologies Utilizing Nanotechnology in Aerospace and Rocket Fuels
News source: AZoNnano

Several aerospace firms have programs under way for the use of nanosized particles of aluminum or hafnium for rocket propulsion applications. The improved burn and the speed of ignition of such particles are significant factors for this market.

Rocket Propulsion for Launch Platforms – With the advent of telecommunications and other satellites, there is a major growth in the use of rocket propulsion for launch platforms. As compared to solid propellants, liquid propellant fluids, principally kerosene, are used in non-military systems such as space engines, because they use liquid oxygen in first stage boosters. Such fuels are not storable as solids, and therefore impractical for military platforms. As a result, there is a major interest in increasing the specific impulse of liquid propellants.

13th Foresight Conference on Advanced Nanotechnology
Tutorials and Debate Posted

The clean energy panel at our conference included experts, each with different perspectives on how nanotechnology will change the creation and distribution of energy.

The speakers included:

Follow link to presentations and audio

Join Foresight

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:

To join:

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 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

February 1-2, 2006 – Clean-Tech Investor Summit
Sponsored by International Business Forum (IBF)
Rancho Mirage, California

Emerging growth companies delivering clean-tech products and services represent the next big wave of innovation. Clean-tech investing is at an all time high and is expected to flourish in a range of sectors, including renewable and distributed energy, advanced materials, transportation, and water purification and management. Many clean technologies are experiencing double-digit annual growth rates.
Event web site

March 29-30, 2006 – Nanomanufacturing Conference & Exhibits
Sponsored by Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME)
Los Angeles, California

Looking to support the pace of innovation, development, and commercialization of the tools, instruments, and systems required for nanoscale manufacturing? Interested in learning about the latest nanotechnology applications and trends in top-down fabrication and bottom- up assembly techniques? Then this event is for you.
Event web site

Nanotech Events & News

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

Brave New Nano: Regulating the Future – January 30, 2006
Chicago Nano Forum
Chicago, Illinois

Call for Abstracts – Deadline March 15, 2006
Nanotechnology in Northern Europe 2006

Congress and Exhibition
May 16-18, 2006
Helsinki, Finland
Event web site

Call for Nominations – Deadline March 1, 2006
Nanotech Briefs – Second Annual Nano50

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.


Headline: Magnetic Transistor Could 'Dial In' Quantum Effects

A team of theoretical and experimental physicists from Rice University is preparing a unique probe in hopes of "dialing in" elusive quantum states called "quantum criticalities." The team is using nanotechnology to create a probe capable of trapping and tuning a single electron to create the rarified physical state in nearby magnetic electrodes.

(This is the cool part)

The transistor also uses a pair of electrodes made of ferromagnetic metal. The researchers plan to trap a single electron in the active channel between the electrodes. Then, they will capitalize on a uniquely quantum effect — the tendency of a trapped electron to "tunnel," or wink out of existence in one place and appear in another — to establish a quantum critical state in the metallic electrodes that trap the tiny particle.

"In principle, we can use the gate voltage in this set-up to tune the physical state," said Douglas Natelson, assistant professor of physics and astronomy and of electrical and computer engineering. "We should be able to move the system from a quantum critical state and back again, simply by turning the knob on the voltage. That's a level of precision that's never been possible in another experimental system, and it's really nanotechnology — the control of matter at the atom-by-atom level — that will make it possible."

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

Foresight Nanotech Institute
PO Box 61058
Palo Alto, CA 94306 USA
tel +1 650 289.0860
fax +1 650.289.0863

If you were forwarded this email from a friend and would like to subscribe yourself, follow this link and sign up for our free electronic membership.

If you wish to no longer receive nanotechnology email from Foresight Nanotech Institute, please send us an email to foresight@foresight.org

Thank you!