Foresight Nanotech Institute Weekly News Digest: January 25, 2006
In this issue:
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.
Foresight note: This is a preview of a larger market research report. Readers can get a sneak peak of Chapter One. The preview discusses wider market applications for photovoltaics as current R&D increases their efficiency. The author, Lawrence Gasman, is Foresight participating member and also serves on our Editorial Board.
Headline: Thin-Films Take Photovoltaics into New Markets
Photovoltaics (PV) have often proved an expensive way of generating inexpensive energy! The sun's energy is free. But the efficiency of PV cells is low — typically well under 30 percent. To generate enough power for many mainstream applications, arrays of PV cells must be deployed over large areas. This can be either inconvenient or down right impossible. One estimate has it that to provide the power for New York City, one would have to deploy PV arrays over an area that was significantly larger than the city itself.
It is not surprising therefore that PV technology has mostly skulked in market niches, where grid electricity is not readily available. No shock either that many of the efforts in PV R&D have focused heavily on improving the efficiency of PV, either through new materials that are inherently able to turn more solar energy into electrical energy at a particular wavelength than the amorphous silicon used or through the use of composite materials that convert solar energy across a wide spectrum of wavelengths. Nanotechnology is also being deployed in the form of quantum dots that are sensitive enough to ensure that most of the photons from the sun hitting a solar panel dislodge an electron and thereby generate electricity.
Foresight note: There are several nanofiltration research projects being conducted at the Flemish Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Laboratory for Environmental Technology, at the PhD level. Here's one example.
Headline: CWIS Laboratory for Environmental Technology
Influence of membrane properties on fouling in nanofiltration: A common problem with nanofiltration is fouling at the polymer membrane and consequently the flux decline. In order to study thoroughly this flux decline, it is necessary to investigate the influence of the properties of the membrane material. Important properties are the composition of the polymer, the hydrophilicity/hydrophobicity of the membrane surface, the surface roughness, the surface charge and the free volume of the polymer. In this study, both commercial and self-made membranes are used. By Katleen Boussu.
Foresight note: Early treatment of disease is a promising nanotech application in the medical field. This article mentions a breakthrough in very early cancer cell detection.
Headline: Nanolaser Device Detects Cancer in Single Cells in Cancer
Using an ultrafast, nanoscale semiconductor laser, investigators at Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico, have discovered a way of rapidly distinguishing between malignant and normal cells. Moreover, this new technique has the potential of detecting cancer at a very early stage, a development that could change profoundly the way cancer is diagnosed and treated.
Reporting its work in the journal Biomedical Microdevices, a team of researchers led by Paul Gourley, Ph.D., described the methods it used to construct a device that can flow cells one at a time past an ultrafast laser, and how this device revealed that malignant cells have a characteristic optical response that differs from that of a normal cell. This response, the researchers found, arises from the fact that mitochondria, the internal organelles that produce a cell's energy, are scattered in a chaotic, unorganized manner in malignant cells, while they form organized networks in healthy cells. This difference produces a marked change in the way that malignant cells scatter laser light.
Foresight note: This classic report is a must-read for those attempting to get up to speed on how nanoscale science applies to agriculture.
Headline: Nanoscale Science and Engineering for Agriculture and Food Systems
Nanotechnology has become a new and significant focus for federal investment in research. The National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI), formed in 2000, is a crosscutting initiative now involving seventeen federal departments and agencies with ten of these having a research and development budget for nanotechnology. The USDA as a partner agency in the Federal NNI needs to identify opportunities and the potential to revolutionize agriculture and food systems through nanotechnology.
Foresight note: These researchers, including Dr. Fraser Stoddart who serves on the Steering Committee for the Technology Roadmap for Productive Nanosystems, have designed a molecular motor that is powered by sunlight.
Headline: Chemists Design and Create Nano Motor Powered by Solar Energy
Chemists at Italy's University of Bologna, UCLA and the California NanoSystems Institute have designed and constructed a molecular motor of nanometer size that does not consume fuels; their nano motor is powered only by sunlight. The research, federally funded by the National Science Foundation, will be published Jan. 31 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
The nano motor can work continuously without any external interference, and operates without consuming or generating chemical fuels or waste, said Fraser Stoddart, UCLA's Fred Kavli Professor of NanoSystems Sciences and director of the institute.
"We design and make sunlight-powered nano motors and then 'test drive' them much as an engineer would a new motorcar," Stoddart said. "It is as if we had managed to get a solar-powered motor car onto the road and running."
Precisely how light-powered nano motors will be used in the future is not yet clear, Stoddart said, but he listed a number of possible areas for applications: nanoelectronics, molecular computers and nano valves that perhaps could be used for the delivery of anti-cancer drugs and other medications.
Foresight note: Flexible and strong materials are required for space exploration and colonization. This research details a "buckypaper" that has potential.
Headline: FSU Researcher's "Buckypaper" is Stronger than Steel at a Fraction of the Weight
Working with a material 10 times lighter than steel — but 250 times stronger — would be a dream come true for any engineer. If this material also had amazing properties that made it highly conductive of heat and electricity, it would start to sound like something out of a science fiction novel. Yet one Florida State University research group, the Florida Advanced Center for Composite Technologies (FAC2T), is working to develop real-world applications for just such a material.
Ben Wang, a professor of industrial engineering at the Florida A&M University-FSU College of Engineering, serves as director of FAC2T, which works to develop new, high-performance composite materials, as well as technologies for producing them.
Wang is widely acknowledged as a pioneer in the growing field of nano- materials science. His main area of research, involving an extraordinary material known as "buckypaper," has shown promise in a variety of applications, including the development of aerospace structures, the production of more-effective body armor and armored vehicles, and the construction of next-generation computer displays. The U.S. military has shown a keen interest in the military applications of Wang's research; in fact, the Army Research Lab recently awarded FAC2T a $2.5-million grant, while the Air Force Office of Scientific Research awarded $1.2 million.
Productive Nanosystems – News & Events
Productive Nanosystems will be molecular-scale systems that make other useful materials and devices that are nanostructured. In this section of the Weekly News Digest we will cover news or presentations about research that is leading to Productive Nanosystems.
Foresight note: Marc Lurie, President, and Dr. Eric Drexler, Founder and Advisor, Foresight Nanotech Institute, presented on the Technology Roadmap for Productive Nanosystems at the Photonics West conference yesterday. Below is a brief review of the content of this presentation.
Headline: PWest '06: Nanotech Markets Will Evolve
Nanotechnology and nanophotonics have a world of potential but are not yet markets, according to speakers yesterday at Photonics West.
Mark Lurie and Eric Drexler of the Foresight Nanotechnology Institute, a nanotechnology think tank and public interest organization, and Tom Hausken of Strategies Unlimited, a technology-focused market research and strategic planning company, appeared before a packed auditorium at one of the show's market seminars. Lurie described the institute's approach to developing nanotechnology, and Drexler provided technical details.
Hausken presented an outlook on nanotechnology markets. He said he sees the technology not as an end in itself, but as an enabling technology that will be part of larger systems. "The goal is to develop atomically precise manufacturing in an atom-by-atom fashion," he said.
Lurie said this will be enabled by a multidisciplinary approach to continued progress with a focus on research and development.
Foresight Member News – Zyvex
Foresight Nanotech Institute has several membership levels. One of these levels is the corporate membership. This week's member news is about Foresight corporate member Zyvex.
Corporate Member – Zyvex
Zyvex Announces Record Growth;
Zyvex today announced financial results for fiscal year 2005. The Texas company continues its business gains with total revenues in excess of $10 Million, which represented a 16 percent increase over 2004.
"We had the best year in Zyvex history with our NanoWorks Tools product line driving positive results for the quarter and the year," stated Zyvex CFO Timothy M. Gilmore. "Our financial and operational results reflect the strength of our business and provide strong momentum going into 2006."
"Simply put, 2005 was an outstanding year for Zyvex," said Zyvex President Dr. Thomas A. Cellucci. "Solid and consistent execution to our strategic plan enabled us to ship a record number of products, generate record revenue, receive our 33rd patent, and add key customers and alliances around the world."
"We also received ISO 9001:2000 certification from BSI, Inc., which clearly demonstrates our focus on quality, world-class performance, and continuous improvements to ensure that we deliver on the promises we make to our valued customers, employees, and vendors."
Founded in 1997, Zyvex reported its first revenues in 2001, grossing $150,000. Company revenues grew to $1.2 Million in 2002, $4.3 Million in 2003, and $8.6 Million in 2004. The Zyvex team anticipates that the company will achieve cash-flow break-even during 2006.
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January 31-February 1, 2006 – Nanotech Investing Forum
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.
Meet Foresight's president Marc Lurie at this event.
February 1-2, 2006 – Clean-Tech Investor Summit
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.
March 29-30, 2006 – Nanomanufacturing Conference & Exhibits
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.
Meet Foresight founder Eric Drexler, president Marc Lurie, and member Mark Sims, all speaking at this event.
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 is an interview with Damian Gregory Allis by Nanotech.biz by Sander Olson.
In this interview Allis, who received the Foresight Institute's Feynman Distinguished Student Award in 2004 for his application of theoretical computer models to the design and study of molecules and nanostructures, talks about his current work and about his background. Allis, a senior scientist at Nanorex and a participating member of Foresight, has considerable wit and says some interesting things about research and nanotechnology. — Judy
"I'll begin in a seemingly roundabout way by saying that, as an 8-year member, I'm glad to see that the Foresight Institute is settling into the important role of bridging near-term and long-term research in molecular nanotechnology. That's the most important thing any group not directly involved in pure research can do right now.
"Engineers at companies directly turn results from scientists at universities into products all the time. Where direct research paths between ends and means are still not obvious, and I think molecular manufacturing is a great example of that, having some kind of centralized interconnect to put the thumb tacks on the roadmap is vital."
Join the discussion – visit our blog Nanodot led by Christine Peterson.
About The Foresight Nanotech Institute Weekly News Digest
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Special thanks to Foresight Nanotechnology Challenges Research Volunteer Michelle Hubbard, MSc Candidate, Department of Biology, University of Saskatchewan
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