Home > Resources > Publications > Weekly News Digest

Foresight Nanotech Institute Weekly News Digest: February 8, 2006

Thanks to your generosity we were able to meet the $40,000 Challenge grant. We appreciate your helping us continue our work in advancing beneficial nanotechnology.

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: MIT scientists are using nanotube structures to improve the performance of energy storage devices.

Headline: MIT scientists develop battery alternative
News source: Science Daily

Massachusetts Institute of Technology scientists say they are working on the first viable alternative to conventional batteries since the 1800s.

Although numerous devices now run on batteries, including flashlights, cell phones, electric cars, and even missile-guidance systems, would be improved with a better energy supply. But the MIT researchers say traditional batteries haven't progressed far beyond the basic design developed by Alessandro Volta during the 19th century.

Now work at MIT's Laboratory for Electromagnetic and Electronic Systems is eliminating that stagnation.

Professors Joel Schindall and John Kassakian, along with Ph.D. candidate Riccardo Signorelli, are using nanotube structures to improve an energy storage device called an ultracapacitor.
MIT press release

2. Providing abundant clean water globally

Foresight note: This company provides several white papers about nanofiltration systems and nanofibers on their website.

Headline: Donaldson Company, Inc.
News source: Nanovip

Donaldson Company, Inc. manufactures and sells filtration systems and replacement parts worldwide. Donaldson is developing nanofiber products and nanofiber filter media for new applications where sub-micron fiber diameters, high filtration efficiency, high surface area and other unique material properties add value.
Donaldson Company, Inc.

3. Increasing the health and longevity of human life

Foresight note: These researchers are working on cell chips that could help in detecting pathogens and growing artificial tissue.

Headline: Berkeley researchers lay groundwork for cell version of DNA chip
News source: Physorg.com

A new technique in which single strands of synthetic DNA are used to firmly fasten biological cells to non-biological surfaces has been developed by researchers with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the University of California at Berkeley. This technique holds promise for a wide variety of applications, including biosensors, drug-screening technologies, the growing of artificial tissues and the design of neural networks.

"Just as DNA chips revolutionized genome analysis, we hope to make cell chips (self-assembled arrays of cells on a thumbnail-sized chip) using our DNA-based cell adhesion strategy," said Ravi Chandra, a researcher affiliated with Berkeley Lab's Physical Biosciences Division and UC Berkeley's Chemistry Department. "Cell chips could be used as biosensors for detecting the presence of pathogens, or for drug screening, just to name of a few of the many possibilities."
Berkeley Lab article

4. Maximizing the productivity of agriculture

Foresight note: This website offers several white papers and presentations from a Brown Bag Series titled "Agrifood and Nanotechnology" held at Michigan State University.

Headline: Institute for Food and Agriculture Standards – white papers
News source: Michigan State University website

Institute for Food and Agricultural Standards. IFAS is an interdisciplinary teaching, research and policy analysis institute at Michigan State University It focuses on the social, economic, political and ethical aspects of grades and standards creation, enforcement and review. It is part of a small but growing international network of scholars and practitioners concerned with these issues.
Michigan State University

5. Making powerful information technology available everywhere

Foresight note: In 2003 IEEE formed the "IEEE Nanotechnology Standards Initiative" which will provide a framework for developing nanotechnology standards. A standard for the electrical properties of carbon nanotubes is one of their first efforts.

Headline: Nanotechnology Standards at IEEE
News Source: Measurement Devices

The IEEE is creating standards to facilitate the movement of nanotechnology innovations from a research to a market environment and to establish fundamental nanotechnology platforms that support accelerated growth of the sector. These standards address critical commercialization issues, such as nanoelectronics device design and characterization, as well as quality and yield in manufacturing. Overall, the IEEE Nanotechnology Standards Initiative seeks to identify:

One such standard is IEEE P1650, "Standard Test Methods for Measurement of Electrical Properties of Carbon Nanotubes" will be the first to define electrical testing procedures and to suggest characterization tools for carbon nanotubes. This uniform metrics foundation is intended to help accelerate the emergence of nanotube-based devices in transistors and other nanoelectric components.

6. Enabling the development of space

Foresight note: These nanoparticles from space will tell a lot about space but perhaps about ourselves as well.

Headline: Scientists get glimpse at cosmic ingredients — Space, comet specks under scrutiny at Livermore lab
News source: San Francisco Chronicle by Keay Davidson

Members of the Bay Area media got their first close-up look at mysterious particles from the edge of our solar system Tuesday at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, where the cosmic matter is under scientific analysis. The particles, hauled back to Earth two weeks ago aboard a NASA space robot named Stardust, are too small to see with the naked eye. But on Tuesday, as magnified by microscopes at the lab, the particles resembled darkish blotches on an abstract painting.

The particles' innermost chemical secrets might be revealed during the coming months. Livermore researchers plan to slice the particles open like little loaves of bread to expose their innards. Then they'll scrutinize the particles under some of the world's most powerful microscopes.

Their hope is to answer questions such as: How did our solar system form several billion years ago? How did Earth's first life forms first emerge eons ago? Was life formed after comets dropped organic molecules and water on the primitive planetary surface? Might the space particles shed light on the long evolutionary odyssey from primeval microbes to Michelle Pfeiffer?

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, presentations or research that lead to Productive Nanosystems.

Keynote: Engineering from the Bottom Up – Productive Nanosystems and the Future of Technology

K. Eric Drexler, PhD, Chief Technical Advisor, Nanorex, and Founder of Foresight Nanotech Institute will give a keynote at the Nanomanufacturing Conference & Exhibits sponsored by Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME)
Los Angeles, California
March 29, 2006

Progress in molecular and nanoscale technologies has provided components and techniques that enable the engineering of artificial molecular machine systems, including early-generation productive nanosystems. These early generation systems will have a wide range of applications, and can be used to build more advanced systems. Exploratory design and analysis shows this can lead to large-scale productive nanosystems that can make macro products with atomic precision and can greatly exceed the productivity of conventional manufacturing. The recently launched Technology Roadmap for Productive Nanosystems will describe the next steps and longer-term opportunities at this frontier of engineering.

Spotlight on Foresight Members

What's your priority for nanotechnology: future jobs, education, new manufacturing capabilities, advanced medical treatments, a restored environment, or clean energy and water.

Maybe you just know, that nanotechnology is coming, it will have tremendous impact on society — and your career — and it's vital for you to keep current on new developments, policy issues and future-oriented breakthroughs.

If any of the above are important to you, consider becoming a Foresight Nanotech Institute member. We have membership levels suitable for everyone.

Your support is critical to our success in advancing beneficial nanotechnology.

List of member benefits:

Nanotech Events & News

Headline: NJIT chemists cook up new strain of carbon nanotubes
News source: EurekAlert

Kitchen chemistry is alive and well at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) as chemical researchers report cooking up a new and more water-soluble strain of carbon nanotubes.

An article about this work, "Rapidly Functionalized, Water-Dispersed Carbon Nanotubes at High Concentration," appeared Jan. 11, 2006, in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

The team led by Somenath Mitra, PhD, acting chair and professor, department of chemistry and environmental sciences, and Iqbal Zafar, PhD, research professor in the same department, along with graduate student Yubing Wang, have developed a quick and simple method to produce water-soluble carbon nanotubes. This is something that has never been done before. They report that the new nanotubes are 125 times more water soluble than existing ones. In addition, the new nanotubes, following a short heat treatment, can conduct electricity as well as the non-soluble ones.

Green Nanotechnology: What Does it Mean to be Green?
February 16, 2006
Washington, DC

Molecular Medicine Tri-Conference
February 21-24, 2006
San Francisco, California

Nanotechnology Symposium: Nanoparticles in the Workplace
May 13, 2006
AIHA's Aerosol Technology Committee
Chicago, Illinois
Event web site

Foresight note: This is an opinion piece written by Scott E. Rickert, a participating member of Foresight, and president of Nanofilm.

Headline: Taking The NanoPulse — Add Uncle Sam To Your Nanotech R&D Team
Trying to commercialize a nanotech innovation? Put your tax dollars to work.
News source: Industry Week by Scott E. Rickert

Your internal R&D staff has an idea on how to put nanotechnology to work in a new product — or improving an existing one. The stumbling block? You need specialized resources to get it done: nanoscale characterization equipment like an Atomic Force Microscope, or analysis expertise, or nanoscale prototyping capabilities.

Uncle Sam may be able to provide just the resources you need, thanks to U.S. Federal dollars invested in facilities to help keep American technology and products at the leading edge in global markets. The program is called the National Nanotechnology Initiative and it was funded to at the level of $1,081 million in FY 2005, with estimates for $1,054 in FY 2006. That funding goes to Federal agencies and departments that include the National Science Foundation, the Departments of Defense and Energy, the National Institutes of Health, and NASA, who funnel it to universities across the country for nanotechnology research. And here's the good news for your company. A healthy portion of that budget is targeted at partnerships between researchers and private enterprise to jumpstart technology transfer and commercialization.

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.

Okay, this is short-term not-too-sexy nanotechnology, but I think it is very cool. The researcher feels that they have at least a year until they will talk to industry and test outside the lab, but anyone who has to kept a white surface clean can relate to this nanotechnology application.

Headline: A bathroom that cleans itself
News source: Physorg.com

Led by Professor Rose Amal and Professor Michael Brungs of the ARC Centre for Functional Nanomaterials, a research team is studying tiny particles of titanium dioxide currently used on outdoor surfaces such as self-cleaning windows.

The particles work by absorbing ultraviolet light below a certain wavelength, exciting electrons and giving the particles an oxidising quality stronger than any commercial bleach.

These nanoparticles then kill microbes and break down organic compounds. And because surfaces coated with titanium dioxide have another property called 'superhydrophilicity' — meaning droplets do not form — water runs straight off the surface, washing as it goes.

Join the discussion – visit our blog Nanodot 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!