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Foresight Nanotech Institute Weekly News Digest: April 5, 2006

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: A presentation at Nano2006 on energy research at Rice University.

Headline: Glowing Future for Nano in Energy To Be Explored
Presented by Dr Wade Adams
News source: NSTI Website by Vance McCarthy

Dr. Wade Adams, Director of the Richard E. Smalley Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology at Rice University in Houston, will discuss Rice's ongoing nano-research projects, as well as growing partnerships with energy and exploration firms at Nano 2006. Sponsored by NSTI (Nano Science and Technology Institute), Nano 2006 will be held on May 7-11, 2006 in Boston, Massachusetts. This conference features over eight hundred technology presentations, government program reviews, an expanded vertical industry symposium and an early stage company showcase.

2. Providing abundant clean water globally

Foresight note: This is one of the research themes at CBEN. It has a very clear explanation of water-purification systems employing nanotechnology.

Headline: Effective, high-performance water purification systems
News source: Center for Biological and Environmental Nanotechnology (CBEN) at Rice University

Water is one of the most important resources for human existence, and ensuring access to cheap and clean sources is emerging as one of the great challenges of this century. While this problem is particularly acute in developing nations, even here in the United States increased revision of drinking water standards is pushing the envelope for current water treatment methods. This problem will only grow as the world's population increases, and agriculture draws more and more of the potable water supply. Thus our systems engineering goal of cost-effective and high-performance water treatment systems meets an important social need for this country. Nanostructures can both offer substantial improvements to existing water purification paradigms, and introduce new ones, both of which CBEN exploits.

3. Increasing the health and longevity of human life

Foresight note: This article is a great overview on how nanotechnology is revealing new ways to detect and treat cancer.

Headline: Nanotechnology driving big advances in cancer imaging
News source: NCI Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer by Joe Alper

Throughout the history of modern medicine, and particularly clinical oncology, important advances in treating illness and injury have usually followed the development of new ways to better see within the body. The advent of computed tomography (CT) imaging, for example, provided images of developing tumors in far greater detail than was possible with conventional x-rays, giving oncologists a means of both better localizing tumors before surgically removing them and the first real glimpse of whether a given therapy was causing a tumor to shrink. Similarly, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) provided greater anatomical detail still, while the development of positron emission tomography (PET) gave both cancer researchers and oncologists the ability to monitor a tumor's metabolic activity, and as a result, an even quicker way of assessing the effectiveness of therapy.

Though undoubtedly a boon for cancer researchers and clinical oncologists, each of these revolutionary imaging technologies could benefit patients even more. Each of these imaging methods suffers from a common shortcoming — they just aren't sensitive enough to accurately find the smallest tumors that are most easily and effectively treated. Also, most imaging methods produce static images, snapshots of a tumor at one particular time that do not reveal much about dynamic events, such as the binding of a drug to a particular tissue. But increasingly, it appears that nanotechnology may be able to provide that leap in sensitivity that would not only impact today's approach to therapy but could lead to entirely new pathways for both detecting and treating cancer.
Same article as a downloadable PDF

4. Maximizing the productivity of agriculture

Foresight note: This conference features several speakers on Food and Nanotechnology. We are highlighting one of the presentations at this event.

Headline: "Smart" food packaging – Using nanosensors to ensure food safety
News source: Agra-net.com

Gregory A. Sotzing of the University of Connecticut, Department of Chemistry will give a presentation on "Smart" Food Packaging — Using Nanosensors to Ensure Food Safety at Nanotechnology in Food and Agriculture, scheduled for June 6-7, 2006 in Washington, DC. This event offers attendees an opportunity to capitalize on new developments being explored by leading manufacturers within the industry and the chance to avoid the potential pitfalls surrounding this innovative approach to technological development.

Nanotechnology in Food and Agriculture will look at the calls already being made for regulation, and give you the chance to hear the views of government agencies that have direct influence in this area. If food and agribusiness companies act now to address these concerns, they can reduce the chances of punitive legislation, which may restrict future growth.
Gregory A. Sotzing
Christine Peterson, Vice President of Public Policy, will also speak at this meeting.

5. Making powerful information technology available everywhere

Foresight note: According to this article, this research has already been demonstrated in microfluidics applications.

Headline: Single exposure step creates 3D structures
News source: Nanotechweb.org by Darius Nikbi

Researchers at the University of Illinois and Argonne National Laboratory in the US have developed a single-step, two-photon lithography technique that offers sub-wavelength 3D resolution over a large area (Optics Express 14 2300).

"Our approach enables two-photon lithography to be performed in a completely parallel fashion," John Rogers from the University of Illinois told Optics.org. "This is in sharp contrast to conventional two photon methods that involve serial scanning of a focused beam to write 3D structures. The parallel operation of our method increases fabrication speeds and scalability by many orders of magnitude."

The team hopes to use this method to fabricate 3D photonic crystals by the square meter. Rogers explains that the group is interested in low cost approaches to fabricating 3D nanostructures in ways that are scalable to large areas.
John Rogers

6. Enabling the development of space

Foresight note: Nanosatellites will be used to rendezvous with and inspect other satellites.

Headline: SpaceDev Awarded Contract by the Air Force Research Laboratory for Sophisticate Nanosatellite
News source: SpaceFlight Now

SpaceDev has been awarded a $1.25 million contract from the Air Force Research Laboratory Space Vehicles Directorate, for the preliminary design of a nanosatellite capable of independently providing localized Space Situational Awareness of the local space environment of a host satellite. SpaceDev's design for the satellite, otherwise known as an Autonomous NanoSatellite Guardian for Evaluating Local Space (ANGELS), includes the satellite hardware assembly, detailed design schematics, software and flight algorithms, operations manuals, testing plans, and interface control documents.
SpaceDev press release

Foresight Lectures

Nanoworld: Toward a Policy for the Human Future
April 28, 2006
Washington, D.C.

Christine Peterson, Founder and Vice President of Public Policy for Foresight Nanotech Institute, will speak on a panel on nanotech and ethics issues. This panel will collectively respond to points highlighted in the preceding keynote, which will be delivered by Mihail C. Roco, Senior Advisor for Nanotechnology at the National Science Foundation.

In addition to Christine, the other panelists are: David Guston, Center for Nanotechnology in Society at Arizona State University; Andrew Kimbrell, International Center for Technology Assessment; and Charles Rubin, Graduate Center for Social and Public Policy at Duquesne University.
Event website

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.

April 25-26, 2006 – Carbon Nanotubes
Sponsored by Interch-Pira
Belgium, Brussels

Carbon nanotubes are poised to take the world by storm! This tiny technology has the potential to revolutionize strength and light weighing across a multitude of different materials, making it suitable applications as widespread as aeronautics and packaging. Attend this groundbreaking event to find out where this burgeoning technology is heading and what opportunities it could offer your business.
Downloadable brochure for this event

April 15, 2006 – Nanotechnology: living up to the promise
Berkeley Nanotechnology Forum 2006
Berkeley, California

The Berkeley Nanotechnology Forum 2006 (BNF 2006) features leading scientists, entrepreneurs, and academics, presenting their opinion on how in recent years nanotechnology has been living up to its promise.

This event also addresses the current achievements and the possible directions that this amazing field is poised to take in the near future. Beyond exciting scientific and entrepreneurial opportunities, nanotechnology is offering tremendous life-transforming perspectives. Come and discover how to be part of this new era!

Co-organizers for this event include Haas Energy Resources Collaborative and Berkeley Bio Business Association.
Event website

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Nanotech Events & News

Headline: The Patent Land Grab in Nanotechnology Continues Unabated — Creating Problems Down the Road
News source: Nanotechnology.net

Well over 5,000 nanotechnology-related patents have been issued in the U.S. as of late March 2006. The strongest growth can be observed in patents referring to "Nanoparticle" (147% CAGR since 2000), "Nanotube" (141%) and "Fullerene" (139%).

This trend clearly shows that nanotechnology firms and researchers are racing to secure patent protection for early-stage commercial applications but also might be trying to create license fee generating positions. As patent offices are struggling with the soaring number of patent applications filed, nanotechnology-related patents create new challenges and problems.

Headline: Nano World: Nanoparticle toxicity tests
News source: Physorg.com and UPI by by Charles Q. Cho

Scientists have for the first time compared how toxic several different kinds of nanoparticles are with known toxic and nontoxic items and found certain nanoparticles appeared surprisingly toxic, experts told UPI's Nano World

At the scale of nanometers or billionths of a meter, substances can take on radically different properties not seen in their bulk counterparts. As nanotechnology takes advantage these novel traits for use in a wide and growing range of applications, concerns are growing as to whether nanoparticles, nanotubes and other nanoscale components might have unintended consequences when exposed to humans or the environment.

Headline: Nanoparticles may pose threat to liver cells, say scientists
News source: Physorg.com

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh are to study the effects of nanoparticles on the liver. In a UK first, the scientists will assess whether nanoparticles — already found in pollution from traffic exhaust, but also used in making household goods such as paint, sunblock, food, cosmetics and clothes — can cause damage to the cells of the liver.

Nanotechnology & the Life Sciences
April 13-14, 2006
Sponsored by the Burnham Institute for Medical Research
La Jolla, California

Composite Organic-Inorganic Nanotags
April 18, 2006
Sponsored by the IEEE San Francisco Bay Are Nanotechnology Council
Santa Clara, California
Event website

NanoBusiness 2006 – Conference
May 17-19, 2006
Sponsored by NanoBusiness Alliance
New York, New York

2006 Nanochallenge International Business Plan Competition – Deadline June 16, 2006
Sponsored by Veneto Nanotech

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.

Here is a wonderful example of nano learning from nature and our understanding nature better through nano.

Headline: How a locust's eardrum could lead to tiny microphones
News source: Physorg.com

A multidisciplinary team at the University of Bristol has used funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) to explore the workings of the 'ears' of a locust. These are micrometre thick membranes with complex and varying structural properties. The thickness of the membrane varies at different points and this affects how it responds to sounds — and in the case of ambient noise, the team have discovered the membrane oscillates by only a few nanometres. The thickness of a human hair is about 80,000 nanometres across.

Professor Daniel Robert is the research leader at Bristol: "We have found that different sound frequencies elicit very different mechanical responses in the locust hearing system. By studying these tiny nanoscale movements and understanding how sound waves are turned into mechanical responses, we may be able to develop microphones based on the functions of natural hearing. These could detect very faint sounds and analyze their frequency, something that current microphones cannot pick up."
Daniel Robert
University of Bristol release

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

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