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Foresight Nanotech Institute Weekly News Digest: April 26, 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: Nanotechnology plays a significant role in the advancement of solar power. This article focuses on a thin-film nanotech company that is going into commercial production.

Headline: Start-up plans first step toward solar homes
News source: CNET News.com by Martin LaMonica

Solar start-up Heliovolt, a company that envisions buildings coated with electricity-generating roofs and sidings, will begin building prototypes later this month.

Heliovolt is one of several companies seeking to come up with cheaper ways to build material that can convert light to electricity.

Most solar photovoltaic cells are made of silicon, but a shortage of silicon, coupled with the maturity of the traditional solar industry, has made it hard to lower the price of solar panels, according to experts.

Companies such as Heliovolt specialize in copper indium gallium selenium, or CIGS, solar technology, which proponents say can be as durable and efficient as silicon cells but can be manufactured for less money.

Austin, Texas-based Heliovolt will start building prototypes at its plant this month and start production of products this fall, said Billy J. Stanbery, president and CEO of Heliovolt.

Stanbery said Heliovolt considers its thin-film solar coating a "platform technology" that can be used in a range of applications, including replacements for silicon in solar panels.

2. Providing abundant clean water globally

Foresight note: We are highlighting a company that is working towards a solution to the clean water challenge.

Headline: Aquamarijn Micro Filtration BV
News source: Aquamerijn Micro Filtration website

At Aquamarijn they are creating new technologies for filtration, (micro) analysis, cell detection, nanopatterning and micro moulding using nano and micro engineering. They are specialized in MEMS micromachining, polymeric micro moulding and fiber spinning techniques. Membrane surface roughness is down to 10 nanometers.

3. Increasing the health and longevity of human life

Foresight note: Early detection is an area where nanotechnology could have immediate impact in diagnosing debilitating diseases. This article cites a recent study where nanoscale research is improving medical imagery.

Headline: Nanotechnology may find disease before it starts, by improving the quality of ultrasound images
News source: Medical News Today

Nanotechnology may one day help physicians detect the very earliest stages of serious diseases like cancer, a new study suggests.

It would do so by improving the quality of images produced by one of the most common diagnostic tools used in doctors' offices — the ultrasound machine.

In laboratory experiments on mice, scientists found that nano-sized particles injected into the animals improved the resulting images. This study is one of the first reports showing that ultrasound can detect these tiny particles when they are inside the body, said Thomas Rosol, a study co-author and dean of the college of veterinary medicine at Ohio State University.

"Given their tiny size, nobody thought it would be possible for ultrasound to detect nanoparticles," he said.

It turns out that not only can ultrasound waves sense nanoparticles, but the particles can brighten the resulting image. One day, those bright spots may indicate that a few cells in the area may be on the verge of mutating and growing out of control.

"The long-term goal is to use this technology to improve our ability to identify very early cancers and other diseases," said Jun Liu, a study co-author and an assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Ohio State University. "We ultimately want to identify disease at its cellular level, at its very earliest stage."
Ohio State University press release

4. Maximizing the productivity of agriculture

Foresight note: Brazil has dedicated research funds to employ nanoscale techniques to strengthen natural fibers and improve pesticide control and release.

Headline: Brazil launches lab for agricultural nanotechnology
News source: SciDev.net by Carla Almeida

Brazil is taking steps to increase the value of its exports by developing agricultural nanotechnologies — microscopic products intended to improve the quality of farm produce.

The Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa) said last week (17 April) that it would be building a US $1.9 million laboratory dedicated to the field.

The National Nanotechnology Laboratory for Agribusiness will be housed at Embrapa's agricultural instrumentation unit in So Paulo while purpose built facilities are set up in the city later this year.

The unit's head, Ladislau Martin-Neto, says the next steps will be importing research equipment and recruiting a committee to manage the lab.

Areas of research have already been defined. They include producing 'nanofibers' to strengthen natural fibers, for example those from coconut and sisal, and making 'nanoparticles' that contain pesticides and control their release.
Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa)

5. Making powerful information technology available everywhere

Foresight note: Supposedly, this molecular switch acts as an actuator for the nanoscale world.

Headline: Nano machine switches between biological and silicon worlds
News source: Information Society Technologies

Scientists have created a molecular switch that could play a key role in thousands of nanotech applications. The Mol-Switch project successfully developed a demonstrator to prove the principle, despite deep skepticism from specialist colleagues in biotechnology and biophysics.

"Frankly, some researchers didn't think what we were attempting was possible because standard descriptions in physics, for example the Stokes equation for viscosity indicated that the system might not work. But viscous forces do not apply at the nano-scale," says Dr Keith Firman, Reader in Molecular Biotechnology at Portsmouth University and coordinator of the Mol-Switch project, funded under the European Commission's FET (Future and Emerging Technologies) initiative of the IST program. "However, we got our molecular switch to work."
Mol-Switch Project

6. Enabling the development of space

Foresight note: The ISDC meeting was one of the first to cover nanotech for space, and this year they continue this pioneering role.

Headline: Nanotechnology papers to be presented at ISDC 2006
News source: The 25th Annual International Space Development Conference

There are several nanotechnology related papers being presented at the Space Development Conference that will be held in Los Angeles on May 4-5-6, 2006. There is a full space elevator track as well as a politics and advocacy track that contain nanotechnology topics. The following two papers are a sample of what will be presented.

Ben Shelef, founder of elevator2010, will present on "The Story of the Space Elevator

Patrick Lin, Research Director of The Nanoethics Group, will present on Space Ethics — Look Before Taking Another Leap for Mankind

The 25th Annual International Space Development Conference

Foresight Lectures

The Singularity Summit at Stanford
May 13, 2006
Stanford, California

Christine Peterson, Founder and Vice President of Public Policy for Foresight Nanotech Institute will speak at The Singularity Summit on May 13, 2006 at Stanford University, California. Her focus will be on security and economic issues arising from accelerating change.

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.

May 7-11, 2006 – Nanotech 2006
Sponsored by NSTI (Nano Science and Technology Institute)
Boston, Massachusetts

Are you ready for the US's largest nanotechnology conference? It's coming up, May 7-11, 2006, at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston. It's the Nano Science and Technology (NSTI) Nanotech 2006 conference, featuring more than eight hundred technology presentations, government program reviews, early stage company showcase and expanded vertical industry symposia. Attendance is expected to exceed 3,000 with 200+ exhibitors.

May 16, 2006 – NanoTech: From Promise to Reality
Organized by IEEE San Francisco Bay Area Nanotechnology Council
Santa Clara, California

This 2nd annual all-day symposium will focus on alternative energy including photovoltaics and fuel cells.
Event brochure - PDF

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Nanotech Events & News

Headline: Research and Markets: From over 600 Nanotechnology Firms Investigated a Selection of the 80 Most Active and to Be Watched Firms Made It into the Bluebook(R) Report
News source: Research and Markets Press Release

Research and Markets has announced the addition of China Industrial Nanotechnology BlueBook(R) Series to their offering.

The China Industrial Nanotechnology Report 2006 is the culmination of a comprehensive analysis of commercially available, original Nanotechnology and Nanotechnology enhanced products in China.

From over 600 Nanotechnology firms investigated a selection of the 80 most active and to be watched firms made it into this BlueBook(R) report.

Companies were analyzed for their degree of engagement in development or production of Nanotechnologies as well as capacity to produce at industrial scale. Over 90% of companies covered in this report are ISO certified.

Headline: New Measurements Prove Myosin VI Can Act As Molecular Transporter
News source: Nanotech Briefs

In living organisms, hundreds of different kinds of molecular motors perform a variety of essential, but little understood tasks that result in such actions as muscle contraction, cell division and the movement of materials within cells. Some motors act as transporters, some serve as anchors, and some may do both.

New measurements performed at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have shown that one of these molecular motors, myosin VI, can function individually as anchors or in pairs as transporters. The new results have helped to resolve a research controversy and better explain how these little proteins perform their duties.

"Myosin VI is a tiny molecule that converts chemical energy into mechanical motion and transports its load by 'stepping' along filaments of actin," said Paul Selvin, a John Bardeen Faculty Scholar of Physics at Illinois and a co-author of a paper to appear in the Feb. 3 issue of the journal Molecular Cell.

"Our measurements prove that molecules of myosin VI can naturally form pairs and then go for walks while carrying cargo."

May 8-9, 2006
Clean & Controlled Environments 2006 – Early-bird deadline May 1, 2006
Sponsored by NSTI (Nano Science and Technology Institute)
Boston, Massachusetts
Event brochure

May 17-19, 2006
NanoBusiness 2006 – Conference
Sponsored by NanoBusiness Alliance
New York, New York
The agenda for this meeting has been published

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

Foresight Institute Feynman Prizes – Deadline June 30, 2006

The Foresight Institute Feynman Prizes, named in honor of pioneer physicist Richard Feynman, are given in two categories, one for experiment and the other for theory in nanotechnology. Established in 1993, these prizes are given to researchers whose recent work has most advanced the achievement of Feynman's goal for nanotechnology: the construction of atomically-precise products through the use of molecular machine systems.

Foresight Institute Prize in Communication – Deadline June 30, 2006

The Foresight Institute Prize in Communication recognizes outstanding journalistic or other communication endeavors that lead to a better understanding of molecular nanotechnology and its high social and environmental impact. This prize was created to encourage responsible coverage of molecular nanotechnology as a means for engaging the public in dialogue leading to improved public policy on this important issue. This prize was established in 2000 and is generously underwritten by the law firm Millstein & Taylor, PC.

Foresight Distinguished Student Award – Deadline June 30, 2006

The Foresight Distinguished Student Award was established in 1997 and is given to a college undergraduate or graduate student whose work is notable in the field of nanotechnology. This award highlights the winning student's research and underwrites the student's travel to the award conference. This prize is generously supported by Dr. James Ellenbogen, Ravi Pandya, and James Von Ehr, II.

September 18-20, 2006
Commercialization of NanoMaterials 2006 – Conference
Sponsored by TMS (The Minerals, Metals & Materials Society)
Event web site

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.

Clean energy and alternative energy is getting a lot of attention in the news media as well in seminars, studies and market reports. NanoMarket's Lawrence Gasman has written an analysis of thin-film transistor technology.

Headline: Thin-film and Organic PV on the Rise
News source: Renewable Energy Access

The combination of better materials, the evolution of thin-film transistor technology, and new production methods is establishing thin-film and organic photovoltaics as a hot area for investment. Recent market forecast and analysis carried out by my firm NanoMarkets LC, indicates that revenues from PV modules that use materials such as thin-film amorphous silicon, CIS/CIGS, cadmium telluride, small molecules, polymers or organic dyes will reach $2.3 billion by 2011.

Meanwhile, at least one thin-film PV firm is already attempting to raise investment valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars and all this activity may have finally refuted the old complaint against the PV industry that it does not invest enough in R&D.

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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