Friday, April 13, 2007

Picture of the day


John Hart, Metropolis

This is an image of a carbon nanotube structure (or "architechure") grown by chemical vapor deposition on a silicon substrate, by John Hart, a post-doctoral associate at MIT. Architectures are formed by self-organization of carbon nanotubes as they grow upward from a silicon substrate and a catalyst layer. If the catalyst is uniformly distributed, nanotubes grow everywhere on the substrate. How the nanotubes organize is defined by how they "push" and "pull" each other to produce the architectures. If the catalyst is only located in certain areas (patterned), then nanotubes grow only in those areas. In this image, the catalyst is patterned by photolithography, where a light-sensitive polymer is used to specify where the catalyst is placed.

Each structure consists of thousands to millions of parallel nanotubes (the density of nanotubes growing from a substrate is about 20 billion per square centimeter). The larger towers in "metropolis" are 200 micrometers wide, which is approximately the width of two human hairs.

The image was taken using a scanning electron microscope.

Many such images, which are displayed at, resemble everyday objects and macroscopic landscapes; however, these structures are formed by self-assembly interactions at much smaller scales.

So far, most of these images have arisen as results of normal experiments, but in some cases John took a bit more time to image the sample in the microscope, or to refine or add color to the image afterwards. John says he's still very much a scientist, but is seeing now how artistic endeavors can enhance the presentation and visualization of science, and how laboratory techniques such as fabrication and self-assembly can be a new art form.

Courtesy of and Copyright © Anastasios John Hart. Permission to reprint required.

To learn more, visit John's website and his research page

Look for the series at the Nanotechnology Now Gallery soon.

Quote of the day

"Nanoscience will eventually revolutionize and impact upon every single aspect of our lives, including the arts. It brings all the sciences together at the level of the atom. It is completely new in the way we fabricate and make things."

~James Gimzewski, UCLA chemistry professor and nanoscience pioneer.

"If I had to pick the No. 1 challenge facing nanotechnology firms, it's environmental, health, and safety regulation and the question of public perception."

~U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR)

"Most nanotechnology-based products pose little chance for public exposure and therefore pose little risk to health or the environment. That's because most uses are in composites in which the nanoparticles are encased in a product, such as golf clubs or car bumpers, or in nanoscale structures that are part of larger devices such as electronic circuits."

~E. Clayton Teague, Director, Federal National Nanotechnology Coordination Office (NNCO)

The Weekly Roundup

Here are some of the news bits that caught my eye this week:

Students from the competition's NanoFresh group had their own innovative ideas. The team presented a water purifying mechanism designed for backpackers, travelers and commercial facilities such as schools and offices. According to team member Lyle Kaplan-Reinig, a fourth-year chemical engineering major, the group's goal for the product was for it be an easy-to-use household mechanism that eliminates harmful carcinogenic compounds found in tap water.

The first-place winner of the final competition will receive $10,000 to start up their business. Another $23,000 will be given out for the various other prizes.

RR: This is a great way to generate the next batch of technologies and products. Enable our country’s best and brightest young minds with a little cash incentive. While the dollar amounts are low, they do serve as an incentive, and are, at the very least, a step in the right direction. Anything we (the previous batches of "young minds") can do that serves to set free these young minds will be to our benefit.

From: Contest Finalists Display Inventions

It’s a big feat of the tiniest proportions. Simon Fraser University’s Nano Imaging Lab has produced the world’s smallest published book. At 0.07 mm X 0.10 mm, Teeny Ted from Turnip Town is a tinier read than the two smallest books currently cited by the Guinness Book of World Records.

RR: This latest nanotrek (an adventure into the nanoscale) serves to illustrate our ever-expanding ability to control the nanoscale.

From: Nano lab produces world’s smallest book
image here:

Deformable, spherical aggregates of metal nanoparticles connected by long-chain dithiol ligands self-assemble into nanostructured materials of macroscopic dimensions. These materials are plastic and moldable against arbitrarily shaped masters and can be thermally hardened into polycrystalline metal structures of controllable porosity. In addition, in both plastic and hardened states, the assemblies are electrically conductive and exhibit Ohmic characteristics down to 20 volts per meter. The self-assembly method leading to such materials is applicable both to pure metals and to bimetallic structures of various elemental compositions.

RR: Yes, I know, that paragraph is a mouthful. What it means to me is that once again we’ve discovered a new way to create materials that may enable a whole new range of products. Harkening back to The Graduate, the phrase "I just want to say one word to you -just one word. ‘Plastics’" comes to mind, only this time with a nanotech twist. Our understanding of the nanoscale, and the often-unique phenomena found there, is looking more and more likely to enable a new generation of plastics. This news bit is just one of many recent articles that supports that assumption.

Plastic and Moldable Metals by Self-Assembly of Sticky Nanoparticle Aggregates

The stretching alignment technique is applicable to a broad range of SWNT experiments where orientation is important, particularly in optics. The work should further our current understanding of how nanotubes interact with light, with important practical applications in optical sensing and the manipulation of individual nanotubes using electromagnetic fields.

RR: Getting nanotubes to do what we want remains one of the main logjams in commercializing products that incorporate them.

From: Stretching exercises shed new light on nanotubes

NCR Corp. is spinning off a new company that is developing a technology capable of combating the counterfeiting of cash, pharmaceuticals and military parts, the new company's CEO said Thursday.

Prime is developing a nano-technology that has its origins in NCR labs, Ricci said. Essentially, the process — known as LumID or luminescent identifier — creates very tiny glass beads with "chemical tags" allowing whatever has been embedded with the beads to be accurately identified, he said.

RR: Anti-counterfeiting may prove to be one of the nanotechnologies that brings greater public acceptance to an often contentious yet unrelated group of advanced technologies. Several stridently vocal anti-technology groups have been tarring all nanotechnologies with the same brush, effectively and unfairly equating those that may have downsides to all others.

From: NCR spins off company to combat counterfeit cash

Civil Society-Labor Coalition issues an open letter to the international nanotechnology community at large:To All Interested Parties:We, the undersigned, submit this open letter to the international nanotechnology community at large. We are a coalition of public interest, non-profit and labor organizations that actively work on nanotechnology issues, including workplace safety, consumer health, environmental welfare, and broader societal impacts.

RR: The Civil Society-Labor Coalition weighs in on the latest proposal by DuPont Chemical Company (DuPont) and Environmental Defense (ED) for "a voluntary ‘risk assessment’ framework for nanotechnology." Yes, they do make some good points, such as "Nanotechnology’s rapid commercialization requires focused environmental, health and safety research, meaningful and open discussion of broader societal impacts." However, saying "We strongly object to any process in which broad public participation in government oversight of nanotech policy is usurped by industry and its allies" is putting the cart before the horse; why does the DuPont/ED framework necessarily mean that broad public participation will go by the wayside? Of course it doesn’t, and there are efforts, here and abroad, to engage the public (visit to read about some of them). Are those efforts enough? I don’t know, and neither (I suspect) does the Civil Society-Labor Coalition.

From: Activist groups reject DuPont-ED nanotechnology risk framework

Mihail Roco, the National Science Foundation's senior advisor for nanotechnology and key architect of the National Nanotechnology Initiative, visited Rice's Center for Biological and Environmental Nanotechnology (CBEN) this spring for a three-day conference on nanotechnology-enabled water treatment. During his visit, Roco discussed the conference, CBEN and the future of U.S. nanotechnology with Rice News' Science Editor Jade Boyd.

RR: This bit goes to illustrate a beneficial use of one nanotechnology; the treatment of water. I recommend this article be read in full. Roco doesn’t sugar-coat the need to prepare for potentially negative environmental effects, and in fact, he’s speaking at the leading R&D center that was created just for that purpose, and talks about the need to prepare.

From: The future of nanotechnology

The year is 2027 and you're feeling decidedly unwell. Suspecting something a little more sinister than a common cold, your GP takes a sample of your saliva with a small dipstick-shaped implement coated in sensitive high-tech nanoparticles.

The colour change of the nano-particles instantly identifies the nature of the problem. The bad news is that you have a potentially debilitating genetic disease. The good news is that your doctor can quickly prescribe a customized treatment: several billion specialized nanoparticles which will enter your bloodstream and modify the offending gene at the molecular level.

RR: This ties in nicely with my "Interview with NanoTumor Center" – see (1), and "Nanomedicine at Johns Hopkins" – see (2), and "Nanomedicine Today" – see (3). And don’t be surprised to see these and other "nanomedicines" well before 2027.

From: Nano scientists make huge advances


In order to assist high school students to think about the future with nanotechnology the Clarion University nanotechnology program and the art department are sponsoring a digital art contest, "Nanotechnology and the Environment for High School Students."

"The contest asks students to digitally illustrate what they think the future of nanotechnology and the environment hold. What will the effect of nanotechnology be on the environment? Will it solve our pollution and climate change problems or create environmental disasters undreamed of before? Only student creativity can tell us."

RR: This is one way to gauge public perceptions regarding nanotech.

From: Clarion University sponsors nanotechnology digital art contest

Venture capitalist, scientist and newsletter advisor, Josh Wolfe - in The Forbes/Wolfe Nanotech Report - looks at two favorite buys in the sector. In this case, he is selecting stocks that make the high-tech tools needed by researchers involved in nanotech.

RR: Who is making money in nanotech in these early days? Tool makers, of course.

From: A trio of experts looks at nanotech

Starpharma Holdings Limited makes and develops its products using nanotechnology. Its main drug is called VivaGel, a gel-based microbicide designed to protect women from sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV. The gel has made it through Phase 1 clinical trials, and the United States Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has even granted the drug fast-track status — and fast-track designation is nothing to scoff at.

RR: Great news, both in terms of a product that holds huge potential, and for the fact that it has received fast-tract status (meaning that the approval process could take a decade or more less time).

From: Starpharma Holdings Limited’s VivaGel on the Fast Track to the Market

The Deal's Tech Confidential was released last week and profiled five clean technologies that venture capitalists are showing increased interest in. Here's a quick rundown on those technologies and some venture-funded startups working in each area…

RR: Another positive indicator that clean technologies are starting (finally!) to garner the investment attention they deserve. Does anyone really not understand that we need more than one solution to all the problems generated by our use of and addiction to foreign oil?

From: 5 clean technologies drawing intense VC interest

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