Monday, June 29, 2009

SEPARATING THE HYPE AND THE BUZZ 041509

This took some time. A lot happened in April. There were three notable breakthroughs, nine (9) noteworthy news stories, and quite a few honorable mentions. My students convinced me to work harder on my hyperlinks. We read every article that comes across our desks and aggressively search out everything we can find.

Tell your friends and let me know which format you prefer.

BREAKTHROUGH – NANOSCALE RINGS

Researchers at Cal Tech and Berkeley report a direct catalytic route for making nanoscale rings with potential applications in drug delivery and organic photovoltaic devices.

See C&EN, April 20, 2009 and J Am Chem Soc,


BREAKTHROUGH – NANOPARTICLE THIN FILMS

Researchers at MIT have used capillary condensation to functionalize inorganic nanoparticle coatings that could be used to make transparent thin films for applications like imaging devices and memory storage. The technique also bypasses the need for toxic, co-solvents during processing.

See NanotechWeb, April 24, 2009.


BREAKTHROUGHS – DNA SEQUENCING

Researchers at Oxford and Oxford Nanopore Technologies demonstrated that the four standard DNA nucleotides—adenine, thymine, guanine, and cytosine can be distinguished from one another reliably by the amount of current they each block as they flow through a nanopore. Taking DNA apart one nucleotide at a time, directing the nucleotides sequentially into a nanopore, and detecting them with an electrical current meter may seem an unlikely DNA-sequencing concept, but it is closer than ever to being a reality.

See C&EN, March 9, 2009 and Nature Nanotechnology, DOI: 10.1038/nnano.2009.12.


NEWSWORTHY


1. AUSTRALIAN TRADE UNION DEMAND NANO-REGISTRY

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) is calling for a mandatory national register of who is importing, manufacturing, supplying and selling nanomaterials.

See Sydney Morning News, April 13, 2009.


2. PRINTABLE ELECTRONICS

Researchers from ETH Zurich report a new technique that uses flame spray synthesis in combination with a simple in-situ functionalization step to synthesize graphene coated copper nanoparticles which are air-stable and can be easily handled at ambient conditions.

See Nanowerk, April 24, 2009.


3. FLEXIBLE BATTERIES USING VIRUSES

Researchers at MIT use viruses to build both the positively and negatively charged ends of a battery, the cathode and anode. The virus was coaxed into binding with iron phosphate and then carbon nanotubes to create a highly conductive material. While the prototype battery is currently the size of a coin, the scientists believe it can be scaled and be used to create flexible batteries that can take the shape of their container, which is perfect for mobile or small devices.

See BBC News, April 2, 2009.


4A. SOLAR CELLS USING DIATOMS

Researchers at OSU and Portland State U have created a new way to make "dye-sensitized" solar cells using diatoms, in which photons bounce around like they were in a pinball machine, striking these dyes and producing electricity. This technology may be slightly more expensive than some existing approaches to make dye-sensitized solar cells, but can potentially triple the electrical output.

See Science Daily, April 9, 2009.


4B. SOLAR ADVANCES USING RESIDUE

Researcher from Northeastern U and NIST discovered, serendipitously, that a residue of a process used to build arrays of titania nanotubes-a residue that wasn't even noticed before this-plays an important role in improving the performance of the nanotubes in solar cells that produce hydrogen gas from water. By controlling the deposition of potassium on the surface of the nanotubes, engineers can achieve significant energy savings in a promising new alternate energy system.

See AtoZ Nano, April 24, 2009.


5. GAS STORAGE

Researchers at the Ural Division of the Russian Academy of Sciences report using molecular dynamics to model the behavior of a lock and fill nanocapsule. The closed-cage design could offer a safe and effective way of storing gases such as methane under normal conditions.

See NanotechWeb, March 17, 2009.


6. OIL FROM ALGAE

Researchers from Ames and Iowa State U. reportedly developed "nanofarming" technology that safely harvests oil from the algae so the pond-based "crop" can keep on producing.

See AtoZ Nano, April 24, 2009.


7. NANO-AVIATION

Researchers from Canada’s FP Innovations have unveiled plans for a factory that will use nanotechnology to extract cellulose from wood and use it to form composite materials for airplanes.

See Blog Wired, April 24, 2009


8. LISTERIA SENSOR

Researchers from Purdue and IIT are reporting development of a new biosensor for use in a faster, more sensitive test for detecting the deadliest strain of Listeria food poisoning bacteria.

See Nanowerk, April 22, 2009

and

Analytical Chemsitry, March 24, 2009.


9. SILVER WORKING GROUP

The Silver Institute and the Silver Research Consortium announced the formation of the Silver Nanotechnology Working Group (SNWG). The SNWG is an industry effort intended to foster the collection of data on silver nanotechnology in order to advance the science and public understanding of the beneficial uses of silver nanoparticles in a wide-range of consumer and industrial products

See AtoZ Nano, April 24, 2009.


HONORABLE MENTIONS


EU “NO DATA, NO MARKET”

The European Parliament's environment committee this week adopted a report by Swedish Green MEP Carl Schlyter which calls for tighter controls on nanotechnology, including the application of the 'no data, no market' principle contained in the REACH Directive. The own-initiative, non-binding report calls for products containing nanotechnology which are already on the market to be withdrawn until safety assessments can be made.

See EuroActiv, April 2, 2009.


EU FUNDS PPPs FOR GREEN REVOLUTION 2

€1.2 billion will be earmarked for R&D as part of the Factories for the Future programme; €1 billion will be dedicated to researching energy efficient buildings; and the much-vaunted Green Car Initiative is worth a total of €5 billion. The first calls for research projects linked to these PPPs are expected in July 2009, with the Commission keen to see the first projects underway in spring 2010.

See EuChemMS Brussels News Update, May 2009.


RUSSIA INVESTING IN CANADIAN NANO

According to Canwest News Service, a state-owned Russian venture capital fund is poised to pump millions of dollars into Canada's fledgling nanotechnology industry. The fund is RUSNANO and is one of the largest technology capital funds on the planet.

See Canwest News, April 13, 2009.


CLINICAL STUDY ANNOUNCED

NanoBio Corp. announced today that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the company’s Investigational New Drug (IND) application for the Phase 1 clinical study of NB-1008, a seasonal influenza vaccine administered via a nasal dropper.

See Nanowerk, April 24, 2009.


CANCER AND GOLD NANORODS

Researcher at U Missouri announced a systematic investigation on the design and development of targeted gold nanorods. A recent result of this work has been the design of a novel peptide-based nanovector for carrying drug payloads to cancer sites.

See Nanowerk, April 15, 2009 and Nano Letters, April 7, 2009


MELANOMA RESEARCH USING GOLD NANOSPHERES.

UC Santa Cruz, Berkeley, and the Houston MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston reported using hollow gold nanospheres to enhance the cell-killing effects of photothermal ablation. The researchers equipped the nanospheres with a protein fragment that targets melanoma cells while avoiding healthy skin cells. When exposed to near-infrared light, which penetrates deeply through the skin, the nanospheres heat up and destroy the cancer cells.

See NanotechWeb. April 24, 2009.


DRUG DELIVERY RESEARCH

Researchers at Brown U have come up with a means for delivering the cancer-fighting drug cisplatin directly to tumor cells in breast-cancer patients. The researchers created a dumbbell-like twin nanoparticle by attaching a gold nanoparticle to an iron-oxide nanoparticle.

See NanotechWeb. April 24, 2009. and J. Am. Chem. Soc. 131 4216.

A Purdue team reported similar findings combining gold nanorods with magnetic iron-oxide particles.

See NanotechWeb. April 24, 2009 and Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 48 2759.


BREAST CANCER BIOMARKERS

Researchers at Duke U have demonstrated multiplexed detection of breast cancer biomarkers using structures dubbed "molecular sentinel" (MS) nanoprobes.

See NanotechWeb, May 19, 2009.and Nanotechnology. February 11, 2009.



ORTHOPEDICS AND DENTISTRY DRUG DELIVERY

Titanium dioxide nanotubes might be incorporated into orthopaedic or dental implants to deliver drugs in a local area over a period of several weeks. So say researchers at the universities of California, San Francisco, and Pennsylvania State who have shown that the nanotubes can release albumin, a large protein molecule, as well as sirolimus and paclitaxel, common small molecule drugs.

See NanotechWeb, April 3, 2009.


NANOGENERATORS

Researchers at Georgia Tech and U Wisconsin-Madison announced an advance in nanogenerators. Nanoscale generators can turn ambient mechanical energy--vibrations, fluid flow, and even biological movement—into a power source. Now researchers have combined a nanogenerator with a solar cell to create an integrated mechanical- and solar-energy-harvesting device.

See Technology Review, April 9, 2009.



NCSU BATTERY RESEARCH

Researchers from North Carolina State University are using an industrially viable electrospinning technique and subsequent carbonization processes to fabricate porous carbon nanofibres (PCNFs). These prepared PCNFs can provide fast lithium charge/discharge kinetics.

See NanotechWeb, April 24, 2009 and Nanotechnology.


CHEMICAL SENSORS

Imperial College researchers announced developments in metallic nanostructure sensing involving a device that could be tailored to detect different chemicals by decorating the nanostructure surface with specific 'molecular traps' that bind the chosen target molecules. Once bound, the target molecules would change the colors that the device absorbs and scatters, alerting the sensor to their presence.

See Science Daily, April 13, 2009.


NO MORE PAINFUL INJECTIONS

The end of deep, painful vaccine injections is in sight. One of the first widespread applications of nanotechnology in medicine could be a painless, needle-free vaccine "nanopatch" being developed by Australian scientists.

See Sydney Morning News, April 23, 2009


NEW BOOK ON COMMUNICATION AND NANO

The book, entitled Nanotechnology, Risk and Communication (published by Palgrave Macmillan 2009) analyses the way the traditional media has covered the early development of nanotechnology. It also uses that coverage to contribute to the debate about the effectiveness of scientists and journalists in communicating science-related stories to the wider public. The book is co-authored by Stuart Allan of Bournemouth University.

See AtoZ Nano, April 23, 2009.


INDIAN NANO DEGREE

Maitreyi College, Delhi University, will be offering a full-time postgraduate diploma in nanotechnology from this academic year.

See The Times of India, April 6, 2009.


I am struggling to keep up.



SEPARATING THE HYPE AND THE BUZZ 033109

SORRY for the delay but I have been all over the place. Went to DC for a SRA meeting on Regulatory Impact Analysis and to Chicago for a meeting of the International Food Information Council Foundation Trustees meeting. I spoke (officially) in Chicago.

The nano-frontier is still pretty wild and I hope to run out some data we recently compiled on experts and their understanding of nanoparticles very soon. Some of the findings were leaked at the IFIC meeting and you can find that at our web site (pcost.org).

As for March 2009, we have nine (9) notable and a smattering of honorable mentions.

1. TOXICITY TESTING QUANDARY
U. Minnesota and U. British Columbia researchers reported if all existing nanomaterials were to be tested for toxicity, it would cost U.S. industries between $249 million and $1.18 billion, but the testing could take as long as 53 years at current levels of investment. Does this mean we need a bigger investment in toxicity testing or find new ways to test nanomaterials or both? (See ES&T DOI 10.1021/es802388s)

2. NEW WAY TO TEST FOR INHALATION
Scientists at the University of Bern and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich designed a sealed glove box system where nanoparticles are simultaneously made in aerosol form and then deposited onto lung tissue cells.

3. GREEN NANOMATERIALS
Researchers are creating green nanomaterials, with an eye toward their hazards as well as cleanup potentials and pitfalls. (See ES&T, 43:5, 2009, 1247-1249)

4A. CANCER GENE THERAPY
Cancer Research UK scientists have for the first time developed a treatment that transports 'tumor busting' genes selectively to cancer cells (mice study).

4B. MORE CANCER GENE THERAPY
U London School of Pharmacy reports a way to switch off cancer-causing genes and trigger cell death. It is based on nanotubes used to deliver small interfering RNA (siRNA) directly into the tumor mass, which it is hoped will have a significant impact in the battle against lung cancer.

5. PESTICIDE APPLICATIONS
Cornell U researchers how found a way to apply pesticides by encapsulating them in biodegradable nanofibers, which keeps then intact until needed and minimizes loss to drift or being washed away from the plants they are intended to protect.

6. GATES FOUNDATION AND NSF
The Gates Foundation money will be used to bring in researchers from around the world, particularly developing countries. The new program is called BREAD, Basic Research to Enable Agricultural Development. NSF Program Director Deborah Delmer said it will cast a wide net for new ideas and approaches to common problems like poor soil quality, crops that spoil during storage and plant strains that wilt in today's heat — and may fare even worse as climate change raises the planet's temperature.

7. FDA – TEXAS CONSORTIUM ANNOUNCED
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced the creation of a nanotechnology initiative in collaboration with the eight Texas academic institutions that make up the Houston-based Alliance for NanoHealth. (These include Rice U, the U of Texas, and the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.)

8. EU COSMETICS REGULATIONS ON THE HORIZON
Parliament approved an update of EU legislation on cosmetics when it votes on a first-reading agreement thrashed out between EP and Council representatives. The basic aim of the new regulation is to remove legal uncertainties and inconsistencies, while increasing the safety of cosmetics. Parliament's amendments add further improvements, especially regarding the claims companies make for their products and the safety of nanomaterials used in cosmetics.

9. SUNSCREENS ALLEGATIONS
U Toledo researchers found nano-titanium dioxide used in personal care products reduced biological roles of bacteria after less than an hour of exposure. Utah State U and U Utah researchers found beneficial soil bacteria cannot tolerate silver, copper oxide and zinc oxide nanoparticles. Both presented at ACS meeting in Salt Lake City.

HONORABLE MENTION

PAPER FOR ELECTRONIC DEVICES
Kyoto University researchers made transparent paper from nanosized cellulose fibers (renewable) as alternative to glass and polymers in electronic devices. Findings were presented at the Salt Lake ACS meeting.

EU NANOFOOD CONCERNS
In a legislative report dealing with an update of the EU rules on novel foods, the European Parliament calls on the Commission to interdict the placing on the market of food derived from cloned animals and their descendants. MEPs also want food being produced by nanotechnology processes to undergo a specific risk assessment before being approved for use and be labeled.

SAUDIS NEW NANO COMPANY
Saudis open the Saudi Nanotechnology Company. According to chairman Prince Bader Bin Saud said the firm would provide the Kingdom with a means of keeping pace with worldwide developments in nanotechnology, rather than it having to rely on foreign research.

HYPE ALERT
Check the Mental Floss website, for How to Destroy Civilization with Nanotechnology" directed by Ransom Riggs. WIRED Science reports: Several teams of social scientists are hard at work, trying to answer that question, and movies like this could turn their world upside down. Nice rhetoric but hardly.

TUNNELING NANOTUBES
Glowing infectious proteins called prions move through a network of mouse brain cells linked by tunneling nanotubes. Experiments are revealing that the tiny threads ferry both beneficial and harmful cargo between cells.

CHINA’S NANO-SPEAKERS

Tsinghua U. used a slim film of see-through plastic to transform almost any surface into an auditorium. It is made from nanocarbon tubes which, when heated, make the air around them vibrate, producing the sound.

NANOLUB
NanoLub has produced a nanotechnology-based (tungsten disulfide)lubricant which can enhance compression efficiency and a reduction of over 5% in fuel consumption of the vehicles.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

BERUBE IS BACK

I am back from a period of writing a set of grant proposals for the NIH Challenge and another NSF NUE proposal, working on many articles and a new book, and moving to a new place in Raleigh. I will continue my posts very soon. Thanks for your interest. My book Nanohype will be released in Japanese soon.

I will be in DC on June 21-23 for a Society for Risk Analysis meeting on Risk and in Chicago on June 23-24 for a meeting of the International Food Information Council. In addition, the data from our expert Delphi survey on nanoparticles and toxicology is being comprised and the final round of the Delphi is due next week. We should have much to report in the fall.