Updated: 3/16/2007; 3:09:55 PM.

Nanoscale technology
Interesting tech developments in nanotech, nanostructured materials, etc.


daily link  Friday, March 16, 2007


Self-Assembling Batteries:  "Researchers at MIT have designed a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that assembles itself out of microscopic materials. This could lead to ultrasmall power sources for sensors and micromachines the size of the head of a pin. It could also make it possible to pack battery materials in unused space inside electronic devices."  Earlier related story:  Batteries That Assemble Themselves: "Biology may be the key to producing light-weight, inexpensive, and high-performance batteries that could transform military uniforms into power sources and, eventually, improve electric and hybrid vehicles. Angela Belcher, an MIT professor of biological engineering and materials science, and two colleagues, materials science professor Yet-Ming Chiang and chemical engineering professor Paula Hammond, have engineered viruses to assemble battery components that can store three times as much energy as traditional materials by packing highly ordered materials into a very small space."  3:08:44 PM  permalink  

Researchers convert heat to electricity using organic molecules:  "Arun Majumdar, UC Berkeley professor of mechanical engineering was principal investigator of the study..  [His team] successfully generated electricity from heat by trapping organic molecules between metal nanoparticles, an achievement that could pave the way toward the development of a new source for energy."  While it's a long way from marketable form, it would have implications for energy, nanomaterials, and sensors (which need small amounts of energy to function).
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daily link  Saturday, March 10, 2007


Altairnano power play:  I wonder if this battery is for real.  "Altairnano - a relatively small public company [claims to produce] a battery that could power an electric vehicle hundreds of miles, charge in 10 minutes, and have a service life of 20 years or more.. The secret, according to Gotcher, is nanotechnology, and Altairnano's selection of nano-structured lithium titanate as a framework for its battery, branded NanoSafe™. Because the storage compartments are so small, the battery can store a lot of lithium ions. And the titanate material used in the nanostructures enhances battery cycle life, and gives it an extraordinary service life, he said., [claiming] more than 20,000 cycles with little performance degradation, .. Altairnano says its batteries have been tested under extreme conditions, including an operating temperature range of -50 to plus 71 degrees Celsius.  ..

The battery pack can be charged at low voltage over long times, or charged at higher voltages quicker, Gotcher said. In a 10 minute or less charge, at least 480 volts at several hundred amps will be required, transferring 210 kW/h of energy to the battery pack. .. How would service stations of the future store the mammoth amounts of electricity required by electric vehicles? Altairnano's Gotcher says the company "hasn't really said a lot about that yet, but you'll see us come forward with information in the second quarter."

Related news:  Power company AES made a $3 million "strategic investment" buying 1.5% of Altairnano's stock.  ZAP is building a Tesla-like roadster with its batteries.  So is Phoenix Motorcars, which has contracted to deliver 200 utility trucks with these batteries to PG&E in June 2007:  "Phoenix’s SUT can travel at freeway-speeds while carrying five passengers and a full payload, the company claimed. The SUT has a driving range of over 100 miles, can be recharged in less than 10 minutes and has a battery pack with a lifespan of more than 12 years."

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daily link  Friday, September 15, 2006


Lithium buckyballs to store hydrogen?:  Roland Piquepaille provides a perfect example of how nanoscale technology differs develops, going from a realworld problem through computer models to reality.  "The clusters they've designed -- by using computer modeling -- are composed of 12 lithium atoms and 60 carbon atoms, are very stable and can store up to 120 hydrogen atoms in molecular form. .. But why did the researchers choose to study this particular kind of material to store hydrogen?

There are two classes of materials: one where large amounts of hydrogen can be stored, but it is difficult for hydrogen to desorb (e.g., CH4), and the other where hydrogen can desorb easily, but not much of it can be stored (e.g., carbon nanotubes). An ideal storage system would be one where hydrogen binds molecularly but with a binding energy that is intermediate between the physisorbed and chemisorbed state. We show that coating of C60 fullerenes with suitable metal atoms may lead to the synthesis of novel hydrogen storage materials. In particular, we show that the unusual ability of Li12C60 to bind 60 hydrogen molecules stems from the unique chemistry at the nanoscale."

It's still a long way from this technology to the pollution-free fuel cell in your car; but model-driven nanotech gives us tools to systematically aproach our targets for technological development.
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daily link  Wednesday, February 01, 2006


Algae to produce hydrogen:  Links to research in progress.  References and images of computer simulations of hydrogen and oxygen generation at very small scale.
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daily link  Wednesday, December 14, 2005


Nanotechnology for Development: More groups are studying the potential impact of nanotech on developing countries.  The World Bank Development Gateway has a site, with a few familar names (editor John Daly, and advisor Anil Srivastava) .  The Merdian Institute Nanotechnology and Development News provides daily updates via RSS or email. From a Press Release: " Several recent reports, including the report of the UN Millennium Project Task Force on Science, Technology, and Innovation, conclude that science and technology, in particular nanotechnology, can contribute significantly to alleviating poverty and achieving the MDGs.  "The use of nanotechnology applications for water treatment and remediation; energy storage, production, and conversion; disease diagnosis and screening; drug delivery systems; health monitoring; air pollution and remediation; food processing and storage; vector and pest detection and control; and agricultural productivity enhancement will help developing countries meet five of the Goals," states the Task Force Report.  .. Over 20 countries, including innovative developing countries such as China, South Africa, Brazil, and India, have national nanotechnology programs.."  9:23:34 AM  permalink  


daily link  Wednesday, November 30, 2005


First Inventory of Nanotech Environment & Health Research: "A new inventory of research into nanotechnology’s potential environmental, human health, and safety effects (EH&S) shows the need for more resources, for a coherent risk-related research strategy, and for public-private partnerships and international EH&S research collaborations. These are the key conclusions drawn from the first single inventory of largely government-funded research projects exploring nanotechnology’s possible EH&S impacts.

This unique inventory is publicly available online at www.nanotechproject.org or www.wilsoncenter.org. It was compiled and released by the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. The Project is a partnership of The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Wilson Center. ..

“Specifically, out of a total of 161 federally-funded, risk-related projects, the Project’s scientists found only 15 relevant to occupation-caused physical injury (totaling $1.7 million), and only two highly relevant projects on the long-term environmental and occupational exposures that potentially could cause disease (totaling $0.2 million).  These are important gaps that must be filled to ensure that nanotechnology is safely commercialized and accepted by the public as not harmful,” stated Dr. Maynard.  ..

“The good news is that the U.S. appears to be spending more on EH&S research than any other government. .. The bad news is that current spending levels are not adequate to begin to answer the difficult environmental and human health impact questions raised by worker exposure to nanomaterials, by rapid consumer product commercialization and eventual disposal, and by concentrated environmental exposures from the possible application of nanoparticles to soil or water for remediation purposes in the future"

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Nano powder spray defense:  "Discharged from a pressurized cylinder, a new powder known as FAST-ACT (First Applied Sorbent Treatment-Against Chemical Threats) neutralizes mustard gas, sarin and other chemical-warfare agents--as well as many industrial chemicals. The powder, developed by Kansas State University chemist Kenneth Klabunde (pictured), consists of nanostructured crystallites of magnesium oxide (MgO) and titanium oxide (TiO2). Each grain’s jagged edges multiply the powder’s surface area and porosity, making it highly reactive. Common MgO powder has a surface area of 30 square meters per gram; with FAST-ACT’s nanostructuring, that grows to 320 square meters. “Seventeen grams of the powder has the surface area of a football field,” Klabunde says.

Sprayed at a chlorine gas leak, the powder knocks the vapor to earth, leaving a harmless solid to be swept up. When pitted against VX nerve gas in tests at the U.S. Soldier Biological Chemical Command, the nanopowder quickly prevailed, converting 99.9 percent of the killer gas into a less hazardous solid."  For sale now, along with other nanopowders.

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Nano-sponges for toxic metals: Show promise for water treatment; I wonder if it might speed catalysts. "Microscopic particles honeycombed with holes only nanometers wide soon could help purify industrial runoff, coal plant smoke, crude oil and drinking water of toxic metals .. The particles, made of glass or natural diatomaceous earth, are 5 millionths to 50 millionths of a meter wide and filled with holes a thousand times smaller. The surfaces of these particles can bear a variety of flavors or coatings that soak up specific toxic metals -- for instance, sulfurous organic coatings attract mercury, while coppery organic coatings bind to arsenic and radioactive metals known as actinides. The particles' spongy nature gives them an incredible 6,400 square feet to nearly 11,000 square feet of surface area per gram of material with which to draw in toxins.

Physical chemists at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash., developed the particles, known as SAMMS -- or self-assembled monolayers on mesoporous supports -- to remove mercury from oil in nuclear facility pumps last decade. Over the past three years, the scientists have vastly broadened the potential applications of the particles and partnered with companies to bring them into greater use.  "We have a technology that can be used to address a large number of emerging water treatment problems, with arsenic and mercury as just a couple of examples," said Richard Skaggs a civil engineer at PNNL. .. The SAMMS particles can not only soak up toxic metals, but once disposed of in landfills, the particles also should prove too large for microbes to consume. Keeping microbes clean of toxins helps ensure the metals do not enter the ecosystem and become concentrated, for instance, in fish.. "We see a cost reduction of a factor of 10 when it comes to saving landfill space because only very, very small amounts of material are needed," Skaggs added. "

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daily link  Tuesday, October 25, 2005


Craig Venter update: Nice summary of Venter's latest work by Steve Jurvetson.  "Craig Venter set sail around the world to shotgun sequence the millions of viruses and bacteria in every spoonful of sea water. From the first five ocean samples, this team grew the number of known genes on the planet by 10x and the number of genes involved in solar energy conversion by 100x. The ocean microorganisms have evolved over a longer period of time and have pathways that are more efficient than photosynthesis.

Another discovery: every 200 miles across the open ocean, the microbial genes are up to 85% different. The oceans are not homogenous masses. They consist of myriad uncharted regions of ecological diversity… and the world’s largest digital database.

From the collection of digital genomes, we are learning to decode and reprogram the information systems of biology. Like computer hackers, we can leverage a prior library of evolved code, assemblers and subsystems. Many of the radical applications lie outside of medicine.

At the Venter Institute, Craig Venter and Hamilton Smith are leading the Minimal Genome Project. They take the Mycoplasma genitalium from the human urogenital tract, and strip out 200 unnecessary genes, thereby creating the simplest synthetic organism that can self-replicate (at about 300 genes). They plan to layer new functionality on to this artificial genome – to make a solar cell or to generate hydrogen from water using the sun’s energy for photonic hydrolysis – by splicing cassettes of novel genes discovered in the oceans for energy conversion from sunlight. ..

The limiting factor is our understanding of these complex systems, but our pace of learning has been compounding exponentially. We will learn more about genetics and the origins of disease in the next 10 years than we have in all of human history. "  Also see Venter's latest company, Synthetic Genomics.  7:47:25 PM  permalink  


daily link  Monday, October 17, 2005


Recipe for Destruction:  So Kurzweil and Joy agree on this; they disagree on other advanced tech issues. "To shed light on how the virus evolved, the United States Department of Health and Human Services published the full genome of the 1918 influenza virus on the Internet in the GenBank database.
 
This is extremely foolish. The genome is essentially the design of a weapon of mass destruction. No responsible scientist would advocate publishing precise designs for an atomic bomb, and in two ways revealing the sequence for the flu virus is even more dangerous. ..

We urgently need international agreements by scientific organizations to limit such publications and an international dialogue on the best approach to preventing recipes for weapons of mass destruction from falling into the wrong hands. Part of that discussion should concern the appropriate role of governments, scientists and their scientific societies, and industry.

We also need a new Manhattan Project to develop specific defenses against new biological viral threats, natural or human made. There are promising new technologies, like RNA interference, that could be harnessed. We need to put more stones on the defensive side of the scale."  I'd like to learn more about RNA interference and other biodefense technologies.

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daily link  Monday, October 10, 2005


Environmental Defense - Nanotechnology: Selection of articles by EDF on nanotech.  "Getting Nanotechnology Right the First Time :  Nanotechnology –- the design and manipulation of materials at the atomic and molecular scale -– has great potential to deliver environmental and other benefits, but it may also pose significant risks to human health and the environment. Novel properties emerge as materials reach the nano-scale that open the door to innovations in such applications as cleaner energy production, energy efficiency, water treatment and environmental remediation.  At the same time, these novel materials may pose new risks to workers, consumers, the public and the environment, as suggested by a number of preliminary studies. Environmental Defense believes that both the public and private sectors need to comprehensively address the potential risks of this important new technology to ensure its responsible development. "  5:13:26 PM  permalink  


daily link  Monday, September 26, 2005


US Battery Research: Too Little, Too Late?: "The power gap between current needs and what batteries can deliver for electronics today reflects a decision made years ago to all but abandon basic battery research in favor of more flashy fuel-cell technology, says Donald Sadoway, a battery expert and professor of materials engineering at MIT .. "Fuel cells grabbed the money," but basic battery research was ignored for years before that as well, says Rob Enderle, an analyst at Enderle Group in San Jose. As a result, today's batteries remain relatively inefficient...

Interview with Sadoway: "I think that lithium ion can be pushed a little bit harder with electrode materials -- for the cathode in particular. There may be untapped capacity in certain materials that could dramatically improve the amount of energy storage in the battery by improving the cathode. I have cells operating at about 300 watts per kilogram, which is double what lithium ion is doing today. I think there's plenty of room at the top here ..

[The next big leap?] Solid-state batteries. We think the next improvement will come from eliminating any liquid from the battery. We think that there are opportunities for looking at multilayer thin-film laminate with no liquid, a polymer as the electrolyte separator. You're looking at something that's similar to a potato chip bag, a polymer web coated with a different layer of chemistry. We can make that by the square mile -- it's not difficult to do. We're talking about a doubling or tripling of the capacity of today's batteries, as opposed to a 20% or 30% improvement. [And it's safer.] A lot of the problems in advanced lithium ion batteries derive from the fact that you have an organic liquid. Lithium ion is not water-based. It's an organic liquid like an alcohol. It's flammable. If it gets hot, the pressure increases, and you'll break the case. It could catch fire. If we go with a polymer electrolyte, you don't have any liquid; it's inert when it comes to heat, plus you can shape it."

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daily link  Sunday, September 25, 2005


Toshiba announces better battery for 2006: March 2005:  "Toshiba Corporation today announced a breakthrough in lithium-ion batteries that .. can recharge 80% of a battery's energy capacity in only one minute, approximately 60 times faster than the typical lithium-ion batteries in wide use today, and combines this fast recharge time with improvements in energy density. ..  the negative electrode uses new nano-particles to prevent organic liquid electrolytes from reducing during battery recharging. The nano-particles quickly absorb and store vast amount of lithium ions, without causing any deterioration in the electrode. ..

The battery has a long life cycle, losing only 1% of capacity after 1,000 cycles of discharging and recharging, and can operate at very low temperatures. At minus 40 degrees centigrade, the battery can discharge 80% of its capacity, against 100% in an ambient temperature of 25 degree centigrade).

Toshiba will bring the new rechargeable battery to commercial products in 2006. Initial applications will be in the automotive and industrial sectors .. tTe battery's advantages in size, weight and safety highly suit it for a role as an alternative power source for hybrid electric vehicles."  This is faster than expected; nano particles to accelerate charge and discharge and improve density have been reported in universities, while this is an announced product.

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Use Of Nanomaterials in Organic Photovoltaic Devices: Introductory list of approaches to nanoengineered organic PVs.  10:47:36 AM  permalink  


daily link  Monday, August 29, 2005


Major advance producing carbon nanotube sheets: "University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) nanotechnologists and an Australian colleague have produced transparent carbon nanotube sheets that are stronger than the same-weight steel sheets and have demonstrated applicability for organic light-emitting displays, low-noise electronic sensors, artificial muscles, conducting appliqués and broad-band polarized light sources that can be switched in one ten-thousandths of a second.

Carbon nanotubes are like minute bits of string, and untold trillions of these invisible strings must be assembled to make useful macroscopic articles that can exploit the phenomenal mechanical and electronic properties of the individual nanotubes. In the Aug. 19 05 issue of the prestigious journal Science, scientists from the NanoTech Institute at UTD and a collaborator, Dr. Ken Atkinson from Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), a national laboratory in Australia, report such assembly of nanotubes into sheets at commercially useable rates.

Starting from chemically grown, self-assembled structures in which nanotubes are aligned like trees in a forest, the sheets are produced at up to 7 meters per minute by the coordinated rotation of a trillion nanotubes per minute for every centimeter of sheet width. By comparison, the production rate for commercial wool spinning is 20 meters per minute. Unlike previous sheet fabrication methods using dispersions of nanotubes in liquids, which are quite slow, the dry-state process developed by the UTD-CSIRO team can use the ultra-long nanotubes needed for optimization of properties. " More about applications, to solar cells, batteries, fuel cells, medicine, and engineering at WorldChanging.

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Carbon Nanotube Structures For More Efficient Solar Power: "Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) scientists have demonstrated an ability to precisely grow "towers" composed of carbon nanotubes atop silicon wafers. The work could be the basis for more efficient solar power .. Because their cells will be more efficient, Ready believes they can use older and more mature p/n-type material technologies and less costly silicon wafers to hold down costs and rapidly advance the project into products that can be used in the field. .. Challenges ahead include materials compatibility and long-term durability issues. Ultimately, the carbon nanotubes – which are themselves semiconducting at times – could be integrated to replace one or more of the p/n-type layers. "  Military and space applications are expected first.

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daily link  Thursday, August 18, 2005


Nanoscience-as-Art Competition - NTU NanoCluster: Images from Singapore university research.  8:32:47 AM  permalink  


daily link  Friday, August 12, 2005


Study of super-hard ceramics: "A discovery reported in the August 5 issue of Science could speed the design of materials that approach the hardness of diamond yet remain supple enough to be worked like metal.  In a massive computer simulation involving 128 computer processors and nearly 19 million atoms, materials scientist Izabela Szlufarska of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and colleagues at University of Southern California demonstrated the precise atomic mechanisms that explain why "nanostructured" ceramic materials-some of the hardest substances known-also exhibit unusual pliability.

Unlike other exceptionally hard materials, these advanced ceramics tend to bend rather than break, meaning they could be shaped into extremely long-lasting yet lightweight parts for everything from automobile engines and high-speed machining tools to medical implants in the body.

Simulations can help to answer this by providing a level of detail unavailable to experiments. Using atomic-scale simulations, the team observed for the first time how atoms moved and interacted as a super-hard ceramic deformed under stress. The advance has not only provided unprecedented insight into the properties of these materials, but also a tool that researchers can use to systematically nano-engineer them. ..

The researchers next want to learn how to control the crossover point so as to engineer greater hardness into nano-crystalline silicon carbide without compromising pliability. For example, they could vary the volume of the grain boundaries or the size of the grains. Impurities, or dopants, might also be added to the grain boundaries to make the material stronger.  Key to it all is the enormous computing power that allows scientists to simulate the material’s atomic details.  "The experiments and devices have become smaller and smaller, while the simulations have grown larger and larger," says Szlufarska. "This is a unique time when the leading edge of materials design is exactly at the same length scale where fully atomic simulations are possible." "

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Towards a green nanotechnology: Review of the issues and early studies.  "nanotechnology has been the subject of projections concerning its possible environmental risks well before its wide-scale commercialization. Raising such questions when nanotechnology is still in its infancy may result in better, safer products and less long-term liability for industry.

The rapidly developing nanomaterials industry is the nanotechnology that is most likely to affect our lives first. .. In the environmental technology industry alone, nanomaterials will enable new means of reducing the production of wastes, using resources more sparingly, cleaning up industrial contamination, providing potable water, and improving the efficiency of energy production and use. Commercial applications of nanomaterials currently or soon to be available include nano-engineered titania particles for sunscreens and paints, carbon nanotube composites in tires, silica nanoparticles as solid lubricants, and protein-based nanomaterials in soaps, shampoos, and detergents.

The production, use, and disposal of nanomaterials will inevitably lead to their appearance in air, water, soils, or organisms. Research is needed to ensure that nanomaterials, and the industry that produces them, evolve as environmental assets rather than liabilities.   Unfortunately, little is known about the potential environmental impacts of nanomaterials...

An encouraging trend is that the methods used to produce nanomaterials often become “greener” as they move from the laboratory to industrial production. Setting aside the issue of nanomaterials’ toxicity, preliminary results suggest that fabricating nanomaterials entails risks that are less than or comparable to those associated with many current industrial activities.  ..

It would be naïve to imagine that nanotechnology will evolve without risks to our health and environment. While attempting to halt the development of nanomaterial-inspired technologies would be as irresponsible as it is unrealistic, responsible development of these technologies demands vigilance and social commitment. "

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daily link  Tuesday, August 02, 2005


Nanotechnology kills cancer cells: Another study with light-activated nanoparticles.  "The technique works by inserting microscopic synthetic rods called carbon nanotubules into cancer cells.   When the rods are exposed to near-infra red light from a laser they heat up, killing the cell, while cells without rods are left unscathed. .. 

Under normal circumstances near-infra red light passes through the body harmlessly. But the Stanford team found that if they placed a solution of carbon nanotubules under a near-infra red laser beam, the solution heated up to about 70C in two minutes.  They then placed the tubules inside cells, and found they were quickly destroyed by the heat generated by the laser beam. .. The next step was to find a way to introduce the nantubules into cancer cells, but not healthy cells.  The researchers did this by taking advantage of the fact that, unlike normal cells, the surface of cancer cells is covered with receptors for a vitamin known as folate.  They coated the nanotubules with folate molecules, making it easy for them to pass into cancer cells, but unable to bind with their healthy cousins. Exposure to the laser duly killed off the diseased cells, but left the healthy ones untouched.

The researchers believe it should be possible to refine the technique still further, for instance by attaching an antibody to a nanotubule to target a particular kind of cancer cell.

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daily link  Thursday, May 26, 2005


Nanotechnology for Clean Energy and Resources: Good short summary of the ways nanotech makes more efficient use of resources.  3:16:19 AM  permalink  

Nanotechnologists' new plastic can see in the dark (Jan 10/05): U of Toronto Professor Ted Sargent and his team used quantum dots trapped in lead and sulfur.  "“We made particles from semiconductor crystals which were exactly two, three or four nanometres in size. The nanoparticles were so small they remained dispersed in everyday solvents just like the particles in paint,” explains Sargent. Then, they tuned the tiny nanocrystals to catch light at very long wavelengths. The result – a sprayable infrared detector. ..

The discovery may also help in the quest for renewable energy sources. Flexible, roller-processed solar cells have the potential to harness the sun’s power, but efficiency, flexibility and cost are going to determine how that potential becomes practice, says Josh Wolfe [of Lux Capital]. “These flexible photovoltaics could harness half of the sun’s spectrum not previously accessed.” .. Professor Peter Peumans of Stanford University, reviewed the U of T team’s research.. “Our calculations show that, with further improvements in efficiency, combining infrared and visible photovoltaics could allow up to 30 per cent of the sun’s radiant energy to be harnessed, compared to six per cent in today’s best plastic solar cells.”

U of T graduate student Steve MacDonald carried out many of the experiments .. “The key was finding the right molecules to wrap around our nanoparticles,” he explains. “Too long and the particles couldn’t deliver their electrical energy to our circuit; too short, and they clumped up, losing their nanoscale properties. It turned out that one nanometer – eight carbon atoms strung together in a chain – was ‘just right’.”

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daily link  Monday, May 23, 2005


Foresight Institute:  A new theme and a new website.  "Foresight’s new mission is to ensure the beneficial implementation of nanotechnology."  It's a good change; I've been a member for 4 years and had advocated more of a focus on environmental issues and benefits.  Nice to see that of their six nanotech 'challenges', #1 is clean energy, #2 is water quality and supply, and #4 is agriculture.  8:38:40 AM  permalink  


daily link  Wednesday, May 18, 2005


Environmental Defense gets proactive about nanotech:  "The science of the very small has big potential: improved energy generation, information technology, health care delivery and a wide range of other applications, including some with potentially enormous environmental benefits. But as with any potentially revolutionary technology, it only makes sense to look before we leap.  .. New physical and chemical properties represent what's both exciting and worrisome about nanotechnology. While the ability of some nano particles to pass through a cell or skin could lead to breakthroughs in a cure for cancer or in the detection of Alzheimer's, these same features can pose environmental and health risks. .. Environmental Defense is starting to work with companies looking into this important new technology to make sure both positives and negatives are considered beforehand. We're also advocating to increase federal funding for research into nanotechnology's potential risks, and pushing to enhance safety regulations to ensure that nanotechnology products are properly evaluated before getting to market.

There is a flurry of activity around nanotechnology in government agencies and at scientific conferences. The U.S. government alone is investing approximately $1 billion per year in nanotechnology research and development.  We are pushing government to allocate at least 10% of that investment towards understanding the implications of the nanotechnology applications being developed. We are working with the International Council on Nanotechnolgy, the American National Standards Institute and the American Society for Testing and Materials, as they begin to develop consensus standards for several aspects of nanotechnology; such standards may help shape government regulations down the road. We're also exploring partnering with individual companies to develop risk management to develop standards, and sharing information with a wide array of scientific and environmental organizations. ..

This is the promising future of this exciting new science, and our hope is to ensure that with proper attention paid now to the risks, we can avoid the mistakes of the past while reaping the benefits that nanotechnology may bring. "

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daily link  Monday, May 16, 2005


Water Filters Rely on Nanotech: Report from the October 2004 NanoWater conference. "A slow, methodical transformation of the $400-billion-a-year water-management industry is currently in progress, and nanotechnology appears to be leading the way. .. Two products incorporating nanotechnology are going to hit the market within the next year and are already being tested in developing nations. .. Matrikx water filters will be on store shelves within the next year after already having experienced success in 50 pilot programs throughout central Asia.  Argonide's president, Fred Tepper, is trying to get his product in the hands of consumers in the next 60 to 90 days, he said, having recently secured a distribution deal with a European company ..

Though these breakthroughs seem cutting-edge, the technology is not terribly new. Water-treatment plants have been using nanofiltration and ultrafiltration membranes to separate good water from bad for more than five years. And already the technology is becoming the industry standard. .. The same technology is allowing desalination -- the process of removing salts from fresh or sea water -- to occur at a much greater rate. The largest desalination plant in the world will begin operating in Ashkelon, Israel, in March 2005."

Argonide Nanomaterials has an interesting history of collaborations with US govt labs, Russian institutes active in nanotechnology, and others in Italy, Japan, and Singapore.

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daily link  Friday, May 13, 2005


Double blast of societal & ethical issues in nanotech - Nanodot: Links to many academic articles on nanotech in society.  Includes a summary of environmental issues from an academic perspective.  11:12:07 PM  permalink  

Motorola Debuts First Ever Nano Flat Screen: "Motorola Labs today unveiled a working 5-inch color video display prototype based on proprietary Carbon Nanotube (CNT) technology.. Optimized for a large screen High Definition Television (HDTV) that is less than 1-inch thick, this first-of-its kind NED 5-inch prototype harnesses the power of CNTs to fundamentally change the design and fabrication of flat panel displays.

The development of such a flat panel display is possible due to Motorola Labs Nano Emissive Display (NED) technology, a scalable method of growing CNTs directly on glass to enable an energy efficient design that excels at emitting electrons. ..

“Motorola’s NED technology is demonstrating full color video with good response time,” said Barry Young, VP and CFO of DisplaySearch, a leading flat panel display market research and consulting company. “And according to a detailed cost model analysis conducted by our firm, we estimate the manufactured cost for a 40-inch NED panel could be under $400.” 

Motorola’s proprietary CNT growth process provides excellent precision in designing and manipulating a material at its molecular level – enhancing specific characteristics – and, in the case of flat panel displays, producing high-definition images. .. Motorola’s industry-first working prototype demonstrates:

• Operational full color 5" video section of a 1280 x 720, 16:9, 42-inch HDTV
• High quality brightness
• Bright, vivid colors using standard Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) TV phosphors
• Display panel thickness of 3.3 millimeters (about 1/8th of an inch)
• Low cost display drive electronics (similar to LCD, much lower than Plasma)
• Display characteristics meet or exceed CRTs, such as fast response time, wide
viewing angle, wide operation temperature "

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daily link  Tuesday, March 01, 2005


Nano for better batteries, fuel cells:  SRI scientist "Narang and other researchers have found ways to combine high energy density with high power using nanotechnology.  In SRI’s case, the approach involves using high aspect ratio nanomaterials, or nanofibers. The nanofibers are minutely small in one dimension (about 20 nanometers) so energy flows rapidly across them. But because they are, relatively speaking, long in the other dimension (50 to 200 nanometers) they can store much more energy than nanoparticles with small dimensions all around.  The result, Narang maintains, is a battery that can deliver about eight times the power of a traditional battery while providing comparable energy. Plus, there’s a bonus: The nanoscale dimensions that let energy move rapidly also allow the battery to recharge faster when the energy flow is reversed, a feature that’s important for hybrid cars designed to harvest energy from braking and use it to recharge the batteries.

Other organizations are working on the same problem. Ener1, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., is researching enhancements for electrolytes and cathodes, using nano-structured powders for electrolytes and nano-structured, iron-disulfide for cathodes.  The company says that by combining its nano-structured, iron-disulfide cathode with its polymer electrolyte it can provide high energy and a long cycle life. ..

Batteries, however, are not the only nano-enhanced technology poised to augment alternative energy efforts. .. California-based Proton Power proposes using solid acid fuel cells to supplement diesel engines inside long-haul trucks. Currently, truckers idle their engines when resting to power heating, air conditioning and other amenities.  Proton Power would provide a supplemental fuel cell that truckers could use when not driving.  .. “The thinner the electrolyte layer,” [Proton's founder Calum] Chisolm said, “the more power.” Currently funded by friends and family, the California Institute of Technology spinout is looking at longer-term financing opportunities and broad markets.  ..

SRI is working on a form of solid oxide fuel cell that would use military-grade diesel fuel. The design takes advantage of nanostructures for catalysts and uses 200-nanometer powders for a thin electrolyte, upping the power in the same manner as Chisolm’s solid acid cell."

  9:43:34 AM  permalink  

Nanotech Startups Eye Solar Energy Spotlight: A short article from Investor's Business Daily in November 2004 spotlighted a few companies with comments from analysts: "At least three startups -- Nanosolar, Nanosys and Konarka Technologies -- are using nanotech to try to make solar energy more viable. In time, such work could become "world changing," said Josh Wolfe, a managing partner of nanotech-focused investment firm Lux Capital in New York. Lux has invested in Nanosys.  "All three of these firms have a different approach, but all of them are trying to create solar energy anywhere, any time," Wolfe said. 

Nanotech solar cells could come down to fossil-fuel prices within a few years, says Steven Milunovich, an analyst with Merrill Lynch. Electricity now costs 7 cents per kilowatt-hour in the U.S. and 19 cents in Japan. Solar cells run about 43 cents. "There could be significant adoption" if nanotech solar drops below 7 cents, said Milunovich in a recent research note. Nanotech could have "a significant impact" on the $3 billion-plus solar power market.  "Cheaper manufacturing plants and processes could make solar competitive with fossil fuels," he wrote.

Nanosolar, based in Palo Alto, Calif., is building nanotech panels that are 100 times thinner than current solar panels. This approach could let the firm mass-produce cheaper solar cells by printing them out like rolls of newspaper.  .. Nanosolar plans to make test products next year and go to full production the following year. ..

Nanosys, also based in Palo Alto, has partnered with Japanese corporate giant Matsushita (NYSE:MC - News) to make nano materials into special shapes known as tetrapods. This material is laid onto plastic substrates that are produced like photo film to make nanopanels that are more flexible and smaller than current rooftop solar panels. By encasing such solar panels between windowpanes, skyscrapers might someday double as self-contained power plants..

Konarka of Lowell, Mass., is developing plastic sheets that are embedded with titanium oxide nanocrystals. The crystals are coated with light-absorbing dyes."

  9:24:35 AM  permalink  

Nanotechnology for Clean Energy and Resources: Abstract of a paper presented in Oct 2004 by Stephen L. Gillett of Georgia Tech, and Ralph Merkle of Foresight Institute.  Key applications are efficiency, renewables, energy management, and new materials.  9:18:29 AM  permalink  

Nanosponge for hydrogen:  "The materials made by Xuebo Zhao and colleagues are composed of long carbon chains linked by metal atoms. When they are crystallized, these molecules frame cavities less than a nanometer across, connected by windows that are even smaller than a hydrogen molecule. While the cavities are being filled, hydrogen can wriggle through these windows because the carbon chains are flexible.

But once the cavities fill, the chains lose their room to flex, forcing the windows closed. As a result, the material can be loaded with hydrogen gas at high pressure, but does not release the gas when pressures drop to normal, essentially forming a molecule-sized pressure seal. "

  8:24:01 AM  permalink  


daily link  Tuesday, February 22, 2005


Nanotech investment stats: From a story in may 2004: "The National Science Foundation projects the entire market could be worth $1 trillion by 2016. That's a huge and almost entirely new market, but also well past the 10-year venture capital fund investment horizon.  Worse, still, for VCs hoping to exit profitably from the nanotech startups accumulating in their portfolios: Major corporations worldwide are working feverishly to apply nanotechnology to specific products and services, giving many, at least theoretically, a serious leg up on startups with far less capital and far fewer real products upon which to test their new nanowares.  More than 700 companies are collectively spending about $3 billion on nanotechnology research and development this year alone, according to Lux Capital, with only a handful of them venture capital-backed startups."  2:14:48 PM  permalink  


daily link  Thursday, February 17, 2005


WorldChanging: Nanotechnology and the Developing World:  "the Global Dialogue on Nanotechnology and the Poor [is] a project intended to trigger a conversation about the ways in which nanotechnology can be applied to the problems of development and poverty. Anyone may participate .."  SciDevNet covers the conference and has an introduction to the material.   The 29-page report covers risks as well as benefits, with a useful appendix showing the UN Millenium Goals for reference.

This has been a major interest of mine since 2000.  The bottom line for me came down to two things:  nano-engineered materials for energy and water.  Nanotech's first fruits are a new universe of materials with electrical and chemical properties that will offer new options to engineers of all goods, including those meeting basic needs.  It's like plastics a century ago; we're at the start of a decades-long absorbtion of new possibilities, both good and bad.  This time the changes will come faster, sped up by computer-aided design and manufacturing.   (Nano-assembly, whenever it arrives, will only further add to the changes.) 

For developing countries, the key benefits are in the basics for manufacturing and urban life.

  • purified or desalinated water
  • distributed electric generation and new options for fuel, ideally from renewable sources with hydrogen and/or battery storage of power
  • more efficient use of energy and materials overall 

I think this will be on balance good for the environment, in its greater material efficiency.  However, nano-engineered materials will also be applied to increase the efficiency of raw material extraction, such as taking fossil fuels from the earth faster and cheaper.  It will also give rise to more extravagant ways to use energy in the developed world, perhaps super-sonic transport, large-scale military applications, or ever-larger interiors for housing and commerce.  I am optimistic that enough funding and volunteer attention will be given to pollution-reducing and poverty-alleviating applications to tip the balance.  (I think that the top-down and exploitative applications have been refined so much already, that it's probably easier for researchers and innovators to have a big impact in the less-explored sustainable applications.)

  1:37:18 AM  permalink  

Nanotubes crank out hydrogen: "Several research efforts are using materials engineered at the molecular scale to tap the sun as an energy source to extract hydrogen from water. Researchers from Pennsylvania State University have constructed a material made from titanium dioxide nanotubes that is 97 percent efficient at harvesting the ultraviolet portion of the sun's light and 6.8 percent efficient at extracting hydrogen from water. 

The material is easy to make, inexpensive, and photochemically stable, according to the researchers. The 97 percent efficiency is the highest reported, according to the researchers. There is one catch -- only five percent of the sun's energy is ultraviolet light.   The researchers are working to find a way to shift the response of the nanotube arrays into the visible spectrum.  The key to making titanium dioxide nanotubes that efficiently harvest the energy from light is controlling the thickness of the nanotube walls, according to the researchers. Nanotubes 224 nanometers long with 34-nanometer-thick walls are three times more efficient than those that are 120 nanometers long with 9-nanometer-thick walls.

The researchers made the titanium dioxide nanotube material by mixing titanium with acid and electrifying the mixture, which caused the tiny tubes to grow, then heating them to cause the material to crystallize."  [via WorldChanging]  1:01:08 AM  permalink  


daily link  Saturday, January 22, 2005


New Nanomaterial for Future Magnetic Fridges: "Magnetic refrigerators offer significant advantages when compared with current vapor-compression ones, such as gains in energy efficiency, lower cost of operation or elimination of environmentally damaging coolants. Unfortunately, all the materials which have been tested in the last fifty years suffer from hysteresis losses, lowering the energy available for cooling. But now, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) researchers have found a solution, reported in "Nanomaterial Yields Cool Results." By adding a small amount of iron to a gadolinium-germanium-silicon alloy, they enhanced the cooling capacity by 30 percent. This very significant step may help move the promising technology of magnetically generated refrigeration closer to market."  10:35:05 PM  permalink  

Nanotechnologists' new plastic can see in the dark: "Imagine a home with "smart" walls responsive to the environment in the room, a digital camera sensitive enough to work in the dark, or clothing with the capacity to turn the sun's power into electrical energy. Researchers at the University of Toronto have invented an infrared-sensitive material that could shortly turn these possibilities into realities.  ..

The discovery may also help in the quest for renewable energy sources. Flexible, roller-processed solar cells have the potential to harness the sun's power, but efficiency, flexibility and cost are going to determine how that potential becomes practice, says Josh Wolfe, managing partner and nanotechnology venture capital investor at Lux Capital in Manhattan. Wolfe, who was not part of the research team, says the findings in the paper are significant: "These flexible photovoltaics could harness half of the sun's spectrum not previously accessed."

Professor Peter Peumans of Stanford University, who has reviewed the U of T team's research, also acknowledges the groundbreaking nature of the work. "Our calculations show that, with further improvements in efficiency, combining infrared and visible photovoltaics could allow up to 30 per cent of the sun's radiant energy to be harnessed, compared to six per cent in today's best plastic solar cells."  (Thanks to Roland Piquepaille)

  10:17:19 PM  permalink  


daily link  Sunday, January 09, 2005


Sensicore: Makes small chip sensor for water quality measurement.  Check the "technology demo" button.  Based in Ann Arbor.  10:58:32 AM  permalink  

Virtual Nanotech: Intro to nano modelling tools.  "By running such precise computer models of the chemical and physical properties of materials, researchers can examine tiny constructions more thoroughly than a bench scientist ever could. " Good diagram of the concept of multiscale modelling at the nanostellar site.  10:48:31 AM  permalink  


daily link  Wednesday, November 17, 2004


Nanotechnology-Based Products Have Impact: "According to a May 2004 National Science Foundation report, a survey of manufacturers found 28 percent already were selling nanotechnology products late last year and another 15 percent expected to introduce commercial products within a year. " Many consumer product examples given.  11:10:12 PM  permalink  


daily link  Friday, October 29, 2004


Productive Nanosystems: from molecules to superproducts: Fastastic voyage in a nanofactory.   Animation, 39 MB quicktime.  3:24:48 PM  permalink  


daily link  Friday, October 15, 2004


The Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology - Conference on solar energy and nanotechnology: Being held now [Oct 2004] at Rice University.  List of presenters and their powerpoints worth checking out.  8:27:57 PM  permalink  


daily link  Tuesday, September 28, 2004


Nanocarpets that sense and kill bacteria:  Self-assemling molecules that change color as they kill bacteria on contact.  " 'In these nanotube structures, we have created a material that has the ability to sense their environment. The work is an outgrowth of our interest in developing materials that both sense and decontaminate chemical or biological weapons,' said senior author Alan J. Russell, Ph.D., professor of surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine"  12:13:11 PM  permalink  


daily link  Wednesday, September 15, 2004


Nanotechnology improves superconductors: "University of California scientists working at Los Alamos National Laboratory with a researcher from the University of Cambridge have demonstrated a simple and industrially scaleable method for improving the current densities of superconducting coated conductors in magnetic field environments. The discovery has the potential to increase the already impressive carrying capacity of superconducting wires and tapes by as much as 200 to 500 percent in certain uses, like motors and generators ..

Superconducting wires and tapes carry hundreds of times more electrical current than conventional copper wires with little or no electrical resistance. Superconducting technology is poised to bring substantial energy efficiencies to electrical power transmission systems in the United States. Much of the excitement caused by this discovery is due to the fact that the process can be easily and economically incorporated into commercial processing of the superconductors. ..

Dean Peterson, leader of the STC, said, "This is a significant technical advancement because it means we are now beginning to understand how to control defects in these superconducting materials and use them to our advantage. This was the first time we have been able to control the structural defects and in doing so, better engineer the material's structure to optimize performance." .. Scientists discovered that small, nanoscale defects are required to maintain high current densities in superconductors, particularly in the presence of high magnetic fields. "

  12:38:57 AM  permalink  


daily link  Tuesday, August 17, 2004


Wireless Sensors: How Not to Replace 1000 Batteries: Nice brief review of long-lived power sources for sensors, including

  • printed batteries (e.g., Power Paper);
  • extended shelf-life mini-batteries with a nanomaterial called "nanograss;"
  • a nuclear-powered battery that uses a speck of nickel-63 and a tiny cantilever of piezoelectric material (nickel-63 has a half-life of around 100 years)
  • indoor lighting photovoltaics microbattery
  • "strain energy harvesting" using the stretching of piezoelectric fibers
  10:07:42 PM  permalink  

 
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