Crumpling graphene to create a 3D structure and reflattening it afterwards

The reseaarchers at the University of Illinois College of Engineering are quite excited about a new technique for crumpling graphene as a Feb. 17, 2015 news item on ScienceDaily reports,

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have developed a unique single-step process to achieve three-dimensional (3D) texturing of graphene and graphite. Using a commercially available thermally activated shape-memory polymer substrate, this 3D texturing, or “crumpling,” allows for increased surface area and opens the doors to expanded capabilities for electronics and biomaterials.

“Fundamentally, intrinsic strains on crumpled graphene could allow modulation of electrical and optical properties of graphene,” explained SungWoo Nam, an assistant professor of mechanical science and engineering at Illinois. “We believe that the crumpled graphene surfaces can be used as higher surface area electrodes for battery and supercapacitor applications. As a coating layer, 3D textured/crumpled nano-topographies could allow omniphobic/anti-bacterial surfaces for advanced coating applications.”

A Feb. 16, 2015 University of Illinois College of Engineering news release (also on EurekAlert), which originated the news item, describes the nature of graphene and what makes this technique so exciting,

Graphene—a single atomic layer of sp2-bonded carbon atoms—has been a material of intensive research and interest over recent years.  A combination of exceptional mechanical properties, high carrier mobility, thermal conductivity, and chemical inertness, make graphene a prime candidate material for next generation optoelectronic, electromechanical, and biomedical applications.

“In this study, we developed a novel method for controlled crumpling of graphene and graphite via heat-induced contractile deformation of the underlying substrate,” explained Michael Cai Wang, a graduate student and first author of the paper, “Heterogeneous, Three-Dimensional Texturing of Graphene,” which appeared in the journal Nano Letters. ”While graphene intrinsically exhibits tiny ripples in ambient conditions, we created large and tunable crumpled textures in a tailored and scalable fashion.”

“As a simpler, more scalable, and spatially selective method, this texturing of graphene and graphite exploits the thermally induced transformation of shape-memory thermoplastics, which has been previously applied to microfluidic device fabrication, metallic  film patterning, nanowire assembly, and robotic self-assembly applications,” added Nam, whose group has filed a patent for their novel strategy. “The thermoplastic nature of the polymeric substrate also allows for the crumpled graphene morphology to be arbitrarily re-flattened at the same elevated temperature for the crumpling process.”

“Due to the extremely low cost and ease of processing of our approach, we believe that this will be a new way to manufacture nanoscale topographies for graphene and many other 2D and thin-film materials.”

The researchers are also investigating the textured graphene surfaces for 3D sensor applications.

“Enhanced surface area will allow even more sensitive and intimate interactions with biological systems, leading to high sensitivity devices,” Nam said.

The funding agencies for this project were unexpectedly interesting (to me), from the news release,

Funding for this research was provided through the Air Force Office for Scientific Research, American Chemical Society and Brain Research Foundation. [emphasis mine] In addition to Wang, co-authors from Nam’s research group at Illinois include SungGyu Chun, Ryan Han, Ali Ashraf, and Pilgyu Kang.

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Heterogeneous, Three-Dimensional Texturing of Graphene by Michael Cai Wang, SungGyu Chun, Ryan Steven Han, Ali Ashraf, Pilgyu Kang, and SungWoo Nam. Nano Lett., Article ASAP
DOI: 10.1021/nl504612y Publication Date (Web): February 10, 2015

Copyright © 2015 American Chemical Society

This paper is behind a paywall.

Dexter Johnson has written a Feb. 20, 2015 post highlighting this work on his Nanoclast blog (on the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers [IEEE] website).

LaBiotechMap (a map of European biotechnology companies)

Thanks to Joachim Eeckhout of the LaBiotechMap team for contacting me regarding his and co-founder Philip Hemme’s European  biotechnology company map.

You can find the map here and for those who need an incentive to explore, here’s a bit of information and a few images from the site’s homepage to whet your interest,

It’s Elegant.

We spent time designing the map. And it’s apparent. Benefit from its unique user experience and finally enjoy surfing through Biotech companies.

It’s Focused.

Instead of gathering the universe of Biotech companies, we offer you a pre-selected galaxy. It results in the most coherent European Biotech Database.

It’s Smart.

Weekly updated, to keep you on track. Searchable, to directly reach your target. Sortable, for high precision.
In a word: Smart.

Here’s a screen capture or representation of the map,

LaBiotechMap

Here’s a screen capture or representation of the database search,

LaBiotechDatabase

Here’s more about the project from the FAQ (frequently asked questions) page,

What is our definition of a Biotech company?

Biotech is certainly one of the most difficult technological term to define.

For us, Biotech is not all life sciences, neither beer or cheese manufacturing. The gene editing revolution of the 80s gave birth to the term Biotechnology and is linked to the foundation of Genentech in California. Today, Biotechnology have a significant impact on the World by helping cure, feed and fuel people. Ground-breaking technologies includes for example gene therapy, biofuels, monoclonal antibodies, cell therapy and GMOs.

Which are our selection criteria?

Our selection criteria to enter for free on the map is to have raised or generated over €1M and to be innovative (spending high % of revenues in R&D and owning patents).

Can you help us improving it?

Yes, everybody can participate. You saw a company missing, a wrong information, an old information or something else? You can use our feedback page or send us a mail to contact-at-labiotechmap.com

Can people stop getting bored by surfing through Biotech companies?

We hope so.

Can I share the map if I like it?

We hope so.

They have a company blog on the website which doesn’t include any dates on the posts (sigh) but I believe their mention of launching the final version of the map in Munich (Munchen, Germany) is relatively recent,

Here we go, we launched the final version of LaBiotech Map in Munich in front of 30 CEOs during a brunch organized by the IZB cluster.

Creating a European Biotech Map may sound crazy, but we like challenges. We started working on it in September 2014 and launched a beta version beginning of November. Within 3 months, we received over 100 exciting feedback and more than 2000 people tried it out. …

I wish the founders and their team good luck with visualizing the biotech company scene in Europe.

Final note: this is not the only European map of its kind, there’s also France’s interactive nanotechnology map featured in my Feb. 4, 2013 posting.

Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ (IEEE) Nano 2015 conference call for papers

The institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers is holding its Nano 2015 conference in Rome, Italy from July 27 – 30, 2015. This is the second call for papers (I missed the first call),

We invite you to submit papers, proposals for tutorials, workshops to the International IEEE Conference on Nanotechnology which will be held in Rome, July 27-30, 2015. (See www.ieeenano15.org). The dead-line for abstract submission is 15th March 2015.

This conference is the 15th edition of the flagship annual event of the IEEE Nanotechnology Council. IEEE NANO 2015 will provide an international forum for the exchange of technical information in a wide variety of branches of Nanotechnology and Nanoscience, through feature tutorials, workshops, track sessions and special sessions; plenary and invited talks from the most renowned scientists and engineers; exhibition of software, hardware, equipment, materials, services and literature. With its fantastic setting in the centre of the Eternal City, at a walking distance from Colosseum and from the most exciting locations of ancient Rome, IEEE NANO 2015 will provide a perfect forum for inspiration, interactions and exchange of ideas.

All accepted papers will be published by IEEE Press, included in IEEE Xplore and Indexed by EI. Selected conference papers will be considered for publication on IEEE Transactions on Nanotechnology.

Important Dates

March 15, 2015:       Tutorial/Workshop Proposal
March 15, 2015:        Abstract Submission
April 15, 2015:           Acceptance Notification

May 15, 2015:            Full Paper Submission
June 1, 2015:              End of early Registration

Topics for contributing papers include but are not limited to:

Nanosensors, Actuators
Smart systems
Nanomaterials
Graphene-Based Materials
Nano-energy, Energy Harvesting
Nanobiology, Nanobiotechnology
Nanomedicine
Nanoelectronics
Nano-optoelectronics
MEMS/NEMS
Nano-optics, Nano-photonics
Nano-electromagnetics, NanoEMC
Nanofabrication, Nanoassemblies
Nanopackaging
Nanorobotics, Nanomanipulation
Nanometrology
Nanocharacterization
Nanofluidics
Nanomagnetics
Multiscale Modeling and Simulation

PLENARY SPEAKERS (See www.ieeenano15.org/program/plenary-speakers)
George Bourianoff, Intel (USA)
Michael Grätzel, EPFL (Switzerland)
Roberto Cingolani, IIT (Italy)
Rodney Ruoff, NIST (Korea)
Takao Someya, Tokyo Univ. (Japan)
Theresa Mayer, Pennsylvania State Univ. (USA)
Zhong Lin Wang, Georgia Tech (USA)

Proposed SPECIAL SESSIONS
1) Graphene
2) Nanoelectromagnetics and Nano-EMC
3) Nanometrology and device characterization
4) Nanotechnology for microwave and THz
5) Memristor
Part 1: Resistive switching: from fundamentals to production
Part 2: Memristive nanodevices and nanocircuits
6) Nanophononics
7) Drug Toxicity Mitigation. Nanotechnology-Enabled Strategies
8) Conformable Electronics and E-Skin
9) Organic Neurooptoelectronics

There are more details about the call in this PDF. Good luck!

Heat, evolution, and the shape of gold nanorods

A Feb. 23, 2015 news item on Azonano features gold nanorods and their shapeshifting ways when releasing heat,

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory have revealed previously unobserved behaviors that show how details of the transfer of heat at the nanoscale cause nanoparticles to change shape in ensembles.

The new findings depict three distinct stages of evolution in groups of gold nanorods, from the initial rod shape to the intermediate shape to a sphere-shaped nanoparticle. The research suggests new rules for the behavior of nanorod ensembles, providing insights into how to increase heat transfer efficiency in a nanoscale system.

A Feb. 18, 2015 Argonne National Laboratory news release by Justin H. S. Breaux, which originated the news item, provides more details about the work,

At the nanoscale, individual gold nanorods have unique electronic, thermal and optical properties. Understanding these properties and managing how collections of these elongated nanoparticles absorb and release this energy as heat will drive new research towards next-generation technologies such as water purification systems, battery materials and cancer research.

A good deal is known about how single nanorods behave—but little is known about how nanorods behave in ensembles of millions. Understanding how the individual behavior of each nanorod, including how its orientation and rate of transition differ from those around it, impacts the collective kinetics of the ensemble and is critical to using nanorods in future technologies.

“We started with a lot of questions,” said Argonne physicist Yuelin Li, “like ‘How much power can the particles sustain before losing functionality? How do individual changes at the nanoscale affect the overall functionality? How much heat is released to the surrounding area?’ Each nanorod is continuously undergoing a change in shape when heated beyond melting temperature, which means a change in the surface area and thus a change in its thermal and hydrodynamic properties.”

The researchers used a laser to heat the nanoparticles and X-rays to analyze their changing shapes. Generally, nanorods transition into nanospheres more quickly when supplied with a higher intensity of laser power. In this case, completely different ensemble behaviors were observed when this intensity increased incrementally. The intensity of the heat applied changes not only the nanoparticles’ shape at various rates but also affects their ability to efficiently absorb and release heat.

“For us, the key was to understand just how efficient the nanorods were at transferring light into heat in many different scenarios,” said nanoscientist Subramanian Sankaranarayanan of Argonne’s Center for Nanoscale Materials. “Then we had to determine the physics behind how heat was transferred and all the different ways these nanorods could transition into nanospheres.”

To observe how the rod makes this transition, researchers first shine a laser pulse at the nanorod suspended in a water solution at Argonne’s Advanced Photon Source. The laser lasts for less than a hundred femtoseconds, nearly one trillion times faster than a blink of the eye. What follows is a series of focused and rapid X-ray bursts using a technique called small angle X-ray scattering. The resulting data is used to determine the average shape of the particle as it changes over time.

In this way, scientists can reconstruct the minute changes occurring in the shape of the nanorod. However, to understand the physics underlying this phenomenon, the researchers needed to look deeper at how individual atoms vibrate and move during the transition. For this, they turned to the field of molecular dynamics using the supercomputing power of the 10-petaflop Mira supercomputer at the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility.

Mira used mathematical equations to pinpoint the individual movements of nearly two million of the nanorods’ atoms in the water. Using factors such as the shape, temperature and rate of change, the researchers built simulations of the nanorod in many different scenarios to see how the structure changes over time.

“In the end,” said Sankaranarayanan, “we discovered the heat transfer rates for shorter but wider nanospheres are lower than for their rod-shaped predecessors. This decrease in heat transfer efficiency at the nanoscale plays a key role in accelerating the transition from rod to sphere when heated beyond the melting temperature.”

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Femtosecond Laser Pulse Driven Melting in Gold Nanorod Aqueous Colloidal Suspension: Identification of a Transition from Stretched to Exponential Kinetics by Yuelin Li, Zhang Jiang, Xiao-Min Lin, Haidan Wen, Donald A. Walko, Sanket A. Deshmukh, Ram Subbaraman, Subramanian K. R. S. Sankaranarayanan, Stephen K. Gray, & Phay Ho. Scientific Reports 5, Article number: 8146 doi:10.1038/srep08146 Published 30 January 2015

This article is open access.

Water report from the UN (United Nations)

This is outside my usual range of topics but given water’s importance in our survival I am inclined to feature this new UN (United Nations) report on water. From a Feb. 22, 2015 UN University (UNU) Institute for Water, Environment and Health (INWEH) news release on EurekAlert,

A new UN report warns that without large new water-related investments many societies worldwide will soon confront rising desperation and conflicts over life’s most essential resource.

The news release describes the situation,

Continued stalling, coupled with population growth, economic instability, disrupted climate patterns and other variables, could reverse hard-earned development gains and preclude meaningful levels of development that can be sustained into the future.

Says lead author Bob Sandford, EPCOR Chair, Canadian Partnership Initiative in support of the UN Water for Life Decade: “The consequence of unmet water goals will be widespread insecurity creating more international tension and conflict. The positive message is that if we can keep moving now on water-related Sustainable Development Goals we can still have the future we want.”

Published in the run-up to the adoption this September of universal post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the report provides an in-depth analysis of 10 countries to show how achieving water and sanitation-related SDGs offers a rapid, cost effective way to achieve sustainable development.

The 10 countries given the analysis are not the ‘usual suspects’ (from the news release),

The countries included in the study cover the full range of economic and development spectrum: Bangladesh, Bolivia, Canada, Indonesia, Republic of Korea, Pakistan, Singapore, Uganda, Vietnam, and Zambia.

Based on the national case studies, the report prescribes country level steps for achieving the global water targets.

No US. No China. No Middle Eastern countries. No Australia. No India. No Japan. No European countries. There is one North American country, two African countries and one South American country in addition to the Asian countries. To my knowledge none of the included countries is strongly associated with desert regions.

It’s an interesting set of choices and the report offers no explanation as to why these 10 countries rather than 10 others. You can check if for yourself on p. 29 (the introductory first page of Part Three: Learning from National Priorities and Strategies) of the 2015 Water in the World We Want report.

Water scarcity hurts everybody

Moving on to the report’s recommendations as noted in the news release,

Among top recommendations: Hold the agriculture sector (which guzzles roughly 70% of world water supplies), and the energy sector (15%), accountable for making efficiencies while transitioning to clean energy including hydropower.

Prepared in association with the Global Water Partnership and Canada’s McMaster University, the report says the success of global efforts on the scale required rests in large part on a crackdown on widespread corruption in the water sector, particularly in developing countries.

“In many places … corruption is resulting in the hemorrhaging of precious financial resources,” siphoning an estimated 30% of funds earmarked for water and sanitation-related improvements.

The report underscores the need for clearly defined anti-corruption protocols enforced with harsh penalties.

Given accelerating Earth system changes and the growing threat of hydro-climatic disruption, corruption undermining water-related improvements threatens the stability and very existence of some nation states, which in turn affects all other countries, the report says.

“Corruption at any level is not just a criminal act in its own right. In the context of sustainable development it could be viewed as a crime against all of humanity.”

The report notes that the world’s water and wastewater infrastructure maintenance and replacement deficit is building at a rate of $200 million per year, with $1 trillion now required in the USA alone.

To finance its recommendations, the report says that, in addition to plugging the leakage of funds to corruption, $1.9 trillion in subsidies to petroleum, coal and gas industries should be redirected by degrees.

The estimated global cost to achieve post-2015 sustainable development goals in water and sanitation development, maintenance and replacement is US $1.25 trillion to $2.25 trillion per year for 20 years, a doubling or tripling of current spending translating into 1.8 to 2.5 percent of global GDP.

The resulting benefits would be commensurately large, however – a minimum of $3.11 trillion per year, not counting health care savings and valuable ecosystem service enhancements.

Changes in fundamental hydrology “likely to cause new kinds of conflict”

Sandford and co-lead author Corinne J. Schuster-Wallace of UNU-INWEH underline that all current water management challenges will be compounded one way or another by climate change, and by increasingly unpredictable weather.

“Historical predictability, known as relative hydrological stationarity … provides the certainty needed to build houses to withstand winds of a certain speed, snow of a certain weight, and rainfalls of certain intensity and duration, when to plant crops, and to what size to build storm sewers. The consequence is that the management of water in all its forms in the future will involve a great deal more uncertainty than it has in the past.”

“In a more or less stable hydro-climatic regime you are playing poker with a deck you know and can bet on risk accordingly. The loss of stationarity is playing poker with a deck in which new cards you have never seen before keep appearing more and more often, ultimately disrupting your hand to such an extent that the game no longer has coherence or meaning.”

“People do not have the luxury of living without water and when faced with a life or death decision, people tend to do whatever they must to survive … Changes in fundamental hydrology are likely to cause new kinds of conflict, and it can be expected that both water scarcity and flooding will become major trans-boundary water issues.”

Within 10 years, researchers predict 48 countries – 25% of all nations on Earth with an expected combined population of 2.9 billion – will be classified “water-scarce” (1,000 to 1,700 cubic meters of water per capita per year) or “water-stressed” (1,000 cubic meters or less). [emphases mine]

And by 2030, expect overall global demand for freshwater to exceed supply by 40%, with the most acute problems in warmer, low-resource nations with young, fast-growing populations, according to the report. [emphasis mine]

An estimated 25% of the world’s major river basins run dry for part of each year, the report notes, and “new conflicts are likely to emerge as more of the world’s rivers become further heavily abstracted so that they no longer make it to the sea.”

Meanwhile, the magnitude of floods in Pakistan and Australia in 2010, and on the Great Plains of North America in 2011 and 2014, “suggests that the destruction of upstream flood protection and the failure to provide adequate downstream flood warning will enter into global conflict formulae in the future.”

The report cites the rising cost of world flood-related damages: US$53 billion in 2013 and more than US$312 billion since 2004.

Included in the global flood figures: roughly $1 billion in flood damage in the Canadian province of Manitoba in both 2011 and 2014. The disasters have affected the province’s economic and political stability, contributing to a budget deficit, an unpopular increase in the provincial sales tax and to the consequent resignation of political leaders. [emphases mine]

UNU-INWEH Director Zafar Adeel and Jong Soo Yoon, Head of the UN Office for Sustainable Development, state: “Through a series of country case studies, expert opinion, and evidence synthesis, the report explores the critical role that water plays (including sanitation and wastewater management) in sustainable development; current disconnects between some national development plans and the proposed SDGs; opportunities for achieving sustainable development through careful water management; and implementation opportunities.”

The report, they add, “fills a critical gap in understanding the complexities associated with water resources and their management, and also provides substantive options that enable us to move forward within the global dialogue.”

Juxtaposing the situation in Manitoba with the situation in warmer, low-resource nations emphasizes the universality of the problem. Canadians can be complacent about water scarcity, especially where I live in the Pacific Northwest, but it affects us all.

Corruption bites everywhere

As for the corruption mentioned in the news release and report, while there is no news of ‘water’ corruption here, the country does have its own track record with regard to financial boondoggles. For example, the Auditor-General reported in 2013 that $3.1B spent on measures to combat terrorism was unaccounted for (from an April 30, 2013 Globe & Mail article by Gloria Galloway and Daniel Leblanc),

The federal government cannot account for billions of dollars that were devoted to combatting terrorism after the Sept. 11 [2001] attacks, Canada’s Auditor-General says in a new report.

Between 2001 and 2009, Ottawa awarded $12.9-billion to 35 departments and agencies charged with ensuring the safety of Canadians to use for public security and fighting terrorism. The money allocated through the Public Security and Anti-Terrorism Initiative was intended to pay for measures designed to keep terrorists out of Canada, to prosecute those found in the country, to support international initiatives, and to protect infrastructure.

But Auditor-General Michael Ferguson said only $9.8-billion of that money was identified in reports to the Treasury Board as having been spent specifically on anti-terrorism measures by the departments and agencies. The rest was not recorded as being used for that purpose. Some was moved to other priorities, and some lapsed without being spent, but the government has no full breakdown for the $3.1-billion.

The time period 2001 – 2009 implicates both Liberal and Conservative governments, the Conservatives having come to power in 2006.

About Bob Sandford and EPCOR

One final note, the report’s co-lead author, Bob Sandford, is described as the chair for EPCOR Canadian Partnership Initiative in support of the UN Water for Life Decade, It’s a rather interesting title in that Sandford is not on the EPCOR board. Here’s how EPCOR describes Sandford on the company’s webpage dedicated to him and dated March 13, 2013,

Robert Sandford is the EPCOR Chair in support of the United Nations “Water for Life” Decade of Action initiative in Canada. We support his efforts as he speaks in plain language to policy makers, explaining how his work links research and analysis to public policy ideas that help protect water supplies and reduce water consumption.

We’re proud to sponsor his leadership efforts to educate Canadians and help local and international governments become better stewards of a most precious resource. Supporting Robert is just one of the ways EPCOR works to protect water in our communities.

The company which is owned solely by the city of Edmonton (Alberta) was originally named Edmonton Electric Lighting and Power Company in 1891. As they say on the company’s About page, “We provide electricity and water services to customers in Canada and the US.” They also develop some nice public relations strategies. I’m referring, of course, to the Sandford sponsorship which can be better appreciated by going to Sandford’s, from the homepage,

Bob Sandford is the EPCOR Chair of the Canadian Partnership Initiative in support of United Nations “Water for Life” Decade. This national partnership initiative aims to inform the public on water issues and translate scientific research outcomes into language decision-makers can use to craft timely and meaningful public policy.

Bob is also the Director of the Western Watersheds Research Collaborative and an associate of the Centre for Hydrology which is part of the Global Water Institute at the University of Saskatchewan. Bob is also a Fellow of the Biogeoscience Institute at the University of Calgary. He sits on the Advisory Board of Living Lakes Canada, the Canadian Chapter of Living Lakes International and is also a member of the Forum for Leadership on Water (FLOW), a national water policy research group centred in Toronto. Bob also serves as Water Governance Adviser and Senior Policy Author for Simon Fraser University’s Adaptation to Climate Change Team. In 2011, Bob was invited to be an advisor on water issues by the Interaction Council, a global public policy forum composed of more than thirty former Heads of State including Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, U.S. President Bill Clinton, and the former Prime Minister of Norway, Gro Brundtland. In this capacity Bob works to bring broad international example to bear on Canadian water issues. In 2013, Alberta Ventures magazine recognized Bob as one of the year’s 50 most influential Albertans.

I guess Mr. Sandford knows his water.

Sensing smoke with nanoscale sensors

A Feb. 17, 2015 news item on Nanowerk notes that current smoke sensors are ultra-violet light detectors in the context of research about developing better ones,

Researchers at the University of Surrey’s [UK] Advanced Technology Institute manipulated zinc oxide, producing nanowires from this readily available material to create a ultra-violet light detector which is 10,000 times more sensitive to UV light than a traditional zinc oxide detector.

A Feb. 17, 2015 University of Surrey press release (also on EurekAlert), which originated the news item, provides more detail about the work and the theory (Note: Links have been removed),

Currently, photoelectric smoke sensors detect larger smoke particles found in dense smoke, but are not as sensitive to small particles of smoke from rapidly burning fires.

Researchers believe that this new material could increase sensitivity and allow the sensor to detect distinct particles emitted at the early stages of fires, paving the way for specialist sensors that can be deployed in a number of applications.

“UV light detectors made from zinc oxide have been used widely for some time but we have taken the material a step further to massively increase its performance,” said Professor Ravi Silva, co-author of the study and head of the Advanced Technology Institute. “Essentially, we transformed zinc oxide from a flat film to a structure with bristle-like nanowires, increasing surface area and therefore increasing sensitivity and reaction speed.”

The team predict that the applications for this material could be far-reaching. From fire and gas detection to air pollution monitoring, they believe the sensor could also be incorporated into personal electronic devices – such as phones and tablets – to increase speed, with a response time 1,000 times faster than traditional zinc oxide detectors.

“This is a great example of a bespoke, designer nanomaterial that is adaptable to personal needs, yet still affordable. Due to the way in which this material is manufactured, it is ideally suited for use in future flexible electronics – a hugely exciting area,” added Professor Silva.

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

On-chip Fabrication of High Performance Nanostructured ZnO UV Detectors by Mohammad R. Alenezi, Simon J. Henley, & S. R. P. Silva. Scientific Reports 5, Article number: 8516 doi:10.1038/srep08516 Published 17 February 2015

This paper is open access.

Aptamers and theranostics (theragnostics)

A popular concept in some circles, theranostics (sometimes called theragnostics) is a conflation of the words ‘therapeutics’ and ‘diagnostics’. A Feb. 17, 2015 news item on Nanowerk features the use of aptamers as theranostic agents,

Aptamers are composed of short RNA or single-stranded DNA sequences that, when folded into their unique 3D conformation, can bind to their targets with high specifi city and affinity. Although functionally similar to protein antibodies, oligonucleotide aptamers offer several advantages over protein antibodies in biomedical and clinical applications.

Through the enhanced permeability and retention effect, nanomedicines can improve the therapeutic index of a treatment and reduce side effects by enhancing accumulation at the disease site. However, this targets tumors passively and, thus, may not be ideal for targeted therapy.

To construct ligand-directed “active targeting” nanobased delivery systems, aptamer-equipped nanomedicines have been tested for in vitro diagnosis, in vivo imaging, targeted cancer therapy, theranostic approaches, sub-cellular molecule detection, food safety, and environmental monitoring.

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Aptamers and Their Applications in Nanomedicine by Hongguang Sun and Youli Zu. Small DOI: 10.1002/smll.201403073 Article first published online: 11 FEB 2015

© 2015 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim

This paper is behind a paywall.

Here’s an illustration of the theranostic concept,

© Wiley

© Wiley

I have a bit more about aptamers in an Oct. 25, 2011 post featuring an interview with professor Maria DeRosa at the University of Ottawa.

Lomiko Metals, Graphene ESD, and supercapacitors

My hats off to Lomiko Metals for its publicity efforts. The company cranks out at least three news releases per month and that’s a lot of work for a small company. The Feb. 23, 2015 news release (also a Feb. 24, 2015 news item on Azonano) announces a newish research relationship and a new position for Lomiko Metal’s Chief Esecutive Officer (CEO), A. Paul Gill,

Lomiko Metals Inc. is pleased to announce Graphene Energy Storage Devices Corp. has signed a research agreement with the Research Foundation of Stony Brook University (SBU). Graphene ESD Corp. will partner with the SBU Center for Advanced Sensor Technologies (Sensor CAT) to develop new supercapacitors designs for energy storage. Lomiko Metals Inc. currently owns a 40% stake in Graphene ESD and Mr. A. Paul Gill, CEO of Lomiko, is now appointed a Director of Graphene ESD.

“This agreement is a significant step in expanding collaboration between industry and academia in the furtherance of our Center’s mission to create high-tech jobs in New York,” stated Peter Shkolnikov, Deputy Director of the Sensor CAT. “Energy storage is a rapidly growing field, with SBU is on the forefront of electrochemical energy storage research”.
Initially, Graphene ESD Corp. will provide $50,000 in cash funding to the SUNY Research Foundation which will host research at its Sensor CAT facilities on SBU campus in Stony Brook, NY.

I last mentioned Graphene ESD (Graphene Energy Storage Devices) in a Dec. 5, 2014 posting  when Lomiko announced it was investing in the venture.

As for Lomiko’s publicity efforts, there’s this intriguing Feb. 1, 2015 news release (Note: Links have been removed),

European Union 5 Billion Euro Graphene Research Fund Goliath Moves to Commercialization Efforts While Lomiko Efforts Start to Bear Fruit

Lomiko (“Lomiko”) (TSX-V:LMR, OTC:LMRMF, FSE:DH8B) is raising the alarm regarding Canada’s lacklustre efforts to capitalize on new manufacturing and nanotechnology opportunities while concentrating on the oil industry.

“In twenty years the effect of graphene and 3D printing on society will be amazing, very much like the impact of plastics in the sixties and computers in the eighties. I hope that Canadian finance and government institutions recognize the opportunity for Canada to establish a competitive advantage,” stated A. Paul Gill, CEO. “The EU has put 5 Billion euros into graphene research while most Canadians don’t even know about this Nobel-prize winning material.”

Mr. Gill was recently interview by Business Television regarding Lomiko’s efforts in the field. View the 90 second video clip by clicking here.

Lomiko has been working for two years on graphene commercialization efforts. Partnered with Graphene Labs, Lomiko has launched two ventures in the graphene field. On January 5, 2015 Lomiko announced a summary of its activity in 2014 and 2015 plans to spin-off two new technology companies after the successful launch of Graphene 3D Lab, a company foc used on developing 3D Printing hardware and materials. Lomiko continues to hold 4,396,916 shares or 10.43% of Graphene 3D Lab, 40% of newly formed Graphene Energy Storage Devices (Graphene ESD) and 100% of Lomiko Technologies Inc.

While mention of the European Union’s Graphene Flagship (funding of 1B Euros over 10 years) in contrast with the Canadian scene’s lack of major initiatives in this area seems unexceptionable, it’s a bit unusual to make so much fuss of a funding entity with which you have no relationship (from the Feb. 1, 2015 news release; Note: Links have been removed),

EU FUND – Graphene Flagship

The Graphene Flagship’s overriding goal is to take graphene, related layered materials and hybrid systems from a state of raw potential to a point where they can revolutionize multiple industries. This may bring a new dimension to future technology and put Europe at the heart of the process, with a manifold return on the investment as technological innovation, economic exploitation and societal benefits.

This requires the focus of the Flagship to evolve over the years, placing more resources in areas where this transition is more likely. To accomplish this the Graphene Flagship is looking for new industrial partners that bring in specific industrial and technology transfer competences or capabilities that complement the present consortium. Regarding what nations are eligible to apply, the European Commission (EC) rules are found here.

The selected new partners will be incorporated in the scientific and technological work packages of the core project under the Horizon 2020 phase of the Flagship that is presently being planned and that will run during 1 April 2016 – 31 March 2018.

While Gill’s point is well taken, lately there seems to be more action than usual on the Canadian graphene scene.

Investment in graphene (Grafoid), the Canadian government, and a 2015 federal election (Feb. 23, 2015)

NanoXplore: graphene and graphite in Québec (Canada) (Feb. 20, 2015)

For anyone who’d like to peruse Lomiko Metals’ news releases, go here.

Gender gaps in science and how statistics prove and disprove the finding

A Feb. 17, 2015 Northwestern University news release by Hilary Hurd Anyaso (also on EurekAlert) features research suggesting that parity in the numbers of men and women students pursuing science degrees is being achieved,

Scholars from diverse fields have long proposed that interlocking factors such as cognitive abilities, discrimination and interests may cause more women than men to leave the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) pipeline after entering college.

Now a new Northwestern University analysis has poked holes in the much referenced “leaky pipeline” metaphor.

The research shows that the bachelor’s-to-Ph.D. pipeline in science and engineering fields no longer leaks more women than men as it did in the past

Curt Rice, a professor at Norway’s University of Tromsø, has challenged the findings in a Feb. 18, 2015 post on his eponymous website (more about that later).

The news release goes on to describe how the research was conducted and the conclusions researchers drew from the data,

The researchers used data from two large nationally representative research samples to reconstruct a 30-year portrait of how bachelor’s-to-Ph.D. persistence rates for men and women have changed in the United States since the 1970s. For this study, the term STEM persistence rate refers to the proportion of students who earned a Ph.D. in a particular STEM field (e.g. engineering) among students who had earlier received bachelor’s degrees in that same field.

They were particularly surprised that the gender persistence gap completely closed in pSTEM fields (physical science, technology, engineering and mathematics) — the fields in which women are most underrepresented.

Among students earning pSTEM bachelor’s degrees in the 1970s, men were 1.6 to 1.7 times as likely as women to later earn a pSTEM Ph.D. However, this gap completely closed by the 1990s.

Men still outnumber women by approximately three to one among pSTEM Ph.D. earners. But those differences in representation are not explained by differences in persistence from the bachelor’s to Ph.D. degree, said David Miller, an advanced doctoral student in psychology at Northwestern and lead author of the study.

“Our analysis shows that women are overcoming any potential gender biases that may exist in graduate school or undergraduate mentoring about pursing graduate school,” Miller said. “In fact, the percentage of women among pSTEM degree earners is now higher at the Ph.D. level than at the bachelor’s, 27 percent versus 25 percent.”

Jonathan Wai, a Duke University Talent Identification Program research scientist and co-author of the study, said a narrowing of gender gaps makes sense given increased efforts to promote gender diversity in science and engineering.

“But a complete closing of the gap was unexpected, especially given recent evidence of gender bias in science mentoring,” Wai said.

Consequently, the widely used leaky pipeline metaphor is a dated description of gender differences in postsecondary STEM education, Wai added.

Other research shows that gaps in persistence rates are also small to nonexistent past the Ph.D., Miller said.

“For instance, in physical science and engineering fields, male and female Ph.D. holders are equally likely to earn assistant professorships and academic tenure,” Miller said.

The leaky pipeline metaphor is inaccurate for nearly all postsecondary pathways in STEM, Miller said, with two important exceptions.

“The Ph.D.-to-assistant-professor pipeline leaks more women than men in life science and economics,” he said. “Differences in those fields are large and important.”

The implications of the research, Miller said, are important in guiding research, resources and strategies to explain and change gender imbalances in science.

“The leaking pipeline metaphor could potentially direct thought and resources away from other strategies that could more potently increase women’s representation in STEM,” he said.

For instance, plugging leaks in the pipeline from the beginning of college to the bachelor’s degree would fail to substantially increase women’s representation among U.S. undergraduates in the pSTEM fields, Miller said.

Of concern, women’s representation among pSTEM bachelor’s degrees has been decreasing during the past decade, Miller noted. “Our analyses indicate that women’s representation at the Ph.D. level is starting to follow suit by declining for the first time in over 40 years,” he said.

“This recent decline at the Ph.D. level could likely mean that women’s progress at the assistant professor level might also slow down or reverse in future years, so these trends will need to be watched closely,” Wai said.

While the researchers are encouraged that gender gaps in doctoral persistence have closed, they stressed that accurately assessing and changing gender biases in science should remain an important goal for educators and policy makers.

Before moving on to Rice’s comments, here’s a link to and citation for the paper,

The bachelor’s to Ph.D. STEM pipeline no longer leaks more women than men: a 30-year analysis by David I. Miller and Jonathan Wai. Front. Psychol., 17 February 2015, doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00037

This paper is open access (at least for now).

Maybe the situation isn’t improving after all

Curt Rice’s response titled, The incontinent pipeline: it’s not just women leaving higher education, suggests this latest research has unmasked a problem (Note: Links have been removed),

Freshly published research gives a more nuanced picture. The traditional recitation of percentages at various points along the pipeline provides a snapshot. The new research is more like a time-lapse film.

Unfortunately, the new study doesn’t actually show a pipeline being tightened up to leak less. Instead, it shows a pipeline that is leaking even more! The convergence in persistence rates for men and women is not a result of an increase in the rate of women taking a PhD; it’s the result of a decline in the rate of men doing so. It’s as though the holes have gotten bigger — they used to be so small that only women slipped through, but now men slide out, too.

Rice believes  that this improvement is ‘relative improvement’ i.e. the improvement exists in relation to declining numbers of men, a statistic that Rice gives more weight to than the Northwestern researchers appear to have done. ‘Absolute improvement’ would mean that numbers of women studying in the field had improved while men’s numbers had held steady or improved for them too.

To be fair, the authors of the paper seem to have taken at least some of this decline in men’s numbers into account (from the research paper),,

Reasons for the convergences in persistence rates remain unclear. Sometimes the convergence was driven by declines in men’s rates (e.g., in mathematics/computer science), increases in women’s rates (e.g., in physical science), or both (e.g., in engineering). help account for the changes in persistence rates. …

Overenthusiasm in the news release

Unfortunately, the headline and bullet list of highlights suggest a more ebullient research conclusion than seems warranted by the actual research results.

Think again about gender gap in science
Bachelor’s-to-Ph.D. pipeline in science, engineering no longer ‘leaks’ more women than men, new 30-year analysis finds

Research shows dated ‘leaky pipeline’ assumptions about gender imbalances in science

  • Men outnumber women as Ph.D. earners in science but no longer in doctoral persistence
  • Dramatic increase of women in science at Ph.D., assistant professorship levels since 1970s, but recent decline since 2010 may be of concern for future supply of female scientists
  • Assessing inaccurate assumptions key to correcting gender biases in science

Here’s the researchers’ conclusion,

Overall, these results and supporting literature point to the need to understand gender differences at the bachelor’s level and below to understand women’s representation in STEM at the Ph.D. level and above. Women’s representation in computer science, engineering, and physical science (pSTEM) fields has been decreasing at the bachelor’s level during the past decade. Our analyses indicate that women’s representation at the Ph.D. level is starting to follow suit by declining for the first time in over 40 years (Figure 2). This recent decline may also cause women’s gains at the assistant professor level and beyond to also slow down or reverse in the next few years. Fortunately, however, pathways for entering STEM are considerably diverse at the bachelor’s level and below. For instance, our prior research indicates that undergraduates who join STEM from a non-STEM field can substantially help the U.S. meet needs for more well-trained STEM graduates (Miller et al., under review). Addressing gender differences at the bachelor’s level could have potent effects at the Ph.D. level, especially now that women and men are equally likely to later earn STEM Ph.D.’s after the bachelor’s.

The conclusion seems to contradict the researchers’ statements in the news release,

“But a complete closing of the gap was unexpected, especially given recent evidence of gender bias in science mentoring,” Wai said.

Consequently, the widely used leaky pipeline metaphor is a dated description of gender differences in postsecondary STEM education, Wai added.

Other research shows that gaps in persistence rates are also small to nonexistent past the Ph.D., Miller said.

Incomplete pipeline

Getting back to Rice, he notes the pipeline in the Northwestern paper is incomplete (Note: Links have been removed),

In addition to the dubious celebration of the decline of persistence rates of men, the new research article also looks at an incomplete pipeline. In particular, it leaves aside the important issue of which PhD institutions students get into. For young researchers moving towards academic careers, we know that a few high-prestige universities are responsible for training future faculty members at nearly all other research universities. Are women and men getting into those high prestige universities in the same numbers? Or do women go to lower prestige institutions?

Following on that thought about lower prestige institutions and their impact on your career, there’s a Feb. 23, 2015 article by Joel Warner and Aaron Clauset in Slate investigating the situation, which applies to both men and women,

The United States prides itself on offering broad access to higher education, and thanks to merit-based admissions, ample financial aid, and emphasis on diverse student bodies, our country can claim some success in realizing this ideal.

The situation for aspiring professors is far grimmer. Aaron Clauset, a co-author of this article, is the lead author of a new study published in Science Advances that scrutinized more than 16,000 faculty members in the fields of business, computer science, and history at 242 schools. He and his colleagues found, as the paper puts it, a “steeply hierarchical structure that reflects profound social inequality.” The data revealed that just a quarter of all universities account for 71 to 86 percent of all tenure-track faculty in the U.S. and Canada in these three fields. Just 18 elite universities produce half of all computer science professors, 16 schools produce half of all business professors, and eight schools account for half of all history professors.

Then, Warner and Clauset said this about gender bias,

Here’s further evidence that the current system isn’t merely sorting the best of the best from the merely good. Female graduates of elite institutions tend to slip 15 percent further down the academic hierarchy than do men from the same institutions, evidence of gender bias to go along with the bias toward the top schools.

I suggest reading the Slate article, Rice’s post, and, if you have time, the Northwestern University research paper.

Coda: All about Curt Rice

Finally, this is for anyone who’s unfamiliar with Curt Rice (from the About page on his website; Note: Links have been removed),

In addition to my work as a professor at the University of Tromsø, I have three other roles that are closely related to the content on this website. I was elected by the permanent faculty to sit on the university board, I lead Norway’s Committee on Gender Balance and Diversity in Research, and I am the head of the Board for Current Research Information System in Norway (CRIStin). In all of these roles, I work to pursue my conviction that research and education are essential to improving society, and that making universities better therefore has the potential to make societies better.

I’m currently writing a book on gender balance. Why do men and women have different career paths? Why should we care? How can we start to make things better? Why is improving gender balance not only the right thing to do, but also the smart thing to do? For a taste of my approach, grab a copy of my free ebook on gender equality.

Beyond this book project, I use my speaking and writing engagements to reach audiences on the topics that excite me the most: gender balance, open access, leadership issues and more. These interests have grown during the past decade while I’ve had the privilege to occupy what were then two brand new leadership positions at the University of Tromsø.

From 2009–2013, I served as the elected Vice Rector for Research & Development (prorektor for forskning og utvikling). Before that, from 2002–2008, I was the founding director of my university’s first Norwegian Center of Excellence, the Center for Advanced Study in Theoretical Linguistics (CASTL). Given the luxury of being able to define those positions, I was able to pursue my passion for improving academic life by working to enhance conditions for education and research.

I’m part of the European Science Foundation’s genderSTE COST action (Gender, Science, Technology and Environment); I helped create the BALANSE program at the Research Council of Norway, which is designed to increase the numbers of women at the highest levels of research organizations. I am on the Advisory Board of the European Commission project EGERA (Effective Gender Equality in Research and Academia); I was on the Science Leaders Panel of the genSET project, in which we advised the European Commission about gender in science; I am a member of the Steering Committee for the Gender Summits.

I also led a national task force on research-based education that issued many suggestions for Norwegian institutions.