Monthly Archives: July 2008

British Library Annual Report and nanotechnology

The 2007/8 annual report from the British Library features a brief story about a nanotechnology company.  (I love the British Library as I find their displays quite wonderful.) Their annual report presents stories in text and video (with some interesting effects). When you get to the home page there’s a an outline of a woman speaking about her experience researching Canadian pioneers in the library preparatory to writing her novel. The nanotechnology story isn’t quite that interesting to me (a gaggle of academics using the library research facilities while they develop their nanotech company does illustrate the range of materials available as does the head lice company story). They’ve found a very engaging way to present material that can be deadly dull. Bravo!

Framing nano and more

There seems to be a lot more discussion about risks and regulation this year than there was last year. I found more on nano governance this morning. The project is called, Framing Nano,  funded by the European Commission, with a mission to foster international dialogue on regulatory frameworks.

On a child friendly note, ‘The World of the Tiny’, an exhibit at the Children’s Museum in Mexico City is all about nano and some of the scientific information in the show was provided by Dupont Mexico. The Nanowerk News article is here.

Following on a Spanish language note, Nanotechnologia Aragon-Cataluna (NanoAracat) has a nano wiki (in English).

Nanowiki is a digital online publication, developed in the frame of NanoAracat, to track the evolution of paradigms and discoveries in the nanoscience and nanotechnology field, annotate and disseminate them, giving an overall view and feed the essential public debate on nanotechnology and its practical applications.

The parent website, NanoAracat, is here and the NanoWiki is here.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) recently posted an article on nanotechnology that looks very similar to the material in an article by Martin Mittelstaedt (definitely behind a paywall as I just checked) that was printed in the Globe and Mail a few weeks ago when the Council of Canadian Academies released their report for the Government of Canada on nanotechnology and possible risks.

Now I’m off to work on my own nano wiki, The Nanotech Mysteries.

India’s investment in nanotechnology and Cientifica’s new report

Apparently, India’s annual expenditure on nanotechnology development is about $7M. (See this news report for more details.) Compared to government expenditure in the US ($1.5B) and in Europe (UK over $300M and France over $300M) it’s a small amount. (Note: The numbers change all the time so think of these ones as a rough guide.) According to the report, more money is being allocated, in the near future, to nanotechnology efforts in India. (The upcoming India-Canada nano meeting in Edmonton has sparked my interest in Indian nanotechnology.)

Cientifica’s new report called The Nantotechnology Opportunity Report (NOR) 2008 (executive summary available for free here) looks funding and various nanotechnology sectors globally. The full report is over 1000 pages. Interestingly, the authors single out India in their executive summery by offering an analysis of what happens to their government funding. Hint: it’s not good news. They admit that the problem exists in Europe too but here’s where they damn all government funding everywhere,

So, when we are looking at government funding, the fact that around a third of projects are managed by total incompetents with project officers in various funding bodies turning a blind eye to avoid having to justify their decisions has to be taken into consideration. Couple that with the fact that much curiosity driven research yields no results and our figure of 90% of academic research cash going down the plughole looks about right.

In the paragraph which directly follows (and the really good part),

Of course from our point of view we want to see an economic effect, but that is not to say the 90% of non-commercial research is wasted, it just adds to the ever swelling body of scientific knowledge which speeds up our future understanding.

Let’s start with the littlest thing,  the ‘sweliing’. Generally speaking and leaving aside any references to sex, this is not something you want to experience. Now, let’s add in the fact that they’ve were talking about money in the previous paragraph and that a “swollen” or “swelling” budget is bad. Intentionally or not, it cancels out what appears to be a faint attempt at fairness but that’s not my biggest problem with this.

Here’s my real problem. They say, 90% of government funded research is wasted (first para) but 90% of the non-commercial research is not wasted (2nd para).  Overall, the thinking here seems a little muzzy. and based on what I’ve seen in the executive summary I have doubts about the rest of their material.

Inside scoop on ICON’s Good Wiki & how to access some Nature Nano

ICON (International Council on Nanotechnology) is calling its safe practices wiki, Good Wiki. Dr. Kristen Kulinowski mentioned it in her presentation for Nanotechnology BC’s breakfast meeting this am. It was a pretty high level presentation covering definitions for nanotechnology,  showing images of different nanostructures, discussing the various nanotechnology sectors (energy, medicine, materials, electronics, defence, etc.), and reviewing some of the material on risks and safety practices.

There weren’t a lot of details about the wiki as they’re still figuring out what they’re going to do. They have an editiorial board and are going to beta the wiki sometime soon with the hope of launching it in Dec. 2008.

For me, an editorial board = hassle and is not wiki-friendly. (Note: I’m not their target market, so it may not be a problem.)  From ICON’s perspective, they need some way to ensure the integrity of the information on the wiki, as per Kulinowski’s response to my question.It isn’t meant to be a formal editorial board as per the peer-reviewed journals but more of an informal vetting process (I don’t know if I can get past my Pavlovian response)  so that they didn’t end up with wackadoo (my term) entries. She also pointed out that there could be legal issues.

They don’t seem to have a plan for how they’re going to get people to contribute and that might not be a problem. If there’s a pent up demand to trade information on nano safety, then ICON has no worries about participation.

When I talked with Kulinowski afterward she did mention that they are looking into content management issues, ontologies, and all that good stuff that users don’t see but need.

There’s some meeting this afternoon with Kulinowsk, Darren Frew and Victor Jones of Nanotech BC, and BC government safety representatives from WorkSafe.  According to Kulinowski, Canada has done a lot of work (I think she said, led the way) on worker safety issues vis a vis nanotechnology.

More info. about that article/commentary on nanotechnology folks learning from past mistakes. From Andrew Maynard (one of the authors):

The full text of the Nature Nano commentary still seems to be accessible without an account here:

http://www.nature.com/nnano/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nnano.2008.198.html

Alternatively, the conclusions are reproduced in full here:

http://community.safenano.org/blogs/andrew_maynard/archive/2008/07/20/late-lessons-from-early-warnings.aspx

Cheers,

Andrew

Thank you and that second url is for Andrew’s blog. Do check it out. I was intrigued a few months ago when he mentioned finding a good article on nanotechnology in Elle magazine.

Nano safety…it’s everywhere

Nature Nanotechnology just published (advance online edition) a commentary titled Nanotechnology: Learning from past mistakes. It’s the first time I’ve seen an article which advises humility as an important factor when developing new sciences and technologies.  The authors Stefan Foss Hansen and Anders Baun of the Technical University in Denmark, Andrew Maynard of the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies, and Joel Tickner at the University of Massachusetts are drawing on an earlier report by the European Environment Agency which examined 14 case studies where early warnings about a new technology were ignored and resulted in some serious health issues.  Foss, et al are comparing nanotechnology’s emergence to these earlier cases and the outcome is mixed ie, there’s some good and there’s some bad. Unfortunately, the full article is behind a paywall. There’s a bit more info. here at Science Daily or here at Phys.org.

Still on the safety train, there’s a study of Swiss consumers which suggests that they accept the idea of nanotechnology applications being used in food packaging. This seems unusual and I haven’t had time to track down the study but there’s a bit more about it here.

Nanotech events 2nd notice

Two events coming up this week and both on Wednesday. The Woodrow Wilson Center’s Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies (PEN) has a webcast scheduled for Weds. July 23, 2008, 9:30 am – 10:30 am Pacific Time (12:30 pm – 1:30 pm ET). David Rejeski and J. Clarence (Terry) Davies, both from PEN, will be discussing a proposed nanotechnology oversight agenda for the new administration to be elected in the US in November. They give this url for the webcast: www.wilsoncenter.org/nano.

At almost the same time, in Vancouver, Canada, Nanotech BC is presenting Dr. Kristen Kulinowski from the International Council on Nanotechnology (ICON). located at Rice University, Texas. She will be talking about their work and most especially about a new safe practices wiki that they are developing in her presentation titled “Creating a Global Community for Nanotechnology Safety.” It’s a breakfast meeting being held at the Listel Hotel, 1300 Robson St. in the Impressionist Gallery from 8 am – 10 am on Weds. July 23, 2008. Preregistration $25 or $30 at the door.  Register here.

IBM $1.5B investment in nano

The amount IBM is investing ($1.5B) is equal to the amount for nanotechnology in the US federal budget which was passed in June (I think, I’ll have to check it). IBM is investing the money in NY state where they’ll be building a research centre and they’ve promised to add 1000 jobs. There’s a brief article here in PC Mag or a more extended article here at newsday.com.

India-Canada Confab in Edmonton

Just got a notice from Nanotech BC that there’s going to be a Canada-India Nanotechnology Bionanotechnology workshop Aug. 10-11, 2008 in Edmonton at the National Institute of Nanotechnology. 10 scientists from India will be there and Nanotech BC is leading a delegation from BC attendees. If you want to collaborate with scientists in India, you can join the BC delegation by contacting:

  • Darren Frew, Executive Director, BC Nanotech Alliance at 604.602.5260 or [email protected]

I can’t find this info. on the Nanotech BC website (which is here if you’re curious) or on the National Institute of Nanotechnoloy website here in their newsroom.

This comes in the wake of a new Canada-India Science and Technology agreement which launched 10 initiatives totalling $17M and was announced in June 2008.  Details here.

Nano on Mars and a nano safety talk in Vancouver

An atomic force microscope (AFM) on something called the Mars Lander (part of the Phoenix Mars mission) demonstrated full functionality on July 8,  2008. The AFM recorded a test grid as part of a calibration process and sent the image back to Earth proving it could function under the harsh conditions found on Mars. The image was 40 microns x 40 microns, “small enough to fit on an eyelash.” For more details, go here.

Nanotech BC is holding a breakfast meeting on July 23, 2008 featuring Dr. Kristen Kulinovsky from the International Council on Nanotechnology (ICON). She will be focusing on their proposed nano safety practices wiki. I don’t know if they have that up and running yet and I’m guessing that she’s going to talk this up in the hope of getting people to participate.

Wednesday July 23, 2008 at the Listel Hotel, 1300 Robston St, 8 am to 10 am,  $25 reserved seat, $30 at the door.  More details and registration here.

Canadian government gets assessment of nanomaterial risks

Council of Canadian Academies? It’s not especially familiar but this group of academics was asked by the Canadian government (Health Canada) to give an assessment of the health risks posed by nanomaterials.  You can find the news release here, the Globe and Mail article here, and the report they released yesterday here.

I have read the news release and the Globe and Mail (G&M) article and they present an interesting contrast. The news release from the Council of Canadian Academies is more neutral than the G&M piece. but maybe the report is more pointed. There were 15 experts on the panel I’ll bet those dynamics got interesting) making the assessment.

Bottom line: nobody knows with any certainty what the dangers, if any, might be. We do need to look into it. Changing the properties of materials at the nanoscale ( manipulating atoms and molecules) gives us entirely new forms of matter.  There are over 600 consumer products in the Project for Emerging Nanotechnologies database (April 2008) and they register three to four new products every week. It’s in toothpaste, skin care, bandaids, etc. There are industrials uses too. I’ll try to find the my data on this stuff but I am working on my Mysteries (nanotech wiki) and may it take me a few days.