Monthly Archives: January 2012

Signal danger with smart paint

I was expecting to see the Fraunhofer Institute mentioned (as I’ve covered more than one of their announcements about smart coatings) but it turns out that this smart nanotechnology-enabled paint is being developed by a research team at the University of Strathclyde (Scotland).

From the Jan. 30, 2012 news item on Nanowerk,

An innovative low-cost smart paint that can detect microscopic faults in wind turbines, mines and bridges before structural damage occurs is being developed by researchers at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland. [emphasis mine]

The environmentally-friendly paint uses nanotechnology to detect movement in large structures, and could shape the future of safety monitoring.

Dr Mohamed Saafi, of the University’s Department of Civil Engineering, said: “The development of this smart paint technology could have far-reaching implications for the way we monitor the safety of large structures all over the world.

There are no limitations as to where it could be used and the low-cost nature gives it a significant advantage over the current options available in the industry. The process of producing and applying the paint also gives it an advantage as no expertise is required and monitoring itself is straightforward.”

The paint the researchers have been testing is made with fly ash, a recycled waste product, and carbon nanotubes. Mixed together, the ingredients yield a paint with properties similar to cement.

Sam Shead in his Jan. 30, 2012 article for The Engineer explores some of the technical aspects with David McGahon, the researcher who initiated the project as part of his PhD work. One of the aspects making this smart paint possible is that the carbon nanotubes in it can carry an electrical current and changes in the state of a structure can be detected should the carbon nanotubes on the structure bend and affect the electrical current. Excerpted from the article,

… bending is detected by electrodes incorporated within the structure and therefore any significant change in the flow of electrical current can be interpreted as a sign of a structural defect.

… wireless communication nodes [in the structures] will be powered in part by a battery but are also expected to rely on energy-harvesting methods where possible.

‘If you’re in a tunnel, you can use the vibrations of cars or trains going past to harvest power. If you’re on a bridge, you could maybe use a solar panel,’ said McGahon. ‘The idea is to make it more sustainable so you’re not running out to your bridge or structure to change the battery all the time.’

If you want to get more technical understanding of the work, I highly recommend Shead’s article.

The news item on Nanowerk offers some more ‘big picture’ details,

“Wind turbine foundations are currently being monitored through visual inspections. The developed paint with the wireless monitoring system would significantly reduce the maintenance costs and improve the safety of these large structures.

“Current technology is restricted to looking at specific areas of a structure at any given time, however, smart paint covers the whole structure which is particularly useful to maximise the opportunity of preventing significant damage.”

The research has been carried out at Strathclyde with Dr Saafi working alongside David McGahon, who initiated the work as part of his PhD project. With fly ash being the main material used to make the paint, it costs just one percent of the alternative widely used inspection methods. [emphasis mine]

A prototype has been developed and tests have shown the paint to be highly effective. It is hoped further tests will be carried out in Glasgow in the near future.

Dr Saafi added: “We are able to carry out the end-to-end process at the University and we are hoping that we can now demonstrate its effectiveness on a large structure.

If you’re at all curious as to what this smart paint looks like here’s an image of David McGahon with a wireless device and the paint (from the University of Strathclyde’s Jan. 30, 2012 news release),

David McGahon with wireless device and smart paint. Courtesy of the University of Strathclyde.

Very exciting stuff!

Three sciencetype jobs: two in Canada and one in Australia

The Situating Science Cluster (an academic project connecting social scientists and humanists focused on the study of science and technology mentioned in my Aug. 16, 2011 posting) has a couple of announcements for postdoctoral positions.

The first science job is at the University of Saskatchewan,

Post-doctoral Fellowship in the Philosophy and History of Science and Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan

The Departments of Philosophy and History at the University of Saskatchewan invite candidates for a one-year (renewable for a second year) post-doctoral fellowship. This award is associated with the SSHRC Strategic Knowledge Cluster grant, “Situating Science”, a national cluster promoting communication and networking between humanists and social scientists studying science and technology.

The successful candidate should have completed a PhD in History, Philosophy or Science, Technology and Studies by September 2011. (ETA Feb. 7, 2010: The qualifications have been changed so that candidates are required to complete a PhD in History, Philosophy or Science, Technology and Studies by September 2012 and not by September 2011.) Applicants exploring sub-themes of epistemology and/or history of experimentation are preferred.

The successful candidate will work closely with faculty and graduate students at the University of Saskatchewan associated with the Situating Science Cluster.  In particular, the post-doctoral fellow will help coordinate an international conference and a smaller workshop associated with the Cluster’s activities.  Salary and benefits to $35,000 with the possibility of teaching opportunities that may be negotiated.  Office space will be provided.

More information on the objectives and themes of the Situating Science Cluster can be found on the website: www.situsci.ca/project-summary

More information on the University of Saskatchewan Node can be found here: http://www.situsci.ca/node/university-saskatchewan-0

More details about the job such as the deadline for applications (April 1, 2012) and who to contact are here.

The other job is in Halifax,

Postdoctoral Fellowship in Science and Technology Studies/History and Philosophy of Science at the University of King’s College and Dalhousie University, Halifax.

King’s and Dalhousie announce a postdoctoral fellowship award in science and technology studies(STS)/history and philosophy of science, technology and medicine (HPS), associated with the SSHRC Cluster Grant, “Situating Science,” a national research cluster promoting communication between humanists and social scientists studying science and technology. The award provides a base salary (stipend) equivalent to $35,000, with the possibility of augmenting the salary through teaching or other awards, depending on the host department.

The successful applicant is expected to have completed a Ph.D. in an STS/HPS-related field, within the last five years and before taking up the fellowship. The candidate will be associated with the University of King’s College and housed in one of the departments associated with STS/HPS. In addition to carrying out independent or collaborative research under the supervision of one or more faculty members on campus, the successful candidate will be expected to take a leadership role in the Cluster, to actively participate in the development of Situating Science activities held on campus, supporting the networking and outreach activities of the local Node.

While the research topic is entirely open, we are particularly interested in projects concerning the history and philosophy of scientific instruments. A candidate with this interest could participate in the collection of an important number of instruments found around Halifax with the long-term goal of establishing a small museum in the new Life Sciences building on campus.

Full applications will contain a cover letter that includes a description of current research projects, an academic CV, a writing sample, and the names and contact information of three referees. Applicants must articulate how their research projects fit within one or more of the four themes of the cluster (these themes can be found at www.situsci.ca/en/aboutus.html), and should indicate which faculty members and departments they intend to work with at Dal/Kings. Applications (hardcopies only please) should be sent to:

A detailed description of the Cluster grant behind “Situating Science” can be found here: http://www.situsci.ca/project-summary.

Faculty members and activities in the “Atlantic Node” of Situating Science can be found at http://www.situsci.ca/node/university-kings-college-0.

More details such as the deadline for applications (Feb. 15, 2012) and who to contact are here.

The next job is in Australia (I assume) with the Friends of the Earth (FoE) who are looking for a Nanotechnology Project Coordinator. Here is more information from the posting on the Pro Bono Australia website,

Are you an environment or social justice campaigner who’s passionate about science and technology issues? Friends of the Earth is looking for a new Coordinator for our nanotechnology work.

Friends of the Earth Australia (FoEA) is a decentralised, volunteer-driven organisation committed to achieving ecological sustainability and social justice. The FoEA Nanotechnology Project has existed since 2005. Its aim is to achieve precautionary management of nanotechnology’s environment and health risks, just oversight of social and economic dimensions, and to ensure that public participation guides nanotechnology decision making (see http://nano.foe.org.au).

The Nanotechnology Project coordinator’s primary responsibility is to facilitate the development, and ensure implementation, of the strategic plan agreed on an annual basis by the Nanotechnology Project collective. The coordinator maintains an overarching view of the political, commercial and scientific landscapes, and supports other members of the collective to contribute effectively to achieve the project’s aims.

Details such as salary and the deadline for applications (Feb. 14, 2012) are in the Pro Bono Australia posting or here on the FoE website.

Science attitude kicks in by 10 years old

There’s a lot of talk these days about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) in the field of education. It seems that every country that has produced materials about innovation, economic well being, etc.  in English and I’m guessing all the other countries too (I just can’t read their materia]s) want more children/young people studying STEM subjects.

One of the research efforts in the UK is the ASPIRES research project at King’s College London (KCL), which is examining children’s attitudes to science and future careers. Their latest report, Ten Science Facts and Fictions: the case for early education about STEM careers (PDF), is profiled in a Jan. 11, 2012 news item on physorg.com (from the news item),

Professor Archer [Louise Archer, Professor of Sociology of Education at King’s] said: “Children and their parents hold quite complex views of science and scientists and at age 10 or 11 these views are largely positive. The vast majority of children at this age enjoy science at school, have parents who are supportive of them studying science and even undertake science-related activities in their spare time. They associate scientists with important work, such as finding medical cures, and with work that is well paid.

“Nevertheless, less than 17 per cent aspire to a career in science. These positive impressions seem to lead to the perception that science offers only a very limited range of careers, for example doctor, scientist or science teacher. It appears that this positive stereotype is also problematic in that it can lead people to view science as out of reach for many, only for exceptional or clever people, and ‘not for me’.

Professor Archer says the findings indicate that engaging young people in science is not therefore simply a case of making it more interesting or more fun. She said: “There is a disconnect between interest and aspirations. Our research shows that young people’s ambitions are strongly influenced by their social backgrounds – ethnicity, social class and gender – and by family contexts. [emphases mine]

I was particularly struck by the fact that attitudes are positive but, by age 10, researchers are already observing that children are concluding ‘it’s not for me’.

Here’s a little more about the ASPIRES project,

The ASPIRES research team, led by Louise Archer, Professor of Sociology of Education at King’s, is tracking children’s science and career aspirations over five years, from ages 10 to 14. To date they have surveyed over 9000 primary school children and carried out more than 170 interviews of parents and children. After the age of 10 or 11 children’s attitudes towards science often start to decline, suggesting that there is a critical period in which schools and parents can do much to educate the next generation of the options available to them. [emphasis mine]

As for the report ‘Ten Science Facts and Fictions’, you may be in for a surprise if you’re expecting a standard academic study. It’s very colourful and illustrated with cartoons; each fact/fiction has its own page and only one; it summarizes and aggregates other research; and the whole report is 16 pp.  It’s easy reading and the reference notes mean you can follow up and read the research studies yourself.

On a note related to the conclusions made the ASPIRES researchers, I came across a Jan. 27, 2012 news item on Medical Xpress about a US study where researchers attempted an intervention designed to encourage more teens to study science,

In a different intervention study aimed at changing teen behavior in math and science, researchers did not target the students themselves but rather their parents. The goal was to increase students’ interest in taking courses in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). “We focus on the potential role of parents in motivating their teens to take more STEM courses, because we feel that they have been an untapped resource,” says Judith Harackiewicz of the University of Wisconsin, Madison. [emphasis mine]

The participants consisted of 188 U.S. high school students and their parents from the longitudinal Wisconsin Study of Families and Work. Harackiewicz and her colleague Janet Hyde found that a relatively simple intervention aimed at parents – two brochures mailed to parents and a website that all highlight the usefulness of STEM courses – led their children to take on average nearly one semester more of science and mathematics in the last two years of high school, compared with the control group. “Our indirect intervention,” funded by the National Science Foundation, “changed the way that parents interacted with their teens, leading to a significant and important change in their teens’ course-taking behavior,” Harackiewicz says.

Given Dr. David Kent’s panel at the 2011 Canadian Science Policy Conference (David’s interview about the panel is in my Oct. 24, 2011 posting) where he noted we have too many science graduates and not enough jobs, I’m wondering if we’re going to see a Canadian effort to encourage more study in STEM subjects. It wouldn’t surprise me; I have seen policy disconnects before. For example, there’s a big effort to get more children and teens to study science while graduate students from the universities have difficulty finding employment because the policy didn’t take the end result (the sector [e.g. universities] that needed people [science professors] when the policy was instituted had already started to shrink and 10 years later no one needs these graduates) into account.

It’s now official, the CelluForce NCC plant has been inaugurated

I’ve been writing (July 16, 2010 posting) about the nanocrystalline cellulose (NCC) manufacturing plant in Windsor, Québec since construction was first announced. CelluForce’s (a joint partnership between Domtar and FPInnovations) new plant was officially opened by Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources, Joe Oliver, on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012. (For anyone curious about NCC [derived from wood cellulose] and/or CelluForce, there are more details in my Dec. 15, 2011 posting where I mentioned that the plant was then operational.)

This NCC plant represents a major investment from the Government of Canada and the Province of Québec. The latest funds from these two levels of government are noted here in the Jan. 26, 2012 CelluForce news release (you may have to scroll down to find it),

The Canadian and Québec governments made a significant contribution to the financing of the $36 million plant with $23.2 million coming from Natural Resources Canada (Pulp and Paper Green Transformation Program and Transformative Technologies Program) and $10.2 million from Québec’s Natural Resources and Wildlife Department.

If my arithmetic is right, those numbers mean that someone (Domtar?) provided $2.5M to make the total $36M. (It almost seems that Domtar might be a junior partner in this endeavour.)

There are some grand plans for both the plant and NCC,

CelluForce is ramping up its production of NCC with a target of reaching a 1,000 kg (1 metric ton) per day production rate in 2012. Trials integrating NCC into the manufacturing process of different products are currently taking place through technical collaboration agreements between CelluForce and 15 companies based in Canada, the United States, Europe and Asia in four main industrial sectors: paints and coatings, films and barriers, textiles, and composites.

As I noted in my Jan. 27, 2012 posting about ArboraNano’s appearance at an international symposium on nanotechnology and its economic impacts, NCC seems to be on the international agenda and, at this point, Canadians are world leaders in this area of research.

In the interests of being comprehensive regarding the Canadian NCC production scene, there is a demonstration plant in Alberta slated to produce up to 100kg of NCC/day, as I noted in my July 5, 2011 posting. For some reason (I’m guessing it has something to do with regional rivalries), the two groups are resolutely ignoring each other.

Music can recharge sensors in your body

According to a Jan.26, 2012 news item written by Emil Venere at Purdue University and posted on Nanowerk, researchers have found a new way to recharge batteries in new medical sensors that could be implanted in individuals stricken with aneurysms or bladder incontinence due to paralysis. From the news item,

“You would only need to do this for a couple of minutes every hour or so to monitor either blood pressure or pressure of urine in the bladder,” Ziaie [Babak Ziaie, a Purdue University professor of electrical and computer engineering and biomedical engineering] said. “It doesn’t take long to do the measurement.”

Findings are detailed in a paper (“A Novel Electromechanical Interrogation Scheme for Implantable Passive Transponders”) to be presented during the IEEE [Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers] MEMS [Micro Electro Mechanical Systems] 2012 conference, which will be Jan. 29 to Feb. 2 in Paris. The paper was written by doctoral student Albert Kim, research scientist Teimour Maleki and Ziaie.

“This paper demonstrates the feasibility of the concept,” he said.

As you may have guessed from that last line, this hasn’t been tried on people. According to the news item, the concept was tested using a water-filled balloon.

I checked out Venere’s Jan. 26, 2012 news release on the Purdue University website and am excerpting a few details about how these medical sensors work,

The sensor is capable of monitoring pressure in the urinary bladder and in the sack of a blood vessel damaged by an aneurism. Such a technology could be used in a system for treating incontinence in people with paralysis by checking bladder pressure and stimulating the spinal cord to close the sphincter that controls urine flow from the bladder. More immediately, it could be used to diagnose incontinence. The conventional diagnostic method now is to insert a probe with a catheter, which must be in place for several hours while the patient remains at the hospital.

The writer goes on to describe some of the reasons for why this new technology is being pursued,

“A wireless implantable device could be inserted and left in place, allowing the patient to go home while the pressure is monitored,” Ziaie said.

The new technology offers potential benefits over conventional implantable devices, which either use batteries or receive power through a property called inductance, which uses coils on the device and an external transmitter. Both approaches have downsides. Batteries have to be replaced periodically, and data are difficult to retrieve from devices that use inductance; coils on the implanted device and an external receiver must be lined up precisely, and they can only be about a centimeter apart.

The following image is  the researchers’ new sensor, balanced on a coin,

Researchers have created a new type of miniature pressure sensor, shown here, designed to be implanted in the body. Acoustic waves from music or plain tones drive a vibrating device called a cantilever, generating a charge to power the sensor. (Birck Nanotechnology Center, Purdue University)

I found the description of how the cantilever works and can be recharged quite interesting,

The heart of the sensor is a vibrating cantilever, a thin beam attached at one end like a miniature diving board. Music within a certain range of frequencies, from 200-500 hertz, causes the cantilever to vibrate, generating electricity and storing a charge in a capacitor …

The cantilever beam is made from a ceramic material called lead zirconate titanate, or PZT, which is piezoelectric, meaning it generates electricity when compressed. The sensor is about 2 centimeters long …

A receiver that picks up the data from the sensor could be placed several inches from the patient. Playing tones within a certain frequency range also can be used instead of music.

“But a plain tone is a very annoying sound,” Ziaie said. “We thought it would be novel and also more aesthetically pleasing to use music.”

Researchers experimented with four types of music: rap, blues, jazz and rock.

“Rap is the best because it contains a lot of low frequency sound, notably the bass,” Ziaie said.

“The music reaches the correct frequency only at certain times, for example, when there is a strong bass component,” he said. “The acoustic energy from the music can pass through body tissue, causing the cantilever to vibrate.”

When the frequency falls outside of the proper range, the cantilever stops vibrating, automatically sending the electrical charge to the sensor, which takes a pressure reading and transmits data as radio signals. Because the frequency is continually changing according to the rhythm of a musical composition, the sensor can be induced to repeatedly alternate intervals of storing charge and transmitting data.

“You would only need to do this for a couple of minutes every hour or so to monitor either blood pressure or pressure of urine in the bladder,” Ziaie said. “It doesn’t take long to do the measurement.”

It’s usually a long time from testing a concept (in this case, on a water balloon) to bringing a product to the marketplace. In the meantime, I wonder if this concept will work in the ‘wild’ where people are exposed to rap music accidentally or they like to listen to it themselves, all day long, or they loathe rap music and don’t want to listen for a few minutes every hour.

Finally, I have some special appreciation for Venere as he very neatly explained terms I’ve seen many times but for which I’ve only been able to find complicated definitions. Thank you, Mr. Venere and for a very clear description of this technology.

Tanzania’s Dr Hulda Shaidi Swai

I’ve developed a pet peeve over the years about Africa being discussed as if it were a country and not a continent made up of diverse countries and peoples. So, I was particularly delighted to find Robert Mpinga’s Jan. 26, 2012 article discussing Dr. Hulda Shaidi Swai’s nanomedicine work and his opinion of the differing approaches to research and development (R&D) followed in Tanzania and South Africa. From Mpinga’s Jan. 26, 2012 article for allAfrica,

One of our [Tanzania’s] own daughters, Dr Hulda Shaidi Swai, is currently making news across the world in her pioneering work that seeks to employ “nanotechnology” to treat TB and what she calls ‘other diseases of poverty’ more efficiently – and in less the time it takes now – yet still hopes to do so in safer ways.

There is no prize for guessing why you haven’t heard about her: she is doing all this from the comfort of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), a South African centre of excellence based in Pretoria. In many ways, Dr Swai embodies our country’s collective failure to accommodate people who think and act outside the box of our comfort zones.

Not surprisingly, Hulda could well be poised to make global waves even as we at home remain locked in mundane debate over the safety and perceived dangers of farming GM (genetically modified) crops – a field of science which now pales into yesteryear in the face of new advances of ‘nano’ frontiers.

Dr. Swai has received some very impressive support for her work,

The moral of Dr Swai’s story is not that she has set out on mission impossible; in fact, she has already marshaled a team of 19 people to her stable — the Nanomedicine Platform for Infectious Diseases of Poverty – which includes seven post-doctorate scientists, three PhD and four Masters of Science (MSc) students, two technicians and a project manager.

She also has the backing of the top leadership in South Africa, including former president Thabo Mbeki and the country’s minister responsible for science and technology. The commitment and imagination of all these men and women have been fired from a dream of this single Tanzanian woman scientist, but their combined resolve to act as a team has since won them global support: US $100,000 in project support from the Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation – through its ‘Grand Challenges Exploration’ programme — the only one of two such awards in Africa to date, and an EU approval for its provisional application for intellectual property (IP) protection of its pioneering work on a novel anti-TB drug therapy delivery system.

Dr. Swai is critical of research being done in rich countries,

“The scientists in rich countries are only interested in diseases that affect them … not malaria.”

You’ll find more details about Swai’s work and more about her opinions  in Mpinga’s article. The ‘Grand Challenges Explorations’ programme was also mentioned in my Dec. 22, 2011 posting when a series of major grants  (some to researchers in Canada) was announced.

To be or not to be the memristor?

The memristor (aka, memresistor), for anyone not familiar with it, is a contested ‘new’ circuit element. In my April 5, 2010 posting I gave a brief overview of the history as I understood it (the memristor was a new addition to the traditional circuit elements [the capacitor, the resistor, and the inductor]) and in my April 7, 2010 posting I conducted an interview with Forrest H Bennett III who presented an alternative view to the memristor as ‘new’ circuit element discussion.

Discussion has continued on and off since then but in the last few weeks it has become more topical with the publication of a paper (Memresistors and non-memristive zero-crossing hysteresis curves) by Blaise Mouttet at arXiv.org on Jan. 12, 2012.

I don’t feel competent to summarize the gist of Blaise’s paper so I’m excerpting a passage  Peter Clarke’s Jan. 18, 2012 article for EE (Electronic Engineering) Times,

Blaise Mouttet argues that the interpretation of the memristor as a fourth fundamental circuit element – after the resistor, capacitor and inductor – was incorrect and that the memory device under development at HP Labs is not actually a memristor but part of a broader class of variable resistance systems.

Since publishing his arXiv paper Mouttet has also been in discussion with an e-mailing list of researchers into non-volatile memory device physics.

Some e-mail correspondents have come out in favor of Mouttet’s position stating that trying to define any two-terminal device in which the resistance can be altered by the current passed through the device as a memristor, adds nothing to the understanding of a complex field in which there are many types of device.

The article and the comments that follow (quite interesting and technical) are worth reviewing if this area of nanoelectronics interests you.

HP Labs has responded to Blaise’s paper and subsequent debate, and before included an excerpt from the response, I want to include a few passages from Blaise’s paper,

The “memristor” was originally proposed in 1971by Leon Chua as a missing fourth fundamental circuit element linking magnetic flux and electric charge. In 2008 a group of scientists from HP led by Stan Williams claimed to have discovered this missing memristor . It is my position that HP’s “memristor” claim lacks any scientific merit. My position is not that the HP researchers have presented an incorrect model of a memristor or even an incorrect model of resistance memory. If this were the case it would not be so bad because an incorrect model could at least be proven incorrect and possibly corrected to produce a better model. My position is that the HP researchers have avoided presenting any scientifically testable model at all by hiding behind the reputation of Leon Chua and the mythology of the memristor. They have thus attempted to bypass the principle of the scientific method.

If the HP researchers had developed a realistic model for resistive memory (whether it is called “memristor” or by some other name) it could be vetted by other researchers, compared to experimental data, and determined to be true or false. If necessary the model could be modified or corrected and an improved version of the model could be produced.

This is not what has happened. (p. 1 PDF)

Here’s my excerpt of HP’s response (from Peter Clarke’s Jan. 20, 2012 article for EE Times),

The spokesperson said in email: “HP is proud of the research it has undertaken into memristor technology and the recognition this has received in the scientific community. In a little over three years, our papers, which were subject to rigorous peer review before being published in leading scientific journals, have been cited more than 1,000 times by other researchers in the field. We continue this research and collaboration with the electronics industry to bring this important technology to market.”

Deciding what something is and how fits into our understanding of how the world operates, in this case, a new circuit element, or not, has consequences beyond the actual discussion. If science is the process of posing questions, we need to test the assumptions we make (in this case, whether or not the memristor is a fourth circuit element or part of a larger system of variable resistance systems) as they can define the questions we’ll ask in the future.

As I noted earlier, I’m not competent to draw any conclusions as to which party may have the right approach but I am glad to see the discussion taking place.

ArboraNano in Washington, DC for a two-day shindig on nanotechnology and economic impacts

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and the US National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) are hosting an  International Symposium on Assessing the Economic Impact of Nanotechnology, March 27 – 28, 2012 in Washington, D.C. Registration for the event opens Feb. 10, 2012 (first come, first served) and it appears to be a free event.

From the NNI’s event page, here’s some information about their objectives and who they’re inviting to attend,

The objective of the symposium is to systematically explore the need for and development of a methodology to assess the economic impact of nanotechnology across whole economies, factoring in many sectors and types of impact, including new and replacement products and materials, markets for raw materials, intermediate and final goods, and employment and other economic impacts.

Attendees are being invited from a broad spectrum of backgrounds and expertise, including technology leaders, key decision makers, economists, investors, policy analysts, scientists and engineers from industry, business, government, academia, and the general public.

They have close to 40 confirmed speakers for this event and, interestingly (for a Canadian and/or someone interested in nanocrystalline cellulose), one of them is Reinhold (Ron) Crotogino of ArboraNano.

Crotogino, network director, president and chief executive officer (CEO) of ArboraNano, the Canadian Forest NanoProducts Network, has extensive experience and education in the forest products industry. From a Feb. 10, 2011 news item in Pulp & Paper Canada,

Crotogino is a graduate of the University of British Columbia (B.A.Sc. 1966) and McGill University (Ph.D. 1971), both in chemical engineering. He worked with Voith for a few years after graduating, but spent much of his career as a researcher and research manager with Paprican (now FPInnovations). [emphasis mine]

For anyone not familiar with the nanocrystalline cellulose (NCC) story in Canada, FPInnovations initiated and has been heavily involved in the development of NCC. (My Dec. 15, 2011 posting features one of my more recent stories about NCC in Canada.)

It’s a lot to infer from a list of speakers but I’m going to do it anyway. Given that the only Canadian listed as an invited speaker for a prestigious (OECD/AAAS/NNI as hosts) symposium about nanotechnology’s economic impacts, is someone strongly associated with NCC, it would seem to confirm that Canadians do have an important R&D (research and development) lead in an area of international interest.

One thing about this symposium does surprise and that’s the absence of Vanessa Clive from Industry Canada. She co-authored the OECD’s 2010 report, The Impacts of Nanotechnology on Companies: Policy Insights from Case Studies and would seem a natural choice as one of the speakers on the economic impacts that nanotechnology might have in the future.

ETA March 29, 2012: Vanessa Clive did contact me to clarify the situation and her response has been included in my March 29, 2012 follow up posting. (scroll down approximately 1/2 way)

For anyone who wants to see the agenda before committing, here’s the link. I did take a look,

Session One: Setting the Scene

This plenary session will introduce the conference themes, objectives and expected outputs. The session will provide an overview of the technologies and challenges that impact the assessment of the economic impact of nanotechnology and some indications of metrics being used

[break]

Session One con’t: Government Panel Discussion

This panel session will consider the issues raised in Session One, with a focus on the particularities of each country in addressing the challenges in assessing the economic impact of nanotechnology [emphasis mine]

I would have appreciated a little more detail such as which speakers will be leading which session and when they say “each country” exactly which countries do they mean? Oddly, no one involved with this event thought about phoning me to ask my opinion.

Fukushima and tsunami, anyone? nano tech Japan 2012 opens next month despite a very difficult 2011

nano tech Japan 2012 is set to welcome over 50,000 visitors when it opens Feb. 15, 2012. From the Jan. 26, 2012 news item on Nanowerk,

The earthquake/tsunami disaster last March was threatening the success of this year’s event. But the number of applicants in the aftermath of the disaster was extremely high. Finally, the organizer expects again more than 500 exhibitors and up to 50,000 visitors, which makes nano tech the largest nanotechnology fair worldwide. More than a quarter of the exhibitors are foreign participants from 22 different countries.

I wonder if last year’s events will be reflected in this year’s exhibitors’ booths and in the seminars with more information about disaster relief, water purification, etc.  You can register for the event being held in Tokyo here.

A tale of two cities and their science meetings: vibrant Dublin and sadsack Vancouver

I gnashed my teeth as I read Humphrey Jones’ description of the preview for the Euroscience Open Forum in Dublin, Ireland. Envy is a terrible sin but there is no other word to describe my feelings on seeing this (and more in his Jan. 26, 2012 posting on The Frog Blog,

The varied members of Ireland’s science community crammed in to the Convention Centre Dublin this morning to officially launch Dublin as the European City of Science 2012. Politicians, scientists, educators, science journalists, bloggers, policy makers and others were treated to a slick and inspiring launch, which genuinely created an air of excitement for the year ahead. [emphasis mine] The launch was MC’d by Irish comedian, TV presenter and science enthusiast Dara O’Briain (with whom I had a great chat to about science blogging and the nature of effective science programming), who spoke of his love of science and what it means for him to act as a science ambassador for Dublin City of Science 2012. He was joined on stage by Patrick Cunningham (Chief Science Advisor to the Government), Richard Bruton (Minister for Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation), Seán Sherlock (Junior Minister in the Department of Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation), Aoibhinn Ni Shúilleabháin (Dublin City of Science 2012 Ambassador) and Andrew Montague (Lord Mayor of Dublin & former Veterinary scientist). Each spoke with passion on what the City of Science title meant to them and of the 160 events planned during the “celebration of science” to come over the next 11 months.

So what of these 160 events? …

By contrast, I offer my own experience at the recent ‘preview’ for the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) 2012 annual meeting in Vancouver (Canada) next month.

To give you a sense of the magnitude of this event from a Canadian perspective (if you don’t already know), it’s helpful to know that there are no major Canadawide meetings for scientists outside their respective specialties. The last time we had this kind of general meeting was 30 years ago (and that too was a AAAS annual meeting) in Toronto.  Here’s my description of the launch for the 2012 meeting exactly one week ago today (Jan. 19, 2012 posting),

The preview was well organized and proceeded quite smoothly although I’m not sure about its actual purpose. Generally, a press conference of this type is called to generate excitement and interest. …

There were a few moments in the preview where excitement and interest threatened to make an appearance. Julio Montaner, Director of the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, and Karen Bakker, a Canada Research Chair in Political Ecology at the University of  British Columbia, spoke with passion and fervour about their areas of expertise and for a few moments the room buzzed quietly. …

Otherwise, the preview was a bit lacklustre.

The organizers didn’t give me much to work with. I can’t fathom why the organizers, particularly the Vancouver committee,  gave up an opportunity to reach beyond the scientists, science journalists, and science enthusiasts to create some excitement about science in Canada and about science in Vancouver.

I cannot imagine a greater contrast between two press conferences launching science events. Bravo to the Irish!

I have mentioned The Frog Blog before but here’s a quick refresher anyway (from The Frog Blog About page)

The Frog Blog is a website created by Humphrey Jones and Jeremy Stone, science teachers of St. Columba’s College, Dublin, Ireland. It aims to provide an online tool for the promotion of science within our school, and across the country. While it is designed for the pupils of St. Columba’s, we hope it has wide appeal