Monthly Archives: March 2012

Machine Wilderness: ISEA 2012 in Albuquerque, New Mexico

The 2012 ISEA (International Symposium on Electronic Arts) is being held in Albuquerque, New Mexico from Sept. 19 – 24, 2012. From the ISEA 2012 home page,

The Eighteenth International Symposium on Electronic Art, ISEA2012 Albuquerque: Machine Wilderness is a symposium and series of events exploring the discourse of global proportions on the subject of art, technology and nature. The ISEA symposium is held every year in a different location around the world, and has a 30-year history of significant acclaim. Albuquerque is the first host city in the U.S. in six years.

The ISEA2012 symposium will consist of a conference September 19 – 24, 2012 based in Albuquerque with outreach days along the state’s “Cultural Corridor” in Santa Fe and Taos, and an expansive, regional collaboration throughout the fall of 2012, including art exhibitions, public events, performances and educational activities. This project will bring together a wealth of leading creative minds from around the globe, and engage the local community through in-depth partnerships.

Machine Wilderness references the New Mexico region as an area of rapid growth and technology alongside wide expanses of open land, and aims to present artists’ and technologists’ ideas for a more humane interaction between technology and wilderness in which “machines” can take many forms to support life on Earth. Machine Wilderness focuses on creative solutions for how technology and the natural world can sustainably co-exist.

The program will include: a bilingual [English/Spanish] focus, an indigenous thread, and a focus on land and skyscape. Because of our vast resource of land in New Mexico, proposals from artists are being sought that will take ISEA participants out into the landscape. The Albuquerque Balloon Museum offers a unique opportunity for artworks to extend into the sky as well.

Final decisions are being made now so the lists of programs and speakers aren’t complete yet but there is a sampling of some of what you’ll find in New Mexico this coming September (excerpted from the sampling on the Artworks/Performances page),

Eve Andrée Laramée & Tom Jennings (USA)
Invisible Landscape
at 516 ARTS
Invisible Landscape is a collaborative installation concerning the Cold War, “atomic” legacy; uranium mining and radioactive waste from the nuclear power industry and its “Parent machine” the nuclear weapons complex. The installation includes video projections and sculptures, digital photography, and light-box and sound sculptures. It is a mash-up of works by Laramée & Jennings, and includes components from Jennings’ installation Rocks and Code and Laramée’s installations Halfway to Invisible and Slouching Yucca Mountain.

Agnes Chavez (USA/Cuba) & Alessandro Saccoia (Italy)
(x)trees
at The Albuquerque Museum
(x)trees is a collaborative experiment in open source data visualization, video mapping and participatory art. Multi-disciplinary artist Agnes Chavez created the project in collaboration with open source net artist Jared Tarbell to write the open source video mapping code which captures data live from twitter, converts it into branches of trees and allows it to be projected onto walls and buildings as part of a socially interactive art piece. Chavez has collaborated with a team in Buenos Aires, Argentina; Creative Coder Jeff Milton, actionscript programmer Joe Roth, and videographer Matia Legaria, to realize a live event in BsAs. For ISEA2012, Chavez and collaborators will push the boundaries of the new medium to create a socially interactive virtual forest. New forms such as leaves and flowers will emerge around most used topics/key words, visualizing the “buzz” around the conference. (x)tree helps raise awareness to the importance of preserving linguistic, cultural and ecological diversity around the world.

Fred Paulino & Lucas Mafra (Brazil)
Gambiocycle
at 516 ARTS
Gambiocycle is a Mobile Broadcast unit. It is a tricycle containing electronic great for interactive video projection and digital graffiti in public space. The vehicle is inspired by anonymous ambulant salesmen that ride on wheels over Brazilian cities, mostly selling products or doing political advertisement. Gambiocycle, however, subverts this logic by gathering elements of performance, happening, electronic art, graffiti and “gambiarra” (makeshift, kludge): what it advertises is only a new era of straight democratic dialogue between people who participate of the interventions and their city.

Ivan Puig & Andrés Padilla Domené (Mexico)
SEFT-1
at The Albuquerque Museum
SEFT-1, by Mexican artists Ivan Puig and Andrés Padilla Domené is one of the most important projects working in the art, technology and society field in Mexico. This “Manned Railway Exploration Probe” is a vehicle equipped with a Hi-Rail system, a metal wheel mechanism that enables it to move on rails. Mexico’s trains once formed a network of connections between big cities and tiny pueblos throughout the country. This exploratory probe travels abandoned railways using photography, video, audio and text to record contemporary people, landscape and infrastructure in largely remote areas of the country, creating a futuristic exploration of Mexico’s past. The information recorded is continuously uploaded to the project’s website where the public can follow the SEFT’s progress. For ISEA2012, the SEFT will make a historic journey from the U.S./Mexico border to Albuquerque. The vehicle will be displayed as part of the ISEA2012 exhibition, and the artists will speak at the Latin American Forum. The journey of the SEFT-1 to El Paso for pre-conference activities is sponsored by The Stanlee and Gerald Rubin Center for the Visual Arts, University of Texas, El Paso.

Sampling of Performances

Idris Goodwin (USA)
Instant Messages
performed during ISEA2012 Intel Education Day
Hip Hop playwright Idris Goodwin will create an original, collaborative, multi-media performance work built entirely from public conversations and debates sampled from various social networking sites. Youth participants rom the National Hispanic Cultural Center’s Voces program will cross-reference more than 500 Facebook statuses, comments and Twitter feeds based on specific generic dramatic tropes. The project will interweave hundreds of digital dialogues to dramatize the human interactions of a virtual society. Youth, being the key pioneers of the virtual landscape, are integral to the process of creation.

Miguel Palma (Portugal)
remote Desert Exploration Vehicle
performed at the Downtown Block Party
In collaboration with engineers, robotics experts, geographers, car enthusiasts, military historians and other, Portuguese artist Miguel Palma will convert a former military vehicle into a remote exploration vehicle that will explore desert surroundings during the day and return to urban areas in the evening to project the desert imagery on buildings and other spaces at night. This project is sponsored by ASU Art Museum and the Desert Initiative.

Here’s a sampling from the Speakers & Panels page,

Public Dialogue: A Conversation with Prominent Brazilian artists and curators
For the ISEA2012 Latin American Forum, artist Giselle Beiguelman and curator Priscila Arantes, mediated by Simone Osthoff, will speak on the international art scene, offering the public a chance to see dynamic dialogues about contemporary media art from first-hand perspectives and experiences. Giselle Beiguelman guest juror of ISEA2012, is an international new media artist and multimedia essayist born and based in São Paulo, Brazil. She received a PhD in History from the University of São Paulo and is a former fellow of the VITAE Foundation. Priscila Arantes, Adjunct Director of MIS [Museum of Image and Sound] São Paulo, since 2010, the director of the Paço das Artes also in São Paulo, is a researcher and curator in the field of media art. Simone Osthoff is a Brazilian born artist and writer based in the U.S. since 1988. She is Associate Professor of Critical Studies in the School of Visual Arts at the Pennsylvania State University and the author of Performing the Archive: The Transformation of the Archive in Contemporary Art From Repository of Documents to Art Medium (Atropos Press, 2009).

Lea Rekow & Marc Schmitz
Mapping Contested Territory
For The Cosmos: Radical Cosmologies theme, theme leader Lea Rekow and artist Marc Schmitz will present a dialogue that brings together critical arts practice and action geography, describing an aerial and walking survey conducted with the Navajo community of Churchrock, New Mexico. Their journey maps radioactive accidents, abandoned uranium mines, dams and mills, that lie un-reclaimed and continue to ravage Navajo land, families and culture in the region. For the ISEA2012 conference, Rekow and Schmitz will offer a co-presention/skype panel with/at the Land Art Mongolia Biennial, that simultaneously looks at the impact from mining on indigenous culture of Mongolia and elsewhere.

Caroline Woolard
For the Creative Economies: Ecotopias theme, OurGoods.org co-founder Caroline Woolard will give a talk about the problems and possibilities of non-monetary exchange. If resource sharing is a paradigm of the 21st century, how do we build trust and communicate effectively at intimate-distance? This talk will explore the subjectivities made (im)possible by alternative economies, both analog and digital. Culled from three years of research and development as a co-founder of OurGoods.org and Trade School, two barter networks for cultural producers, Woolard’s talk reflects upon a contemporary fumbling for sharing relationships. Caroline Woolard is a Brooklyn based, post-media artist exploring civic engagement and communitarianism. Her work is collaborative and often takes the form of sculptures, websites and workshops.

There are a number of residencies and special projects,

ISEA2012 includes an array of residencies and special projects hosted by partnering organizations around the New Mexico and the region. They include artist-scientist residencies, site projects, artworks, performances and presentations, with schools, arts organizations, environmental organizations and the scientific and technological community. Some of the residencies and off-site projects feature a gallery component as part of the main ISEA2012 exhibition and/or a presentation at the conference.

Amongst other residencies, I noticed one for e-poetry, which I believe is still open for submissions. Here’s more about the residency (from the e-poetry residency [Local Poets' Guild] page,

Local Poets’ Guild (LPG) is offering a poet re-envisioning art, technology and nature a two-week residency from September 4 – 18, 2012. LPG is specifically looking for poetry using electronic art forms with at least one component that will be accessible on the web. The writer selected will stay in a house on 3.6 acres in the high desert, located down three miles of dirt roads near the town of Moriarty, New Mexico, about 35 miles from Albuquerque. The residency may be extended for up to two weeks at no additional expense.

Project resources:
The poet who receives the residency will be offered a $400 honorarium from the Local Poets Guild and invited to share their work as an Internet present e-poem and in a reading at 516 ARTS as part of the ISEA 2012 conference.

The modest cabin is furnished and has full kitchen, bath, laundry, bedroom and workspace. The structure is nestled amid piñon and juniper trees, abuts an old windmill, and is backed up to 11,000 acres of forested ranchland, which is accessible to hiking. Expect coyotes, owls, nighthawks, deer, the occasional javelina or porcupine, plus great sunlight and better stars. Writers will be expected to provide their own transportation. Couples and/or collaborators are also eligible.

Application requirements:
Please submit a 300-word bio with a 500-word project statement and a link to a prior e-poetry project. Poets who don’t have a prior e-poetry project or prefer to show new work, should submit a “.doc” file in Microsoft Word of a PDF including all information plus five pages of poetry.

Description of sponsoring organization:
The Local Poets’ Guild’s mission is to advocate for poetry, develop audience, engage poets and foster the creative process, from conception and craft to publication and performance. The Local Poets’ Guild offers programs including a rural writers residency, craft talks and workshops, featured readings, showcases, publication of books and cd’s, writing to heal and writing nonviolence workshops, plus an online information hub, all completely community driven and requiring the best efforts of the poets involved. For more information, visit http://localpoetsguild.wordpress.com/

Good luck !

Registration for the conference opened March 2, 2012. Early bird fees apply until July 25, 2012.

Phyto and nano soil remediation (part 2: nano)

For Part 2, I’ve included part of my original introduction (sans the story about the neighbour’s soil and a picture of Joe Martin):

I’m pleased to repost a couple of pieces on soil remediation written by Joe Martin for the Mind the Science Gap (MTSG) blog.

I wrote about the MTSG blog in my Jan. 12, 2012 posting, which focussed on this University of Michigan project designed by Dr. Andrew Maynard for Master’s students in the university’s Public Health program. Very briefly here’s a description of Andrews and the program from the About page,

Mind the Science Gap is a science blog with a difference.  For ten weeks between January and April 2012, Masters of Public Health students from the University of Michigan will each be posting weekly articles as they learn how to translate complex science into something a broad audience can understand and appreciate.

Each week, ten students will take a recent scientific publication or emerging area of scientific interest, and write a post on it that is aimed at a non expert and non technical audience.  As the ten weeks progress, they will be encouraged to develop their own area of focus and their own style.

About the Instructor.  Andrew Maynard is Director of the University of Michigan Risk Science Center, and a Professor of Environmental Health Sciences in the School of Public Health.  He writes a regular blog on emerging technologies and societal implications at 2020science.org.

Here’s a bit more about Joe Martin,

I am a second year MPH student in Environmental Quality and Health, and after graduation from this program, I will pursue a Ph.D. in soil science.  My interests lie in soil science and chemistry, human health and how they interact, especially in regards to agricultural practice and productivity.

Here’s part 2: nano soil remediation or Joe’s Feb. 10, 2012 posting:

Last week I wrote about phytoremediation, and its potential to help us combat and undo soil contamination. But, like any good advanced society, we’re not pinning all our hopes on a single technique. A commenter, Maryse, alerted me to the existence of another promising set of techniques and technologies: nano-remediation.

For those who don’t know, nano-technology is a science which concerns itself with manipulating matter on a very small scale.  Nano-particles are commonly described as being between 100 nanometers (nm) to 1nm, though this is hardly a hard and fast rule. (For perspective, a nanometer is one one-millionth of a millimeter. If you aren’t inclined to the metric system, there are roughly four hundred million nanometers per inch.) On such micro-scales, the normal properties of compounds can be altered without changing the actual chemical composition. This allows for many new materials and products, (such as Ross Nanotechnology’s Neverwet Spray,) and for new applications for common materials, (using graphene to make the well-known carbon nanotubes).

When we apply the use of nano-scale particles to the remediation of contaminated soil, we are using nano-remediation. Unlike phytoremediation, this actually encompasses several different strategies which can be broadly classes as adsorptive or reactive. (Mueller and Nowack, 2010) The use of iron oxides to adsorb and immobilize metals and arsenic is not a new concept, but nano-particles offer new advantages. When I wrote “adsorb”, I was not making a spelling error; adsorption is a process by which particles adhere to the surface of another material, but do not penetrate into the interior. This makes surface area, not volume, the important characteristic. Nano-particles provide the maximum surface area-to-weight ratio, maximizing the adsorptive surfaces onto which these elements can attach. These adsorptive processes a very effective at binding and immobilizing metals and arsenic, but they do not allow for the removal of the toxic components. This may be less-than-ideal, but in places like Bangladesh, where arsenic contamination of groundwater poses major health risks, it may be just short of a miracle.

Reactive nano-remediation strategies focus on organic pollutants, and seem to work best for chlorinated solvents such as the infamous PCBs. Nano-scale zero valent iron, or nZVI, is the most widely explored and tested element used in these methods. The nZVI, or sometimes nZVI bound to various organic molecules like polysaccharides or protein chains, force redox reactions which rapidly disassemble the offending molecules.

There are other advantages to these nano-molecular techniques aside from the efficiency with which they bind or destroy the offending pollutants. In reactive remediation, the hyper reactivity nZVI causes it to react with other common and natural elements, such as dissolved oxygen in ground water, or nitrate and sulfate molecules, and in the process this inactivates the nZVI. While this forces multiple applications of the nano-particle (delivered in slurry form, through an injection well), it also prevents unused iron from drifting out of the treatment zone and becoming a pollutant itself. For adsorptive and reactive remediation techniques, that active nano-particles are injected into a well dug into or near the contaminated soil and/or groundwater. When injected as a slurry, the nano-particles can drift along with the flow of ground water, effectively creating an “anti-pollution” plume. In other formulations, the active mixture is made to flow less easily, effectively creating a barrier to filter spreading pollution or through which polluted ground water can be pulled.

There are health risks and concerns associated with the production and use of nano-particles, so some caution and validation is needed before its used everywhere. However, there has already been some successes with nano-remediation. The example of PCB remediation with nZVI is taken from great success the US Air Force has had. (PCB contamination is a legacy of their use as fire-suppressants). Beyond this, while nano-remediation has not been widely applied on surface or near-surface soils, it does enable remediation in deeper soils normally only accessed by “pump-and-treat” methods, (which are expensive and can have decades-long time frames). When coupled with other techniques, (like phytoremediation), it does fit nicely into an expanding tool bag, one with which we as a society and species can use to reverse our impact on the planet, (and our own health).

Further Reading: There was no way for me to represent the full sum of nano-remediation, nevertheless nanotechnology, in this post. It has such potential, and is developing at such a rate that the attention it deserves is better measured in blogs (or perhaps decablogs). So if you are interested in nano-technology or nano-remediation, click through some of the links below.

List of popular blogs: http://www.blogs.com/topten/10-popular-nanotechnology-blogs/, including some very important ones on the health risks of nano-technology.

A cool site listing sites currently using nano-remediation: http://www.nanotechproject.org/inventories/remediation_map/, and another post from the same site dealing with nano-remediation [PEN webcast on site remediation]: http://www.nanotechproject.org/events/archive/remediation/

An excellent peer-reviewed article: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2799454/

Citation: Mueller C and Nowack B. Nanoparticles for Remediation: Solving Big Problems with Little Particles. 2010. Elements, Vol. 6. pp 395-400.

You can read about the other MTSG contributors and find links to their work here.

I have mentioned remediation before on the blog,

soil remediation and Professor Dennis Carroll at the University of Western Ontario in my Nov. 4, 2011 posting

remediation and a patent for Green-nano zero valent iron (G-nZVI) in my June 17, 2011 posting

groundwater remediation and nano zero valent iron (nZVI) at the University of California at Santa Barbara in my March 30, 2011 posting

site remediation and drywall in my Aug. 2, 2010 posting

remediation technologies and oil spills my May 6, 2010 posting

my March 4, 2010 posting  (scroll down about 1/2 way) which is a commentary on the Project for Emerging Nanotechnologies (PEN) webcast about site remediation in Joe’s list of resources

Thank you Joe for giving me permission to repost your pieces. For more of Joe’s pieces,  Read his posts here –>

Phyto and nano soil remediation (part 1: phyto/plant)

One of my parent’s neighbours was a lifelong vegetarian and organic gardener. The neighbour, a Dutchman,  had been born on the island of Curaçao, around 1900, and was gardening organically by the 1940′s at the latest. He had wonderful soil and an extraordinary rose garden in the front yard and vegetables in the back, along with his compost heap. After he died in the 1980′s, his granddaughter sold the property to a couple who immediately removed the roses to be replaced with grass in the front and laid a good quantity of cement in the backyard. Those philistines sold the soil and, I imagine, the roses too.

Myself, I’m not not a gardener but I have a strong appreciation for the necessity of good soil so, I’m pleased to repost a couple of pieces on soil remediation written by Joe Martin for the Mind the Science Gap (MTSG) blog. First here’s a little bit about the MTSG blog project and about Joe Martin.

I wrote about the MTSG blog in my Jan. 12, 2012 posting, which focussed on this University of Michigan project designed by Dr. Andrew Maynard for Masters students in the university’s Public Health program. Very briefly here’s a description of Andrews and the program from the About page,

Mind the Science Gap is a science blog with a difference.  For ten weeks between January and April 2012, Masters of Public Health students from the University of Michigan will each be posting weekly articles as they learn how to translate complex science into something a broad audience can understand and appreciate.

Each week, ten students will take a recent scientific publication or emerging area of scientific interest, and write a post on it that is aimed at a non expert and non technical audience.  As the ten weeks progress, they will be encouraged to develop their own area of focus and their own style.

About the Instructor.  Andrew Maynard is Director of the University of Michigan Risk Science Center, and a Professor of Environmental Health Sciences in the School of Public Health.  He writes a regular blog on emerging technologies and societal implications at 2020science.org.

As for Joe Martin,

I am a second year MPH student in Environmental Quality and Health, and after graduation from this program, I will pursue a Ph.D. in soil science.  My interests lie in soil science and chemistry, human health and how they interact, especially in regards to agricultural practice and productivity.

Here’s a picture,

Joe Martin, Masters of Public Health program, University of Michigan, MTSG blog

Joe gave an excellent description of nano soil remediation but I felt it would be remiss to not include the first part on phyto soil remediation. Here’s his Feb. 3, 2012 posting about plants and soil remediation:

Pictured: The Transcendent Reality of Life and the Universe.

Plants are awesome. It’s from them that we get most of our food. It’s from plants that many of our medicines originated, (such as Willow and aspirin). We raise the skeletons of our homes and furnish their interiors with trees. Most of our cloth is woven from plant fiber, (a statement I feel comfortable making based solely on the sheer weight of denim consumed each year in this country.) And although there is an entire world of water plants, all of the plants I listed above are grown in the soil*. How the individual soil particles cling to each other, how they hold water and nutrients, and how the soil provides shelter for the various macro and micro-organisms is as important to the growth of plants as sunlight.

But no matter how proliferative, no matter how adaptive plants are, there are still spaces inaccessible to them. A clear example would be the Saharan dunes or a frozen tundra plain. However, many of places where plants can’t survive are created by human activity. The exhaust of smelters provides one example – waste or escaped zinc, copper, cadmium, and lead infiltrate downwind soils and often exterminate many or most of the natural plants. Normal treatment options for remediating metal contaminated soils are expensive, and can actually create hazards to human health. This is because, like some persistent organic pollutants (the infamous dioxin is a great example), the natural removal of metals from soils often proceeds very slowly, if it proceeds at all. For this reason, remediation of metal soil often involves scraping the contaminated portion off and depositing it in a hazardous waste landfill. In cases of old or extensive pollution, the amount of soil can exceed thousands of cubic feet. In this process, contaminated dust can easily be stirred up, priming it to be inhaled by either the workers present or any local populations.

But it can be cousins of the evicted shrubs and grass which offer us the best option to undo the heavy metal pollution. In a process called phytoremediation, specific plants are deliberately seeded over the contaminated areas. These plants have been specifically chosen for the tendency to uptake the metals in question. (In some cases, this process is also used for persistent organic pollutants, like 2,3,7,8-TCDD, infamously known as dioxin.) These plants are allowed to grow and develop their root systems, but are also selectively mowed to remove the pollutant laden leaves and stems, and ultimately remove the contaminant from the soil system. Once the pollution level has descended to a sufficiently low level, the field may be left fallow. Otherwise, the remediating plants can be removed and the ground reseeded with natural plants or returned to agricultural, commercial, or residential use.

When it is applicable, phytoremediation offers a significant advantage over either restricted access, (a common strategy which amounts to placing a fence around the contaminated site and keeping people out), or soil removal. While the polluted grass clippings much still be treated as hazardous waste, the volume and mass of the hazardous material is greatly reduced. Throughout the process, the remediating plants also serve to fix the soil in place, reducing or preventing runoff and free-blowing dust. Instead of bulldozers and many dump trucks, the equipment needed is reduced to a mower which captures grass or plant clippings and a single dump truck haul each growing season. Finally, the site does not need to be reinforced with topsoil from some other region to return it to useable space. These last few advantages can also greatly reduce the cost of remediation.

The major disadvantages of phytoremediation are time and complexity. Scraping the soil can be done in a few months or less, depending on the size of the area to be remediated. Phytoremediation takes multiple growing seasons, and if the land is a prime space for development this may be unacceptable. Phytoremediation requires different plants for different pollutants or mixtures of pollutants. I chose the copper, zinc, lead, and cadmium mixture earlier in the article because in a study from 2005, (Herrero et al, 2005), they specifically attempted to measure the ability of rapeseed and sunflower to extract these metals from an artificially contaminated soil. The unfortunate reality is that each contaminant will have to be studied in such a way, meticulously pairing pollutants (or mixture of them) with a plant. Each of the selected plants must also be able to grow in the soil to be remediated. Regardless of type of contamination, a North American prairie grass is unlikely to grow well in a Brazilian tropical soil. For these reasons, phytoremediation plans must be individually built for each site. This is costly both in dollars and man hours. Furthermore, there is always the problem that some pollutants don’t respond well to phytoremediation. While copper, zinc, and cadmium have all been found to respond quite well to phytoremediation, lead does not appear to be. In the Herraro et al study, the plants accumulated lead, but did so in the roots. Unless the roots were dug up, this would not effectively remove the lead from the soil system. Unfortunately, lead is one of the most common heavy metal pollutants, at least in the U.S., a legacy of our former love for leaded gasoline and paint.

Despite these disadvantages, phytoremediation presents a unique opportunity to remove many pollutants. It is by far the least environmentally destructive, and in many cases may be the cheapest method of remediation. I am happy to see that it appears to be receiving funding and is being actively researched and developed, (for those who don’t pursue the reference, the Herraro article came from The International Journal of Phytoremediation.) In recent times, we’ve been hit with messages about expanding hydrofracking and the Gulf Oil spill, but perhaps I can send you into this weekend with a little positivity about our environmental future. The aggregated techniques and methods which can be termed “phytoremediation” have the potential to do much good at a lower cost than many other remediation techniques. That sounds like a win-win situation to me.

* I am aware that many of these crops can be grown aero- or hydroponically. While these systems do provide many foodstuffs, they are not near the level of soil grown crops, and can be comparatively very expensive. I chose not to discuss them because, well, I aspire to be a soil scientist.

1.) Herreo E, Lopez-Gonzalvez A, Ruiz M, Lucas Garcia J, and Barbas C. Uptake and Distribution of Zinc, Cadmium, Lead, and Copper in Brassica napus vr. oleifera and Helianthus annus Grown in Contaminated Soils. 2005. The International Journal of Phytoremediation. Vol. 5, pp. 153-167.

A note on photos: Any photos I use will be CC licensed. These particular photos are provided by Matthew Saunders (banana flower) and KPC (rapeseed) under an attribution, no commercial, no derivation license.  I originally attempted to link to the source in the caption, but wordpress won’t let me for some reason. Until I work that out, the image home can be found under the artist’s names a few sentences earlier. I believe this honors the license and gives proper credit, but if I’ve committed some faux pas, (which would not be a surprise), don’t hesitate to comment and correct me. And thanks to those who have done so in previous posts, its one of the best ways to learn.

Part 2: nano soil remediation follows.

For more of Joe’s pieces,  Read his posts here –>

Butterflies give and give; this time they inspire more green fuel production

Butterflies are proving to be quite generous as they inspire ideas for greater production of green fuels in addition to everything else they’ve inspired. From the March 26, 2012 news item on Nanowerk,

“We were searching the ‘art of blackness’ for the secret of how those black wings [from black butterflies] absorb so much sunlight and reflect so little,” Fan [Tongxiang Fan, Ph.D] explained.…

Fan’s team observed elongated rectangular scales arranged like overlapping shingles on the roof of a house. The butterflies they examined had slightly different scales, but both had ridges running the length of the scale with very small holes on either side that opened up onto an underlying layer.

The steep walls of the ridges help funnel light into the holes, Fan explained. The walls absorb longer wavelengths of light while allowing shorter wavelengths to reach a membrane below the scales. Using the images of the scales, the researchers created computer models to confirm this filtering effect. The nano-hole arrays change from wave guides for short wavelengths to barriers and absorbers for longer wavelengths, which act just like a high-pass filtering layer.

The group used actual butterfly-wing structures to collect sunlight, employing them as templates to synthesize solar-collecting materials. They chose the black wings of the Asian butterfly Papilio helenus Linnaeus, or Red Helen, and transformed them to titanium dioxide by a process known as dip-calcining. Titanium dioxide is used as a catalyst to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen. Fan’s group paired this butterfly-wing patterned titanium dioxide with platinum nanoparticles to increase its water-splitting power. The butterfly-wing compound catalyst produced hydrogen gas from water at more than twice the rate of the unstructured compound catalyst on its own.

This work was presented at the American Chemical Society’s 243rd annual meeting themed Chemistry of Life  in San Diego, California, March 25-29, 2012.

As I’ve noted previously, although that was specific to Morpho butterflies (my Feb. 14, 2012 posting), butterflies are being very generous with their intellectual property.

Nanotechnology’s economic impacts and full lifecycle assessments

A paper presented at the International Symposium on Assessing the Economic Impact of Nanotechnology, held March 27 – 28, 2012 in Washington, D.C advises that assessments of the economic impacts of nanotechnology need to be more inclusive. From the March 28, 2012 news item on Nanowerk,

“Nanotechnology promises to foster green and sustainable growth in many product and process areas,” said Shapira [Philip Shapira], a professor with Georgia Tech’s [US]  School of Public Policy and the Manchester Institute of Innovation Research at the Manchester Business School in the United Kingdom. “Although nanotechnology commercialization is still in its early phases, we need now to get a better sense of what markets will grow and how new nanotechnology products will impact sustainability. This includes balancing gains in efficiency and performance against the net energy, environmental, carbon and other costs associated with the production, use and end-of-life disposal or recycling of nanotechnology products.”

But because nanotechnology underlies many different industries, assessing and forecasting its impact won’t be easy. “Compared to information technology and biotechnology, for example, nanotechnology has more of the characteristics of a general technology such as the development of electric power,” said Youtie [Jan Youtie], director of policy research services at Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute. “That makes it difficult to analyze the value of products and processes that are enabled by the technology. We hope that our paper will provide background information and help frame the discussion about making those assessments.”

From the March 27, 2012 Georgia Institute of Technology news release,

For their paper, co-authors Shapira and Youtie examined a subset of green nanotechnologies that aim to enable sustainable energy, improve environmental quality, and provide healthy drinking water for areas of the world that now lack it. They argue that the lifecycle of nanotechnology products must be included in the assessment.

I was hoping for a bit more detail about how one would go about including nanotechnology-enabled products in this type of economic impact assessment but this is all I could find (from the news release),

In their paper, Youtie and Shapira cite several examples of green nanotechnology, discuss the potential impacts of the technology, and review forecasts that have been made. Examples of green nanotechnology they cite include:

  • Nano-enabled solar cells that use lower-cost organic materials, as opposed to current photovoltaic technologies that require rare materials such as platinum;
  • Nanogenerators that use piezoelectric materials such as zinc oxide nanowires to convert human movement into energy;
  • Energy storage applications in which nanotechnology materials improve existing batteries and nano-enabled fuel cells;
  • Thermal energy applications, such as nano-enabled insulation;
  • Fuel catalysis in which nanoparticles improve the production and refining of fuels and reduce emissions from automobiles;
  • Technologies used to provide safe drinking water through improved water treatment, desalination and reuse.

I checked both Philip Shapira‘s webpage and Jan Youtie‘s at Georgia Tech to find that neither lists this latest work, which hopefully includes additional detail. I’m hopeful there’ll be a document published in the proceedings for this symposium and access will be possible.

On another note, I did mention this symposium in my Jan. 27, 2012 posting where I speculated about the Canadian participation. I did get a response (March 5, 2012)  from Vanessa Clive, Nanotechnology File, Industry Sector, Industry Canada who kindly cleared up my confusion,

A colleague forwarded the extract from your blog below. Thank you for your interest in the OECD Working Party on Nanotechnology (WPN) work, and giving some additional public profile to its work is welcome. However, some correction is needed, please, to keep the record straight.

“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.”

I am a member of the organizing committee, on the OECD WPN side, for the Washington Symposium in March which will focus on the need and, in turn, options for development of metrics for evaluation of the economic impacts of nano. As committee member, I was actively involved in identifying potential Canadian speakers for agenda slots. Apart from the co-sponsors whose generosity made the event possible, countries were limited to one or two speakers in order to bring in experts from as many interested countries as possible. The second Canadian expert which we had invited to participate had to pull out, unfortunately.

Also, the OECD project on nano impacts on business was co-designed and co-led by me, another colleague here at the time, and our Swiss colleague, but the report itself was written by OECD staff.

I did send (March 5, 2012)  a followup email with more questions but I gather time was tight as I’ve not heard back.

In any event, I’m looking forward to hearing more about this symposium, however that occurs, in the coming weeks and months.

Attracting creatives and economic opportunities

The Canadian 2012 federal budget was presented today (Mar.29.12) and so a discussion about creativity and economic opportunities seems à propos. I’ll start with Amsterdam (Holland/The Netherlands) and THNK. Neal Ungerleider, in his March 27, 2012 article titled, The THNK Tank: Why Amsterdam Wants Your (Creative) Brains, for Fast Company notes,

Amsterdam is embarking on an ambitious experiment to attract foreign creatives: An invite-only, public/private-funded school and accelerator for international creative minds, leaders, and entrepreneurs. THNK: The Amsterdam School of Creative Leadership opened several weeks ago with an initial class of 30 drawn from across Europe, the United States, China, India, Israel, Mauritius, and South Africa. Classes and mentoring at THNK are held both in Amsterdam–in a home base inside a converted gasworks–and via telecommuting once participants return to their home countries.

For Amsterdam, THNK is a slick business development project that simultaneously doubles as soft diplomacy. The thinkers and doers who will be joining in THNK’s activities will be connected with local entrepreneurs, artists, and firms–whom the city is doubtlessly hoping will be back in the future.

The partnership behind this initiative includes the Dutch federal government, the province of Noord-Holland, Stadsregio Amsterdam (a regional conglomeration of 16 municipalities in what is dubbed as the ‘Amsterdam region’, The Netherlands Chamber of Commerce, and I amsterdam.

These organizations certainly seem to be modeling leadership. Here’s more about their initiative, from the About THNK page,

Of course the world is changing. That’s what it’s done since time began. Evolution is natural. Sometimes it happens slowly. And sometimes it rocks the world like a fiery volcano, suddenly transforming entire landscapes.

Our world has reached that point now. Social inequality, our love/hate relationship with technology, dwindling resources, climate change, the collapse of financial institutions…

Organizations of all types, shapes and sizes are struggling with this new reality. Some are so involved in daily operations – and keeping their heads above water – they are blind to the future. Others recognize the challenges around them, but lack vision.

THNK believes the answer is passionate, visionary and creative leadership.

Creative leadership according to THNK means: public, social and business worlds coming together to create and realize new and innovative solutions to major issues of societal relevance that will have great meaning and impact – either nationally or internationally.

This isn’t just about generating ideas. It’s also about making it happen.

About Amsterdam

Although our focus is international, THNK is firmly rooted in Amsterdam. We’ve made the Westergasfabriek our home. This 19th-century former gas factory has been transformed into one of the city’s most exciting cultural centers, with old industrial buildings now housing trendsetting cafes, cinema, festivals and other events. Not to mention the surrounding city parks – with everything from hidden waterways to bike paths reaching from the countryside to the heart of Amsterdam.

Thanks to its highly diverse culture – with more than 175 nationalities – and an inventive and tolerant mentality, Amsterdam has grown into an important international hub for creative thought and industry. The city’s unique DNA of creativity, tolerance, diversity, collaboration and trade is reflected in THNK’s highly pragmatic and open culture.

It’s not surprising that such diverse influences have brought forth such creativity. Three of our local scientists have been awarded Nobel prizes. Fashion designers Viktor & Rolf have wowed the world. Droog designer Marcel Wanders has changed the way we look at interior design. Architects such as Ben van Berkel are reshaping our skylines.

Amsterdam’s unique DNA of creativity, tolerance, diversity, collaboration and trade will be reflected in THNK’s highly pragmatic and open culture. Reaching beyond its borders, Amsterdam serves as a major gateway into continental Europe. With two major seaports within a 50-kilometer radius, strong international railroad connections and Amsterdam Airport Schiphol close by, you’re always close to anywhere in Europe and the world.

They do invite applications (perhaps the invite-only applications were a feature for the first cohort). You can get more information here or go here to apply immediately. The 18-month program costs  € 39,500 (approx. $52, 520 CAD) and there are periods when you are required to be in Amsterdam, so you may want to include some housing and travel costs as well.

Meanwhile in Vancouver (Canada), Simon Fraser University (SFU) is about to host BCreative 2012 from May 10 – 12, 2012. From the BCreactive 2012 conference/showcase About page,

… designed to bring together government, business, the creative sector, and researchers to stimulate thinking, policy, and action directed at developing a strategy and levering resources to further build the creative economy and to help British Columbia BC become a leader in the creative sector in the twenty-first century.

BCreative 2012 conference/showcase has four specific objectives:

  1. To make the case for the creative economy to have a commanding presence in government economic and cultural policy;
  2. To build bridges between the general business community and this new and dynamic business sector with distinctive infrastructure needs from which all British Columbians can benefit both socially and economically;
  3. To encourage information sharing among the creative sub-sectors and to sensitize the creative sector to the contribution of the creative economy to job creation and overall economic growth;
  4. To bring forward useful information, analysis, training, and research resources that can assist in building BC’s creative economy.

Speakers include the co-author of the two UN Creative Economy reports, Edna dos Santos-Duisenberg, creative cities theorist Charles Landry, Canada Council CEO Robert Sirman, representatives from creative cities: Berlin and Paris. Partners with Simon Fraser University in this enterprise include the BC Business Council and the Vancouver Board of Trade, with Tourism Vancouver helping behind the scenes.

There’s an early bird registration fee until March 31, 2012. You can find a copy of the schedule (presumably a draft) here.  I hope the participants will develop ideas as fresh and innovative as THNK.

BTW, I notice that Amsterdam’s THNK mentions scientists while the BCreative conference does not whether that omission reflects organizational difficulties or a blindspot is a mystery.

Greener catalysts with iron nanoparticles

A research team at the University of Toronto has announced the discovery of a possible ‘green’ alternative to commonly used catalysts in the food, drug, and fragrance industries. From the March 27, 2012 news item on Nanowerk,

A chemistry team at the University of Toronto has discovered environmentally-friendly iron-based nanoparticle catalysts that work as well as the expensive, toxic, metal-based catalysts that are currently in wide use by the drug, fragrance and food industry.

“It is always important to strive to make industrial syntheses more green, and using iron catalysts is not only much less toxic, but it is also much more cost effective,” said Jessica Sonnenberg, a PhD student and lead author of a paper published this week in the Journal of the American Chemical Society (“Iron Nanoparticles Catalyzing the Asymmetric Transfer Hydrogenation of Ketones”).

The March 27, 2012 University of Toronto news release provides a quote from Sonnenberg which suggests there’s still a lot more work to be done before the toxic metal-based catalysts currently being used could be replaced,

… “Catalysts, even cheap iron ones developed for these types of reaction, still suffer one major downfall,” explained Sonnenberg.  “They require a one-to-one ratio of very expensive organic ligands – the molecule that binds to the central metal atom of a chemical compound – to yield catalytic activity. Our discovery of functional surface nanoparticles opens the door to using much smaller ratios of these expensive compounds relative to the metal centres.  This drastically reduces the overall cost of the transformations.”

This work at the University of Toronto reminded me of another team also working on green catalysts for chemical reactions and also based in Canada, this time at McGill University. The McGill team lead by Chao-Jun Li was mentioned most recently here in a Jan. 10, 2011 posting where their ‘nanomagnetics’ technology to replace the current toxic catalysts  is described.

Whose Electric Brain? the video

After a few fits and starts, the video of my March 15, 2012 presentation to the Canadian Academy of Independent Scholars at Simon Fraser University has been uploaded to Vimeo. Unfortunately the original recording was fuzzy (camera issues) so we (camera operator, director, and editor, Sama Shodjai [sama[email protected]]) and I rerecorded the presentation and this second version is the one we’ve uploaded.

Whose Electric Brain? (Presentation) from Maryse de la Giroday on Vimeo.

I’ve come across a few errors; at one point, I refer to Buckminster Fuller as Buckminster Fullerene and I state that the opening image visualizes a neuron from someone with Parkinson’s disease, I should have said Huntingdon’s disease. Perhaps, you’ll come across more, please do let me know. If this should become a viral sensation (no doubt feeding a pent up demand for grey-haired women talking about memristors and brains), it’s important that corrections be added.

Finally, a big thank you to Mark Dwor who provides my introduction at the beginning, the Canadian Academy of Independent Scholars whose grant made the video possible, and Simon Fraser University.

ETA March 29, 2012: This is an updated version of the presentation I was hoping to give at ISEA (International Symposium on Electronic Arts) 2011 in Istanbul. Sadly, I was never able to raise all of the funds I needed for that venture. The funds I raised separately from the CAIS grant are being held until I can find another suitable opportunity to present my work.

Nature’s nanostructures: a new book

Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization), issued a March 21, 2012 news release announcing a new book on biomimcry (or biomimetics), Nature’s Nanostructures edited by CSIRO scientists. From the news release,

A new book, which explores how nature’s own laboratory has been producing some of the world’s most advanced nanomaterials for millions of years, has been released.

Nature’s Nanostructures, edited by CSIRO scientists Dr Amanda Barnard and Dr Haibo Guo, focuses on the animals, minerals and extra-terrestrial bodies that have been producing nanomaterials for millennia.

In the first collection of its kind, each chapter charts the complex characteristics of different nanomaterials, including the iridescent scales on the exoskeletons of beetles, magnetic particles in the beaks of pigeons and gold particles found in ores.

The book brings together studies of entomology, geology, astronomy, physics, chemistry, molecular biology and health to build a complete picture of naturally occurring nanomaterials.

“I think is it generally assumed that nanomaterials are a relatively new phenomenon but some nanoparticles have been present in animals and minerals for millions of years and are a natural occurrence,” says Dr Barnard, leader of the Virtual Nanoscience Laboratory at CSIRO.

“This book uniquely charts the diversity of these naturally occurring materials. It is both humbling and comforting to realise that nature did it first and that nanomaterials are not as new as we think,” she adds.

Cameron Chai’s March 21, 2012 news item about the book on Azonano notes,

New CSIRO research on beetles and the reflective qualities of their shells is included in the book. The chapter titled ‘Photonic Crystals in Beetles’ explores 3D crystals produced by opal weevils and how these nanostructures not only create vivid structural colours, but also reflect light at virtually any angle.

The book also contains research, produced by scientists in the US and Germany, into the different levels of magneto-reception found in the beaks of homing pigeons and how the nanostructures in their beaks work as an efficient magnetic field amplifier.

The book is available for purchase through Amazon. I’ve linked to the Canadian Amazon site so the price is listed in Canadian dollars.

Amanda Barnard has been mentioned here previously in my March 10, 2010 posting and my June 16, 2010 posting.

Nanocellulose at the American Chemical Society’s 243rd annual meeting

Nanocellulose seems to be one of the major topics at the ACS’s (Americal Chemical Society) 243rd annual meeting themed Chemistry of Life  in San Diego, California, March 25-29, 2012. From the March 25, 2012 news item on Nanowerk,

… almost two dozen reports in the symposium titled, “Cellulose-Based Biomimetic and Biomedical Materials,” that focused on the use of specially processed cellulose in the design and engineering of materials modeled after biological systems. Cellulose consists of long chains of the sugar glucose linked together into a polymer, a natural plastic–like material. Cellulose gives wood its remarkable strength and is the main component of plant stems, leaves and roots. Traditionally, cellulose’s main commercial uses have been in producing paper and textiles –– cotton being a pure form of cellulose. But development of a highly processed form of cellulose, termed nanocellulose, has expanded those applications and sparked intense scientific research. Nanocellulose consists of the fibrils of nanoscale diameters so small that 50,000 would fit across the width of the period at the end of this sentence.

“We are in the middle of a Golden Age, in which a clearer understanding of the forms and functions of cellulose architectures in biological systems is promoting the evolution of advanced materials,” said Harry Brumer, Ph.D., of Michael Smith Laboratories, University of British Columbia, Vancouver. He was a co-organizer of the symposium with J. Vincent Edwards, Ph.D., a research chemist with the Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture in New Orleans, Louisiana. “This session on cellulose-based biomimetic and biomedical materials is really very timely due to the sustained and growing interest in the use of cellulose, particularly nanoscale cellulose, in biomaterials.”

One of the presenters has a very charming way of describing the nanocellulose product his team is working on (from the news item),

Olli Ikkala, Ph.D., [Aalto University, Finland] described the new buoyant material, engineered to mimic the water strider’s long, thin feet and made from an “aerogel” composed of the tiny nano-fibrils from the cellulose in plants. Aerogels are so light that some of them are denoted as “solid smoke. [emphasis mine]” The nanocellulose aerogels also have remarkable mechanical properties and are flexible.

There were some 20 presentations in this symposium held under the auspices of the ACS annual meeting. Here’s a few of the presentations (some of these folks have been featured on this blog previously), from the news item,

Native cellulose nanofibers: From biomimetic nanocomposites to functionalized gel spun fibers and functional aerogels Olli Ikkala, Professor, PhD, Aalto University, P.O. Box 5100, Espoo, Finland, FIN-02015, Finland , 358-9-470 23154, [email protected] Native cellulose nanofibers and whiskers attract interest even beyond the traditional cellulose community due to their mechanical properties, availability and sustainability. We describe biomimetic nanocomposites with aligned self-assemblies combining nanocellulose with nanoclays, polymers, block copolymer, or graphene, allowing exciting mechanical properties. Functional ductile and even flexible aerogels are presented, combining superhydrophobicity, superoleophobicity, oil-spill absorption, photocatalytics, optically switchable water absorption, sensing, and antimicrobial properties. Finally mechanically excellent fibers are gel-spun and functionalized for electric, magnetic, optical and drug-release properties.

Evaluation of skin tissue repair materials from bacterial cellulose Lina Fu, Miss, Huazhong University of Science & Technology, College of Life Science & Technology, 1037 Luoyu Road, Wuhan, Hubei, 430074, China , 86-18971560696, [email protected] Bacterial cellulose (BC) has been reported as the materials in the tissue engineering fields, such as skin, bone, vascular and cartilage tissue engineering. Exploitation of the skin substitutes and modern wound dressing materials by using BC has attracted much attention. A skin tissue repair materials based on BC have been biosynthesized by Gluconacetobacter xylinus. The nano-composites of BC and chitosan form a cohesive gel structure, and the cell toxicity of the composite is excellent. Unlike other groups, which showed more inflammatory behavior, the inflammatory cells of the BC group were mainly polymorph-nuclear and showed few lymphocytes. The BC skin tissue repair material has an obviously curative effect in promoting the healing of epithelial tissue and reducing inflammation. With its superior mechanical properties, and the excellent biocompatibility, these skin tissue repair materials based on BC have great promise and potential for wound healing and very high clinical value.

….

New materials from nanocrystalline cellulose Mark MacLachlan [mentioned in my Nov. 18, 2010 posting], University of British Columbia, Department of Chemistry, 2036 Main Mall, Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z1, Canada , 604-822-3070, [email protected] Nanocrystalline cellulose (NCC) is available from the acid-catalyzed degradation of cellulosic materials. NCC is composed of cylindrical crystallites with diameters of ca. 5-10 nm and large aspect ratios. This form of cellulose has intriguing properties, including its ability to form a chiral nematic structure. By using the chiral nematic organization of NCC as a template, we have been able to create highly porous silica films and carbon films with chiral nematic organization.1,2 These materials are iridescent and their structures mimic the shells of jewel beetles. In this paper, I will describe our recent efforts to use NCC to create new materials with interesting optical properties.

Factors influencing chiral nematic pitch and texture of cellulose nanocrystal films Derek G Gray, McGill University, Department of Chemistry, Pulp and Paper Building, 3420 University Street, Montreal, QC, H3A 2A7, Canada , 1-514-398-6182, [email protected] Appropriately stabilized cellulose nanocrystal (NCC) suspensions in water form chiral nematic liquid crystalline phases above some critical concentration. In the absence of added electrolye, the chiral nematic pitch of such suspensions is longer than that of visible light. Films prepared by evaporation from the suspensions also often display the characteristic fingerprint patterns characteristic of long-pitch chiral nematic phases, but the pitch values can be shifted into the visible range by adding small quantities of electrolyte to the evaporating suspension. The factors that control the final pitch have been the subject of some confusion. While still not well understood, it is clear that at high nanocrystal concentrations and in solid films, the pitch is not simply a reversible function of nanocrystal concentration. We examine some of the factors that control the pitch and liquid crystal texture during the drying of chiral nematic NCC films.

….

Bioprinting of 3D porous nanocellulose scaffolds for tissue engineering and organ regeneration Paul Gatenholm, Professor, [mentioned in my March 19, 2012 posting] Wallenberg Wood Science Center, Chalmers, Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Kemigarden 4, Goteborg, V. Gotaland, SE41296, Sweden , 46317723407, [email protected] Nanocellulose is a promising biocompatible hydrogel like nano-biomaterial with potential uses in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. Biomaterial scaffolds for tissue engineering require precise control of porosity, pore size, and pore interconnectivity. Control of scaffold architecture is crucial to promote cell migration, cell attachment, cell proliferation and cell differentiation. 3D macroporous nanocellulose scaffolds, produced by unique biofabrication process using porogens incorporated in the cultivation step, have shown ability to attract smooth muscle cells, endothelial cells, chondrocytes of various origins, urethral cells and osteoprogenitor cells. We have developed bioprinter which is able to produce 3D porous nanocellulose scaffolds with large size and unique architecture. Surface modifications have been applied to enhance cell adhesion and cell differentiation. In this study we have focused on use of 3D porous Nanocellulose scaffolds for stem cell differentiation into osteogenic and chondral lineages.