Monthly Archives: July 2013

E-ink discovery could be a gateway to cheaper solar cells and electronic touch pads

Non-toxic, inexpensive, and durable are words which, in combination, seem downright magical and all are mentioned in a July 31, 2013 news item on Azonano,

Researchers in the University of Minnesota’s College of Science and Engineering and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo., have overcome technical hurdles in the quest for inexpensive, durable electronics and solar cells made with non-toxic chemicals. …

“Imagine a world where every child in a developing country could learn reading and math from a touch pad that costs less than $10 or home solar cells that finally cost less than fossil fuels,” said Uwe Kortshagen, a University of Minnesota mechanical engineering professor and one of the co-authors of the paper.

The July 30, 2013 University of Minnesota news release, which originated the news item, explains the discovery and the issues the researchers are addressing and it mentions, as many do these days,  a patent,

The research team discovered a novel technology to produce a specialized type of ink from non-toxic nanometer-sized crystals of silicon, often called “electronic ink.” This “electronic ink” could produce inexpensive electronic devices with techniques that essentially print it onto inexpensive sheets of plastic.

“This process for producing electronics is almost like screen printing a number on a softball jersey,” said Lance Wheeler, a University of Minnesota mechanical engineering Ph.D. student and lead author of the research.

But it’s not quite that easy. Wheeler, Kortshagen and the rest of the research team developed a method to solve fundamental problems of silicon electronic inks.

First, there is the ubiquitous need of organic “soap-like” molecules, called ligands, that are needed to produce inks with a good shelf life, but these molecules cause detrimental residues in the films after printing. This leads to films with electrical properties too poor for electronic devices. Second, nanoparticles are often deliberately implanted with impurities, a process called “doping,” to enhance their electrical properties.

In this new paper, researchers explain a new method to use an ionized gas, called nonthermal plasma, to not only produce silicon nanocrystals, but also to cover their surfaces with a layer of chlorine atoms. This surface layer of chlorine induces an interaction with many widely used solvents that allows production of stable silicon inks with excellent shelf life without the need for organic ligand molecules. In addition, the researchers discovered that these solvents lead to doping of films printed from their silicon inks, which gave them an electrical conductivity 1,000 times larger than un-doped silicon nanoparticle films. The researchers have a provisional patent on their findings.

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

Hypervalent surface interactions for colloidal stability and doping of silicon nanocrystals by Lance M. Wheeler, Nathan R. Neale, Ting Chen, & Uwe R. Kortshagen. Nature Communications 4, Article number: 2197 doi:10.1038/ncomms3197 Published 29 July 2013

The paper is open access. The researchers also offer a brief video describing the process of making the nanocrystals,

Here’s the video description provided by the researchers (from,

This video shows how silicon nanocrystals are synthesized in a plasma reactor. Inert argon gas flows from the top of the reactor through a glass tube. Fifteen watts of radio frequency power is applied to the copper ring electrodes to ionize the argon gas and produce what is called a plasma. A gas containing silicon (silane) is injected into the reactive plasma environment to produce silicon nanocrystals. Though the plasma is energetic enough to produce these tiny crystals, the glass tube remains cool enough to touch. The plasma is a reactive environment used to produce silicon nanocrystals that can be applied to inexpensive, next-generation electronics.

A ‘glass jaw’ might turn out to be a good thing

I don’t know if the phrase ‘glass jaw’ is used much any more but it was a term for someone who couldn’t ‘take’ a punch to the jaw (i.e., the person was instantly rendered unconscious or helplessly groggy). If scientists at Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T)  have their way, the phrase ‘glass jaw’ will have a new meaning as per the July 26, 2012 news item on ScienceDaily,

Researchers at Missouri University of Science and Technology have developed a type of glass implant that could one day be used to repair injured bones in the arms, legs and other areas of the body that are most subject to the stresses of weight.

This marks the first time researchers have shown a glass implant strong enough to bear weight can also integrate with bone and promote bone growth, says lead researcher Dr. Mohamed N. Rahaman, professor of materials science and engineering at Missouri S&T.

The July 26, 2013 Missouri S&T news release by Andrew Careaga, which originated the news item, describes the work leading to this latest research,

In previous work, the Missouri S&T researchers developed a glass implant strong enough to handle the weight and pressure of repetitive movement, such as walking or lifting. In their most recent study, published in the journal Acta Biomaterialia, the research team reported that the glass implant, in the form of a porous scaffolding, also integrates with bone and promotes bone growth.

This combination of strength and bone growth opens new possibilities for bone repair, says Rahaman, who also directs Missouri S&T’s Center for Biomedical Science and Engineering, where the research was conducted.

The news release then goes on to describe one of the problems with using synthetic materials for bone repair and explains how this latest research addresses the issue,

Conventional approaches to structural bone repair involve either the use of a porous metal, which does not reliably heal bone, or a bone allograft from a cadaver. Both approaches are costly and carry risks, Rahaman says. He thinks the type of glass implant developed in his center could provide a more feasible approach for repairing injured bones. The glass is bioactive, which means that it reacts when implanted in living tissue and convert to a bone-like material.

In their latest research, Rahaman and his colleagues implanted bioactive glass scaffolds into sections of the calvarial bones (skullcaps) of laboratory rats, then examined how well the glass integrated with the surrounding bone and how quickly new bone grew into the scaffold. The scaffolds are manufactured in Rahaman’s lab through a process known as robocasting – a computer-controlled technique to manufacture materials from ceramic slurries, layer by layer – to ensure uniform structure for the porous material.

In previous studies by the Missouri S&T researchers, porous scaffolds of the silicate glass, known as 13-93, were found to have the same strength properties as cortical bone. Cortical bones are those outer bones of the body that bear the most weight and undergo the most repetitive stress. They include the long bones of the arms and legs.

But what Rahaman and his colleagues didn’t know was how well the silicate 13-93 bioactive glass scaffolds would integrate with bone or how quickly bone would grow into the scaffolding.

“You can have the strongest material in the world, but it also must encourage bone growth in a reasonable amount of time,” says Rahaman. He considers three to six months to be a reasonable time frame for completely regenerating an injured bone into one strong enough to bear weight.

In their studies, the S&T researchers found that the bioactive glass scaffolds bonded quickly to bone and promoted a significant amount of new bone growth within six weeks.

While the skullcap is not a load-bearing bone, it is primarily a cortical bone. The purpose of this research was to demonstrate how well this type of glass scaffolding – already shown to be strong – would interact with cortical bone.

Rahaman and his fellow researchers in the Center for Biomedical Science and Engineering are now experimenting with true load-bearing bones. They are now testing the silicate 13-93 implants in the femurs (leg bones) of laboratory rats.

In the future, Rahaman plans to experiment with modified glass scaffolds to see how well they enhance certain attributes within bone. For instance, doping the glass with copper should promote the growth of blood vessels or capillaries within the new bone, while doping the glass with silver will give it antibacterial properties.

It’s exciting work but they are years from human clinical trials. Still, for those who want to explore further, here’s a link to and a citation for the published paper,

Enhanced bone regeneration in rat calvarial defects implanted with surface-modified and BMP-loaded bioactive glass (13-93) scaffolds by Xin Liua, Mohamed N. Rahaman, Yongxing Liu, B. Sonny Bal, and Lynda F. Bonewald. Acta Biomaterialia, July 2013 issue (Volume 9, Issue 7)

This paper is behind a paywall.

Like water for graphene nanoribbons

Reference to magical realism and fiction aside (Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel), it turns out that water is integral to the formation of very long, very thin graphene nanoribbons. A July 30, 2011 Rice University news release describes the phenomenon, a two year research odyssey, and the scientific ‘accident’ which led researchers to the discovery,

New research at Rice University shows how water makes it practical to form long graphene nanoribbons less than 10 nanometers wide.

And it’s unlikely that many of the other labs currently trying to harness the potential of graphene, a single-atom sheet of carbon, for microelectronics would have come up with the technique the Rice researchers found while they were looking for something else.

The discovery by lead author Vera Abramova and co-author Alexander Slesarev, both graduate students in the lab of Rice chemist James Tour, appears online this month in the American Chemical Society journal ACS Nano.

A bit of water adsorbed from the atmosphere was found to act as a mask in a process that begins with the creation of patterns via lithography and ends with very long, very thin graphene nanoribbons. The ribbons form wherever water gathers at the wedge between the raised pattern and the graphene surface.

The water formation is called a meniscus; it is created when the surface tension of a liquid causes it to curve [in a convex or concave manner]. In the Rice process, the meniscus mask protects a tiny ribbon of graphene from being etched away when the pattern is removed.

Tour said any method to form long wires only a few nanometers wide should catch the interest of microelectronics manufacturers as they approach the limits of their ability to miniaturize circuitry. “They can never take advantage of the smallest nanoscale devices if they can’t address them with a nanoscale wire,” he said. “Right now, manufacturers can make small features, or make big features and put them where they want them. But to have both has been difficult. To be able to pattern a line this thin right where you want it is a big deal because it permits you to take advantage of the smallness in size of nanoscale devices.”

Tour said water’s tendency to adhere to surfaces is often annoying, but in this case it’s essential to the process. “There are big machines that are used in electronics research that are often heated to hundreds of degrees under ultrahigh vacuum to drive off all the water that adheres to the inside surfaces,” he said. “Otherwise there’s always going to be a layer of water. In our experiments, water accumulates at the edge of the structure and protects the graphene from the reactive ion etching (RIE). So in our case, that residual water is the key to success.

Abramova and Slesarev had set out to fabricate nanoribbons by inverting a method developed by another Rice lab to make narrow gaps in materials. The original method utilized the ability of some metals to form a native oxide layer that expands and shields material just on the edge of the metal mask. The new method worked, but not as expected.

“We first suspected there was some kind of shadowing,” Abramova said. But other metals that didn’t expand as much, if at all, showed no difference, nor did varying the depth of the pattern. “I was basically looking for anything that would change something.”

It took two years to develop and test the meniscus theory, during which the researchers also confirmed its potential to create sub-10-nanometer wires from other kinds of materials, including platinum. They also constructed field-effect transistors to check the electronic properties of graphene nanoribbons.

To be sure that water does indeed account for the ribbons, they tried eliminating its effect by first drying the patterns by heating them under vacuum, and then by displacing the water with acetone to eliminate the meniscus. In both cases, no graphene nanoribbons were created.

The researchers are working to better control the nanoribbons’ width, and they hope to refine the nanoribbons’ edges, which help dictate their electronic properties.

“With this study, we figured out you don’t need expensive tools to get these narrow features,” Tour said. “You can use the standard tools [;] a fab line already has to make features that are smaller than 10 nanometers.”

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

Meniscus-Mask Lithography for Narrow Graphene Nanoribbons by Vera Abramova, Alexander S. Slesarev, and James M. Tour. ACS Nano, Article ASAP DOI: 10.1021/nn403057t Publication Date (Web): July 23, 2013
Copyright © 2013 American Chemical Society

This paper is behind a paywall.

Dexter Johnson in his July30, 2013 posting on the Nanoclast blog (on the IEEE [Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers]) notes that this use of water is counter-intuitive,

In [an] ironic twist, the water that most lithography processes try avoid and eliminate at great cost is the same water that makes this new lithography process work.

Nanotechnology Standards Database announced by American National Standards Institute

The ANSI-NSP (American National Standards Institute Nanotechnology Standards Panel) Nanotechnology Standards Database announced in a July 30, 2013 news item on Nanowerk is in the early stages,

The American National Standards Institute Nanotechnology Standards Panel (ANSI-NSP) is pleased to announce the launch of a new database compiling information about nanotechnology-related standards and affiliated activities. The creation of the database, which was first discussed during a February 2013 meeting of the ANSI-NSP in Washington, DC, is part of a larger ongoing effort by the ANSI-NSP and its members and partners to bolster the visibility of existing and in-development nanomaterials and nanotechnology guidance documents, reference materials, and standards.

“Standards have a significant impact when they are broadly used. This database will be a valuable tool that can enable information sharing and raise awareness about available standards or those under development and can play an important role in furthering the responsible development and commercialization of nanotechnology,” said ANSI-NSP co-chair Ajit Jilavenkatesa, Ph.D., senior standards policy advisor at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) of the U.S. Department of Commerce (DoC).

I have visited the ANSI-NSP Nanotechnology Standards Database website and found a few entries for both published and unpublished documents already populating it. This database does not host the documents themselves as per the entry form for published documents,

This form is intended to capture information on those published documents (i.e., standards, guidelines, and regulations) that relate to nanotechnology and nanotechnology-related applications.

Note: this NSP Standards Database is not for uploading or collecting the standards or documents themselves, but rather seeking relevant information regarding such documents. If you wish to provide a link for users to access specific documents or standards, a form field has been provided.

The NSP Standards Database will play a key role in assessing the current nanotechnology standardization landscape and help identify potential gaps in recognized standards needs. We thank you for contributing to the success of this initiative.

This looks to be a voluntary and international effort (some ISO documents are listed). It’s not clear if there is going to be any oversight, e.g., checking that the data in the entry form is correct, updating entries over time, etc.

Here’s a little more about the NSP (which hints at why they’d be interested in developing and hosting this database),

The American National Standards Institute’s Nanotechnology Standards Panel (ANSI-NSP) serves as the cross-sector coordinating body for the purposes of facilitating the development of standards in the area of nanotechnology including, but not limited to, nomenclature/terminology; health, safety and environmental aspects; materials properties; and testing, measurement and characterization procedures.

I wish them good luck with their effort. If this database works as hoped it could be a very useful tool.

Unique ‘printing’ process boosts supercapacitor performance

In addition to creating energy, we also need to store some of it for future use as a July 29, 2013 news release from the University of Central Florida notes,

Researchers at the University of Central Florida have developed a technique to increase the energy storage capabilities of supercapacitors, essential devices for powering high-speed trains, electric cars, and the emergency doors of the Airbus A380.

The finding, which offers a solution to a problem that has plagued the growing multi-billion dollar industry, utilizes a unique three-step process to “print” large – area nanostructured electrodes, structures necessary to improve electrical conductivity and boost performance of the supercapacitor.

Jayan Thomas, an assistant professor in UCF’s NanoScience Technology Center, led the project which is featured in the June edition of Advanced Materials, one of the leading peer-reviewed scientific journals covering materials science in the world. Thomas’ research appears on the journal’s highly-coveted frontispiece, the illustration page of the journal that precedes the title page.

The news release goes on to describe the supercapacitor issue the researchers were addressing,

Supercapacitors have been around since the 1960’s. Similar to batteries, they store energy. The difference is that supercapacitors can provide higher amounts of power for shorter periods of time, making them very useful for heavy machinery and other applications that require large amounts of energy to start.  However, due to their innate low energy density; supercapacitors are limited in the amount of energy that they can store.

“We had been looking at techniques to print nanostructures,” said Thomas. “Using a simple spin-on nanoprinting (SNAP) technique, we can print highly-ordered nanopillars without the need for complicated development processes. By eliminating these processes, it allows multiple imprints to be made on the same substrate in close proximity.“

This simplified fabrication method devised by Thomas and his team is very attractive for the next-generation of energy storage systems. “What we’ve found is by adding the printed ordered nanostructures to supercapacitor electrodes, we can increase their surface area many times,” added Thomas. “We discovered that supercapacitors made using the SNAP technique can store much more energy than ones made without.”

Here’s a link to and a citation for the research paper abut this new technique for supercapacitors,

Energy Storage: Highly Ordered MnO2 Nanopillars for Enhanced Supercapacitor Performance (Adv. Mater. 24/2013) by Zenan Yu, Binh Duong, Danielle Abbitt, and Jayan Thomas. Article first published online: 20 JUN 2013 DOI: 10.1002/adma.201370160 Advanced Materials Volume 25, Issue 24, page 3301, June 25, 2013.

Lead researcher Thomas was recently featured in a video for his work on creating plasmonic nanocrystals from gold nanoparticles (from the news release),

Thomas, who is also affiliated with the College of Optics and Photonics (CREOL), and the College of Engineering, was recently featured on American Institute of Physics’ Inside Science TV for his collaborative research to develop a new material using nanotechnology that could potentially help keep pilots safe by diffusing harmful laser light.

Here’s the video,

You can find videos, news, and blogs featuring other research at Inside Science and you can find out more about Dr. Jayan Thomas here.

Sounds like fracking to me: research into unconventional hydrocarbon production at Texas A&M University

A July 29, 2013 news item on Nanowerk features a Flotek Industries-sponsored research initiative at Texas A&M University,

Flotek Industries, Inc. announced today sponsorship of applied research at Texas A&M University to investigate the impact of nanotechnology on oil and natural gas production in emerging, unconventional resource plays.

“With the acceleration of activity in oil and gas producing shales, a better understanding of the impact of various completion chemistries on tight formations with low porosity and permeability will be key to developing optimal completion techniques in the future,” said John Chisholm, Flotek’s Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer. “While we know Flotek’s Complex nano-Fluid chemistries have been successful in enhancing production in tight resource formations, we believe a more complete understanding of the interaction between our chemistries and geologic formations as well as a more precise comprehension of the physical properties and impact of our nanofluids in the completion process will significantly enhance the efficacy of the unconventional hydrocarbon completion process. This research continues our relationship with Texas A&M where we also are conducting research into acidizing applications in Enhanced Oil Recovery.”

The words ‘unconventional’ and ‘shale’ in the context of oil and gas production suggest fracking to me. For anyone who’s unfamiliar with the practice, here’s an excerpt from a good description in a June 27, 2013 news item on the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) website,

What is fracking?

Fracking is the process of drilling down into the earth before a high-pressure water mixture is directed at the rock to release the gas inside. Water, sand and chemicals are injected into the rock at high pressure which allows the gas to flow out to the head of the well.

The process is carried out vertically or, more commonly, by drilling horizontally to the rock layer. The process can create new pathways to release gas or can be used to extend existing channels.

Why is it controversial?

The extensive use of fracking in the US, where it has revolutionised the energy industry, has prompted environmental concerns.

The first is that fracking uses huge amounts of water that must be transported to the fracking site, at significant environmental cost. The second is the worry that potentially carcinogenic chemicals used may escape and contaminate groundwater around the fracking site. The industry suggests pollution incidents are the results of bad practice, rather than an inherently risky technique.

The July 29, 2013 Flotek Industries news release (on PRNewswire’s website) which originated the news item provides more details about the research initiative,

Specifically, the research will focus its investigation on the oil recovery potential of complex nanofluids and select surfactants under subsurface pressure and temperature conditions of liquids-rich shales.

Dr. I. Yucel Akkutlu, Associate Professor of Petroleum Engineering in the Harold Vance Department of Petroleum Engineering at Texas A&M University will serve as the principal investigator for the project. Dr. Akkutlu received his Masters and PhD in Petroleum Engineering from the University of Southern California. He has over a decade of postgraduate theoretical and experimental research experience in unconventional oil and gas recovery, enhanced oil recovery and reactive flow and transport in heterogeneous porous media. He has recently participated in industry-sponsored research on resource shales including analysis of microscopic data to better understand fluid storage and transport properties of organic-rich shales.

“As unconventional resource opportunities continue to grow in importance to hydrocarbon production, understanding ways to maximize recovery will be key to improving the efficacy of these projects,” said Dr. Akkutlu. “The key to enhancing recovery will be to best understand robust, new technologies and their impact on the completion process. Research into complex nanofluid chemistries to understand the physical properties and formation interactions will play an integral role in the future of completion design to optimize recovery from unconventional hydrocarbon resources.”

There was a little surprise (for me) on the website’s Our Company webpage,

Flotek’s vision is to be the premier energy services company focused on best-in class technology, cutting-edge innovation and exceptional customer service all standing in the support of our never-ending commitment to provide superior returns for our stakeholders. Flotek Industries Inc., is a diversified global supplier of drilling-and production-related products and services to the energy and mining industries. Flotek is headquartered in Houston, Texas and its common shares are traded on the New York Stock Exchange market under the stock ticker symbol, “FTK.” FLOTEK was originally incorporated under the laws of the Province of British Columbia on May 17, 1985. [emphasis mine] On October 23, 2001, we approved a change in our corporate domicile to the state of Delaware and a reverse stock split of 120 to 1. On October 31, 2001, we completed a reverse merger with CESI Chemical, Inc. (“CESI”). …

I wasn’t expecting the British Columbia (Canadian province where I live) connection.

Moving on to the nanotechnology connection, there’s this about the nano-fluid technology they use currently on the company’s homepage,

Chemical & Logistics / CESI Chemical

Complex nano-Fluid™ Technology

See how CESI Chemical’s patented CnF® will enhance hydrocarbon production and recovery and improve production economics in almost every completion scenario.

If you should visit the company website, expect to fill out a registration for any product information additional to what you see on the homepage or product index page.

Stained glass cathedral window solar panels being hooked up to Saskatoon’s (Canada) power grid

The Cathedral of the Holy Family in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan (Canada) is about to have its art glass windows (“Lux Gloria”) complete with solar panels hooked up to the Saskatoon Light & Power’s distribution network. It’s not often one sees beauty and utility combined. You can see the stained glass windows as they appear, from outside the cathedral, on this book cover for “A Beacon of Welcome” A Glimpse Inside the Cathedral of the Holy Family,

“A Beacon of Welcome” A Glimpse Inside the Cathedral of the Holy Family book cover [downloaded from]

“A Beacon of Welcome” A Glimpse Inside the Cathedral of the Holy Family [book cover downloaded from]

Emily Chung’s July 29, 2013 news item for CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) online describes the project at more length,

“Lux Gloria” by Sarah Hall, at the Cathedral of the Holy Family in Saskatoon, is currently being connected to Saskatoon Light & Power’s electrical distribution network, confirmed Jim Nakoneshny, facilities manager at the cathedral.

The artwork, which consists of solar panels embedded in brightly coloured, hand-painted art glass, had just been reinstalled and upgraded after breaking and falling into the church last year.

According to Kevin Hudson, manager of metering and sustainable electricity for Saskatoon Light & Power, the solar panels are expected to produce about 2,500 kilowatt hours annually or about a third to a quarter of the 8,000 to 10,000 kilowatt hours consumed by a typical home in Saskatoon each year.

In fact, the installation will become Saskatchewan’s first building-integrated photovoltaic system (BIPV), where solar panels are embedded directly into walls, windows or other parts of a building’s main structure. It’s a trend that is expected to grow in the future as the traditional practice of mounting solar panels on rooftops isn’t practical for many city buildings, including some churches.

Chung’s article features some specific technical information about the solar art windows supplied by artist Sarah Hall,

In the case of the Cathedral of the Holy Family, each solar panel was a different size and was trapezoidal in shape, Hall said. As a result, “all the solar work had to be hand soldered.”

Because the solar cells aren’t transparent, Hall adds a high-tech “dichroic” glass to the back of the cells in some cases to make them colourful and reflective.

You can find more  images of Hall’s work on her website. Unfortunately, Hall does not provide much detail about the technical aspects of her work.

The Cathedral of the Holy Family features a book about their stained glass windows,

“Transfiguring Prairie Skies”  Stained Glass at Cathedral of the Holy Family [book cover downloaded from]

“Transfiguring Prairie Skies” Stained Glass at Cathedral of the Holy Family [book cover downloaded from]

Here’s more information about the book,

“Transfiguring Prairie Skies”  Stained Glass at Cathedral of the Holy Family  written by Bishop Donald Bolen and Sarah Hall, photography by Grant Kernan and Sarah Hall.  A 116 page hard cover book which includes incredibly detailed close-up shots of our stained glass windows, complete with poetic and theological reflections for each window.

Cost is $25.00

You can visit the Cathedral of the Holy Family website here.

Protecting food with copper nanoparticles

It’s usually silver nanoparticles protecting us from bacteria (sports clothing, bandages, food, socks,, etc.)  but this time, according to a July 24, 2013 news item on ScienceDaily, it’s copper,

Microbes lurk almost everywhere, from fresh food and air filters to toilet seats and folding money. Most of the time, they are harmless to humans. But sometimes they aren’t. Every year, thousands of people sicken from E. coli infections and hundreds die in the US alone. Now Michigan Technological University scientist Jaroslaw Drelich has found a new way to get them before they get us.

His innovation relies on copper, an element valued for centuries for its antibiotic properties. Drelich, a professor of materials science and engineering, has discovered how to embed nanoparticles of the red metal into vermiculite, an inexpensive, inert compound sometimes used in potting soil. In preliminary tests on local lake water, it killed 100 percent of E. coli bacteria in the sample. Drelich also found that it was effective in killing Staphylococcus aureus, the common staph bacteria.

The news item was originated by a March 18, 2013 Michigan Technical University news release by Marcia Goodrich (Note: It’s not unusual for an institution to resend a news release which didn’t get much notice the first time). Goodrich’s news release provides more details about Drelich’s commercialization plans for his work,

Bacteria aren’t the only microorganisms that copper can kill. It is also toxic to viruses and fungi. If it were incorporated into food packaging materials, it could help prevent a variety of foodborne diseases, Drelich says.

The copper-vermiculite material mixes well with many other materials, like cardboard and plastic, so it could be used in packing beads, boxes, even cellulose-based egg cartons.

And because the cost is so low—25 cents per pound at most—it would be an inexpensive, effective way to improve the safety of the food supply, especially fruits and vegetables. Drelich is working with the Michigan Tech SmartZone to commercialize the product through his business, Micro Techno Solutions, the recipient of the 2012 Great Lakes Entrepreneur’s Quest Food Safety Innovation Award. He expects to further test the material and eventually license it to companies that pack fresh food.

The material could have many other applications as well. It could be used to treat drinking water, industrial effluent, even sewage.  “I’ve had inquiries from companies interested in purifying water,” Drelich says.

And it could be embedded in products used in public places where disease transmission is a concern: toilet seats, showerheads, even paper toweling.

“When you make a discovery like this, it’s hard to envision all the potential applications,” he says. It could even be mixed into that wad of dollar bills in your wallet. “Money is the most contaminated product on the market.”

The research Drelich performed was discussed in a 2011 paper,

Vermiculite decorated with copper nanoparticles: Novel antibacterial hybrid material by Jaroslaw Drelich, Bowen Li, Patrick Bowen, Jiann-Yang Hwang, Owen Mills, Daniel Hoffman.  Applied Surface Science, Volume 257, Issue 22, 1 September 2011, Pages 9435–9443.

This paper is behind a paywall.

Beautiful animations of Van Gogh’s paintings by Luca Agnani

Sometimes you need a feast for the spirit,

Via Jennifer Miller’s July 25, 2013 article for Fast Company.

This piece was published by the artist Luca Agnani (you will need Italian language skills for Agnani’s site) on YouTube on May 22, 2013 where he noted the titles of the Van Gogh paintings and music in his animation,

Real Painting

1. Fishing Boats on the Beach at Saintes-Maries
2. Langlois Bridge at Arles, The
3. Farmhouse in Provence
4. White House at Night, The
5. Still Life
6. Evening The Watch (after Millet)
7. View of Saintes-Maries
8. Bedroom
9. Factories at Asnieres Seen
10. White House at Night, The
11. Restaurant
12. First Steps (after Millet)
13. Self-Portrait

Music: Experience – Ludovico Einaudi

Have a lovely weekend!