Tag Archives: Australia

Prussian blue nanocubes and ultralightweight iron oxide materials

The research itself concerns the synthesis of ultralight iron oxide frameworks but really caught my attention was the image used to illustrate the work and the term ‘Prussian blue nanocubes’,

[downloaded from http://www.wiley-vch.de/util/hottopics/mesoporous/]

[downloaded from http://www.wiley-vch.de/util/hottopics/mesoporous/]

I believed the image is meant to indicate an ultralight iron anvil resting on the head of a rose-like blossom (I was mostly wrong) as you’ll see in this Feb. 25, 2014 news item on Nanowerk (Note: A link has been removed),

Adsorption, catalysis, or substrates for tissue growth: porous materials have many potential applications. In the journal Angewandte Chemie (“Ultralight Mesoporous Magnetic Frameworks by Interfacial Assembly of Prussian Blue Nanocubes”), a team of Chinese and Australian researchers has now introduced a method for the synthesis of ultralight three-dimensional (3D) iron oxide frameworks with two different types of nanoscopic pores and tunable surface properties. This superparamagnetic material can be cut into arbitrary shapes and is suitable for applications such as multiphase catalysis and the removal of heavy metal ions and oil from water.

Materials with hierarchically organized pore systems—meaning that the walls of macropores with diameters in the micrometer range contain mesopores of just a few nanometers—are high on the wish lists of materials researchers. The advantages of these materials include their high surface area and the easy accessibility of the small pores through the larger ones. The great desirability of these materials is matched by the degree of difficulty in producing them on an industrial scale.

Scientists at Fudan University (China) and Monash University (Australia) have now successfully produced an ultralight iron oxide framework with 250 µm and 18 nm pores in a process that can be used on an industrial scale. A team led by Gengfeng Zheng and Dongyuan Zhao used highly porous polyurethane sponges as a “matrix”, which were soaked with yellow potassium hexacyanoferrate (K4[Fe(CN)6]). Subsequent hydrolysis resulted in cubic nanocrystals of Prussian blue (iron hexacyanoferrate), a dark blue pigment, which were deposited all over the surfaces of the sponge. The polyurethane sponge was then fully burned away through pyroloysis and the Prussian blue was converted to iron oxide. The result is a 3D framework of iron oxide cubes that are in turn made of iron oxide nanoparticles and contain mesopores. The material is so light that the researchers were able to balance a 240 cm3 piece on an oleander blossom.

As for Prussian blue, it’s a term I associate with portraits and landscapes. Actually, Prussian blue is a little more than that (from the Prussian blue entry on wiktionary.org),

Prussian blue (plural Prussian blues)

(inorganic chemistry) An insoluble dark, bright blue pigment, ferric ferrocyanide (equivalent to ferrous ferricyanide), used in painting and dyeing, and as an antidote for certain kinds of heavy metal poisoning.
A moderate to rich blue colour, tinted with deep greenish blue.

Here’s a sample of the colour from the wiktionary entry,

[downloaded from http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Prussian_blue]

[downloaded from http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Prussian_blue]

Prussian Blue was also the name for a short-lived white nationalist band (from the Prussian Blue essay on Wikipedia; Note: Links have been removed),

Prussian Blue was an American white nationalist pop pre-teen duo formed in early 2003 by April Gaede, mother of Lynx Vaughan Gaede[1] and Lamb Lennon Gaede,[2] sororal twins born on June 30, 1992, in Bakersfield, California.[3] The twins referred to the Holocaust as a myth[4] and their group was described as racist and white supremacist in nature.[5][6]

Lynx and Lamb were about 14 when they decided that they wanted to cease touring. In 2011, in an interview with The Daily, the twins renounced their previous politics.[7] Lamb was quoted saying, “I’m not a white nationalist anymore. My sister and I are pretty liberal now.”

Getting back to the research at hand, here’s a link to and a citation for the research into ultralight iron oxide frameworks,

Ultralight Mesoporous Magnetic Frameworks by Interfacial Assembly of Prussian Blue Nanocubes by Biao Kong, Jing Tang, Zhangxiong Wu, Jing Wei, Hao Wu, Yongcheng Wang, Prof. Gengfeng Zheng, & Prof. Dongyuan Zhao. Angewandte Chemie International Edition Article first published online: 12 FEB 2014 DOI: 10.1002/anie.201308625

Copyright © 2013 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim

I really wasn’t expecting to trip across information about a holocaust-denying pre-teen pop duo (who’ve since renounced those views) in a post regarding research on iron oxide and Prussian blue nanocubes that was published in a German chemistry journal. I’m not sure this can be called ironic but it certainly has that quality.

Australians protect grain with diatoms (Nature’s nanofabrication factories)

A Feb. 5, 2014 news item on Nanowerk highlights a presentation about protecting grain from insects given at the  ICONN2014-ACMM23 conference for nanoscience and microscopy held Feb. 3 -6, 2014 at the University of Adelaide (Australia). From the news item,

University of Adelaide researchers are using nanotechnology and the fossils of single-celled algae to develop a novel chemical-free and resistance-free way of protecting stored grain from insects.

The researchers are taking advantage of the unique properties of these single-celled algae, called diatoms. Diatoms have been called Nature’s nanofabrication factories because of their production of tiny (nanoscale) structures made from silica which have a range of properties of potential interest for nanotechnology.

“One area of our research is focussed on transforming this cheap diatom silica, readily available as a by-product of mining, into valuable nanomaterials for diverse applications – one of which is pest control,” says Professor Dusan Losic, ARC Future Fellow in the University’s School of Chemical Engineering.

The Feb. 5, 2014 University of Adelaide media release, which originated the news item, provides more insight into the research,

“There are two looming issues for the world-wide protection against insect pests of stored grain: firstly, the development of resistance by many species to conventional pest controls – insecticides and the fumigant phosphine – and, secondly, the increasing consumer demand for residue-free grain products and food,” Professor Losic says.

“In the case of Australia, we export grain worth about $8 billion each year – about 25 million tonnes – which could be under serious threat. We urgently need to find alternative methods for stored grain protection which are ecologically sound and resistance-free.”

The researchers are using a natural, non-toxic silica material based on the ‘diatomaceous earths’ formed by the fossilisation of diatoms. The material disrupts the insect’s protective cuticle, causing the insect to dehydrate.

“This is a natural and non-toxic material with a significant advantage being that, as only a physical mode of action is involved, the insects won’t develop resistance,” says Professor Losic. [emphasis mine]

“Equally important is that it is environmentally stable with high insecticidal activity for a long period of time. Therefore, stored products can be protected for longer periods of time without the need for frequent re-application.”

PhD student Sheena Chen is presenting her findings on the insecticidal activity of the material. PhD student John Hayles is also working on the project. The research is funded by the Grains Research and Development Corporation. The researchers are in the final stages of optimising the formula of the material.

This work be may of interest to Canadian farmers especially since 2013 featured the largest wheat and canola harvests in Canadian history according to a Dec. 4, 2013 article by Terryn Shiells for AgCanada.com,

“There’s just no getting around it, this is the biggest crop of Canadian history and it’s basically a shocker all around,” said Mike Jubinville of ProFarmer Canada in Winnipeg. “I really can’t think of a crop, other than peas and lentils, that didn’t provide an upside that betters what trade expectations were.”

Because all of the crops are so huge, it won’t be possible to move the entire crop this year, Jubinville said.

“We’re going to argue all we want about rail car allocations, about slow deliverable opportunities, but there’s just no way that the Canadian commercial handling system can move this crop,” he said.

Because there just isn’t enough capacity to get everything moved this year, there will also likely be larger than anticipated carryover stocks of all crops.

I imagine these bumper crops will mean there are storage issues which brings this piece back to the Australians and their work on preserving stored grain by using diatoms and silica material.  Perhaps Canadian farmers would like to test this “new natural and non-toxic material” once the formula has been optimized.

Australians inspired by Lycurgus Cup

The Lycurgus Cup is one of the great artistic achievements in history and there’s a nanotechnology twist to this art work created in the 4th century CE (or AD). From the Nov. 21, 2013 news item on Nanowerk,

A 1700-year-old Roman glass cup is inspiring University of Adelaide [Australia] researchers in their search for new ways to exploit nanoparticles and their interactions with light.

Researchers in the University’s Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing (IPAS) are investigating how to best embed nanoparticles in glass – instilling the glass with the properties of the nanoparticles it contains.

Before going further with this latest work at the University of Adelaide, here’s an excerpt from my Sept. 21, 2010 posting where I burbled on about the best of piece of writing I’ve seen about the Lycurgus Cup (held in the British Museum),

The *History of the Ancient World website (as Nov. 21, 2013 the link has been changed to the Université de Strasbourg,, Matière Condensée et Nanophysique website) recently featured a 2007 article about the Lycurgus Cup by Ian Freestone, Nigel Meeks, Margaret Sax and Catherine Higgitt for the Gold Bulletin, Vol. 40:4 (2007),

The Lycurgus Cup represents one of the outstanding achievements of the ancient glass industry. This late Roman cut glass vessel is extraordinary in several respects, firstly in the method of fabrication and the exceptional workmanship involved and secondly in terms of the unusual optical effects displayed by the glass.

The Lycurgus Cup is one of a class of Roman vessels known as cage cups or diatreta, where the decoration is in openwork which stands proud from the body of the vessel, to which it is linked by shanks or bridges Typically these openwork “cages” comprise a lattice of linked circles, but a small number have figurative designs, although none of these is as elaborate or as well preserved as the Lycurgus Cup. Cage cups are generally dated to the fourth century A.D. and have been found across the Roman Empire, but the number recovered is small, and probably only in the region of 50-100 examples are known. They are among the most technically sophisticated glass objects produced before the modern era.

Here’s what it looks like,

The Lycurgus Cup 1958,1202.1 in reflected light. Scene showing Lycurgus being enmeshed by Ambrosia, now transformed into a vine-shoot. Department of Prehistory and Europe, The British Museum. Height: 16.5 cm (with modern metal mounts), diameter: 13.2 cm. © The Trustees of the British Museum

The Lycurgus Cup 1958,1202.1 in reflected light. Scene showing Lycurgus being enmeshed by Ambrosia, now transformed into a vine-shoot. Department of Prehistory and Europe, The British Museum. Height: 16.5 cm (with modern metal mounts), diameter: 13.2 cm. © The Trustees of the British Museum

And this, too, is the one and only Lycurgus Cup,

The Lycurgus Cup 1958,1202.1 in transmitted light. Scene showing Lycurgus being enmeshed by Ambrosia, now transformed into a vine-shoot. Department of Prehistory and Europe, The British Museum. Height: 16.5 cm (with modern metal mounts), diameter: 13.2 cm. © The Trustees of the British Museum

The Lycurgus Cup 1958,1202.1 in transmitted light. Scene showing Lycurgus being enmeshed by Ambrosia, now transformed into a vine-shoot. Department of Prehistory and Europe, The British Museum. Height: 16.5 cm (with modern metal mounts), diameter: 13.2 cm. © The Trustees of the British Museum

The Nov. 21, 2013 University of Adelaide, news release, which originated the news item, explains why the Lycurgus Cup is of such interest, and why the same cup can be green or red

The Lycurgus Cup, a 4th century cup held by the British Museum in London, is made of glass which changes colour from red to green depending on whether light is shining through the Cup or reflected off it. It gets this property from gold and silver nanoparticles embedded in the glass.

“The Lycurgus Cup is a beautiful artefact which, by accident, makes use of the exciting properties of nanoparticles for decorative effect,” says Associate Professor Ebendorff-Heidepriem. “We want to use the same principles to be able to use nanoparticles for all sorts of exciting advanced technologies.”

Nanoparticles need to be held in some kind of solution. “Glass is a frozen liquid,” says Associate Professor Ebendorff-Heidepriem. “By embedding the nanoparticles in the glass, they are fixed in a matrix which we can exploit.”

Associate Professor Ebendorff-Heidepriem is leading a three-year Australian Research Council Discovery Project to investigate how best to embed nanoparticles; looking at the solubility of different types of nanoparticles in glass and how this changes with temperature and glass type, and how the nanoparticles are controlled and modified.

Practical applications, according to the news release, include,

“Nanoparticles and nanocrystals are the focus of research around the world because of their unique properties that have the potential to bring great advances in a wide range of medical, optical and electronic fields,” says Associate Professor Heike Ebendorff-Heidepriem, Senior Research Fellow in the University’s School of Chemistry and Physics. “A process for successfully incorporating nanoparticles into glass, will open the way for applications like ultra low-energy light sources, more efficient solar cells or advanced sensors that can see inside the living human brain.”

“We will be able to more readily harness these nanoscale properties in practical devices. This gives us a tangible material with nanoparticle properties that we can shape into useful forms for real-world applications. And the unique properties are actually enhanced by embedding in glass.”

Canuck amongst Google Science Fair 2013 winners (which include a Yank, an Aussie, and a Turk)

I imagine 15-year old, Ann Makosinski, of Victoria, BC (Canada) has been excited for the last few months as her science idea has progressed from a submission to a semi-finalist to a finalist and, now, winner in her age category in the 2013 Google Science Fair online. A Sept. 24, 2013 news item on the CBC News online website gives details,

Ann Makosinski, 15, a student at St. Michaels University School in Victoria, claimed a trophy made of Lego for the 15-16 age category, at an awards gala Monday night for the international science fair, Google announced. Her prizes are a $25,000 scholarship and a “once-in-a-lifetime experience” from either CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research), LEGO or Google.

The flashlight contains devices called Peltier tiles that produce electricity when heated on one side and cooled on the other. Makosinski’s flashlight is hollow, allowing one side of the tiles to be cooled by the surrounding air. The tiles are heated on the other side by the heat from the hand of the person holding the flashlight. That generates enough power to maintain a steady beam of light for 20 minutes.

Here’s a picture of the winners with their ‘Lego’ trophies,

Australian Viney Kumar, Canadian Ann Makosinski of Victoria, B.C., Elif Bilgin of Turkey and American Eric Chen, left to right, took home trophies at the Google Science Fair's gala award ceremony Monday night in California.  Courtesy Google

Australian Viney Kumar, Canadian Ann Makosinski of Victoria, B.C., Elif Bilgin of Turkey and American Eric Chen, left to right, took home trophies at the Google Science Fair’s gala award ceremony Monday night in California. Courtesy Google

The Sept. 23, 2013 posting by Clare Conway on Google’s official blog provides more details about this year’s contest and the other winners,

The top 15 projects were selected from thousands of entries submitted by talented young scientists from more than 120 countries around the world. These projects were impressive and represented a vast range of scientific ingenuity—from a multi-step system created for early diagnosis of melanoma cancers to the invention of a metallic exoskeleton glove that assists, supports and enhances the movement of the human palm to help people who suffer from upper hand disabilities.

It was a tough decision, but we’re proud to name the three winners of this year’s Google Science Fair:

The fourth winner, Elif Bilgin of  Turkey, won the Scientific American (SA magazine) award, from the SA June 27, 2013 press release,

On Thursday, June 27, Elif Bilgin, 16, from Turkey, was declared the winner of the second annual Scientific American Science in Action Award, powered by the Google Science Fair. Bilgin won for her project, Going Bananas! Using Banana Peels in the Production of Bio-Plastic as a Replacement for Traditional Petroleum-Based Plastic. In addition to the $50,000 prize, Bilgin will have access to a year’s mentorship and is invited to Google’s California headquarters in September to compete in the 15-to-16-year-old age category in the overall Google Science Fair.

According to Conway’s posting on the official blog, Bilgin also won the Voter’s Choice award.

Congratulations to all of the entrants!

23 new molecules discovered in red wine by Canadian and Australian scientists

Downloaded from http://agorakitchenwpb.com/?page_id=5527 (Agora Restaurant, West Palm Beach, Florida)

Downloaded from http://agorakitchenwpb.com/?page_id=5527 (Agora Restaurant, West Palm Beach, Florida)

I would have thought that by this time scientists would have discovered all the types of molecules in red wine but it turns out that chemists at the University of British Columbia (UBC, Okanagan Campus) and at Australia’s University of Adelaide have recently discovered not one, not two, but 23 new molecules. From the Aug. 12, 2013 UBC news release,

Scientists have long espoused the health benefits of red wine. Now UBC chemists have discovered 23 new molecules that could mean there are even more vino virtues.

Assoc. Prof. Cédric Saucier, who runs the Enology laboratory at UBC’s Okanagan campus, has spent years trying to determine what is really going on in that glass of red wine. The latest discovery – in partnership with researchers from Australia’s University of Adelaide and UBC graduate student Ryan Moss – stems from a “fishing” expedition to provide a more complete profile of the molecules already known to be in red wine.

While the team of scientists knew they would find molecules called stilbenoids, the kind which are believed to have health benefits, what they found surprised them – 41 stilbenoid compounds, 23 of which have never before been detected in red wine.

I wish there was a little more detail about how these new molecules were found (did they use more powerful microscopy techniques? is there a new technique for separating the compounds) but this is all the information that”s offered (from the news release),

“The first thing we did was concentrate the wine extract,” says Moss, who is completing his master’s degree in chemistry. “We actually separated the compounds so we could examine each molecule individually and create a fingerprint of each molecule.”

Saucier says the discovery could lead to medical breakthroughs and perhaps more conclusive benefits of drinking wine in moderation. These 23 newly discovered molecules are related to resveratrol, a natural wine chemical found in the skin of red grapes known to have potential effects of preventing aging-related human diseases.

“These new molecules are likely to have very interesting biological properties and may contribute to the benefits from drinking red wine,” says Saucier. “Who knows where this could lead? Perhaps new drugs and medicine for the future?”

Saucier says each of the new stilbenoids must now be analyzed and assessed. This is only the beginning and the new molecules will lead to many more years of research, he adds.

Here’s a citation and a link to the researchers’ published study,

Investigation of monomeric and oligomeric wine stilbenoids in red wines by ultra-high-performance liquid chromatography/electrospray ionization quadrupole time-of-flight mass spectrometry by Ryan Moss, Qinyong Mao, Dennis Taylor, and Cédric Saucier.  DOI: 10.1002/rcm.6636 Article first published online: 9 JUL 2013 Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry Volume 27, Issue 16, pages 1815–1827, 30 August 2013

This study is behind a paywall.

À votre santé!

Eucalyptus leaves and gold nanoparticles

An Aug. 1, 2013 news item on Nanowerk highlights some ‘green’ chemistry in Australia,

Murdoch University (Australia) researchers have developed a ‘green’ method to create antibacterial gold nanoparticles for potential use in the medical field with the help of common eucalyptus leaves (“Green biosynthesis of gold nanometre scale plates using the leaf extracts from an indigenous Australian plant Eucalyptus macrocarpa”)

The Aug. 1, 2013 Murdoch University news release, which originated the news item, provides more information from the lead researcher about the use of gold nanoparticles in the medical field and about the ‘eucalyptus leaf’ technique,

“Gold nanoparticles have proven to be very versatile across a range of treatments, including in the delivery of double-stranded DNA in the emerging gene therapy area,” Dr Poinern said.

“They can also be passively accumulated in tumours for thermal treatment therapies, where they are heated to damage and kill cancer cells.

“And studies have shown that cancer drugs bonded to the surface of gold nanoparticles can effectively target tumours, improving delivery and minimising treatment durations and the side effects of anticancer drugs.”

Dr Poinern [Dr Gérrard Eddy Poinern, Director of the Murdoch Applied Nanotechnology Research Group (MANRG)] said, however, that up until recently, the particles’ production had involved expensive chemical and physical processes that often used toxic materials with potential hazards such as environmental toxicity, cytotoxicity and carcinogenicity.

“Thanks to the Eucalyptus macrocarpa, we’re changing that. Our method is water-based, performed at room temperature and without the need for complex equipment and is clean and non-toxic,” he said.

The ‘green’ production of gold nanometre scale particles involves dissolving high purity gold wire into a mixture of nitric and hydrochloric acid to produce gold chloride.

The gold chloride is then mixed with a water-based solution of leaf extracts from the common Eucalyptus macrocarpa and allowed to synthesize at room temperature.

“Not only does this result in the creation of nanometre scale gold prisms, but the wax of the eucalypt leaf extract provides an additional antibacterial and antifungal quality,” Dr Poinern said.

“Since bacterial and fungal species have the ability to develop immunity against commonly used antibiotics over time, our gold nanometre scale particles also stand to be a new tool against antibiotic resistant forms of microorganisms.”

Dr Poinern said the nanometre scale gold particles were tested as antibacterial agents against both E. coli and B. subtilis, producing zone inhibition of 19mm and 16mm respectively.

Murdoch University has provided an image of eucalyptus leaves,

Eucalyptus macrocarpa is giving nano-medicine a boost

Eucalyptus macrocarpa is giving nano-medicine a boost

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

Green biosynthesis of gold nanometre scale plates using the leaf extracts from an indigenous Australian plant Eucalyptus macrocarpa by Gérrard Eddy Jai Poinern, Peter Chapman, Xuan Le, and Derek Fawcett. Gold Bulletin DOI: 10.1007/s13404-013-0096-7 Online ISSN 2190-7579

The paper is open access.

One final note, I trust the koala population is willing to share one of the mainstays of their diet.

Saving lives at birth 2013: Round 3 award nominees and their technologies

As I have noted before (most recently in a Feb. 13, 2013 posting) there are at least two Grand Challenges, one is a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation program and the other, Grand Challenges Canada, is funded by the Canadian government. Both organizations along with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Government of Norway, and the U.K’s Department for International Development (DFID) have combined their efforts on maternal health in a partnership, Saving Lives at Birth: A Grand Challenge for Development. 2013 is the third year for this competitive funding program, which attracts entries from around the world.

The organization’s July 31, 2013 news release announces the latest funding nominees,

The Saving Lives at Birth: A Grand Challenge for Development today announced 22 Round 3 award nominees from a pool of 53 finalists – innovators who descended on Washington for three days (DevelopmentXChange) to showcase bold, new ideas to save the lives of mothers and newborns in developing countries with aspirations of international funding to realize their vision.

The award nominees cut across maternal and neonatal health, family planning, nutrition and HIV and they present not only cutting-edge technologies that can be used in resource-poor settings, but innovative approaches to delivering services and the adoption of healthy behaviors. The announcement was made at the closing forum of the DevelopmentXChange by the Saving Lives at Birth partners. The nominees will now enter into final negotiations before awards are issued. [emphasis mine]

If I read this rightly, the nominees do not receive a set amount but negotiate for the money they need to implement and/or develop their ‘solution’. The news release provides more details about the process that applicants undertake when they reach the finalist stage,

The Saving Lives at Birth DevelopmentXChange provided a platform for top global innovators to present their ideas in an open, dynamic marketplace and exchange ideas with development experts and potential funders to help meet the immense challenge of protecting mothers and newborns in the poorest places on earth, during their most vulnerable hours. Other promising ideas will be considered for “incubator awards” to assist innovators in further developing their ideas through dialogue and mentorship.

….

The Saving Lives at Birth DevelopmentXChange featured discussions focused on meeting the needs and realities of women and children in low-resource settings as well as workshops that explored business planning, market research, impact investing, and strategies for scaling their innovations.  The three-day event concluded with a forum featuring Ambassador Susan E. Rice, National Security Advisor; Dr. Rajiv Shah, Administrator, USAID; HRH Princess Sarah Zeid of Jordan; New York Times best-selling author Dan Heath and NASA astronaut Col. Ron Garan (ret.).

Leading into the DevelopmentXChange, existing Saving Lives at Birth grantees participated in a three-day, customized training program – a focal point of the global health Xcelerator.  This eight-month program, offered through a partnership between National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA), the Lemelson Foundation and USAID, provides grantees the tools and knowledge to scale their ideas and maximize the impact of their innovations.

Here’s the list of nominees who emerged from the process (there is one overtly nanotechnology project listed and I suspect others are also enabled by nanotechnology),

Award nominees of Saving Lives at Birth Round 3 include 4 transition-to-scale grant nominees:

· Africare – Dakar, Senegal: A collaborative community-based technology that integrates community support services with mobile and telemedicine platforms to increase demand for, and access to, quality prenatal care services in Senegal.  More: http://savinglivesatbirth.net/summaries/232

· Epidemiological Research Center in Sexual and Reproductive Health – Guatemala City, Guatemala: An integrated approach to reduce maternal and perinatal mortality in Northern Guatemala through simulation-based training, social marketing campaigns and formal health care system engagement.  More: http://savinglivesatbirth.net/summaries/246

· Massachusetts General Hospital – Boston, MA, USA: A next-generation uterine balloon tamponade (UBT) device to treat postpartum hemorrhage (PPH) in Kenya and South Sudan.  More: http://savinglivesatbirth.net/summaries/255

· The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital – Columbus, OH, USA: A low-cost paper-based urine test for early diagnosis of pre-eclampsia to reduce pre-eclampsia morbidity and mortality in resource-limited areas.  http://savinglivesatbirth.net/summaries/275

And 18 seed grant nominees:

· BILIMETRIX SRL – Trieste, Italy: An inexpensive system to rapidly test for markers of hyperbilirubinemia (kernicterus)-an often fatal form of brain damage caused by excessive jaundice- in low resource settings in Nigeria, Egypt, and Indonesia.  More: http://savinglivesatbirth.net/summaries/235

· JustMilk - Dept. of Chemical Engineering, University of Cambridge – Cambridge, UK: A low-cost system that aids the administration of drugs and nutrients to breastfeeding infants via easily disintegrating tablets housed within a modified Nipple Shield Delivery System (NSDS).  http://savinglivesatbirth.net/summaries/241

· The University of Melbourne - Melbourne, Australia: A low-cost, electricity-free oxygen concentrator suitable for providing provisional oxygen for neonates in low-resource settings.  http://savinglivesatbirth.net/summaries/277

· University of Toronto - Toronto, Canada: A spray-encapsulated iron premix that will be attached to tea leaves to reduce rates of iron deficiency of pregnant women in South Asia.  http://savinglivesatbirth.net/summaries/279

· University of Valencia - Valencia, Spain: A rapid point-of-care test strips for early diagnosis of sepsis in pregnancy and childbirth. More: http://savinglivesatbirth.net/summaries/281

· Mbarara University of Science and Technology - Mbarara, Uganda: The Augmented Infant Resuscitator (AIR) which gives instant feedback to healthcare professionals performing newborn resuscitation to reduce neonatal deaths from intrapartum birth asphyxia or prematurity.  http://savinglivesatbirth.net/summaries/256

· Bioceptive, Inc. – New Orleans, LA, USA: A low-cost, reusable, and intuitive intrauterine device (IUD) inserter to make the IUD insertion procedure easier and safer in low-resource settings. http://savinglivesatbirth.net/summaries/236

· Convergent Engineering Inc. – Newberry, FL, USA: An inexpensive, easy-to-use, handheld early-warning system that detects pre-eclampsia 10-12 weeks before the onset symptoms. The system pairs a wrist strap embedded with inexpensive ECG and photoplethysmography sensors with a smart phone for processing, data aggregation, and communication.  http://savinglivesatbirth.net/summaries/239

· Dimagi, Inc. (CommTrack) – Cambridge, MA, USA: An open-source distribution management system integrating mobile and GPS technology to improve transparency, supply chain functioning, communication, and the timely delivery of medicine to hard to reach, low-income areas in Africa.  http://savinglivesatbirth.net/summaries/243

· Duke University- Durham, NC, USA:  Healthcare system integration of the “Pratt Pouch”-a tiny ketchup-like packet that stores antiretroviral AIDS medication for a year-to enable the pouch to be used in home-birth settings to prevent transmission of HIV from mother to child. Testing taking place in Zambia.  http://savinglivesatbirth.net/summaries/244

· Emory University – Atlanta, GA, USA: A micro-needle patch that co-administers the influenza and tetanus toxoid vaccines to pregnant mothers and children in developing countries.  http://savinglivesatbirth.net/summaries/245

· Nanobiosym, Inc – Cambridge, MA, USA: A nanotech platform which enables rapid, accurate and mobile HIV diagnosis at point-of-care, allowing for timely treatment with antiretroviral therapy to reduce HIV-related mortality in infants in Rwanda.  http://savinglivesatbirth.net/summaries/259

· Oregon Health and Science University – Portland, OR, USA: The Xstat mini-sponge applicator for the treatment of postpartum hemorrhage (PPH).  http://savinglivesatbirth.net/summaries/260

· Population Services International – Washington DC, USA: A new inserter for immediate postpartum intrauterine device (PPIUD) insertions to increase contraceptive uptake in developing countries.  http://savinglivesatbirth.net/summaries/263

· President and Fellows of Harvard College – Boston, MA, USA: A handheld vital sign monitor for the rapid diagnosis of frail and sick newborns.  http://savinglivesatbirth.net/summaries/264

· Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH) – Seattle, WA, USA: A heat-stable oxytocin in a fast-dissolving oral tablet to treat postpartum hemorrhage (PPH).  http://savinglivesatbirth.net/summaries/268

· Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH) – Seattle, WA, USA: A magnesium sulfate (MgSO4) gel that simplifies treatment of pre-eclampsia and eclampsia.  http://savinglivesatbirth.net/summaries/267

· The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System – Madison, WI, USA: A Lactobacillus casei strain that enables the sustainable home production of beta-Carotene enriched dairy products for at-risk mothers and families in Southern Asia.  http://savinglivesatbirth.net/summaries/272

While it’s not stated explicitly, the main focus for Saving Lives at Birth appears to be the continent of Africa as per this video animation which represents the organization’s goals and focus,

Amid controversies, Australian government spends big bucks on Australian Institute for Nanoscience

Kim Carr, Australia’s Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, delivered  an extraordinary speech, by Canadian standard (ours tend to remarkable blandness), at the sod-turning event for the new Australian Institute for Nanoscience (AIN) due to open in May 2015. Before getting to the speech, here’s a bit more about the event from a July 24, 2013 news item on Global Times,

Australian government will deliver a fund for the new Australian Institute for Nanoscience ( AIN) which will open in May 2015 to boost its research of nanotechnology, Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research Kim Carr confirmed in a statement after breaking the ground for the new facility at the University of Sydney on Wednesday.

The AIN project is a major new building combining research laboratories with teaching facilities to drive cross-disciplinary collaboration to develop nanomaterials and devices.

The July 24, 2013 Australian government media release about the AIN sod-turning provides more details about the government’s investment in the institute and its backing of nanoscience/nanotechnology research,

Senator Kim Carr said the Australian Government’s $40 million contribution, through the Education Investment Fund, to assist in the facility’s construction backs in Labor’s commitment to giving our researchers the tools they need to pursue world-leading work.

“Nanotechnology is a transformative force for manufacturing and is predicted to be worth $US3 trillion globally by 2020. Australia needs to stake a claim to our slice of that pie now, by building well-researched prototypes for the market. AIN will help make that happen and keep Australian research internationally competitive.”

Senator Carr said AIN will increase our national research capability by bringing together world-class nanoscience researchers across three main areas:

  • New medical diagnostics and therapies combining quantum technology with imaging and drug delivery and solutions such as a fully implantable bionic eye;
  • Faster, more secure and more efficient communications based on photonics and quantum science technologies; and
  • Revolutionary optical instrumentation to explore the frontiers of our universe, along with faster data processing technologies for the SKA.

I’m not sure where Carr got the “… worth $US3 trillion globally by 2020″ number for nanotechnology’s impact on the global economy. More interesting to me, are these comments from Carr’s speech (you can find the entire speech here),

It is a great pleasure to share in the progress of the Australian Institute for Nanoscience here at Sydney University.

Three years have passed since I announced the funding for this facility:

$40 million from the Federal Government;

backed by $71 million from the university;

and a further $20 million from other sources, including the New South Wales government, the Australian National Fabrication Facility; the ARC’s CUDOS; the Australian Astronomical Observatory and Bandwidth Foundry International.

It was one of the many projects made possible by the Education Investment Fund – which, over three rounds, secured a total of $3.5 billion in new research infrastructure for a federal contribution of $1.5 billion.

This is an impressive return on investment.

At that time, this was the sort of research guaranteed to bring out the anti-science crowd.

There were beat-ups in the press, demonstrations in universities, and scare campaigns run on worksites. [emphasis mine]

It was as if the Enlightenment had never happened. It was as if nanoscience was some kind of global conspiracy to kill us all with sunscreen. [emphasis mine]

But I saw this project differently. And I put my views on the record at the time this investment was announced.

As I said back then:

“I don’t begin by saying “this is too strange” or “this is too hard”. I don’t begin by saying “no”.

I begin by asking, “what’s in it for Australia?” – “what’s in it for the people we serve?” – and “how can we make this work?”

The speech continues with a very optimistic view of all the economic benefits to be derived from an investment in nanoscience/nanotechnology.

Given the extreme lack of interest in Canada and its very odd (or perhaps it’s a harbinger of the future?) almost unknown National Institute of Nanotechnology (NINT), which exists on a NINT University of Alberta website and on a NINT National Research Council website, the “beat-ups in the press, etc.” provide a fascinating and contrasting socio-cultural perspective. The difference is perhaps due to a very active, both in Australia and internationally, Friends of the Earth group.

Friends of the Earth Australia campaigned long (years) and hard against nanosunscreens in a leadup to some rather disturbing survey findings in 2012 (my Feb. 9, 2012 posting) where some 13% of Australians, first reported as 17%,  didn’t use any sunscreens whatsoever, due to their fear of ‘nanosunscreens’.

Kim Carr has been mentioned here before in an Aug. 26, 2011 posting which highlighted a study showing  Australians held positive (?) attitudes towards nanotechnology and those attitudes had gotten more positive over time. My guess, not having looked at the study, is that the study focussed on areas where people usually express positive attitudes (e. g. better health care with less invasive medical procedures) and not on environmental issues (e.g. nanosilver in your clothing washing off and ending up in the water supply).

I do love how elected officials, the world over, pick and choose their ‘facts’.

Super-black nanotechnology, space exploration, and carbon nanotubes grown by atomic layer deposition (ALD)

Super-black in this context means that very little light is reflected by the carbon nanotubes that a team at the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) have produced. From a July 17, 2013 NASA news release (also here on EurekAlert),

A NASA engineer has achieved yet another milestone in his quest to advance an emerging super-black nanotechnology that promises to make spacecraft instruments more sensitive without enlarging their size.

A team led by John Hagopian, an optics engineer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., has demonstrated that it can grow a uniform layer of carbon nanotubes through the use of another emerging technology called atomic layer deposition or ALD. The marriage of the two technologies now means that NASA can grow nanotubes on three-dimensional components, such as complex baffles and tubes commonly used in optical instruments.

“The significance of this is that we have new tools that can make NASA instruments more sensitive without making our telescopes bigger and bigger,” Hagopian said. “This demonstrates the power of nanoscale technology, which is particularly applicable to a new class of less-expensive tiny satellites called Cubesats that NASA is developing to reduce the cost of space missions.”

(It’s the first time I’ve seen atomic layer deposition (ALD) described as an emerging technology; I’ve always thought of it as well established.)  Here’s a 2010 NASA video, which  provides a good explanation of this team’s work,

With the basic problem being less data due to light reflection from the instruments used to make the observations in space, the researchers determined that ALD might provide carbon nanotubes suitable for super-black instrumentation for space exploration. From the NASA news release,

To determine the viability of using ALD to create the catalyst layer, while Dwivedi [NASA Goddard co-investigator Vivek Dwivedi, University of Maryland] was building his new ALD reactor, Hagopian engaged through the Science Exchange the services of the Melbourne Centre for Nanofabrication (MCN), Australia’s largest nanofabrication research center. The Science Exchange is an online community marketplace where scientific service providers can offer their services. The NASA team delivered a number of components, including an intricately shaped occulter used in a new NASA-developed instrument for observing planets around other stars.

Through this collaboration, the Australian team fine-tuned the recipe for laying down the catalyst layer — in other words, the precise instructions detailing the type of precursor gas, the reactor temperature and pressure needed to deposit a uniform foundation. “The iron films that we deposited initially were not as uniform as other coatings we have worked with, so we needed a methodical development process to achieve the outcomes that NASA needed for the next step,” said Lachlan Hyde, MCN’s expert in ALD.

The Australian team succeeded, Hagopian said. “We have successfully grown carbon nanotubes on the samples we provided to MCN and they demonstrate properties very similar to those we’ve grown using other techniques for applying the catalyst layer. This has really opened up the possibilities for us. Our goal of ultimately applying a carbon-nanotube coating to complex instrument parts is nearly realized.”

For anyone who’d like a little more information about the Science Exchange, I posted about this scientific markeplace both on Sept. 2, 2011 after it was launched in August of that year and later on Dec. 19, 2011 in a followup about a specific nano project.

Getting back to super-black nanotechnology, here’s what the NASA team produced, from the news release,

During the research, Hagopian tuned the nano-based super-black material, making it ideal for this application, absorbing on average more than 99 percent of the ultraviolet, visible, infrared and far-infrared light that strikes it — a never-before-achieved milestone that now promises to open new frontiers in scientific discovery. The material consists of a thin coating of multi-walled carbon nanotubes about 10,000 times thinner than a strand of human hair.

Once a laboratory novelty grown only on silicon, the NASA team now grows these forests of vertical carbon tubes on commonly used spacecraft materials, such as titanium, copper and stainless steel. Tiny gaps between the tubes collect and trap light, while the carbon absorbs the photons, preventing them from reflecting off surfaces. Because only a small fraction of light reflects off the coating, the human eye and sensitive detectors see the material as black.

Before growing this forest of nanotubes on instrument parts, however, materials scientists must first deposit a highly uniform foundation or catalyst layer of iron oxide that supports the nanotube growth. For ALD, technicians do this by placing a component or some other substrate material inside a reactor chamber and sequentially pulsing different types of gases to create an ultra-thin film whose layers are literally no thicker than a single atom. Once applied, scientists then are ready to actually grow the carbon nanotubes. They place the component in another oven and heat the part to about 1,832  F (750 C). While it heats, the component is bathed in carbon-containing feedstock gas.

Congratulations to the team, I gather they’ve been working on this light absorption project for quite a while.

About Nanoject and about Microryza; it’s all about research crowdfunding

A July 15, 2013 news item on Nanowerk features a ‘nano’ research crowdfunding campaign (Note: A link has been removed),

Two researchers at York University in the UK have launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise enough cash to research a nanoparticle cancer treatment that’s delivered via a patch – the Nanject. The two are looking to rise $3000 for their project – to buy chemicals and raw materials – which is listed on Microryza (“Targeted Drug Delivery by using Magnetic Nanoparticles”).

The goal of this project is to develop a pharmaceutical Nano Patch which is called the Nanject. This patch can be applied to the skin and will deliver specific amounts of target drugs where necessary. The team is initially developing a patch for treating cancer, by injecting microscopic particles (or nanoparticles) into the bloodstream that can pinpoint, attach themselves to, and kill cancer cells. They are then naturally disposed by the body.

The Nanowerk news item includes an embedded video created by project proponents, Atif Syed and Zakareya Hussein.

Here’s more from Syed and Hussein on their Targeted Drug Delivery by using Magnetic Nanoparticles campaign page on Microryza,

The goal of this project is to develop a pharmaceutical Nano Patch which we call as the Nanject.This patch can be applied to the skin and will deliver specific amounts of target drugs where necessary. We are initially developing a patch for treating cancer, by injecting microscopic particles (or nanoparticles) into the bloodstream that can pinpoint, attach themselves to, and kill cancer cells. They are then naturally disposed by the body. This technology could potentially revolutionise health care and medicine and save millions of lives around the world as well as allow treatment of new types of cancer. We appreciate any and all support.

The funds will allow us to get Chemicals and Raw Materials. Everything else is being fuelled by our IT, programming, and nanotechnology expertise, the access we have to cutting-edge university clean rooms and other facilities, and above all our passion for making this a reality that could improve and allow many people’s future. …

With $1456 raised, as of July 16, 2013 at 10:10 am PDT, they are approximately half way to their $3000 goal with 14 days left to the campaign.

This is the first ‘nanopatch’ project I’ve seen where the main focus is cancer treatment. The other projects, such as Mark Kendall’s in Australia (my Aug. 3, 2011 posting), are largely focussed on vaccines. I wish the researchers all the best.

I recently came across Microryza (again), a crowdfunding platform for science projects, in a June 25, 2013 posting by David Bruggeman at his Pasco Phronesis blog (Note: Links have been removed),

Microryza is a research-oriented crowdfunding platform.  Created in 2012, the founders were motivated to do something when one of them was dismissed out of hand (H/T STEM Daily) as an undergraduate when she sought a small grant for research on hospital infections.  The site has 100 projects, of which 30 have been funded to date.  It forgoes the incentives many crowdfunding sites have for their projects, and encourages project researchers to share as much information as they can with their donors.

I don’t necessarily agree that the Microryza projects are as ‘fringe’ as Fast Company implies.  There are a fair amount of applied research projects, which don’t necessarily fit well with the traditional research agencies.  …

David, in amongst his other comments, notes that while the Microryza organizers do provide some oversight before accepting a project, potential funders should check out the researchers and their projects for themselves.

You can find out more about Microrzya here. I last mentioned it in an April 30, 2012 posting about science crowdfunding platforms.

For anyone who’s wondering about the name Microryza (from the website’s FAQs page),

What are Mycorrhiza? What’s the story behind the name?
Mycorrhizae are a type of symbiotic, microscopic fungi that live in the roots of plants. They process nutrients, fight off pathogens, and stabilize the soil. Although they’re small and unnoticeable individually, when you have a lot of them together they support an entire ecosystem of roots, shrubs, and trees.

In the same way, we’re growing a community of individuals who provide microgrants to help new research ideas. With Microryza, people from all over the world can come together and help new seed ideas blossom into new scientific discoveries.