Tag Archives: Belgium

ASCENT: access to European Nanoelectronics Infrastructure

ASCENT is an Irish-French-Belgian-led collaborative project designed to open up state of the state-of-the-art facilities to researchers across Europe. From a June 10, 2015 news item on Nanowerk,

ASCENT opens the doors to the world’s most advanced nanoelectronics infrastructures in Europe. Tyndall National Institute in Ireland, CEA-Leti in France and imec in Belgium, leading European nanoelectronics institutes, have entered into a collaborative open-access project called ASCENT (Access to European Nanoelectronics Network), to mobilise European research capabilities like never before.

The €4.7 million project will make the unique research infrastructure of three of Europe’s premier research centres available to the nanoelectronics modelling-and-characterisation research community.

A June 10, 2015 Imec press release, which originated the news item, expands on the theme,

The three partners will provide researchers access to advanced device data, test chips and characterisation equipment. This access programme will enable the research community to explore exciting new developments in industry and meet the challenges created in an ever-evolving and demanding digital world.

The partners’ respective facilities are truly world-class, representing over €2 billion of combined research infrastructure with unique credentials in advanced semiconductor processing, nanofabrication, heterogeneous and 3D integration, electrical characterisation and atomistic and TCAD modelling. This is the first time that access to these state-of-the-art devices and test structures will become available anywhere in the world.

The project will engage industry directly through an ‘Industry Innovation Committee’ and will feed back the results of the open research to device manufacturers, giving them crucial information to improve the next generation of electronic devices.

Speaking on behalf of project coordinator, Tyndall National Institute, CEO Dr. Kieran Drain said: “We are delighted to coordinate the ASCENT programme and to be partners with world-leading institutes CEA-Leti and imec. Tyndall has a great track record in running successful collaborative open-access programmes, delivering real economic and societal impact. ASCENT has the capacity to change the paradigm of European research through unprecedented access to cutting-edge technologies. We are confident that ASCENT will ensure that Europe remains at the forefront of global nanoelectronics development.”

“The ASCENT project is an efficient, strategic way to open the complementary infrastructure and expertise of Tyndall, Leti and imec to a broad range of researchers from Europe’s nanoelectronics modelling-and-characterisation sectors,” said Leti CEO Marie-Noëlle Semeria. “Collaborative projects like this, that bring together diverse, dedicated and talented people, have synergistic affects that benefit everyone involved, while addressing pressing technological challenges.”

“In the frame of the ASCENT project, three of Europe’s leading research institutes – Tyndall, imec and Leti – join forces in supporting the EU research and academic community, SMEs and industry by providing access to test structures and electrical data of state-of-the-art semiconductor technologies,” stated Luc Van den hove, CEO of imec. “This will enable them to explore exciting new opportunities in the ‘More Moore’ [probably a Moore’s law reference] as well as the ‘More than Moore’ domains, and will allow them to participate and compete effectively on the global stage for the development of advanced nano-electronics.”

I’m curious as to how they plan to balance industry requests with academic requests. Will organizations that can afford to pay more get preference?

Fully textile-embedded transparent and flexible technology?

There are a lot of research teams jockeying for position in the transparent, flexible electrodes stakes (for anyone unfamiliar with the slang, I’m comparing the competition between various research teams to a horse race). A May 11, 2015 news item on Nanowerk describes work from an international collaboration at the University of Exeter (UK), Note: A link has been removed,

An international team of scientists, including Professor Monica Craciun from the University of Exeter, have pioneered a new technique to embed transparent, flexible graphene electrodes into fibres commonly associated with the textile industry.

The discovery could revolutionise the creation of wearable electronic devices, such as clothing containing computers, phones and MP3 players, which are lightweight, durable and easily transportable.

The international collaborative research, which includes experts from the Centre for Graphene Science at the University of Exeter, the Institute for Systems Engineering and Computers, Microsystems and Nanotechnology (INESC-MN) in Lisbon, the Universities of Lisbon and Aveiro in Portugal and the Belgian Textile Research Centre (CenTexBel), is published in the leading scientific journal Scientific Reports (“Transparent conductive graphene textile fibers”).

A May 11, 2015 University of Exeter press release (also on EurekAlert*), which originated the news item,  describes the current situation regarding transparent and flexible electrodes in textiles and how the research at Exeter improves the situation,

Professor Craciun, co-author of the research said: “This is a pivotal point in the future of wearable electronic devices. The potential has been there for a number of years, and transparent and flexible electrodes are already widely used in plastics and glass, for example. But this is the first example of a textile electrode being truly embedded in a yarn. The possibilities for its use are endless, including textile GPS systems, to biomedical monitoring, personal security or even communication tools for those who are sensory impaired.  The only limits are really within our own imagination.”

At just one atom thick, graphene is the thinnest substance capable of conducting electricity. It is very flexible and is one of the strongest known materials. The race has been on for scientists and engineers to adapt graphene for the use in wearable electronic devices in recent years.

This new research has identified that ‘monolayer graphene’, which has exceptional electrical, mechanical and optical properties, make it a highly attractive proposition as a transparent electrode for applications in wearable electronics. In this work graphene was created by a growth method called chemical vapour deposition (CVD) onto copper foil, using a state-of-the-art nanoCVD system recently developed by Moorfield.

The collaborative team established a technique to transfer graphene from the copper foils to a polypropylene fibre already commonly used in the textile industry.

Dr Helena Alves who led the research team from INESC-MN and the University of Aveiro said: “The concept of wearable technology is emerging, but so far having fully textile-embedded transparent and flexible technology is currently non-existing. Therefore, the development of processes and engineering for the integration of graphene in textiles would give rise to a new universe of commercial applications. “

Dr Ana Neves, Associate Research Fellow in Prof Craciun’s team from Exeter’s Engineering Department and former postdoctoral researcher at INESC added: “We are surrounded by fabrics, the carpet floors in our homes or offices, the seats in our cars, and obviously all our garments and clothing accessories. The incorporation of electronic devices on fabrics would certainly be a game-changer in modern technology.

“All electronic devices need wiring, so the first issue to be address in this strategy is the development of conducting textile fibres while keeping the same aspect, comfort and lightness. The methodology that we have developed to prepare transparent and conductive textile fibres by coating them with graphene will now open way to the integration of electronic devices on these textile fibres.”

Dr Isabel De Schrijver,an expert of smart textiles from CenTexBel said: “Successful manufacturing of wearable electronics has the potential for a disruptive technology with a wide array of potential new applications. We are very excited about the potential of this breakthrough and look forward to seeing where it can take the electronics industry in the future.”

Professor Saverio Russo, co-author and also from the University of Exeter, added: “This breakthrough will also nurture the birth of novel and transformative research directions benefitting a wide range of sectors ranging from defence to health care. “

In 2012 Professor Craciun and Professor Russo, from the University of Exeter’s Centre for Graphene Science, discovered GraphExeter – sandwiched molecules of ferric chloride between two graphene layers which makes a whole new system that is the best known transparent material able to conduct electricity.  The same team recently discovered that GraphExeter is also more stable than many transparent conductors commonly used by, for example, the display industry.

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

Electron transport of WS2 transistors in a hexagonal boron nitride dielectric environment by Freddie Withers, Thomas Hardisty Bointon, David Christopher Hudson, Monica Felicia Craciun, & Saverio Russo. Scientific Reports 4, Article number: 4967 doi:10.1038/srep04967 Published 15 May 2014

Did they wait a year to announce the research or is this a second-go-round? In any event, it is an open access paper.

* Added EurekAlert link 1120 hours PDT on May 12, 2015.

Nanex Canada (?) opens office in United States

Earlier this month in a Sept. 5, 2014 posting I noted that a Belgian company was opening a Canadian subsidiary in Montréal, Québec, called Nanex Canada. Not unexpectedly, the company has now announced a new office in the US. From a Sept. 23, 2014 Nanex Canada news release on Digital Journal,

Nanex Canada appoints Patrick Tuttle, of Havre de Grace, Maryland as the new USA National Sales Director. Tuttle will be in charge of all operations for the USA marketing and distribution for the Nanex Super hydrophobic Water Repellent Nanotechnology products.

… Nanex Canada is proud to announce a new partnership with Patrick Tuttle to develop the market within the Unites States for Its new line of super hydrophobic products. “We feel this is a very strategic alliance with Mr. Tuttle and his international marketing staff,” said Boyd Soussana, National Marketing Director for the parent company, Nanex Canada.

The products Mr. Tuttle will be responsible for in developing a market for include:

1) Aqua Shield Marine

2) Aqua Shield Leather and Textile

3) Aqua Shield Exterior: Wood, Masonry, Concrete

4) Aqua Shield Sport: Skiing, Snowboarding, Clothing

5) Aqua Shield Clear: Home Glass and Windshield Coating

6) Dryve Shield: For all Auto Cleaning and Shine

Soussana went on to say “the tests we have done in Canada on high dollar vehicles and the feedback from the Marine industry have been excellent. We are hearing from boat owners that they are seeing instant results in cleaning and protection from the Aqua Shield Marine products from the teak, to the rails and the fiberglass as well”

Boyd Soussana told me they did a private test on some very high end vehicles and the owners were very impressed, according to him.

So what is a Super hydrophobic Water Repellent Nanotechnology Product and how does it work?

A superhydrophobic coating is a nanoscopic surface layer that repels water and also can reduce dirt and friction against the surface to achieve better fuel economies for the auto and maritime industries according to Wikipedia.

About Nanex Company

Nanex is a developer of commercialized nanotechnology solutions headquartered in Belgium operating in North America through its Canadian subsidiary Nanex Canada Incorporated. At the start of 2012 it launched its first product, an advanced super hydrophobic formula called Always Dry. By 2014 Nanex had distributors around the world from Korea, Malaysia, and Singapore, to England and Eastern Europe, and had expanded its products into three lines and several formulas.

Given the remarkably short time span between opening a Canadian subsidiary and opening an office in the US, it’s safe to assume that obtaining a toehold in the US market was Nanex’s true objective.

Buckydiamondoids steer electron flow

One doesn’t usually think about buckyballs (Buckminsterfullerenes) and diamondoids as being together in one molecule but that has not stopped scientists from trying to join them and, in this case, successfully. From a Sept. 9, 2014 news item on ScienceDaily,

Scientists have married two unconventional forms of carbon — one shaped like a soccer ball, the other a tiny diamond — to make a molecule that conducts electricity in only one direction. This tiny electronic component, known as a rectifier, could play a key role in shrinking chip components down to the size of molecules to enable faster, more powerful devices.

Here’s an illustration the scientists have provided,

Illustration of a buckydiamondoid molecule under a scanning tunneling microscope (STM). In this study the STM made images of the buckydiamondoids and probed their electronic properties.

Illustration of a buckydiamondoid molecule under a scanning tunneling microscope (STM). In this study the STM made images of the buckydiamondoids and probed their electronic properties.

A Sept. 9, 2014 Stanford University news release by Glenda Chui (also on EurekAlert), which originated the news item, provides some information about this piece of international research along with background information on buckyballs and diamondoids (Note: Links have been removed),

“We wanted to see what new, emergent properties might come out when you put these two ingredients together to create a ‘buckydiamondoid,'” said Hari Manoharan of the Stanford Institute for Materials and Energy Sciences (SIMES) at the U.S. Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. “What we got was basically a one-way valve for conducting electricity – clearly more than the sum of its parts.”

The research team, which included scientists from Stanford University, Belgium, Germany and Ukraine, reported its results Sept. 9 in Nature Communications.

Many electronic circuits have three basic components: a material that conducts electrons; rectifiers, which commonly take the form of diodes, to steer that flow in a single direction; and transistors to switch the flow on and off. Scientists combined two offbeat ingredients – buckyballs and diamondoids – to create the new diode-like component.

Buckyballs – short for buckminsterfullerenes – are hollow carbon spheres whose 1985 discovery earned three scientists a Nobel Prize in chemistry. Diamondoids are tiny linked cages of carbon joined, or bonded, as they are in diamonds, with hydrogen atoms linked to the surface, but weighing less than a billionth of a billionth of a carat. Both are subjects of a lot of research aimed at understanding their properties and finding ways to use them.

In 2007, a team led by researchers from SLAC and Stanford discovered that a single layer of diamondoids on a metal surface can emit and focus electrons into a tiny beam. Manoharan and his colleagues wondered: What would happen if they paired an electron-emitting diamondoid with another molecule that likes to grab electrons? Buckyballs are just that sort of electron-grabbing molecule.

Details are then provided about this specific piece of research (from the Stanford news release),

For this study, diamondoids were produced in the SLAC laboratory of SIMES researchers Jeremy Dahl and Robert Carlson, who are world experts in extracting the tiny diamonds from petroleum. The diamondoids were then shipped to Germany, where chemists at Justus-Liebig University figured out how to attach them to buckyballs.

The resulting buckydiamondoids, which are just a few nanometers long, were tested in SIMES laboratories at Stanford. A team led by graduate student Jason Randel and postdoctoral researcher Francis Niestemski used a scanning tunneling microscope to make images of the hybrid molecules and measure their electronic behavior. They discovered that the hybrid is an excellent rectifier: The electrical current flowing through the molecule was up to 50 times stronger in one direction, from electron-spitting diamondoid to electron-catching buckyball, than in the opposite direction. This is something neither component can do on its own.

While this is not the first molecular rectifier ever invented, it’s the first one made from just carbon and hydrogen, a simplicity researchers find appealing, said Manoharan, who is an associate professor of physics at Stanford. The next step, he said, is to see if transistors can be constructed from the same basic ingredients.

“Buckyballs are easy to make – they can be isolated from soot – and the type of diamondoid we used here, which consists of two tiny cages, can be purchased commercially,” he said. “And now that our colleagues in Germany have figured out how to bind them together, others can follow the recipe. So while our research was aimed at gaining fundamental insights about a novel hybrid molecule, it could lead to advances that help make molecular electronics a reality.”

Other research collaborators came from the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium and Kiev Polytechnic Institute in Ukraine. The primary funding for the work came from U.S. the Department of Energy Office of Science (Basic Energy Sciences, Materials Sciences and Engineering Divisions).

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

Unconventional molecule-resolved current rectification in diamondoid–fullerene hybrids by Jason C. Randel, Francis C. Niestemski,    Andrés R. Botello-Mendez, Warren Mar, Georges Ndabashimiye, Sorin Melinte, Jeremy E. P. Dahl, Robert M. K. Carlson, Ekaterina D. Butova, Andrey A. Fokin, Peter R. Schreiner, Jean-Christophe Charlier & Hari C. Manoharan. Nature Communications 5, Article number: 4877 doi:10.1038/ncomms5877 Published 09 September 2014

This paper is open access. The scientists provided not only a standard illustration but a pretty picture of the buckydiamondoid,

Caption: An international team led by researchers at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University joined two offbeat carbon molecules -- diamondoids, the square cages at left, and buckyballs, the soccer-ball shapes at right -- to create "buckydiamondoids," center. These hybrid molecules function as rectifiers, conducting electrons in only one direction, and could help pave the way to molecular electronic devices. Credit: Manoharan Lab/Stanford University

Caption: An international team led by researchers at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University joined two offbeat carbon molecules — diamondoids, the square cages at left, and buckyballs, the soccer-ball shapes at right — to create “buckydiamondoids,” center. These hybrid molecules function as rectifiers, conducting electrons in only one direction, and could help pave the way to molecular electronic devices.
Credit: Manoharan Lab/Stanford University

Canadian nano business news: international subsidiary (Nanex) opens in Québec and NanoStruck’s latest results on recovering silver from mine tailings

The Canadian nano business sector is showing some signs of life. Following on my Sept. 3, 2014 posting about Nanotech Security Corp.’s plans to buy a subsidiary business, Fortress Optical Features, there’s an international subsidiary of Nanex (a Belgium-based business) planning to open in the province of Québec and NanoStruck (an Ontario-based company) has announced the results of its latest tests on cyanide-free recovery techniques.

In the order in which I stumbled across these items, I’m starting with the Nanex news item in a Sept. 3, 2014 posting on the Techvibes blog,

Nanex, a Belgian-based innovator and manufacturer of superhydrophobic nanotechnology products, announced last week the creation of its first international subsidiary.

Nanex Canada will be headquartered in Montreal.

For those unfamiliar with the term superhydrophobic, it means water repellent to a ‘super’ degree. For more information the properties of superhydrophobic coatings, the Techvibes post is hosting a video which demonstrates the coating’s properties (there’s a car which may never need washing again).

An Aug. 1, 2014 Nanex press release, which originated the news item, provides more details,

… Nanex Canada Incorporated will be starting operations on October 1st, 2014 and will be headquartered in Montreal, Quebec.

“Nanex’s expansion into Canada is a tremendous leap forward in our international operations, creating not only more efficient and direct channels into all of North America, but also providing access to a new top-notch intellectual pool for our R&D efforts,” Said Boyd Soussana, National Marketing Director at Nanex Canada. “We feel that Quebec and Canada have a great reputation as leaders in the field of advanced technologies, and we are proud to contribute to this scientific landscape.”

Upon launch, Nanex Canada Inc. will begin with retail and sales of its nanotechnology products, which have a wide range of consumer applications. Formal partnerships in B2B [business-to-business] further expanding these applications have been in place throughout Canada beginning in August of 2014. Through its Quebec laboratories Nanex Canada Inc. will also be pursuing R&D initiatives, in order to further develop safe and effective nano-polymers for consumer use, focusing entirely on ease of application and cost efficiency for the end consumer. In addition application of nano-coatings in green technologies will be a priority for North American R&D efforts.

Nanex Company currently manufactures three lines of products: Always Dry, Clean & Coat, and a self-cleaning coating for automotive bodies. These products contain proprietary nano-polymers that when sprayed upon a surface provide advanced abilities including super hydrophobic (extremely water-repellent), oleophobic (extremely oil repellent), and scratch resistance as well as self-cleaning properties.

 

The second piece of news is featured in a Sept. 5, 2014 news item on Azonano,

NanoStruck Technologies Inc. is pleased to announce positive results from test work carried out on silver mine tailings utilizing proprietary cyanide free recovery technologies that returned up to 87.6% of silver from samples grading 56 grams of silver per metric ton (g/t).

A Sept. 4, 2014 NanoStruck news release, which originated the news item, provides more details,

Three leach tests were conducted using the proprietary mixed acid leach process. Roasting was conducted on the sample for two of the leach tests, producing higher recoveries, although the un-roasted sample still produced a 71% recovery rate.

87.6% silver recoveries resulted from a 4 hour leach time at 95 degrees Celsius, with the standard feed grind size of D80 175 micron of roasted material.
84.3% recoveries resulted from a 4 hour leach at 95 degrees Celsius with the standard feed grind size of D80 175 micron with roasted material at a lower acid concentration.
71% recoveries resulted from a 4 hour leach at 95 degrees Celsius from received material, with the standard feed grind size of D80 175 micron with an altered acid mix concentration.

The average recovery for the roasted samples was 86% across the two leach tests performed using the proprietary process.

Bundeep Singh Rangar, Interim CEO and Chairman of the Board, said: “These results further underpin the effectiveness of our processing technology. With our patented process we are achieving excellent recoveries in not only silver tailings, but also gold tailings as well, both of which have vast global markets for us.”

The proprietary process combines a novel mixed acid leach with a solvent extraction stage, utilizing specific organic compounds. No cyanide is used in this environmentally friendly process. The flow sheet design is for a closed loop, sealed unit in which all chemicals are then recycled.

Previous test work undertaken on other gold mine tailings utilizing the proprietary process resulted in a maximum 96.1% recovery of gold. Previous test work undertaken on other silver tailings resulted in a maximum 86.4% recovery of silver.

The technical information contained in this news release has been verified and approved by Ernie Burga, a qualified person for the purpose of National Instrument 43-101, Standards of Disclosure for Mineral Projects, of the Canadian securities administrators.

Should you choose to read the news release in its entirety, you will find that no one is responsible for the information should anything turn out to be incorrect or just plain wrong but, like Nanotech Security Corp., (as I noted in my Sept. 4, 2014 posting), the company is very hopeful.

I have mentioned NanoStruck several times here:

March 14, 2014 posting

Feb. 19, 2014 posting

Feb. 10, 2014 posting

Dec. 27, 2013 posting

Belgian register for nanomaterials (key dates: 2016 and 2017)

Belgium will be the second country in the European Union (France being the first) to enact a mandatory register for nanomaterials. A Sept. 3, 2014 Nanowerk Spotlight article by Anthony Bochon (Attorney at the Brussels Bar, Associate at Squire Patton Boggs (UK) LLP Brussels office, Associate lecturer at the Université libre de Bruxelles and fellow at Stanford Law School) provides details (Note: A link has been removed),

On 7th February 2014, the Belgian federal government issued a press release declaring that the draft Royal Decree creating a Belgian register for nanomaterials has been approved. Although its not been formally enacted yet, its content has been disclosed to the European Commission on 19th February 2014. The Royal Decree would enter into force on 1st January 2016 for substances manufactured at the nanoscale and on 1st January 2017 for preparations containing a substance or substances manufactured at the nanoscale. [emphases mine]

The scope of the Belgian nano register is twofold with the scopes by product and by activity that delineate the cases when a declaration or notification would be filled with the Ministry of Health.

Scope by product

The registration requirements will apply to products which are or which include substances manufactured at nanoscale. The central issue with the registration requirements was and remains the definition of the so-called “substance manufactured at nanoscale”. In absence of any common compulsory definition in EU law, the Belgian government has decided to adopt the definition proposed by the European Commission in its recommendation of 18th October 2011. The Royal Decree defines the “substance manufactured at nanoscale” as “a substance containing unbound particles or particles in the form of an aggregate or agglomerate, of which a minimum proportion of at least fifty per cent of the size distribution, by number, have one or more external dimensions within the range of one nanometre and one hundred nanometres, excluding chemically unmodified natural substances, accidentally produced substances and substances whose fraction between one nanometre and one hundred nanometres is a by-product of human activity. Fullerenes, graphene flakes and single-wall carbon nanotubes with one or more external dimensions below one nanometre shall be treated as substances manufactured at the nanoscale.”
Companies will have to determine with their counsel if their products fall within the product scope of application of the Belgian nano register. The choice of such definition has already faced some serious criticism during the preparatory phase of the Royal Decree. It is unsure whether this definition would survive a legality test or whether the federal government will not broaden the product scope of application. Unlike the Commission recommendation of 18th October 2011, the Belgian definition of nanomaterials does not encompass materials with a specific surface area by volume of the material greater than 60 m2/cm3 but which does not meet the 50% size distribution requirement.

A certain number of products will be excluded from the notification or declaration requirements set out in the Royal Decree:

Cosmetics products which have been notified in accordance with Regulation 1223/2009 on cosmetic products;

Biocides falling within the scope of Regulation 528/2012 (the Biocides Regulation) and which have been registered or authorized in accordance with the Royal Decree of 22 May 2003 concerning the placing on the market and use of biocides;

Medicines for human and veterinary use falling within the scope of Regulation 726/2004 or the Royal Decree of 14 December 2006 on medicinal products for human and veterinary use

Foodstuffs and materials and objects intended to come into contact with foodstuffs referred to in Article 1, 1° and 2°, b) of the Law of 24 January 1977 on the protection of consumer health in regard to foodstuffs and other products

Animal feed, as defined in Article 3 of Regulation 178/2002

Medicines and medicated animal feed falling within the scope of the Law of 21 June 1983 on medicated animal feed;

Processing aids and other products which may be used in processing organically produced agricultural ingredients, mentioned in Part B of Annex VIII to Commission Regulation (EC) No 889/2008

Pigments, defined as substances which are insoluble in typical suspension media, used for their optical properties in a preparation or article.

It is important to point out that complex articles containing carbon black, amorphous synthetic silica or precipitated calcium carbonate, used as fillers, are excluded from the notification requirements laid down by the Royal Decree.

It’s fascinating to note the materials being excluded from this registry. I expect most of those materials/products are already covered under other regulations or decrees as are, for example, cosmetics, since the EU requires cosmetics companies to label (and, presumably, to register) products containing nanomaterials.

There’s a lot more to the article than the bits I have excerpted here so I encourage anyone interested in regulatory matters to read the piece in its entirety.

The author, Anthony Bochon, was last mentioned here in an Aug. 15, 2014 posting, about his forthcoming 2015 book, Nanotechnology Law & Guidelines: A Practical Guide for the Nanotechnology Industries in Europe.

For anyone interested here’s the Belgium’s Feb. 7, 2014 press release by Sarah Delafortrie and Christophe Springael. You will need your French language skills to read it.

Bioluminscent sharks and their photon hunting abilities

This is the eye of a velvet belly lanternshark. Credit: Dr. J. Mallefet (FNRS/UCL); CC-BY

This is the eye of a velvet belly lanternshark.
Credit: Dr. J. Mallefet (FNRS/UCL); CC-BY

The velvet belly is a bioluminscent shark, i.e., it projects some light. Here’s a description from its Wikipedia entry (Note: Links have been removed),

The velvet belly lanternshark (or simply velvet belly, Etmopterus spinax) is a species of dogfish shark in the family Etmopteridae. One of the most common deepwater sharks in the northeastern Atlantic Ocean, the velvet belly is found from Iceland and Norway to Gabon and South Africa at a depth of 70–2,490 m (230–8,170 ft). A small shark generally no more than 45 cm (18 in) long, the velvet belly is so named because its black underside is abruptly distinct from the brown coloration on the rest of its body. … Like other lanternsharks, the velvet belly is bioluminescent, with light-emitting photophores forming a species-specific pattern over its flanks and abdomen. These photophores are thought to function in counter-illumination, which camouflages the shark against predators. They may also play a role in social interactions.

An Aug. 6, 2014 news item on ScienceDaily highlights some recent featuring the velvet belly,

The eyes of deep-sea bioluminescent sharks have a higher rod density when compared to non-bioluminescent sharks, according to a study published August 6, 2014 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Julien M. Claes, postdoctoral researcher from the FNRS at Université catholique de Louvain (Belgium), and colleagues. This adaptation is one of many these sharks use to produce and perceive bioluminescent light in order to communicate, find prey, and camouflage themselves against predators.

An Aug. 6, 2014 news item on phys.org elucidates further,

The mesopelagic twilight zone, or about 200-1000 meters deep in the sea, is a vast, dim habitat, where, with increasing depth, sunlight is progressively replaced by point-like bioluminescent emissions. To better understand strategies used by bioluminescent predators inhabiting this region that help optimize photon capture, the authors of this study analyzed the eye shape, structure, and retinal cell mapping in the visual systems of five deep-sea bioluminescent sharks, including four Lanternsharks (Etmopteridae) and one kitefin shark (Dalatiidae).

The researchers found that the sharks’ eyes contained a translucent area present in the upper eye orbit of the lantern sharks, which might aid in adjusting counter-illumination, or in using bioluminescence to camouflage the fish. They also found several ocular specializations, such as a gap between the lens and iris that allows extra light to the retina, which was previously unknown in sharks. Comparisons with previous data on non-bioluminescent sharks reveals that bioluminescent sharks possess higher rod densities in their eyes, which might provide them with improved temporal resolution, particularly useful for bioluminescent communication during social interactions.

“Every bioluminescent signal needs to reach a target photoreceptor to be ecologically efficient. Here, we clearly found evidence that the visual system of bioluminescent sharks has co-evolved with their light-producing capability, even though more work is needed to understand the full story,” said Dr. Claes.

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

Photon Hunting in the Twilight Zone: Visual Features of Mesopelagic Bioluminescent Sharks by Julien M. Claes, Julian C. Partridge, Nathan S. Hart, Eduardo Garza-Gisholt, Hsuan-Ching Ho, Jérôme Mallefet, and Shaun P. Collin. PLOS ONE DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0104213 Published: August 06, 2014

This study is open access as is the journal where it appears, PLOS (Public Library of Science) ONE.

Dimpling can be more than cute, morphable surfaces (smorphs) from MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)

A morphable surface developed by an MIT team can change surface texture — from smooth to dimply, and back again — through changes in pressure. When the inside pressure is reduced, the flexible material shrinks, and the stiffer outer layer wrinkles. Increasing pressure returns the surface to a smooth state.

A June 24, 2014 news item on Nanowerk features a story about the origins of the dimpled golf ball, aerodynamics, and some very pink material (Note: A link has been removed),

There is a story about how the modern golf ball, with its dimpled surface, came to be: In the mid-1800s, it is said, new golf balls were smooth, but became dimpled over time as impacts left permanent dents. Smooth new balls were typically used for tournament play, but in one match, a player ran short, had to use an old, dented one, and realized that he could drive this dimpled ball much further than a smooth one.

Whether that story is true or not, testing over the years has proved that a golf ball’s irregular surface really does dramatically increase the distance it travels, because it can cut the drag caused by air resistance in half. Now researchers at MIT are aiming to harness that same effect to reduce drag on a variety of surfaces — including domes that sometimes crumple in high winds, or perhaps even vehicles.

Detailed studies of aerodynamics have shown that while a ball with a dimpled surface has half the drag of a smooth one at lower speeds, at higher speeds that advantage reverses. So the ideal would be a surface whose smoothness can be altered, literally, on the fly — and that’s what the MIT team has developed.

The new work is described in a paper in the journal Advanced Materials (“Smart Morphable Surfaces for Aerodynamic Drag Control”) by MIT’s Pedro Reis and former MIT postdocs Denis Terwagne (now at the Université Libre de Bruxelles in Belgium) and Miha Brojan (now at the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia).

esearchers made this sphere to test their concept of morphable surfaces. Made of soft polymer with a hollow center, and a thin coating of a stiffer polymer, the sphere becomes dimpled when the air is pumped out of the hollow center, causing it to shrink. (Photo courtesy of the MIT researchers)

Researchers made this sphere to test their concept of morphable surfaces. Made of soft polymer with a hollow center, and a thin coating of a stiffer polymer, the sphere becomes dimpled when the air is pumped out of the hollow center, causing it to shrink. (Photo courtesy of the MIT researchers)

A June 24, 2014 MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) news release (also on EurekAlert) by David Chandler, which originated the news item, provides more detail about the work,

The ability to change the surface in real time comes from the use of a multilayer material with a stiff skin and a soft interior — the same basic configuration that causes smooth plums to dry into wrinkly prunes. To mimic that process, Reis and his team made a hollow ball of soft material with a stiff skin — with both layers made of rubberlike materials — then extracted air from the hollow interior to make the ball shrink and its surface wrinkle.

“Numerous studies of wrinkling have been done on flat surfaces,” says Reis, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering and civil and environmental engineering. “Less is known about what happens when you curve the surface. How does that affect the whole wrinkling process?”

The answer, it turns out, is that at a certain degree of shrinkage, the surface can produce a dimpled pattern that’s very similar to that of a golf ball — and with the same aerodynamic properties.

The aerodynamic properties of dimpled balls can be a bit counterintuitive: One might expect that a ball with a smooth surface would sail through the air more easily than one with an irregular surface. The reason for the opposite result has to do with the nature of a small layer of the air next to the surface of the ball. The irregular surface, it turns out, holds the airflow close to the ball’s surface longer, delaying the separation of this boundary layer. This reduces the size of the wake — the zone of turbulence behind the ball — which is the primary cause of drag for blunt objects.

When the researchers saw the wrinkled outcomes of their initial tests with their multilayer spheres, “We realized that these samples look just like golf balls,” Reis says. “We systematically tested them in a wind tunnel, and we saw a reduction in drag very similar to that of golf balls.”

Because the surface texture can be controlled by adjusting the balls’ interior pressure, the degree of drag reduction can be controlled at will. “We can generate that surface topography, or erase it,” Reis says. “That reversibility is why this is pretty interesting; you can switch the drag-reducing effect on and off, and tune it.”

As a result of that variability, the team refers to these as “smart morphable surfaces” — or “smorphs,” for short. The pun is intentional, Reis says: The paper’s lead author — Terwagne, a Belgian comics fan — pointed out that one characteristic of Smurfs cartoon characters is that no matter how old they get, they never develop wrinkles.

Terwagne says that making the morphable surfaces for lab testing required a great deal of trial-and-error — work that ultimately yielded a simple and efficient fabrication process. “This beautiful simplicity to achieve a complex functionality is often used by nature,” he says, “and really inspired me to investigate further.”

Many researchers have studied various kinds of wrinkled surfaces, with possible applications in areas such as adhesion, or even unusual optical properties. “But we are the first to use wrinkling for aerodynamic properties,” Reis says.

The drag reduction of a textured surface has already expanded beyond golf balls: The soccer ball being used at this year’s World Cup, for example, uses a similar effect; so do some track suits worn by competitive runners. For many purposes, such as in golf and soccer, constant dimpling is adequate, Reis says.

But in other uses, the ability to alter a surface could prove useful: For example, many radar antennas are housed in spherical domes, which can collapse catastrophically in very high winds. A dome that could alter its surface to reduce drag when strong winds are expected might avert such failures, Reis suggests. Another application could be the exterior of automobiles, where the ability to adjust the texture of panels to minimize drag at different speeds could increase fuel efficiency, he says.

Delightful is not the first adjective that jumps to my mind when describing this work but I’m not an engineer (from the news release),

John Rogers, a professor of materials research and engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who was not involved in this work, says, “It represents a delightful example of how controlled processes of mechanical buckling can be used to create three-dimensional structures with interesting aerodynamic properties. The type of dynamic tuning of sophisticated surface morphologies made possible by this approach would be difficult or impossible to achieve in any other way.”

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

Smart Morphable Surfaces for Aerodynamic Drag Control by Denis Terwagne, Miha Brojan, and Pedro M. Reis. Advanced Materials DOI: 10.1002/adma.201401403 Article first published online: 23 JUN 2014

© 2014 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim

This paper is behind a paywall.

The human body as a musical instrument: performance at the University of British Columbia on April 10, 2014

It’s called The Bang! Festival of interactive music with performances of one kind or another scheduled throughout the day on April 10, 2014 (12 pm: MUSC 320; 1:30 PM: Grad Work; 2 pm: Research) and a finale featuring the Laptop Orchestra at 8 pm at the University of British Columbia’s (UBC) School of Music (Barnett Recital Hall on the Vancouver campus, Canada).

Here’s more about Bob Pritchard, professor of music, and the students who have put this programme together (from an April 7, 2014 UBC news release; Note: Links have been removed),

Pritchard [Bob Prichard], a professor of music at the University of British Columbia, is using technologies that capture physical movement to transform the human body into a musical instrument.

Pritchard and the music and engineering students who make up the UBC Laptop Orchestra wanted to inject more human performance in digital music after attending one too many uninspiring laptop music sets. “Live electronic music can be a bit of an oxymoron,” says Pritchard, referring to artists gazing at their laptops and a heavy reliance on backing tracks.

“Emerging tools and techniques can help electronic musicians find more creative and engaging ways to present their work. What results is a richer experience, which can create a deeper, more emotional connection with your audience.”

The Laptop Orchestra, which will perform a free public concert on April 10, is an extension of a music technology course at UBC’s School of Music. Comprised of 17 students from Arts, Science and Engineering, its members act as musicians, dancers, composers, programmers and hardware specialists. They create adventurous electroacoustic music using programmed and acoustic instruments, including harp, piano, clarinet and violin.

Despite its name, surprisingly few laptops are actually touched onstage. “That’s one of our rules,” says Pritchard, who is helping to launch UBC’s new minor degree in Applied Music Technology in September with Laptop Orchestra co-director Keith Hamel. “Avoid touching the laptop!”

Instead, students use body movements to trigger programmed synthetic instruments or modify the sound of their live instruments in real-time. They strap motion sensors to their bodies and instruments, play wearable iPhone instruments, swing Nintendo Wiis or PlayStation Moves, while Kinect video cameras from Sony Xboxes track their movements.

“Adding movement to our creative process has been awesome,” says Kiran Bhumber, a fourth-year music student and clarinet player. The program helped attract her back to Vancouver after attending a performing arts high school in Toronto. “I really wanted to do something completely different. When I heard of the Laptop Orchestra, I knew it was perfect for me. I begged Bob to let me in.”

The Laptop Orchestra has partnered itself with UBC’s Dept. of Computer and Electrical Engineering (from the news release),

The engineers come with expertise in programming and wireless systems and the musicians bring their performance and composition chops, and program code as well.

Besides creating their powerful music, the students have invented a series of interfaces and musical gadgets. The first is the app sensorUDP, which transforms musicians’ smartphones into motion sensors. Available in the Android app store and compatible with iPhones, it allows performers to layer up to eight programmable sounds and modify them by moving their phone.

Music student Pieteke MacMahon modified the app to create an iPhone Piano, which she plays on her wrist, thanks to a mount created by engineering classmates. As she moves her hands up, the piano notes go up in pitch. When she drops her hands, the sound gets lower, and a delay effect increases if her palm faces up. “Audiences love how intuitive it is,” says the composition major. “It creates music in a way that really makes sense to people, and it looks pretty cool onstage.”

Here’s a video of the iPhone Piano (aka PietekeIPhoneSensor) in action,

The members of the Laptop Orchestra have travelled to collaborate internationally (Note: Links have been removed),

Earlier this year, the ensemble’s unique music took them to Europe. The class spent 10 days this February in Belgium where they collaborated and performed in concert with researchers at the University of Mons, a leading institution for research on gesture-tracking technology.

The Laptop Orchestra’s trip was sponsored by UBC’s Go Global and Arts Research Abroad, which together send hundreds of students on international learning experiences each year.

In Belgium, the ensemble’s dancer Diana Brownie wore a body suit covered head-to-toe in motion sensors as part of a University of Mons research project on body movement. The researchers – one a former student of Pritchard’s – will use the suit’s data to help record and preserve cultural folk dances.

For anyone who needs directions, here’s a link to UBC’s Vancouver Campus Maps, Directions, & Tours webpage.

Starry gold and silica Janus particles

A Feb. 11, 2014 news item on phys.org features a joint Basque/Belgian research collaboration on a Janus-type particle useful for future biomedical applications,

Researchers from the Basque centre CIC biomaGUNE and the University of Antwerp (Belgium) have designed nanoparticles with one half formed of gold branches and the other of silicon oxide. They are a kind of Janus particle, so-called in honour of the Roman god with two faces, which could be used in phototherapy in the future to treat tumours.

The Feb. 11, 2014 Platforma SINC news release on the Alpha Galileo website, which originated the news item, elaborates on the Janus myth and on the research,

In Roman mythology, Janus was the god of gates, doors, beginnings and transitions between the past and the future. In fact, the first month of the year, January (from the Latin, ianuarĭus), bears his name. This deity was characterised by his profile of two faces, something which has inspired scientists, when naming their chemical designs with two clearly distinct components.

Now, a team of researchers from CIC biomaGUNE in San Sebastian, together with colleagues from the Belgian University of Antwerp, have created Janus particles of nanometric size. They are constituted by silicon oxide on one side and gold points on the other.

Here’s an image of the ‘starry’ particles supplied by the researchers,

Two examples of nanostars with one silicon oxide face (bluish) and another with golden branches (yellow). / Credit: Liz-Marzán et al.

Two examples of nanostars with one silicon oxide face (bluish) and another with golden branches (yellow). / Credit: Liz-Marzán et al.

The news release goes on to describe the ‘starry’ particles in more detail,

As Luis Liz-Marzán, the main author of this study published in the journal ‘Chemical Communications’, explains to SINC: “These nanostars have optical and electronic properties determined largely by their small dimensions and their morphology.”

The researchers have come up with techniques to mould the sharp gold points from nanoparticles of this metal, such that very intense electric fields can be generated on the gold points using light.

“Our research is basic science, but these fields are used in processes of ultrasensitive detection to identify negligible quantities of molecules that can be absorbed on the gold face as contaminants or biomarkers that indicate the presence of a disease,” says Liz-Marzán.

Another possible application is phototherapy, the object of which is to kill malignant cells using heat, in this case induced by lighting the gold points. The oxide face would be used to join the nanostars to specific biological receptors that would take them to the damaged cells and only to these, so that the metal part can exercise its therapeutic or diagnostic function.

These nanoparticles are produced in various stages. First, golden nanospheres are produced by the chemical reduction of a salt from the precious metal. Then, two different organic compounds are added on opposite sides of the particle in order to give them distinct affinity due to the silicon oxide. In this way, the oxide covers only one part and the other remains uncovered in order to let the golden points grow.

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

Denis Rodríguez-Fernández, Thomas Altantzis, Hamed Heidari, Sara Bals, Luis M. Liz-Marzán. “A protecting group approach toward synthesis of Au–silica Janus nanostars”. Chemical Communications 50: 79-81, 2014. DOI: 10.1039/C3CC47531J.

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I last wrote about a Janus particle in an Aug. 13, 2009 post about research at Duke University.