Tag Archives: Framework Programme 7

‘Nano to go’, a practical guide to safe handling of nanomaterials and other innovative materials in the workplace

If you’ve been looking for a practical guide to handling nanomaterials you may find that nanoToGo fills the bill. From an Oct. 23, 2015 posting by Lynn Bergeson for Nanotechnology Now,

In September 2015, “Nano to go!” was published. See http://nanovalid.eu/index.php/nanovalid-publications/306-nanotogo “Nano to go!” is “a practically oriented guidance on safe handling of nanomaterials and other innovative materials at the workplace.” The German Federal Institute for Occupational Health (BAuA) developed it within the NanoValid project.

From the nanoToGo webpage on the NanoValid project website (Note: Links have been removed),

Nano to go! contains a brochure, field studies, presentations and general documents to comprehensively support risk assessment and risk management. …

Brochure →

The brochure Safe handling of nanomaterials and other advanced materials at workplacessupports risk assessment and risk management when working with nanomaterials. It provides safety strategies and protection measures for handling nanomaterials bound in solid matrices, dissolved in liquids, insoluble or insoluble powder form, and for handling nanofibres. Additional recommendations are given for storage and disposal of nanomaterials, for protection from fire and explosion, for training and instruction courses, and for occupational health.

Field Studies→

The field studies comprise practical examples of expert assessment of safety and health at different workplaces. They contain detailed descriptions of several exposure measurements at pilot plants and laboratories. The reports describe methods, sampling strategies and devices, summarise and discuss results, and combine measurements and non-measurement methods.

General →

Useful information, templates and examples, such as operating instructions, a sampling protocol, a dialogue guide and a short introduction to safety management and nanomaterials.

Presentations →

Ready to use presentations for university lecturers, supervisors and instruction courses, complemented with explanatory notes.

The ‘brochure’ is 56 pages; I would have called it a manual.

As for the NanoValid project, there’s this from the project’s homepage,

The EU FP7 [Framework Programme 7] large-scale integrating project NanoValid (contract: 263147) has been launched on the 1st of November 2011, as one of the “flagship” nanosafety projects. The project consists of 24 European partners from 14 different countries and 6 partners from Brazil, Canada, India and the US and will run from 2011 to 2015, with a total budget of more than 13 mio EUR (EC contribution 9.6 mio EUR). Main objective of NanoValid is to develop a set of reliable reference methods and materials for the fabrication, physicochemical (pc) characterization, hazard identification and exposure assessment of engineered nanomaterials (EN), including methods for dispersion control and labelling of ENs. Based on newly established reference methods, current approaches and strategies for risk and life cycle assessment will be improved, modified and further developed, and their feasibility assessed by means of practical case studies.

I was not expecting to see Canada in there.

Opportunity for companies to take a survey on risk management and nanotechnology

A June 8, 2015 news item on Nanowerk features a European Union (EU) Framework Programme 7 (FP7) nanotechnology risk management project and survey,

The EU FP7 Sustainable Nanotechnologies (SUN) project is based on the idea that the current knowledge on environmental and health risks of nanomaterials – while limited – can nevertheless guide nanomanufacturing to avoid liabilities if an integrated approach addressing the complete product lifecycle is applied. SUN aims to evaluate the risks along the supply chains of engineered nanomaterials and incorporate the results into tools and guidelines for sustainable nanomanufacturing.

A May 26, 2015 SUN press release by Stella Stoycheva, which originated the news item, provides more details,

… A key objective of  Sustainable Nanotechnologies (SUN) is to build the SUN Decision Support System (SUNDS) to facilitate safe and sustainable nanomanufacturing and risk management. It will integrate tools for ecological and human health risk assessment, lifecycle assessment, economic assessment and social impact assessment within a sustainability assessment framework. We are currently developing the Technological Alternatives and Risk Management Measures (TARMM) inventory and are looking for companies to fill in a short survey.

… We would appreciate responses from personnel of companies involved in nanotechnology-related activities who are familiar with the risk management practices.

You can go here to take the survey. The focus is on companies and there don’t seem to be any geographic requirements such as only EU companies can participate.

Heart of stone

Researchers in Europe do not want to find out what would Europe look like without its stone castles, Stonehenge, Coliseum, cathedrals, and other monumental stone structures, and have found a possible solution to the problem of deterioration according to an Oct. 20, 2014 news item on Nanowerk,

Castles and cathedrals, statues and spires… Europe’s built environment would not be the same without these witnesses of centuries past. But, eventually, even the hardest stone will crumble. EU-funded researchers have developed innovative nanomaterials to improve the preservation of our architectural heritage.

“Our objective,” says Professor Gerald Ziegenbalg of IBZ Salzchemie, “was to find new possibilities to consolidate stone and mortar, especially in historical buildings.” The products available at the time, he adds, didn’t meet the full range of requirements, and some could actually damage the artefacts they were meant to preserve. Alternatives compatible with the original materials were needed.

A July 9, 2014 European Commission press release, which originated the news item, provides more details about this project (Note: A link has been removed),

 Ziegenbalg was the coordinator of the Stonecore project, which rose to this monumental challenge within a mere three years. It developed and commercialised a new type of material that penetrates right into the stone, protecting it without any risk of damage or harmful residues. The team also invented new ways to assess damage to stone and refined a number of existing techniques.

The concept behind the new material developed by the Stonecore partners is ingenious. It involves lime nanoparticles suspended in alcohol, a substance that evaporates completely upon exposure to air. The nanoparticles then react with carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to form limestone.

This innovation is on the market under the brand name CaLoSil. It is available in various consistencies – liquids and pastes – and in a number of formulations based on different types of alcohol, as well as with added filler materials such as marble. The product is applied by dipping, spraying or injection into the stone.

Beyond its use as a consolidant, CaLoSil can also be used to clean stone and mortar, as it helps to treat fungus and algae. The dehydrating effect of the alcohol and the acidity of the lime destroy the cells, and the growth can then be washed off. This method, says Ziegenbalg, is more effective than conventional chemical or mechanical approaches, and it does not damage the stone.

Limestone face-lifts

The partners tested their new product in a number of locations across Europe, on a wide variety of materials exposed to very different conditions. Together, they rejuvenated statues and sculptures, saved features in cathedrals and citadels, and treated materials as diverse as sandstone, marble and tuff.

The opportunity to access such a wide variety of sites, says Ziegenbalg, was one of the many advantages of working with partners from several countries. It pre-empted the risk of developing a product that was too narrowly focused on a specific application.

Inside the heart of stone

A number of techniques enable conservation teams to assess the state of the objects in their care. To obtain a clearer picture of deeper damage, Stonecore improved existing approaches involving ultrasound, developing a new device. The project also pioneered a new technique based on ground-penetrating radar, which one partner is now offering as a commercial service.

The team also developed an innovative micro-drilling tool and refined an existing technique for measuring the water uptake of stone.

A further innovation is a new technique to measure surface degradation. For this so-called “peeling test”, a length of adhesive tape is affixed to the object. The weight of the particles that come off with the tape when it is removed indicate how likely the stone is to degrade.

Carving out solutions

The partners’ achievements have not gone unnoticed. In 2013, Stonecore was shortlisted along with 10 other projects for the annual EuroNanoForum’s Best Project Award.

Ziegenbalg attributes the team’s success mainly to the partners’ wide range of complementary expertise, and to their dedication. “The participating small and medium-sized enterprises were extremely active,” he says. “They were highly motivated to handle the more practical work, while the universities supported them with the necessary research input.”

While it’s not clear from this press release or the Stonecore website, it appears this project has run its course as part of European Union’s Framework Programme 7.

Archivists, rejoice! Fused quartz stores data for millions of years at the University of Southampton (UK)

There’s a July 9,  2013 news item on Nanowerk touting nanostructured glass device which is being compared to Superman’s memory crystal (see this Wikipedia essay on Superman’s Fortress of Solitude for a description of Superman’s memory crystals),

Using nanostructured glass, scientists at the University of Southampton have, for the first time, experimentally demonstrated the recording and retrieval processes of five dimensional digital data by femtosecond laser writing. The storage allows unprecedented parameters including 360 TB/disc data capacity, thermal stability up to 1000°C and practically unlimited lifetime.

Coined as the ‘Superman’ memory crystal, as the glass memory has been compared to the “memory crystals” used in the Superman films, the data is recorded via self-assembled nanostructures created in fused quartz, which is able to store vast quantities of data for over a million years. The information encoding is realised in five dimensions: the size and orientation in addition to the three dimensional position of these nanostructures. [emphases mine]

The July 9, 2013 University of Southampton news release, which originated the news item, provides more details,

A 300 kb digital copy of a text file was successfully recorded in 5D using ultrafast laser, producing extremely short and intense pulses of light. The file is written in three layers of nanostructured dots separated by five micrometres (one millionth of a metre).

The self-assembled nanostructures change the way light travels through glass, modifying polarisation of light that can then be read by combination of optical microscope and a polariser, similar to that found in Polaroid sunglasses.

The research is led by Jingyu Zhang from the University’s Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC) and conducted under a joint project with Eindhoven University of Technology.

“We are developing a very stable and safe form of portable memory using glass, which could be highly useful for organisations with big archives. At the moment companies have to back up their archives every five to ten years because hard-drive memory has a relatively short lifespan,” says Jingyu. [emphasis mine]

“Museums who want to preserve information or places like the national archives where they have huge numbers of documents, would really benefit.”

This work was presented at the CLEO 2013 (Conference on Lasers and Electro-Optics in San Jose [US]). Here’s a link to and a citation for the 2 pp presentation paper,

5D Data Storage by Ultrafast Laser Nanostructuring in Glass by Jingyu Zhang, Mindaugas Gecevičius, Martynas Beresna, and Peter G. Kazansky. Presentation paper for CLEO 2013

© 2013 Optical Society of America OCIS codes (140.3390) Laser materials processing, (210.0210) Optical data storage

This research was conducted as part of the European Union’s Femtoprint project, which is funded under the Framework Programme 7 initiative. Here’s more about Femtoprint from the homepage,

FEMTOPRINT is to develop a printer for microsystems with nano-scale features fabricated out of glass. Our ultimate goal is to provide a large pool of users from industry, research and universities with the capability of producing their own micro-systems, in a rapid-manner without the need for expensive infrastructures and specific expertise. Recent researches have shown that one can form three-dimensional patterns in glass material using low-power femtosecond laser beam. This simple process opens interesting new opportunities for a broad variety of microsystems with feature sizes down to the nano-scale. These patterns can be used to form integrated optics components or be ‘developed’ by chemically etching to form three-dimensional structures like fluidic channels and micro-mechanical components. Worth noticing, sub-micron resolution can be achieved and sub-pattern smaller than the laser wavelength can be formed. Thanks to the low-energy required to pattern the glass, femtosecond laser consisting simply of an oscillator are sufficient to produce such micro- and nano- systems.

These systems are nowadays table-top and cost a fraction of conventional clean-room equipments. It is highly foreseeable that within 3 to 5 years such laser systems will fit in a shoe-box. The project specific objectives are:

1/ Develop a femtosecond laser suitable for glass micro-/nano- manufacturing that fits in a shoe-box

2/ Integrate the laser in a machine similar to a printer that can position and manipulate glass sheets of various thicknesses

3/ Demonstrate the use of the printer to fabricate a variety of micro-/nano-systems with optical, mechanical and fluid-handling capabilities. A clear and measurable outcome of Femtoprint will be to be in a situation to commercialize the ‘femtoprinter’ through the setting-up of a consortium spin-off. The potential economical impact is large and is expected in various industrial sectors.

I think any archivist hearing about data storage that can last a million years will be thrilled although I suspect it’s going to be a long, long time before these 5D ‘memory’ crystals are going to be storing any data for anyone. In the meantime, there are efforts such as the Council of Canadian Academies’ (CCA) Memory Institutions and the Digital Revolution assessment (mentioned 2/3 of the way down in my June 5, 2013 posting).

NanoRem: pollution, nanotechnology, and remediation

According to a July 6, 2013 news item on Nanowerk, nanoremediation is not the right term for referring to pollution cleanup technologies that are nanotechnology-enabled,

In the remediation of pollutions in the soil and groundwater, minute nanoparticles are being increasingly used that are to convert resp. break down pollutants on site. The process, often somewhat mistakenly described as “nano-remediation”, can also be used with contaminations that have been hard to fight up to now, for example through heavy metals or the notorious, carcinogenic softener PCB. Yet how do the various nanoparticles behave in the earth, are they in turn harmless for humans and the environment and how can they be produced at a favourable price? These questions were investigated by scientists from the Research Facility for Subsurface Remediation (VEGAS) of the University of Stuttgart together with 27 partners from 13 countries in the framework of EU project “NanoRem”, planned to last four years. For this purpose the European Union is providing around 10.5 million Euros from the 7th research framework programme.

The July 6, 2013 news item on Nanotechnology Now (ordinarily, I’d quote from the University of Stuttgart press release which originated the Nanowerk and Nanotechnology Now news items but the university’s website seems to be experiencing technical problems) provides more details about treating pollution with ‘nanotechnology-enabled’ techniques and more information about NanoRem,

Nanotechnologies are particularly suited for treating groundwater aquifers but also contaminated soil at the site of the contamination (in situ). However, in remediation projects (reclamation of contaminated sites), they have only been used hesitantly since an effective and reliable application is not yet mature, the potential risks for the environment difficult to assess and nano-remediation in addition comparatively expensive due to the still high manufacturing costs of nanoparticles. The nanotechnology, however, offers advantages: compared to the classic remediation processes, such as “Pump & Treat” (pumping off contaminated groundwater and cleaning it in a treatment plant) or chemical, resp. microbiological in-situ remediation processes, the range of “treatable” contaminants is greater. In addition, a quick and targeted break down of pollutants can be achieved, for example also in industrial buildings without the production being interrupted. “Through nanotechnology we are expecting a significant improvement in the remediation service and the operational areas”, according to the Stuttgart coordinator Dr. Hans-Peter Koschitzky. This would not only be beneficial for the environment but would also be attractive from an economical point of view: the world market for the application of environmental nanotechnologies was estimated to be a total of six billion US Dollars in 2010.

Against this background the scientists involved in NanoRem want to develop practical, efficient, safe and economical nanotechnologies for in-situ remediation with the aim of enabling a commercial use as well as a spread of the application in Europe. The focus is on the best-suited nanotechnologies as well as favourably priced production techniques. For this purpose questions on the mobility and reactivity of nanoparticles in the subsoil as well as the possible risk potential for mankind and environment in particular are to be investigated. A further aim is the provision of a comprehensive “tool box” for the planning and monitoring of the remediation as well as success control.

The Stuttgart researchers will be focusing on the use of nanoscale iron particles (aka, nano zero valent iron nZVI?; you can find out more about zNVI in my Mar. 20, 2012 posting) as per the news items,

The researchers from the Stuttgart Research Facility for Subsurface Remediation, VEGAS, are concentrating on the large-scale implementation of nano-iron particles within the project. Initially three large-scale tests are conducted: artificial aquifers are established with defined sand layers of various properties in large stainless steel containers in the experimental hall and flooded with groundwater. In each of these large-scale tests a defined source of pollution is incorporated, then various nanoparticles are injected. Probes in the container provide information on the concentrations of pollutants and nanoparticles as well as on the remediation progress at many sites in the aquifer. These tests are validated by Dutch and Italian partners with the help of a numerical groundwater flow and transport model. Finally, field tests at sites in need of remediation with various requirement profiles are conducted in several countries in Europe in order to verify the efficiency and profitability of nano-remediation. In particular, however, they also serve the purpose of achieving acceptance through transparency Europe-wide with public authorities and the public.

There is more information about the NanoRem project on the CORDIS website. The NanoRem website is currently (July 8, 2013) under construction but does offer more overview information on its landing page.

European nanotech roadmap

No event, document, or specific announcement appears to have occasioned the May 10, 2013 news item on Nanowerk about Europe’s nanotechnology roadmap (Note: A link was removed),

Nanotechnology is opening the way to a new industrial revolution. From ‘individualised’ medical treatments tailored for each patient to new, environmentally-friendly energy storage and generation systems, nanotechnology is bringing significant advances. Exciting new futures await those businesses able to get ahead in the race to turn this wealth of promise into commercial success. But in a field which requires a high degree of coordinated effort involving many different stakeholder groups, including researchers, policymakers and commercial players across a wide variety of industrial sectors, it has perhaps been inevitable that fragmentation, disconnectedness and duplication have stood in the way.

NANOfutures was set up in 2010 to tackle exactly this problem of fragmentation. Supported by European Union (EU) funding, NANOfutures is a European Technology and Innovation Platform (ETIP) bringing together industry, research institutions and universities, NGOs [nongovernmental organizations], financial institutions, civil society and policymakers at regional, national and European levels. Acting as a kind of ‘nano-hub’ for Europe, NANOfutures is dedicated to fostering a shared vision and strategy on the future of nanotechnology.

The May 9, 2013 European Commission news release, which originated the news item, goes on to describe the NANOfutures project which ended in Sept. 2012,

Reflecting its objective of achieving a truly cross-sectoral approach, breaking out of individual industry silos and addressing the major nanotech issues which are common to all sectors, NANOfutures set up a steering committee which included representatives from 11 European Technology Platforms (ETPs) – sector-specific networks of industry and academia – including those for textiles, nanomedicine, construction and transportation. Chaired by Professor Paolo Matteazzi of Italian specialist nanomaterials company MBN Nanomaterialia, the committee also included ten nanotechnology experts, each one chairing a NANOfutures working group on cross-sectoral topics such as safety, standardisation, regulation, technology transfer and innovative financing.

This approach allowed NANOfutures to identify key aspects of nanotechnology and its exploitation in which all players – from researcher to politician, financier, commercial developer, regulator or end-user – were involved and therefore had common interests.

One of the major successes achieved by the two-year project was securing an agreement by all 11 ETPs on a set of research and innovation themes for the next decade. “The ETPs agreed to focus their private efforts, and call for increasing public efforts, on such themes in order to bring European nano-enabled products to successful commercialisation, with benefits for the grand challenges of our time such as climate change, affordable and effective medicine, green mobility and manufacturing,” says the project’s coordinator, Margherita Cioffi of Italian engineering consultancy D’Appolonia.

The most tangible result of this, and the key outcome from NANOfutures, was the development and publication of a ‘Research and Industrial Roadmap’ setting out, in Ms Cioffi’s words, “a pathway up to 2020 which will enable European industry and researchers to deliver and successfully commercialise sustainable and safe nano-enabled products.” Divided into seven separate thematic areas, or ‘value-chains’, the roadmap covers European priorities from materials research to product design, manufacturing, assembly, use and disposal. It describes both short- and longer-term actions with the aim of providing a practical guide for EC and Member State governments, research centres and industry, as well as standardisation and regulation bodies.

Other benefits directly resulting from the project, Ms Cioffi adds, were the sharing of safety best practices, the creation of partnerships to promote product development, training and other services, and the bringing together of relevant SME businesses with potential users and investors during specially organised Technology Transfer workshops.

Since it is not a product in itself, but a method with an enormous range of potential applications, nanotechnology naturally reaches into a diverse range of human activities. Paradoxically, almost, this very richness and universality of its benefits leads to a fragmentation of effort which acts as a barrier to its efficient exploitation. By bringing together the various stakeholders to create a unified, strategic approach, replacing fragmentation and duplication with a focus on areas of agreed priority and common interest, NANOfutures has played an invaluable role in promoting the rapid development of nanotechnology – with its twin benefits of societal usefulness and enhanced European competitiveness.

Project details

Project acronym: NANOFUTURES

  • Participants: Italy (Coordinator), Belgium, Spain
  • Project FP7 266789
  • Total costs: €1 171 011
  • EU contribution: €999 980
  • Duration: October 2010 – September 2012

The NANOfutures website provides more resources including a list of documents/deliverables  featuring a 148 pp. July 2012 roadmap. Unfortunately, I cannot provide a direct link to the roadmap or the documents page, for that matter.

At this point, the site is probably most valuable for its links to other project as a host of resources are organized under buttons (the left side of the home page) titled with Communication Projects, Finance Projects, Safety Projects, etc.

Seeing beneath the surface; ancient Roman revealed in wall painting at the Louvre

Here’s a fascinating tale about art and hidden mysteries told at the 245th meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS) taking place Apr. 7 – 11, 2013, from the Apr. 10, 2013 news release on EurekAlert,

J. Bianca Jackson, Ph.D., who reported on the project, explained that it involved a fresco [located at the Louvre Museum in Paris], which is a mural or painting done on a wall after application of fresh plaster. In a fresco, the artist’s paint seeps into the wet plaster and sets as the plaster dries. The painting becomes part of the wall. The earliest known frescoes date to about 1500 B.C. and were found on the island of Crete in Greece.

“No previous imaging technique, including almost half a dozen commonly used to detect hidden images below paintings, forged signatures of artists and other information not visible on the surface has revealed a lost image in this fresco,” Jackson said. “This opens to door to wider use of the technology in the world of art, and we also used the method to study a Russian religious icon and the walls of a mud hut in one of humanity’s first settlements in what was ancient Turkey.”

Here’s the technology they used to discover the figure hidden in the fresco,

… Termed terahertz spectroscopy, it uses beams of electromagnetic radiation that lie between microwaves, like those used in kitchen ovens, and the infrared rays used in TV remote controls. This radiation is relatively weak, does not damage paintings and does not involve exposure to harmful radiation.

“Terahertz technology has been in use for some time, especially in quality control in the pharmaceutical industry to assure the integrity of pills and capsules, in biomedical imaging and even in homeland security with those whole-body scanners that see beneath clothing at airport security check points,” said Jackson, who is now with the University of Rochester. “But its use in examining artifacts and artworks is relatively new.”

The scientists turned to terahertz technology when suspicions surfaced that a hidden image might lie beneath the brushstrokes of a precious 19th century fresco, Trois hommes armés de lances, in the Louvre’s Campana collection. …

To search for a hidden image, Jackson and colleagues, including Gerard Mourou, Ph.D., of Ècole Polytechnique, and Michel Menu, Ph.D., of the Centre de Recherche et de Restauration des Musées de France, and Vincent Detalle, of the Laboratoire Recherche des Monuments Historiques, probed it with terahertz technology. The process is slow, requiring a few hours to analyze a section the size of a sheet of paper.

“We were amazed, and we were delighted,” said Jackson. “We could not believe our eyes as the image materialized on the screen. Underneath the top painting of the folds of a man’s tunic, we saw an eye, a nose and then a mouth appear. We were seeing what likely was part of an ancient Roman fresco, thousands of years old.”

Who is the man in the fresco? An imperial Roman senator? A patrician? A plebian? A great orator? A ruler who changed the course of history? Or just a wealthy, egotistical landowner who wanted to admire his image on the wall?

Jackson is leaving those questions to art historians.

For anyone interested in Campana,

Giampietro Campana was an Italian art collector in the 1800s whose treasures are now on display in museums around the world. When Campana acquired a work of art, he sometimes restored damaged parts or reworked the original. Art historians believe that Campana painted Trois hommes armés de lances after the fresco was removed from its original wall in Italy and entered his collection.

Campana’s practice of restoring and reworking the original was not unusual for the time,

Artists, including some of the great masters, sometimes re-used canvases, wiping out the initial image or covered old paintings with new works. They often did this in order to avoid the expense of buying a new canvas or to enhance colors and shapes in a prior composition. Frescoes likewise got a refresh, especially when the originals faded, owners tired of the image on the wall or property changed hands.

This project was funded in part by CHARISMA [Cultural Heritage Advanced Research Infrastructure; Synergy for a Multidisciplinary Approach to Conservation/Restoration] as part of the European Union’s Framework Programme 7 (FP 7). This project called to mind the NanoForArt FP7 funded project I mentioned in the context of a Mar. 1, 2013 posting about cave art, frescos, and other examples of rock art and how nanotechnology is enabling conservation and restoration.

In any event, it’s nice to find out that those airport scanners are good for something other than delaying your trip and subjecting you and your knickers to inspection.

The ultimate DIY: ‘How to build a robotic man’ on BBC 4

British Broadcasting Corporation’s Channel 4 (BBC 4) will be telecasting the ultimate do-it-yourself (DIY) project, How to build a bionic man on Feb. 7, 2013, 9 pm GMT. Corinne Burns in a Jan. 30, 2013 posting for the Guardian science blogs describes the documentary (Note: Links have been removed),

Created by Darlow Smithson Productions (DSP, the TV company behind Touching The Void and Richard Hammond’s Engineering Connections), with the help of robotics experts Shadow Robot Company, the bionic man was conceived as a literal response to the question: how close is bionic technology is to catching up with – and even exceeding – the capabilities of the human body?

DSP got in touch with Dr Bertolt Meyer, a charismatic young researcher from Zurich University and himself a lifelong user of prosthetic technology, and invited him to, essentially, rebuild himself in bionic form. The result can be seen in How to Build a Bionic Man, to be broadcast on Channel 4 on 7 February. The Bionic Man himself will then reside in the Science Museum’s Who Am I? gallery from 7 February until 11 March.

Richard Walker (left), chief roboticist, and Dr Bertolt Meyer (right) at the Body Lab. On the table is an iWalk BiOM ankle. Photograph: Channel 4  [downloaded from http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/blog/2013/jan/30/build-bionic-man]

Richard Walker (left), chief roboticist, and Dr Bertolt Meyer (right) at the Body Lab. On the table is an iWalk BiOM ankle. Photograph: Channel 4 [downloaded from http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/blog/2013/jan/30/build-bionic-man]

Burns goes on to discuss some of the issues raised by the increasing sophistication of prosthetics (Note: Links have been removed),

The engineering behind modern prosthetics is certainly awe-inspiring. The iLimb Ultra, of which Bertolt is a user, is part of the new class of myoelectric prosthetics. These custom-made devices function by placing electrical sensors directly in contact with the skin. These sensors pick up the signals generated by muscular movements in the residual limb – signals that are then translated by software into natural, intuitive movement in the prosthetic limb.

We all know about prosthetic limbs, even if many of us are not aware of just how sophisticated they now are. Less familiar, though, is the idea of bionic organs. Far removed from the iron lung of yore, these new fully integrated artificial body parts are designed to plug directly into our own metabolism – in effect, they are not within us, they become us. They’re the ultimate in biomimicry.

It’s one thing to use a bionic organ to replace lost function. But in a future world where we could, feasibly, replace virtually all of our body, will we blur the boundaries of artificial and natural to an extent that we have to recalibrate our definition of self and non-self? That’s especially pertinent when we consider the reality of neural prosthetics, like the “memory chips” developed by Dr Theodore Berger. Instinctively, many of us are uncomfortable with brain implants – but should we be? And will this discomfort be reduced if we broaden our definition of self?

Bertolt himself is pleased with the increasing normalisation, and even “coolness”, of prosthetics. But he expresses caution about the potential for elective use of such technology – would we ever choose to remove a healthy body part, in order to replace it with a stronger, better prosthetic?

Burns’ posting isn’t the only place where these discussion points and others related to human enhancement and robotic technologies are being raised, in a Jan. 18, 2013 posting I mentioned *a television advertisement for a new smartphone that ‘upgrades your brain’ that ‘normalises’ the idea of brain implants and other enhancements for everybody. As well, The Economist recently featured an article, You, robot? in its September 1st – 7th, 2012 issue about the European Union’s RoboLaw Project,

SPEAKING at a conference organised by The Economist earlier this year [2012], Hugh Herr, a roboticist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, described disabilities as conditions that persist “because of poor technology” and made the bold claim that during the 21st century disability would be largely eliminated. What gave his words added force was that half way through his speech, after ten minutes of strolling around the stage, he unexpectedly pulled up his trouser legs to reveal his bionic legs, and then danced a little jig. In future, he suggested, people might choose to replace an arthritic, painful limb with a fully functional robotic one. “Why wouldn’t you replace it?” he asked. “We’re going to see a lot of unusual situations like that.”

It is precisely to consider these sorts of situations, and the legal and ethical conundrums they will pose, that a new research project was launched in March. Is a prosthetic legally part of your body? When is it appropriate to amputate a limb and replace it with a robotic one? What are the legal rights of a person with “locked in” syndrome who communicates via a brain-computer interface? Do brain implants and body-enhancement devices require changes to the definition of disability? The RoboLaw project is an effort to anticipate such quandaries and work out where and how legal frameworks might need to be changed as the technology of bionics and neural interfaces improves. Funded to the tune of €1.9m ($2.3m), of which €1.4m comes from the European Commission, it brings together experts from engineering, law, regulation, philosophy and human enhancement.

There have been some recent legal challenges as to what constitutes one’s body (from The Economist article, You, robot?),

If you are dependent on a robotic wheelchair for mobility, for example, does the wheelchair count as part of your body? Linda MacDonald Glenn, an American lawyer and bioethicist, thinks it does. Ms Glenn (who is not involved in the RoboLaw project) persuaded an initially sceptical insurance firm that a “mobility assistance device” damaged by airline staff was more than her client’s personal property, it was an extension of his physical body. The airline settled out of court.

RoboLaw is a European Union Framework Programme 7-funded two year project, which started in 2012. There is a conference to be held in the Netherlands, April 23 – 24, 2013, from the RoboLaw home page,

RoboLaw Authors Workshop and Volume on ‘Opportunities and risks of robotics in relation to human values’

23-24 April 2013, Tilburg University, Tilburg (The Netherlands)

Call for paper and participation. Robotic technologies, taken to encompass anything from ‘traditional’ robots to emerging technologies in the field of biomedical research, such as nanotechnologies, bionics, and neural interfaces, as well as innovative biomedical applications, such as biomechatronic prostheses, hybrid bionic systems and bio- mechatronic components for sensory and motor augmentation, will have a profound impact on our lives. They may also affect human values, such as privacy, autonomy, bodily integrity, health, etc. In this workshop, we will focus on the impact of new technologies, and particularly robotics, on fundamental rights and human values. …

Important dates
Before 1 January 2013: Send an email to Ronald Leenes confirming your attendance, expressing your intention to either submit a paper or act as a commentator/reviewer.
Before 1 February: Send a 300 word abstract of the intended paper to Ronald Leenes
Before 8 February: Notification of acceptance.
Before 1 March: If your abstract has been accepted, send a draft of your full paper in PDF format to Ronald Leenes
Before 5 March: Circulation of papers
23-24 April 2013: Workshop
10 May: Selected final papers to be handed in.

According to the schedule, it’s a bit late to start the process for submitting an abstract but it never hurts to try.

Canadian academic, Gregor Wolbring, assistant professor, Dept of Community Health Sciences, Program in Community Rehabilitation and Disability Studies at the University of Calgary and past president of the Canadian Disability Studies Association, offers a nuanced perspective on human enhancement issues and the term, ableism. From my Aug. 30, 2011 posting on cyborgs, eyeborgs and others,

… Gregor’s June 17, 2011 posting on the FedCan blog,

The term ableism evolved from the disabled people rights movements in the United States and Britain during the 1960s and 1970s.  It questions and highlights the prejudice and discrimination experienced by persons whose body structure and ability functioning were labelled as ‘impaired’ as sub species-typical. Ableism of this flavor is a set of beliefs, processes and practices, which favors species-typical normative body structure based abilities. It labels ‘sub-normative’ species-typical biological structures as ‘deficient’, as not able to perform as expected.

The disabled people rights discourse and disability studies scholars question the assumption of deficiency intrinsic to ‘below the norm’ labeled body abilities and the favoritism for normative species-typical body abilities. The discourse around deafness and Deaf Culture would be one example where many hearing people expect the ability to hear. This expectation leads them to see deafness as a deficiency to be treated through medical means. In contrast, many Deaf people see hearing as an irrelevant ability and do not perceive themselves as ill and in need of gaining the ability to hear. Within the disabled people rights framework ableism was set up as a term to be used like sexism and racism to highlight unjust and inequitable treatment.

Ableism is, however, much more pervasive.

Ableism based on biological structure is not limited to the species-typical/ sub species-typical dichotomy. With recent science and technology advances, and envisioned advances to come, we will see the dichotomy of people exhibiting species-typical and the so-called sub species-typical abilities labeled as impaired, and in ill health. On the other side we will see people exhibiting beyond species-typical abilities as the new expectation norm. An ableism that favours beyond species-typical abilities over species-typical and sub species-typical abilities will enable a change in meaning and scope of concepts such as health, illness, rehabilitation, disability adjusted life years, medicine, health care, and health insurance. For example, one will only be labeled as healthy if one has received the newest upgrade to one’s body – meaning one would by default be ill until one receives the upgrade.

You can find more about Gregor’s work on his University of Calgary webpage or his blog.

Finally, for anyone who wants a look at BBC 4’s ‘biionic man’,

A television company asked Dr Bertolt Meyer – who has a prosthetic arm – to rebuild himself in bionic form. Photograph: Channel 4 [downloaded from http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/blog/2013/jan/30/build-bionic-man]

A television company asked Dr Bertolt Meyer – who has a prosthetic arm – to rebuild himself in bionic form. Photograph: Channel 4 [downloaded from http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/blog/2013/jan/30/build-bionic-man]

* The articles ‘an’ was corrected to ‘a’ on July 16, 2013.

Nanotechnology and the labour market in Europe: the NanoEIS project

The Nov. 14, 2012 NanoEIS project announcement on Nanowerk was made by the EthicSchool. The source is a little unexpected (I should note that the announcement also covers the EthicSchool’s inclusion) as this a European Union FP 7- (Framework Programme 7) funded project as per their page on the Cordis website,

Nanotechnology Education for Industry and Society [NanoEIS]
Start date:2012-11-01
End date:2015-10-31
Project Acronym:NANOEIS
Project status:Accepted

Objective: Nanotechnology is an emerging area with strong implications for European society and industry. It is a challenge for the education system to integrate this interdisciplinary and transsectoral subject into curricula shaped mostly along classical disciplines. NanoEIS will evaluate how nanotechnology education has been integrated into secondary schools and universities, how cooperations between different partner institutions were implemented, and in which ways industrial and non-industrial (social) employers have been involved. [emphasis mine] NanoEIS will make, based on a thorough assessment of employer needs, recommendations for curriculum contents as well as for best practice strategies to implement them. This will help to resolve the problem that education contents are not always well matched with the needs of the job market. Improving this situation will benefit both graduates seeking jobs, and industrial / social employers who need specific skills in the professional environment. Nanotechnology education has to start at secondary schools, since nano is by now part of the daily environment and schools need to teach about relevant issues to allow informed consumers to take full advantage of nano-enabled products in a safe and sustainable way. NanoEIS will develop novel teaching and assessment tools for secondary schools. In addition, career choices start in school when decisions about study subjects are made, which should be based on full and relevant information, to achieve a good match between the interests of students and the contents of their studies and courses. A website based on the existing NANOfutures site will be set up, as one-stop shop for information on nanotechnology education for all stakeholders, including secondary school students, university students, educators and education administrators, and both industrial (large industry, SME, start-ups) and social employers (regulatory agencies, media, legal and IP services etc.). [emphasis mine]

I’m happy to see a project dedicated to an analysis of the relationship between education and industry something which is often lacking when ‘experts’ proclaim new skills, training, and education are needed (in this case, regarding nanotechnology) without reference to the labour market. As for the NanoEIS site, it is under construction and will be launched in Dec. 2102. I’m not entirely sure what the reference to NANOfutures means but that site is open.

Here’s more about NanoEIS from the Nov. 13, 2012 posting on the EthicSchool blog,

From this month, Malsch TechnoValuation participates in the EU funded project NanoEIS. Partners from all over Europe will investigate the European labour market for personnel trained in nanotechnology. The relevance of existing nanotechnology education and training in universities, vocational training institutes and secondary schools for the needs of industrial and other employers will also be explored. By 2015, a model curriculum will be made available online.

For anyone interested in EthicSchool and Malsch TechnoValuation, here’s more from the About EthicSchool page (Note: I have removed a link),

ETHICSCHOOL organises workshops and in-company training in Responsible Innovation. As a professional you gain insight in possible societal objections against the technology you are developing. The introduction of new technologies like nanotechnology, life sciences and ICT is accompanied by ethical dilemmas. You make your acquaintance with arguments for and against the development or use of your technology for sensitive applications such as healthcare, security or food. This helps prepare you for the dialogue with concerned citizens and teaches you to target your scarce resources better towards societally desirable products.

ETHICSCHOOL is an initiative taken by Malsch TechnoValuation, a consultancy in the area of Technology and Society, located in Utrecht since 1999.

ETHICSCHOOL builds upon a former European project. This original project was funded by the European Union, contract nr. 036745, 01-09-2007 until 28-02-2009. Partners in this former project were: Malsch TechnoValuation, University of Twente, Radboud University (NL) en TU Darmstadt, Germany.

I have written about Ineke Malsch (the Malsch behind Malsch TechnoValuation and I believe she’s also known as Neelina Herminia Malsch) and her work in an Oct. 11, 2011 posting (scroll down approximately 1/3 of the way). Oddly,

Help the European Commission understand nanoelectronics possibilities

Cientifica, a leading consultancy on emerging and other technologies, is conducting an online survey on nanoelectronics (Key Digital Goods survey) in collaboration with the European Commission. From the July 16, 2012 Cientifica announcement,

 2020 Nanoelectronics

Help us to help the European Commission to understand our digital future.

In collaboration with the European Commission [EC] we are trying to determine which key digital goods based on nanoelectronics will be important in the future.

While the EC takes advice from various expert groups involved in industry and research, we want to know what you, the end-users think.

The Key Digital Goods survey can be found here.

BTW, I notice that 2020 Nanoelectronics echoes name for the new European Commission science funding programme, 2020 Horizon, which comes online next year (2013) as the current one, Framework Programme 7, is being phased out now. For anyone curious about Cientifica, I have an interview with the company’s Chief Executive Officer, Tim Harper, in my July 15, 2011 posting about his company’s report on nanotechnology and global funding.