Tag Archives: India

Researchers at Purdue University (Indiana, US) and at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras (Chennai, India) develop Star Trek-type ‘tricorders’

To be clear, the Star Trek-type ‘tricorder’ referred to in the heading is, in fact, a hand-held spectrometer and the research from Purdue University and the Indian Institute of Technology Madras represents a developmental leap forward, not a new product. From a March 26, 2014 news item on Azonano,

Nanotechnology is advancing tools likened to Star Trek’s “tricorder” that perform on-the-spot chemical analysis for a range of applications including medical testing, explosives detection and food safety.

Researchers found that when paper used to collect a sample was coated with carbon nanotubes, the voltage required was 1,000 times reduced, the signal was sharpened and the equipment was able to capture far more delicate molecules.

Dexter Johnson in his March 26, 2014 posting (Nanoclast blog on the IEEE [Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers] website) provides some background information about the race to miniaturize spectrometers (Note: A link has been removed),

Recent research has been relying on nanomaterials to build smaller spectrometers. Late last year, a group at the Technische Universität Dresden and the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany developed a novel, miniature spectrometer, based on metallic nanowires, that was small enough to fit into a mobile phone.

Dexter goes on to provide a summary about this latest research, which I strongly recommend reading, especially if you don’t have the patience to read the rest of the news release. The March 25, 2014 Purdue University news release by Elizabeth K. Gardner, which originated the news item, provides insight from the researchers,

“This is a big step in our efforts to create miniature, handheld mass spectrometers for the field,” said R. Graham Cooks, Purdue’s Henry B. Hass Distinguished Professor of Chemistry. “The dramatic decrease in power required means a reduction in battery size and cost to perform the experiments. The entire system is becoming lighter and cheaper, which brings it that much closer to being viable for easy, widespread use.”

Cooks and Thalappil Pradeep, a professor of chemistry at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras, Chennai, led the research.

“Taking science to the people is what is most important,” Pradeep said. “Mass spectrometry is a fantastic tool, but it is not yet on every physician’s table or in the pocket of agricultural inspectors and security guards. Great techniques have been developed, but we need to hone them into tools that are affordable, can be efficiently manufactured and easily used.”

The news release goes on to describe the research,

The National Science Foundation-funded study used an analysis technique developed by Cooks and his colleagues called PaperSpray™ ionization. The technique relies on a sample obtained by wiping an object or placing a drop of liquid on paper wet with a solvent to capture residues from the object’s surface. A small triangle is then cut from the paper and placed on a special attachment of the mass spectrometer where voltage is applied. The voltage creates an electric field that turns the mixture of solvent and residues into fine droplets containing ionized molecules that pop off and are vacuumed into the mass spectrometer for analysis. The mass spectrometer then identifies the sample’s ionized molecules by their mass.

The technique depends on a strong electric field and the nanotubes act like tiny antennas that create a strong electric field from a very small voltage. One volt over a few nanometers creates an electric field equivalent to 10 million volts over a centimeter, Pradeep said.

“The trick was to isolate these tiny, nanoscale antennae and keep them from bundling together because individual nanotubes must project out of the paper,” he said. “The carbon nanotubes work well and can be dispersed in water and applied on suitable substrates.”

The Nano Mission of the Government of India supported the research at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras and graduate students Rahul Narayanan and Depanjan Sarkar performed the experiments.

In addition to reducing the size of the battery required and energy cost to run the tests, the new technique also simplified the analysis by nearly eliminating background noise, Cooks said.

“Under these conditions, the analysis is nearly noise free and a sharp, clear signal of the sample is delivered,” he said. “We don’t know why this is – why background molecules that surround us in the air or from within the equipment aren’t being ionized and entering into the analysis. It’s a puzzling, but pleasant surprise.”

The reduced voltage required also makes the method gentler than the standard PaperSpray™ ionization techniques.

“It is a very soft method,” Cooks said. “Fragile molecules and complexes are able to hold together here when they otherwise wouldn’t. This could lead to other potential applications.”

The team plans to investigate the mechanisms behind the reduction in background noise and potential applications of the gentle method, but the most promising aspect of the new technique is its potential to miniaturize the mass spectrometry system, Cooks said.

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

Molecular Ionization from Carbon Nanotube Paper by Rahul Narayanan, Depanjan Sarkar, Prof. R. Graham Cooks, and Prof. Thalappil Pradeep. Angewandte Chemie International Edition Article first published online: 18 MAR 2014 DOI: 10.1002/anie.201311053

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

This paper is behind a paywall.

Nature imitates art at Northeastern University (US)

It’s an intriguing mental exercise trying to flip the tables on nature as an inspiration for art to start discussing ‘artmimetics’ as they seem to be doing at Northeastern University (Boston, Massachusetts, US), according to a Dec. 11, 2013 news item on Azonano,

There are exam­ples of art imi­tating nature all around us—whether it’s Monet’s pastel Water Lilies or Chihuly’s glass­blown Seaforms, the human con­cep­tion of nat­ural phe­nomena daz­zles but does not often surprise.

Yet when asso­ciate pro­fessor of physics Latika Menon peered under the elec­tron micro­scope last fall, she dis­cov­ered the exact oppo­site. Instead of art imi­tating nature, she found nature imi­tating art.

The Dec. 10, 2013 Northeastern University news release by Angela Herring, which ‘inspired’ the news item, describes how Menon and her colleagues came to reverse the inspirational direction,

Menon grew up in the eastern region of India and was vaguely familiar with a cul­tural dance from the western state of Rajasthan known as the Bhavai pot dance. Nimble dancers sway their hips as a tall stack of wide-​​bellied pots bal­ances gin­gerly atop their heads. Back in the lab at North­eastern, Menon’s team recently cre­ated  gal­lium nitride nanowires, which bore a striking resem­blance to that stack of pots.

What’s more, a post­doc­toral research asso­ciate in Menon’s lab, Eugen Panaitescu, jumped on the band­wagon with a cul­tural art ref­er­ence of his own. Panaitescu, who hails from Romania, also saw his country’s famous End­less Column reflected in the nanowires. Ded­i­cated to the fallen Romanian heroes of World War I, Con­stantin Brancusi’s 96-​​foot-​​tall mono­lith is con­structed of 17 three-​​dimensional rhom­buses, peri­od­i­cally wavering from a wider cir­cum­fer­ence to a nar­rower one.

The news release goes on to explain more about applications using gallium nitride and why Menon’s insight may prove useful in developing new uses for gallium nitride nanowires,

… Gal­lium nitride is used across a range of tech­nolo­gies, including most ubiq­ui­tously in light emit­ting diodes. The mate­rial also holds great poten­tial for solar cell arrays, mag­netic semi­con­duc­tors, high-​​frequency com­mu­ni­ca­tion devices, and many other things. But these advanced appli­ca­tions are restricted by our lim­ited ability to con­trol the material’s growth on the nanoscale.

The very thing that makes Menon’s nanowires beau­tiful rep­re­sents a break­through in her ability to process them for these novel uses. She deposited onto a sil­icon sub­strate small droplets of liquid gold metal, which act as cat­a­lysts to grab gaseous gal­lium nitride from the atmos­phere of the exper­i­mental system. The net forces between the tiny gold droplet, the solid sub­strate, and the gas cause the nanowire to grow in a par­tic­ular direc­tion, she explained. Depending on the size of the gold cat­a­lyst, she can create wires that exhibit peri­odic serrations.

“It first tries to grow out­ward, but that gives the gold a larger sur­face area,” she said. “So now the wire gets pulled in the inward direc­tion, and then the gold gets a smaller sur­face area, so it grows out­ward again.” This inward and out­ward growth repeated itself again and again to create a peri­odic struc­ture nearly 6 mil­lion times smaller than the end­less column and is sig­nif­i­cantly more promising for its use in advanced devices.

“That there is very little imple­men­ta­tion of nanowire tech­nology in elec­tronics or optical devices is due to the fact that it’s very hard to con­trol their shape and dimen­sions,” said Menon. But now that she has a very simple way of con­trol­ling growth, the next step is to con­trol the size of the cat­alytic droplet with which she starts.

Another advan­tage of Menon’s approach is using what Panaitescu called “macro­scopic tech­niques” to create nanoscale mate­rials, thus making it scal­able and inex­pen­sive. “We just con­trol a few para­me­ters and then leave it, let it do it’s nat­ural thing,” explained Menon.

Here’s an image the researchers have supplied to illustrate their insights and their work,

Depending on the size of the gold cat­a­lyst used to make them, Latika Menon’s nanowires will exhibit peri­odic grooves that resemble common motifs in art. Images cour­tesy of Latika Menon. - See more at: http://www.northeastern.edu/news/2013/12/menon-nanowires/#sthash.LkgJU4es.dpuf

Depending on the size of the gold cat­a­lyst used to make them, Latika Menon’s nanowires will exhibit peri­odic grooves that resemble common motifs in art. Images cour­tesy of Latika Menon. – See more at: http://www.northeastern.edu/news/2013/12/menon-nanowires/#sthash.LkgJU4es.dpuf

I’m not sure I can connect the  imagery in this pot dance video (it does show some pretty astonishing feats of balance) with any of the images from Menon’s lab but sometimes the source of an inspiration is not readily accessible to those who are not amongst the inspired or perhaps there other versions of the dance that make it more obvious to an untrained eye,

Here’s an image of the other artistic inspiration, Constantin Brancusi’s Endless Column found on Dr. Cătălina Köpetz’s (University of Maryland) webpage featuring Brancusi’s work along with this quote from him “Create like a god, comand like a king, work like a slave.”

The Endless Column, Târgu Jiu, România  [downlaoded from http://terpconnect.umd.edu/~ckopetz/brancusi.htm]

The Endless Column,
Târgu Jiu, România [downlaoded from http://terpconnect.umd.edu/~ckopetz/brancusi.htm]

Interestingly, Dr. Köpetz is a social psychologist working in the university’s Center for Addictions, Personality, and Emotion Research.

For anyone who’d like to read more about Menon’s work, here’s a link to a webpage featuring a PDF selection of her papers and a citation for her latest paper on the work described in the news release,

Vapor–liquid–solid growth of serrated GaN nanowires: shape selection driven by kinetic frustration by Zheng Ma, Dillon McDowell, Eugen Panaitescu, Albert V. Davydov, Moneesh Upmanyu and Latika Menon, Physics Faculty Publications (2013)

Compound semiconducting nanowires are promising building blocks for several nanoelectronic devices yet the inability to…

The paper is open access although you will have to click a few times to retrieve it.

Nano-solutions for the 21st century, University of Oxford Martin School, and Eric Drexler

Eric Drexler (aka, K. Eric Drexler) is a big name in the world of nanotechnology as per my May 6, 2013 posting abut his talk in Seattle as part of a tour promoting his latest book,

Here’s more from the University Bookstore’s event page,

Eric Drexler is the founding father of nanotechnology, the science of engineering on a molecular level—and the science thats about to change the world. Already, says Drexler, author of Radical Abundance, scientists have constructed prototypes for circuit boards built of millions of precisely arranged atoms. This kind of atomic precision promises to change the way we make things (cleanly, inexpensively, and on a global scale), the way we buy things (solar arrays could cost no more than cardboard and aluminum foil, with laptops about the same)—and the very foundations of our economy and environment.

… Drexler’s latest effort, Radical Abundance, here’s what he had to say about the book in a July 21, 2011 posting on his Meta Modern blog,

Radical Abundance will integrate and extend several themes that I’ve touched on in Metamodern, but will go much further. The topics include:

  • The nature of science and engineering, and the prospects for a deep transformation in the material basis of civilization.
  • Why all of this is surprisingly understandable.
  • A personal narrative of the emergence of the molecular nanotechnology concept and the turbulent history of progress and politics that followed
  • The quiet rise of macromolecular nanotechnologies, their power, and the rapidly advancing state of the art
  • ….

About the same time he was promoting his book, Radical Abundance, the University of Oxford Martin School released a report written by Drexler and co-authored with Dennis Pamplin,, which is featured in an Oct. 28, 2013 news item on Nanowerk (Note: A link has been removed),

The world faces unprecedented global challenges related to depleting natural resources, pollution, climate change, clean water, and poverty. These problems are directly linked to the physical characteristics of our current technology base for producing energy and material products. Deep and pervasive changes in this technology base can address these global problems at their most fundamental, physical level, by changing both the products and the means of production used by 21st century civilization. The key development is advanced, atomically precise manufacturing (APM).

This report (“Nano-solutions for the 21st century”; pdf) examines the potential for nanotechnology to enable deeply transformative production technologies that can be developed through a series of advances that build on current nanotechnology research.

Coincidentally or not, Eric Drexler is writing a series of posts for the Guardian about nanotechnology and the future. Here’s a sampling from his Oct. 28, 2013 post on the Guardian’s Small World Nanotech blog sponsored by NanOpinion,

In my initial post in this series, I asked, “What if nanotechnology could deliver on its original promise, not only new, useful, nanoscale products, but a new, transformative production technology able to displace industrial production technologies and bring radical improvements in production cost, scope, and resource efficiency?”

The potential implications are immense, not just for computer chips and other nanotechnologies, but for issues on the scale of global development and climate change. My first post outlined the nature of this technology, atomically precise manufacturing (APM), comparing it with today’s 3D printing and digital nanoelectronics.

My second post placed APM-level technologies in the context of today’s million-atom atomically precise fabrication technologies and outlined the direction of research, an open path, but by no means short, that leads to larger atomically precise structures, a growing range of product materials and a wider range of functional devices, culminating in the factory-in-a-box technologies of APM.

Together, these provided an introduction to the modern view of APM-level technologies. Here, I’d like to say a few words about the implications of APM-level technologies for human life and global society.

At the bottom of the posting, this is noted,

Eric Drexler, often called “the father of nanotechnology”, is at the Oxford Martin Programme on the Impacts of Future Technology, University of Oxford. His most recent book is Radical Abundance: How a Revolution in Nanotechnology Will Change Civilization

The Oxford Martin School of Oxford University and the Research Center for Sustainable Development of the China Academy of Social Sciences recently released a report on atomically precise manufacturing, Nano-solutions for the 21st century. The report discusses the status and prospects for atomically precise manufacturing (APM) together with some of its implications for economic and international affairs.

Publicity is a beautiful thing, especially when you can tie so many things together. Drexler, his book, the report, and the Guardian’s special section sponsored by NanOpinion.

Getting back to the report, Nano-solutions for the 21st century, I notice that there’s been a lot of collaboration with Chinese researchers and institutions if the acknowledgements are a way to judge these things,

This work results from an extensive process that has included interaction and contributions by scientists,
governments, philanthropists, and forward-thinkers around the world. Over the last three years workshops
have been conducted in China, India, US, Europe, Japan, and more to discuss these findings and their
global implications. Draft findings have also been presented at many meetings, from UNFCCC events to
specialist conferences. The wealth of feedback received from this project has been of utmost importance
and we see the resulting report as a collaboration project than as the work of two individuals.

The authors wish to thank all those who have participated in the process and extend particular thanks
to China and India, especially Institute for Urban & Environmental Studies, Chinese Academy of Social
Sciences (CASS) and the team from the National Center for Nanoscience and Technology (NCNST)
including Dr. ZHI Linjie, Dr. TANG Zhiyong, Dr. WEI Zhixiang and Dr. HAN Baohang. Professor Linjie Zhi
was also kind enough to translate the abstract. In India the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation and CII – ITC Centre
of Excellence for Sustainable Development where among those providing valuable input.

This report is only a start of what we hope is a vital international discussion about one of the most
interesting fields of the 21st century. We would therefor like to extend special thanks to the Chinese
Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and The Oxford Martin School
that are examples of world leading institutions that support further discussions in this important area.

Dr. Eric Drexler and Dennis Pamlin worked together to make this report a reality. Drexler, currently at the
Oxford Martin School, provided technical leadership and served as primary author of the report. Pamlin
contributed through discussions, structure and input regarding overall trends in relation to the key aspects
of report. Both authors want to thank Dr. Stephanie Corchnoy who contributed to the research and final
editing. As always the sole responsibility for the content of report lies with the authors.

Eric Drexler
Dennis Pamlin (p. 1)

I find the specific call outs to China, India, and Japan quite interesting since any European partners are covered under the term for the entire continent, Europe. I haven’t read the report but for what it’s worth here’s the abstract,

The report has five sections:
1. Nanotechnology and global challenge
The first section discusses the basics of advanced, atomically precise nanotechnology and
explains how current and future solutions can help address global challenges. Key concepts
are presented and different kinds of nanotechnology are discussed and compared.
2. The birth of Nanotechnology
The second section discusses the development of nanotechnology, from the first vision
fifty years ago, expanding via a scientific approach to atomically precise manufacturing
thirty years ago, initial demonstrations of principle twenty years ago, to the last decade
of of accelerating success in developing key enabling technologies. The important role
of emerging countries is discussed, with China as a leading example, together with an
overview of the contrast between the promise and the results to date.
3. Delivery of transformative nanotechnologies
Here the different aspects of APM that are needed to enable breakthrough advances in
productive technologies are discussed. The necessary technology base can be developed
through a series of coordinated advances along strategically chosen lines of research.
4. Accelerating progress toward advanced nanotechnologies
This section discusses research initiatives that can enable and support advanced
nanotechnology, on paths leading to APM, including integrated cross-disciplinary research
and Identification of high-value applications and their requirements.
5. Possible next steps
The final section provides a short summary of the opportunities and the possibilities to
address institutional challenges of planning, resource allocation, evaluation, transparency,
and collaboration as nanotechnology moves into its next phase of development: nanosystems engineering.

The report in its entirety provides a comprehensive overview of the current global condition, as well as
notable opportunities and challenges. This content is divided into five independent sections that can
be read and understood individually, allowing those with specific interests to access desired information
more directly and easily. With all five sections taken together, the report as a whole describes low-
cost actions that can help solve critical problems, create opportunities, reduce security risks, and help
countries join and accelerate cooperative development of this global technological revolution. Of
particular importance, several considerations are highlighted that strongly favor a policy of transparent,
international, collaborative development.

One final comment, I’m not familiar with Drexler’s co-author, Dennis Pamlin so went searching for some details. Here’s a self-description from the About page on his eponymous website,

Dennis Pamlin is an entrepreneur and founder of 21st Century Frontiers. He works with companies, governments and NGOs as a strategic economic, technology and innovation advisor. His background is in engineering, industrial economy and marketing. Mr Pamlin worked as Global Policy Advisor for WWF from 1999 to 2009. During his tenure, Pamlin initiated WWFs Trade and Investment Programme work in the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) and led the work with companies (especially high-tech companies such as ICT) as solution providers.

Pamlin is currently an independent consultant as well as Director for the Low Carbon Leaders Project under the UN Global Compact and is a Senior Associate at Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Current work includes work to establish a web platform to promote transformative mobile applications, creating the first Low Carbon City Development Index (LCCDI) make transformative low-carbon ICT part of the global climate discussions, leading the Global ICT companies work (through GeSI) to establish the ICT sector as a global solution provider when it comes to resource efficient solutions, advising the EU on how public procurement can increase innovation and the uptake of transformative solutions.

Pamlin is also exploring how new ideas can be financed through web-tools/apps and the cultural tensions between the “west” and the re-emerging economies (with focus on China and India).

He is also leading work to develop methodologies for companies and cities to measure and report their positive impacts, focus on climate, water and poverty, but other areas are also under development.

I also found this on Pamlin’s LinkedIn profile,

Entrepreneur, advisor and transformative explorer

Other
International Affairs

Current

21st century Frontiers,
Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS),
Global Challenges Foundation

Previous

WWF,
Greenpeace

It seems to me there’s a ‘sustainability and nanotechnology theme being implied in the introduction to the report (“The world faces unprecedented global challenges related to depleting natural resources, pollution, climate change, clean water, and poverty.”)  and I’m certainly inferring it from my reading of Pamlin’s background and interests and this phrase in the acknowledgements: “… Rajiv Gandhi Foundation and CII – ITC Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Development where among those providing valuable input … .”

Oddly, I last mentioned nanotechnology and sustainability In an Oct. 28, 2013 posting about a nanotechnology-enabled consumer products database where I also made note of the Second Sustainable Nanotechnology Organization Conference whose website can be found here.

Sunbeams can control lead nanoparticle shapes

Two Indian researchers,  T. Theivasanthi and M. Alagar. based at the Centre for Research and Post Graduate Department of Physics, Ayya Nadar Janaki Ammal College, have found a way to use sunbeams to control or change the shape of lead nanoparticles coated with konjac aqueous extract. From the Apr. 12, 2013 news item on Azonano,

The researchers have said that generally, metal nanoparticles strongly absorb light in the visible region due to Surface Plasmon Resonance (SPR) and the absorbed light promotes some reactions on the nanoparticles. “On this basis, an attempt has been made to explore the effects of the sunlight on Pb nanoparticles and to find the possibilities for dual function utilization of sunlight i.e. as a dryer for the synthesized nanomaterials and as a morphological changer. The result explicates that it is possible to change the shape of Pb nanoparticles (konjac extract added) from spherical to rod by the influence of sunbeams”, the researchers comment, adding: “Further research work is under process to find the possibility of morphological effect changes by sunlight, in other metal nanoparticles with konjac extract or other bio-molecules”.

According to the Wikipedia essay: Konjac (Note: Links have been removed), apparently konjac is popular in weight loss regimes as well as for other purposes,

Konjac is grown in China, Korea, Taiwan, Japan and southeast Asia for its large starchy corms, used to create a flour and jelly of the same name. It is also used as a vegan substitute for gelatin.

I did not successfully access the paper to which Azonano linked but did find this paper uploaded by the authors in Dec. 2012,

Konjac Bio-Molecules Assisted, Rod-Spherical shaped Lead Nano Powder Synthesized by Electrolytic Process and Its Characterization Studies by T. Theivasanthi, M. Alagar at  arXiv:1212.5795 [physics.chem-ph]

This is the abstract the authors submitted with the paper,

Synthesis and structural characterization of Pb nanoparticles by electrolysis using a bioactive compound – konjac aqueous extract is the main aim of this study. This method is a unique, novel, low cost and double-step procedure with good reproducibility and has not been used for nanoparticles preparation so far. Konjac extract has been added to prevent the oxidation of Pb nanoparticles. Also the synthesized nanoparticles have been dried in open air to observe their stability. Various types of characterization tools like XRD, SEM, Particle Size Analyzer, TEM-EDS, DSC, AAS and FT-IR have been utilized to study characters of the end product. Anti-bacterial Studies has also been done. After completion of synthesis process that we have made an attempt to change the shape of the synthesized nanoparticles by the influence of sunbeams and to find the effects of the sunlight on nanomaterials.

I don’t know what purpose would be served by changing the shape of a lead nanoparticle from a sphere to a rod but I do like the idea of being to affect the change using an easily obtainable product such as konjac extract and freely available sunbeams.

Cement and concrete festival

Over the last week or so there’ve been a number of articles and publications about cement and concrete and nanotechnology. The Dec. 17, 2012 Nanowerk Spotlight article by (Mohammed) Shakeel Iqbal and Yashwant Mahajan for India’s Centre for Knowledge Management of Nanoscience & Technology (CKMNT, an ARCI [International Advanced Research Centre for Powder Metallurgy and New Materials] project, Dept.of Science & Technology) seemed to kick off the trend with a patent analysis of nanotechnology-enabled cement innovations,

China is the world leader of patent filings, their 154 patent applications contributing 41% of overall filings, representing the major and active R&D player in the area of nano-based cementitious materials. South Korea is the second leading country with 55 patents (15% of patent filings) on nano-enabled cement, closely followed by United States with 51 patents. Russia, Germany, Japan, France and India are the other leading patent filing countries with 37, 18, 11, 9 and 5 patents respectively, while the remaining patents represent a minor contribution from rest of the world.

….

Dagestan State University (Russia) is the leading assignee with 15-patents to its credit, which are mainly focussed on the development of heat resistant and high compression strength concrete materials. Halliburton Energy Services Inc (USA) comes second with 14-patents that are directed towards well bore cementing for the gas, oil or water wells using nano-cementitious materials.

This is another teaser article from the CKMNT (see my Dec. 13, 2012 posting about their bio-pharmaceutical teaser article) that highlights the findings from a forthcoming report,

A comprehensive Market Research Report on “Nanotechnology in Cement Industry” is proposed to be released by CKMNT in the near future. Interested readers may please contact Dr. Y. R. Mahajan, Technical Adviser and Editor, Nanotech Insights or Mr. H. Purushotham, Team Leader [email protected]

Regardless of one’s feelings about patents and patent systems, the article also provides a  good technology overview of the various nanomaterials used as fillers in cement, courtesy of the information in the filed patents.

A December 20, 2012 news item on Azonano points to at least of the reasons cement is occasioning research interest,

Cement production is responsible for 5% of carbon dioxide emissions. If we are to invent a “green” cement, we need to understand in more detail the legendary qualities of traditional Portland cement. A research group partly financed by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) is tackling this task.

The Dec. 20, 2012 Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) news release, which originated the news item on Azonano, goes on to describe the research into exactly how Portland cement’s qualities are derived,

The researchers first developed a packing model of hydrated calcium silicate nanoparticles. They then devised a method for observing their precipitation based on numerical simulations. This approach has proven successful (*). “We were able to show that the different densities on the nano scale can be explained by the packing of nanoparticles of varying sizes. At this crucial level, the result is greater material hardness than if the particles were of the same size and it corresponds to the established knowledge that, at macroscopic level, aggregates of different sizes form a harder concrete.” [said Emanuela Del Gado, SNSF professor at the Institute for Building Materials of the ETH Zurich]

Until today, all attempts to reduce or partially replace burnt calcium carbonate in the production of cement have resulted in less material hardness. By gaining a better understanding of the mechanisms at the nano level, it is possible to identify physical and chemical parameters and to improve the carbon footprint of concrete without reducing its hardness.

For those of a more technical turn of mind, here’s a citation for the paper (from the SNSF press release),

E. Masoero, E. Del Gado, R. J.-M. Pellenq, F.-J. Ulm, and S. Yip (2012). Nanostructure and Nanomechanics of Cement: Polydisperse Colloidal Packing. Physical Review Letters. DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.109.155503

Meanwhile, there’s a technical group in Spain working on ‘biological’ concrete. From the Dec. 20, 2012 news item on ScienceDaily,

In studying this concrete, the researchers at the Structural Technology Group of the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya • BarcelonaTech (UPC) have focused on two cement-based materials. The first of these is conventional carbonated concrete (based on Portland cement), with which they can obtain a material with a pH of around 8. The second material is manufactured with a magnesium phosphate cement (MPC), a hydraulic conglomerate that does not require any treatment to reduce its pH, since it is slightly acidic.

On account of its quick setting properties, magnesium phosphate cement has been used in the past as a repair material. It has also been employed as a biocement in the field of medicine and dentistry, indicating that it does not have an additional environmental impact.

The innovative feature of this new (vertical multilayer) concrete is that it acts as a natural biological support for the growth and development of certain biological organisms, to be specific, certain families of microalgae, fungi, lichens and mosses.

Here’s a description of the ‘biological’ concrete and its layers,

In order to obtain the biological concrete, besides the pH, other parameters that influence the bioreceptivity of the material have been modified, such as porosity and surface roughness. The result obtained is a multilayer element in the form of a panel which, in addition to a structural layer, consists of three other layers: the first of these is a waterproofing layer situated on top of the structural layer, protecting the latter from possible damage caused by water seeping through.

The next layer is the biological layer, which supports colonisation and allows water to accumulate inside it. It acts as an internal microstructure, aiding retention and expelling moisture; since it has the capacity to capture and store rainwater, this layer facilitates the development of biological organisms.

The final layer is a discontinuous coating layer with a reverse waterproofing function. [emphasis mine] This layer permits the entry of rainwater and prevents it from escaping; in this way, the outflow of water is redirected to where it is aimed to obtain biological growth

This work is designed for a Mediterranean climate and definitely not for rain forests such as the Pacific Northwest which, climatologically, is a temperate rainforest.

The ScienceDaily news item ends with this information about future research and commercialization,

The research has led to a doctoral thesis, which Sandra Manso is writing. At present, the experimental campaign corresponding to the phase of biological growth is being conducted, and this will be completed at the UPC and the University of Ghent (Belgium). This research has received support from Antonio Gómez Bolea, a lecturer in the Faculty of Biology at the University of Barcelona, who has made contributions in the field of biological growth on construction materials.

At present, a patent is in the process of being obtained for this innovative product, and the Catalan company ESCOFET 1886 S.A., a manufacturer of concrete panels for architectural and urban furniture purposes, has already shown an interest in commercialising the material.

Almost at the same time, the US Transport Research Board (a division of the US National Research Council) released this Dec. 19, 2012 announcement about their latest circular,

TRB Transportation Research Circular E-C170: Nanotechnology in Concrete Materials: A Synopsis explore promising new research and innovations using nanotechnology that have the potential to result in improved mechanical properties, volume change properties, durability, and sustainability in concrete materials.

The report is 44 pp (PDF version) and provides an in-depth look (featuring some case studies) at the research not just of nanomaterials but also nanoelectronics and sensors as features in nanotechoology-enabled concrete and cement products.

There you have it, a festival of cement and concrete.

Ramanujan—a math genius who left behind math formulas that took 90 years to decode

1920, the year mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan died, is also the year he left behind mathematical formulas that may help unlock the secrets of black holes (from the Dec. 11, 2012 posting by Carol Clark for Emory University’s e-science commons blog),

“No one was talking about black holes back in the 1920s when Ramanujan first came up with mock modular forms, and yet, his work may unlock secrets about them,” Ono [Emory University mathematician Ken Ono] says.

Expansion of modular forms is one of the fundamental tools for computing the entropy of a modular black hole. Some black holes, however, are not modular, but the new formula based on Ramanujan’s vision may allow physicists to compute their entropy as though they were.

Ramanujan was on his death bed (at the age of 32) when he devised his last formulas (from the Clark posting),

Accessed from http://esciencecommons.blogspot.ca/2012/12/math-formula-gives-new-glimpse-into.html

Accessed from http://esciencecommons.blogspot.ca/2012/12/math-formula-gives-new-glimpse-into.html

… A devout Hindu, Ramanujan said that his findings were divine, revealed to him in dreams by the goddess Namagiri.

While on his death-bed in 1920, Ramanujan wrote a letter to his mentor, English mathematician G. H. Hardy. The letter described several new functions that behaved differently from known theta functions, or modular forms, and yet closely mimicked them. Ramanujan conjectured that his mock modular forms corresponded to the ordinary modular forms earlier identified by Carl Jacobi, and that both would wind up with similar outputs for roots of 1.

No one at the time understood what Ramanujan was talking about. “It wasn’t until 2002, through the work of Sander Zwegers, that we had a description of the functions that Ramanujan was writing about in 1920,” Ono says.

This year (2012) a number of special events have been held to commemorate Ramanujan’s accomplishments (Note: I have removed links), from the Clark posting,

December 22 [2012] marks the 125th anniversary of the birth of Srinivasa Ramanujan, an Indian mathematician renowned for somehow intuiting extraordinary numerical patterns and connections without the use of proofs or modern mathematical tools. ..

“I wanted to do something special, in the spirit of Ramanujan, to mark the anniversary,” says Emory mathematician Ken Ono. “It’s fascinating to me to explore his writings and imagine how his brain may have worked. It’s like being a mathematical anthropologist.”

Ono, a number theorist whose work has previously uncovered hidden meanings in the notebooks of Ramanujan, set to work on the 125th-anniversary project with two colleagues and former students: Amanda Folsom, from Yale, and Rob Rhoades, from Stanford.

The result is a formula for mock modular forms that may prove useful to physicists who study black holes. The work, which Ono recently presented at the Ramanujan 125 conference at the University of Florida, also solves one of the greatest puzzles left behind by the enigmatic Indian genius.

Here’s a trailer for the forthcoming movie (a docu-drama) about Ramanujan, from the Clark posting,

Here’s a description of Ramanujan from Wikipedia, which gives some insight into the nature of his genius (Note: I have removed links and a footnote),

Srinivasa Ramanujan FRS (…) (22 December 1887 – 26 April 1920) was an Indian mathematician and autodidact who, with almost no formal training in pure mathematics, made extraordinary contributions to mathematical analysis, number theory, infinite series, and continued fractions. Living in India with no access to the larger mathematical community, which was centered in Europe at the time, Ramanujan developed his own mathematical research in isolation. As a result, he sometimes rediscovered known theorems in addition to producing new work. Ramanujan was said to be a natural genius by the English mathematician G.H. Hardy, in the same league as mathematicians like Euler and Gauss.

There is a little more to Ono’s latest work concerning Ramanujan’s deathbed math functions (from the Clark posting),

After coming up with the formula for computing a mock modular form, Ono wanted to put some icing on the cake for the 125th-anniversary celebration. He and Emory graduate students Michael Griffin and Larry Rolen revisited the paragraph in Ramanujan’s last letter that gave a vague description for how he arrived at the functions. That one paragraph has inspired hundreds of papers by mathematicians, who have pondered its hidden meaning for eight decades.

“So much of what Ramanujan offers comes from mysterious words and strange formulas that seem to defy mathematical sense,” Ono says. “Although we had a definition from 2002 for Ramanujan’s functions, it was still unclear how it related to Ramanujan’s awkward and imprecise definition.”

Ono and his students finally saw the meaning behind the puzzling paragraph, and a way to link it to the modern definition. “We developed a theorem that shows that the bizarre methodology he used to construct his examples is correct,” Ono says. “For the first time, we can prove that the exotic functions that Ramanujan conjured in his death-bed letter behave exactly as he said they would, in every case.”

Ono is now on a mathematicians’ tour in India (from the Clark posting),

Ono will spend much of December in India, taking overnight trains to Mysore, Bangalore, Chennai and New Dehli, as part of a group of distinguished mathematicians giving talks about Ramanujan in the lead-up to the anniversary date.

“Ramanujan is a hero in India so it’s kind of like a math rock tour,” Ono says, adding, “I’m his biggest fan. My professional life is inescapably intertwined with Ramanujan. Many of the mathematical objects that I think about so profoundly were anticipated by him. I’m so glad that he existed.”

Between this and the series developed by Alex Bellos about mathematics in Japan (my Oct. 17, 2012 posting), it seems that attention is turning eastward where the study and development of mathematics is concerned. H/T to EurekAlert’s Dec. 17, 2012 news release and do read Clark’s article if you want more information about Ono and Ramanujan.

Bio-pharmaceutical teaser from India’s Centre for Knowledge Management of Nanoscience and Technology (CNMKT)

The Dec. 13, 2012 Nanowerk Spotlight article about India’s bio-pharmaceutical industry and its nanotechnology efforts was written by Vivek Patel of India’s Centre for Knowledge Management of Nanoscience and Technology (CMKNT) and appears to be an excerpt of a larger report to be released at a later date. The article is well worth reading and might be eye-opening for some folks,

Chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes mellitus, epilepsy, osteoporosis and cardiovascular among others are not well diagnosed, because symptoms of these diseases are often less apparent (progress slowly) than acute and communicable diseases. With the rapid urbanization and the unhealthy lifestyles, the disease profile in India is gradually shifting towards an ample growth in the chronic diseases segment. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), India has the highest number of patients with diabetes and 60 percent of the world’s cardiac patients belong to India (read more: “Background Paper: Burden of Disease in India“; pdf). It is also estimated that India has the largest number of coronary artery disease related deaths in the world. The bio-pharmaceutical industry expert says that the chronic disease-related therapeutics is the fastest growing segment in the Indian pharmaceutical market.

Patel offers an analysis of the current nanotechnology-enabled bio-pharmaceutical industry in India,

Nanotechnology-enabled bio-pharmaceutical R&D and products in the Indian industry are still in the early stages of evolution. Only modest amount of investments have been made so far and most of projects are moving through different phases of research/clinical trials (phase I-III), even though a few nano-based drug delivery systems have already reached the market. The Indian bio-pharmaceutical industry is witnessing business opportunity trends such as merger & acquisitions/takeovers/collaborations/in-licensing, increase in R&D investments, innovations in healthcare and drug delivery as well as product penetration into the tier I to tier VI markets to make significant inroads into nanomedicine and nanodiagnostics. CKMNT believes that these trends, along with the favourable macroeconomics and growth drivers, nanotechnology will propel Indian bio-pharmaceutical industry to the next level of growth. It is expected that in the next 10-20 years, market will be flooded with nano-based medicines and drug delivery systems as well as nano-enabled ultrasensitive and rapid detection devices for diagnostics and therapy.

Cientifica, an international consulting firm which specializes in emerging technologies and business, authored two analyses of the international business context for nano drug delivery systems, one is a free white paper overview and the other is a full report. The company also issued a full market report on nanotechnology-enabled medical diagnostics. (Note 1: Cientifica is offering some of its 2012 reports [the drug delivery and diagnostics reports are included in the sale] at a discount price of up to 80% until Dec. 31, 2012. Contact Cientifica at +44 7887 497630 or +44 7894 708989 or email [email protected] for pricing. Special academic discounts are also available. Note 2: The FrogHeart blog does not receive any monies whatsover from Cientifica.)

Getting back to the analysis of the nanotechnology-enabled bio-pharmaceutical industry in India, Patel provides a list of the most prolific Indian companies in this sector,

Fresenius Kabi Oncology Ltd. (erstwhile Dabur Pharmaceuticals Ltd.) made its foray into the field of oncology with the launch of ‘Nanoxel’, which is a novel nanoparticle-enabled formulation of Paclitaxel in 2007. …

Lupin Ltd., one of the world’s largest producers of tuberculosis drugs, with 12 factories and six research centres in India and Japan, has launched ‘Genexol-PM’ (paclitaxel nanoparticle) nanomedicine for cancer treatment by tie-up with the South Korean company Samyang Corporation. …

Cipla Ltd., one of the world’s largest generic pharmaceutical companies with a presence in over 170 countries, has successfully developed and manufactured Paclitax Nab (nanoparticle albumin bound) product for the treatment of metastatic breast cancer in 2012.

Sun Pharma Advanced Research Company Ltd. is engaged in creating new drugs and delivery systems such as ‘Paclitaxel Injection Concentrate for Nanodispersion (PICN)’and ‘Docetaxel Injection Concentrate for Nanodispersion (DICN)’. …

In 2012, Venus Remedies Ltd. has launched two nanotechnology-enabled products for arthritis and cancer treatments, respectively. The brand Taxedol consists of Docetaxel in nanoparticle form and company claims that it gives 11 % higher cancer cell killing potential as compared to existing Docetaxel…

Cadila Healthcare Ltd. (erstwhile Zydus Cadila) has successfully developed and launched nanotechnology-based ‘Oxalgin Nanogel’ formulation for the pain management therapy (arthritis, backache, joint pain etc.).

Shasun Pharmaceuticals Ltd., the active pharmaceutical ingredients manufacturer has entered into collaboration (50:50 joint ventures) with Nanoparticle M/s. Biochem, Inc., USA to develop gold nanoparticles-enabled radioactive medicine to treat prostate cancer.

Cadila Pharmaceuticals Ltd. has established a joint venture company, CPL Biologicals Pvt. Ltd., in partnership with M/s. Novavax Inc., USA to develop, manufacture and sell nanotechnology-based novel therapeutic and prophylactic vaccines, biological therapeutics and diagnostics in India. …

As noted earlier, this article does appear to be a teaser for a more comprehensive report due at a later date,

A comprehensive report on “Indian Nanotechnology Market: Technologies, Applications and Opportunities” is slated to be released by CKMNT in the future. Interested readers may please contact Mr. Vivek Patel at [email protected] or [email protected] for further details.

Canada’s York University and India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation

York University (Ontario, Canada) has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation according to a Nov. 10, 2012 article in The Hindu Business Line,

The agreement will facilitate the two partners to pursue collaborative defence research in the areas of advanced materials, nanotechnology, life sciences, bio-informatics, chemical and biological defence, sensors, and others. Both sides have planned a number of joint projects in the time to come.

The Scientific Adviser to the Defence Minister and Chief of the Defence Organisation, V.K. Saraswat, and Robert Haché, Vice-President Research & Innovation, York University, signed the pact during the visit of the Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in New Delhi.

Elsewhere in the article, York University is described as a research centre for Canada’s Dept. of National Defence specializing in chemical and biological defence, counter-terrorism, and something called ‘soldier as a system’ (I believe it has something to do with wearable computing).  Interestingly, I haven’t found any information about this MOU on the York University website or a federal government website. As well, I wasn’t able to find any information about York University’s DRDC research centre status and/or its defence research specialties. All of the information I’ve found has been on Indian news websites.

FrogHeart at the 2012 S.NET conference, part 2: Canada, nano, and the mango

I was delighted to learn more about the nanotechnology collaboration between Canada, India, and Sri Lanka (mentioned in my India, Sri Lanka, and Canada team up for nanotechnology-enabled food packaging posting of June 21, 2012) at the S.Net 2012 conference.

Rumana Bukht and Sally Randles from the University of Manchester’s Business School titled their presentation, Intervention of the State on Responsible Development of Nanotechnology in Canada.

Before discussing the presentation, here’s a summary of the project from my June 21, 2012 posting,

From the June 20, 2012 University of Guelph news release,

University of Guelph scientists led by Prof. Jayasankar Subramanian will work with South Asian colleagues to develop innovative packaging using state-of-the-art nanotechnology to reduce post-harvest losses in mangoes, a vital fruit crop in South Asia.

The $2.3 million project, announced today by Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), will improve livelihoods for nearly one-third of the populations of India and Sri Lanka, mostly small-scale farmers.

The Guelph scientists will work with researchers from the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University in India and Sri Lanka’s Industrial Technology Institute.

“Invented in part at U of G, this new packaging system should reduce post-harvest losses in fruits in India and Sri Lanka, where optimal storage conditions are not readily available.”

Mangoes are the second largest fruit crop in India and third in Sri Lanka. Farmers lose 35 to 40 per cent of their crops ─ worth $800 million a year ─ because of poor storage.

The researchers will combine patented technologies to develop special fruit cartons, dividers and wraps lined with nanoparticles from coconut husks and banana plants. Using these farm waste products will help provide income for small-scale entrepreneurs, particularly women.

During her talk, Rumana mentioned hexanal as an important ingredient in this new packaging. While my notes don’t provide much information about this ingredient, I did find this great April 26, 2012 article by Arun P Mathew for the Times of India, which provides more technical detail,

K S Subramanian, head of the department of Nano Science and Technology, who is involved in the project said that the University of Guelph, Canada discovered that hexanal, a chemical extracted from plants could successfully enhance the shelf-life and quality of fruits and vegetables. A researcher at TNAU [Tamil Nadu Agricultural University] has come [up] with a nano-film, he said.

“A combination of these two technologies could help develop a nano film with hexanal, which will improve the longevity of these fruits. Through this technology, around 30 percent of the losses could be avoided. This will improve the export of fruits and vegetables and increase the sales of fruits making farming more economically viable,” he said. Subramanian said that they would first be applied on mangoes and later on other fruits, based on its success.

He said that this will be an eco-friendly product. “Hexanal has been approved by United States based, FDA ( Food and Drug Administration). …

Rumana noted there will be safety testing of this hexanal-based nano-film and the testing will take place in India (not Canada) because India has better safety equipment and personnel with the appropriate skill sets. Canada will contribute the safety protocols. If the mango project is successful, researchers are considering plums and peaches for future projects.

I did want to get more  information about this collaboration and about the Canadian nano scene. As I have noted many times, getting information is difficult and I gather Rumana experienced some of the same difficulties. At least, I’m inferring difficulty from the fact that she refused, due to confidentiality agreements, to tell me which Canadian government officials she’d spoken with although she did identify departments (Health Canada and Industry Canada). Given all the secrecy you’d think something nefarious was happening instead of an attempt to minimize food wastage.

Next: OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) and public engagement at S.NET 2012

India’s 5th Bangalore Nano in December 2012

For some reason I don’t often see news items about commercializing nanotechnology in India. Happily, this latest news item, an Aug. 28, 2012 posting on the twocircles.net website submitted by IANS, will add to my stockpile,

The fifth edition of Bangalore Nano 2012, the premier nanotechnology event Dec 6-7, will focus on business opportunities in the sunrise sector, which helps in improving the quality of life and environment, a Karnataka government official said Tuesday [Aug. 28, 2012].

“Nano will explore business opportunities in nanotechnology, healthcare and medicine, aerospace and defence, electronics and MEMS (micro-electro-mechanical systems), food and agriculture, energy and environment and water management/solutions,” Principal Secretary, Science and technology I.S.N. Prasad told reporters at a preview of the upcoming trade show.

“India’s strength in core technology and biotechnology will fuel the growth of nanotechnology. With sound policies and government support, nanotechnology will flourish in India during this decade.” Rao [scientist C.N.R. Rao] pointed out.

Rao is also chairman of the scientific advisory council to the prime minister and president of the state-run Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research located here.

“Over 100 international and domestic firms are expected to participate, with over 100 delegates from Australia, Japan, US and other countries,” Prasad said.

The Bangalore Nano 2012 home page offers this description of their event,

Bangalore Nano, is an annual event organised by Department of Science & Technology, Government of Karnataka, under the guidance of Vision Group on Nanotechnology and JNCASR.

The 5th edition of Bangalore Nano is scheduled from December 5th to 7th, 2012 at Hotel The Lalit Ashok Bangalore, India.

The Event will offer 3 days of powerpacked Knowledge Transfer and Networking Opportunuties with Industry, R&D Fraternity, Academia from who’s who of Nanotechnology Fraternity.

The Global market for Nanotechnology incorporated manufactured goods will be worth USD 1.6 Trillion, representing a CAGR [compound annual growth rate] of more than 49% for the period 2009 – 2013. The Investments of emerging economies such as India, China and Russia in the field of Nanotechnology Research and Development will become driving factors for growth in these countries.

The Government of India’s Launch of a Mission on Nano Science and Technology (Nano Mission) has been a step in this direction. Capacity-building in the area of Nanotechnology research will be of utmost importance for the Nano Mission so that India emerges as a global Knowledge Hub in the Nanotech field.

I last mentioned C. N. R. Rao in a Jan. 9, 2012 posting about an interactive ‘nano’ exhibit at a museum in Bangalore.