Tag Archives: Iran Nanotechnology Initiative Council

Fewer silver nanoparticles washed off coated textiles

This time I have two complementary tidbits about silver nanoparticles, their use in textiles, and washing. The first is a June 30, 2014 news item on Nanowerk, with the latest research from Empa (Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology) on silver nanoparticles being sloughed off textiles when washing them,

The antibacterial properties of silver-coated textiles are popular in the fields of sport and medicine. A team at Empa has now investigated how different silver coatings behave in the washing machine, and they have discovered something important: textiles with nano-coatings release fewer nanoparticles into the washing water than those with normal coatings …

A June 30,  2014 Empa news release, which originated the news item, describes the findings in more detail,

If it contains ‘nano’, it doesn’t primarily leak ‘nano’: at least that’s true for silver-coated textiles, explains Bernd Nowack of the «Technology and Society» division at Empa. During each wash cycle a certain amount of the silver coating is washed out of the textiles and ends up in the waste water. [emphasis mine] Empa analysed this water; it turned out that nano-coated textiles release hardly any nano-particles. That’s quite the opposite to ordinary coatings, where a lot of different silver particles were found. Moreover, nano-coated silver textiles generally lose less silver during washing. This is because considerably less silver is incorporated into textile fabrics with nano-coating, and so it is released in smaller quantities for the antibacterial effect than is the case with ordinary coatings. A surprising result that has a transformative effect on future analyses and on the treatment of silver textiles. «All silver textiles behave in a similar manner – regardless of whether they are nano-coated or conventionally-coated,» says Nowack. This is why nano-textiles should not be subjected to stricter regulation than textiles with conventional silver-coatings, and this is relevant for current discussions concerning possible special regulations for nano-silver.

But what is the significance of silver particles in waste water? Exposed silver reacts with the (small quantities of) sulphur in the air to form silver sulphide, and the same process takes place in the waste water treatment plant. The silver sulphide, which is insoluble, settles at the bottom of the sedimentation tank and is subsequently incinerated with the sewage sludge. So hardly any of the silver from the waste water remains in the environment. Silver is harmless because it is relatively non-toxic for humans. Even if silver particles are released from the textile fabric as a result of strong sweating, they are not absorbed by healthy skin.

I’ve highlighted Nowack’s name as he seems to have changed his opinions since I first wrote about his work with silver nanoparticles in textiles and washing in a Sept. 8, 2010 posting,

“We found that the total released varied considerably from less than 1 to 45 percent of the total nanosilver in the fabric and that most came out during the first wash,” Bernd Nowack, head of the Environmental Risk Assessment and Management Group at the Empa-Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Testing and Research, tells Nanowerk. “These results have important implications for the risk assessment of silver textiles and also for environmental fate studies of nanosilver, because they show that under certain conditions relevant to washing, primarily coarse silver-containing particles are released.”

How did the quantity of silver nanoparticles lost in water during washing change from “less than 1 to 45 percent of the total nanosilver in the fabric” in a 2010 study to “Empa analysed this water; it turned out that nano-coated textiles release hardly any nano-particles” in a 2014 study? It would be nice to find out if there was a change in the manufacturing process and whether or not this is global change or one undertaken in Switzerland alone.

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

Presence of Nanoparticles in Wash Water from Conventional Silver and Nano-silver Textiles by Denise M. Mitrano, Elisa Rimmele, Adrian Wichser, Rolf Erni, Murray Height, and Bernd Nowack. ACS Nano, Article ASAP DOI: 10.1021/nn502228w Publication Date (Web): June 18, 2014

Copyright © 2014 American Chemical Society

This paper is behind a paywall.

The second tidbit is from Iran and may help to answer my questions about the Empa research. According to a July 7, 2014 news item on Nanowerk (Note: A link has been removed),

Writing in The Journal of The Textile Institute (“Effect of silver nanoparticles morphologies on antimicrobial properties of cotton fabrics”), researchers from Islamic Azad University in Iran, describe the best arrangement for increasing the antibacterial properties of textile products by studying various structures of silver nanoparticles.

A July 7, 2014 news release from the Iran Nanotechnology Initiative Council (INIC), which originated the news item, provides more details,

By employing the structure presented by the researchers, the amount of nanoparticles stabilization on the fabric and the durability of its antibacterial properties increase after washing and some problems are solved, including the change in the fabric color.

Using the results of this research creates diversity in the application of various structures of nanoparticles in the complementary process of cotton products. Moreover, the color of the fabric does not change as the amount of consumed materials decreases, because the excess use of silver was the cause of this problem. On the other hand, the stability and durability of nanoparticles increase against standard washing. All these facts result in the reduction in production cost and increase the satisfaction of the customers.

The researchers have claimed that in comparison with other structures, hierarchical structure has much better antibacterial activity (more than 91%) even after five sets of standard washing.

This work on morphology would seem to answer my question about the big difference in Nowack’s description of the quantity of silver nanoparticles lost due to washing. I am assuming, of course, that something has changed with regard to the structure and/or shape of the silver nanoparticles coating the textiles used in the Empa research.

Getting back to the work in Iran, here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Effect of silver nanoparticles morphologies on antimicrobial properties of cotton fabrics by Mohammad Reza Nateghia & Hamed Hajimirzababa. The Journal of The Textile Institute Volume 105, Issue 8, 2014 pages 806-813 DOI: 10.1080/00405000.2013.855377 Published online: 21 Jan 2014

This paper is behind a paywall.

Nanocellulose from sugarcane?

Iran adds to this blog’s growing catalogue of plant materials from which nanocellulose can be derived. From an April 27, 2014 news item on Nanowerk,

Researchers from University of Tehran utilized sugarcane waste to produce nanocomposite film (“All-cellulose nanocomposite film made from bagasse cellulose nanofibers for food packaging application”).

The product has unique physical and mechanical properties and has many applications in packaging, glue making, medicine and electronic industries.

An April 28, 2014 Iran Nanotechnology Initiative Council (INIC) news release, which originated the news item, describes the advantages of this potential product and the research that led to it,

These nanofibers have simpler, faster and more cost-effective production method in comparison with other production methods. The size of the produced cellulose nanofiber has been reported about 39±13 nm while tension resistant of the nanocomposite produced from the nanofibers has been reported about 140 MPa. The produced nanocomposite has higher strength in comparison with the majority of biodegradable and non-biodegradable films. It seems that the produced nanocomposite can be considered an appropriate option for the elimination of artificial polymers and oil derivatives from packaging materials.

In order to produce the product, cellulose fibers were produced through mechanical milling method after separation and purification of cellulose from sugarcane bagasse, and then nanopapers were produced. Next, full cellulose nanocomposite was produced through partial dissolving method, and its characteristics were evaluated.

Results showed that as the time of partial dissolving increases, the diffusivity of the nanocomposite into vapor decreases due to the increase in glassy part (amorphous) to crystalline part. However, thermal resistant decreases as the time of partial dissolving increases because a decrease is observed in the crystalline part.

In addition, when cellulose microfibers turn into nanofibers, resistance against the tension of the produced films increases. The researchers believe that the reason for the increase is the reduction in fault points (points that lead to the fracture in cellulose fibers), increase in specific area, and integrity of nanofibers. Transparency of samples significantly increases as the size of particles decreases to nanometric scale.

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

All-cellulose nanocomposite film made from bagasse cellulose nanofibers for food packaging application by Moein Ghaderi, Mohammad Mousavi, Hossein Yousefi, & Mohsen Labbafi. Carbohydrate Polymers, vol. 104, issue 1, January 2014, pp. 59-65 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.carbpol.2014.01.013

This paper is behind a paywall.

Iran’s work on turmeric (curcumin) as an anti-cancer drug

It’s been a while since I’ve mentioned either Iran or curcumin (a constituent of turmeric) but an April 15, 2014 news item on Nanowerk has given me an opportunity to do both,

Nanotechnology researchers from Tarbiat Modarres University [Iran] produced a new drug capable of detecting and removing cancer cells using turmeric …

The compound is made of curcumin found in the extract of turmeric, and has desirable physical and chemical stability and prevents the proliferation of cancer cells.

An April 16, 2014 Iran Nanotechnology Initiative Council (INIC) news release, which despite its date appears to have originated the news item, fills in details about the research,

In this drug, curcumin with high efficiency (approximately 87%) was loaded in the polymeric nanocarrier, and it created a spherical structure with the size of 140 nm. The drug has high physical and chemical stability. The drug was used successfully in laboratory conditions in the treatment of a type of aggressive tumor in the central nervous system, called glioblastoma (GBM).

The interesting point is that the fatal effect of nanocurcumin on mature stem cells derived from marrow and natural cells of skin fibroblast is observed at a concentration higher than a concentration that is effective on cancer cells. In other words, no fatal effect on natural cells is observed at concentrations that are fatal to cancer cells. It shows that curcumin prefers to enter cancer cells.

The size range of the nanocarrier used in this research is 15-100 nm. Physical and chemical stability, non-toxicity, and biodegradability are among the main characteristics of the nanocarriers. Based on the results, the nanocarrier used in this research has no toxic effect on cells. In other words, all the death in the cells is caused by curcumin, and dendrosome only results in bioavailability and transference of the drug into the cells.

“The drug has the potential to affect a number of message delivery paths in the cells, one of which is cell proliferation path. Therefore, the drug prefers to enter cancer cells rather than various types of natural cells,” the researchers said.

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

Dendrosomal curcumin nanoformulation downregulates pluripotency genes via miR-145 activation in U87MG glioblastoma cells by Maryam Tahmasebi Mirgani, Benedetta Isacchi, Majid Sadeghizadeh, Fabio Marra, Anna Rita Bilia, Seyed Javad Mowla, Farhood Najafi, & Esmael Babaei. International Journal of Nanomedicine, vol. 9, issue 1, January 2014, pp. 403-417.DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2147/IJN.S48136

This is an open access paper.

I last wrote about turmeric or more specifically curcumin in a December 25, 2011 posting about research at UCLA (University of California at Los Angeles).

Green chemistry and zinc oxide nanoparticles from Iran (plus some unhappy scoop about Elsevier and access)

It’s been a while since I’ve featured any research from Iran partly due to the fact that I find the information disappointingly scant. While the Dec. 22, 2013 news item on Nanowerk doesn’t provide quite as much detail as I’d like it does shine a light on an aspect of Iranian nanotechnology research that I haven’t previously encountered, green chemistry (Note: A link has been removed),

Researchers used a simple and eco-friendly method to produce homogenous zinc oxide (ZnO) nanoparticles with various applications in medical industries due to their photocatalytic and antibacterial properties (“Sol–gel synthesis, characterization, and neurotoxicity effect of zinc oxide nanoparticles using gum tragacanth”).

Zinc oxide nanoparticles have numerous applications, among which mention can be made of photocatalytic issues, piezoelectric devices, synthesis of pigments, chemical sensors, drug carriers in targeted drug delivery, and the production of cosmetics such as sunscreen lotions.

The Dec. 22, 2013 Iran Nanotechnology Initiative Council (INIC) news release, which originated the news item, provides a bit more detail (Note: Links have been removed),

By using natural materials found in the geography of Iran and through sol-gel technique, the researchers synthesized zinc oxide nanoparticles in various sizes. To this end, they used zinc nitrate hexahydrate and gum tragacanth obtained from the Northern parts of Khorassan Razavi Province as the zinc-providing source and the agent to control the size of particles in aqueous solution, respectively.

Among the most important characteristics of the synthesis method, mention can be made of its simplicity, the use of cost-effective materials, conservation of green chemistry principals to prevent the use of hazardous materials to human safety and environment, production of nanoparticles in homogeneous size and with high efficiency, and most important of all, the use of native materials that are only found in Iran and its introduction to the world.

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

Sol–gel synthesis, characterization, and neurotoxicity effect of zinc oxide nanoparticles using gum tragacanth by Majid Darroudi, Zahra Sabouri, Reza Kazemi Oskuee, Ali Khorsand Zak, Hadi Kargar, and Mohamad Hasnul Naim Abd Hamidf. Ceramics International, Volume 39, Issue 8, December 2013, Pages 9195–9199

There’s a bit more technical information in the paper’s abstract,

The use of plant extract in the synthesis of nanomaterials can be a cost effective and eco-friendly approach. In this work we report the “green” and biosynthesis of zinc oxide nanoparticles (ZnO-NPs) using gum tragacanth. Spherical ZnO-NPs were synthesized at different calcination temperatures. Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) imaging showed the formation most of nanoparticles in the size range of below 50 nm. The powder X-ray diffraction (PXRD) analysis revealed wurtzite hexagonal ZnO with preferential orientation in (101) reflection plane. In vitro cytotoxicity studies on neuro2A cells showed a dose dependent toxicity with non-toxic effect of concentration below 2 µg/mL. The synthesized ZnO-NPs using gum tragacanth were found to be comparable to those obtained from conventional reduction methods using hazardous polymers or surfactants and this method can be an excellent alternative for the synthesis of ZnO-NPs using biomaterials.

I was not able to find the DOI (digital object identifier) and this paper is behind a paywall.

Elsevier and access

On a final note, Elsevier, the company that publishes Ceramics International and many other journals, is arousing some ire with what appears to be its latest policies concerning access according to a Dec. 20, 2013 posting by Mike Masnick for Techdirt Note: Links have been removed),

We just recently wrote about the terrible anti-science/anti-knowledge/anti-learning decision by publishing giant Elsevier to demand that Academia.edu take down copies of journal articles that were submitted directly by the authors, as Elsevier wished to lock all that knowledge (much of it taxpayer funded) in its ridiculously expensive journals. Mike Taylor now alerts us that Elsevier is actually going even further in its war on access to knowledge. Some might argue that Elsevier was okay in going after a “central repository” like Academia.edu, but at least it wasn’t going directly after academics who were posting pdfs of their own research on their own websites. While some more enlightened publishers explicitly allow this, many (including Elsevier) technically do not allow it, but have always looked the other way when authors post their own papers.

That’s now changed. As Taylor highlights, the University of Calgary sent a letter to its staff saying that a company “representing” Elsevier, was demanding that they take down all such articles on the University’s network.

While I do feature the topic of open access and other issues with intellectual property from time to time, you’ll find Masnick’s insights and those of his colleagues are those of people who are more intimately familiar (albeit firmly committed to open access) with the issues should you choose to read his Dec. 20, 2013 posting in its entirely.

Removing dye from textile wastewater

I remember once reading a fashion article about the rivers in one  of Italy’s major textile centres. Apparently, the rivers were running red as it was that year’s ‘on trend’ colour and that’s what happens when mills empty their wastewater into rivers.  That article came back to mind on reading this Mar. 27, 2013 news item on Nanowerk (Note: A link has been removed),

Researchers at Amir Kabir University of Technology and Institute for Color Science and Technology [Iran] produced a bio-adsorbent with very high performance for the removal of dye from textile wastewater by preparing a combination of chitosan and dendrimer nanostructure (“Dye removal from colored-textile wastewater using chitosan-PPI dendrimer hybrid as a biopolymer: Optimization, kinetic, and isotherm studies”).

Among the unique characteristics of these bio-adsorbents, mention can be made of high adsorption capacity, biodegradability, biocompatibility and non-toxicity.

There’s a March 28, 2013 news release on the Iran Nanotechnology Initiative Council (INIC) website, which provides more detail abut this work,

The aim of the research was to produce chitosan-dendrimer combination in order to remove dye from the wastewater containing reactive dyes. To this end, chitosan was modified in the first step by using ethylacrylate. Then in the second step, chitosan-dendrimer combination was produced by using PPI second generation of dendrimer.

Parameters that affect the dye removal process including pH, concentration of dye, time and temperature of contact were studied by RSM program in order to optimize the process. Kinetic studies and adsorption isotherms at equilibrium were evaluated too in order to measure the amount of dye adsorbed on the adsorbent.

Results showed that chitosan-dendrimer polymer bio-adsorbent could be used as a high potential and biodegradable bio-adsorbent to remove anionic compounds such as reactive dyes from textile industry wastewater. High adsorption capacity, biodegradability, biocompatibility, and non-toxicity are among the unique properties of these adsorbents.

Here’s a citation and a link for the article,

Dye removal from colored-textile wastewater using chitosan-PPI dendrimer hybrid as a biopolymer: Optimization, kinetic, and isotherm studies by Mousa Sadeghi-Kiakhan, Mokhtar Arami1, Kamaladin Gharanjig. Journal of Applied Polymer Science, Volume 127, Issue 4, pages 2607–2619, 15 February 2013. Article first published online: 16 MAY 2012 DOI: 10.1002/app.37615

Copyright © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

The article is behind a paywall.

Plus, for anyone (like me) who needs a definition for adsorbent (from the Dictionary of Construction),

A material that has the ability to extract certain substances from gases, liquids, or solids by causing them to adhere to its surface without changing the physical properties of the adsorbent. Activated carbon, silica gel, and activated alumina are materials frequently used for this application.

Inventions Nanotech Middle East conference in 2013

It’s a bit early to be talking about this conference since there isn’t much information, no speakers, no programme, etc. but there’s still time to pull that all together since the Inventions Nanotech Middle East Conference (aka, Inventions Nanotech ME) is scheduled for Nov. 3-5, 2013. From the Conference Overview page,

The Conference will host top notch industry experts from all over the world who will address the following crucial topics through live demonstrations and case studies:

Water
Energy / Oil & Gas
Environment
Health
Consumer Products

The event will be held at the Qatar National Convention Center.

There are two main sources of nanotech news items in that region. Iran or INIC  (Iran Nanotechnology Initiative Council [my Dec. 27, 2012 posting]), which continuously publicizes its nanotechnology research, and Saudi Arabia (KAUST or King Abdullah University of Science and Technology), which publicizes its work on solar energy (my July 30, 2012 posting), for the most part.

Good luck to the conference organizers.

Iran, the United Nations, China, and nanotechnology applications for water and wastewater treatment

The Dec. 27, 2012 news item on Nanowerk highlighting a UNIDO (United Nations Industrial Development Organization) meeting in Tehran observes (Note: Link removed),

The first meeting of United Nations Industrial Development Organization International Center on Nanotechnology (UNIDO ICN) was held in Tehran on December 12-13 titled ‘The First Meeting for the Applications of Nanotechnology in Water and Wastewater Industry: Challenges and Opportunities’.

At the beginning of the meeting, the Secretary General of Iran Nanotechnology Initiative Council Dr. Saeed Sarkar pointed out to the importance of nanotechnology in water and wastewater industry. According to him, the creation of a committee consisting of bodies active in the field of standardization in water and wastewater is a must for the application of nanotechnology.

“Energy, health, water, and environment are the priorities of the application of nanotechnology. Therefore, Iran Nanotechnology Initiative Council has divided its applicable programs in the field of water and wastewater into three main phases, and we are carrying out the first phase at the moment,” he said.

It must be pointed out that ICN was established in Iran on the suggestion of Iran Nanotechnology Initiative Council in 2012, and it tries to develop nanotechnology and its applications in water and wastewater through carrying out international cooperation and through creating capacities in under-developed countries.

UNIDO’s International Center on Nanotechnology webpage features an upcoming symposium in China ((in a sidebar to the right of the screen),

IWA Regional Symposium on Nanotechnology and Water Treatment 2013

The IWA (International Water Association) 2013 Symposium webpage describes the theme and meeting location,

The IWA Symposium on Environmental Nanotechnology 2013 will be held in Nanjing, China from 24-27 April 2013.

The meeting aims at bringing together researchers, specialists, professors and students to exchange ideas and present their latest works on advances in nanotechnology and key environmental issues relating to water/wastewater treatment and water reuse.

We hope to facilitate collaboration and create professional linkages among environmentalists worldwide. Furthermore, the conference could be an international platform to raise one’s academic standing in the specific field.

There are a variety of opportunities for you to participate through attending, presententing,  [sic] exhibiting, and sponsoring.
Proposed Themes:

  • Potential environmental impact of nanotechnology
  • Application of nanomaterials in water treatment

Here are the registration dates,

Early Bird Registration Deadline: 31 December 2012
Authors Registration Deadline: 28 February 2013

Iran’s new international nanotechnology statistics website

Iran’s international nanotechnology statistics website  is very Iran-centric as one would expect. (I find it’s always interesting to notice this elsewhere and then  consider how I take a Canada-centric focus for granted.) From the May 15, 2012 news item on Nanowerk,

Iran Nanotechnology Initiative Council (INIC) launched a website which monitors and analyzes scientific achievements and improvements of world countries in the field of nanotechnology based on continually updated statistical data.

The website is intended to track regional, mainly Iran, and global technological changes in the field around the clock.

The data is based on a set of keywords, which you can view here.

Nano in Egypt and in Iran

It’s great to get some information about what’s going on in Egypt and Iran with regard to nanotechnology and Julian Taub at the Scientific American blog network has posted a couple of very interesting interviews about what’s happening in those countries.  From Taub’s Jan. 12, 2012 posting (Felafel Tech: Nanotechnology in Egypt), here’s a description of his interview subject,

Dr. Mohamed Abdel-Mottaleb is the leading nanotechnology consultant in Egypt and Director of the Nano Materials Masters Program and the founding director for the Center of Nanotechnology at Nile University. He also helped write a chapter for NATO Science for Peace on nanomaterial consumer applications, as well as numerous research papers and articles on the issue of nanotechnology for developing countries. I sit down with him to discuss the importance of nanotechnology, the state of technological progress and public nanotechnology education after the revolution, and Egypt’s future role in the global nanotechnology landscape.

After talking about the impact that the recent revolution has had on the nanotech industry (briefly: not much since there wasn’t much of a nanotech industry in the first place) in Egypt, Abdel-Mottaleb discusses the impact on nanotechnology research at his center,

It has slowed things significantly, because now our students have to try to use facilities wherever available in Egypt. This always depends on the availability of the equipment and the response costs for us to use the equipment and the facilities at other universities or research centers. We’ve rented some labs from some companies located near the university, which are not even adequate. Our research has slowed down, students are frustrated but committed to finish and go to work, and contribute to the society and to Egypt. It has affected us deeply, negatively, but we are committed to solve it.

A significant hurdle we are facing now is the fact that the Egyptian government has stopped our move into our new campus. Since 2007, we have been operating out of temporary facilities and awaiting the completion the campus. The government has granted Ahmed Zewail (1999 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry) the full use of our campus, and since May 2010, he is refusing to allow the university to move into the facilities. This is despite the fact that the facilities were partly funded by donations to the university and the facilities remain unused to date.  Several rounds of negotiations have failed due to his insistence on shutting down the university. He plans to build a new university (Zewail University). It is very difficult to us to understand his position and intentions. We hope that the international community will support us and not allow the shutting down of a very young and successful university.

In answer to a question from Taub about the best way to advance Egyptian R&D (research and development) in nanotechnology,

I think we need a national nano initiative. It needs specific and measurable targets that all the resources that are going to be allocated for nanotechnology are going to be put into that area, and achieving targets. We need a significant collaboration with the international community. We need to find a way to establish such bi-lateral collaboration schemes, and in the end, we need the facilities. We have a huge untapped human resource power here, I mean, it’s really wonderful to see a fresh graduate from university writing a full proposal and standing up and defending it on a very scientific level, and really holding a sound argument. Unfortunately they are unable to execute these proposals because of the lack of funding and the lack of facilities.

This is really the way out, and nanotechnology can affect the culture in this region. You can use the interdisciplinary thinking and push the idea that you cannot do something on your own, you need collaborations, you need to blend other disciplines, and this is very similar to having foreigners or people in different language speaking countries having to find a way to work together. Nanotechnology really instills that into the minds of the students, and gives them the opportunity to question and challenge the conditions or the dogmas they have, whether it is about science, or culture, or politics. Nanotechnology is a wonderful venue to promote intercultural dialogue, and interfaith dialogue. You can really see the opportunities.

I find that last bit about nanotechnology’s  interdisciplinary nature as having an impact on dialogue in many spheres (Abdel-Mottaleb mentions science, culture, and politics) quite interesting and something I’ve not seen in either the Canadian or US discourses.

Egypt and nanotechnology were previously mentioned  in my Nov. 21, 2011 posting (Egyptian scientists win cash prize for innovation: a nano test for Hepatitis C) and I have also mentioned Egypt, science, and the revolution in my Feb. 4, 2011 posting (Brief bit about science in Egypt and brief bit about Iran’s tech fair in Syria). That gives me a tidy segue to Taub’s Jan. 13, 2012 posting (Science and Sanctions: Nanotechnology in Iran).

Here’s a little bit about  Dr. Abdolreza Simchi, the interview subject, from Taub’s introduction,

Dr. Simchi is a distinguished nanotechnology researcher heading the Research Center for Nanostructured and Advanced Materials (RCNAM) at the Department of Material Science and Engineering of Sharif University, where he focuses on biomedical engineering and sustainable technology. Nanotechnology is a new and interdisciplinary field where scientists can engineer atom and molecules on the nanoscale, fifty thousand times thinner than a human hair.

Dr. Simchi represents a bridge between Iran and the West. He has received many awards for his work, not only from Iran, but also from Germany, the UK, and the UN. He earned his PhD in a joint program between Sharif University and the University of Vienna and then worked at the German technology institute Fraunhofer at the beginning of his career.

Before excerpting a few more items from Taub’s post, I’m going to introduce a little information about Iran and its nanotechnology initiative from Tim Harper, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Cientifica. I interviewed Tim in my July 15, 2011 posting (Tim Harper, Cientifica’s CEO, talks about their latest report on global nanotechnology funding and economic impacts), where he mentioned Iran briefly and, after his visit to Iran’s Nano 2011 exhibition, he discussed it more extensively on his own blog. From Tim’s Nov. 17, 2011 posting on TNTLog,

Iran has always been a source of fascination, a place of ancient culture and history and now a country making a lot of noise about science and technology, so I was pleased to be invited by the Iran Nanotechnology Initiative Council to attend the Iran Nano 2011 exhibition in Tehran.

The unique aspect of Iranian nanotechnology is that because of the various international sanctions over the past thirty years it’s not the kind of place where you can just order an AFM or an electron microscope from a major US or Japanese supplier. As a result there was lots of home made kit on display, from sputtering systems, through surface analysis to atomic force microscopes.

So, Iranian scientists have engineered their way around the embargo on selling high tech equipment of Iran – and there was no shortage of high-end laptops on display either – but so often science is not about how much stuff you have in your lab, but what you can do with it.

Here’s what Dr. Simchi had to say about sanctions in Taub’s interview (Jan. 13, 2012 posting),

I believe sanction has two faces. On one hand, it restricts the accessibility to facilities, equipment, and materials. This part is certainly disturbing the progress. However, I see another side that somehow is good! The sanction has limited the mobility of our students and experts. I believe the strength of the country is its talented and brilliant students and well-established academic media. This is the most important difference between Iran and other neighboring countries. Over three million students have now enrolled in Iranian Universities. Hundred thousands are now registered at graduate levels. This is a true strength and advantage of Iran. As far as the American and European banning of the mobility of Iranian students via visa restriction, we enjoy more and more from forced-prohibited brain drain.

What is the wonder in rapid development of Iran in scientific publication when thousands of talented graduate students join the university annually? This is a direct consequence of well-educated students, working hard even in a tough condition.  I am personally an example of this scenario (although I am not belonging to the upper 10% of talented scientists in Iran). I was unable to go to the US to visit Standford University due to the September 11 tragedy and was twice refused a visa to visit UC Berkeley. What would have happened if I had been successful to go to the US and possibly settle down? Up to now, I have graduated many talented students at SUT. They are really brilliant and I am very proud of them. Some of them left the country to continue their studies in Europe and the US but many are living in Iran and truly contribute to nanotechnology development.  Since my research area is not strategic and has no dual applications (mainly biomaterials and green technologies), I enjoy collaborating with many scientists in the US, Canada, Europe, South Korea, and Japan.

Simchi’s research focus is interesting in light of his specialty (from Taub’s Jan. 13, 2012 posting),

I am principally a metallurgist, and specifically a particulate materials scientist. However, I always look at science and technology side-by-side and shoulder-to-shoulder. In fact, it is of prime importance to me, as an engineer, to see where and how my research output might be utilized; the maximum and direct benefit for the nation and human beings are my utmost aims. In simple words, I look towards the national interests. My people suffer from cancer (Iran is a country with high-cancer risk), environmental pollution (for instance, Tehran is one of the most polluted cities in the world), and limited water resources (dry lands). Therefore, I keep trying to combine my knowledge on particulate materials with nanotechnology, i.e. size effect, to improve healthcare via biomedical applications of materials, and to combat environmental problems. I am particularly interested in developing nanoparticles for diagnosis and therapy and to use them in tissue engineering applications.

As for what Iran is doing with regard to commericalization, Tim notes this (from the Nov. 17, 2011 posting at TNTlog),

In terms of commercial products there were many on display. Agriculture was well represented, with fertilisers, pesticides, coatings to reduce fruit spoilage and even catalytic systems to remove ethylene from fruit storage facilities. Construction materials were another large area, with a wide range of building materials on display. Absent were areas such as semiconductors and medical devices, but once again their absence illustrates that INIC [Iran Nanotechnology Initiative Council] is focussing much more on the solutions demanded by Iranian industry rather than trying to compete with more advanced economies.

Tim’s view that the absence of medical devices at the exhibition he visited is evidence that INIC is focussed on industry solutions suggests Dr. Simchi’s interests in biomedical and tissue engineering applications may prove a little challenging to pursue. In any event, I heartily recommend reading Taub’s interviews and Tim’s posting in their entirely.

Nano education in Colombia, in Russia and in Iran

In the last month there have been three nano education announcements. Dexter Johnson at Nanoclast featured a project with NanoProfessor (a division of NanoInk)  in Colombia. From Dexter’s May 26, 2010 post,

According to Tom Levesque, General Manager of NanoInk in the Americas, he visited a school in Bogota, Colombia where about 350 teenagers in conjunction with the NanoProfessor curriculum work with atomic force microscopes [AFM] and end up with better training than many receive at private universities in the country.

While making available an AFM for 350 kids seems almost as incredible as the idea that these kids have a better education than those at the best private schools, one has to wonder why this program has taken off in foreign countries and has not fared as well in the United States.

I too find the idea of an AFM for 350 kids extraordinary and his point about the initiative (or something else like it) not being widely adopted in the US, as I understand it, holds true for Canada.

Meanwhile, the Russians held an international conference on nanoeducation, May 18 – 20, 2010. From the news item on Nanowerk,

On May 18-20th the nanotechnology equipment manufacturer in Russia NT-MDT Co. and one of the main Russian scientific nanocenters the Kurchatov Institute held an international conference “Nanoeducation: the main approaches and perspectives”. The meeting had a unique format – the first educational international conference with trainings on working with nanoeducational equipment for teachers. 185 participants took part in the event, including representatives from Russia, the USA, Europe and CIS. The conference has become an essential part of Russian Government Federal Program.

The main goal of the conference was to overcome the gap between impetuous development of the modern nanoscience and the conservative system of education, especially in schools, where the teachers suffer serious problems in working with new equipment.

I find their direct approach to describing some of the issues quite refreshing. The topics covered were,

… controversial areas as contemporary approaches to nanoeducation, educational process organizing and leading, the newest educational technologies, international university cooperation all over the world concerning personnel trainings for teachers and professors and etc. The discussion has touched all the educational levels at schools as well as in universities.

In Iran, they’re launching a student competition (from the Fars News Agency item),

Iran’s Nanoclub (a club for students that works under the supervision of Iran Nanotechnology Initiative Council) plans to hold the first stage of Nanotechnology Olympiad for Students in a number of provincial capitals on June 25.

All students familiar with nanotechnology will compete scientifically in two stages in this scientific competition entitled ‘Nanotechnology Olympiad for Students’ throughout the country. The Olympiad will be held in two stages on June 25 and August 9, 2010.

The test for the first stage will be held in 2010-2011 educational year in 10 capitals of Iranian provinces that are more active in the field of nanotechnology and enjoy more students familiar with nanotechnology, according to statistics.

The Promotion and Public Education Workgroup of Iran Nanotechnology Initiative Council will give three 1000-dollar awards to the top three winners of the first Nanotechnology Olympiad for Students.

Very exciting news and if you know of any comparable programmes for children in Canada, please do let me know.