Tag Archives: quantum computing

Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and the University of Waterloo (Canada) together at last

A March 18, 2014 University of Waterloo news release describes a new agreement signed at a joint Technion-Israel Institute of Technology-University of Waterloo conference held in Israel.

“As two of the world’s top innovation universities, the University of Waterloo and Technion are natural partners,” said Feridun Hamdullahpur, president and vice-chancellor of the University of Waterloo. “This partnership positions both Waterloo and Technion for accelerated progress in the key areas of quantum information science, nanotechnology, and water. [emphasis mine] These disciplines will help to shape the future of communities, industries, and everyday life.”

The conference to mark the start of the new partnership, and a reciprocal event in Waterloo planned for later in 2014, is funded by a donation to the University of Waterloo from The Gerald Schwartz & Heather Reisman Foundation.

“The agreement between the University of Waterloo and Technion will lead to joint research projects between Israeli and Canadian scientists in areas crucial for making our world a better place,” said Peretz Lavie, president of Technion. “I could not think of a better partner for such projects than the University of Waterloo.”

The new partnership agreement will connect students and faculty from both institutions with global markets through technology transfer and commercialization opportunities with industrial partners in Canada and in Israel.

“This partnership between two global innovation leaders puts in place the conditions to support research breakthroughs and new opportunities for commercialization on an international scale,” said George Dixon, vice-president of research at Waterloo. “University of Waterloo and Technion have a history of research collaboration going back almost 20 years.”

Which one of these items does not fit on the list “quantum information science, nanotechnology, and water?” I pick water. I think they mean water remediation or water desalination or, perhaps, water research.

Given the issues with the lack of potable water in that region the interest in water is eminently understandable. (My Feb. 24, 2014 posting mentions the situation in the Middle East in the context of water desalination research at a new nanotechnology at Oman’s Sultan Qaboos University.)

Carbon nanotubes, good vibrations, and quantum computing

Apparently carbon nanotubes can store information within their vibrations and this could have implications for quantum computing, from the Mar. 21, 2013 news release on EurekAlert,

A carbon nanotube that is clamped at both ends can be excited to oscillate. Like a guitar string, it vibrates for an amazingly long time. “One would expect that such a system would be strongly damped, and that the vibration would subside quickly,” says Simon Rips, first author of the publication. “In fact, the string vibrates more than a million times. The information is thus retained up to one second. That is long enough to work with.”

Since such a string oscillates among many physically equivalent states, the physicists resorted to a trick: an electric field in the vicinity of the nanotube ensures that two of these states can be selectively addressed. The information can then be written and read optoelectronically. “Our concept is based on available technology,” says Michael Hartmann, head of the Emmy Noether research group Quantum Optics and Quantum Dynamics at the TU Muenchen. “It could take us a step closer to the realization of a quantum computer.”

The research paper can be found here,

Quantum Information Processing with Nanomechanical Qubits
Simon Rips and Michael J. Hartmann,
Physical Review Letters, 110, 120503 (2013) DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.110.120503
Link: http://prl.aps.org/abstract/PRL/v110/i12/e120503

The paper is behind a paywall.

There are two Good Vibrations songs on YouTube, one by the Beach Boys and one by Marky Mark. I decided to go with this Beach Boys version in part due to its technical description at http://youtu.be/NwrKKbaClME,

FIRST TRUE STEREO version with lead vocals properly placed in the mix. I also restored the original full length of the bridge that was edited out of the released version. An official true stereo mix of the vocal version was not made back in 1967. While there are other “stereo” versions posted, for the most part they are “fake” or poor stereo versions. I tried to make the best judicious decision on sound quality, stereo imaging and mastering while maintaining TRUE STEREO integrity given the source parts available. I hope you enjoy it!

The video,

What is a diamond worth?

A couple of diamond-related news items have crossed my path lately causing me to consider diamonds and their social implications. I’ll start first with the news items, according to an April 4, 2012 news item on physorg.com a quantum computer has been built inside a diamond (from the news item),

Diamonds are forever – or, at least, the effects of this diamond on quantum computing may be. A team that includes scientists from USC has built a quantum computer in a diamond, the first of its kind to include protection against “decoherence” – noise that prevents the computer from functioning properly.

I last mentioned decoherence in my July 21, 2011 posting about a joint (University of British Columbia, University of California at Santa Barbara and the University of Southern California) project on quantum computing.

According to the April 5, 2012 news item by Robert Perkins for the University of Southern California (USC),

The multinational team included USC professor Daniel Lidar and USC postdoctoral researcher Zhihui Wang, as well as researchers from the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, Iowa State University and the University of California, Santa Barbara. The findings were published today in Nature.

The team’s diamond quantum computer system featured two quantum bits, or qubits, made of subatomic particles.

As opposed to traditional computer bits, which can encode distinctly either a one or a zero, qubits can encode a one and a zero at the same time. This property, called superposition, along with the ability of quantum states to “tunnel” through energy barriers, some day will allow quantum computers to perform optimization calculations much faster than traditional computers.

Like all diamonds, the diamond used by the researchers has impurities – things other than carbon. The more impurities in a diamond, the less attractive it is as a piece of jewelry because it makes the crystal appear cloudy.

The team, however, utilized the impurities themselves.

A rogue nitrogen nucleus became the first qubit. In a second flaw sat an electron, which became the second qubit. (Though put more accurately, the “spin” of each of these subatomic particles was used as the qubit.)

Electrons are smaller than nuclei and perform computations much more quickly, but they also fall victim more quickly to decoherence. A qubit based on a nucleus, which is large, is much more stable but slower.

“A nucleus has a long decoherence time – in the milliseconds. You can think of it as very sluggish,” said Lidar, who holds appointments at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering and the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

Though solid-state computing systems have existed before, this was the first to incorporate decoherence protection – using microwave pulses to continually switch the direction of the electron spin rotation.

“It’s a little like time travel,” Lidar said, because switching the direction of rotation time-reverses the inconsistencies in motion as the qubits move back to their original position.

Here’s an image I downloaded from the USC webpage hosting Perkins’s news item,

The diamond in the center measures 1 mm X 1 mm. Photo/Courtesy of Delft University of Technolgy/UC Santa Barbara

I’m not sure what they were trying to illustrate with the image but I thought it would provide an interesting contrast to the video which follows about the world’s first purely diamond ring,

I first came across this ring in Laura Hibberd’s March 22, 2012 piece for Huffington Post. For anyone who feels compelled to find out more about it, here’s the jeweller’s (Shawish) website.

What with the posting about Neal Stephenson and Diamond Age (aka, The Diamond Age Or A Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer; a novel that integrates nanotechnology into a story about the future and ubiquitous diamonds), a quantum computer in a diamond, and this ring, I’ve started to wonder about role diamonds will have in society. Will they be integrated into everyday objects or will they remain objects of desire? My guess is that the diamonds we create by manipulating carbon atoms will be considered everyday items while the ones which have been formed in the bowels of the earth will retain their status.

Rail system and choreography metaphors in a couple of science articles

If you are going to use a metaphor/analogy when you’re writing about a science topic  because you want to reach beyond an audience that’s expert on the topic you’re covering or you want to grab attention from an audience that’s inundated with material, or you want to play (for writers, this can be a form of play [for this writer, anyway]), I think you need to remain true to your metaphor. I realize that’s a lot tougher than it sounds.

I’ve got examples of the use of metaphors/analogies in two recent pieces of science writing.

First, here’s the title for a Jan. 23, 2012 article by Samantha Chan for The Asian Scientist,

Scientists Build DNA Rail System For Nanomotors, Complete With Tracks & Switches

Then, there’s the text where the analogy/metaphor of a railway system with tracks and switchers is developed further and abandoned for origami tiles,

Expanding on previous work with engines traveling on straight tracks, a team of researchers at Kyoto University and the University of Oxford have used DNA building blocks to construct a motor capable of navigating a programmable network of tracks with multiple switches.

In this latest effort, the scientists built a network of tracks and switches atop DNA origami tiles, which made it possible for motor molecules to travel along these rail systems.

Sometimes, the material at hand is the issue. ‘DNA origami tiles’ is a term in this field so Chan can’t change it to ‘DNA origami ties’ which would fit with the railway analogy. By the way, the analogy itself comes from (or was influenced by) the title the scientists chose for their published paper in Nature Nanotechnology (it’s behind a paywall),

A DNA-based molecular motor that can navigate a network of tracks

All in all, this was a skillful attempt to get the most out of a metaphor/analogy.

For my second example, I’m using a Jan. 12, 2012 news release by John Sullivan for Princeton University which was published in Jan. 12, 2012 news item on Nanowerk. Here’s the headline from Princeton,

Ten-second dance of electrons is step toward exotic new computers

This sets up the text for the first few paragraphs (found in both the Princeton news release and the Nanowerk news item),

In the basement of Hoyt Laboratory at Princeton University, Alexei Tyryshkin clicked a computer mouse and sent a burst of microwaves washing across a silicon crystal suspended in a frozen cylinder of stainless steel.

The waves pulsed like distant music across the crystal and deep within its heart, billions of electrons started spinning to their beat.

Reaching into the silicon crystal and choreographing the dance of 100 billion infinitesimal particles is an impressive achievement on its own, but it is also a stride toward developing the technology for powerful machines known as quantum computers.

Sullivan has written some very appealing text for an audience who may or may not know about quantum computers.

Somebody on Nanowerk changed the headline to this,

Choreographing dance of electrons offers promise in pursuit of quantum computers

Here, the title has been skilfully reworded for an audience that knows more quantum computers while retaining the metaphor. Nicely done.

Sullivan’s text goes on to provide a fine explanation of an issue in quantum computing, maintaining coherence, for an audience not expert in quantum computing. The one niggle I do have is a shift in the metaphor,

To understand why it is so hard, imagine circus performers spinning plates on the top of sticks. Now imagine a strong wind blasting across the performance space, upending the plates and sending them crashing to the ground. In the subatomic realm, that wind is magnetism, and much of the effort in the experiment goes to minimizing its effect. By using a magnetically calm material like silicon-28, the researchers are able to keep the electrons spinning together for much longer.

Wasn’t there a way to stay with dance? You could have had dancers spinning props or perhaps the dancers themselves being blown off course and avoided the circus performers. Yes, the circus is more colourful and appealing but, in this instance, I would have worked to maintain the metaphor first introduced, assuming I’d noticed that I’d switched metaphors.

So, I think I can safely say that using metaphors is tougher than it looks.

D-Wave Systems, a Vancouver (Canada) area company gets one step closer to quantum computing

It takes a great deal of nerve to found a startup company for any emerging technology; I’m not sure what it takes to found a startup company that produces quantum computers.

D-Wave Systems: the quantum computing company (based in the Vancouver area) recently announced they were able to employ an 84-qubit calculation in a demonstration calculating what Dexter Johnson at the Nanoclast blog for the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) called ‘notoriously difficult’ Ramsey numbers.

Here’s a brief description of the demonstration (excerpted from the Jan. 12, 2012 article by Bob Yirka for phsyorg.com),

In the research at D-Wave, those involved worked to run a just recently discovered quantum algorithm on an actual quantum computer; in this case, to solve for a two-color Ramsey number, R(m,2), where m= 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8, also known as the “Party Problem” because it’s use can be explained by posing a problem experienced by many party planners, i.e. how to invite the minimum number of guests where one group knows a certain number of others, and another group doesn’t, forcing just the right amount of mingling. Because increasing the number of different kinds of guests increases the difficulty of finding the answer, modern computers aren’t able to find R(5,5) much less anything higher. …

Quantum algorithms take advantage of such facilities [ability to take advantage of quantum mechanics capabilities which allow superconducting circuits to recognize 1 or 0 as current traveling in opposite directions or the existence of both states simultaneously] and allow for the execution of “instructions” far faster than conventional computers ever could. In the demonstration by the D-Wave team, the computer solved for a R(8,2) Ramsey number in just 270 milliseconds using 84 qubits, though just 28 of them were used in actual computation as the rest were delegated to correcting errors. Also, for those that are curious, the answer is 8.

While Yirka goes on to applaud the accomplishment, he notes that it may not be very useful. I think that’s always an issue with the early stages of an emerging technology; it may not prove to have any practical applications now or in the future.

Dexter in his Jan. 12, 2012 blog posting about D-Wave Systems and their recent announcement speaks as someone with lengthy experience dealing with emerging technologies (he provides a little history first [I have removed links from the excerpt, please see the posting for those]),

After erring on the side of caution—if not doubt—when IEEE Spectrum [magazine] cited D-Wave Systems as one of its “Big Losers” two years ago,  it seems that there was a reversal of opinion within this publication back in June of last year when Spectrum covered D-Wave’s first big sale of a quantum computer with an article and then a podcast interview of the company’s CTO.

In the job of covering nanotechnology, one develops—sometimes—a bit more hopeful perspective on the potential of emerging technologies. Basic research that may lead to applications such as quantum computers get more easily pushed up in the development cycle than perhaps they should. So, I have been following the developments of D-Wave for at least the last seven years with a bit more credence than Spectrum had offered the company earlier.

While it may seem that D-Wave is on irreversible upward technological slope, one problem indicated … is that capital may be beginning to dry up.

If so, it would seem almost ironic that after years of not selling anything and attracting a lot of capital, D-Wave would make a $10-million sale and then not be able to get any more funding.

Here’s an excerpt from an interview that Brian Wang had with Geordie Rose, D-Wave’s Chief Technical Officer, for The Next Big Future blog (mentioned in Dexter’s piece) which brings the conundrum Dexter notes into high relief (from Wang’s Dec. 29, 2011 post),

The next 18 months will be a critical period for Dwave systems [sic]. Raising private money has become far more difficult in the current economic conditions. If Dwave were profitable, then they could IPO. If Dwave were not able to become profitable and IPO and could not raise private capital, then there would be the risk of having to shutdown.

According to Wang’s post, D-Wave managed the feat with the Ramsey number two years ago. There was no mention of what they are currently managing to do with their quantum computer.

This is the piece I mentioned yesterday (Jan. 18, 2012) in my posting about the recently released report, Science and Engineering Indicators 2012, from the US National Science Board (NSB) in the context of the government initiative, Startup America, and what I thought was a failure to address the issue of a startup trying to become profitable.

ETA Jan. 22, 2012: Dexter Johnson, Nanoclast blog at the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) mentions the problem in a different context of a recent US initiative to support startup companies through a public/private partnership consortium called the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (AMP), from his Jan. 20, 2012 posting,

My concern is that a small company that has spun itself out from a university, developed some advanced prototypes, lined up their market, and picked their management group still need by some estimates somewhere in the neighborhood of $10 to $30 million to scale up to being an industrial manufacturer of a product.

Dexter’s concern is that AMP funds available for disbursement will only support a limited number of companies as they scale up.

This contrasts with the Canadian situation where it almost none of our smaller companies can get sufficient funds to scale up when they most need it, e.g., D-Wave System’s current situation.

 

Environmental decoherence tackled by University of British Columbia and California researchers

The research team at the University of British Columbia (UBC) proved a theory for the prediction and control of environmental decoherence in a complex system (an important step on the way to quantum computing) while researchers performed experiments at the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) to prove the theory.  Here’s an explanation of decoherence and its impact on quantum computing from the July 20, 2011 UBC news release,

Quantum mechanics states that matter can be in more than one physical state at the same time – like a coin simultaneously showing heads and tails. In small objects like electrons, physicists have had success in observing and controlling these simultaneous states, called “state superpositions.”

Larger, more complex physical systems appear to be in one consistent physical state because they interact and “entangle” with other objects in their environment. This entanglement makes these complex objects “decay” into a single state – a process called decoherence.

Quantum computing’s potential to be exponentially faster and more powerful than any conventional computer technology depends on switches that are capable of state superposition – that is, being in the “on” and “off” positions at the same time. Until now, all efforts to achieve such superposition with many molecules at once were blocked by decoherence.

The UBC research team, headed by Phil Stamp, developed a theory for predicting and controlling environmental decoherence in the Iron-8 molecule, which is considered a large complex system.

Iron-8 molecule (image provided by UBC)

This next image represents one of two states of decoherence, i. e., the molecule ‘occupies’ only one of two superpositions, spin up or spin down,

 

Decoherence: occupying either the spin up or spin down position (image provided by UBC)

Here’s how the team at the UCSB proved the theory experimentally,

In their study, Takahashi [Professor Susumu Takahashi is now at the University of Southern California {USC}] and his colleagues investigated single crystals of molecular magnets. Because of their purity, molecular magnets eliminate the extrinsic decoherence, allowing researchers to calculate intrinsic decoherence precisely.

“For the first time, we’ve been able to predict and control all the environmental decoherence mechanisms in a very complex system – in this case a large magnetic molecule,” said Phil Stamp, University of British Columbia professor of physics and astronomy and director of the Pacific Institute of Theoretical Physics.

Using crystalline molecular magnets allowed researchers to build qubits out of an immense quantity of quantum particles rather than a single quantum object – the way most proto-quantum computers are built at the moment.

I did try to find definitions for extrinsic and intrinsic decoherence unfortunately the best I could find is the one provided by USC (from the news item on Nanowerk),

Decoherence in qubit systems falls into two general categories. One is an intrinsic decoherence caused by constituents in the qubit system, and the other is an extrinsic decoherence caused by imperfections of the system - impurities and defects, for example.

I have a conceptual framework of sorts for a ‘qubit system’, I just don’t understand what they mean by ‘system’. I performed an internet search and virtually all of the references I found to intrinsic and extrinsic decoherence cite this news release or, in a few cases, papers written by physicists for other physicists. If anyone could help clarify this question for me, I would much appreciate it.

Leaving extrinsic and intrinsic systems aside, the July 20, 2011 news item on Science Daily provides a little more detail about the experiment,

In the experiment, the California researchers prepared a crystalline array of Iron-8 molecules in a quantum superposition, where the net magnetization of each molecule was simultaneously oriented up and down. The decay of this superposition by decoherence was then observed in time — and the decay was spectacularly slow, behaving exactly as the UBC researchers predicted.

“Magnetic molecules now suddenly appear to have serious potential as candidates for quantum computing hardware,” said Susumu Takahashi, assistant professor of chemistry and physics at the University of Southern California.

Congratulations to all of the researchers involved.

ETA July 22, 2011: I changed the title to correct the grammar.

Siemens, nano, and advertising

The product is called the Simatic IPC227D Nanobox PC and it’s from Siemens. Of course, the ‘nano’ is what caught my attention. For the record, I could find no mention of this being a nanotechnology-enabled product; it appears that this is purely an advertising/marketing ploy. From the May 3, 2011 news item on physorg.com,

The nano-format PC uses new, high-performance Atom [emphasis mine] processors from Intel. These processors consume little energy and generate almost no heat, which is why the computer doesn’t need a fan and can be installed practically anywhere. In its basic configuration, the computer measures only 19 x 10 x 6 centimeters and is completely maintenance-free. Instead of a hard disk, it has temperature-resistant CompactFlash cards with up to eight gigabytes of capacity or solid-state drives (SSDs) of at least 50 gigabytes. What’s more, the BIOS setup data is magnetically stored so that no batteries are needed as a safeguard.

The compact computer is also available for display and operating systems. Known as the Simatic HMI IPC277D Nanopanel PC, this version is embedded with 7-inch, 9-inch, or 12-inch high-resolution industrial touch displays. The displays consume very little power, thanks to LED backlighting that can be dimmed by up to 100 percent.

The Atom processor from Intel is not a single atom processor, this too is an advertising/marketing ploy.

Coincidentally, I came across this news item on Nanowerk, Single atom stores quantum information on the same day. From the news item,

A data memory can hardly be any smaller: researchers working with Gerhard Rempe at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics in Garching have stored quantum information in a single atom. The researchers wrote the quantum state of single photons, i.e. particles of light, into a rubidium atom and read it out again after a certain storage time (“A single-atom quantum memory”). This technique can be used in principle to design powerful quantum computers and to network them with each other across large distances.

I do find it a bit confusing when companies use terms for marketing purposes in ways that could be construed as misleading. Or perhaps it’s only misleading for someone like me, not really scientific but not really ‘general public’ material either.

At last, Fast Company and IEEE’s Nanoclast brought together—by quantum computing

Addy Dugdale at Fast Company has written an article about one of the latest advances toward quantum computing,

Quantum computing just got a little bit closer, after an Australian team of researchers unveiled a seven-atom transistor. Measuring just four billionths of a meter and embedded in a single silicon crystal, it acts as a switch on a chip and paves the way for faster processing in an even smaller package. The team, from the Centre of Quantum Technology at the University of New South Wales, did the tricky stuff by hand, which means that commercial versions of their breakthrough will be at least five years away.

The research is pretty exciting stuff and Dexter Johnson (Nanoclast at the IEEE [Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers]) helps put the feat into perspective,

The quantum computer is one of those technologies that gets held out as some sort of Holy Grail and remains just as elusive with those who have claimed to have achieved it being regarded with a high degree of skepticism.

One avenue that has been pursued in realizing a solid-state quantum computer has been the use of quantum dots as the building block.

Quantum dots are a strange phenomenon. Spectrum [an IEEE publication] Editor, Eric Guizzo, described them nicely in the quantum computer application as …

So as not to copy Dexter’s entire post here, let’s just say quantum dots can make the process of calculating much faster. But there are problems with using quantum dots as was noted in my May 12, 2010 posting about research at McGill University,

Dr. Peter Grütter, McGill’s Associate Dean of Research and Graduate Education, Faculty of Science, explains that his research team has developed a cantilever force sensor that enables individual electrons to be removed and added to a quantum dot and the energy involved in the operation to be measured.

Being able to measure the energy at such infinitesimal levels is an important step in being able to develop an eventual replacement for the silicon chip in computers – the next generation of computing. Computers currently work with processors that contain transistors that are either in an on or off position – conductors and semi-conductors – while quantum computing would allow processors to work with multiple states, vastly increasing their speed while reducing their size even more.

One other important feature noted in the research from McGill is that several dots may be piled on top of each other in such a way that there appears to be only one dot. Measuring the energy would allow researchers to recognize that situation. Maybe the folks in Australia and at McGill could work together? Of course that won’t fix everything as Dexter points out after the lead Australian researcher, Michelle Y. Simmonds, notes the importance of her team’s work,

The research, which was initially published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, marks the first time that it has been possible to dictate the placement and behavior of single atoms within a transistor, according to Simmons.

“We’re basically controlling nature at the atomic scale,” Simmons is quoted as saying. “This is one of the key milestones in building a quantum computer.”

[back to Dexter]

Well, there are issues such as entanglement, the coupling between quibits, to be addressed, but it is a step towards quantum computers.

Physicists at McGill get one step closer to quantum computing

The Québec nanotechnology scene has been quite active lately with yet another research team at McGill University (Montréal, Canada) publishing a study. This one comes from a team of physicists whose work constitutes another step in replacing the silicon chips found in computers with semi-conductor  nanocrystals (quantum dots). From the news item on Nanowerk,

Physicists at McGill University have developed a system for measuring the energy involved in adding electrons to semi-conductor nanocrystals, also known as quantum dots – a technology that may revolutionize computing and other areas of science. Dr. Peter Grütter, McGill’s Associate Dean of Research and Graduate Education, Faculty of Science, explains that his research team has developed a cantilever force sensor that enables individual electrons to be removed and added to a quantum dot and the energy involved in the operation to be measured.

Being able to measure the energy at such infinitesimal levels is an important step in being able to develop an eventual replacement for the silicon chip in computers – the next generation of computing. Computers currently work with processors that contain transistors that are either in an on or off position – conductors and semi-conductors – while quantum computing would allow processors to work with multiple states, vastly increasing their speed while reducing their size even more.

Although popularly used to connote something very large, the word “quantum” itself actually means the smallest amount by which certain physical quantities can change. Knowledge of these energy levels enables scientists to understand and predict the electronic properties of the nanoscale systems they are developing.

I like the approach used in this news item. They describe what the scientists have done and include a basic explanation for people like me who might need to be reminded that quantum means small. For anyone interested in reading the research study, this may help you find it,

Dr. Aashish Clerk, Yoichi Miyahara, and Steven D. Bennett of McGill’s Dept. of Physics, and scientists at the Institute for Microstructural Sciences of the National Research Council of Canada contributed to this research, which was published online late yesterday afternoon in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Canadian nano in Ontario; Germany’s position on labeling cosmetics as nano products; combing quantum tangles; 1st undergraduate nanoscale science studies programme in US

Today I have a lot of short news bits. First, there’s some Canadian nanotechnology news. The Ontario government is investing $3.8M in Vive Nano and its environmentally friendly process for creating nano materials and products. The funding is being disbursed through the Ontario government’s Innovation Demonstration Fund.

I took a look at Vive Nano’s website and it’s short on detail. They make the claim that their products are environmentally friendly without substantiating it. On the plus side, there’s a very descriptive video about their process for developing nanoparticles which you can access by selecting ‘our technology’ from the ‘what we do’ pulldown menu on the home page. (If you want to read more details from the news item on Nanowerk, go here.)

I was surprised to find out that Germany had resisted the European Union’s new requirements to label nanotechnology-derived ingredients in cosmetics and beauty products as such. From the news item on Nanwerk,

One of the key elements of the new streamlined laws is a clause requiring companies to print the word ‘nano’ in brackets after any ingredient which is smaller than 100 nanometres in size.
“All ingredients present in the form of nanomaterials shall be clearly indicated in the list of ingredients,” according to the new legislation.
However, Germany took the view (pdf download) that highlighting the fact that a product contains nanomaterials could be viewed by consumers as a warning.
German officials noted that cosmetic products that are for sale in the EU must already pass stringent safety tests, implying that the inclusion of nano-scale materials should not warrant additional scrutiny.

I believed there was more unanimity of thought regarding labeling and concerns about health and safety regarding emerging technologies in the European Union (EU). In hindsight, I suspect that’s because most of the material I read about the EU is written after the discussions and disagreements have been resolved or smoothed over in some way.

I’ve been wondering where the metaphors have disappeared to in the last few months as the nanotechnology announcements contain fewer and fewer of them. Happily I found a new one the other day. From the news item (Straightening messy correlations with a quantum comb) on Nanowerk,

Quantum computing promises ultra-fast communication, computation and more powerful ways to encrypt sensitive information. But trying to use quantum states as carriers of information is an extremely delicate business. Now two physicists have shown, mathematically, how to gently tease out unwanted knots in quantum communication, while keeping the information intact.

The scientist as a hairdresser? Teasing and combing out knots? It’s very different from the more usual science fiction reference and it hints at creativity (good hairdressers are creative).

The University of Albany is really pulling out all the stops lately. In addition to their NANOvember events they have just announced the first undergraduate programme for nanoscale science studies in the US. From the news item on Nanowerk,

The College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (“CNSE”) of the University at Albany announced today that it is now accepting applications for admission to its groundbreaking undergraduate program, which represents the nation’s first comprehensive baccalaureate curriculum in Nanoscale Science.

As I commented in a previous posting (Nov.9.2009), IBM did invest $1.5B into New York state for a nano research centre and it would seem that this new university programme is very well set to provide future employees.

One more thing, girl scouts. 200 of them were hosted by the CNSE in a Nano Explorations Program. From the news item on Nanowerk,

The event was part of CNSE’s celebration of NANOvember, a month-long community and educational outreach initiative that includes a series of programs and activities highlighting the increasing impact of nanotechnology and the global leadership of the UAlbany NanoCollege in the most important science of the 21st century. The event included a presentation on the emerging science of nanotechnology and the career opportunities it offers; hands-on activities that showcased the role of nanotechnology research and development, with a special focus on clean and renewable energy technologies; a gowning demonstration that illustrated how researchers prepare to work in CNSE’s state-of-the-art cleanrooms; and tours of CNSE’s Albany NanoTech Complex, with tools and facilities that are unmatched at any university in the world.

What really impresses me with the NANOvember programming is the range and imagination they’ve used to communicate about nanotechnology.