Tag Archives: RUSNANO

A Russia-China high technology investment fund announced

My Sept. 12, 2014 posting mentioned a proposed joint China-Russia nanotechnology investment fund which has now been realized (and changed somewhat). From a Jan. 19, 2016 news item on sputniknews.com,

Russia’s Rusnano nanotechnology company has established a $500-million joint investment fund with the Chinese Zhongrong International Trust, Rusnano CEO Anatoly Chubais said Tuesday.

The agreement between the companies was signed by Chubais and Zhongrong International Trust Chairman Fang Tao, the statement by Rusnano confirmed.

“Zhongrong is one of the largest financial institutes in the Asia-Pacific region that specializes in private equity and financing of large-scale innovative projects… Our partnership is aimed at the creation of new competitive products with the prospect of their launch both in Russia and China, as well as worldwide,” Chubais said, as quoted by Rusnano’s press center.

A Jan. 19, 2016 RUSNANO press release, which originated the news item, provides more details abut the deal and about RUSNANO (Note: A link has been removed),

At the first stage, the RUSNANO Zhongrong United Investment Fund will have $500 mln of capital under management. The Partners of the Fund, RUSNANO Group and Zhongrong Trust International Co., LTD. (Zhongrong), will provide their equity investments in equal portions and establish a joint management company.

The Fund’s investment focus will be concentrated on projects in the growth stage aimed at application, development, and transfer of high technologies (related to electric power industry (including RES), oil and gas industry, as well as microelectronics and biotechnologies) to Russia. It is envisaged that investments into the projects and project companies will be effected on the territory of Russia (not less than 70 %), China, and other countries.

RUSNANO was founded as an open joint stock company in March 2011, through reorganization of state corporation Russian Corporation of Nanotechnologies. RUSNANO is instrumental in realizing government policies for nanoindustry growth, investing in financially effective high-technology projects that guarantee the development of new manufacturing within the Russian Federation. The company invests in nanotechnology companies directly and through investment funds. Its primary investment focus is in electronics, optoelectronics and telecommunications, healthcare and biotechnology, metallurgy and metalwork, energy, mechanical engineering and instrument making, construction and industrial materials, and chemicals and petrochemicals. The Government of the Russian Federation owns 100 percent of the shares in RUSNANO.

Work to establish nanotechnology infrastructure and carry out educational programs is fulfilled by RUSNANO’s Fund for Infrastructure and Educational Programs, which was also established during the reorganization of the Russian Corporation of Nanotechnologies.

Management of the investment assets of RUSNANO are carried out by a limited liability company established in December 2013, RUSNANO Asset Management. Anatoly Chubais is chairman of its Executive Board.

Presumably, the amount is in US dollars (USD). In 2014 when I first stumbled across an English language media announcement about this fund, China was considering ways to make its own currency (Renmibis) an international standard (mentioned in the Sept. 12, 2014 posting). Of course, China’s recent stock market collapse (a Jan. 18, 2016 CNN news article by Andrew Stevens with
Jessie Jiang and Shen Lu provides more details and insight into the collapse) must have been a setback for those currency plans but it’s interesting to see China has pushed ahead with this investment fund.

DARPA (US Defense Advanced Research Project Agency) ‘Atoms to Product’ program launched

It took over a year after announcing the ‘Atoms to Product’ program in 2014 for DARPA (US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) to select 10 proponents for three projects. Before moving onto the latest announcement, here’s a description of the ‘Atoms to Product’ program from its Aug. 27, 2014 announcement on Nanowerk,

Many common materials exhibit different and potentially useful characteristics when fabricated at extremely small scales—that is, at dimensions near the size of atoms, or a few ten-billionths of a meter. These “atomic scale” or “nanoscale” properties include quantized electrical characteristics, glueless adhesion, rapid temperature changes, and tunable light absorption and scattering that, if available in human-scale products and systems, could offer potentially revolutionary defense and commercial capabilities. Two as-yet insurmountable technical challenges, however, stand in the way: Lack of knowledge of how to retain nanoscale properties in materials at larger scales, and lack of assembly capabilities for items between nanoscale and 100 microns—slightly wider than a human hair.

DARPA has created the Atoms to Product (A2P) program to help overcome these challenges. The program seeks to develop enhanced technologies for assembling atomic-scale pieces. It also seeks to integrate these components into materials and systems from nanoscale up to product scale in ways that preserve and exploit distinctive nanoscale properties.

DARPA’s Atoms to Product (A2P) program seeks to develop enhanced technologies for assembling nanoscale items, and integrating these components into materials and systems from nanoscale up to product scale in ways that preserve and exploit distinctive nanoscale properties.

A Dec. 29, 2015 news item on Nanowerk features the latest about the project,

DARPA recently selected 10 performers to tackle this challenge: Zyvex Labs, Richardson, Texas; SRI, Menlo Park, California; Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts; University of Notre Dame, South Bend, Indiana; HRL Laboratories, Malibu, California; PARC, Palo Alto, California; Embody, Norfolk, Virginia; Voxtel, Beaverton, Oregon; Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts; and Draper Laboratory, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

A Dec. 29, 2015 DARPA news release, which originated the news item, offers more information and an image illustrating the type of advances already made by one of the successful proponents,

DARPA recently launched its Atoms to Product (A2P) program, with the goal of developing technologies and processes to assemble nanometer-scale pieces—whose dimensions are near the size of atoms—into systems, components, or materials that are at least millimeter-scale in size. At the heart of that goal was a frustrating reality: Many common materials, when fabricated at nanometer-scale, exhibit unique and attractive “atomic-scale” behaviors including quantized current-voltage behavior, dramatically lower melting points and significantly higher specific heats—but they tend to lose these potentially beneficial traits when they are manufactured at larger “product-scale” dimensions, typically on the order of a few centimeters, for integration into devices and systems.

“The ability to assemble atomic-scale pieces into practical components and products is the key to unlocking the full potential of micromachines,” said John Main, DARPA program manager. “The DARPA Atoms to Product Program aims to bring the benefits of microelectronic-style miniaturization to systems and products that combine mechanical, electrical, and chemical processes.”

The program calls for closing the assembly gap in two steps: From atoms to microns and from microns to millimeters. Performers are tasked with addressing one or both of these steps and have been assigned to one of three working groups, each with a distinct focus area.

A2P

Image caption: Microscopic tools such as this nanoscale “atom writer” can be used to fabricate minuscule light-manipulating structures on surfaces. DARPA has selected 10 performers for its Atoms to Product (A2P) program whose goal is to develop technologies and processes to assemble nanometer-scale pieces—whose dimensions are near the size of atoms—into systems, components, or materials that are at least millimeter-scale in size. (Image credit: Boston University)

Here’s more about the projects and the performers (proponents) from the A2P performers page on the DARPA website,

Nanometer to Millimeter in a Single System – Embody, Draper and Voxtel

Current methods to treat ligament injuries in warfighters [also known as, soldiers]—which account for a significant portion of reported injuries—often fail to restore pre-injury performance, due to surgical complexities and an inadequate supply of donor tissue. Embody is developing reinforced collagen nanofibers that mimic natural ligaments and replicate the biological and biomechanical properties of native tissue. Embody aims to create a new standard of care and restore pre-injury performance for warfighters and sports injury patients at a 50% reduction compared to current costs.

Radio Frequency (RF) systems (e.g., cell phones, GPS) have performance limits due to alternating current loss. In lower frequency power systems this is addressed by braiding the wires, but this is not currently possibly in cell phones due to an inability to manufacture sufficiently small braided wires. Draper is developing submicron wires that can be braided using DNA self-assembly methods. If successful, portable RF systems will be more power efficient and able to send 10 times more information in a given channel.

For seamless control of structures, physics and surface chemistry—from the atomic-level to the meter-level—Voxtel Inc. and partner Oregon State University are developing an efficient, high-rate, fluid-based manufacturing process designed to imitate nature’s ability to manufacture complex multimaterial products across scales. Historically, challenges relating to the cost of atomic-level control, production speed, and printing capability have been effectively insurmountable. This team’s new process will combine synthesis and delivery of materials into a massively parallel inkjet operation that draws from nature to achieve a DNA-like mediated assembly. The goal is to assemble complex, 3-D multimaterial mixed organic and inorganic products quickly and cost-effectively—directly from atoms.

Optical Metamaterial Assembly – Boston University, University of Notre Dame, HRL and PARC.

Nanoscale devices have demonstrated nearly unlimited power and functionality, but there hasn’t been a general- purpose, high-volume, low-cost method for building them. Boston University is developing an atomic calligraphy technique that can spray paint atoms with nanometer precision to build tunable optical metamaterials for the photonic battlefield. If successful, this capability could enhance the survivability of a wide range of military platforms, providing advanced camouflage and other optical illusions in the visual range much as stealth technology has enabled in the radar range.

The University of Notre Dame is developing massively parallel nanomanufacturing strategies to overcome the requirement today that most optical metamaterials must be fabricated in “one-off” operations. The Notre Dame project aims to design and build optical metamaterials that can be reconfigured to rapidly provide on-demand, customized optical capabilities. The aim is to use holographic traps to produce optical “tiles” that can be assembled into a myriad of functional forms and further customized by single-atom electrochemistry. Integrating these materials on surfaces and within devices could provide both warfighters and platforms with transformational survivability.

HRL Laboratories is working on a fast, scalable and material-agnostic process for improving infrared (IR) reflectivity of materials. Current IR-reflective materials have limited use, because reflectivity is highly dependent on the specific angle at which light hits the material. HRL is developing a technique for allowing tailorable infrared reflectivity across a variety of materials. If successful, the process will enable manufacturable materials with up to 98% IR reflectivity at all incident angles.

PARC is working on building the first digital MicroAssembly Printer, where the “inks” are micrometer-size particles and the “image” outputs are centimeter-scale and larger assemblies. The goal is to print smart materials with the throughput and cost of laser printers, but with the precision and functionality of nanotechnology. If successful, the printer would enable the short-run production of large, engineered, customized microstructures, such as metamaterials with unique responses for secure communications, surveillance and electronic warfare.

Flexible, General Purpose Assembly – Zyvex, SRI, and Harvard.

Zyvex aims to create nano-functional micron-scale devices using customizable and scalable manufacturing that is top-down and atomically precise. These high-performance electronic, optical, and nano-mechanical components would be assembled by SRI micro-robots into fully-functional devices and sub-systems such as ultra-sensitive sensors for threat detection, quantum communication devices, and atomic clocks the size of a grain of sand.

SRI’s Levitated Microfactories will seek to combine the precision of MEMS [micro-electromechanical systems] flexures with the versatility and range of pick-and-place robots and the scalability of swarms [an idea Michael Crichton used in his 2002 novel Prey to induce horror] to assemble and electrically connect micron and millimeter components to build stronger materials, faster electronics, and better sensors.

Many high-impact, minimally invasive surgical techniques are currently performed only by elite surgeons due to the lack of tactile feedback at such small scales relative to what is experienced during conventional surgical procedures. Harvard is developing a new manufacturing paradigm for millimeter-scale surgical tools using low-cost 2D layer-by-layer processes and assembly by folding, resulting in arbitrarily complex meso-scale 3D devices. The goal is for these novel tools to restore the necessary tactile feedback and thereby nurture a new degree of dexterity to perform otherwise demanding micro- and minimally invasive surgeries, and thus expand the availability of life-saving procedures.

Sidebar

‘Sidebar’ is my way of indicating these comments have little to do with the matter at hand but could be interesting factoids for you.

First, Zyvex Labs was last mentioned here in a Sept. 10, 2014 posting titled: OCSiAL will not be acquiring Zyvex. Notice that this  announcement was made shortly after DARPA’s A2P program was announced and that OCSiAL is one of RUSNANO’s (a Russian funding agency focused on nanotechnology) portfolio companies (see my Oct. 23, 2015 posting for more).

HRL Laboratories, mentioned here in an April 19, 2012 posting mostly concerned with memristors (nanoscale devices that mimic neural or synaptic plasticity), has its roots in Howard Hughes’s research laboratories as noted in the posting. In 2012, HRL was involved in another DARPA project, SyNAPSE.

Finally and minimally, PARC also known as, Xerox PARC, was made famous by Steven Jobs and Steve Wozniak when they set up their own company (Apple) basing their products on innovations that PARC had rejected. There are other versions of the story and one by Malcolm Gladwell for the New Yorker May 16, 2011 issue which presents a more complicated and, at times, contradictory version of that particular ‘origins’ story.

Russians offer nanotechnology report at Paris Climate talks

Sadly I cannot find the report presented by the Russians  at the Paris Climate Talks (also known as World Climate Change Conference 2015 [COP21]) but did find this reference to it in a Dec. 7, 2015 article in the New York Times,

One of the surprises of the Paris climate talks was the sudden interest by Russia in appearing as a player in the efforts to reel in greenhouse gases.

The second part occurred on Monday, when an event was added to the schedule of news briefings: “Russia Proposes a New Approach to Climate Change.”

And so Russia did, putting forth a plan — and a report — that in the end seemed largely geared toward promoting a government-funded business, run by a prominent politician.

The Russian Times (rt.com) published a Nov. 30, 2015 article detailing President Vladimir Putin’s address to the conference attendees,

“We have gone beyond the target fixed by the Kyoto Protocol for the period from 1991 to 2012. Russia not only prevented the growth of greenhouse gas emission, by also significantly reduced it,” Putin said.

“Nearly 40 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent weren’t released into the atmosphere. As a comparison, the total emissions of all countries in 2012 reached 46 billion tons.”

Russia is planning to keep progressing by bringing breakthrough technologies into practice, “including nanotechnology,” Putin continued saying the country is also open to exchange and share the findings.

Apart from that, Putin has also promised Russia will reduce its polluting emissions by 70 percent by 2030 as compared to base level in 1990.

A Dec. 8, 2015 article by Jasper Nikki De La Cruz for The Science Times provides more detail about the Russian report/proposal (Note: A link has been removed),

Russia proposes a “New Approach” when it comes to dealing with climate change. The proposal focuses on efforts to reduce emissions involving five materials: steel, cement, aluminum, plastic and paper. The proposal is not on the reduction of the production of these materials but rather making these materials lighter, stronger and more efficient. With this approach, nanotechnology is put into the spotlight as the primary technology in making this proposal possible in real-world applications.

Rusnano is a company that is dedicated to nanotechnology. They received $10B of funding from the Russian government. They are pegged to be the frontrunner in research and application of nanotechnology in the production of the mentioned materials.

“Carbon nanotubes have been shown to toughen aluminum, make plastics conductive, extend the life of lithium-ion batteries,” Anatoly B. Chubais, Rusnano founder, said. “So all that is true. Tangentially, that can then lower CO2 emissions, I suppose.”

James Tour, a scientist at Rice University, commented for the New York Times Dec. 7, 2015 article on this suggestion that greater use of carbon nanotubes could reduce emissions,

A report laying out the materials thesis rested heavily on contentions about the use of carbon nanotubes. For a moment that puzzled James M. Tour, a professor of chemistry and materials science at Rice University and an expert on nanomaterials, who was asked about the proposal.

“Carbon nanotubes have been shown to toughen aluminum, make plastics conductive, extend the life of lithium-ion batteries,” he said in an email. “So all that is true. Tangentially, that can then lower CO2 emissions, I suppose.”

But, he added, “All of the above was well known long before Rusnano came around.”

Reporters, too, were confused. When one asked whether the announcement was “a distraction from real action,” Mr. Chubais said the proposal was a means to the same end.

I don’t find the Russian proposal all that outlandish although the emphasis on carbon nanotubes seems a bit outsized (pun intended). In any event, there’s certainly a role for emerging technologies to play in the attempts to change our lifestyles and ameliorate climate change.

Global overview of nano-enabled food and agriculture regulation

First off, this post features an open access paper summarizing global regulation of nanotechnology in agriculture and food production. From a Sept. 11, 2015 news item on Nanowerk,

An overview of regulatory solutions worldwide on the use of nanotechnology in food and feed production shows a differing approach: only the EU and Switzerland have nano-specific provisions incorporated in existing legislation, whereas other countries count on non-legally binding guidance and standards for industry. Collaboration among countries across the globe is required to share information and ensure protection for people and the environment, according to the paper …

A Sept. 11, 2015 European Commission Joint Research Centre press release (also on EurekAlert*), which originated the news item, summarizes the paper in more detail (Note: Links have been removed),

The paper “Regulatory aspects of nanotechnology in the agri/feed/food sector in EU and non-EU countries” reviews how potential risks or the safety of nanotechnology are managed in different countries around the world and recognises that this may have implication on the international market of nano-enabled agricultural and food products.

Nanotechnology offers substantial prospects for the development of innovative products and applications in many industrial sectors, including agricultural production, animal feed and treatment, food processing and food contact materials. While some applications are already marketed, many other nano-enabled products are currently under research and development, and may enter the market in the near future. Expected benefits of such products include increased efficacy of agrochemicals through nano-encapsulation, enhanced bioavailability of nutrients or more secure packaging material through microbial nanoparticles.

As with any other regulated product, applicants applying for market approval have to demonstrate the safe use of such new products without posing undue safety risks to the consumer and the environment. Some countries have been more active than others in examining the appropriateness of their regulatory frameworks for dealing with the safety of nanotechnologies. As a consequence, different approaches have been adopted in regulating nano-based products in the agri/feed/food sector.

The analysis shows that the EU along with Switzerland are the only ones which have introduced binding nanomaterial definitions and/or specific provisions for some nanotechnology applications. An example would be the EU labelling requirements for food ingredients in the form of ‘engineered nanomaterials’. Other regions in the world regulate nanomaterials more implicitly mainly by building on non-legally binding guidance and standards for industry.

The overview of existing legislation and guidances published as an open access article in the Journal Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology is based on information gathered by the JRC, RIKILT-Wageningen and the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) through literature research and a dedicated survey.

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

Regulatory aspects of nanotechnology in the agri/feed/food sector in EU and non-EU countries by Valeria Amenta, Karin Aschberger, , Maria Arena, Hans Bouwmeester, Filipa Botelho Moniz, Puck Brandhoff, Stefania Gottardo, Hans J.P. Marvin, Agnieszka Mech, Laia Quiros Pesudo, Hubert Rauscher, Reinhilde Schoonjans, Maria Vittoria Vettori, Stefan Weigel, Ruud J. Peters. Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology Volume 73, Issue 1, October 2015, Pages 463–476 doi:10.1016/j.yrtph.2015.06.016

This is the most inclusive overview I’ve seen yet. The authors cover Asian countries, South America, Africa, and the MIddle East, as well as, the usual suspects in Europe and North America.

Given I’m a Canadian blogger I feel obliged to include their summary of the Canadian situation (Note: Links have been removed),

4.2. Canada

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), who have recently joined the Health Portfolio of Health Canada, are responsible for food regulation in Canada. No specific regulation for nanotechnology-based food products is available but such products are regulated under the existing legislative and regulatory frameworks.11 In October 2011 Health Canada published a “Policy Statement on Health Canada’s Working Definition for Nanomaterials” (Health Canada, 2011), the document provides a (working) definition of NM which is focused, similarly to the US definition, on the nanoscale dimensions, or on the nanoscale properties/phenomena of the material (see Annex I). For what concerns general chemicals regulation in Canada, the New Substances (NS) program must ensure that new substances, including substances that are at the nano-scale (i.e. NMs), are assessed in order to determine their toxicological profile ( Environment Canada, 2014). The approach applied involves a pre-manufacture and pre-import notification and assessment process. In 2014, the New Substances program published a guidance aimed at increasing clarity on which NMs are subject to assessment in Canada ( Environment Canada, 2014).

Canadian and US regulatory agencies are working towards harmonising the regulatory approaches for NMs under the US-Canada Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC) Nanotechnology Initiative.12 Canada and the US recently published a Joint Forward Plan where findings and lessons learnt from the RCC Nanotechnology Initiative are discussed (Canada–United States Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC) 2014).

Based on their summary of the Canadian situation, with which I am familiar, they’ve done a good job of summarizing. Here are a few of the countries whose regulatory instruments have not been mentioned here before (Note: Links have been removed),

In Turkey a national or regional policy for the responsible development of nanotechnology is under development (OECD, 2013b). Nanotechnology is considered as a strategic technological field and at present 32 nanotechnology research centres are working in this field. Turkey participates as an observer in the EFSA Nano Network (Section 3.6) along with other EU candidate countries Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and Montenegro (EFSA, 2012). The Inventory and Control of Chemicals Regulation entered into force in Turkey in 2008, which represents a scale-down version of the REACH Regulation (Bergeson et al. 2010). Moreover, the Ministry of Environment and Urban Planning published a Turkish version of CLP Regulation (known as SEA in Turkish) to enter into force as of 1st June 2016 (Intertek).

The Russian legislation on food safety is based on regulatory documents such as the Sanitary Rules and Regulations (“SanPiN”), but also on national standards (known as “GOST”) and technical regulations (Office of Agricultural Affairs of the USDA, 2009). The Russian policy on nanotechnology in the industrial sector has been defined in some national programmes (e.g. Nanotechnology Industry Development Program) and a Russian Corporation of Nanotechnologies was established in 2007.15 As reported by FAO/WHO (FAO/WHO, 2013), 17 documents which deal with the risk assessment of NMs in the food sector were released within such federal programs. Safe reference levels on nanoparticles impact on the human body were developed and implemented in the sanitary regulation for the nanoforms of silver and titanium dioxide and, single wall carbon nanotubes (FAO/WHO, 2013).

Other countries included in this overview are Brazil, India, Japan, China, Malaysia, Iran, Thailand, Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand, US, South Africa, South Korea, Switzerland, and the countries of the European Union.

*EurekAlert link added Sept. 14, 2015.

Russians and Chinese get cozy and talk nano

The Moscow Times has a couple of interesting stories about China and Russia. The first one to catch my eye was this one about Rusnano (Russian Nanotechnologies Corporation) and its invitation to create a joint China-Russian nanotechnology investment fund. From a Sept. 9, 2014 Moscow Times news item,

Rusnano has invited Chinese partners to create a joint fund for investment in nanotechnology, Anatoly Chubais, head of the state technology enterprise, was quoted as saying Tuesday [Sept. 9, 2014] by Prime news agency.

Russia is interested in working with China on nanotechnology as Beijing already invests “gigantic” sums in that sphere, Chubais said.

Perhaps the most interesting piece of news was in the last paragraph of that news item,

Moscow is pivoting toward the east to soften the impact of Western sanctions imposed on Russia over its role in Ukraine. …

Another Sept. 9, 2014 Moscow Times news item expands on the theme of Moscow pivoting east,

Russia and China pledged on Tuesday [Sept. 9, 2014] to settle more bilateral trade in ruble and yuan and to enhance cooperation between banks, First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov said, as Moscow seeks to cushion the effects of Western economic sanctions [as a consequence of the situation in the Ukraine].

Russia and China pledged on Tuesday to settle more bilateral trade in ruble and yuan and to enhance cooperation between banks, First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov said, as Moscow seeks to cushion the effects of Western economic sanctions.

For China, curtailing [the] dollar’s influence fits well with its ambitions to increase the clout of the yuan and turn it into a global reserve currency one day. With 32 percent of its $4 trillion foreign exchange reserves invested in U.S. government debt, Beijing wants to curb investment risks in dollars.

….

China and Russia signed a $400 billion gas supply deal in May [2014], securing the world’s top energy user a major source of cleaner fuel and opening a new market for Moscow as it risks losing European clients over the Ukraine crisis.

This is an interesting turn of events given that China and Russia (specifically the entity known as Soviet Union) have not always had the friendliest of relations almost going to war in 1969 over territorial disputes (Wikipedia entries: Sino-Soviet border conflict and China-Russian Border).

In any event, China may have its own reasons for turning to Russia at this time. According to Jack Chang of Associated Press (Sept. 11, 2014 article on the American Broadcasting News website), there is a major military buildup taking place in Asia as the biggest defence budget in Japan’s history has been requested, Vietnam doubles military spending, and the Philippines assembles a larger naval presence. In addition, India and South Korea are also investing in their military forces. (I was at a breakfast meeting [scroll down for the speaker’s video] in Jan. 2014 about Canada’s trade relations with Asia when a table companion [who’d worked for the Canadian International Development Agency, knew the Asian region very well, and had visited recently] commented that many countries such as Laos and Cambodia were very tense about China’s resurgence and its plans for the region.)

One final tidbit, this comes at an interesting juncture in the US science enterprise. After many years of seeing funding rise, the US National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) saw its 2015 budget request shrink by $200M US from its 2014 budget allotment (first mentioned here in a March 31, 2014 posting).

Sometimes an invitation to create a joint investment fund isn’t just an invitation.

Flexible, graphene-based display: first ever?

It seems like there’s been a lot of discussion about flexible displays, graphene or not, over the years so the announcement of the first graphene-based flexible display might seem a little anticlimactic. That’s one of the problems with the technology and science communities. Sometimes there’s so much talk about an idea or concept that by the time it becomes reality people think it’s already been done and is not news.

So, kudos to the folks at the University of Cambridge who have been working on this development for a long time. From a Sept. 10, 2014 news release on EurekAlert,

The partnership between the two organisations combines the graphene expertise of the Cambridge Graphene Centre (CGC), with the transistor and display processing steps that Plastic Logic has already developed for flexible electronics. This prototype is a first example of how the partnership will accelerate the commercial development of graphene, and is a first step towards the wider implementation of graphene and graphene-like materials into flexible electronics.

The new prototype is an active matrix electrophoretic display, similar to the screens used in today’s e-readers, except it is made of flexible plastic instead of glass. In contrast to conventional displays, the pixel electronics, or backplane, of this display includes a solution-processed graphene electrode, which replaces the sputtered metal electrode layer within Plastic Logic’s conventional devices, bringing product and process benefits.

Graphene is more flexible than conventional ceramic alternatives like indium-tin oxide (ITO) and more transparent than metal films. The ultra-flexible graphene layer may enable a wide range of products, including foldable electronics. Graphene can also be processed from solution bringing inherent benefits of using more efficient printed and roll-to-roll manufacturing approaches.

The new 150 pixel per inch (150 ppi) backplane was made at low temperatures (less than 100°C) using Plastic Logic’s Organic Thin Film Transistor (OTFT) technology. The graphene electrode was deposited from solution and subsequently patterned with micron-scale features to complete the backplane.

For this prototype, the backplane was combined with an electrophoretic imaging film to create an ultra-low power and durable display. Future demonstrations may incorporate liquid crystal (LCD) and organic light emitting diodes (OLED) technology to achieve full colour and video functionality. Lightweight flexible active-matrix backplanes may also be used for sensors, with novel digital medical imaging and gesture recognition applications already in development.

“We are happy to see our collaboration with Plastic Logic resulting in the first graphene-based electrophoretic display exploiting graphene in its pixels’ electronics,” said Professor Andrea Ferrari, Director of the Cambridge Graphene Centre. “This is a significant step forward to enable fully wearable and flexible devices. This cements the Cambridge graphene-technology cluster and shows how an effective academic-industrial partnership is key to help move graphene from the lab to the factory floor.”

As an example of how long this development has been in the works, I have a Nov. 7, 2011 posting about a University of Cambridge stretchable, electronic skin produced by what was then the university’s Nokia Research Centre. That ‘skin’ was a big step forward to achieving a phone/device/flexible display (the Morph), wrappable around your wrist, first publicized in 2008 as I noted in a March 30, 2010 posting.

According to the news release, there should be some more news soon,

This joint effort between Plastic Logic and the CGC was also recently boosted by a grant from the UK Technology Strategy Board, within the ‘realising the graphene revolution’ initiative. This will target the realisation of an advanced, full colour, OELD based display within the next 12 months.

My colleague Dexter Johnson has offered some business-oriented insight into this development at Cambridge in his Sept. 9, 2014 posting on the Nanoclast blog on the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) website (Note: Links have been removed),

In the UK’s concerted efforts to become a hub for graphene commercialization, one of the key partnerships between academic research and industry has been the one between the Cambridge Graphene Centre located at the University of Cambridge and a number of companies, including Nokia, Dyson, BaE systems, Philips and Plastic Logic. The last on this list, Plastic Logic, was spun out originally from the University of Cambridge in 2000. However, since its beginnings it has required a $200 million investment from RusNano to keep itself afloat back in 2011 for a time called Mountain View, California, home.

The post is well worth reading for anyone interested in the twists and turns of graphene commercialization in the UK.

Snail mail and nanotechnology in Russia

RUSNANO (Russian Nanotechnologies Corporation) has inked a deal with Russia’s postal services according to a May 27, 2014 news item on Nanowerk,

Russian Post (Pochta Rossii) and RUSNANO signed an agreement at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum on cooperation to apply nanotechnology solutions in postal services. The agreement was signed by the CEO of Russian Post, Dmitry Strashnov, and the Executive Chairman of RUSNANO, Anatoly Chubais. Russian Post and RUSNANO create a system for monitoring of postal deliveries.

A May 23, 2014 RUSNANO news release, which originated the news item, provides more detail,

The project involves implementation by Russian Post of a global monitoring system designed on a turnkey basis by RST-Invent LLC, a portfolio company of RUSNANO. The system will provides automatic registration of recorded-delivery mail and international mail passing through the postal network by means of radio frequency identification tags (RFID-tags). As well as supporting the timely delivery of mail, the new system will automate document handling, create mechanisms for mail flow management and improve postal logistics. Most importantly, the introduction of RFID-tags will ensure that post reaches its destination safely and quickly.

The project is scheduled for launch this summer and will be in operation by the end of 2014 at international postal exchange points (airport hubs in Moscow and St. Petersburg), and also at a number of major national and regional sorting offices, transit hubs and mail transportation offices at airports (Vnukovo Logistics Center, Ekaterinburg, Novosibirsk, Nizhny Novgorod, Rostov-on-Don). It is expected that RST-Invent will equip a total of 25 postal exchange points in the course of the project as well as the National Monitoring Centre (NCM), which is being set up as part of the system .

This agreement is an integral part of the strategy for the modernization of Russian Post. The nanotechnology solutions offered by RUSNANO’s portfolio company will be an important tool for improving the business processes of Russian Post.

“RUSNANO technologies will enable us to improve our logistics and control over the quality of mail delivery,” said Dmitry Strashnov. “This agreement means that we can improve the quality of our services and raise levels of customer satisfaction.”

I have two observations about this news. First, if I remember rightly one of the issues with implementing a ‘universal’ RFID tagging system is the cost of the tag. Presumably, the Russians have solved this problem and, further, are prepared to deal with the data these tags will generate.

My second observation is this, the paranoids amongst us are likely to feel vindicated by this news as many suspect wide scale implementation of this technology. For example,I have a paranoid neighbour who is convinced that someone has been using RFID technology in some plot against her (the neighbour).

Foam glass manufacturing facility commissioned in Russia’s Kaluga region

A Dec. 27, 2013 news item on Azlonano features RUSNANO and a foam glass facility in Russia,

On December 20 [2013], Russia’s first and Europe’s major technological complex for the production of foam glass ICM Glass Kaluga, of the project company Rusnano, was commissioned in the industrial park Borovskoye. The ceremony was attended by the Kaluga Region’s Governor Anatoly Artamonov and chairman of Rusnano’s board Anatoly Chubais.

The facility is aimed at hi-tech production of construction materials from foam glass. Broken glass is used as the raw material, which enables effective recycling of solid household rubbish. The complex’s planned capacity is 300,000 cubic metres a year to be achieved by the facility’s 50 employees. The agreed total budget exceeds 1.8 billion roubles ($54 million).

I found more information about the new facility in a Dec.20, 2013 press release (machine translation of Russian into English) here: http://www.newportal.admoblkaluga.ru/main/news/events/detail.php?ID=153747, (I think this is a portal for the Kaluga region)

December 20 [2013] in the industrial park “Vorsino” Borovsky District hosted a ceremony industrial launch of the first in Russia and the largest in Europe and technological complex for the production of crushed stone penostekolnogo LLC “AySiEm Glass Kaluga” – the project company “RUSNANO”. It was attended by Governor Anatoly Artamonov and delegation “RUSNANO” headed by the chairman of the state corporation Anatoly Chubais.

Taken at the enterprise high-tech production of construction material of foamed glass. Feedstock is usual broken glass that facilitates efficient processing of municipal solid waste. The design capacity of the complex is 300 thousand cubic meters per year, the staff – 50 people. The total budget of the project is determined in the amount of more than 1.8 billion rubles.

Talking about the significance of the event, Anatoly Artamonov emphasized perspective of further business cooperation with the State Corporation “Rusnano”. “Our cooperation – an important milestone in the economic development of the Kaluga region, because we have chosen an innovative way and are committed to increase the share of high-tech products”, – assured the governor.

Chairman of the Board of the Civil Code “RUSNANO” Anatoly Chubais also expressed readiness to support the business activities of the Kaluga region. “Today, in the region we run two joint projects. The plans of two more – in the production of innovative pharmaceuticals – with a complete cycle from design to sales. They invested 8 billion rubles, plan – and another 10 billion, “- he said.

On the same day in the office «Freight Village Kaluga» held a meeting at which the parties discussed the details of future cooperation. In order to continue business contacts “RUSNANO” Fund for Infrastructure and Educational Programs with Government organizations and the Kaluga region Anatoly Chubais Anatoly Artamonov and signed the final protocol. The main outcome of the meeting was a joint decision on the establishment of nanotechnology center in Obninsk, which will bring together teams of scientists and professionals working in the field of nanotechnology. Thus, according to Anatoly Chubais, “Kaluga region will be the region, opening a” second wave “nanocenters.”

Reference: In the current year, the regional government in conjunction with the Fund for Infrastructure and Educational Programs of the state corporation “RUSNANO” program was launched to stimulate demand for nanotech products. It provides for the inclusion of 10 per cent of innovation, including nanotechnology products in state and municipal orders. In 2014, with the support of the corporation “RUSNANO” in the region plans to build the center positron emission tomography, “PET-Center”, which will bring a new level not only a primary diagnosis of cancer, but also to monitor the dynamics of the disease, to evaluate the effectiveness of the treatment.

For the curious, here’s more information about foam glass on the ENCO Engineering website,

Foamed glass grain as described in the following is an excellent bulk material for civil construction and insulation purposes. It is a lightweight, extremely fine-pored expanded glass with millions of hermetically sealed pores. Since no diffusion can take place, the material is watertight and achieves an efficient barrier against soil humidity.

Besides the outstanding mechanical and thermal properties of the product, foamed glass manufacture is an exemplary process for waste recycling on an industrial basis. Foam glass can be manufactured fully out of waste glass, with only a minimum of virgin additives.

Foamed glass grain is the product of choice wherever a finely grained, free-flowing bulk material is required. It is especially suitable for thin-walled thermal insulations, such as for window frames, cement bricks and insulating plasters.

ENCO Engineering is a Swiss chemical engineering and consultancy according to the information on the company website’s homepage.

RUSNANO (not dead yet) signs MOU with Alcoa

Despite what appear to be some travails noted in my May 17, 2013 posting, RUSNANO (Russian Corporation of Nanotechnologies) is still making deals as reported in a June 21, 2013 news item on Nanowerk,

Alcoa and RUSNANO will produce technologically advanced oil and gas aluminum drill pipe finished with a life-extending antiwear coating under a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by the companies today. With the help of the Alcoa Technical Center, the parties intend to pursue the potential application of a nanotechnology-based coating for the aluminum drill pipe to enhance its wear resistance in harsh corrosive drilling environments.

Alcoa Chairman and CEO Klaus Kleinfeld and OJSC RUSNANO Chief Executive Officer Anatoly Chubais signed the MOU at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.

The June 21, 2013 Alcoa news release, which originated the news item, provides more details,

“Complex oil and gas development projects require drilling equipment with enhanced capabilities,” Chubais said. “Aluminum drill pipe with antiwear nano-coating would enable directional and deep drilling in aggressive, corrosive environments. We expect our joint efforts with Alcoa will create a differentiated product for customers in the oil and gas industry.”

Mr. Kleinfeld added, “Alcoa’s deep technological capabilities, combined with the expertise of our partner RUSNANO, will open new opportunities for developing the aluminum industry in Russia. Alcoa is setting a high standard for innovation and extending our product range in the oil and gas segment.”

With facilities in Samara and Belaya Kalitva, Alcoa is Russia’s largest producer of fabricated aluminum, manufacturing a wide range of flat rolled products, forgings and extrusions for a variety of end markets including aerospace and automotive. [emphasis mine] Under terms of the MOU, Alcoa will leverage its Samara facility to produce aluminum drill pipe with hot fit tool joints for the country’s oil and gas market. RUSNANO Capital, a subsidiary of OJSC RUSNANO, will contribute capital.

The antiwear nano-coating is expected to extend the life of the aluminum pipe by approximately 30% to 40% in aggressive and corrosive drilling environments compared to uncoated aluminum pipe.

Here’s a little more about the two principles, Alcoa and about RUSNANO, from the news release,

About Alcoa

Alcoa is the world’s leading producer of primary and fabricated aluminum, as well as the world’s largest miner of bauxite and refiner of alumina. In addition to inventing the modern-day aluminum industry, Alcoa innovation has been behind major milestones in the aerospace, automotive, packaging, building and construction, commercial transportation, consumer electronics and industrial markets over the past 125 years. Among the solutions Alcoa markets are flat-rolled products, hard alloy extrusions, and forgings, as well as Alcoa® wheels, fastening systems, precision and investment castings, and building systems in addition to its expertise in other light metals such as titanium and nickel-based super alloys. Sustainability is an integral part of Alcoa’s operating practices and the product design and engineering it provides to customers. Alcoa has been a member of the Dow Jones Sustainability Index for 11 consecutive years and approximately 75 percent of all of the aluminum ever produced since 1888 is still in active use today. Alcoa employs approximately 61,000 people in 30 countries across the world. …

In 2005, the Company acquired two of Russia’s largest fabricating facilities: Samara Metallurgical Plant (now ZAO Alcoa SMZ) and Belaya Kalitva Metallurgical Production Association (now ZAO AMR). [emphasis mine]

About RUSNANO

RUSNANO was founded in March 2011 as an open joint stock company through reorganization of state corporation Russian Corporation of Nanotechnologies. RUSNANO’s mission is to develop the Russian nanotechnology industry through co-investment in nanotechnology projects with substantial economic potential or social benefit. The Government of the Russian Federation owns 100 percent of the shares in RUSNANO. Anatoly Chubais is CEO and chairman of the Executive Board of RUSNANO.

Work to establish nanotechnology infrastructure and training for nanotechnology specialists, formerly conducted by the Russian Corporation of Nanotechnologies, has been entrusted to the Fund for Infrastructure and Educational Programs, a non-commercial fund also established through reorganization of the Russian Corporation of Nanotechnologies.

As for the 2011 founding date for RUSNANO, that appears to be the date it became an open stock company. Here’s more according to the RUSNANO Wikipedia essay (Note: Links and footnotes have been removed),

A law (On the Russian Nanotechnology Corporation) which resulted in the creation of “Russian Corporation of Nanotechnologies” was proposed by several members of the United Russia party on June 2007. The proposal passed its first reading in the State Duma on June 14 and final reading on July 4. The upper house, the Federation Council, approved it on July 6. Initially organised as a state corporation, the company was re-registered on March 11, 2011 as open joint-stock company RUSNANO.

In any event, I’m keeping an eye on RUSNANO as it continues to evolve in the midst of what appears to be a more than usually volatile period for Russia’s state business enterprises.

Russia’s nanotechnology efforts falter?

The title for Leonid Bershidksy’s May 16, 2013 Bloomberg.com article, Power Grab Trumps Nanotechnology in Putin’s Russia, casts an ominous shadow over Rusnano’s situation (Note: Links have been removed),

The projects, known as Rusnano and Skolkovo, were meant to propel Russia’s raw-material economy into the technology age. They involved multibillion-dollar government investments, the first in nanotechnology and the second in a new city that would become Russia’s answer to Silicon Valley. They were supposed to provide the infrastructure and stability required to attract large amounts of foreign investment.

Now, both have become targets in Putin’s campaign to demonstrate that he’s being tough on corruption and mismanagement of government funds. As a result, their chances of succeeding are looking increasingly remote.

Trouble came in April [2013], when the Accounting Chamber, a body charged with auditing government spending, accused Rusnano of inefficient management in a report that received ample coverage on state-owned TV. It said that Rusnano had transferred about $40 million to shell companies and pointed out that a silicon factory in which Rusnano invested about $450 million was not functioning and was about to be declared insolvent. The report also highlighted the state company’s 2012 losses of 2.5 billion rubles ($80 million) and the 24.4-billion-ruble (about $800 million) in reserves Rusnano had formed against potential losses from risky ventures.

Anatoly Medetsky’s Apr. 29, 2013 article for The Moscow Times provides more insight into the situation,

The government’s Audit Chamber on Friday [April 26, 2013] accused state-owned Rusnano of multiple infractions in a blow to the high-tech corporation’s chief, Anatoly Chubais.

The chamber’s critical conclusions followed President Vladimir Putin’s reproof of the company during a live call-in show the previous day.

Auditors made their statement after examining Rusnano’s records in response to a request by Chubais’ political nemesis, the Communist Party.

“The audit’s materials attest that Rusnano’s performance was inappropriate to attain the goals that it was entrusted with, which are the development of the national nano industry,” the Audit Chamber said in a statement.

Auditor Sergei Agaptsov said separately that Rusnano is unlikely to achieve the goal of 300 billion rubles in annual sales of nano-tech products by the companies it co-owns in 2015 — the target that the government set for the company, Interfax reported.

I’m sorry to read about Rusnano’s difficulties especially in light my first piece about it where I compared the Canadian effort unfavourably to, what was then, a relatively new and promising organization in my Apr. 14, 2009 posting. About seventeen months later, officials with Rusnano signed a memorandum of understanding with John Varghese, CEO and Managing Partner of Toronto based venture capital firm, VentureLink Funds as noted in my Sept. 14, 2010 posting. Nothing further seemed to come of that agreement.

I have one last thought about Rusnano’s current travails, will they have an impact on US commercialization efforts? In my Oct. 28, 2011 posting where I was contrasting nanotechnology commercialization efforts by the US, Spain, and Rusnano, I mentioned this deal Rusnano had made with two US nanomedicine companies,

Then RUSNANO announced its investments in Selecta Biosciences and BIND Biosiences, from the Oct. 27, 2011 news item on Nanowerk,

BIND Biosciences and Selecta Biosciences, two leading nanomedicine companies, announced today that they have entered into investment agreements with RUSNANO, a $10-billion Russian Federation fund that supports high-tech and nanotechnology advances. [emphasis mine]

RUSNANO is co-investing $25 million in BIND and $25 million in Selecta, for a total RUSNANO investment of $50 million within the total financing rounds of $94.5 million in the two companies combined. …

The proprietary technology platforms of BIND and Selecta originated in laboratories at Harvard Medical School directed by Professor Omid Farokhzad, MD, and in laboratories at MIT directed by Professor Robert Langer, ScD, a renowned scientist who is a recipient of the US National Medal of Science, the highest US honor for scientists, and is an inventor of approximately 850 patents issued or pending worldwide. Drs. Langer and Farokhzad are founders of both companies.

Ripple effects, eh? Rusnano was very active internationally.

ETA June 14, 2013:  Nanowerk has a June 13, 2013 news item, which updates the situation with the news that Rusnano has opted out of presenting an ‘initial public offering’, aka, listing itself on a stock exchange in 2015 and will instead attract private investment.