Tag Archives: Russia

Diamane—a no pressure road map

Russian and US researchers have produced a road map for creating ‘diamane’, according to a Feb. 3, 2014  Rice University (Texas) news release (available on EurekAlert and also as a Feb. 4, 2014 news item on Azonano),

Perfect sheets of diamond a few atoms thick appear to be possible even without the big squeeze that makes natural gems.

Scientists have speculated about it and a few labs have even seen signs of what they call diamane, an extremely thin film of diamond that has all of diamond’s superior semiconducting and thermal properties.

Now researchers at Rice University and in Russia have calculated a “phase diagram” for the creation of diamane. The diagram is a road map. It lays out the conditions – temperature, pressure and other factors – that would be necessary to turn stacked sheets of graphene into a flawless diamond lattice.

In the process, the researchers determined diamane could be made completely chemically, with no pressure at all, under some circumstances.

The news release provides more into the researchers’ theories and road map,

“Diamanes have a wide potential range of application,” Sorokin [Pavel Sorokin, a former postdoctoral associate at Rice and now a senior researcher at the Technological Institute for Superhard and Novel Carbon Materials in Moscow] said. “They can be applied as very thin, dielectric hard films in nanocapacitors or mechanically stiff, nanothick elements in nanoelectronics. Also, diamanes have potential for application in nano-optics.

“The possibility of obtaining such a quasi-two-dimensional object is intriguing, but available experimental data prevents the expectation of its fabrication using traditional methods. However, the ‘bottom-up’ approach proposed by Richard Feynman allows the fabrication of diamanes from smaller objects, such as graphene.”

The researchers built computer models to simulate the forces applied by every atom involved in the process. That includes the graphene, the single-atom-thick form of carbon and one of the strongest substances in the universe, as well as the hydrogen (or, alternately, a halogen) that promotes the reaction.

Conditions, they learned, need to be just right for a short stack of graphene pancakes to collapse into a diamond matrix – or vice versa – via chemistry.

“A phase diagram shows you which phase dominates the ground state for each pressure and temperature,” Yakobson [Rice theoretical physicist Boris Yakobson] said. “In the case of diamane, the diagram is unusual because the result also depends on thickness, the number of layers of graphene. So we have a new parameter.”

Hydrogen isn’t the only possible catalyst, he said, but it’s the one they used in their calculations. “When the hydrogen attacks, it takes one electron from a carbon atom in graphene. As a result, a bond is broken and another electron is left hanging on the other side of the graphene layer. It’s now free to connect to a carbon atom on the adjacent sheet with little or no pressure.

“If you have several layers, you get a domino effect, where hydrogen starts a reaction on top and it propagates through the bonded carbon system,” he said. “Once it zips all the way through, the phase transition is complete and the crystal structure is that of diamond.”

Yakobson said the paper doesn’t cover a possible deal-breaker. “The conversion from one phase to another starts from a small seed, a nucleation site, and in this process there’s always what is called a nucleation barrier. We don’t calculate that here.” He said carbon normally prefers to be graphite (the bulk form of carbon used as pencil lead) rather than diamond, but a high nucleation barrier prevents diamond from making the transition.

“Thermodynamically, an existing diamond should become graphite, but it doesn’t happen for exactly this reason,” Yakobson said. “So sometimes it’s a good thing. But if we want to make flat diamond, we need to find ways to circumvent this barrier.”

He said the manufacture of synthetic diamond, which was first reliably made in the 1950s, requires very high pressures of about 725,000 pounds per square inch. Manufactured diamonds are used in hardened tools for cutting, as abrasives and even as high-quality gemstones grown via techniques that simulate the temperatures and pressures found deep in Earth, where natural diamond is forged.

Diamond films are also routinely made via chemical vapor deposition, “but they’re always very poor quality because they’re polycrystalline,” Yakobson said. “For mechanical purposes, like very expensive sandpaper, they’re perfect. But for electronics, you would need high quality for it to serve as a wide-band gap semiconductor.”

This image illustrates the conditions necessary to create diamane,

The phase diagram developed by scientists at Rice University and in Moscow describes the conditions necessary for the chemical creation of thin films of diamond from stacks of single-atomic-layer graphene. (Credit: Pavel Sorokin/Technological Institute for Superhard and Novel Carbon Materials)

The phase diagram developed by scientists at Rice University and in Moscow describes the conditions necessary for the chemical creation of thin films of diamond from stacks of single-atomic-layer graphene. (Credit: Pavel Sorokin/Technological Institute for Superhard and Novel Carbon Materials)

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

Phase Diagram of Quasi-Two-Dimensional Carbon, From Graphene to Diamond by Alexander G. Kvashnin, Leonid A. Chernozatonskii, Boris I. Yakobson, and Pavel B. Sorokin. Nano Lett., Article ASAP DOI: 10.1021/nl403938g Publication Date (Web): January 17, 2014
Copyright © 2014 American Chemical Society

This paper is behind a paywall.

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.

News of nanotechnology-enabled recovery of rare earth elements from industrial wastewater and some rare earths context

An Oct. 31, 2013 news item on Azonano features information about rare earth elements and their use in technology along with a new technique for recycling them from wastewater,

Many of today’s technologies, from hybrid car batteries to flat-screen televisions, rely on materials known as rare earth elements (REEs) that are in short supply, but scientists are reporting development of a new method to recycle them from wastewater.

The process, which is described in a study in the journal ACS [American Chemical Society] Applied Materials & Interfaces, could help alleviate economic and environmental pressures facing the REE industry.

… Attempts so far to recycle them from industrial wastewater are expensive or otherwise impractical. A major challenge is that the elements are typically very diluted in these waters. The team knew that a nanomaterial known as nano-magnesium hydroxide, or nano-Mg(OH)2, was effective at removing some metals and dyes from wastewater. So they set out to understand how the compound worked and whether it would efficiently remove diluted REEs, as well.

The Oct. 30, 2013 ACS PressPac news release, which originated the news item, provides a few details about how the scientists tested their approach,

To test their idea, they produced inexpensive nano-Mg(OH)2 particles, whose shapes resemble flowers when viewed with a high-power microscope. They showed that the material captured more than 85 percent of the REEs that were diluted in wastewater in an initial experiment mimicking real-world conditions. “Recycling REEs from wastewater not only saves rare earth resources and protects the environment, but also brings considerable economic benefits,” the researchers state. “The pilot-scale experiment indicated that the self-supported flower-like nano-Mg(OH)2 had great potential to recycle REEs from industrial wastewater.”

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

Recycling Rare Earth Elements from Industrial Wastewater with Flowerlike Nano-Mg(OH)2 by Chaoran Li †‡, Zanyong Zhuang, Feng Huang, Zhicheng Wu, Yangping Hong, and Zhang Lin. ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces, 2013, 5 (19), pp 9719–9725 DOI: 10.1021/am4027967 Publication Date (Web): September 13, 2013

Copyright © 2013 American Chemical Society

As for the short supply mentioned in the first line of the news item, the world’s largest exporter of rare earth elements at 90% of the market, China, recently announced a cap according to a Sept. 6, 2013 article by David Stanway for Reuters. The Chinese government appears to be curtailing exports as part of an ongoing, multi-year strategy. Here’s how Cientifica‘s (an emerging technologies consultancy, etc.) white paper (Simply No Substitute?) about critical materials published in 2012 (?), described the situation,

Despite their name, REE are not that rare in the Earth’s crust. What has happened in the past decade is that REE exports from China undercut prices elsewhere, leading to the closure of mines such as the Mountain Pass REE mine in California. Once China had acquired a dominant market position, prices began to rise. But this situation will likely ease. The US will probably begin REE production from the Mountain Pass mine later in 2012, and mines in other countries are expected to start operation soon as well.

Nevertheless, owing to their broad range of uses REE will continue to exert pressures on their supply – especially for countries without notable REE deposits. This highlights two aspects of importance for strategic materials: actual rarity and strategic supply issues such as these seen for REE. Although strategic and diplomatic supply issues may have easier solutions, their consideration for manufacturing industries will almost be the same – a shortage of crucial supply lines.

Furthermore, as the example of REE shows, the identification of long-term supply problems can often be difficult, and not every government has the same strategic foresight that the Chinese demonstrated. And as new technologies emerge, new elements may see an unexpected, sudden demand in supply. (pp. 16-17)

Meanwhile, in response to China’s decision to cap its 2013 REE exports, the Russian government announced a $1B investment to 2018 in rare earth production,, according to a Sept. 10, 2013 article by Polina Devitt for Reuters.

For those who like to get their information in a more graphic form, here’s an infographic from Thomson Reuters from a May 13, 2012 posting on their eponymous blog,

Rare Earth Metals - Graphic of the Day Credit:  Thomson Reuters [downloaded from http://blog.thomsonreuters.com/index.php/rare-earth-metals-graphic-of-the-day/]

Rare Earth Metals – Graphic of the Day Credit: Thomson Reuters [downloaded from http://blog.thomsonreuters.com/index.php/rare-earth-metals-graphic-of-the-day/]

There is a larger version on  their blog.

All of this serves to explain the interest in recycling REE from industrial wastewater. Surprisingly,, the researchers who developed this new recycling technique are based in China which makes me wonder if the Chinese government sees a future where it too will need to import rare earths as its home sources diminish.

“Control my chirality, please,” said the carbon nanotube to the researchers

A combined Finnish, Russian, and Danish team have found a way to control the chirality of single-walled carbon nanotubes according to an Apr. 30, 2013 news item on Azonano,

An ultimate goal in the field of carbon nanotube research is to synthesise single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs) with controlled chiralities. Twenty years after the discovery of SWNTs, scientists from Aalto University in Finland, A.M. Prokhorov General Physics Institute RAS in Russia and the Center for Electron Nanoscopy of Technical University of Denmark (DTU) have managed to control chirality in carbon nanotubes during their chemical vapor deposition synthesis.

The Aalto University Apr. 29, 2013 news release, which originated the news item, goes on to explain,

 Over the years, substantial progress has been made to develop various structure-controlled synthesis methods. However, precise control over the chiral structure of SWNTs has been largely hindered by a lack of practical means to direct the formation of the metal nanoparticle catalysts and their catalytic dynamics during tube growth.

– We achieved an epitaxial formation of Co nanoparticles by reducing a well-developed solid solution in CO, reveals Maoshuai He, a postdoctoral researcher at Aalto University School of Chemical Technology.

– For the first time, the new catalyst was employed for selective growth of SWNTs, adds senior staff scientist Hua Jiang from Aalto University School of Science.

By introducing the new catalysts into a conventional CVD reactor, the research team demonstrated preferential growth of semiconducting SWNTs (~90%) with an exceptionally high population of (6,5) tubes (53%) at 500 °C. Furthermore, they also showed a shift of the chiral preference from (6,5) tubes at 500 °C  to (7, 6) and (9, 4) nanotubes at 400 °C.

– These findings open new perspectives both for structural control of SWNTs and for elucidating their growth mechanisms, thus are important for the fundamental understanding of science behind nanotube growth, comments Professor Juha Lehtonen from Aalto University.

For anyone like me who needs a description of chirality, there’s this from Wikipedia,

Chirality (pron.: /kaɪˈrælɪtiː/) is a property of asymmetry important in several branches of science. The word chirality is derived from the Greek, χειρ (kheir), “hand”, a familiar chiral object.

An object or a system is chiral if it is not identical to its mirror image, that is, it cannot be superposed onto it. A chiral object and its mirror image are called enantiomorphs (Greek opposite forms) or, when referring to molecules, enantiomers. A non-chiral object is called achiral (sometimes also amphichiral) and can be superposed on its mirror image.

Human hands are perhaps the most universally recognized example of chirality: The left hand is a non-superimposable mirror image of the right hand; no matter how the two hands are oriented, it is impossible for all the major features of both hands to coincide.[2] This difference in symmetry becomes obvious if someone attempts to shake the right hand of a person using his left hand, or if a left-handed glove is placed on a right hand. In mathematics chirality is the property of a figure that is not identical to its mirror image.

One of the researchers notes why they, or anyone else, would want to control the chirality of carbon nanotubes, from the news release,

– Chirality defines the optical and electronic properties of carbon nanotubes, so controlling it is a key to exploiting their practical applications, says Professor Esko I. Kauppinen, the leader of the Nanomaterials Group in Aalto University School of Science.

ETA Apr. 30, 2013 at 4:20 pm PDT: Here’s a link to and a citation for the team’s published paper,

Chiral-Selective Growth of Single-Walled Carbon Nanotubes on Lattice-Mismatched Epitaxial Cobalt Nanoparticles by Maoshuai He, Hua Jiang, Bilu Liu, Pavel V. Fedotov, Alexander I. Chernov, Elena D. Obraztsova, Filippo Cavalca, Jakob B. Wagner, Thomas W. Hansen, Ilya V. Anoshkin, Ekaterina A. Obraztsova, Alexey V. Belkin, Emma Sairanen, Albert G. Nasibulin,  Juha Lehtonen, & Esko I. Kauppinen. Scientific Reports 3, Article number 1460  doi:10.1038/srep01460 Published15 March 2013

This article is open access.

Richard Branson, take your hands off my nano

RUSNANO (Russian Corporation of Nanotechnologies) fascinates me such that I’ve posted about the organization and its ‘wheeling and dealing’ several times with my RUSNANO and 12BF’s clean energy investment fund [July 24, 2012] and Russian government sells 10% holding in RUSNANO [June 25, 2012] postings being the latest until now.  Virgin Group and RUSNANO have announced a new, joint emerging market fund. From the Nov. 14, 2012 news item on Nanowerk,

Virgin Group, Virgin Green Fund and RUSNANO Capital announced the formation of VGF Emerging Market Growth I. L. P. = with commitments of over $200 million.

The Fund will invest in buyout and growth equity opportunities in mid-cap companies. It will target the resource efficiency, consumer sustainability and renewable energy sectors in Russia, Turkey and CEE [Central Europe and Russia Fund Inc.]. The Fund will benefit from the Virgin and RUSNANO brands, deal flow and local investing experience.

The Oct. 31, 2012 RUSNANO news release (which originated the news item) provides this detail,

The Emerging Market Fund is set up by Shai Weiss, Evan Lovell, Brooks Preston and Tamas Szalai. Weiss and Lovell are theco-foundingpartners of the Virgin Green Fund. Preston formerly of Wolfensohn & Company and Szalai of Bancroft Private Equity will lead the investment team.  Andrew Reicher, the former head of CEE Private Equity for Credit Suisse and Chief Investment Officer at Actis, is the non-executive chairman of the investment committee. Collectively, the team brings the experience of investing USD $2 billion in emerging markets through more than 50 transactions. [emphasis mine]

Anatoly Chubais, RUSNANO CEO and Chairman of the Executive Board: “Renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies will provide answers to the key global challenges of natural resources depletion and environment pollution. Developing solutions will be impossible without the use of nanotechnology. I believe the fund will find great opportunities to invest in growth companies in Russia and take them into global markets.”

‘More than 50 transactions’ doesn’t sound that impressive to me but perhaps that reflects my ignorance. I’m also surprised they don’t mention any specific successes from this previous experience of investing USD $2B.

Sir Richard Branson (founder and chairman of the Virgin Group) or someone who purports to be Branson posted about the announcement when it was made on Oct. 31, 2012 in Moscow on Richard’s blog (Note: I have removed links),

Seven years ago at the Clinton Global Initiative I pledged to invest the dividends from our transport business into renewable fuels and resource efficiency.

Since then we have invested in fuel companies, set up our Green Fund, founded the Carbon War Room and established The Earth Challenge – as well as making a number of investments in emerging fuel businesses.

Today, I’m back in Moscow – at the country’s largest technology forum – Open Innovations. We are launching our second Virgin Green Fund with our Russian partners Rusnano. This one is targeting the Emerging Markets and the exciting venture will invest in growth companies to improve energy efficiency and find the technologies and fuels of the future.

At the Forum I was quizzed by 100 of Russia’s brightest young entrepreneurs and encouraged them to build their businesses with a smile and look to throw some of the conformity that marks so much of Russian business. There is so much enthusiasm and opportunity in the country.

I hope successful ventures arise from this new fund. ETA Nov. 21, 2012: As for this posting’s headline, it’s a reference to the pervasiveness of the Virgin brand.

RUSNANO and 12BF’s clean energy investment fund

After the late June 2012 announcement that the Russian government was selling its shares in various resource- and commodity-based national enterprises as well as 10% of its stake in RUSNANO (my June 25, 2012 posting), this seems an interesting development. Sally Bakewell in a July 18, 2012 article for Bloomberg.com mentions a new Rusnano venture (Note: I have removed links),

Rusnano Capital LLC teamed up with New York-based I2BF Global Ventures to invest $150 million in nanotechnologies for Russia’s agriculture and water industries.

Nanotechnology, which deals with matter on a scale comparable to the diameter of a strand of DNA, can be used to remove pollutants and salt from water, improve soil fertility and boost crops. Drought, still affecting nine regions in Russia, has damaged grains on 1.5 million hectares (3.7 million acres) of land this year, according to the Agriculture Ministry.

The July 18, 2012 news item on Opalesque offers this detail,

Rusnano Capital (RNC), the Russian government-owned nanotechnology investment company, and international technology investment group I2BF Global Ventures have announced the launch of the I2BF-RNC Strategic Resources Fund to invest in later-stage nanotechnology companies. The seven-year fund launches with a $53m commitment from its LPs with a target fund size of $150m.

Its remit will be to invest in international nanotechnology that has applications of value within the Russian Federation, with a focus on the resource sector as well as water and agriculture.

“We are delighted to partner with Rusnano Capital on our first late-stage venture fund expanding on I2BF’s existing investment expertise,” says Ilya Golubovich, Managing Partner of I2BF Global Ventures (right). “… The opportunities to roll out nanotech applications and also production facilities in Russia are widespread and we will be using our global footprint to channel the best technologies into this market.”

$100M nanotechnology venture fund with Rusnano, 12BF Global Ventures, VTB Capital, and the republic of Zakakhstan

According to the Dec. 21, 2011 news item on Nanowerk, there’s a new US $100M venture capital fund,

A US$100m nanotechnology venture fund has been announced by joint managers VTB Capital and I2BF Global Ventures, with cornerstone backing from the Russian state nanotechnology fund RusNano and Kazyna Capital Management, the sovereign wealth fund of the Republic of Kazakhstan. These entities have committed $25m each to the new fund, with VTB Capital and I2BF expecting to raise a further $50m from external investors. The agreement was signed on December 21st 2011 in Almaty at a ceremony attended by Aset Isekeshev, Vice-Premier of Kazakhstan and Minister of Industry and New Technologies, and will soon be followed by the opening of offices in Moscow and Almaty.

The 10-year fund will focus on technology transfer into the two countries as well as domestic nanotech investment, while also driving further private capital inflows into the nanotech sector by leading deals for international syndication. Potential pipeline deals include desalination technologies, oil processing, diabetes treatments, semiconductor technologies and LED/OLED, while future investment themes will include energy production, including alternative energy; increasing efficiency in the petroleum and gas industry; telecommunications; biotechnology; electronics and environmental technology. Activities for the fund will be divided equally between Russia and Kazakhstan.

Here are some brief descriptions of the main players (from the news item),

Kazyna Capital Management (KCM) was established in May 2007 with the purpose of formation of the efficient Private Equity market in Kazakhstan. 100% shares of KCM are owned by ?? “Samruk-Kazyna” National well-being fund. www.kkm-kazyna.kz.

RUSNANO was established 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, www.rusnano.com.

VTB Capital VTB Capital, the Investment Business of VTB Group, is one of the three strategic business arms of VTB Group, along with the corporate and retail businesses. Since its foundation in 2008, VTB Capital has taken part in more than 184 Equity Capital Markets and Debt Capital Markets deals, which were instrumental in attracting more than USD 88bn worth of investments to Russia and CIS, www.vtbcapital.com.

I2BF Global Ventures is an international clean technology asset management group with a global investment mandate focused on venture capital and public equity activities. Established in 2005, I2BF has over USD 145 million in assets under management across two venture capital vehicles and a hedge fund. I2BF Global Ventures seeks out game-changing technologies, and to invest in the most innovative and competitive companies within the sector. In keeping with its worldwide focus, I2BF retains a team of technology and sector experts as well as renewable energy researchers across teams in New York, London, Moscow and Dubai, www.i2bf.com.

If I read this correctly, they currently have $US50M from RUSNANO and Kazyna Capital Management while the two venture funds are expected to raise a further $US50 from external investors, which gives them approximately $US10M per yr. over the fund’s 10 year life. They certainly have some ambitious spending plans for that $US10M annual budget. I wonder what the administration costs will be.

Commercializing nano: US, Spain, and RUSNANO

Late September 2011 saw the Nanomanufacturing Summit 2011 and 10th Annual NanoBusiness conference take place in Boston, Massachusetts (my Sept. 21, 2011 posting). Dr. Scott Rickert (President and CEO of Nanofilm) writing for Industry Week noted this about the events in his Oct. 14, 2011 posting,

I witnessed an American revolution catch fire in Boston, and I feel like a latter-day Paul Revere. “The nanotech economy is coming, the nanotech economy is coming!” and that’s good news for the U.S. — and you — because we’re at the epicenter.

Let’s start with commercialization. Ten years ago, when I walked into the inaugural version of this conference, I was one of the few with money-making nanotechnology products on the market. This time? The sessions were packed with executives from multi-million dollar businesses, and the chatter was about P&L as much as R&D. Nano-companies are defying Wall Street woes and going public. And even academics were talking about business plans, not prototypes.

Dozens of companies from Europe, Asia and the Middle East were at the conference. Their goal was tapping into the American know-how for making science into business.

Seems a little euphoric, doesn’t he? It’s understandable for anyone who’s worked long and hard at an activity that’s considered obscure by great swathes of the population and finally begins to see substantive response. (Sidebar: Note the revolutionary references for a conference taking place in what’s considered the birthplace of the American Revolution.)

Speakers at MIT’s (Massachusetts Institute of Nanotechnology) EmTech event held in Spain on Oct. 26-27, 2011 were are a bit more measured, excerpted from the Oct. 27, 2011 posting featuring highlights from the conference by Cal Pierce for Opinno,

Javier García Martínez, founder of Rive Technology and Tim Harper, founder of Cientifica.com presented their view of how nanotechnology will transform our world.

Harper took the stage first.

“We have spent $67 billion on nanotechnology research this decade, so you can imagine this must be an important field,” he said.

Harper believes that nanotechnology is the most important technology that humans have developed in the past 5,000 years. However, he spoke about the difficulties in developing nanotechnology machinery in that we cannot simply shrink factories down to nano-scales. Rather, Harper said we need to look to cells in nature as they have been using nanotechnology for billions of years.

….

Harper spoke about the dire need to use nanotechnology to develop processes that replace scarce resources. However, the current economic climate is hindering these critical innovations.

Javier Garcia then spoke.

“Graphene, diamond and other carbon structures are the future of 21st-century nanotechnology,” he said.

Garcia says that the next challenge is commercialization. There are thousands of scientific articles about nanotechnology published every year which are followed by many patents, he explained. However, he reflected on Cook’s ideas about funding.

“There is still not a nanotechnology industry like there is for biotechnology,” he said.

Finally, Garcia said successful nanotechnology companies need to build strong partnerships, have strong intellectual property rights and create a healthy balance between creativity and focus. Government will also play a role with simplified bureaucracy and tax credits.

Hang on, it gets a little more confusing when you add in the news from Russia (from Dexter Johnson’s Oct. 26, 2011 posting titled, Russia Claims Revenues of One-Third-of–a-Billion Dollars in Nanotech This Year on his Nanoclast blog on the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineering [IEEE] website),

One of the first bits of interesting news to come out of the meeting is that: “In 2011, Rusnano has earned about 10 billion rubles ($312 million) on manufacturing products using nanotechnology — nearly half of the state corporation’s total turnover.”

We should expect these estimates to be fairly conservative, however, ever since Anatoly Chubais, RusNano’s chief, got fed up with bogus market numbers he was seeing and decided that RusNano was going to track its own development.

I have to say though, no matter how you look at it, over $300 million in revenues is pretty impressive for a project that has really only existed for three years.

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.

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. [Farokhzad was featured in a recent Canadian Broadcasting Corporation {CBC}, Nature of Things, television episode about nanomedicine, titled More than human.] Professor Ulrich von Andrian, MD, PhD, head of the immunopathology laboratory at Harvard Medical School, is a founder of Selecta.

Selecta pioneers new approaches for synthetically engineered vaccines and immunotherapies. Selecta’s lead drug candidate, SEL-068, is entering human clinical studies as a vaccine for smoking cessation and relapse prevention. Other drug development programs include universal human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, universal influenza vaccine, malaria vaccine, and type 1 diabetes therapeutic vaccine.

BIND develops targeted therapeutics, called Accurins™, that selectively accumulate at the site of disease to dramatically enhance effectiveness for treating cancer and other diseases. BIND’s lead candidate, BIND-014, is in human clinical trials as a targeted therapy for cancer treatment. BIND’s development pipeline also includes a range of cancer treatments and drugs for anti-inflammatory and cardiovascular conditions.

Here’s an excerpt from Dexter Johnson’s Oct. 28, 2011 posting where he muses on this development,

It seems the last decade of the US—along with parts of Europe and Asia—pouring money into nanotechnology research, which led to a few fledgling nanotechnology-based businesses, is finally paying off…for Russia.

In the case of these two companies, I really don’t know to what extent their initial technology was funded or supported by the US government and I wouldn’t begrudge them a bit if it was significant. Businesses need capital just to get to production and then later to expand. It hardly matters where it comes from as long as they can survive another day.

Dexter goes on to note that RUSNANO is not the only organization investing major money to bring nanotechnology-enabled products to the next stage of commercialization; this is happening internationally.

Meanwhile, Justin Varilek posts this (Nanotech Enthusiasm Peaks) for the Moscow Times on Oct. 28, 2011,

In nanotechnology, size matters. But federal funding for the high-tech field has tapered off in Russia, flattening out at $1.88 billion per year through 2015 and losing ground in the race against the United States and Germany.

If this were a horse race, nanotechnology-enabled products are in the final stretches toward the finish line (commercialization) and it’s still anyone’s horse race.

Note: I didn’t want to interrupt the flow earlier to include this link to the EmTech conference in Spain. And, I did post a review (Oct. 26, 2011) of More than Human, which did not mention Farokhzad by name, the second episode in a special three-part series being broadcast as part of the Nature of Things series on CBC.

RUSNANO and the world of nanotechnology-enabled retail services

RUSNANO first announced their retail project in June 2010 (finally mentioned in my Aug. 8, 2011 posting [scroll down about 1/3 of the way]). They have just announced that 2012 is when their Store of the Future will be unveiled. From the Sept. 8, 2011 article by Lena Smirnova for The Moscow Times,

The Store of the Future is a flagship project in the partnership between the company and retailers Sitronics and X5 Retail Group. The project envisions equipping retail outlets with radio frequency identification [RFID] technology that would render cashiers unnecessary and help store owners save on inventory and storage costs. The RFID system will calculate the price of the product, monitor expiry dates and automatically stock missing merchandise.

Rusnano is still figuring out how to make the tag readable through foil, metal baskets and liquids, but Chubais [Anatoly Chubais, CEO of RUSNANO) told the audience that a simplified version of the Store of the Future will be on show at Moscow’s Nanoforum on Oct. 26. The complete project is scheduled to launch in 2012.

If I understand this project correctly, the idea is to revolutionize the mall from the building products used for mall construction, energy-efficient glass and air purification products are also mentioned right through to the stocking process to the customer’s retail experience.