Tag Archives: Saudi Arabia

Inventions Nanotech Middle East conference in 2013

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

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

Water
Energy / Oil & Gas
Environment
Health
Consumer Products

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

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

Good luck to the conference organizers.

Hands off the bubbles in my boiling water!

The discovery that boiling water bubbled was important to me. I’ve never really thought about it until now when researchers at Northwestern University have threatened to take my bubbles away, metaphorically speaking. From the Sept. 13, 2012 news item on ScienceDaily,

Every cook knows that boiling water bubbles, right? New research from Northwestern University turns that notion on its head.

“We manipulated what has been known for a long, long time by using the right kind of texture and chemistry to prevent bubbling during boiling,” said Neelesh A. Patankar, professor of mechanical engineering at Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science and co-author of the study.

This discovery could help reduce damage to surfaces, prevent bubbling explosions and may someday be used to enhance heat transfer equipment, reduce drag on ships and lead to anti-frost technologies.

The Sept. 13, 2012 news release from McCormick University (which originated the news item) provides details,

This phenomenon is based on the Leidenfrost effect. In 1756 the German scientist Johann Leidenfrost observed that water drops skittered on a sufficiently hot skillet, bouncing across the surface of the skillet on a vapor cushion or film of steam. The vapor film collapses as the surface falls below the Leidenfrost temperature. When the water droplet hits the surface of the skillet, at 100 degrees Celsius, boiling temperature, it bubbles.

To stabilize a Leidenfrost vapor film and prevent bubbling during boiling, Patankar collaborated with Ivan U. Vakarelski of King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, Saudi Arabia. Vakarelski led the experiments and Patankar provided the theory. The collaboration also included Derek Chan, professor of mathematics and statistics from the University of Melbourne in Australia.

In their experiments, the stabilization of the Leidenfrost vapor film was achieved by making the surface of tiny steel spheres very water-repellant. The spheres were sprayed with a commercially available hydrophobic coating — essentially self-assembled nanoparticles — combined with other water-hating chemicals to achieve the right amount of roughness and water repellency. At the correct length scale this coating created a surface texture full of tiny peaks and valleys.

When the steel spheres were heated to 400 degrees Celsius and dropped into room temperature water, water vapors formed in the valleys of the textured surface, creating a stable Leidenfrost vapor film that did not collapse once the spheres cooled to the temperature of boiling water. In the experiments, researchers completely avoided the bubbly phase of boiling.

To contrast, the team also coated tiny steel spheres with a water-loving coating, heated the objects to 700 degrees Celsius, dropped them into room temperature water and observed that the Leidenfrost vapor collapsed with a vigorous release of bubbles.

The scientists have provided a video illustrating their work,

This movie shows the cooling of 20 mm hydrophilic (left) and superhydrophobic (right) steel spheres in 100 C water. The spheres’ initial temperature is about 380 C. The bubbling phase of boiling is completely eliminated for steel spheres with superhydrophobic coating. (from Vimeo, http://vimeo.com/49391913)

I understand there are advantages to not having bubbles in hot water but it somehow seems wrong. I’ve given up a lot over the years: gravity, boundaries between living and non-living (that was a very big thing to give up), and other distinctions that I have made based on traditional science but, today, this is one step too far.

It may seem silly but that memory of my mother explaining that you identify boiling water by its bubbles is important to me. It was one of my first science lessons. I imagine I will recover from this moment but it does remind me of how challenging it can be when your notions of reality/normalcy are challenged by various scientific endeavours. The process can get quite exhausting as you keep recalibrating everything you ‘know’ all the time.

When wrinkles are good for us

I like the video animation that the scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have provided so much (particularly the raisins), I’m going to start with it,

The August 1, 2012 MIT news release on EurekAlert provides some additional detail,

This basic method, they say, could be harnessed for a wide variety of useful structures: microfluidic systems for biological research, sensing and diagnostics; new photonic devices that can control light waves; controllable adhesive surfaces; antireflective coatings; and antifouling surfaces that prevent microbial buildup.

A paper describing this new process, co-authored by MIT postdocs Jie Yin and Jose Luis Yagüe, former student Damien Eggenspieler SM ’10, and professors Mary Boyce and Karen Gleason, is being published in the journal Advanced Materials.

The process uses two layers of material. The bottom layer, or substrate, is a silicon-based polymer that can be stretched, like canvas mounted on a stretcher frame. Then, a second layer of polymeric material is deposited through an initiated chemical vapor deposition (iCVD) process in which the material is heated in a vacuum so that it vaporizes, and then lands on the stretched surface and bonds tightly to it. Then — and this is the key to the new process — the stretching is released first in one direction, and then in the other, rather than all at once.

When the tension is released all at once, the result is a jumbled, chaotic pattern of wrinkles, like the surface of a raisin. But the controlled, stepwise release system developed by the MIT team creates a perfectly orderly herringbone pattern.

The David Chandler Aug.  1, 2012 article (written for MIT) which originated the news release notes,

Many techniques have been used to create surfaces with such tiny patterns, whose dimensions can range from nanometers (billionths of a meter) to tens of micrometers (millionths of a meter). But most such methods require complex fabrication processes, or can only be used for very tiny areas.

The new method is both very simple (consisting of just two or three steps) and can be used to make patterned surfaces of larger sizes, the team says. “You don’t need an external template” to create the pattern, says Yin, the paper’s lead author.


John Hutchinson, a professor of engineering and of applied mechanics at Harvard University who was not involved in this research, says, “Wrinkling phenomena are highly nonlinear and answers to questions concerning pattern formation have been slow to emerge.” He says the MIT team’s work “is an important step forward in this active area of research that bridges the chemical and mechanical engineering communities. The advance rests on theoretical insights combined with experimental demonstration and numerical simulation — it covers all the bases.”

The work was funded by the King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals in Saudi Arabia.

It’s nice to see wrinkles being appreciated.

Peter Julian interview on tabling the first nanotechnology bill in Canada’s parliament (part 1 of 3); musings on oil-rich regions and nanotechnology

In mid-March 2010, Member of Parliament, Peter Julian, NDP (New Democrat Party) tabled the first Canadian bill (ETA June 22, 2010: Bill C-494) to regulate nanotechnology. Kudos to him for bringing nanotechnology into a national public forum and hopefully inspiring some discussion and debate.

Mr. Julian kindly agreed (thank you!) to answer some e-mail interview questions which I will be posting in a 3-part interview starting today where he answers questions about why he tabled the bill, the involvement of the NDP’s science shadow minister, and the state of the NDP’s science policy.

For anyone who’s not familiar with Mr. Julian, I got some biographical information from his constituency website,

Peter Julian

Member of Parliament, Burnaby–New Westminster
International Trade
Asia-Pacific Gateway
Deputy Critic Fisheries (West Coast Fisheries)
2010 Olympics

  • Has been the most active MP from Western Canada so far in the 40th Parliament.
  • First elected Member of Parliament for Burnaby-New Westminster in 2004 (by a narrow margin of 300 votes), and re-elected in 2006 (by 4,000 votes) and again in 2008 (by 7,000 votes).
  • Served as Critic on International Trade, Transportation, Persons with Disabilities, Gateways and the Vancouver 2010 Olympics in 39th Parliament; Critic on International Trade, the Treasury Board, Transportation and Persons with Disabilities in 38th Parliament.
  • Ranked fifth of 308 MPs in crafting of Private Member’s legislation in 39th Parliament including tougher drunk driving laws and eliminating toxic substances found in fire retardants.
  • Most active rookie in the House of Commons in the 38th Parliament.
  • Prominent critic of Harper Conservatives’ softwood lumber sellout. Called “the Iron Man” by CTV’s David Akin for determination to stop the sellout.
  • Previously a financial administrator, community activist and manual labourer. Served as National Executive Director of Council of Canadians – (founding member), former Executive Director of the Western Institute for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (WIDHH).
  • Instrumental in building the British Columbia Disability Employment Network
  • Former National Policy Coordinator and Assistant and Acting Federal Secretary of the New Democratic Party of Canada.

Now on to the interview:

What was the impetus for including nanotechnology as part of this bill? i.e. was there some specific incident or has this been an ongoing concern?

The major forces for including my bill on nanotechnology were; the concerns raised by constituents, the progressive work done by the European Union (including the EU Council Directive on cosmetic products and the January 2010 report of the UK’s House of Lords Science and Technology Committee Report). In contrast Canada has made minimal progress towards ensuring that nanotechnology discoveries are safely introduced into the marketplace, environment, and to Canadians.

The exponential increase in applications and products using this type of technology makes updating the regulatory framework necessary. A regulatory vacuum cannot persist if the commercial and societal promises of nanotechnologies are to be fulfilled. There are trade and safety implications involved.

A modernized regulatory framework, based on precaution given the rapid evolution of nanotechnologies, would help ensure that Canadians will be protected from unintended effects. At the same time, it would enable Canadian businesses to enjoy a predictable regulatory environment for investment and innovation, for nanotechnology is a key driver in Canada’s continued growth via sustainable development.

The following are the key components of Bill C-494:

A) A definition of Nanotechnology definition based on “nanometre scale” (1-1000nm),

B) Prescribed Government of Canada research and studies, with the precautionary principle providing direction for a ‘life-cycle’ approach to nanotechnology, and,

C) A Nanotechnology Inventory established and published.

I believe that the definition contained in Bill C-494 constitutes the first legislative body effort since UK House of Lords Committee recommended a similar nanometre scale definition.

Was the NDP’s science shadow minister involved in this bill? What was Jim Malloway’s contribution?

As you may know, private members bills are at the initiative of individual MPs. I have consulted with the NDP Environment and Health critics, in addition to our own research, library of Parliament support, and input from civil society. Jim Malloway and the NDP caucus support the principle of Bill C-494 and share the view that Nanotechnologies present a tremendous opportunity for Canada and that is why safety must be ensured.

Is there going to be more interest in science policy from the NDP?

The NDP is focused on securing sound foundations for science policy by making sure the government has enough resources to support the development of science while monitoring the consequences. We are also focused on ensuring that funding for post secondary education is appropriate and the resources and knowhow of the public sector are not trivialized and outsourced. The civil service needs a critical mass of expertise to support a healthy science development policy. We must encourage and preserve independent research at the university level and make sure that it is not subservient to corporate funding. Science must be allowed to evolve regardless of the commercial aspect. Our small caucus is focused on helping create these conditions where Canadian science and its applications can flourish in both private and not-for-profit spheres, with appropriate regulatory safeguards.

Tomorrow: Mr. Julian answers questions about the ‘precautionary principle’ and the research that supports his bill.

Peter Julian interview Part 2, Part 3, Comments: Nano Ontario, Comments: nanoAlberta

Oil-rich regions and nano

I had a few idle thoughts on seeing a notice on Nanowerk in mid-March that Iran has published a national nanotechnology standard. From the notice on Nanowerk,

The committee of Iranian nanotechnology standardization chose 49 main words in nanotechnology by means of ISO, BSI, and ASTM published standards and translated their definitions into Persian in cooperation with a team from Persian Language and Literature Academy.

The words like nanotechnology, nanomaterials, nanoparticle, nanoscale, nanotube, nanosystem etc have been defined in this standard.

(I did click on the link for the publication but unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be an English language version available.)

I find it interesting that there is so much activity on the nanotechnology front in Iran and other other oil-producing regions including Alberta (Canada) which hosts the National Institute for Nanotechnology and gets a great deal of funding from the Alberta provincial government. Texas, also known for its oil, hosts a leader in nanotechnology research, Rice University which is celebrating its 25th anniversary as the site where ‘bucky balls’ or buckminster fullerenes were first discovered. In Saudi Arabia, they opened KAUST (King Abdullah University for Science and Technology) in September 2009. While the ambitions range far beyond (the Saudis hope to establish a modern ‘House of Wisdom’) nanotechnology, its research is an important element in the overall scheme of things. I guess the reason that all these areas which are known for their oil production are so invested in nanotechnology is that they know time is running out and they need new ways to keep their economies afloat.

Transatlantic Regulatory Cooperation tidbits; TAPPI and the nanotechnology forestry conference in Alberta; a modern House of Wisdom

I caught only part of the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies (PEN) event, Transatlantic Regulatory Cooperation, due to two factors. (1) I was busy posting here and so was late to the live webcast. (2) About an hour after I started watching, something (either my system choked or the Wilson Center facility was having difficulties or I lost broadband speed for some reason)  happened and the live webcast became unwatchable.

This was an international collaborative project titled, Regulating Nanotechnologies in the EU and US. Researchers from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), Chatham House, the Environmental Law Institute (ELI), and PEN at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars worked together to produce a report, a briefing paper, and a slide presentation about their findings and recommendations that can be downloaded from here.

The Washington, DC presentation was yesterday (Sept. 23, 2009) at the Wilson Center facility. There were two panels and I missed the introduction for the first group but I did recognize the moderator, David Rejeski who’s PEN’s executive director. The discussion was about the report and the recommendations.

One of the more interesting bits was the mention of a discrepancy between the UK and EU food industries submissions to some sort of inquiry. The UK representative claimed there are 2 nano type food products on the market (in the UK,  i.e. Europe) while in an earlier meeting elsewhere an EU representative claimed there are 20 such products on the market in Europe. No one was able to explain the discrepancy, which is troubling.

As for the participants in the project, there was general agreement that some sort of regulatory system needs to be developed quickly. Amongst other recommendations:

  1. Voluntary reporting of the use and manufacture of nano materials should be made mandatory.
  2. There should be a ‘technology label’ for food and cosmetic products that contain nanomaterials.
  3. A global approach to nanotechnology regulation that draws together major players such as China and India, as well as many others, needs to be adopted.

There was some mention of Canada at one point. I believe the speaker was referring to an Environment Canada initiative, i.e. a one-time inventory of nanomaterials used in manufacturing products which is mandatory. (I commented on this matter in my Feb. 3, 4, and 6, 2009 postings.) I haven’t heard anything about their progress lately but it is used as an example of a mandatory nanotechnology inventory. Interestingly, they never mention that it is supposed to be one time only.

As for the second panel (moderated by Dr. Andrew Maynard, Chief Science Advisor for PEN), this was oriented to some of the practicalities of introducing nano regulation into current regulatory environments. At least, I think that’s what it was about as things began to malfunction shortly after the introductions.

TAPPI (Technical Association of the Pulp and Paper Industry) held a nanotechnology forestry conference in Alberta this last June. I should have mentioned it at the time but, trite as it is,  better late than never.  From today’s news item about the conference on Nanowerk,

More than 180 nanoscience experts from 12 countries met in June to discuss the potential of nano-enabled biomaterials. Held in Edmonton, AB, Canada, and co-sponsored by TAPPI and the Alberta Ingenuity Fund, the conference revealed developments for revolutionizing paper and wood products, as well as capturing sustainability-focused markets with bionanocomposites and capitalizing on wood-derived nanocrystalline cellulose (NCC) and nanofibrillar cellulose (NFC).

The 2010 conference will be held in Helsinki, Finland.

The House of Wisdom existed from the 9th to 13th centuries CE (common era) in Baghdad. Originally intended as a library whose main purpose was for the translation of books from Persian into Arabic, the House of Wisdom became a centre for the study of the humanities and sciences that was unrivaled in its time. One of its great scholars (Al-Khawarizmi) is known as the ‘father of algebra’. They invented the library catalogue where books were organized according to subjects. Note: I was recently at the oldest library at Trinity College in Dublin and the guide mentioned that those books are organized on the shelves by size, weight, and the colour of their bindings. (I got my information about the House of Wisdom here in Wikipedia and from a Nanowerk Spotlight article by Michael Berger.)

I mention the House of Wisdom because of Berger’s article which uses it as a metaphor to discuss a modern attempt to recreate the ‘house’,  this time, in Saudi Arabia. A new, 36 square kilometer,  science/technology campus/city called the King Abdullah University for Science and Technology (KAUST) opened yesterday on Sept. 23, 2009.

From the article,

Much more than a future elite university, the vision behind KAUST is to create the nucleus of a modern society, free from the strict religious dictates of a conservative Islamic culture, and laying the foundation for a science and technology based society of future generations.

This sounds quite ambitious for a conservative Islamic country that doesn’t have public entertainment facilities such as cinemas or theaters – they are regarded as incompatible with Islam; where most schools have focused on religion much more than on science and other modern knowledge; and where a strict interpretation of Islam imposes many restrictions on women’s daily lives.

This all is supposed to change with mega projects like the $8bn Knowledge Economic City (KEC), the King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) a $26.6 billion project that will generate more than 500,000 jobs upon completion in 2016; and nearby KAUST, intended to catapult Saudi Arabia’s education system into the 21st century and prepare its society for the time after oil. This move to a knowledge-based society is a top priority for the country – in 2009 alone, 25.7% of Saudi Arabia’s budget has been allocated to educational development.

As an oil-producing country, Saudi Arabia is getting ready for a time when there won’t be any left to pump out of the ground. Do read the article as there’s much more about the facilities which, according to Berger, “… will enable top-notch nanotechnology research.”

It reminds me a little of the situation in Alberta where they are currently trying to extract oil from sand only because the oil that was easy to access is almost gone while heavily investing in emerging advanced technologies such as nanotechnology.