Tag Archives: Singapore

Nanotechnology education, artificial muscles, and Estonian high schools?

The University of Tartu (Estonia) announced in a Sept. 29, 2014 press release an educational and entrepreneurial programme about nanotechnology/nanoscience for teachers and students,

Led by the University of Tartu, innovative Estonian schools participate in the Quantum Spin-Off project, which aims to bring youth in contact with nanotechnology, modern science and high-tech entrepreneurship. Pupils participating in the project will learn about seven topics of nanotechnology, including the creation of artificial muscles and the manipulation of nanoparticles.

Most people have little contact with nanoscience and nanotechnologies, although the exciting nano-world has always been around us. “Most Estonian teachers do not have the experience of introducing nanoscience required for understanding the nano-world or the necessary connections that would allow visiting the experts in nanoscience and enterprises using the technology,” said the leader of the Quantum Spin-Off project, UT Professor of Technology Education Margus Pedaste, describing the current situation of acquiring nanotechnology knowledge in Estonia.

Coordinator of the project, Project Manager at the Centre for Educational Technology Maarika Lukk adds that nanoscience is interesting and necessary, as it offers plenty of practical applications, for instance in medicine, education, military industry and space.

The press release goes on to describe the Quantum Spin-Off project and the proposed nanoscience programme in more detail,

To bring nanoscience closer to pupils, educational researchers of the University of Tartu decided to implement the European Union LLP Comenius project “Quantum Spin-Off – connecting schools with high-tech research and entrepreneurship”. The objective of the project is to build a kind of a bridge: at one end, pupils can familiarise themselves with modern science, and at the other, experience its application opportunities at high-tech enterprises. “We also wish to inspire these young people to choose a specialisation related to science and technology in the future,” added Lukk.

The pupils can choose between seven topics of nanotechnology: the creation of artificial muscles, microbiological fuel elements, manipulation of nanoparticles, nanoparticles and ionic liquids as oil additives, materials used in regenerative medicine, deposition and 3D-characterisation of atomically designed structures and a topic covered in English, “Artificial robotic fish with EAP elements”.

Learning is based on study modules in the field of nanotechnology. In addition, each team of pupils will read a scientific publication, selected for them by an expert of that particular field. In that way, pupils will develop an understanding of the field and of scientific texts. On the basis of the scientific publication, the pupils prepare their own research project and a business plan suitable for applying the results of the project.

In each field, experts of the University of Tartu will help to understand the topics. Participants will visit a nanotechnology research laboratory and enterprises using nanotechnologies.

The project lasts for two years and it is also implemented in Belgium, Switzerland and Greece.

You can find more information about the European Union’s Quantum Spin-Off Project on its website (from the homepage),

The Quantum Spinoff project will bring science teachers and their pupils in direct contact with research and entrepreneurship in the high-tech nano sector, with the goal of educating a new generation of scientifically literate European citizens and inspiring young people to choose for science and technology careers. Teams of pupils, guided by their science teachers, will be challenged to create a responsible and socially relevant valorisation of a scientific paper in collaboration with actual researchers and entrepreneurs. They will visit high-tech research labs and will compete for the European Quantum Spin-Off Prize. Scientific and technological insights, creativity and responsible entrepreneurship will be all taken into account by the jury of experts. Science teachers will be trained in international and national workshops to support the inquiry learning process of their pupils.

This drive toward linking science to entrepreneurial output is an international effort as this Quantum-Spin Off project , Singapore’s A*STAR (Agency for Science, Technology and Research) and my Sept. 30, 2014 post about the 2014 Canadian Science Policy Conference  make abundantly clear.

Canada’s Situating Science in Fall 2014

Canada’s Situating Science cluster (network of humanities and social science researchers focused on the study of science) has a number of projects mentioned and in its Fall 2014 newsletter,

1. Breaking News
It’s been yet another exciting spring and summer with new developments for the Situating Science SSHRC Strategic Knowledge Cluster team and HPS/STS [History of Philosophy of Science/Science and Technology Studies] research. And we’ve got even more good news coming down the pipeline soon…. For now, here’s the latest.

1.1. New 3 yr. Cosmopolitanism Partnership with India and Southeast Asia
We are excited to announce that the Situating Science project has helped to launch a new 3 yr. 200,000$ SSHRC Partnership Development Grant on ‘Cosmopolitanism and the Local in Science and Nature’ with institutions and scholars in Canada, India and Singapore. Built upon relations that the Cluster has helped establish over the past few years, the project will closely examine the actual types of negotiations that go into the making of science and its culture within an increasingly globalized landscape. A recent workshop on Globalizing History and Philosophy of Science at the Asia Research Institute at the National University of Singapore helped to mark the soft launch of the project (see more in this newsletter).

ARI along with Manipal University, Jawaharlal Nehru University, University of King’s College, Dalhousie University, York University, University of Toronto, and University of Alberta, form the partnership from which the team will seek new connections and longer term collaborations. The project’s website will feature a research database, bibliography, syllabi, and event information for the project’s workshops, lecture series, summer schools, and artifact work. When possible, photos, blogs, podcasts and videos from events will be posted online as well. The project will have its own mailing list so be sure to subscribe to that too. Check it all out: www.CosmoLocal.org

2.1. Globalizing History and Philosophy of Science workshop in Singapore August 21-22 2014
On August 21 and 22, scholars from across the globe gathered at the Asia Research Institute at the National University of Singapore to explore key issues in global histories and philosophies of the sciences. The setting next to the iconic Singapore Botanical Gardens provided a welcome atmosphere to examine how and why globalizing the humanities and social studies of science generates intellectual and conceptual tensions that require us to revisit, and possibly rethink, the leading notions that have hitherto informed the history, philosophy and sociology of science.

The keynote by Sanjay Subrahmanyam (UCLA) helped to situate discussions within a larger issue of paradigms of civilization. Workshop papers explored commensurability, translation, models of knowledge exchange, indigenous epistemologies, commercial geography, translation of math and astronomy, transmission and exchange, race, and data. Organizer Arun Bala and participants will seek out possibilities for publishing the proceedings. The event partnered with La Trobe University and Situating Science, and it helped to launch a new 3 yr. Cosmopolitanism project. For more information visit: www.CosmoLocal.org

2.2. Happy Campers: The Summer School Experience

We couldn’t help but feel like we were little kids going to summer camp while our big yellow school bus kicked up dust driving down a dirt road on a hot summer’s day. In this case it would have been a geeky science camp. We were about to dive right into day-long discussions of key pieces from Science and Technology Studies and History and Philosophy of Science and Technology.

Over four and a half days at one of the Queen’s University Biology Stations at the picturesque Elbow Lake Environmental Education Centre, 18 students from across Canada explored the four themes of the Cluster. Each day targeted a Cluster theme, which was introduced by organizer Sergio Sismondo (Sociology and Philosophy, Queen’s). Daryn Lehoux (Classics, Queen’s) explained key concepts in Historical Epistemology and Ontology. Using references of the anti-magnetic properties of garlic (or garlic’s antipathy with the loadstone) from the ancient period, Lehoux discussed the importance and significance of situating the meaning of a thing within specific epistemological contexts. Kelly Bronson (STS, St. Thomas University) explored modes of science communication and the development of the Public Engagement with Science and Technology model from the deficit model of Public Understanding of Science and Technology during sessions on Science Communication and its Publics. Nicole Nelson (University of Wisconsin-Madison) explained Material Culture and Scientific/Technological Practices by dissecting the meaning of animal bodies and other objects as scientific artifacts. Gordon McOuat wrapped up the last day by examining the nuances of the circulation and translation of knowledge and ‘trading zones’ during discussions of Geographies and Sites of Knowledge.

2.3. Doing Science in and on the Oceans
From June 14 to June 17, U. King’s College hosted an international workshop on the place and practice of oceanography in celebration of the work of Dr. Eric Mills, Dalhousie Professor Emeritus in Oceanography and co-creator of the History of Science and Technology program. Leading ocean scientists, historians and museum professionals came from the States, Europe and across Canada for “Place and Practice: Doing Science in and on the Ocean 1800-2012”. The event successfully connected different generations of scholars, explored methodologies of material culture analysis and incorporated them into mainstream historical work. There were presentations and discussions of 12 papers, an interdisciplinary panel discussion with keynote lecture by Dr. Mills, and a presentation at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic by Canada Science and Technology Museum curator, David Pantalony. Paper topics ranged from exploring the evolving methodology of oceanographic practice to discussing ways that the boundaries of traditional scientific writing have been transcended. The event was partially organized and supported by the Atlantic Node and primary support was awarded by the SSHRC Connection Grant.

2.4. Evidence Dead or Alive: The Lives of Evidence National Lecture Series

The 2014 national lecture series on The Lives of Evidence wrapped up on a high note with an interdisciplinary panel discussion of Dr. Stathis Psillos’ exploration of the “Death of Evidence” controversy and the underlying philosophy of scientific evidence. The Canada Research Chair in Philosophy of Science spoke at the University of Toronto with panelists from law, philosophy and HPS. “Evidence: Wanted Dead of Alive” followed on the heels of his talk at the Institute for Science, Society and Policy “From the ‘Bankruptcy of Science’ to the ‘Death of Evidence’: Science and its Value”.

In 6 parts, The Lives of Evidence series examined the cultural, ethical, political, and scientific role of evidence in our world. The series formed as response to the recent warnings about the “Death of Evidence” and “War on Science” to explore what was meant by “evidence”, how it is interpreted, represented and communicated, how trust is created in research, what the relationship is between research, funding and policy and between evidence, explanations and expertise. It attracted collaborations from such groups as Evidence for Democracy, the University of Toronto Evidence Working Group, Canadian Centre for Ethics in Public Affairs, Dalhousie University Health Law Institute, Rotman Institute of Philosophy and many more.

A December [2013] symposium, “Hype in Science”, marked the soft launch of the series. In the all-day public event in Halifax, leading scientists, publishers and historians and philosophers of science discussed several case studies of how science is misrepresented and over-hyped in top science journals. Organized by the recent winner of the Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal for Science and Engineering, Ford Doolittle, the interdisciplinary talks in “Hype” explored issues of trustworthiness in science publications, scientific authority, science communication, and the place of research in the broader public.

The series then continued to explore issues from the creation of the HIV-Crystal Meth connection (Cindy Patton, SFU), Psychiatric Research Abuse (Carl Elliott, U. Minnesota), Evidence, Accountability and the Future of Canadian Science (Scott Findlay, Evidence for Democracy), Patents and Commercialized Medicine (Jim Brown, UofT), and Clinical Trials (Joel Lexchin, York).

All 6 parts are available to view on the Situating Science YouTube channel.You can read a few blogs from the events on our website too. Some of those involved are currently discussing possibilities of following up on some of the series’ issues.

2.5. Other Past Activities and Events
The Frankfurt School: The Critique of Capitalist Culture (July, UBC)

De l’exclusion à l’innovation théorique: le cas de l’éconophysique ; Prosocial attitudes and patterns of academic entrepreneurship (April, UQAM)

Critical Itineraries Technoscience Salon – Ontologies (April, UofT)

Technologies of Trauma: Assessing Wounds and Joining Bones in Late Imperial China (April, UBC)

For more, check out: www.SituSci.ca

You can find some of the upcoming talks and the complete Fall 2014 Situating Science newsletter here.

About one week after receiving the newsletter, I got this notice (Sept. 11, 2014),

We are ecstatic to announce that the Situating Science SSHRC Strategic Knowledge Cluster is shortlisted for a highly competitive SSHRC Partnership Impact Award!

And what an impact we’ve had over the past seven years: Organizing and supporting over 20 conferences and workshops, 4 national lecture series, 6 summer schools, and dozens of other events. Facilitating the development of 4 new programs of study at partner institutions. Leveraging more than one million dollars from Nodal partner universities plus more than one million dollars from over 200 supporting and partnering organizations. Hiring over 30 students and 9 postdoctoral fellows. Over 60 videos and podcasts as well as dozens of student blogs and over 50 publications. Launching a new Partnership Development Grant between Canada, India and Southeast Asia. Developing a national consortium…And more!

The winners will be presented with their awards at a ceremony in Ottawa on Monday, November 3, 2014.

From the Sept. 11, 2014 Situating Science press release:

University of King’s College [Nova Scotia, Canada] professor Dr. Gordon McOuat has been named one of three finalists for the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada’s (SSHRC) Partnership Award, one of five Impact Awards annually awarded by SSHRC.

Congratulations on the nomination and I wish Gordon McQuat and Situating Science good luck in the competition.

A rose by any other name: water pinning nanostructures and wettability

There are two items about rose petals as bioinspiration for research in this posting. The first being the most recent research where scientists in Singapore have made an ultrathin film modeled on rose petals. From an Aug. 13, 2014 news item on Nanowerk (Note: A link has been removed),

A*STAR [based in Singapore] researchers have used nanoimprinting methods to make patterned polymeric films with surface topography inspired by that of a rose petal, producing a range of transparent films with high water pinning forces (“Bioinspired Ultrahigh Water Pinning Nanostructures”).

An Aug. 13, 2014 A*STAR news highlight, which originated the news item, describes the nature of the research,

A surface to which a water droplet adheres, even when it is turned upside down, is described as having strong water pinning characteristics. A rose petal and a lotus leaf are both superhydrophobic, yet dissimilarities in their water pinning properties cause a water droplet to stick to a rose petal but roll off a lotus leaf. The two leaf types differ in their micro- and nanoscale surface topography and it is these topographical details that alter the water pinning force. The rose petal has almost uniformly distributed, conical-shaped microscale protrusions with nanoscale folds on these protrusions, while the lotus leaf has randomly distributed microscale protrusions.

The imprinted surfaces developed by Jaslyn Law and colleagues at the A*STAR Institute of Materials Research and Engineering and the Singapore University of Technology and Design have uniformly distributed patterns of nanoscale protrusions that are either conical or parabolic in shape. The researchers found that the water pinning forces on these continuously patterned surfaces were much greater than on non-patterned surfaces and surfaces composed of isolated nanopillared structures or nanoscale gratings. They could then achieve high water pinning forces by patterning the nanoprotrusions onto polymeric films with a range of different non-patterned hydrophobicities, including polycarbonate, poly(methyl methacrylate) and polydimethylsiloxane (see image).

“Other methods that recreate the water pinning effect have used actual rose petals as the mold, but unless special care is taken, there are likely to be defects and inconsistencies in the recreated pattern,” says co-author Andrew Ng. “While bottom-up approaches for making patterns — for example, laser ablation, liquid flame spray or chemical vapor deposition — are more consistent, these methods are limited in the types of patterns that can be used and the scale at which a substrate can be patterned.”

In contrast, nanoimprinting methods are capable of fabricating versatile and large-scale surfaces, and can be combined with roll-to-roll techniques, hence potentially enabling more commercial applications.

The patterned polycarbonate surfaces were also shown to reduce the ‘coffee-ring’ effect: the unevenly deposited film left behind upon the evaporation of a solute-laden droplet. This mitigation of the coffee-ring effect may assist microfluidic technologies and, more generally, the patterned surfaces could be used in arid regions for dew collection or in anti-drip applications such as in greenhouses.

The study which was published online in Dec. 2013, was featured in a Jan. 22, 2014 article by Katherine Bourzac for C&EN (Chemistry and Engineering News),

In the early morning, dew clings to rose petals; when the sun rises, the dewdrops act like tiny lenses, making diffraction patterns that attract pollinating insects, says Jaslyn Bee Khuan Law, a materials scientist at the Agency for Science, Technology, and Research (A*STAR), in Singapore. A drop of water will cling to a rose petal even when it’s tilted or held upside down. The petals can hold onto these droplets because their surfaces consist of closely packed conical structures a few micrometers across. These microscale surface patterns tweak the surface tension of the water droplets, causing them to cling to the petals.

But none of these fabrication methods are amenable to large-scale, low-cost manufacturing, preventing commercialization of the water-clinging surfaces. So Law turned to a specialty of her lab: nanoimprint lithography. This printing method utilizes metal or silicon drums molded with nanoscale features on their surfaces. When the molds are heated and pressed against sheets of plastic, the plastic is embossed with the nanoscale pattern. This roll-to-roll printing process resembles the way newspapers are printed. It’s capable of producing large-area films in a short amount of time.

Water droplets easily slid off plastic films patterned with simple nanoscale gratings; isolated nanoscale pillars hung onto water slightly better. But the films with the best properties consisted of tightly packed cones about 300 nm tall. Plastic patterned with these structures could hold onto water droplets as massive as 69 mg. The team could print a 110- by 65-mm sheet of this plastic film at a speed of 10 m per minute. Currently, the dimensions of the films are limited by the size of the premade molds, Law says.

While the Singapore group has made good progress on manufacturing these materials, very basic, vexing questions about how water clings to these surfaces remain, Hayes says. For example, very small changes in the surface’s roughness can switch it from water-pinning to super hydrophobic, and researchers don’t have a detailed understanding of why.

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

Bioinspired Ultrahigh Water Pinning Nanostructures by Jaslyn Bee Khuan Law, Andrew Ming Hua Ng, Ai Yu He, and Hong Yee Low. Langmuir, 2014, 30 (1), pp 325–331 DOI: 10.1021/la4034996 Publication Date (Web): December 20, 2013
Copyright © 2013 American Chemical Society

This paper appears to be open access (I was able to access it by clicking on the HTML option).

Finally, here’s an image supplied by the A*Star researchers to illustrate their work,

[downloaded from http://pubs.acs.org/doi/full/10.1021/la4034996]

[downloaded from http://pubs.acs.org/doi/full/10.1021/la4034996]

This second rose petal item comes from Australia and dates from Fall 2013. From a Sept. 18, 2013 news item on ScienceDaily,

A new nanostructured material with applications that could include reducing condensation in airplane cabins and enabling certain medical tests without the need for high tech laboratories has been developed by researchers at the University of Sydney [Australia].

“The newly discovered material uses raspberry particles — so-called because of their appearance — which can trap tiny water droplets and prevent them from rolling off surfaces, even when that surface is turned upside down,” said Dr Andrew Telford from the University’s School of Chemistry and lead author of the research recently published in the journal, Chemistry of Materials.

The ability to immobilise [pin] very small droplets on a surface is, according to Dr Telford, a significant achievement with innumerable potential applications.

A Sept. 17, 2013 University of Sydney news release, which originated the news item, provides more insight into the research where the scientists have focused on ‘raspberry particles’ which could also be described as the ‘conical structures’ mentioned in the A*STAR work to achieve what appear to be similar ends,

Raspberry particles mimic the surface structure of some rose petals.

“Water droplets bead up in a spherical shape on top of rose petals,” Dr Telford said. “This is a sign the flower is highly water repellent.”

The reasons for this are complex and largely due to the special structure of the rose petal’s surface. The research team replicated the rose petal by assembling raspberry particles in the lab using spherical micro- and nanoparticles.

The result is that water droplets bead up when placed on films of the raspberry particles and they’re not able to drip down from it, even when turned upside down.

“Raspberry particle films can be described as sticky tape for water droplets,” Dr Telford said.

This could be useful in preventing condensation issues in airplane cabins. It could also help rapidly process simple medical tests on free-standing droplets, with the potential for very high turnover of tests with inexpensive equipment and in remote areas.

Other exciting applications are under study: if we use this nanotechnology to control how a surface is structured we can influence how it will interact with water.

“This means we will be able to design a surface that does whatever you need it to do.

“We could also design a surface that stays dry forever, never needs cleaning or able to repel bacteria or even prevent mould and fungi growth.

“We could then tweak the same structure by changing its composition so it forces water to spread very quickly.

“This could be used on quick-dry walls and roofs which would also help to cool down houses.

“This can only be achieved with a very clear understanding of the science behind the chemical properties and construction of the surface,” he said.

The discovery is also potentially viable commercially.

“Our team’s discovery is the first that allows for the preparation of raspberry particles on an industrial scale and we are now in a position where we can prepare large quantities of these particles without the need to build special plants or equipment,” Dr Telford said.

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

Mimicking the Wettability of the Rose Petal using Self-assembly of Waterborne Polymer Particles by A. M. Telford, B. S. Hawkett, C. Such, and C. Neto. Chem. Mater., 2013, 25 (17), pp 3472–3479 DOI: 10.1021/cm4016386 Publication Date (Web): July 23, 2013
Copyright © 2013 American Chemical Society

This paper is behind a paywall.

Touchie-feelie comes to the big screen (42 inches) in Amdolla/Cima NanoTech deal

If it’s been your dream to experience a really big touchscreen, you will be thrilled with this news. From a May 28, 2014 news item on Azonano (Note: A link has been removed),

Cima NanoTech, a smart nanomaterials company specializing in high performance transparent conductive films, announced today the industry’s first ultra responsive, non-ITO film-based, 42-inch projected capacitive multi-touch module for large format touch applications.

The module was built by Amdolla Group, a leader in advanced touch module manufacturing, using Cima NanoTech’s highly conductive, silver nanoparticle-based, SANTE® FS200 touch films. This product is targeted at applications including self-service kiosks, interactive tabletops, widescreen interactive digital signage, interactive flat panel displays, and other applications that require fast response, large size touch screens.

The Cima NanoTech May 28, 2014 news release (found on BusinessWire.com), which originated the news item, describes the technology in more detail,

With a scan rate of 150hz for 10-point multi-touch, rivaling the response time of smartphones and tablets, this jointly developed product dramatically increases the speed of large format touch displays. Unlike optical and infrared touch solutions, this module does not have a raised bezel for a smooth cover glass. In addition, the random conductive mesh pattern formed by SANTE® nanoparticle technology eliminates moiré, a challenge for traditional metal mesh technologies, thus enabling touch screens with better display quality.

“Our goal is to offer our customers a high performance, cost competitive and easy-to-implement solutions, and we’ve done it,” said Jon Brodd, CEO, Cima NanoTech. “Together with touch panel manufacturer, Amdolla, we are confident in creating a large format touch experience that is engaging and intuitive, and we expect to see this product on shelves by Q4 2014.”

SANTE® FS200 touch films are manufactured via a wide width roll-to-roll wet coating process. The high-throughput, high-yield manufacturing makes SANTE® nanoparticle technology a cost competitive solution for large format touch screens. Cima NanoTech also has the production capabilities to scale up to wider width touch films for screen sizes above 42”, further expanding the possibilities for innovative touch-enabled surfaces.

“The high response rate and excellent multi-point accuracy of the 42” touch module makes it a superior product in the industry, and we are very excited to be working with Cima NanoTech to commercialize this product,” commented Vance Zhang, General Manager, Amdolla Group. “We are also working to scale up to 55’’ screen sizes and larger.”

Here’s a little more about both companies from the news release (Note: Links have been removed),

 About Cima NanoTech

Cima NanoTech is a smart nanomaterials company delivering high performance, next-generation transparent conductors. The company developed its proprietary SANTE® nanoparticle technology, a silver nanoparticle conductive coating that self-assembles into a random mesh-like network when coated onto a substrate. SANTE® nanoparticle technology enables transparent conductors in a multitude of markets from large-format multi-touch displays to capacitive sensors, transparent and moldable EMI shielding, transparent heaters, transparent antennas, OLED lighting, electrochromic, and other flexible applications. Cima NanoTech has business development centers in the U.S., Singapore, Israel, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and China. For more information, visit www.cimananotech.com.

“Cima NanoTech” and “SANTE” are registered trademarks of Cima NanoTech, Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries.

About Amdolla Group

Founded in Shenzhen, China, Amdolla Group specializes in joint-design, joint-development, manufacturing, assembly and after-sales services to global computer, communication and consumer electronics leaders. The company leverages its advanced manufacturing technology and experienced technical team to provide total solutions to its customers, including Apple, Intel, Lenovo, Huawei, TCL, and many others. Visit www.amdolla.com.cn or e-mail [email protected]

It looks like we’re a step closer to whole-body touchscreens.

Fungal infections, begone!

A May 7, 2014 news item on Nanowerk highlights some antifungal research at A*STAR (Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research),

Pathogenic fungi like Candida albicans can cause oral, skin, nail and genital infections. While exposure to pathogenic fungi is generally not life-threatening, it can be deadly to immunocompromised patients with AIDS or cancer. A variety of antifungal medications, such as triazoles and polyenes, are currently used for treating fungal infections. The range of these antifungal medications, however, is extremely limited, with some fungal species developing resistance to these drugs.

Yi Yan Yang at the A*STAR Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology in Singapore and co-workers, in collaboration with IBM Almaden Research Center in the United States, have discovered four cationic terephthalamide-bisurea compounds with strong antifungal activity, excellent microbial selectivity and low host toxicity …

A May 7, 2018 A*STAR news release, which originated the news item, describes the research in detail (Note: A link has been removed),

Conformational analysis revealed that the terephthalamide-bisurea compounds have a Z-shaped structure: the terephthalamide sits in the middle, urea groups on both sides of the terephthalamide, and cationic charges at both ends. The researchers prepared compounds with different spacers — ethyl, butyl, hexyl or benzyl amine — in-between the urea group and the cationic charge.

When dissolved in water, the terephthalamide-bisurea compounds aggregate to form fibers with lengths ranging from a few hundred nanometers to several micrometers. Some of the compounds form fibers with high flexibility and others with high rigidity.

The researchers evaluated the antifungal activity of their terephthalamide-bisurea compounds against C. albicans. They found that all of the cationic compounds effectively inhibited fungal growth, even when the fungal concentration increased from 102 to 105 colony-forming units per milliliter.

The researchers believe that the potent antifungal activity is largely due to the formation of fibers with extremely small diameters in the order of 5 to 10 nanometers, which facilitates the rupture of fungal membranes. “This is particularly important because the fungal membrane of C. albicans is multilayered and has low negative charges,” explains Yang. “It also helps explain why cationic terephthalamide-bisurea compounds could easily penetrate the fungal membrane.”

The terephthalamide-bisurea compounds also eradicated clinically isolated drug-resistant C. albicans. The compounds prevent the development of drug resistance by rupturing the fungal membrane of C. albicans and disrupting the biofilm (see image).

Additionally, cytotoxicity tests showed that the cationic terephthalamide-bisurea compounds exhibit low toxicity toward mammalian cells and in a mouse model, revealing that the compounds “are relatively safe for preventing and treating fungal infections,” says Yang. [emphasis mine]

It’s nice to see that this potential anti-fungal treatment isn’t damaging to one’s cells.

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

Supramolecular high-aspect ratio assemblies with strong antifungal activity by Kazuki Fukushima, Shaoqiong Liu, Hong Wu, Amanda C. Engler, Daniel J. Coady, Hareem Maune, Jed Pitera, Alshakim Nelson, Nikken Wiradharma, Shrinivas Venkataraman, Yuan Huang, Weimin Fan, Jackie Y. Ying, Yi Yan Yang, & James L. Hedrick. Nature Communications 4, Article number: 286 doi:10.1038/ncomms3861 Published 09 December 2013

This article is behind a paywall.

Purple promises and bioimaging from Singapore’s A*STAR

A May 7, 2014 news item on Nanowerk describes a promising new approach to bioimaging,

Labeling biomolecules with light-emitting nanoparticles is a powerful technique for observing cell movement and signaling under realistic, in vivo conditions. The small size of these probes, however, often limits their optical capabilities. In particular, many nanoparticles have trouble producing high-energy light with wavelengths in the violet to ultraviolet range, which can trigger critical biological reactions.

Now, an international team led by Xiaogang Liu from the A*STAR Institute of Materials Research and Engineering and the National University of Singapore has discovered a novel class of rare-earth nanocrystals that preserve excited energy inside their atomic framework, resulting in unusually intense violet emissions …

A May 7, 2014 A*STAR (Agency for Science, Technology and Research) news release (h/t Imagist), which originated the news item, describes the problems with current bioimaging techniques and the new approach in more detail (Note: Links have been removed)

Nanocrystals selectively infused, or ‘doped’, with rare-earth ions have attracted the attention of researchers, because of their low toxicity and ability to convert low-energy laser light into violet-colored luminescence emissions — a process known as photon upconversion. Efforts to improve the intensity of these emissions have focused on ytterbium (Yb) rare-earth dopants, as they are easily excitable with standard lasers. Unfortunately, elevated amounts of Yb dopants can rapidly diminish, or ‘quench’, the generated light.

This quenching probably arises from the long-range migration of laser-excited energy states from Yb and toward defects in the nanocrystal. Most rare-earth nanocrystals have relatively uniform dopant distributions, but Liu and co-workers considered that a different crystal arrangement — clustering dopants into multi-atom arrays separated by large distances — could produce localized excited states that do not undergo migratory quenching.

The team screened numerous nanocrystals with different symmetries before discovering a material that met their criteria: a potassium fluoride crystal doped with Yb and europium rare earths (KYb2F7:Eu). Experiments revealed that the isolated Yb ‘energy clusters’ inside this pill-shaped nanocrystal (see image) enabled substantially higher dopant concentrations than usual — Yb accounted for up to 98 per cent of the crystal’s mass — and helped initiate multiphoton upconversion that yielded violet light with an intensity eight times higher than previously seen.

The researchers then explored the biological applications of their nanocrystals by using them to detect alkaline phosphatases, enzymes that frequently indicate bone and liver diseases. When the team brought the nanocrystals close to an alkaline phosphate-catalyzed reaction, they saw the violet emissions diminish in direct proportion to a chemical indicator produced by the enzyme. This approach enables swift and sensitive detection of this critical biomolecule at microscale concentration levels.

“We believe that the fundamental aspects of these findings — that crystal structures can greatly influence luminescence properties — could allow upconversion nanocrystals to eventually outperform conventional fluorescent biomarkers,” says Liu.

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

Enhancing multiphoton upconversion through energy clustering at sublattice level by Juan Wang, Renren Deng, Mark A. MacDonald, Bolei Chen, Jikang Yuan, Feng Wang, Dongzhi Chi, Tzi Sum Andy Hor, Peng Zhang, Guokui Liu, Yu Han, & Xiaogang Liu. Nature Materials 13, 157–162 (2014) doi:10.1038/nmat3804 Published online 24 November 2013

This paper is behind a paywall but there is a free preview via ReadCube Access.

Self-healing supercapacitors from Singapore

Michael Berger has written up the latest and greatest regarding self-healing capacitors and carbon nanotubes (which could have more relevance to your life than you realize) in a March 10, 2014 Nanowerk Spotlight article,

If you ever had problems with the (non-removable) battery in your iPhone or iPad then you well know that the energy storage or power source is a key component in a tightly integrated electronic device. Any damage to the power source will usually result in the breakdown of the entire device, generating at best inconvenience and cost and in the worst case a safety hazard and your latest contribution to the mountains of electronic waste.

A solution to this problem might now be at hand thanks to researchers in Singapore who have successfully fabricated the first mechanically and electrically self-healing supercapacitor.

Reporting their findings in Advanced Materials (“A Mechanically and Electrically Self-Healing Supercapacitor”) a team led by Xiaodong Chen, an associate professor in the School of Materials Science & Engineering at Nanyang Technological University, have designed and fabricated the first integrated, mechanically and electrically self-healing supercapacitor by spreading functionalized single-walled carbon nanotube (SWCNT) films on self-healing substrates.

Inspired by the biological systems’ intrinsic self-repairing ability, a class of artificial ‘smart’ materials, called self-healing materials, which can repair internal or external damages have been developed over the past decade …

Berger goes on to describe how the researchers addressed the issue of restoring electrical conductivity, as well as, restoring mechanical properties to self-healing materials meant to be used as supercapacitors.

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

A Mechanically and Electrically Self-Healing Supercapacitor by Hua Wang, Bowen Zhu, Wencao Jiang, Yun Yang, Wan Ru Leow, Hong Wang, & Xiaodong Chen. Advanced Materials Article first published online: 19 FEB 2014 DOI: 10.1002/adma.201305682

© 2014 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim

Xiaodong Chen and his team were last mentioned here in a Jan. 9, 2014 posting in connection with their work on memristive nanodevices derived from protein.

Nanopolis and China’s Showroon for Nanotechnology

Courtesy: HENN [Architects] [downloaded from http://www.henn.com/en/projects/culture/nanopolis-showroom]

Courtesy: Henn Architects [downloaded from http://www.henn.com/en/projects/culture/nanopolis-showroom]

Marija Bojovic’s Jan. 17, 2014 article for evolo.us offers the preceding image and more in an article* where she describes the building (Note: Links have been removed),

The layout of the curved building follows the classical inner courtyard typology and its form makes reference to the interplay of three ellipses. The largest ellipse defines the external size of the building, the smallest, the inner courtyard and the middle, the roof edge. At the lowest point, the pronounced slope of the annular allows a second access across the inner courtyard and opens the building to the forecourt opposite and the city. At the same time, the building rises from this point and terminates in the glass facade, which extends over the full height of the building and faces toward the water-scape.

The Showroom for Nanotechnology is part of a larger complex called Nanopollis, which in turn is part of an industrial park, in the city of Suzhou, China. The Nanopolis complex is expected to be opened in 2015. Here’s more about the project according to the agency which is responsible for it (from the Suzhou Nanotechnology webpage on the the Nanopolis website),

Founded in September 2010 as a state-owned company of Suzhou Industrial Park, Suzhou Nanotech focuses on nanotech industry promotion and service to establish an ecosystem for nanotech innovation and commercialization. The company actively works on recruitment and cooperation with industry and innovation resources, R&D facilities and platforms set-up and operation, investment and incubation, marketing and supporting services as well as the construction of “Nanopolis Suzhou”. Nowadays we have two wholly-owned subsidiaries named as Suzhou Nano Venture Capital Co.,Ltd. and SIP Nanotechnology Industry Institute Co., Ltd.

6 main Functions

• Nanopolis construction and operation
• Industry & innovation introduction and cooperation
• Nanotech industry cluster development
• Public platform construction and operation
• Investment and incubation
• Industry promotion & brand establishment

I did find two slides (PDF) describing the project in more detail on the Netherlands Enterprise Agency website,

The SIP [Singapore jointly developed Suzhou Industrial Park] has committed 10 billion RMB (about 1.5 BUSD) for the next five years to further develop Suzhou high-tech industries including nanotech enabled industries. Today the SIP is housed with 20000 national and multinational companies including 3M, Samsung, Siemens, Johnson & Johnson, Phillips, AMD, Bosch, Eli Lily and others within 288 square kilometers. Suzhou was ranked top 3 in “2010 China’s Most Innovative Cities” by Forbes.

… Suzhou intends to attract over 200 nanotech companies from all over the world and 10,000 nanotech experts within the next 5 years to make Suzhou the most global and innovative nanotech hub in China by 2015.

I look forward to hearing more about Nanopolis when it opens. In the meantime, here’s what the architects have to say about their approach to the project (from the HENN Nanopolis webpage),

Suzhou has set itself the target of closing the gap on the world’s leaders as a research and development location. Alongside the Biobay biotechnology park in the west of the city, Nanotech City marks another key element in that strategy. The program includes a total of 1.3 million square metres of floor area.

The creative leitmotif of the design is the relationship of scale between the molecular world, man and urban space. All elements of urban, architectural and landscape design range in density, size and height from the very large to the very small. The fractal logic of the division into units of diminishing size continues from the urban scale down to the facades, where elements of local architecture are reflected in aspects such as colour and structure.

As for HENN, here’s a little more about the company from the company’s About Us webpage,

HENN is an international architectural consultancy with 65 years of expertise in the design and realisation of buildings, masterplans and interior spaces in the fields of culture, administration, teaching and research, development and production as well as urban design.

The office is led by Gunter Henn and eleven partners with offices in Munich, Berlin, Beijing and Shanghai. 350 employees from 25 countries are able to draw upon a wealth of knowledge collected over three generations of building experience in addition to a worldwide network of partners and experts in a variety of disciplines.

* ‘arti6cle’ corrected to ‘article’ on Sept. 25, 2014.

*2700th posting: new generation of hybird memristive nanodevices and an update of HP labs and its memristive products

Hard to believe this is the *2700th posting but yay! To commemorate this special occasion I’m featuring two items about memristors, work on protein-based memristors and an update of my Feb. 7, 2013 posting on the HP Labs and its promises of memristor-based products.

Michael Berger’s Dec. 16, 2013 issue of Nanowerk Spotlight focused on memristor research from bioengineers at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University (Note: Links have been removed),

 Based on the rapid development of synthetic chemistry and bioengineering, researchers have begun to build hybrid nanostructures with various biomolecules to fulfill the functional requirements of advanced nanocircuits. Proteins already perform functions such as signalling, charge transport or storage, in all biochemical processes.

“Although the diversity of these natural molecules is vast – for instance, more than a million variants of an individual protein may be created via genetic engineering – tailoring their structures to fit the variable and complex requirements of both the biological and non-biological world is achievable by leveraging on the rapidly developing bioengineering field,” Xiaodong Chen, an Associate Professor in the School of Materials Science & Engineering at Nanyang Technological University, tells Nanowerk. “On a parallel note, bioengineering may provide an alternative approach to tune the structural and electronic properties of functional molecules leading to further development in the field of molecular electronics.”

Berger provides more context on this work by way of a 2011 Spotlight about the research (featured in my Sept. 19, 2011 posting) and then describes Chen’s latest work,

In new work, reported in a recent edition of Small (“Bioengineered Tunable Memristor Based on Protein Nanocage”) Chen and his team demonstrate a strategy for the fabrication of memristive nanodevices with stable and tunable performance by assembling ferritin monolayer inside a on-wire lithography-generated ∼12 nm gap.

Whereas the protein-based memristor devices in the previous work were fabricated from the commercial horse spleen ferritin, the new work uses the unique high iron loading capacity of Archaeoglobus fulgidus ferritin (AfFtn).

“We hypothesized that if the composition of this iron complex core can be modulated, the switching performance of the protein-based device can be controlled accordingly,” says Chen.

They found that the (tunable) iron loading in the AfFtn nanocages drastically impacts the performance of the memristive devices. The higher iron loading amount contributes to better memristive performance due to higher electrochemical activity of the ferric complex core.

This work is not going to be found in any applications for molecular devices at any time soon but it seems promising at this stage. For those who’d like more information, there’s Berger’s article or this link and a citation to the researchers’ paper,

Bioengineered Tunable Memristor Based on Protein Nanocage by Fanben Meng, Barindra Sana, Yuangang Li, Yuanjun Liu, Sierin Lim, & Xiaodong Chen. Article first published online: 19 AUG 2013 DOI: 10.1002/smll.201300810
© 2013 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim

This paper is behind a paywall but Wiley does offer a number of viewing options at different price points.

HP Labs and its memristor-based products

Following on last year’s Feb. 7, 2013 update (scroll down about 1/2 way), it seems like another annual update is in order unfortunately, the news seems like a retread. Memristor’-based devices from HP Labs will not be launched (in the marketplace or even to show at technology shows) this year either. In fact, any sort of launch is much further in the future according to Chris Mellor’s Nov. 1, 2013 article for The Register; Note: Links have been removed),

HP has warned El Reg not to get its hopes up too high after the tech titan’s CTO Martin Fink suggested StoreServ arrays could be packed with 100TB Memristor drives come 2018.

In five years, according to Fink, DRAM and NAND scaling will hit a wall, limiting the maximum capacity of the technologies: process shrinks will come to a shuddering halt when the memories’ reliability drops off a cliff as a side effect of reducing the size of electronics on the silicon dies.

The HP answer to this scaling wall is Memristor, its flavour of resistive RAM technology that is supposed to have DRAM-like speed and better-than-NAND storage density. Fink claimed at an HP Discover event in Las Vegas that Memristor devices will be ready by the time flash NAND hits its limit in five years. He also showed off a Memristor wafer, adding that it could have a 1.5PB capacity by the end of the decade.

Fink spoke about the tech in June, but this week a HP spokesperson clarified to The Reg:

As with many other ground-breaking technologies being developed at HP Labs, HP has not yet committed to a specific product roadmap for Memristor-based products. HP does have internal milestones that are subject to change, depending on shifting market, technology and business conditions.

Every time I read about it HP Labs’ memristor-based products  they keep receding further into the future. Compare this latest announcement with what was being said at the time of my Feb.7, 2013 posting,

… Stanley Williams’ presence in the video reminded me of the memristor and an announcement (mentioned in my April 19, 2012 posting) that HP Labs would be rolling out some memristor-enabled products in 2013. Sadly, later in the year I missed this announcement, from a July 9, 2012 posting by Chris Mellor for TheRegister.co.uk,

Previously he (Stanley Williams) has said that HP and fab partner Hynix would launch a memristor product in the summer of 2013. At the Kavli do [Kavli Foundation Roundtable, June 2012], Williams said: “In terms of commercialisation, we’ll have something technologically viable by the end of next year [2014].”

To be fair, it seems HP Labs had abandoned plans for a commercial launch of memristor-based products even in 2013 but now it seems there is no roadmap of any kind.

* Corrected from ‘3000’ to ‘2700’.

Nanoimprint Foundry in Singapore

Sept. 30, 2013 marks the date for the launch of Singapore’s Nanoimprint Foundry. From the Sept. 30, 2013 news item on Nanowerk,

A*STAR’s [Agency for Science, Technology and Research] Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE) and its partners launched a new Nanoimprint Foundry that will develop, test-bed and prototype specially engineered plastics and surfaces for the specific purpose of commercialising the technologies. Possible applications of nanoimprint technology include dry adhesives, aesthetic packaging, contact lenses, biomedical cell scaffolds, anti-frost surfaces and anti-bacteria materials.

The multi-party investment will bring together national research organisations, suppliers and manufacturers spanning the nanotechnology value chain, and government agencies to promote the technology. The Foundry is part of a masterplan spearheaded by A*STAR to push translational research and accelerate commercialisation of home-grown technologies. In partnership with other A*STAR research institutes, IMRE will work with companies like Toshiba Machines Co Ltd, EV Group, NTT Advanced Technology Corporation, NIL Technology ApS, Kyodo International Inc., micro resist technology GmbH, Nanoveu Pte Ltd and Solves Innovative Technology Pte Ltd to produce prototypes for real-world products and applications. The Foundry and its partners will also work closely with Singapore’s Economic Development Board (EDB) and SPRING to promote its nanoimprint applications to industry as part of the plans to build up Singapore’s high-value manufacturing capabilities.

The Sept. 30, 2013 A*STAR press release, which originated the news item, itemizes the various news points of interest,

3.     “We can help companies develop up to 20,000 samples for proof-of-concept and pilot production allowing manufacturers to shorten the product cycle but minus the heavy capital R&D investment”, said Dr Karen Chong, the IMRE scientist who is heading the Foundry. Dr Chong added that the Foundry will be a one-stop shop for companies seeking to conceive, design and develop solutions for new, revolutionary products based on the versatile nanoimprint technology.

4.     “The Foundry gives us the tools for creating real products that target industry end users and ultimately consumers”, explained Mr Masayuki Yagi, Director & General Manager, Advanced Machinery Business Unit, Toshiba Machines Co Ltd, Japan on why the company chose to participate in the initiative. “Toshiba Machines and the Foundry will aim to deliver innovative engineering solutions based on nanoimprint and be the best partner for leading industries”.

5.     According to Mr Koh Teng Kwee, Director of Solves Innovative Technology Pte Ltd, “Working with IMRE since IICON 1[1] am sure IMRE’s nanoimprint technology and know-how is now ready for industrial adoption.  In my opinion, IMRE is able to provide everything needed for a new product realisation involving nanoimprinting.”

6.     “There is a billion-dollar, virtually untapped market for new advanced nanotechnology products that can make use of what the Foundry has to offer”, said Prof Andy Hor, Executive Director for IMRE, adding that the initiative will hasten the industrialisation of nanoimprinting in this lucrative market segment. In consumer care for example, the global market for contact lenses – where nanoimprint technology can be used to produce new functionalities like multi-coloured lenses – is expected to grow to USD 11.7 billion by 2015[2].

7.     “The Foundry is the first one-stop shop to pull different value chain partners together to offer solutions based on nanoimprint through equipment, moulds, materials and applications to end user companies”, said Dr Tan Geok Leng, Executive Director of A*STAR’s Science and Engineering Research Council which oversees a number of the research institutes dedicated to the physical sciences and engineering. “The new Foundry is part of Singapore’s strategy to create a new, advanced high-value manufacturing sector to support its growing knowledge-based economy.”

8.     “As part of EDB’s vision to position Singapore as an Advanced Manufacturing Hub, we will continue to work with companies to co-create and adopt advanced manufacturing technologies. We see this new Research Foundry as one of the key infrastructures to strengthen nanoscale-manufacturing capabilities in Singapore”, said Mr Yi-Hsen Gian, Director (i3), Economic Development Board (EDB), Singapore.

[1]Source: Industrial Consortium On Nanoimprint, Project 1 on anti-reflection surfaces

[2] Source: Global Industry Analysts, Inc.

Good luck with the foundry and this attempt to set up a manufacturing process!