Tag Archives: Sweden

Cancer as a fashion statement at the University of British Columbia (Canada) and a Marimekko dress made of birch in Finland

The ‘Fashioning Cancer Project’ at the University of British Columbia (UBC) bears some resemblance to the types of outreach projects supported by the UK’s Wellcome Trust (for an example see my June 21, 2011 posting) where fashion designers are inspired by some aspect of science. Here’s more about the ‘Fashioning Cancer Project’ and its upcoming fashion show (on March 25, 2014). From the March 12, 2014 UBC news release (Note: Links have been removed),

A UBC costume design professor has created a collection of ball gowns inspired by microscopic photos of cancer cells and cellular systems to get people talking about the disease, beauty and body image.

The project aims to create alternative imagery for discussions of cancer, to complement existing examples such as the pink ribbon, which is an important symbol of cancer awareness, but may not accurately represent women’s experience with the disease.

“Many women who have battled cancer express a disconnect with the fashion imagery that commonly represents the disease,” says Jacqueline Firkins, an assistant professor in UBC’s Dept. of Theatre and Film, who designed the collection of 10 dresses and dubbed the work ‘Fashioning Cancer: The Correlation between Destruction and Beauty.’

Inspired by cellular images captured by researchers in the lab of UBC scientist Christian Naus, a Peter Wall Distinguished Scholar in Residence, the project seeks to create artistic imagery based on the disease itself.

“My hope is that somehow through fashion, I more closely tap into what a woman might be feeling about her body as she undergoes the disease, but simultaneously reflect a strength, beauty, and resilience,” says Firkins, who will use the collection to raise money for cancer research, patients and survivors.

“This will be an opportunity for people to share their thoughts about the gowns,” says Firkins. “Are they too pretty to reflect something as destructive as cancer? Do they encourage you to tell your own story? Do they evoke any emotions related to your own experience?”

Before giving you where and when, here are two images (a cell and a dress based on the cell),


Cell7_brain_cells_in_a_dish; Astrocytes from the brain growing in a culture dish. Green colour indicates the cytoskeleton of these cells, red colour shows specific membrance [sic] channels (gap junctions), blue colour indicates the cell nuclei (DNA). The ability to grow cells in a dish has contributed to our understand of the changes these cells undergo when they become channels. Photo credit: John Bechberger, MSc., Christian Naus, PhD.

Cell7_Mercedes_de_la_Zerda: Dress modeled by BFA Acting student Mercedes de la Zerda.Black organza cap sleeve w/ sheer top and multicolour organza diagonal trim. Photo credit: Tim Matheson

Cell7_Mercedes_de_la_Zerda: Dress modeled by BFA Acting student Mercedes de la Zerda.Black organza cap sleeve w/ sheer top and multicolour organza diagonal trim. Photo credit: Tim Matheson

Details about the show (from the UBC event description webpage where you can also find a slide show more pictures),

  • Event: Fashioning Cancer: The Correlation between Destruction and Beauty
  • Date: Tue. March 25, 2014 | Time: 12-1pm
  • Location: UBC’s Frederic Wood Theatre, 6354 Crescent Rd.
  • MAP: http://bit.ly/1fZ4bC8

On a more or less related note, Aalto University (Finland) has announced a dress made of birch cellulose fibre, from a March 13, 2014 news item on ScienceDaily,

The first garment made out of birch cellulose fibre using the Ioncell method is displayed at a fashion show in Finland on 13 March [2014]. The Ioncell method, which was developed by researchers at Aalto University, is an environmentally friendly alternative to cotton in textile production. The dress produced for Marimekko is a significant step forward in the development of fibre for industrial production.

Researchers were looking for new alternatives to cotton, because demand for textile fibres is expected to nearly double by 2030. The raw material for the Ioncell fibre is a birch-based pulp from Finnish pulp mills. Growing birch wood does not require artificial irrigation in its native habitat, for instance.

The Aalto University March 12, 2014 news release, which originated the news item, describes the new Ioncell fibre and its relationship with Finnish clothing company Marimekko,

The production method for Ioncell has been developed by Professor Herbert Sixta’s research group. The method is based on a liquid salt (ionic liquid) developed under the guidance of Professor Ilkka Kilpeläinen which is a very efficient cellulose solvent. The fibres derived from it are carded and spun to yarns at the Textile University of Börås in Sweden.

‒ We made a breakthrough in the development of the method about a year ago. Progress has been rapid since then. [see my Oct. 3, 2013 posting for another Finnish team's work with wood cellulose to create fabric]  Production of the fibre and the thread is still a cumbersome process, but we have managed to triple the amount of fibre that is produced in six months. The quality has also improved: the fibers are stronger and of more even quality, Professor Sixta says with satisfaction.

The surface of the ready textile has a dim glow and it is pleasing to the touch. According to Sixta, because of its strength, the strength properties of the Ioncell fibre are equal or even better than other pulp-based fibres on the market. The fibres are even stronger than cotton and viscose.

The Finnish textile and clothing design company Marimekko became inspired by the new fibre at an event organised by the Finnish Bioeconomy Cluster FIBIC, which coordinates bioeconomy research, and immediately got in touch with Professor Herbert Sixta at Aalto University.

‒ We monitor product development for materials closely in order to be able to offer our customers new and more ecological alternatives. It was a wonderful opportunity to be able to join this Aalto University development project at such an early stage. Fibre made from birch pulp seems to be a promising material by virtue of its durability and other characteristics, and we hope that we will soon be able to utilise this new material in our collections, says Noora Niinikoski, Head of Fashion at Marimekko.

Here’s the birch cellulose dress,

Marimekko Birch Dress Courtesy: Aalto University

Let’s all have a fashionable day!

INFERNOS: realizing Maxwell’s Demon

Before getting to the INFERNOS project and its relationship to Maxwell’s demon, I want to share a pretty good example of this ‘demon’ thought experiment which, as recently as Feb. 4, 2013, I featured in a piece about quantum dots,

James Clerk Maxwell, physicist,  has entered the history books for any number reasons but my personal favourite is Maxwell’s demon, a thought experiment he proposed in the 1800s to violate the 2nd law of thermodynamics. Lisa Zyga in her Feb. 1, 2013 article for phys.org provides an explanation,

When you open your door on a cold winter day, the warm air from your home and the cold air from outside begin to mix and evolve toward thermal equilibrium, a state of complete entropy where the temperatures outside and inside are the same. This situation is a rough example of the second law of thermodynamics, which says that entropy in a closed system never decreases. If you could control the air flow in a way that uses a sufficiently small amount of energy, so that the entropy of the system actually decreases overall, you would have a hypothetical mechanism called Maxwell’s demon.

An Oct. 9, 2013 news item on Nanowerk ties together INFERNOS and the ‘demon’,

Maxwell’s Demon is an imaginary creature that the mathematician James Clerk Maxwell created in 1897. The creature could turn heat into work without causing any other change, which violates the second law of thermodynamics. The primary goal of the European project INFERNOS (Information, fluctuations, and energy control in small systems) is to realize experimentally Maxwell’s Demon; in other words, to develop the electronic and biomolecular nanodevices that support this principle.

The Universitat de Barcelona (University of Barcelona) Oct. 7, 2013 news release, which originated the news item, provides more details about the project,

Although Maxwell’s Demon is one of the cornerstones of theoretical statistical mechanisms, little has been done about its definite experimental realization. Marco Ribezzi, researcher from the Department of Fundamental Physics, explains that “the principal novelty of INFERNOS is to bring a robust and rigorous experimental base for this field of knowledge. We aim at creating a device that can use information to supply/extract energy to/from a system”. In this sense, the UB group, in which researcher Fèlix Ritort from the former department also participates, focuses their activity on understanding how information and temperature changes are used in individual molecules manipulation.

From the theory side, researchers will work in order to develop a theory of the fluctuation processes in small systems, which would then facilitate efficient algorithms for the Maxwell’s Demon operation.

INFERNOS is a three-year European project of the programme Future and Emerging Technologies (FET). Besides the University of Barcelona, INFERNOS partners are: Aalto University (Finland), project coordinator, Lund University (Sweden), the University of Oslo (Norway), Delf University of Technology (Netherlands), the National Center for Scientific Research (France) and the Research Foundation of State University of New York.

I like the INFERNOS logo, demon and all,

Logo of the European project INFERNOS (Information, fluctuations, and energy control in small systems).

Logo of the European project INFERNOS (Information, fluctuations, and energy control in small systems).

The INFERNOS project website can be found here.

And for anyone who finds that music is the best way to learn, here are Flanders & Swann* performing ‘First and Second Law’ from a 1964 show,


* ‘Swan’ corrected to ‘Swann’ on April 1, 2014.

Europe’s flagshop projects (Graphene and Human Brain) take sail

Nine months after (my Jan. 28, 2013 posting) announcing that  the Future and Emerging Technologies 1B Euro research prizes were being awarded to the Graphene flagship and the Human Brain Project flagship, the two endeavours have been officially launched,  According to an Oct. 7, 2013 news item on Nanowerk,, the Graphene Flagship project is being launched at Chalmers University in Sweden (Note: Links have been removed),,

After years of preparations it is time for Europe to launch The Graphene Flagship – a 10-year, 1,000 million euro research and innovation initiative on graphene and related layered materials.

Now, on October 10-11, graphene researchers from all over Europe – from 74 research partners in 17 countries – will gather in Gothenburg, Sweden, for kick-off. Their mission is to take the supermaterial graphene and related ultra-thin layered materials from academic laboratories to society, revolutionize multiple industries and create economic growth and new jobs in Europe.

Here’s more about the Graphene Flagship kickoff event being held on Oct. 10, 2013 (i couldn’t find anything about events on Oct. 11, 2013)  at Sweden’s Chalmers University. The Human Brain Project kickoff event has started (Oct. 6 – 13, 2013) in EPFL (École Polytechnque Fédérale de Lausanne) campus in Switzerland. You can find more  links and more information about both projects on the FET (Future and Emerging Technologies) Flagship Initiatives webpage on the CORDIS website.

Nanocellulose and forest residues at Luleå University of Technology (Sweden)

Swedish scientists have developed a new production technique which scales up the manufacture of cellulose nanfibres and cellulose nanocrystals (CNC, aka nanocrystalline cellulose [NCC]) from waste materials. From the Aug. 30,2013 news item on Nanowerk (Note: A link has been removed),

Luleå University of Technology is the first in Sweden with a new technology that scales up the production of nano-cellulose from forest residues. It may eventually give the forest industry profitable new products, e.g. nano-filters that can clean both the gases, industrial water and even drinking water. Better health and cleaner environment, both nationally and internationally, are some possible outcome

“There is large interest in this from industries, especially because our bionanofilters are expected to be of great importance for the purification of water all around the globe,” says Aji Mathew, Associate Professor at Luleå University of Technology, who leads the EU-funded project, NanoSelect.

The Luleå University of Technology Aug. 28, 2013 news release, which originated the news item, briefly describe the process and the magnitude of the increased production,

On Tuesday [Aug. 27, 2013], researchers at Luleå University of Technology demonstrated before representatives from the Industry and from research institutes how they have managed to scale up the process of manufacture of nano-cellulose of two different residues from the pulp industry. One is from Domsjö in Örnsköldsvik in the form of a fiber product that is grinded down to tiny nano fibers in a special machine. Through this process, the researchers have managed to increase the amount of the previous two kilograms per day to 15 kg per day. Another byproduct is nanocrystals that have been successfully scaled up from 50 to 640 grams / day. The process is possible to scale up and therefore highly interesting for the forest industry.

As noted in the news item, this development is an outcome of the EU- (European Union) funded NanoSelect project, from the Project Details webpage,

NanoSelect aims to design, develop and optimize novel bio-based foams/filters/membranes/adsorbent materials with high and specific selectivity using nanocellulose/nanochitin and combinations thereof for decentralized industrial and domestic water treatment. NanoSelect proposes a novel water purification approach combining the physical filtration process and
the adsorption process exploring the capability of the nanocellulose and/or nanochitin (with or without functionalization) to selectively adsorb, store and desorb contaminants from industrial water and drinking water while passing through a highly porous or permeable membrane.

As the news release notes,

Nano Filter for purification of process water and drinking water is not the only possible product made of nano-cellulose since cellulose has much greater potential.

- Large-scale production of nano-cellulose is necessary to meet a growing interest to use bio-based nanoparticles in a variety of products, says Kristiina Oksman professor at Luleå University of Technology.

Nano filters is today developed at Imperial College, London, in close collaboration with the researchers at Luleå University of Technology.

- We have optimized the process to produce nano filters, we can control the pore size and thus the filter porosity. It’s actually just a piece of paper and the beauty of this piece of paper is that it is stable in water, not like toilet paper that dissolves easily in water, but stable, says Professor Alexander Bismarck at Imperial College.

Nice to hear more about CNC developments.

Touchy feely breakthrough at the nano scale

This first posting back after a three week hiatus (I’m baaack) concerns a study in Sweden where scientists found that people can discern nano wrinkles with their fingertips. From the Sept. 16, 2013 news item on Nanowerk,

In a ground-breaking study, Swedish scientists have shown that people can detect nano-scale wrinkles while running their fingers upon a seemingly smooth surface. The findings could lead such advances as touch screens for the visually impaired and other products, says one of the researchers from KTH Royal Institute of Technology.

The study marks the first time that scientists have quantified how people feel, in terms of a physical property. One of the authors, Mark Rutland, Professor of Surface Chemistry, says that the human finger can discriminate between surfaces patterned with ridges as small as 13 nanometres in amplitude and non-patterned surfaces.

The KTH Sept. 16, 2013 news release by David Callahan, which originated the news item, describes the new understanding of touch and its possible applications,

The study highlights the importance of surface friction and wrinkle wavelength, or wrinkle width – in the tactile perception of fine textures.

When a finger is drawn over a surface, vibrations occur in the finger. People feel these vibrations differently on different structures. The friction properties of the surface control how hard we press on the surface as we explore it. A high friction surface requires us to press less to achieve the optimum friction force.

“This is the breakthrough that allows us to design how things feel and are perceived,” he says. “It allows, for example, for a certain portion of a touch screen on a smartphone to be designed to feel differently by vibration.”

The research could inform the development of the sense of touch in robotics and virtual reality. A plastic touch screen surface could be made to feel like another material, such as fabric or wood, for example. The findings also enable differentiation in product packaging, or in the products themselves. A shampoo, for example, can be designed to change the feel of one’s hair.

The news release goes on to describe how the research was conducted,

With the collaboration of National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) material science labs, Rutland and his colleagues produced 16 chemically-identical surfaces with wrinkle wavelengths (or wrinkle widths) ranging from 300 nanometres to 90 micrometres, and amplitudes (or wrinkle heights) of between seven nanometres and 4.5 micrometres, as well as two non-patterned surfaces. The participants were presented with random pairs of surfaces and asked to run their dominant index finger across each one in a designated direction, which was perpendicular to the groove, before rating the similarity of the two surfaces.

The smallest pattern that could be distinguished from the non-patterned surface had grooves with a wavelength of 760 nanometres and an amplitude of only 13 nanometres.

Rutland says that by bringing together professors and PhD students from two different disciplines – surface chemistry and psychology – the team succeeded in creating “a truly psycho-physical study.”

“The important thing is that touch was previously the unknown sense,” Rutland says. “To make the analogy with vision, it is as if we have just revealed how we perceive colour.

“Now we can start using this knowledge for tactile aesthetics in the same way that colours and intensity can be combined for visual aesthetics.”

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

Feeling Small: Exploring the Tactile Perception Limits by Lisa Skedung, Martin Arvidsson, Jun Young Chung, Christopher M. Stafford, Birgitta Berglund & Mark W. Rutland. Scientific Reports 3, Article number: 2617 doi: 10.1038/srep02617 Published 12 September 2013

This paper is open access.

Archimedes as in nano-archimedes and graphene nanoscrolls

Over the last 10 days or so, I’ve stumbled across two references to Archimedes in my constant search for information on nanotechnology. Not remembering my ancient Greeks very well, I found this about him on Wikipedia (Note: Links and footnotes have been removed),

Archimedes of Syracuse (Greek: Ἀρχιμήδης; c. 287 BC – c. 212 BC) was a Greek mathematician, physicist, engineer, inventor, and astronomer. Although few details of his life are known, he is regarded as one of the leading scientists in classical antiquity. Among his advances in physics are the foundations of hydrostatics, statics and an explanation of the principle of the lever. He is credited with designing innovative machines, including siege engines and the screw pump that bears his name. Modern experiments have tested claims that Archimedes designed machines capable of lifting attacking ships out of the water and setting ships on fire using an array of mirrors.

Archimedes is generally considered to be the greatest mathematician of antiquity and one of the greatest of all time.

His influence lives on as he’s referenced in an Aug. 15, 2013 news item on Nanowerk concerning graphene nanoscrolls,

Researchers at Umeå University, together with researchers at Uppsala University and Stockholm University, show in a new study how nitrogen doped graphene can be rolled into perfect Archimedean nano scrolls by adhering magnetic iron oxide nanoparticles on the surface of the graphene sheets. The new material may have very good properties for application as electrodes in for example Li-ion batteries.

The Aug. 15, 2013 Umeå University press release,which originated the news item, provides technical details,

In the study the researchers have modified the graphene by replacing some of the carbon atoms by nitrogen atoms. By this method they obtain anchoring sites for the iron oxide nanoparticles that are decorated onto the graphene sheets in a solution process. In the decoration process one can control the type of iron oxide nanoparticles that are formed on the graphene surface, so that they either form so called hematite (the reddish form of iron oxide that often is found in nature) or maghemite, a less stable and more magnetic form of iron oxide.

“Interestingly we observed that when the graphene is decorated by maghemite, the graphene sheets spontaneously start to roll into perfect Archimedean nano scrolls, while when decorated by the less magnetic hematite nanoparticles the graphene remain as open sheets, says Thomas Wågberg, Senior lecturer at the Department of Physics at Umeå University.

The nanoscrolls can be visualized as traditional “Swiss rolls” where the sponge-cake represents the graphene, and the creamy filling is the iron oxide nanoparticles. The graphene nanoscrolls are however around one million times thinner.

The results that now have been published in Nature Communications are conceptually interesting for several reasons. It shows that the magnetic interaction between the iron oxide nanoparticles is one of the main effects behind the scroll formation. It also shows that the nitrogen defects in the graphene lattice are necessary for both stabilizing a sufficiently high number of maghemite nanoparticles, and also responsible for “buckling” the graphene sheets and thereby lowering the formation energy of the nanoscrolls.

The process is extraordinary efficient. Almost 100 percent of the graphene sheets are scrolled. After the decoration with maghemite particles the research team could not find any open graphene sheets.

Moreover, they showed that by removing the iron oxide nanoparticles by acid treatment the nanoscrolls again open up and go back to single graphene sheets

The researchers have an image showing a partially reopened scroll (despite references to Archimedes and swiss rolls, I see a plant leaf or flower unfurling),

Caption: Snapshot of a partially re-opened nanoscroll. The atomic layer thick graphene resembles a thin foil with some few wrinkles. [Courtesy of  Umeå University]

Caption: Snapshot of a partially re-opened nanoscroll. The atomic layer thick graphene resembles a thin foil with some few wrinkles. [Courtesy of Umeå University]

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

Tiva Sharifi, Eduardo Gracia-Espino, Hamid Reza Barzegar, Xueen Jia, Florian Nitze, Guangzhi Hu, Per Nordblad, Cheuk-Wai Tai, and Thomas Wågberg: Formation of nitrogen-doped graphene nanoscrolls by adsorption of magnetic γ-Fe2O3 nanoparticles, Nature Communications (2013), DOI:10.1038/ncomms3319.

The article is behind a paywall.

The other Archimedes reference is regarding a new website, nano-archimedes, mentioned in an Aug. 10, 2013 news item on Nanowerk,

Nano-archimedes is a Technology Computer Aided Design tool (TCAD) for the simulation of electron transport in nanometer scale semiconductor devices (nanodevices). It is based on the Wigner equation, a convenient reformulation of the Schrödinger equation in terms of a phase-space, which allows the application of stochastic particles methods and the extension towards mixed state kinetic descriptions such as the Wigner-Boltzmann equation.

There’s more on the nano-archimedes homepage,

It is an experimental code for validation and analysis of the compatibility of existing quantum particle concepts in algorithmic schemes. Our preliminary results have clearly shown that time-dependent, full quantum and multi-dimensional simulations of electron transport can be achieved with no special computational requirements. The code is already able to simulate time dependent phenomena such as two-dimensional wave phase breaking and single electron ballistic transport with open boundary conditions aiming to have, very soon, full quantum self-consistent calculations for nanodevices.

nano-archimedes runs both on serial and parallel machines and the parallelization scheme is based on OpenMP – a standard library for parallel calculations. The code is entirely written in C and can compile on a huge variety of machines without any particular effort. The only external dependence is OpenMP, everything else is embedded in the code to make it truly cross-platform.

I found the background of the team members behind this effort rather interesting, from the Team page,

Main developer and principal maintainer of the code:
Jean Michel Sellier, IICT, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, Bulgaria, supported by the AComIn project.

Main developer, theory and physical analysis:
Mihail Nedjalkov, Institute for Microelectronics, TU Wien, Austria.

Advisory board:
Ivan Dimov, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, Bulgaria.
Siegfried Selberherr, Institute for Microelectronics, TU Wien, Austria.

Website Master:
Marc Sellier, working at Selliweb, Italy.

I don’t often have a chance to mention Bulgaria and I expect that’s due to the fact that my linguistic skills are largely English with a little French flavour thrown into the mix. The consequence is that I’m confined and while  I realize English is the dominant language in science there’s still a lot of scientific materials that never finds its way into English and I don’t trust machine translations.

Upsalite, an impossible material from Uppsala University (Sweden) and Disruptive Materials

You can feel the researchers’ excitement crackling from the July 18, 2013 news release (English language version available at Uppsala University [Sweden]) about a new material that shares properties with zeolite, mesoporous silica, and carbon nanotubes and has some special properties all its own,

A novel material with world record breaking surface area and water adsorption abilities has been synthesized by researchers from Uppsala University, Sweden. The results are published today in PLOS ONE.

The magnesium carbonate material that has been given the name Upsalite is foreseen to reduce the amount of energy needed to control environmental moisture in the electronics and drug formulation industry as well as in hockey rinks and warehouses. It can also be used for collection of toxic waste, chemicals or oil spill and in drug delivery systems, for odor control and sanitation after fire.

Apparently this work represents a break with orthodoxy, from the news release,

-In contrast to what has been claimed for more than 100 years in the scientific literature, we have found that amorphous magnesium carbonate can be made in a very simple, low-temperature process, says Johan Forsgren, researcher at the Nanotechnology and Functional Materials Division

While ordered forms of magnesium carbonate, both with and without water in the structure, are abundant in nature, water-free disordered forms have been proven extremely difficult to make. In 1908, German researchers claimed that the material could indeed not be made in the same way as other disordered carbonates, by bubbling CO2 through an alcoholic suspension. Subsequent studies in 1926 and 1961 came to the same conclusion.

-A Thursday afternoon in 2011, we slightly changed the synthesis parameters of the earlier employed unsuccessful attempts, and by mistake left the material in the reaction chamber over the weekend. Back at work on Monday morning we discovered that a rigid gel had formed and after drying this gel we started to get excited, says Johan Forsgren.

A year of detailed materials analysis and fine tuning of the experiment followed.

-One of the researchers got to take advantage of his Russian skill since some of the chemistry details necessary for understanding the reaction mechanism was only available in an old Russian PhD thesis.

-After having gone through a number of state of the art materials characterization techniques it became clear that we had indeed synthesized the material that previously had been claimed impossible to make, says Maria Strømme, professor of nanotechnology and head of the nanotechnology and functional materials division. The most striking discovery was, however, not that we had produced a new material but it was instead the striking properties we found that this novel material possessed. It turned out that Upsalite had the highest surface area measured for an alkali earth metal carbonate; 800 square meters per gram. This places the new material in the exclusive class of porous, high surface area materials including mesoporous silica, zeolites, metal organic frameworks, and carbon nanotubes, says Strømme.

In addition we found that the material was filled with empty pores all having a diameter smaller than 10 nano meters. This pore structure gives the material a totally unique way of interacting with the environment leading to a number of properties important for application of the material. Upsalite is for example found to absorb more water at low relative humidities than the best materials presently available; the hydroscopic zeolites, a property that can be regenerated with less energy consumption than is used in similar processes today.

This, together with other unique properties of the discovered impossible material is expected to pave the way for new sustainable products in a number of industrial applications, says Maria Strømme.

The discovery will be commercialized though the University spin-out company Disruptive Materials (www.disruptivematerials.com) that has been formed by the researchers together with the holding company of Uppsala University

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

A Template-Free, Ultra-Adsorbing, High Surface Area Carbonate Nanostructure by Johan Forsgren, Sara Frykstrand, Kathryn Grandfield, Albert Mihranyan, and Maria Strømme. PLoS ONE, 2013; 8 (7): e68486 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0068486

Here’s a little more abut Upsalite from the university’s spin-off company, Disruptive Materials homepage,

A new material with world record breaking surface area and water adsorption abilities

It was supposed to be impossible, but… We did it! Disruptive Materials has succeeded to manufacture micro-porous magnesium carbonate and the properties are mind blowing. Over 800 m2/g in surface area, better water adsorbtion ability than the former champion Zeolite Y and a very low manufacturing cost. We have been testing the material for a long time, and we see new applications every week for this new and true super-material.

Finally for those with Swedish language skills, here’s the July 18, 2013 news release from Disruptive Materials.

Graphene and Human Brain Project win biggest research award in history (& this is the 2000th post)

The European Commission has announced the two winners of its FET (Future and Emerging Technologies) Flagships Initiative in a Jan. 28, 2013 news release,

The winning Graphene and Human Brain initiatives are set to receive one billion euros each, to deliver 10 years of world-beating science at the crossroads of science and technology. Each initiative involves researchers from at least 15 EU Member States and nearly 200 research institutes.

“Graphene” will investigate and exploit the unique properties of a revolutionary carbon-based material. Graphene is an extraordinary combination of physical and chemical properties: it is the thinnest material, it conducts electricity much better than copper, it is 100-300 times stronger than steel and it has unique optical properties. The use of graphene was made possible by European scientists in 2004, and the substance is set to become the wonder material of the 21st century, as plastics were to the 20th century, including by replacing silicon in ICT products.

The “Human Brain Project” will create the world’s largest experimental facility for developing the most detailed model of the brain, for studying how the human brain works and ultimately to develop personalised treatment of neurological and related diseases. This research lays the scientific and technical foundations for medical progress that has the potential to will dramatically improve the quality of life for millions of Europeans.

The European Commission will support “Graphene” and the “Human Brain Project” as FET “flagships” over 10 years through its research and innovation funding programmes. Sustained funding for the full duration of the project will come from the EU’s research framework programmes, principally from the Horizon 2020 programme (2014-2020) which is currently negotiated in the European Parliament and Council.

European Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes said: “Europe’s position as a knowledge superpower depends on thinking the unthinkable and exploiting the best ideas. This multi-billion competition rewards home-grown scientific breakthroughs and shows that when we are ambitious we can develop the best research in Europe. To keep Europe competitive, to keep Europe as the home of scientific excellence, EU governments must agree an ambitious budget for the Horizon 2020 programme in the coming weeks.”

“Graphene” is led by Prof. Jari Kinaret, from Sweden’s Chalmers University. The Flagship involves over 100 research groups, with 136 principal investigators, including four Nobel laureates. “The Human Brain Project” involves scientists from 87 institutions and is led by Prof. Henry Markram of the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne.

As noted in my Jan. 24, 2013 posting about the new Cambridge Graphene Centre in the UK, while the Graphene flagship lead is from Sweden, the UK  has more educational institutions than any other country party to the flagship consortium.

Here are some funding details from the Jan. 28, 2013 news release,

Horizon 2020 is the new EU programme for research and innovation, presented by the Commission as part of its EU budget proposal for 2014 to 2020. In order to give a boost to research and innovation as a driver of growth and jobs, the Commission has proposed an ambitious budget of €80 billion over seven years, including the FET flagship programme itself.

The winners will receive up to €54 million from the European Commission’s ICT 2013 Work Programme. Further funding will come from subsequent EU research framework programmes, private partners including universities, Member States and industry.

1 billion Euros sounds like a lot of money but it’s being paid out over 10 years (100 million per year) and through many institutional layers at the European Commission and at the educational institutions themselves. One wonders how much of the money will go to research rather than administration.

2000th posting: My heartfelt thanks to everyone who has taken the time to read this blog and and to those who’ve taken the time to comment on the blog, on Twitter, or directly to me. Your interest has kept this blog going far longer than I believed it would.

Another day, another graphene centre in the UK as the Graphene flagship consortium’s countdown begins

The University of Cambridge has announced a Cambridge Graphene Centre due to open by the end of 2013 according to a Jan. 24, 2012 news item on Nanowerk,

The Cambridge Graphene Centre will start its activities on February 1st 2013, with a dedicated facility due to open at the end of the year. Its objective is to take graphene to the next level, bridging the gap between academia and industry. It will also be a shared research facility with state-of-the-art equipment, which any scientist researching graphene will have the opportunity to use.

The University of Cambridge Jan. 24, 2013 news release, which originated the news item, describes the plans for graphene research and commercialization,

The first job for those working in the Cambridge Graphene Centre will be to find ways of manufacturing and optimising graphene films, dispersions and inks so that it can be used to good effect.

Professor Andrea Ferrari, who will be the Centre’s Director, said: “We are now in the second phase of graphene research, following the award of the Nobel Prize to Geim and Novoselov. That means we are targeting applications and manufacturing processes, and broadening research to other two-dimensional materials and hybrid systems. The integration of these new materials could bring a new dimension to future technologies, creating faster, thinner, stronger, more flexible broadband devices.”

One such project, led by Dr Stephan Hofmann, a Reader and specialist in nanotechnology, will look specifically at the manufacturability of graphene and other, layered, 2D materials. At the moment, sheets of graphene that are just one atom thick are difficult to grow in a controllable manner, manipulate, or connect with other materials.

Dr Hofmann’s research team will focus on a growth method called chemical vapour deposition (CVD), which has already opened up other materials, such as diamond, carbon nanotubes and gallium nitride, to industrial scale production.

“The process technology will open up new horizons for nanomaterials, built layer by layer, which means that it could lead to an amazing range of future devices and applications,” Dr Hofmann said.

The Government funding for the Centre is complemented by strong industrial support, worth an additional £13 million, from over 20 partners, including Nokia, Dyson, Plastic Logic, Philips and BaE systems. A further £11M of European Research Council funding will support activities with the Graphene Institute in Manchester, and Lancaster University. [emphasis mine]

Its work will focus on taking graphene from a state of raw potential to a point where it can revolutionise flexible, wearable and transparent electronics. The Centre will target the manufacture of graphene on an industrial scale, and applications in the areas of flexible electronics, energy, connectivity and optoelectronics.

Professor Yang Hao, of Queen Mary, University of London, will lead Centre activities targeting connectivity, so that graphene can be integrated into networked devices, with the ultimate vision of creating an “internet of things”.

Professor Clare Grey, from Cambridge’s Department of Chemistry, will lead the activities targeting the use of graphene in super-capacitors and batteries for energy storage. The research could, ultimately, provide a more effective energy storage for electric vehicles, storage on the grid, as well as boosting the energy storage possibilities of personal devices such as MP3 players and mobile phones.

The announcement of a National Graphene Institute in Manchester was mentioned in my Jan. 14, 2013 posting and both the University of Manchester and the Lancaster University are part of the Graphene Flagship consortium along with the University of Cambridge and Sweden’s Chalmers University, which is the lead institution, and others competing against three other Flagship projects for one of two 1B Euro prizes.

These two announcements (Cambridge Graphene Centre and National Graphene Institute come at an interesting time, the decision as to which two projects will receive 1B Euros for research is being announced Jan. 28, 2013 in Brussels, Belgium. The Jan. 15, 2013 article by Frank Jordans on the R&D website provides a few more details,

Teams of scientists from across the continent [Europe] are vying for a funding bonanza that could see two of them receive up to €1 billion ($1.33 billion) over 10 years to keep Europe at the cutting edge of technology.

The contest began with 26 proposals that were whittled down to six last year. Just four have made it to the final round.

They include a plan to develop digital guardian angels that would keep people safe from harm; a massive data-crunching machine to simulate social, economic and technological change on our planet; an effort to craft the most accurate computer model of the human brain to date; and a team working to find better ways to produce and employ graphene—an ultra-thin material that could revolutionize manufacturing of everything from airplanes to computer chips.

Jordans’ article goes on to further explain the reasoning for this extraordinary contest. All four groups must be highly focused on Monday’s (Jan. 28, 2013) announcement from EU (European Union) officials, after all, two prizes and four competitors means that the odds of winning are 50/50. Good luck!

A phonograph record made out of ice

Thanks to Jordan Kushins’s Dec.  27, 2012 article (on the Fast Company Co-Design website) about the Shout Out Louds band and their attempts, against professional and scientific advice, to create a record made out of ice (Note: Links removed),

…  they wanted something special to introduce “Blue Ice,” the first single off their upcoming Optica, to the world. In collaboration with the creative folks at ad agency TBWA Stockholm, they came up with a way to transform the physicality of vinyl into something more ephemeral. “The concept isn’t that complicated, since the song is about fading love,” TBWA art director Alex Fredlund tells Co.Design. “But to actually make a record out of ice was a different story.”

“We talked to professors at different universities telling us it would never work out, so we had to develop the technique ourselves,” he says. After receiving a negative imprint of the song’s master cut, they started experimenting; the office became a kind of amateur chemistry lab, and the team spent hours testing different types of liquid, various drying techniques, and multiple kinds of molds.

There are longer videos embedded into the Kushins’ article which give insight into the process and demonstrate the final product. This briefer (2 mins., 13 secs.) video shows one of the attempts to create an ice record and is from the Shout Out Louds’ website,

Here’s a brief description of the Shout Out Louds from a Wikipedia entry,

Shout Out Louds are an indie rock band from Stockholm, Sweden.

The group has toured with bands such as The Strokes, Kings of Leon, The Magic Numbers, The Rosebuds, The Essex Green, and Johnossi. Their songs have been featured in the television shows Chuck, The O.C., How I Met Your Mother and One Tree Hill, the movies Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, What Happens in Vegas… and Eye Trip, and the video games MLB 06: The Show and Major League Baseball 2K11. The band’s music videos have also been featured on TV Guide’s “M-Vids” and AOL’s Music on Demand services.

The project seems à propos both to Sweden and the season.