Monthly Archives: September 2010

Latin for scientists

It’s not unusual to come across Latin when you’re stumbling across a science text of one kind or another. Thanks to Google, I may no longer have suffer from my ignorance of the language. From the Fast Company article by Kit Eaton,

Google translate is powerful–and though it’s not fool-proof and we’re all used to seeing humorously inaccurate Google machine translation efforts used where a real human translator should’ve been, it’s penetrating many people’s lives on a daily basis because it’s so accessible and so damn useful. So now Google has taken what may be the ultimate translation step, and launched a facility to translate into and from a dead language: Latin.

Google titled its blog post announcing the news “Veni, vidi, verba verti” (I came, I saw, I translated the words) and the rest of the body is in Latin too.

You can check Google’s ‘Latin’ post here.

In progress: Past, present, and future of nanotechnology webcast and a nanoinformatics roadmapping workshop

Livestreaming of the nanotechnology roadmapping workshop being held by the US National Science Foundation mentioned here on Sept. 27, 2010 is taking place NOW! Go here if you’re interested (you will have to register if you haven’t already). Speakers are presenting information from the international report, Nanotechnology Long-term Impacts and Research Directions: 2000-2020. They are presenting the study chapter by chapter in a day long session and should be finished by 4 or 4:30 pm EST. (This is the best quality livestream video I’ve seen on my rather minimalist computer system.)

The Morph morphs?

There was a lot of noise a couple years ago about Nokia’s Morph (mentioned briefly in my Feb. 17, 2009 posting and my March 30, 2010 posting) a mobile phone which could wrap around your wrist. As far as I know, an animation is all that exists of the Morph. However, I have come across an article about the Morph and the research centre in Cambridge where much of the work is being done. From the article on the  Nokia Conversation blog,

Getting into a Nokia Research Center laboratory isn’t easy. The security doors remain open long enough for one or two people to enter and if held open too long, will sound what we’re told is an exceptionally loud alarm. Lucky then that we were part of a group taken around NRC’s Cambridge laboratory to see some of the latest scientific problems being solved there. We were treated to demoes of three different strands of research; Nanowire Sensing, Stretchable Electronic Skin and Electrotactile Experience. [emphasis mine]

I gather that any or all three of these research areas could be applicable in some fashion to the Morph, should there be prototype.

Nanowire sensing could allow your phone to sniff (be an artificial nose). Here’s a video about nanowire sensing,

Here’s a video on stretchable electronic skin,

For the elecrotactile experience, I did not find a video so I’m back to the article,

The third of our demoes [sic] was also the most realistic, as it was being shown off on a Nokia N900. The team is working on ways to enable touchscreens to offer more realistic feedback. This goes way beyond simple haptics to deliver genuine tactile response. The team are influenced by the belief that the sensation of touch isn’t currently well understood so they’re trying to work out ways to make it more effective when interacting with technology.

You can see after viewing this Morph animation, how stretchable electronic skin will be applied and how useful research into electrotactile experiences will be for this product,

As for a mobile telephone with an artificial nose, I wouldn’t think that’s especially useful but, in the beginning,  I didn’t think camera and videotaping capabilities would be useful either and I was wrong.

Ottawa hosts 2nd International Conference on Nanotechnology: Fundamentals and Applications in 2011

Get ready for July 27-29, 2011 when the University of Ottawa (Canada)  and the International Academy of Science, Engineering and Technology (International ASET) will host  (from the news item on Nanowerk),

… the 2nd International Conference on Nanotechnology: Fundamentals and Applications.

As globalization leads to increasing interaction among regions and peoples of the world, it is important to encourage multi-disciplinarity in emerging scientific topics such as nanotechnology. Nanotechnology, even though rapidly growing, is still in its infancy and has given rise to numerous novel applications for the solution of many current problems.

The aim of the 2nd International Conference on Nanotechnolgy: Fundamentals and Applications is to gather scholars from all over the world to present advances in the field of nanotechnology and to foster an environment conducive to exchanging ideas and information.

This conference will also provide a golden opportunity to develop new collaborations and meet world nanotechnology experts on the fundamentals, applications and products.

You can visit the conference website here. Papers are still being accepted, (from the submissions page),

CNFA2011 is now accepting papers on the following topics through its OpenConf system. Shall you have a paper on an additional topic, please write an email to . The current topics are as follows:

* Modeling and Simulation

* Nanotechnology and Energy

* Nanotechnology and Environment

* Nanotechnology, Products and Markets

* Nanomedical Applications: Drug Delivery, and Tissue Engineering

* Nanomaterials, Nanodevices: Fabrication, Characterization and Application

* Societal aspects of Nanotechnology: Ethics, Risk Assessment, Standardization

* Nanotechnology and Education

* Nanocatalysis

* Nanoelectronics

* Nanotechnology and Agriculture

* Nanotechnology and Polymer

* Nanobiotechnologies

* Nanobiomechanics

* Nanotechnology and Coating

All accepted full papers and extended abstracts will be published in the proceedings, under an ISBN reference in a DVD-ROM support. Selected papers will have the opportunity to be published in special issues at International Journal of Nano and Biomaterials (IJNBM) after peer review.

Using bacteria for bottom-up production of metal nanoparticles

After admiring the descriptions for top-down and bottom-up nanoengineering in the report, Engineered Nanoparticles; Current Knowledge about OHS [Occupational Health and Safety] Risks and Prevention Measures, (my posting of Sept. 27, 2010), I came across Michael Berger’s very interesting article about bacteria and nanoparticle factories. From Bacteria as environmentally friendly nanoparticle factories on the Nanowerk site,

“The strategy of employing recombinant E. coli expressing metal binding proteins as a nanoparticle factory is generally applicable to the combinatorial synthesis of diverse nanoparticles having a wide range of characteristics, such as optical, electronic, chemical, and magnetic properties” Sang Yup Lee, head of the Metabolic & Biomolecular Engineering National Research Laboratory at KAIST, explains to Nanowerk. “Several physico-chemical processes that have been employed for the synthesis of metal nanoparticles involve processes at high temperatures in organic solvents, which are costly and environmentally unfriendly. Nanoparticles synthesized in recombinant E. coli cells are size-tunable at ambient temperature and possess chemical and optical characteristics comparable, if not identical, to those of chemically-synthesized nanoparticles.”

If you’d asked me a few years back about using bacteria to produce metallic nanoparticles, I would have been quite wary of the idea. However, these last few years of research and thinking have led me to a more relaxed if not altogether comfortable attitude toward this kind of nanobiotechnology. In fact, I find this particular project quite interesting and hopeful.

Quebec’s new report on the risks of engineered nanoparticles

Engineered Nanoparticles; Current Knowledge about OHS [Occupational Health and Safety] Risks and Prevention Measures is the title for a report (2nd edition) written by Claude Ostiguy, Brigitte Roberge, Catherine Woods, and Brigitte Soucy for the Quebec-based Institut de recherche Robert-Sauvé en santé et en sécurité du travail (IRSST). From the news item on Nanowerk,

An initial assessment of the state of scientific knowledge about the occupational health and safety aspects (OHS) related to synthetic nanoparticles (NP) was published by the IRSST in 2006 and covered the scientific literature until the end of 2004. What was found was that OHS knowledge was very fragmentary but that research in this field was rapidly growing. This current document aims to assess the state of current knowledge in this field and summarizes the data available until early 2010.

Overall, what emerges is that NP remain an important source of concern in OHS. In fact, not only does the diversity of commercially available chemical products of nanometric dimensions continue to increase, but also, the information available about the hazards specific to these substances is still very fragmentary. The literature gives us very little information specific to NP relating to their physical hazards like fires or explosions.

In a context of incomplete data for the majority of nanometric substances, it remains impossible to quantify the risks for workers in the majority of situations because the toxicity of the products, the level of dust contamination of workplaces, or their potential to cause fires or explosions remain not extensively documented or totally undocumented. Nevertheless, the majority of the means of exposure control for ultrafine particles should be effective against NP and much research is currently being carried out to confirm this.

In a context of uncertainty about the risks, and with an increasing number of potentially exposed workers, the current report paints a big picture of the OHS knowledge currently available in the NP field. In the absence of specific standards, a preventive and even a precautionary approach are recommended, and a review of the available means for minimizing worker exposure is presented.

The report (over 150 pp.) can be found here. There’s certainly much to appreciate in the report. Here are two bits that I particularly want to highlight, the acknowledgment that nanoparticles aren’t new,

Although the development of NT [nanotechnology] is a modern multidisciplinary science, naturally produced and manmade materials of nanometric dimensions and exposure to particles of other dimensions of mineral or environmental origin, including the fine fraction of nanometric particles, have always existed. Some of the natural nanometric particles are of biological origin – including DNA with a diameter of around 2.5 nm and many viruses (10 to 60 nm) and bacteria (30 nm to 10 μm) — while others are found in desert sand, oil fumes, smog, and fumes originating from volcanic activity or forest fires and certain atmospheric dusts. Among those generated by human activity, we should mention diesel fumes, industrial blast furnace emissions and welding fumes, which contain particles of nanometric dimensions (Teague, 2004). (p. 11 PDF, p. 1, print)

There’s also a very good (in my opinion) description of bottom-up and top-down approaches to engineered nanoparticles,

Nanoparticles can be synthesized by different approaches. Nanoparticle production can be generally categorized into the bottom-up and top-down methods. In the bottom-up approach, nanoparticles are constructed atom-by-atom or molecule-by-molecule. In the top-down approach (top-down), a large structure is gradually underdimensioned, until nanometric dimensions are attained after application of severe mechanical stresses, violent shocks and strong deformations. The two approaches bottom-up and top-down tend to converge in terms of dimensions of the synthesized particles. The bottom-up approach seems richer, in that it allows production of a greater diversity of architectures and often better control of the nanometric state (relatively monodispersed granulometric sizes and distribution, positioning of the molecules, homogeneity of the products). The top-down approach, although capable of higher-volume production, generally makes control of the nanometric state a more delicate operation. (p. 25 PDF, p. 15 print)

Ostiguy (last mentioned in my June 23, 2010 posting [Nanomaterials, toxicity, and Canada’s House of Commons Standing Committee on Health] as an expert witness) and his colleagues offer a good overview of  international, national, and provincial (Québec) research and development efforts including definitions for terms and descriptions of various types of nanoparticles and a discussion about markets. I was expecting something more narrowly focused on occupational health and safety (OHS) but very much appreciate the efforts to contextualize OHS issues within the larger nanotechnology ‘enterprise’ in addition to the OHS material.

Oddly, I found this on the cover page,


The IRSST makes no guarantee regarding the accuracy, reliability or completeness of the information contained in this document. In no case shall the IRSST be held responsible for any physical or psychological injury [??? and emphasis mine] or material damage resulting from the use of this information.

Note that the content of the documents is protected by Canadian intellectual property legislation.

As for any psychological injury I may received from reading the report, what about injury from reading the disclaimer?

I do have a few nits to pick. Surprisingly since this report was published in July 2010, they did not include any information about an April 2010 nanomaterial definition proposed in the US (my April 27, 2010 posting). More picayune, reference is made to Nanotech BC which has been effectively defunct since Spring 2009 while no mention is made of Nano Ontario which I first noticed in early 2010 (Professor Gilbert Walker responded on behalf of Nano Ontario to Peter Julian’s proposed nanotechnology legislation in my March 29, 2010 posting).

I was also surprised at the certainty expressed about scientific unanimity over the dimensions,

As already mentioned, there is now unanimity in the scientific community on the dimensions of manufactured NP: at least one of their dimensions ranges between one and 100 nm [emphasis mine] and they have different properties than larger-diameter particles made of the same material (ASTM, 2006; BSI, 2008; ISO, 2007, 2008). (p. 49 PDF, p. 39 print)

As I understand it, there’s still some discussion about the one to one hundred nanometre range as I note here in my July 14, 2010 posting,

The comment about the definition sprang out as this issue seems to be at the forefront of many recent discussions on nanotechnology. Fern Wickson and her colleagues highlight the importance of the issue in their recently published paper,

Both the beginning and the end of this range remain subject to debate. Some claim that it should extend as low as 0.1nm (because atoms and some molecules are smaller than 1nm) and as high as 300nm (because the unique properties of the nanoscale can also be observed above 100nm). The boundaries of ‘the nanoscale’ are highly significant in both scientific and political terms because they have the possibility to affect everything from funding, to risk assessment and product labelling. [my commentary, Wickson’s response, and a citation for the paper, etc. can be found in my July 7, 2010 posting]

I do recommend reading the IRSST report if this sort of thing interests you as it offers answers to questions that you may (and, in my case, certainly) have been asking yourself about quantum dots, carbon black, and the state of OHS research and regulations in Canada and elsewhere.

Latest report on Canada’s work on nanomaterial safety via an OECD report

As usual I’m getting the best and most comprehensive overview of Canada’s current safety efforts with regard to nanomaterials from an external source, an OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) report. From the news item on Nanowerk,

A new document from the OECD (“Current Developments/Activities on the Safety of Manufactured Nanomaterials”; pdf) provides information on current/planned activities related to the safety of manufactured nanomaterials in OECD member and non-member countries that attended at the 7th meeting of OECD’s Working Party on Manufactured Nanomaterials (Paris France, 7-9 July 2010).

This new document compiles information provided by member countries and other delegations on current developments on the safety of manufactured nanomaterials (section I) in their countries or organisations. …

This is intended to provide delegations and other stakeholders with a “snapshot” of information on activities related to manufactured nanomaterials, as well as other activities on nanotechnologies, at the national and international level. This “snapshot” was current at the time of the 7th meeting of the WPMN (July 2010).

For anyone who is interested, the report can be found here. I did take a look at the section on Canada. From the report,

A. Canada has announced the adoption of the Interim Policy Statement on Canada’s Working Definition for Nanomaterials and it’s public posting ( consult/_2010/nanomater/draft-ebauche-eng.php).The Interim Policy is now in effect and comments on this policy statement are being accepted until August 31st, 2010. [now closed]

Currently, the Acts and Regulations administered by Canada have no explicit reference to nanomaterial. Among four key objectives, this policy statement establishes a transparent working means of identifying nanomaterials. It will also provide Canada with a consistent set of approaches and a trigger to request information. Given the range of nanomaterial-related regulatory responsibilities in Canada, the working definition is intentionally broad and will be applied more specifically in each regulatory programme area.

In preparing the Interim Policy Statement on Canada’s Working Definition for Nanomaterials, Canada sought the informal feedback of some international stakeholders, industry trade groups and standards associations.

B. A Workshop on the Human and Environmental Risk Assessment of Nanomaterials was convened by Canada from March 24-26, 2010. This workshop provided an open forum for detailed dialogue on nanomaterials among science evaluators, research scientists and regulators. The Workshop was attended by experts from Australia, Canada, Europe, Korea and the United States of America.

The Workshop was designed to be complementary to the work of the OECD Working Party on Manufactured Nanomaterials (WPMN) and followed on from the recent Workshop on Risk Assessment in a Regulatory Context that took place September 16-18, 2009 in Washington DC. Workshop participants agreed that scientific knowledge on the properties, environmental fate, behaviour and toxicity of nanomaterials is advancing, however, currently is still inadequate to allow general trends/structure-activity relationships to be made. Nanomaterials should continue to be assessed on a case-by-case basis, efforts should be made to minimize exposures and releases to the extent possible, and jurisdictions should continue to cooperate on research projects aimed at the development of scientific data on nanomaterials. Workshop participants emphasised that exchanges of information and views on nanomaterials at this time are especially helpful for promoting best practices in risk assessment and risk management.

C. Canadian Standards Association (CSA) Standards has formed a Technical Committee on Nanotechnologies – Occupational Health and Safety. Initial activities include working to adopt the published international ISO Technical Report, ISO/TR 12885:2008 on Health & Safety Practices in Occupational Settings relevant to Nanotechnologies, as well as to produce a national standard to provide guidance for workers using nanomaterials in the workplace. The Committee’s inaugural meeting was held on May 7th, 2009 and work is continuing in subsequent meetings through 2010.

D. Canada is the lead for the ISO TC/229 WG1 Task Group on Nomenclature. This Task Group includes active representation from the United States, Japan, Germany, France, Australia, and includes regulators, industry, and academia, as well as observers from the Chemical Abstracts Service and the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC).The Group is tasked with developing a nomenclature system which meets the needs of regulators, industry, and academia. In July 2009 the Task Group completed the report: “Considerations for Developing a Nomenclature Model for Nano-Objects”. Canada has now welcomed United States in co-chairing this activity, and is continuing development of a framework for nomenclature models for nano-objects. Canada has pursued and secured a liaison between ISO/TC 229 and IUPAC to further this nomenclature work.

E. Canada has completed a report titled, Nanotechnologies — Terminology – Initial framework model for core concepts, under ISO TC/229 JWG1. Also, Canada has led a project (JWG1-PG5) to develop definitions for core terms resulting from the taxonomy system. ISO 80004-1 Nanotechnologies — Vocabulary — Part 1: Core terms has now been approved after ISO Draft Technical Specification balloting.

F. Under the International Cooperation on Cosmetic Regulation (ICCR), Canada is participating in the international ad hoc working group on nanomaterials in cosmetics (ICCR Nano WG) that was initiated in December 2009. This working group is composed of regulators and industry representatives to identify specific criteria for nanomaterials in cosmetics. Completion of recommended criteria for ICCR acceptance is expected in July 2010. The ICCR Nano WG will then commence work on endpoints for risk assessment relevant to cosmetics safety (starting late 2010). (pp.22/3)

I have mixed feelings about this, appreciation that we’re doing work on nanomaterials and safety and frustration that the best source of information is in a report produced by an international organization.

There’s more information about various Canadian nanosafety projects  in the report including a reference to Québec’s recent IRSST (Institut de recherche Robert-Sauvé en santé et en sécurité du travail) on safety and engineered nanoparticles. Here’s a bit more,

Canada has supported multiple research projects under the Strategic Grants Program of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC). The nanomaterials used in these projects have included OECD priority nanomaterials such as TiO2. The projects examined fate both in the aqueous and the subsurface compartments and include establishing methodologies for suspension and phys-chem characterisation of the nanomaterials prior to any exposure testing.

A larger Canadian initiative is a multidisciplinary, 3-year collaborative project that brings together: 1) industry and academic/government researchers involved in the engineering and production of new and existing commercial nanomaterials, 2) representatives involved in the current regulatory testing industry that require new, cost-effective, time-sensitive, and efficient testing methods, 3) academic/government researchers who can develop and apply new technologies to the area of safe nanomaterials production and effective ecotoxicology testing, and 4) Canadian regulatory community. The goal of the project is to understand the fate and effects of nanomaterials (including OECD priority materials) in the aquatic environment, with specific themes targeting (1) synthesis; (2) characterisation in complex media; (3) methods for biological effects testing; and (4) establishing collaborative dialogue between key stakeholders. Funding and partnering opportunities are currently being considered by Canada to a) develop in-house analytical chemistry infrastructure for the measurement of nanoparticles in food; b) to assess the health effects of orally ingested nanomaterials for addressing exposure through food contamination from packaging materials, or through nanostructures in food additives; c) to evaluate the effects of nanomaterials in food on nutrient bioavailability, functionality and efficacy for addressing the regulation of nanotech products designed. Canada is also currently engaged in both in-house and collaborative research projects involving a range of different nanomaterials (e.g., nanoparticulates of zero-valent iron, gold, silver, TiO2, also carbon black, single walled carbon nanotubes, and C60 fullerenes). Testing includes pulmonary and cardiovascular injury; reproductive, developmental and transgenerational effects; exposure and tissue penetration, interactive effects with microorganisms, immune defenses, and genotoxicity. Alternative tests such as molecular (genomic/proteomic) and cellular in vitro techniques play an important part of the repertoire for such investigations. Other on-going projects include developing bioassays and biomarkers for nanomaterials, harmonizing and standardizing chemical and toxicological assays, toxicogenomics, evaluating fate in aquatic environments understanding the interaction of nanoparticles with microbial cells, soil effects research, and bioaccumulation and toxicity in benthic invertebrates. Canada has hosted various workshops pertaining to challenges in nanotechnology, such as the 4th Tri- National Workshop on Standards for Nanotechnology (Feb, 2010), which addressed measurement and characterisation in support of toxicology R&D for Human Health and Environment., focusing on identification of measurands for toxicological research on nano-objects, and the measurement science supporting accurate measurement and characterisation. This workshop supported the Canadian contribution to the North American Platform Program (NAPP) in Metrology in Support of Nanotechnology, strengthening partnerships between Canada, the United States and Mexico. Information on the 4th Tri- National Workshop on Standards for Nanotechnology is available at: https://www.nrccnrc. workshop.html. (p. 25)

I’d never heard of the Tri-National Workshop on Standards before or the work on measuring and assessing the safety of nanoparticles in foods or some of the other initiatives for that matter. I’ve noted before that it seems odd that laudable work such as this is being kept, to all intents and purposes, secret.

There’s a section for public consultation which boasts the one (closed as of Aug. 31, 2010) for the Interim Policy Statement on Canada’s Working Definition for Nanomaterials. I commented on this consultation, which was hosted by Health Canada, in my April 2, 2010, April 12, 2010, and April 26, 2010 postings. I also made a submission and wonder if I’ll ever hear back from anyone about it. I don’t imagine so.

I notice that this OECD report does not include any reference to Canada’s nano portal (as I recall, the last OECD report did mention it). The nanoportal has been opened (I’m not sure when).

Canadian and Israeli nanotechnology experts meet at Carleton University

This is a quick news bit about a meeting being held at Carleton University (Ottawa, Ontario) between Canadian and Israeli nanotechnology experts for a summit focusing on nanomechanics, optoelectronics, photonics, and biophotonics. The meeting will be held Oct. 4-5, 2010. From the Carleton University news release,

“Israeli research and innovation is world-renowned, and the potential benefits of an exchange of knowledge between Canada and Israel will be extremely valuable,” says Her Excellency Miriam Ziv, Israel’s Ambassador to Canada. “I am confident that this workshop will not only enrich the research but also strengthen the friendship between our two countries.”

“Carleton is known for its significant cutting-edge research in the field of Nanotechnology,” says Kim Matheson, vice-president (Research and International). “We look forward to sharing our work with top scientists from Israel and co-operative ventures and initiatives that could result from these discussions.”

I have come across Israel as I troll the internet for nanotechnology news but I don’t recall anything much coming from Carleton, other than some work on policy.

Culture Days in Vancouver, The Word on the Street, and more

This coming weekend starting Friday, Sept. 24 through to Sunday, Sept. 26, 2010, Canadians are invited to participate in Culture Days (you can search for activities by region or by category). From their website,

A Canada-wide interactive celebration of arts and culture.

One weekend. Thousands of free cultural things for you to do, make, paint, sculpt, act, sing, dance, write, and learn. Discover the world of artists, historians, architects, curators and designers in your community. Inspire the creator in you!

Vancouver’s events feature The Word on the Street, which will be held on Sunday as usual, in addition to an opportunity to attend an open rehearsal for an opera (world première of Lillian Alling), and a dance class (Working Class – Professional Contemporary Dance Class), and more.