Monthly Archives: February 2012

David Koepsell: nanotechnology brings the intellectual property regime to an end

David Koepsell, author of Innovation and Nanotechnology: Converging Technologies and the End of Intellectual Property, is a philosopher, attorney, and educator who teaches at the Delft University of Technology (the Netherlands). He is also author of Who Owns You? The Corporate Gold Rush to Patent Your Genes.

In a Feb. 27, 2012 interview with Dr. J (James Hughes, executive director of the Institute of Ethics for Emerging Technologies [IEET] and producer/interviewer for Changesurfer radio), Koepsell discussed his book about nanotechnology and the disappearance of intellectual property regimes in a 28 min. 51 sec. podcast.

Koepsell and Dr. J provided a good description of converging technologies so I’m going to plunge in without much introduction.

I wasn’t expecting to hear about Marxism and the means of production but there it was, mentioned in the context of a near future society where manufacturing can be done by anyone, anywhere by means of molecular manufacturing or by means of 3D fabrication, or etc. The notion is that production will be democratized as will the intellectual property regime. There were several mentions of the state (government) no longer having control in the future over intellectual property, specifically patents and copyrights, and some discussion of companies that guard their intellectual property jealously. (I have commented on the intellectual property topic, most recently,  in my Patents as weapons and obstacles posting in October 2011. Koepsell is mentioned in this posting.)

Both Koepsell and the interviewer (Dr. J) mentioned the possibility of widespread economic difficulty as jobs disappear due to the disappearance of manufacturing and other associated jobs as people can produce their own goods (much like you can with Star Trek’s replicators). But it did seem they mentioned job loss somewhat blithely, secure in their own careers as academics who as a group are not known for their manufacturing prowess or, for that matter, the production of any goods whatsoever.

It seems to me this future bears a remarkable resemblance to the past, where people had to create their own products by raising their own food, spinning, weaving, and sewing their own clothes, etc. The Industrial Revolution changed all that and turned most folks into ‘wage slaves’. As I recall, that’s from Marx and it’s a description of a loss of personal agency/autonomy, i.e., being a slave to wages (no longer producing your own food, clothing, etc.) and not a reference to poor wages as many believe (including me until I got a somewhat snotty professor for one of my courses).

The podcast is definitely worth your time if you don’t mind the references to Marx (there aren’t many) as the ideas are provocative even if you don’t agree. Koepsell describes how his interest in this area was awakened (he wrote about software, which is both copyrightable as writing and patentable as a machine).

The book is available as a free download or you can purchase it here. Here’s a brief excerpt from the book’s introduction (I removed a citation number),

Science demands unfettered inquiry into the workings of nature, and replaces the confidence previously demanded over rote knowledge with a practiced skepticism, and ongoing investigation. With the rise of the age of science came the need to develop new means of treating information. Scientific investigations conducted by ‘natural philosophers’ could only be conducted in full view, out in the open, with results published in meetings of scientific societies and their journals. Supplanting secret-keeping and obscurantism, the full sunlight of public and peer scrutiny could begin to continually cleanse false assumptions and beliefs, and help to perfect theories about the workings of the world. Science demanded disclosure, where trades and arts often encouraged secrets. And so as natural philosophers began to disseminate the results of their investigations into nature, new forms of trade, art, and industry began to emerge, as well as the demand for new means of protection in the absence of secrecy. Thus, as the scientific age was dawning, and helping to fuel a new technological revolution, modern forms of IP [intellectual property] protection such as patents and copyrights emerged as states sought to encourage the development of the aesthetic and useful arts. By granting to authors and inventors a monopoly over the practice of their art, as long as they brought forth new and useful inventions (or for artistic works, as long as they were new), nation states helped to attract productive and inventive artisans and trades into their borders. These forms of state monopoly also enabled further centralization of trades and industries, as technologies now could become immune from the possibility of ‘reverse-engineering’ and competitors could be kept at bay by the force of law. This sort of state-sanctioned centralization and monopoly helped build the industrial revolution (by the account of many historians and economists, although this assumption has lately been challenged) as investors now could commodify new technologies free from the threat of direct competition, secure in the safe harbor of a state-supported monopoly over the practice of a useful art for a period of time.

In many ways, traditional IP [intellectual property] was (and is) deemed vital to the development of large industries and their infrastructures, and to the centralized, assembly-line factory mode of production that dominated the twentieth century. With the benefit of a state-sanctioned monopoly, industry could build sufficient infrastructure to dominate a market with a new technology for the duration of a patent. This confidence assured investors that there would be some period of return on the investment in which other potential competitors are held at bay, at least from practicing the art as claimed in the patent. Factories could be built, supply chains developed, and a market captured and profited from, and prices will not be subject to the ruthless dictates of supply and demand. Rather, because of the luxury of a protected market during the period of protection, innovators can inflate prices to not only recoup the costs of investment, but also profit as handsomely as the captive market will allow.

For most of the twentieth century, IP allowed the concentration of industrial production into the familiar factory, assembly-line model. Even while the knowledge behind new innovation moved eventually into the public domain as patents lapsed, during the course of the term of patent protection, strictly monopolized manufacturing processes and their products could be heavily capitalized, and substantial profits realized, before a technique or technology lost its protection. But the modes and methods of manufacturing are now changing, and the necessity of infrastructural investment is also being altered by the emergence of new means of production, including what we’ll call ‘micromanufacturing’, which is a transitional technology on the way to true MNT (molecular nanotechnology), and is included in our discussions of ‘nanowares’. Essentially, assembly-lines and supply chains that supported the huge monopolistic market dominance models of the industrial revolution, well into the twentieth century, are becoming obsolete. If innovation and production can be linked together with modern and futuristic breakthroughs in micromanufacturing (in which small components can be fabricated and produced en mass, cheaply) and eventually molecular manufacturing (in which items are built on the spot, from the ground up, molecule by molecule), then we should consider whether the IP regimes that helped fuel the industrial revolution are still necessary, or even whether they were ever necessary at all. Do they promote new forms of innovation and production, or might they instead stifle potentially revolutionary changes in our manners of creation and distribution?

Amusingly, towards the end of the interview Dr. J plugs Koepsell’s ‘nanotechnology’ book by noting it’s available for free downloads then saying ‘we’re hoping you’ll buy it’ (at the publisher’s site).

Asia’s research effort in nano-, bio-, and information technology integrated in Asian Research Network

The Feb. 29, 2012 news item by Cameron Chai on Azonano spells it out,

An Asian Research Network (ARN) has been formed by the Hanyang University of Korea and RIKEN of Japan in collaboration with other institutes and universities in Asia. This network has been launched to reinforce a strong education and research collaboration throughout Asia.

The Asian Research Network website is here. You will need to use your scroll bars as it appears to be partially constructed (or maybe my system is so creaky that I just can’t see everything on the page). Towards the bottom (right side) of the home page,there are a couple of red buttons for PDFs of the ARN Pamphlet and Research Articles.

From page 2 of the ARN pamphlet, here’s a listing of the member organizations,


Hanyang University
Samsung Electronics
Electronics and Telecommunication Research Institute
Seoul National University
Institute of Pasteur Korea
Korea Research Institute of Chemical Technology
Korea Advanced Nano Fab Center




National Chemical Laboratory
Shivaji University
Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research
Pune University
Indian Institute of Technology-Madras (In Progress)
Indian Institute of Science (In Progress)


University of Texas at Dallas
UCLA (In Progress)
f d i i ( )


National Center for Nanoscience and Technology
Peking University


National University of Singapore
Nanyang Technological University (In Progress)
Stanford University In Progress)
University of Maryland (In Progress)


Weizmann Institute of Science (In Progress)
Hebrew University Jerusalem


National Science and Technology Development Agency (In Progress)

I was a little surprised to see Israel on the list and on an even more insular note, why no Canada?

Getting back to the ARN, here are their aims, from page 2 of the ARN pamphlet,

We are committed to fostering talented human resources, creating a research network in which researchers in the region share their knowledge and experiences, and establishing a future-oriented partnership to globalize our research capabilities. To this end, we will achieve excellence in all aspects of education, research, and development in the area of fusion research between BT [biotechnology] and IT [information technology] based on NT [nanotechnology] in general. We will make a substantial contribution to the betterment of the global community as well as the Asian society.

I look forward to hearing more from them in the future.

Cosmopolitics and Isabelle Stengers on March 5, 2012

Lucky us tfor living in an age where we can ‘attend’ a live keynote talk by Isabelle Stengers, a renowned philosopher and trained chemist, taking place thousands of miles away (for most of us) in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Here’s the notice about the talk from the Situating Science Cluster announcement,


Keynote presentation of the “To See Where It Takes Us” conversation series …
7:30PM AST (6:30PM EST)

Professor Stengers’ keynote address will examine sciences and the consequences of what has been called progress. Is it possible to reclaim modern practices, to have them actively taking into account what they felt entitled to ignore in the name of progress? Or else, can they learn to “think with” instead of define and judge?

Trained as a chemist, Professor Stengers received the grand prize for philosophy from the Académie Française and has collaborated and published with, among others, Nobel Prize winning chemist Ilya Prigogine and renowned sociologist of science Bruno Latour. Her books include: Order out of Chaos (with I. Prigogine), A History of Chemistry (with B. Bernadette Bensaude-Vincent), Power and Invention, The Invention of Modern Science, Cosmopolitics I & II, Capitalist Sorcery (with Philipple Pignarre), and Thinking with Whitehead.

For those of us on the west coast of North America, the talk will be taking place at 3:30 pm PST (11:30 pm GMT) and we can watch the event in real time here: on Monday, March 5, 2012.

If you’re fortunate enough to be in Halifax next week (March 5 – 9, 2012), Stengers will be involved in a series of ‘conversations’. From the Situating Science Stengers events page here’s a little more about Stengers and the event titled, To See Where It Takes Us,

Professor of Philosophy of Science at the Université libre de Bruxelles, Dr. Stengers has for some 30 years offered one of the most thorough and tenacious reconsiderations of the history and practice of sciences. For Stengers, the sciences and their objects (or their natures), and our human involvements with these are situated in a continuously fluid relationship or “ecology”. Sciences, natures and peoples, therefore, should be seen as engaged in “conversations with” one another rather than as wholly separated. Hence the allusion to “cosmopolitics” in Stengers’ work.

These conversations raise crucial questions about the status of our obligations with knowledges of “the world” as we variously know it and participate in it.  The week of colloquia is set up, therefore, as a series of conversations, “to see where it takes us”.

The schedule and locations for the conversations are on the Stengers events page.

Joint India-Australia nanobiotechnology research centre opens in India

I first wrote about the TERI-Deakin Nanobiotechnology Research Centre (a joint India-Australia partnership) in my Nov. 30, 2010 posting when the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was first signed. According to the Feb. 24, 2012 news item on Nanowerk, the centre has recently opened,

Speaking at the inauguration of the new lab facilities, Hon’ble Louise Asher, MP and Minister for Innovation, Services & Small business, Minister for Tourism and Major Events, Australia said, “This outstanding facility is the result of a dynamic partnership between The Energy and Resources Institute of India (TERI) and Victoria’s [Australia] own Deakin University to augment research in the area of Nano Biotechnology, which will enable efficiency, effectiveness and provide solutions for a sustainable future.”

Highlighting the importance of TERI-DEAKIN partnership, Dr RK Pachauri, Director-General, TERI said, “Research at TERI seeks to find solutions to problems related to attaining sustainability and environmental degradation and has made a difference to the lives of many people. The organization’s commitment to these areas is a continuous process, and setting up the TERI-Deakin Nano Biotechnology Research Centre is one of the means through which, TERI plans to create capacity and expertise for technological solutions to problems of inefficient use of natural resources.”

Professor Jane den Hollander, Vice Chancellor, Deakin University said that the centre provided a hub for up to 50 PhD students who are undertaking research under the Deakin India Research Initiative (DIRI).

“What is particularly pleasing about this centre is that it is tackling research into global issues such as food security for a growing world population, sustainable agricultural practices and environmental sustainability,” she said.

The new facility opened in Gual Pahari, Gurgaon, approximately 35 mins. away (by car) from New Delhi, India (according to Feb. 24, 2012 article in the Asian Scientist about the new TERI-Deakin Nanobiotechnology Research Centre).

Care to commercialize graphene in the UK?

The UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) has announced a call for proposals for research that is directly linked to commercializing graphene. From the Feb. 28, 2012 news item on Nanowerk,

The aim of the call, where there will be up to £20 million of funding available, is to focus research on manufacturing processes and technologies linked to graphene in order to accelerate the development and generation of novel devices, applications technologies and systems.

In 2010 the Nobel Prize for Physics was awarded to UK researchers Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov from the University of Manchester, who demonstrated graphene in 2004. EPSRC has funded their work for over a decade.

The call is divided into two parts: research programmes and equipment bids. EPSRC is committing £10 million to the call, with up to £10 million more available by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) to fund the capital equipment as part of either research programmes or for equipment-only bids.

Proposals for research programmes should range between £1.5 million and £3 million and should seek to understand how to commercialise and enhance the ‘manufacturability’ of graphene as the material of choice. Programmes should have an emphasis on applications, strongly align with industry needs and foster an environment of collaboration across the UK. The programmes of research should also focus on developing people to stimulate the future sustainability of UK graphene engineering research and future commercialisation opportunities across a variety of sectors.

Proposals for equipment are to allow groups with existing capability in graphene research to help researchers advance the commercialisation of graphene and improve the emphasis on applications.

There’s a 10 pp. PDF description for the call, which includes gems like this, as well as, details about the call,

Recognising this opportunity, on 3 October 2011, the Chancellor (George Osborne, UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer [roughly equivalent to a Minister of Finance]) pledged a £50M investment to establish the UK as a graphene research and technology ‘hub’ with the aim to capture the commercial benefits of graphene ( The chancellor stated “We will fund a national research programme that will take this Nobel prize-winning discovery from the British laboratory to the British factory floor…” “We’re going to get Britain making things again.” (p. 2)

There’s a six-page PDF called an Expression of Interest for interested parties to fill out. For anyone who experiences difficulties filling out PDF forms and/or submitting them, there is a set of guidelines.

Frankly, I found the description for eligibility in the EPSRC Funding Guide a little confusing but it seems a fairly safe guess that pretty much everyone involved in the proposed project, investigators, postdoctoral students, and research assistants must be resident in the UK.

It’s fascinating to track this graphene effort, which seems designed to lift the UK from its economic doldrums, from afar. It seems there’s some sort of announcement on this front on a weekly basis, at least (my most recent posting about these efforts is Feb. 21, 2012).

My experience with these kinds of announcements is that they are often recycled. For example, an announcement is made in Oct. 2011 about government funding for graphene research then months later, a research funding agency announces a call for proposals with references to the amount of research money available. Next on the agenda will be an announcement of the recipients for the grants. This practice can make it seem as if the second and third announcement are for new funds when it is money that was promised months before.

Lighter, tougher gas tanks (to transport more natural gas) coming from 3M and Chesapeake Energy

They certainly have given the news of their (3M and Chesapeake Energy’s, that is) collaboration with an upbeat yet deeply concerned (about breaking the “foreign stranglehold” on energy imports) tone. From the Feb. 28, 2012 news item on Nanowerk,

“3M believes in the potential of natural gas, and this agreement illustrates our commitment to the industry,” said George Buckley, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of 3M. “We are excited about this collaboration to speed the development and adoption of natural gas-powered vehicles.” [emphasis mine]

Increased political support and private investment have made natural gas a viable automotive fuel alternative with large growth potential. With more than a 100-year supply of natural gas in the United States and an average price per gasoline gallon equivalent of $1.00 to $2.00, the fuel is plentiful, affordable and domestic. [emphasis mine] The fuel also burns more cleanly than gasoline, cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent and particulate matter by 95 percent.

“This partnership brings together two leading companies from different sectors, both committed to advancing the natural gas transportation fuel market,” said Aubrey K. McClendon, Chesapeake’s Chief Executive Officer. “We applaud 3M for recognizing the future of natural gas as a low-cost, cleaner alternative to gasoline, and for creating innovative tank technology that will make natural gas vehicles more affordable and accessible to fleets and individual consumers nationwide. Our country needs a solution to break the foreign stranglehold on our fuels market, and today’s announcement is another step to transition our nation away from costly imports.” [emphasis mine]

The companies will be using a nanotechnology-enabled solution to making the tanks, which hold the natural gas, stronger and lighter. From the 3M/Chesapeake Energy Feb. 21, 2012 press release,

3M’s CNG [compressed natural gas] tank solution combines the company’s proprietary liner advancements, thermoplastic materials, barrier films and coatings, and damage-resistant films to transform the pressure vessel industry. Using nanoparticle-enhanced resin technology, 3M™ Matrix Resin for Pressure Vessels, 3M will create CNG tanks that are 10 to 20 percent lighter with 10 to 20 percent greater capacity, all at a lower cost than standard vessels. In addition to these benefits, the 3M technology produces safer and more durable tanks than those currently on the market. This tank innovation builds on 3M’s proven history of developing and introducing pioneering technologies to the market.

I’m wondering how the estimate for that “100 year supply of natural gas  in the US” was derived. It stands to reason that if you make natural gas an attractive alternative to current fuels that its use will increase, perhaps exponentially, should more uses for natural gas be discovered than simply as a ‘replacement’ for current fuels.

I did check out Chesapeake Energy, a company based in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and not in a New England state (I think Chesapeake Bay is in Massachusetts) as I was expecting. Here’s an excerpt from the company’s home page,

We’re the second-largest producer of natural gas, a Top 15 producer of oil and natural gas liquids and the most active driller of new wells in the U.S. Headquartered in Oklahoma City, the company’s operations are focused on discovering and developing unconventional natural gas and oil fields onshore in the U.S. Chesapeake owns leading positions in the Barnett, Haynesville, Bossier, Marcellus and Pearsall natural gas shale plays and in the Granite Wash, Cleveland, Tonkawa, Mississippi Lime, Bone Spring, Avalon, Wolfcamp, Wolfberry, Eagle Ford, Niobrara and Utica unconventional liquids plays.

I also found out a little more about the technology that 3M will be incorporating in the new gas tanks (from the 3M™ Matrix Resin Technology page),

Carbon fiber composite products are limited by their compression strength. Under compressive loading, carbon fibers can micro-buckle (like a small wrinkle) resulting in breaking or failure of the composite product.

Creating a resin with a high concentration of uniformly dispersed nanoparticles makes a stronger composite. These nanoparticles are so tiny, they can uniformly surround and support the carbon fibers, significantly increasing the shear modulus of the resin, and effectively delaying the micro-buckling of the carbon fibers. The greater the nanoparticle loading, the stiffer the support of the carbon fiber. Where other nanotechnologies (like carbon nano tubes) deliver <3% nanoparticles loading, 3M’s proprietary technology uniquely enables loadings of >40% of uniformly dispersed nanoparticles.

3M’s ability to significantly increase resin shear modulus is a game changer in and of itself. But 3M’s technology truly bends the rules by simultaneously increasing fracture toughness. In the past, attempts to increase resin stiffness resulted in a significant decrease in fracture toughness, producing very brittle materials. 3M’s proprietary nanoparticles technology creates such a strong bond between the particle and the resin, that energy is dissipated when the composite is stressed, preventing crack propagation.

I am curious as to exactly what those nanoparticles might be made of but I gather that is proprietary information

Janis McKenna speaking at Vancouver’s Café Scientifique Feb. 28, 2012 meeting

Professor of physics at the University of British Columbia, Janis McKenna, is presenting tomorrow (Feb. 28, 2012) at a Café Scientifique meeting at Vancouver’s (Canada) Railway Club.

“Something’s the Matter with Anti-Matter: There’s not enough of it”

About 13.7 billion years ago, our Universe was born in a Big Bang. That early universe was a big steaming stew of radiation and exactly equal numbers of particles and antiparticles. But somehow, a symmetry was broken, and a lopsided-ness arose, leaving a very small excess of matter over antimatter. And by the time the universe was less than a second old, essentially all the antimatter had annihilated with matter in bursts of light/energy, leaving a small residual excess of matter – which is all the matter we see in our universe; this is the matter we’re all made of.

The 2008 Nobel Prize in Physics was given to three particle physicists whose theory can explain how this lopsided universe evolved as having unequal parts matter and anti-matter, as predicted in the simplest Big Bang models.

The Standard Model of Particle Physics has been a triumph of particle physics – many thousands of experiments have confirmed predictions of this simple and elegant model. But it has at least 2 severe shortcomings: while it has been shown to accommodate matter-antimatter asymmetry, it can only do so at a level orders of magnitude too small to explain the matter-antimatter asymmetry of our universe. The other shortcoming is that it predicts a Higgs Boson, which has not yet been observed.

We’ll discuss the experimental program which has observed and studied the decays of hundreds of millions of B mesons (“beautiful mesons”), testing the Standard Model of Particle Physics to great precision. An overview of the experiment and results will be presented.

The presentation is scheduled for 7:30 pm. The few times I’ve attended, the room has been more than full. You can check out Vancouver’s Café Scientifique website here.

‘Genius’ gamers develop mind-controlled skateboard

Chaotic Moon Labs, developer of the mind-controlled skateboard ‘Board of Imagination’, is a mobile games company where they continually inform you that they are geniuses/smarter than you are/etc. Clearly not a shy group of people nor believers of the ‘underpromise and overdeliver’ philosophy of business. They have recently announced (from a Feb. 26, 2012 news item by Nancy Owano on their latest project,

The Board of Imagination is a skateboard that carries the same Samsung tablet with Windows 8 and the same 800 watt electric motor as the earlier skateboard [Board of Awesomeness], but now sports a headset. With it, the board will read the rider’s mind and will move anywhere the rider imagines.

The skateboard can translate brain waves into action such that the user visualizes a point off in the distance and thinks about the speed in which to travel to get there. The skateboard does the rest.

This reminds me of B-Reel’s (a European advertising company) mind control project with toy racing cars (mentioned in my Oct. 6, 2011 posting) although this time it’s a much larger device. Here’s the YouTube-posted video produced by Chaotic Moon Labs,

I wonder if this Board of Imagination is going to be shown at the upcoming SXSW (South by SouthWest) shows which run from March 9 – 18, 2012 in Austin, Texas where this company (Chaotic Moon, the lab is their R&D [research and development] group) is located, according to Owano’s article.

An EPOC headset from Emotiv is being used as the mind reading device which somehow translates your brain waves into commands that your skateboard obeys. Emotiv and its sister company, Emotiv Lifesciences, by the way, were founded by Tan Le who gave a talk about her company and her work at TEDxWomen. The video is here, I’ve not had time to watch it yet. So if you get there before I do, please let me know what you think.


WHO’s nanotechnology regulations

The World Health Organization (WHO) is soliciting comments and support for a set of occupational safety guidelines for the manufacture of nanomaterials. From the Feb. 21, 2012 news item on Nanowerk,

To address occupational risks of nanomaterials, WHO is developing Guidelines on “Protecting Workers from Potential Risks of Manufactured Nanomaterials” (WHO/NANOH). These Guidelines aim to facilitate improvements in occupational health and safety of workers potentially exposed to nanomaterials in a broad range of manufacturing and social environments. The guidelines will incorporate elements of risk assessment and risk management and contextual issues. They will provide recommendations to improve occupational safety and protect the health of workers using nanomaterials in all countries and especially in low and middle-income countries.

As an initial step towards the development of the WHO/NANOH Guidelines, WHO prepared a draft background document proposing content and focus of the Guidelines. This background document will be used by the Guideline Development Group to identify key questions to be addressed by the Guidelines.

The public is being invited to send in comments about the guidelines by March 31, 2012. The guidelines along with more instructions can be found on this WHO webpage. The page also includes information about the process for developing the guidelines and a plea for support,

1. Establish a Guideline Development Group and an External Review Group, which reflect the diversity of manufactured nanomaterials and manufacturing processes on the global scale and the cultural differences in workplace safety. The Guideline Development Group oversees important elements in the guideline development process such as drafting guideline text, while the External Review Group is tasked with critical review of the scientific evidence and of the text of the guidelines.

2. Prepare a background document proposing content and focus of the Guidelines. This background document is used by the Guideline Development Group to identify key questions to be addressed by the Guidelines.

3. Prepare systematic review papers for each key question.

4. Prepare guideline recommendations.

5. Conduct an implementation phase of the project encompassing preparation of a user-friendly implementation guide and pilot implementation projects in selected countries.

WHO is in the process of identifying scientific knowledge and expertise on nanomaterials and health to contribute to this initiative. We invite the submission of relevant scientific publications and references in addition to those already mentioned in the background document, as well as expressions of interest to support this project, which can be sent to

WHO is also seeking additional support for this important project. We welcome expressions of interest to support this project, which also can be sent to

I’m perplexed by these requests for support.  Do they want researchers to lend their expertise to this project; do they want money; do they want various governments to express their enthusiasm for this project, or all of the above?

I’m happy to see that they do reference the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) Publications in the Series on the Safety of Manufactured Nanomaterials; UNITAR (United Nations Institute for Training and Research)  Nanotechnology and Manufactured Nanomaterials (this is new to me); and FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) Nanotechnologies (also new to me).


Nanowires, solar cells, McMaster University, Cleanfield Energy and partners

The Feb. 24, 2012 news item on Nanowerk offers an update on the solar cell project being undertaken by McMaster University (Ontario, Canada), Zhejiang University (China), Hyperion Shanghai Drive Technology Co. Ltd., and Cleanfield Energy (Ontario, Canada). From the news item,

[The four partners] were recently awarded an International Science and Technology Partnerships Program (ISTPP) grant, with an objective to further develop a new photovoltaic (PV) nanowire solar cell based on low cost substrates initially intended for the rapidly expanding concentrator photovoltaic (CPV) market.

The ISTPP funds will be used to develop a semiconductor nanowire, which will improve the efficiency and reduce fabrication costs of PV cells due to light trapping, enhanced carrier extraction, and the ability to use inexpensive substrates. This project will draw on the existing strengths of McMaster University in the fabrication of III-V compound semiconductor nanowires to advance the state-of-the-art PV and the Zhejiang University group, which have expertise in optoelectronic devices including electrode deposition and optical characterization of materials and devices.

For anyone who’s interested, here’s a description of the Canadian government’s International Science and Technology Partnerships Program (ISTPP), from their home page,

The International Science & Technology Partnerships Program (ISTPP) was announced by the Government of Canada in June 2005, to promote international collaborative research and development activities. The five-year, $20-million program will increase the international competitiveness and prosperity of Canada by building stronger science and technology relationships with Israel, India, China and Brazil. [emphasis mine]

The ISTPP will foster and support bilateral research projects which have the potential for commercialization between Canada and identified partner countries. It will also stimulate bilateral science and technology networking and matchmaking activities to further new partnerships and accelerate the commercialization of research and development. The ISTPP is a “seed fund”, meaning that various other public and private sector participants are also encouraged to bring S&T expertise and funds of their own to the bilateral relationship.

I see there’s no mention of Russia or South Africa, two members of a loose consortium of countries called the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa).

Here are a few more technical details about the nanowires and solar cells from the news item,

The cost of PV devices can be reduced by replacing the single crystal substrates with thin film technology. However, the poly-crystalline nature of these thin film technologies generally results in reduced PV efficiency. To overcome these limitations, a substantial body of recent work in PV is beginning to exploit intentionally engineered nano-scale structures and the physics of reduced dimensionality to increase device performance. One of the leading contenders in the area of nanotechnology-based PV devices is semiconductor nanowires. .. Nanowires are easily grown using the well-known vapour-liquid-solid (VLS) process. The rapid growth rate (up to 10 microns per hour) and lower material utilization of nanowires compared to thin film PV devices implies lower fabrication costs. In addition, nanowires can be grown on less expensive substrates as compared to the expensive germanium substrates used in current concentrator PV cells.

The partners are hoping this project will lead to greater adoption of solar cells that are cheaper while maintaining their efficiency.

You can find out more about Cleanfield Energy here.