Monthly Archives: July 2012

Designing nanomaterials for safe handling

I’ve long been interested in ‘good’ design, i.e., designing systems and products for success not failure. How many times have you had to use a device that was designed for failure? Take for example the keypad at the Automatic Teller/Banking Machines. I used one recently where the first line of digits (1, 2, 3) was hidden by a rubber mat intended to shield the code from prying eyes. Being busy and agitated, I didn’t notice and kept keying in the wrong code. That was a nonfatal failure but other bad design can cost lives.

The US National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH) is co-sponsoring an August 2012 workshop on designing nanomaterials and safety at the University of Albany in New York state (from the July 27, 2012 news item on Nanowerk),

A traditional hierarchy of controls to reduce occupational risks may be applied to advanced nanomaterials. The hierarchy of controls starts with elimination or substitution of hazards. Preventing a potential risk to workers from a particular advanced nanomaterial by eliminating that potential hazard at the design phase of development is the most effective means of risk management and can support the safe progression of nanotechnology from simple to more advanced nanomaterials. Prevention of harm through safe design includes: (1) avoiding incorporating hazardous elements such as lead and other heavy metals into the nanomaterial; (2) designing “safer” nanomaterials, which would disintegrate into non-toxic and easily biodegradable components; and (3) designing safer nanomanufacturing processes.

Safe design of nanomaterials is included in the National Nanotechnology Initiative’s Signature Initiative on Nanotechnology Knowledge Infrastructure (pdf) announced in May of 2012. Specifically, the Signature Initiative states that “a focused national emphasis on nanoinformatics* will provide a strong basis for the rational design of nanomaterials and products, prioritization of research, and assessment of risk throughout product lifecycles and across sectors.” Safe design will be also a focus of an upcoming workshop on Safe Nano Design: Molecule • Manufacturing • Market co-sponsored by NIOSH.

The workshop registration deadline is Aug. 3, 2012. Here’s more about the workshop from the event webpage,

Participants at this workshop will provide input into the safe commercialization of nano products using a Prevention-through-Design approach. Participants will share their knowledge on the efforts to develop safer nano molecules that have the same functionality; process containment and control, based on the considerations of risk of exposure to workers; and the management system approaches for including occupational safety and health into the nanoparticle synthetic process, product development, and product manufacture.

I found this  description on the Prevention Through Design webpage,

One of the best ways to prevent and control occupational injuries, illnesses, and fatalities is to “design out” or minimize hazards and risks early in the design process. NIOSH is leading a national initiative called Prevention through Design (PtD) to promote this concept and highlight its importance in all business decisions.

A growing number of business leaders are recognizing PtD as a cost-effective means to enhance occupational safety and health. Many U.S. companies openly support PtD concepts and have developed management practices to implement them. Other countries are actively promoting PtD concepts as well. The United Kingdom began requiring construction companies, project owners, and architects to address safety and health during the design phase of projects in 1994, and companies there have responded with positive changes in management practices to comply with the regulations. Australia developed the Australian National OHS Strategy 2002–2012, which set “eliminating hazards at the design stage” as one of five national priorities. As a result, the Australian Safety and Compensation Council (ASCC) developed the Safe Design National Strategy and Action Plans for Australia encompassing a wide range of design areas including buildings and structures, work environments, materials, and plant (machinery and equipment).

I appreciate the importance of this concept when applied to occupational health and safety and hope this ‘preventive design ‘ or as I prefer to call it ‘designing for success’ is applied to systems and products of all kinds.

Environment influences nanomaterial reactions to biological cells

The discussion I’ve seen around nanomaterials and toxicological effects has largely centered on shapes, size, aggregate/agglomerate, etc. By contrast, Carl Walkey’s July 24, 2012 Nanowerk Spotlight essay focuses on nanomaterial surfaces, bare or coated with serum proteins (Note: I have removed links),

Biomolecule adsorption to nanomaterials is usually studied from physiological fluids with suspended biomolecules. Examples include blood serum/plasma, pulmonary surfactant, and synovial fluid. However, until now the amount of those molecules has not been considered relevant to the study. In a recent article appearing in ACS Nano (“Effects of the Presence or Absence of a Protein Corona on Silica Nanoparticle Uptake and Impact on Cells”), Drs. Anna Salvati, Kenneth Dawson, and their colleagues at the University College in Dublin, Ireland, show that if nanoparticles are exposed directly to cells in the absence of suspended biomolecules, the nanoparticles will extract biomolecules directly from cells themselves.

In their experiments, the team exposed silica nanoparticles to cells in two sets. One set was introduced into cell culture media that was supplemented with the usual concentration of fetal bovine serum, and the other into media that had no serum additives. They then incubated both sets of particles with a lung cancer cell line and measured particle uptake kinetics and cell adhesion. Nanoparticles treated under both conditions associated with cells. However, the particles that were incubated in media alone associated to a much greater extent than those that were first incubated in serum. This indicates that the affinity of the bare nanoparticle surface to the cell is much higher than the affinity of an equivalent surface that is coated with serum proteins. [emphasis mine] Similar observations are reported before for other systems, where it was also found that uptake under serum-free conditions is higher.

Moe specifically,

“When the nanomaterial is put in contact with a physiological environment, it is given a menu of possible biomolecules to adsorb” explains Dawson. “It will essentially go shopping for the biomolecules that it wants. Over time, it will exchange with the environment until it finds the things that it really likes most. If you don’t give it enough biomolecules in the form of serum, it will extract components from the cells themselves.”

The same silica nanoparticles exposed to cells in the two different conditions had different cellular responses as well. Most of the serum-coated particles were taken up within vesicles in the cell cytoplasm and produced no overt signs of toxicity. In contrast, the particles without a serum coating adhered to the cell surface to a greater extent, were present in vesicles, and some were also found free-floating in the cytoplasm. Exposure to particles in absence of serum significantly decreased cell viability and caused cells to take on a rounded morphology that is indicative of cell death. Dawson believes that cell death from uncoated particles is the result of strong interactions between the particle surface and the cell surface, which may damage the cell membrane, and/or initiate aberrant signaling cascades. When serum proteins are adsorbed to the nanoparticles, they ‘passivate’ the surface and limit direct nanomaterial-cell interactions.

When considering the early interactions of a nanomaterial with a cell, Dawson points out that one cannot think of the nanomaterial alone. Instead, one must think of the nanoparticle and its adsorbed biomolecules as a fundamental unit. [emphasis mine]

Most importantly,

Dawson believes that researchers must pay closer attention to the composition of the biomolecular environment surrounding the particles and cells when performing in vitro experiments. In other words, it is as important to consider the composition of the biomolecules in the media as it is to consider the chemical nature of the nanoparticle and the cell type. [emphasis mine]

“What’s absolutely clear is that depending on the type of dispersion that you make up, whether you add 10% serum or 20% serum, you get different levels of cell uptake” says Dawson. “Indeed, you get different levels of damage as well. It is therefore not meaningful to say that the nanoparticle is or is not toxic in that simplistic way. You can make a material toxic if you really want to make it toxic. You can make many materials damage cells simply because these have high surface energy. However, in a realistic physiological environment, part of the particle surface is covered and so that kind of damage would not be applicable.”

I encourage anyone who’s interested in nanotoxicology to read Walkey’s essay in full as I’ve excerpted only a portion.

BTW, Carl Walkey is a PhD graduate student at the University of Toronto and a member of the Integrated Nanotechnology & Biomedical Sciences Laboratory (INBS). I last mentioned Walkey in my July 12, 2012 posting about his Nanowerk Spotlight essay on nanotoxicology and animal studies.

One step diagnosis (nanotechnology-enabled) from University of Georgia (US)

The researchers haven’t tried this out on blood, saliva, or urine yet but this July 21, 2012 news item by Gary Thomas on Azonano hints that will be the next step,

Researchers at the University of Georgia have devised a single-step, quick and accurate technique using nanomaterials to detect pathogens and contaminants. The team demonstrated the capability of the new technique in detecting compounds like protein albumin and lactic acid in extremely diluted mixtures that comprised of dyes and chemicals.

The researchers conclude that the same method can be employed on biological mixtures like blood, saliva, food and urine to detect contaminants and pathogens.

The originating July 19, 2012 news release by Sam Fahmy for the University of Georgia provides more detail,

“The results are unambiguous and quickly give you a high degree of specificity,” said senior author Yiping Zhao, professor of physics in the UGA [University of Georgia] Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and director of the university’s Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center.

Zhao and his co-authors—doctoral students Jing Chen and Justin Abell and professor Yao-wen Huang of the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences—used nanotechnology to combine two well-known techniques and create their new diagnostic test. …

The first component of their two-in-one system uses a technique known as surface enhanced Raman spectroscopy, or SERS, which measures the change in frequency of a laser as it scatters off a compound. Every compound displays a series of distinctive changes in frequency, or Raman shifts, that are as unique as a fingerprint. The signal produced by Raman scattering is inherently weak, but Zhao and his colleagues have arrayed silver nanorods 1,000 times finer than the width of a human hair at a precise angle to significantly amplify the signal. In previous studies with Ralph Tripp in the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine and chemist Richard Dluhy in the Franklin College, they demonstrated that the use of SERS with silver nanorods could identify viruses such as HIV and RSV isolated from infected cells.

Here’s why they needed a second technique and how it fits into the picture (from the news release),

“In a clinical setting, the sample that you obtain from patients typically contains bacteria or viruses as well as a lot of fluid—as in blood, urine or saliva—that contains biological agents that interfere with the signal you’re trying to detect,” Zhao said. “To develop a diagnostic that could be used at the point of care, we needed a way to separate those agents.”

Once again, the scientists turned to nanotechnology to create a next-generation diagnostic test. Using traditional thin layer chromatography, or TLC, scientists blot a drop of sample onto a porous surface. They then apply a solvent such as methanol to the sample, and the sample components separate based on how strongly they’re attracted to the solvent and the surface.

Study co-author Justin Abell, a doctoral student in the UGA College of Engineering, explained that TLC typically requires a large sample volume because the compound of interest soaks into the surface in addition to moving along it, like a stain on a rug. The silver nanorod surface that the researchers use, in contrast, allows them to use a miniscule amount of sample in a technique known as ultra-thin layer chromatography.

“In our case, the nanorods are acting as the detection medium but also as the separation medium,” Abell said, “so it’s a two-in-one system.”

To test their method, the researchers used mixtures of dyes, the organic chemical melamine, lactic acid and the protein albumin. In each case, they were able to directly identify the compounds of interest, even in samples diluted to concentrations below 182 nanograms per milliliter-roughly 200 billionths of a gram in a fifth of a teaspoon. And while the detection of viruses using techniques such as polymerase chain reaction can take days or even weeks and requires fluorescent labels, the on-chip method developed by the UGA researchers yields results in less than an hour without the use of molecular labels.

As for future plans to develop this application (from the news release),

The researchers are currently testing their technique with biological samples from Tripp’s lab that contain viruses, and Zhao said preliminary results are promising. He adds that while his team is focused on health and food safety applications, SERS and ultra-thin layer chromatography can be used to detect compounds of all types—everything from forensic materials at a crime scene to environmental pollutants. His team also is working with colleagues across campus to create an online encyclopedia that would allow technicians to identify viruses, bacteria, biomarkers and pharmaceuticals based on their distinctive Raman shifts.

“Every compound has a unique SERS spectrum,” Zhao said, “so this is a very robust technology whose applications are practically endless.”

Colloidal quantum dot film from the University of Toronto and KAUST certified world’s most efficient

In my Sept. 20, 2011 posting, I featured an item about Ted Sargent ‘s (University of Toronto, Canada) work on colloidal quantum dot films. These films have now been certified as the world’s most efficient. There seems to be a lot of excitement given that these films have achieved a 7% efficiency rating. From the July 30, 2012 news item by Will Soutter on Azonano,

A team of scientists from the King Abdullah University of Science & Technology (KAUST) and University of Toronto (U of T) headed by Ted Sargent, an U of T Engineering Professor, has achieved a significant progress in the advancement of colloidal quantum dot (CQD) films, which in turn results in a CQD solar cell with an unprecedented efficiency of 7%.

The July 30, 2012 news release from the University of Toronto provides more detail,

“Previously, quantum dot solar cells have been limited by the large internal surface areas of the nanoparticles in the film, which made extracting electricity difficult,” said Dr. Susanna Thon, a lead co-author of the paper. “Our breakthrough was to use a combination of organic and inorganic chemistry to completely cover all of the exposed surfaces.”

The U of T cell represents a 37% increase in efficiency over the previous certified record. In order to improve efficiency, the researchers needed a way to both reduce the number of “traps” for electrons associated with poor surface quality while simultaneously ensuring their films were very dense to absorb as much light as possible. The solution was a so-called “hybrid passivation” scheme.

“By introducing small chlorine atoms immediately after synthesizing the dots, we’re able to patch the previously unreachable nooks and crannies that lead to electron traps,” explained doctoral student and lead co-author Alex Ip. “We follow that by using short organic linkers to bind quantum dots in the film closer together.”

Work led by Professor Aram Amassian of KAUST showed that the organic ligand exchange was necessary to achieve the densest film.

“The KAUST group used state-of-the-art synchrotron methods with sub-nanometer resolution to discern the structure of the films and prove that the hybrid passivation method led to the densest films with the closest-packed nanoparticles,” stated Professor Amassian.

I think the excitement over 7% indicates just how much hard work the researchers have accomplished to achieve this efficiency. It reminds me of reading about the early development of electricity (Power struggles; Scientific authority and the creation of practical electricity before Edison by Michael Brian Schiffer)  where accomplishments we would now consider minuscule built careers.

Buckyball legal suit: all about toys, rare earths, and magnets

The July 27, 2012 news item by Gary Thomas on Azonano highlights a legal suit involving Maxfield & Obertontoys that happen to be called Buckyballs and Buckycubes. From the news item,

The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has filed a complaint against New York based Maxfield & Oberton Holdings LLC over their Buckyballs and Buckycube desk toys subsequent to a 3-1 Commission vote approving the filing of complaint.

The complaint seeks an order on the firm to prohibit sale of Buckyballs and Buckycubes, to inform the public about the defect and also refund the consumers in full for purchases made. …

Despite cooperative efforts by CPSC and Maxfield & Oberton to educate buyers that the products are meant for adults, reports of swallowing incidents and injuries kept coming in.

Before I go further, here’s what the toy looks like,

downloaded from Maxfield & Oberton’s home page

The problem is that the small spherical magnets contain rare earths and are being swallowed by children and teenagers resulting in serious injury. I found more details about the situation in the July 25, 2012 news release issued by the CPSC (Note: I have removed some links) ,

In May 2010, CPSC and Maxfield & Oberton announced a cooperative recall of about 175,000 Buckyball high powered magnets sets, because they were labeled “Ages 13+” and did not meet the federal mandatory toy standard, F963-08. The standard requires that such powerful loose as received magnets not be sold for children younger than 14.

The Buckyballs and Buckycubes sets contain up to 216 powerful rare earth magnets.

In November 2011, CPSC and Maxfield & Oberton worked cooperatively to inform and educate consumers that Buckyballs were intended for adult use only, and although the risk scenarios differ by age group, the danger when multiple rare earth magnets are ingested is the same. However, even after the safety alert, ingestions and injuries continued to occur.

Here’s more about the number of injuries associated with the Maxfield & Oberton toys and more about how children and why teenagers accidentally swallow the magnets (from the CPSC news release),

Since 2009, CPSC staff has learned of more than two dozen ingestion incidents, with at least one dozen involving Buckyballs. Surgery was required in many of incidents. The Commission staff alleges in its complaint that it has concluded that despite the attempts to warn purchasers, warnings and education are ineffective and cannot prevent injuries and incidents with these rare earth magnets.

CPSC has received reports of toddlers finding loose magnets left within reach and placing them in their mouths. It can be extremely difficult for a parent to tell if any of the tiny magnets are missing from a set. In some of the reported incidents, toddlers have accessed loose magnets left on a refrigerator and other parts of the home.

Use of the product by tweens and teenagers to mimic piercings of the tongue, lip or cheek has resulted in incidents where the product is unintentionally inhaled and swallowed. These ingestion incidents occur when children receive it as a gift or gain access to the product in their homes or from friends.

When two or more magnets are swallowed, they can attract to one another through the stomach and intestinal walls, resulting in serious injuries, such as holes in the stomach and intestines, intestinal blockage, blood poisoning and possibly death. Medical professionals may not diagnose the need for immediate medical intervention in such cases, resulting in worsening of the injuries.

Here’s how the CPSC explains the reason for filing suit (from the CPSC news release),

The Commission staff filed the administrative complaint against Maxfield & Oberton after discussions with the company and its representatives failed to result in a voluntary recall plan that CPSC staff considered to be adequate. This type of legal action against a company is rare, as this is only the second administrative complaint filed by CPSC in the past 11 years.

Michelle Castillo’s July 26, 2012 news item for CBS News provides more background,

Currently marketed to adults, the CPSC reported that more than 2 million Buckyballs have been sold in the U.S., as well as 200,000 Buckycubes. Each container has anywhere from between 10 to 216 small magnets.

CPSC spokesperson Alex Filip told that there were 22 cases of swallowing these magnets from 2009 to October 2011. One of the most high-profile cases was that of a 3-year-old from Portland, Ore., who swallowed 37 magnets. The girl needed surgery after the balls ripped three holes through her intestines.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)said in a statement that they agreed with the CSPS complaint, adding that the minute size of the magnets made it hard for caregivers to see if one is missing. A survey of North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition members found that there have been more than 60 magnet ingestion cases over the last two years, which necessitated 26 surgeries and involved 23 bowel perforations. It wasn’t stated how many of these cases were related to Buckyball or Buckycube magnets. [emphasis mine]

According to the CPSC information, there were a dozen or more  incidents associated with the Buckyball/Buckycube magnets. I’m unclear as to how many incidents that is per year since 2009 – 2011 could be considered either two years (e.g. July 2009 – July 2011) or three years (Jan. – Dec. of 2009, 2010, and 2011). Regardless,  either four or six incidents per year in the US have been attributed to these Maxfield & Oberton toys (or, seven to eleven incidents based on the total number [22] of accidents involving the ingestion of these kinds of magnets).

Maxfield & Oberton’s response covers a number of points,

“We are deeply disappointed that the CPSC has decided to go after our firm – and magnets in general. Magnets have been around for centuries and are used for all sorts of purposes. Our products are marketed to those 14 and above and out of over half a billion magnets in the market place CPSC has received reports of less than two-dozen cases of misuse. We worked with the Commission in order to do an education video less than 9 months ago, so we are shocked they are taking this action. We find it unfair, unjust and un-American,” added Zucker [Craig Zucker, founder and Chief Executive Officer]. “We will vigorously fight this action taken by President Obama’s hand picked agency.”

Maxfield believes the CPSC is now taking the absurd position that warnings can never work. By doing so, CPSC has called into question the efficacy of all of the warnings the agency relies upon including its recently announced program to warn about the risk of strangulation posed by cords on baby monitors, cords that have been involved in 7 deaths.

What will CPSC do about drowning for which its remedy is warnings?

For balloons involved in several deaths each year, the Commission warns about the risk of suffocation from uninflated or broken balloons and says “Adult supervision required.” But for some reason when it comes to an American company that sells Buckyballs® exclusively to adults, the CPSC takes a different approach and decides that warnings don’t work. The Company believes the CPSC can’t have it both ways.

While this isn’t a nanotechnology story as such, despite what the toys are named, it  does illustrate issues around risk s, hazards, and regulations. What are the benefits? What risks are we prepared to tolerate? What are the hazards and how do we mitigate against them? How much regulation do we need? What are the impacts economically and socially?

Nanomaterials and energy storage talk at Vancouver’s (Canada) Café Scientifique on July 31, 2012

The Tuesday, July 31, 2012 talk for the local (Vancouver, Canada) Café Scientifique will be given by Dr. Michael O. Wolf, a chemist at the University of British Columbia. The talk is schedule for  7:30 pm at the Railway Club, 579 Dunsmuir St., 2nd floor andWolf’s topic is,

How nanomaterials can be used to change the way we collect and store energy in the future.
Growing global energy demands and the potential for environmental catastrophe require a dramatic shift in how we obtain and utilize energy. The vast majority of energy currently used by humans is produced by combustion of fossil fuels.  Fossil fuel consumption is driving significant increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide, threatening the planet with mass extinctions, starvation, and rising sea levels. With global energy demands projected to increase by 50% in the next 25 years, the rapid development of renewable “clean” energy sources, as well as methods to store this energy and harness it, are needed.  This talk will explore how a special class of substances called nanomaterials offer the potential of breakthroughs in solar energy harvesing and energy storage.

Wolf’s research page is here and the Wolf Research Group page is here.

2012 Summer Dreams Literary Festival in Vancouver, Canada (volunteers needed)

The last time I mentioned the Summer Dreams Literary Festival (produced by Pandora’s Collective) was in 2010. Not sure what happened in2011 but August 24 and 25, 2012 feature a gala and the festival proper.

On August 24, 2012at 7 pm at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) studios on 700 Hamilton Street, the 2012  Pandora Collective’s Literary Gala kicks off the festival. From the Summer Dreams Literary Arts Festival webpage  on the Pandora’ s Collective website,

Aug 24th – Pandora’s Literary Awards Gala
Pandora’s Collective is proud to announce the recipients of the Pandora’s Literary Awards for 2012. This years awards winners will be honoured at a special gala to be held on Friday, August 24th at CBC Studio 700. (700 Hamilton St.) The night will be be hosted by Charles Demers and will feature a performance by Mount Pleasant’s Inchoiring Minds. Award presenters include George Bowering, Brian Kaufman, Sean Cranbury, Betsy Warland and RC Weslowski.
Time: 7pm (Doors open at 6:30pm)
CBC Studio 700. (700 Hamilton St.)
Cash bar.
For full details click here.

The next day, Aug. 25, 2012, there’s an event featuring some 90 performers from the literary arts field, from the Summer Dreams Literary Arts Festival webpage  on the Pandora’ s Collective website,

Aug 25th – The Summer Dreams Literary Arts Festival
The Summer Dreams Literary Arts Festival is an annual event established to raise public awareness regarding the on-going literary events, programs and resources available in the community.
Time: 11:00 am – 6:30 pm
Location: Trout Lake, Vancouver, B.C.
For full details click here.

Here’s a partial list of performers (from the Summer Dreams Literary Festival home page),

Barbara Adler & Fang, Charles Demers, Christianne Hayward, Connor Doyle, Daniela ElzaDennis E. Bolen, Eva Waldauf, Ibrahim Honjo, Jabez Churchill, Jacques Lalonde, Jude Neale, Judith M. Atkinson, Leanne Averbach, Lucia Monica Gorea, Marni Norwich, Mary Duffy, Mary Gavin, Max Tell, Natalie Hobbs, Pam Bentley, Sean Cranbury, Steven R. Duncan, Sylvia Taylor, Taslim Jaffer, Thursdays Writing Collective, Tiffany Stone

You can get more information about the performers from the Performer Bio 2012 page on the event website.

Finally, they are looking for volunteers (from the July 12, 2012 news release),

As one might expect, putting on a big event with 3 stages, a children’s area, a market place and 90+ performers is a lot of work, so the more help the festival can have the better.  Volunteers are needed. It’s a great way to meet people and learn more about event planning and Vancouver’s vibrant writing community.

You can go here to sign up. Note: This is a Pandora’s Collective volunteer application which is doing double duty for the  Summer Literary Arts Festival.

The Australians want one; the French and the Dutch each have one; a nanomaterials registry

The July 25, 2012 news article by Rachel Carbonell for ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) discusses the current situation in Australia,

The ABC’s revelations that some sunscreen brands are inaccurately promoting themselves as nanotechnology-free have prompted calls for better regulation of nano-materials.

But the push for a mandatory register has suffered a blow, with a Federal Government report labelling it questionable.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) is among those calling for a register, saying the potential risks posed by nano-particles are still unknown.

The Federal Government recently released a study it commissioned to look at the feasibility of a mandatory nanotechnology product register.

The study concluded: “It is clear that some nano-materials behave differently to bulk-form materials and there are associated health, safety and environmental risks.”

“However the challenge presented by nanotechnology can be met through existing regulatory frameworks.

“It is therefore difficult to see a nano-products register delivering a net benefit to the community. The feasibility of a nano-product registry is questionable.”

But groups pushing for a register disagree.

The feasibility report points to the challenge of ensuring safety without stifling innovation, saying nanotechnology is potentially worth $50 billion a year to the Australian economy.

“But the fact that France is already implementing their mandatory register of nano-materials and the Netherlands is following closely, surely demonstrates that it must be possible.” [said Gregory Crocetti from Friends of the Earth]

The discussion presented in Carbonell’s piece is more involved than what I’ve excerpted for this posting so you may want to read her full article.

I  don’t believe I’ve come across that information about nanomaterial registries in France and Holland (Netherlands) before. I’ll see if I can find more about them to confirm their existence and exactly what is being documented.

New nanocrystalline cellulose plant in Wisconsin, US?

According to the July 25, 2012 article by Rick Barrett originally published by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel McClatchy-Tribune Information Services) on the website,

The U.S. Forest Products Laboratory, in Madison, says it’s opening a $1.7 million pilot plant that will support an emerging market for wood products derived from nanotechnology.

It also could boost Wisconsin’s paper industry by offering a new, high-value raw material made from wood pulp.

The pilot plant will supply nanocrystals to companies and universities that want to make materials from them or conduct their own experiments. For now, at least, it will employ just one person.

The first commercialized product to come from the program will likely be a paper coating. That could happen in a year, Rudie [Alan Rudie, a chemist and project leader of the nanotechnology program at the Forest Products Laboratory] said, and it will likely be several years before more advanced products come from the laboratory.

The program will make materials in kilogram quantities, something not readily available now. It will allow companies and universities to ramp up bigger projects because they will have the raw materials.

But while the Forest Products Laboratory wants to foster the technology, it doesn’t want to compete with businesses interested in producing the materials.

“We are part of the federal government, so we cannot compete against commercial companies. So if someone comes in and starts making these materials on a commercial level, we will have to get out of it,” Rudie said. That’s why, he added, the program has bought only equipment it can use for other purposes.

I suppose this nanomaterial from Wisconsin could be another crystalline substance  derived from wood but the description in the article makes it seem similar, if not identical, to the nanocrystalline cellulose (NCC) which is produced by the CelluForce plant in Windsor, Québec in quantities of 1000kg per day, according to publicity. (Information about the CelluForce plant opening, the efforts in Alberta, and other international inanocellulose *efforts *were mentioned in my Dec. 15, 2011 posting.)

I  note Rudie’s emphasis on not competing with commercial interests and wonder  about the situation with the Canadian plants which are funded both by federal and provincial government and commercial enterprises (Canada + Québec + Domtar = CelluForce and Canada +  Alberta+Alberta-Pacific Forest Industries, Inc. = plant production in Alberta).  In any event, I’m hoping the Canadian plants are going to be making their NCC accessible for Canadian innovators, inventors, and entrepreneurs, as well as, the research community. After all, how else does one expect innovation to occur?

* Dec. 12, 2013 I changed ‘research’ to ‘efforts’ and changed ‘was’ to ‘were’.

Organ chips for DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency)

The Wyss Institute will receive up to  $37M US for a project that integrates ten different organ-on-a-chip projects into one system. From the July 24, 2012 news release on EurekAlert,

With this new DARPA funding, Institute researchers and a multidisciplinary team of collaborators seek to build 10 different human organs-on-chips, to link them together to more closely mimic whole body physiology, and to engineer an automated instrument that will control fluid flow and cell viability while permitting real-time analysis of complex biochemical functions. As an accurate alternative to traditional animal testing models that often fail to predict human responses, this instrumented “human-on-a-chip” will be used to rapidly assess responses to new drug candidates, providing critical information on their safety and efficacy.

This unique platform could help ensure that safe and effective therapeutics are identified sooner, and ineffective or toxic ones are rejected early in the development process. As a result, the quality and quantity of new drugs moving successfully through the pipeline and into the clinic may be increased, regulatory decision-making could be better informed, and patient outcomes could be improved.

Jesse Goodman, FDA Chief Scientist and Deputy Commissioner for Science and Public Health, commented that the automated human-on-chip instrument being developed “has the potential to be a better model for determining human adverse responses. FDA looks forward to working with the Wyss Institute in its development of this model that may ultimately be used in therapeutic development.”

Wyss Founding Director, Donald Ingber, M.D., Ph.D., and Wyss Core Faculty member, Kevin Kit Parker, Ph.D., will co-lead this five-year project.

I note that Kevin Kit Parker was mentioned in an earlier posting today (July 26, 2012) titled, Medusa, jellyfish, and tissue engineering, and Donald Ingber in my Dec.1e, 2011 posting about Shrilk and insect skeletons.

As for the Wyss Institute, here’s a description from the news release,

The Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University ( uses Nature’s design principles to develop bioinspired materials and devices that will transform medicine and create a more sustainable world. Working as an alliance among Harvard’s Schools of Medicine, Engineering, and Arts & Sciences, and in partnership with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston Children’s Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, , Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Massachusetts General Hospital, the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, Tufts University, and Boston University, the Institute crosses disciplinary and institutional barriers to engage in high-risk research that leads to transformative technological breakthroughs. By emulating Nature’s principles for self-organizing and self-regulating, Wyss researchers are developing innovative new engineering solutions for healthcare, energy, architecture, robotics, and manufacturing. These technologies are translated into commercial products and therapies through collaborations with clinical investigators, corporate alliances, and new start-ups.

I hadn’t thought of an organ-on-a-chip as particularly bioinspired so I’ll have to think about that one for a while.