Monthly Archives: July 2023

D-Wave Systems demonstrates quantum advantage on optimization problems with a 5,000-qubit programmable spin glass

This May 17, 2023 article by Ingrid Fadelli for describes quantum research performed by D-Wave Systems (a company in Vancouver, Canada) and Boston University (Massachusetts, US), Note: Links have been removed,

Over the past decades, researchers and companies worldwide have been trying to develop increasingly advanced quantum computers. The key objective of their efforts is to create systems that will outperform classical computers on specific tasks, which is also known as realizing “quantum advantage.”

A research team at D-Wave Inc., a quantum computing company, recently created a new quantum computing system that outperforms classical computing systems on optimization problems. This system, introduced in a paper in Nature, is based on a programmable spin glass with 5,000 qubits (the quantum equivalents of bits in classical computing).

“This work validates the original hypothesis behind quantum annealing, coming full circle from some seminal experiments conducted in the 1990s,” Andrew D. King, one of the researchers who carried out the study, told

“These original experiments took chunks of spin-glass alloy and subjected them to varying magnetic fields, and the observations suggested that if we made a programmable quantum spin glass, it could drive down to low-energy states of optimization problems faster than analogous classical algorithms. A Science paper published in 2014 tried to verify this on a D-Wave Two processor, but no speedup was found.”

“This is a ‘full circle’ moment, in the sense that we have verified and extended the hypothesis of the UChicago [University of Chicago] and NEC [Nippon Electric Company] researchers; quantum annealing shows a scaling advantage over simulated thermal annealing,” King said. “Ours is the largest programmable quantum simulation ever performed; reproducing it classically is way beyond the reach of known methods.”

“We have a clear view of quantum effects and very clear evidence, both theoretical and experimental, that the quantum effects are conferring a computational scaling advantage over classical methods,” King said. “We want to highlight the difference between this original definition of quantum advantage and the fact that it is sometimes used as a stand-in term for quantum supremacy, which we have not demonstrated. [emphases mine] Gate-model quantum computers have not shown any capabilities approaching this for optimization, and I personally don’t believe they ever will.”

“For a long time, it was subject for debate whether or not coherent quantum dynamics were playing any role at all in quantum annealing,” King said. “While this controversy has been rebuked by previous works, this new research is the clearest demonstration yet, by far.”

An April 19, 2023 D-Wave Systems news release, which seems to have been the basis for Fadelli’s article, provides more detail in a release that functions as a research announcement and a sales tool, Note: Links have been removed,

D-Wave Quantum Inc. (NYSE: QBTS), a leader in quantum computing systems, software, and services—and the only provider building both annealing and gate-model quantum computers, today published a peer-reviewed milestone paper showing the performance of its 5,000 qubit Advantage™ quantum computer is significantly faster than classical compute on 3D spin glass optimization problems, an intractable class of optimization problems. This paper also represents the largest programmable quantum simulation reported to date.

The paper—a collaboration between scientists from D-Wave and Boston University—entitled “Quantum critical dynamics in a 5,000-qubit programmable spin glass,” was published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature today and is available here. Building upon research conducted on up to 2,000 qubits last September, the study shows that the D-Wave quantum processor can compute coherent quantum dynamics in large-scale optimization problems. This work was done using D-Wave’s commercial-grade annealing-based quantum computer, which is accessible for customers to use today.

With immediate implications to optimization, the findings show that coherent quantum annealing can improve solution quality faster than classical algorithms. The observed speedup matches the theory of coherent quantum annealing and shows​ a direct connection between coherence and the core computational power of quantum annealing.

“This research marks a significant achievement for quantum technology, as it demonstrates a computational advantage over classical approaches for an intractable class of optimization problems,” said Dr. Alan Baratz, CEO of D-Wave. “For those seeking evidence of quantum annealing’s unrivaled performance, this work offers definitive proof.

This work supports D-Wave’s ongoing commitment to relentless scientific innovation and product delivery, as the company continues development on its future annealing and gate model quantum computers. To date, D-Wave has brought to market five generations of quantum computers and launched an experimental prototype of its sixth-generation machine, the Advantage2™ system, in June 2022. The full Advantage2 system is expected to feature 7,000+ qubits, 20-way connectivity and higher coherence to solve even larger and more complex problems. Read more about the research in our Medium post here.

Paper’s Authors and Leading Industry Voices Echo Support

“This is an important advance in the study of quantum phase transitions on quantum annealers. It heralds a revolution in experimental many-body physics and bodes well for practical applications of quantum computing,” said Wojciech Zurek, theoretical physicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory and leading authority on quantum theory. Dr. Zurek is widely renowned for his groundbreaking contribution to our understanding of the early universe as well as condensed matter systems through the discovery of the celebrated Kibble-Zurek mechanism. This mechanism underpins the physics behind the experiment reported in this paper. “The same hardware that has already provided useful experimental proving ground for quantum critical dynamics can be also employed to seek low-energy states that assist in finding solutions to optimization problems.”

“Disordered magnets, such as spin glasses, have long functioned as model systems for testing solvers of complex optimization problems,” said Gabriel Aeppli, professor of physics at ETH Zürich and EPF Lausanne, and head of the Photon Science Division of the Paul Scherrer Institut. Professor Aeppli coauthored the first experimental paper demonstrating advantage of quantum annealing over thermal annealing in reaching ground state of disordered magnets. “This paper gives evidence that the quantum dynamics of a dedicated hardware platform are faster than for known classical algorithms to find the preferred, lowest energy state of a spin glass, and so promises to continue to fuel the further development of quantum annealers for dealing with practical problems.”

“As a physicist who has built my career on computer simulations of quantum systems, it has been amazing to experience first-hand the transformative capabilities of quantum annealing devices,” said Anders Sandvik, professor of physics at Boston University and a coauthor of the paper. “This paper already demonstrates complex quantum dynamics on a scale beyond any classical simulation method, and I’m very excited about the expected enhanced performance of future devices. I believe we are now entering an era when quantum annealing becomes an essential tool for research on complex systems.”

“This work marks a major step towards large-scale quantum simulations of complex materials,” said Hidetoshi Nishimori, Professor, Institute of Innovative Research, Tokyo Institute of Technology and one of the original inventors of quantum annealing. “We can now expect novel physical phenomena to be revealed by quantum simulations using quantum annealing, ultimately leading to the design of materials of significant societal value.”

“This represents some of the most important experimental work ever performed in quantum optimization,” said Dr. Andrew King, director of performance research at D-Wave. “We’ve demonstrated a speedup over simulated annealing, in strong agreement with theory, providing high-quality solutions for large-scale problems. This work shows clear evidence of quantum dynamics in optimization, which we believe paves the way for even more complex problem-solving using quantum annealing in the future. The work exhibits a programmable realization of lab experiments that originally motivated quantum annealing 25 years ago.”

“Not only is this the largest demonstration of quantum simulation to date, but it also provides the first experimental evidence, backed by theory, that coherent quantum dynamics can accelerate the attainment of better solutions in quantum annealing,” said Mohammad Amin, fellow, quantum algorithms and systems, at D-Wave. “The observed speedup can be attributed to complex critical dynamics during quantum phase transition, which cannot be replicated by classical annealing algorithms, and the agreement between theory and experiment is remarkable. We believe these findings have significant implications for quantum optimization, with practical applications in addressing real-world problems.”

About D-Wave Quantum Inc.

D-Wave is a leader in the development and delivery of quantum computing systems, software, and services, and is the world’s first commercial supplier of quantum computers—and the only company building both annealing quantum computers and gate-model quantum computers. Our mission is to unlock the power of quantum computing today to benefit business and society. We do this by delivering customer value with practical quantum applications for problems as diverse as logistics, artificial intelligence, materials sciences, drug discovery, scheduling, cybersecurity, fault detection, and financial modeling. D-Wave’s technology is being used by some of the world’s most advanced organizations, including Volkswagen, Mastercard, Deloitte, Davidson Technologies, ArcelorMittal, Siemens Healthineers, Unisys, NEC Corporation, Pattison Food Group Ltd., DENSO, Lockheed Martin, Forschungszentrum Jülich, University of Southern California, and Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Forward-Looking Statements

This press release contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995, which statements are based on beliefs and assumptions and on information currently available. In some cases, you can identify forward-looking statements by the following words: “may,” “will,” “could,” “would,” “should,” “expect,” “intend,” “plan,” “anticipate,” “believe,” “estimate,” “predict,” “project,” “potential,” “continue,” “ongoing,” or the negative of these terms or other comparable terminology, although not all forward-looking statements contain these words. These statements involve risks, uncertainties, and other factors that may cause actual results, levels of activity, performance, or achievements to be materially different from the information expressed or implied by these forward-looking statements. We caution you that these statements are based on a combination of facts and factors currently known by us and our projections of the future, which are subject to a number of risks. Forward-looking statements in this press release include, but are not limited to, statements regarding the impact of the results of this study; the company’s Advantage2™ experimental prototype; and the potential for future problem-solving using quantum annealing. We cannot assure you that the forward-looking statements in this press release will prove to be accurate. These forward-looking statements are subject to a number of risks and uncertainties, including, among others, various factors beyond management’s control, including general economic conditions and other risks, our ability to expand our customer base and the customer adoption of our solutions, and the uncertainties and factors set forth in the sections entitled “Risk Factors” and “Cautionary Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements” in D-Wave Quantum Inc.’s Form S-4 Registration Statement, as amended, previously filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, as well as factors associated with companies, such as D-Wave, that are engaged in the business of quantum computing, including anticipated trends, growth rates, and challenges in those businesses and in the markets in which they operate; the outcome of any legal proceedings that may be instituted against us; risks related to the performance of our business and the timing of expected business or financial milestones; unanticipated technological or project development challenges, including with respect to the cost and or timing thereof; the performance of the our products; the effects of competition on our business; the risk that we will need to raise additional capital to execute our business plan, which may not be available on acceptable terms or at all; the risk that we may never achieve or sustain profitability; the risk that we are unable to secure or protect our intellectual property; volatility in the price of our securities; and the risk that our securities will not maintain the listing on the NYSE. Furthermore, if the forward-looking statements contained in this press release prove to be inaccurate, the inaccuracy may be material. In addition, you are cautioned that past performance may not be indicative of future results. In light of the significant uncertainties in these forward-looking statements, you should not place undue reliance on these statements in making an investment decision or regard these statements as a representation or warranty by any person we will achieve our objectives and plans in any specified time frame, or at all. The forward-looking statements in this press release represent our views as of the date of this press release. We anticipate that subsequent events and developments will cause our views to change. However, while we may elect to update these forward-looking statements at some point in the future, we have no current intention of doing so except to the extent required by applicable law. You should, therefore, not rely on these forward-looking statements as representing our views as of any date subsequent to the date of this press release.

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

Quantum critical dynamics in a 5,000-qubit programmable spin glass by Andrew D. King, Jack Raymond, Trevor Lanting, Richard Harris, Alex Zucca, Fabio Altomare, Andrew J. Berkley, Kelly Boothby, Sara Ejtemaee, Colin Enderud, Emile Hoskinson, Shuiyuan Huang, Eric Ladizinsky, Allison J. R. MacDonald, Gaelen Marsden, Reza Molavi, Travis Oh, Gabriel Poulin-Lamarre, Mauricio Reis, Chris Rich, Yuki Sato, Nicholas Tsai, Mark Volkmann, Jed D. Whittaker, Jason Yao, Anders W. Sandvik & Mohammad H. Amin. Nature volume 617, pages 61–66 (2023) DOI: Published: 19 April 2023 Issue Date: 04 May 2023

This paper is behind a paywall but there is an open access version on the arxiv website which means that it has had some peer review but may differ from the version in Nature.

Discussing Nano-Yield’s fertilizer delivery systems on the Ag Tech Talk podcast

I was hoping for some technical information in the Ag Tech Talk podcast (which is produced by AgriBusiness Global [AGB]) or on the interview subject’s Nano-Yield website but—no. The Ag Tech Talk host, Daniel Jacobs, provides a little information about size when discussing the nanoscale; offering a blade of grass as an example, Unfortunately, Jacobs is unable to get more technical information from Clark Bell, the company’s CEO (Chief Executive Officer) but there is ample discussion of the company’s business.

An excerpt from the transcript below the May 19, 2023 Ag tech Talk podcast should give you a sense of how the discussion went,

With fertilizer (and other input costs) rising, getting the most for your money has never been more critical. Nano-Yield offers a nanotechnology solution to deliver product at the molecular level. We talked with Clark Bell, CEO for Nano-Yield, to learn more about this technology, what innovations are on the horizon, how biologicals fit into the picture, and much more.

ABG [AgribBusiness Globa]: How many different countries are you in right now?

CB [Clark Bell]: We are in 10. We actually just inked a deal with Bangladesh, which we should talk about.

ABG: You wouldn’t define it as something that would cure citrus greening. You had a solution that helped that process. What else is it that your products, your solutions, offer folks?

CB: I think the claims are first and foremost fertilizers, and chemistries have some inefficiencies, and they can be corrected by different compounds by adding 4 ounces of nanoliquid technology into a spray tank, we can improve the uptake, or the absorption of different fertilizer molecules, synthetic chemistry uptake or even biologicals. And so that’s where we fit into the industry. People are trying to get more out of their tank. And so, they add nanoliquid technology to improve with uptake and better absorption to improve quality yields.

There are opportunities where people can use less material applied due to nanoliquid technology. So, in some areas like Bangladesh, for instance, where supply is a major issue — they don’t manufacture any of it domestically. It’s all brought in. So, we’re answering a problem for them or other countries that have access to. We are addressing things like corn and soybeans on broad acres in the U.S. where the grains trading, it’s very profitable that if they can get more yield and more quality, they’ll spend $5 on nanoliquid technology an acre, and they can see a minimum of a four-times return on investment by throwing that in there. So, we kind of essentially just make it so that we improve the performance of whatever they’ve already been using on their farm to get better output.

ABG: We’ve been hearing a lot about the fertilizer prices just shooting through the roof. And obviously anything that would increase yield, and not cost them an arm and a leg, or better use what they already have on their field would certainly be appreciated.

CB: Yes, certainly. We’ve been doing this for nine years, but essentially, since the pandemic. That’s really where things took off. It just takes some of the marketplace to prove your science, right? And they have a lot of data. And so that was kind of an inflection point for us. We’re up to like 800 trials now that we can showcase ROI and efficiency now.

But second to that is also the timing of the market, which is oftentimes the number one iteration of how technology is adopted is if you time the market right. And when we first came up with this concept in 2014, urea hadn’t increased by three times year over year. And so, when we go into 2021 and 2022, when those issues with MAP (Monoammonium phosphate) and DAP (Diammonium phosphate) and urea and essentially all the commodity fertilizers are just so darn expensive, we’ve been able to answer that problem for people. And again, one of one of the benefits. What we do is we can either improve the performance of what you’re already using, or in some instances there can be reductions and less material applied by using Nano-Liquid technology.

ABG: Can you give me the elevator speech version of exactly what your technology does for someone for a layman who doesn’t really, understand the technical points of the of how it works.

CB: Yeah, we were at a start of a board this last weekend. And so, I was talking to a group of tech and software people that don’t understand ag. And so, in simple terms Nano-Yield sells a sustainable fertilizer technology that improves the absorption of fertilizers and chemicals from what apply into crops.

ABG: How does it do that?

CB: The way that takes place is by adding nano particles into a tank that helps the different molecules and chemicals that are in that tank where oftentimes they don’t have a good delivery system to be delivered to those tissues, or leaves, or into the root systems. And by using the Nanoliquid technology, those nano particles now encapsulate and deliver those chemicals and fertilizers, so that there’s a better uptake. And there’s an efficiency the way that all comes into place.

The May 19, 2023 Ag tech Talk podcast runs for about 30 mins. and the transcript is included after the audio file. You can find the Nano-Yield website here.

Science and Innovation in a Time of Transformation—the Canadian Science Policy Conference (November 13 – 15, 2023)

Happy 15th anniversary to the Canadian Science Policy Conference (CSPC). Jaw dropping increase in price for SuperSaver rates!

Before getting to the prices, here’s more in English and French from a Canadian Science Policy Centre newsletter (received June 19, 2023 via email), Note: They don’t have a programme yet,

Registration for the eagerly awaited 15th Canadian Science Policy Conference is now available! Check the CSPC Conference Website for more information.

Register now at the SuperSaver rate which offers significant savings and is valid until September 3rd, 2023. By taking advantage of the SuperSaver rate, registration will include Five Symposia for free (a value of up to $300). 

CSPC 2023 will feature:

  • 8 Pre-Conference Zoom Sessions between Nov 1-10th, 2023
  • 5 Symposiums with 20 sessions on Nov 13th, 2023 on the following themes:
    1. Innovation Policy
    2. Health Policy
    3. Indigenous and North
    4. Equity Diversity Inclusion
    5. Resilient Communities
  • 50+ Concurrent Panel Sessions
  • 5 Plenary Sessions
  • Breakfast Sessions
  • Luncheons Talks
  • Fireside Discussions
  • Gala Dinner

With the overarching theme of ‘Science and Innovation in a Time of Transformation’ CSPC 2023 expects more than 1000 participants, 300+ speakers in 50+ panel sessions, and will include a spectacular Gala Dinner featuring its award ceremony which has become a signature annual event to celebrate Canadian science and innovation policy achievements. 

Don’t miss out on the SuperSaver rate and register now!

Register Here

Vous attendiez ce moment avec impatience! Vous pouvez maintenant vous inscrire à la 15e Conférence sur les politiques scientifiques canadiennes! Pour plus de détails, veuillez consulter le site Web de la CPSC.

En vous inscrivant d’ici le 3 septembre 2023, vous pouvez bénéficier du tarif super escompte qui vous permet de profiter d’économies importantes. Ceux qui s’inscriront au cours de la période du tarif super escompte auront accès (sans frais additionnels) à 5 symposiums (une valeur de plus de 300 $). 

La CPSC 2023 comprendra :

  • 8 séances Zoom pré-conférence entre le 1er et le 10 novembre 2023
  • 5 symposiums avec 20 séances le 13 novembre 2023 portant sur les thèmes suivants :
    1. Politique d’innovation
    2. Politique en santé
    3. Autochtones et région du Nord
    4. Équité, diversité et inclusion
    5. Communautés résilientes
  • Plus de 50 panels simultanés
  • Cinq séances plénières
  • Déjeuners-causeries
  • Dîners-causeries
  • Discussions informelles
  • Souper gala

Sous le thème général Science et innovation en période de transformation, on s’attend à ce que la CPSC 2023 accueille plus de 1000 participants, et plus de 300 conférenciers qui participeront à plus de 50 panels. La conférence comprendra également un souper gala avec cérémonie de remise de prix; un événement annuel prestigieux pour souligner les réalisations dans le domaine de la politique scientifique et d’innovation au Canada. 

Inscrivez-vous maintenant pour profiter du tarif super escompte!

S’inscrire maintenant

Pricing (now and then)

Here are the prices for the 2023 CSPC conference from the registration page,

Registration Rates

All rates are subject to 13% HST tax.

Conference and Symposiums: 3 Lunches, 3 breakfasts, refreshment breaks, and one reception. Gala Dinner is included in the Standard registration category.

All registrations categories include Zoom Pre Conference Sessions (Nov 1-10 [2023])

All summer – Sept 3rd
Conference OnlyConference + Symposiums
Special SuperSaver Deal:
Symposium is Free up to $300 savings
Standard (Gala dinner included)$1200
Student/Post Doctoral$250
Early Bird
Sept 4th – Oct. 2nd
Conference OnlyConference + Symposiums
$200 savings
Standard (Gala dinner included)$1200$1300
Student/Post Doctoral$275$325
Regular Rate
Oct 3rd – Nov 10th
Conference OnlyConference + Symposiums
$200 savings
Standard (Gala dinner included)$1400$1500
Student/Post Doctoral$325$375
Other (Conference Only)Cost
Panelist/Panel Organizer One Day (Day of presentation)$300
Panelist/Panel Organizer Speaker full conference$600
Exhibitor Booth Staff$800
Gala Dinner Tickets OnlyCost
Conference Delegates (Students)$99
Conference Delegates (Non-profits)$150
Other (not registered for conference)$300
Table (10)$2800
Symposiums Only (Monday, Nov 13, 8 am – 12 pm)Cost
Student/Post Doctoral$100
Zoom Pre-Conference Sessions Only (Nov 1 – Nov 10)Cost
Student/Post Doctoral$50


Let’s compare with the 2022 conference prices (from my August 31, 2022 posting),

Registration includes 3 Lunches, 3 breakfasts, refreshment breaks, and one reception, and zoom pre-conference sessions.

Gala Dinner is included in the Standard registration category. Gala dinner for students and non-profit pricing is $99

Registration Label Name

SuperSaver Rate
All summer – Sept 3rd

Early Bird Rate
Sept. 4th – Oct 1st

Regular Rate
From Oct 5th
Standard (Gala dinner included)$990$1100$1250
Academic / Non-Profit / Retired / Diplomat$550$650$750
Student / Postdoctoral Fellow / Trainee$200$250$300

The SuperSaver rate for a standard registration has jumped from $990 in 2022 to $1200.—an increase of approximately 20%.

The price jump for “Academic / Non-Profit / Retired / Diplomat” from $550 to $700 is about 27% while the “Student/Post Doctoral” price jump from $200 to $250 is 25%.

Getting back to the conference, which as usual will be held in Ottawa, here are some details from the accommodation page,

Canadian Science Policy Conference (CSPC) 2023 Conference will be held at the Westin Ottawa Hotel from Monday, November 13 to Wednesday, November 15, 2023.  To view the hotel please visit this link to Westin Ottawa.

CSPC has arranged for a block of guest rooms at the Westin Ottawa starting at $272.00 per night plus applicable taxes. The deadline for booking is Monday, October 16, 2023. Room availability is limited.

The programme (outline)

This year’s theme is: Science and Innovation in a Time of Transformation—the Canadian Science Policy Conference (November 13 – 15, 2023). The What to Expect page gives you a sense of what the programme could be like,

CSPC 2023 tracks are:

Science and Policy

Science and Society

Innovation, and Economic Development

Science, International Affairs and Security

Science and the Next Generation

Grand Challenges


There’s a preliminary list of speakers available according to my July 20, 2023 announcement received via email. At this point the list is heavily tilted to speakers from health and agriculture/food agencies.

There are a few international speakers, one from the UK (she’s from the University of Sheffield and their Food Standards Agency) and two from France (ambassador to Canada, Michel Miraillet) and a representative from the French Ministry of Higher Education and Research.

Familiar face, Dr. Mona Nemer, Canada’s Chief Science Advisor, can be expected too.

Hopefully, I can get an email interview with Dr. Mehrdad Hariri, Founder, CEO & President, Canadian Science Policy Centre for his perspective on the last 15 years of Canadian science policy, a preview of this year’s programme, and, perhaps, some insight into a reason or two for the price jumps.

Uncovering the secrets of ancient Wari Empire pottery with lasers and chemistry

This is a little bit outside my usual range but the researchers are using some high end equipment for their analyses so I’m using that as an excuse to make an exception.

Caption: Example ceramic drinking cup from the Wari site of Cerro Baúl, Moquegua, Peru that are similar to the sherds included in the Laser Ablation sampling. Credit: Courtesy Cerro Baúl Archaeological Project, photo by P. R. Williams, Catalog number CB-V001.

From a March 14, 2023 Field Museum (Chicago, Illinois) news release (also on EurekAlert)

Peru’s first great empire, the Wari, stretched for more than a thousand miles over the Andes Mountains and along the coast from 600-1000 CE. The pottery they left behind gives archaeologists clues as to how the empire functioned. In a new study in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, researchers showed that rather than using “official” Wari pottery imported from the capital, potters across the empire were creating their own ceramics, decorated to emulate the traditional Wari style. To figure it out, the scientists analyzed the pottery’s chemical make-up, with help from laser beams.

“In this study, we looked at the idea of cosmopolitanism, of incorporating different cultures and practices into a society,” says M. Elizabeth Grávalos, a postdoctoral researcher at the Field Museum in Chicago and the study’s lead author. “We’re trying to show that potters were influenced by the Wari, but this influence was blended with their own local cultural practices.”

Grávalos says this model of cosmopolitanism is a little like trying to replicate a recipe from another culture, but with a local spin. “If you live in the US and you’re making pad thai at home, you might not have access to all the ingredients that someone living in Thailand would have, so you substitute some things,” she says. “Wari ceramics are a little like thatpeople throughout the empire were interested in Wari material culture, but they weren’t necessarily getting it directly from the Wari heartland. More often than not, we see local people trying to make their own version of Wari pottery.”

Grávalos and her colleagues led archaeological digs throughout Peru, working with local communities to excavate the thousand-year-old remains of households, tombs, and administrative centers, in search of Wari lifeways. The researchers were then granted permission from Peru’s Ministry of Culture to bring samples of ceramics from their excavations to Chicago for analysis.

Clay from different regions has a different chemical makeup, so studying the ceramics’ chemical makeup could tell the researchers if the pots were produced in different places or if they were all imported from the Wari capital.

“We’d take a tiny piece of a pot and used a laser to cut an even tinier piece, basically extracting a piece of the ceramic’s clay paste,” says Grávalos. “Then helium gas carried it to the mass spectrometer, which measures the elements present in the  clay paste.” (The lab set-up didn’t have open laser beams and floating shards of pottery cutting across the room, thoughthe whole process takes place on a microscopic scale inside a big boxy machine.)

The analysis showed that the pots excavated from distinct regions of Peru have different chemical signatures, and were therefore made with distinct clays. That helps show how the Wari culture spread.

Some empires, like the ancient Romans, took a “top-down” approach to spreading their aesthetic, shipping pottery across the Mediterranean so that people throughout the empire were using the official Roman style. Local potters emulating the traditional Wari style in their own work seems to hint at a more “bottom-up” approach.

“Of course, local people in all empires have some degree of agency and creative controlthe only empire that’s truly top-down is the Borg from Star Trek,” says Patrick Ryan Williams, Curator of Archaeological Science and Director of the Elemental Analysis Facility  at the Field Museum and the study’s senior author. “Even the Romans had local people doing things their own way. But what we’re finding in this study is the agency of local peoples and the importance of local economies. In some regions, we find that Wari colonists had their own production centers and were recreating Wari lifeways locally. In other areas, we see that local communities made Wari pottery in their own way. I think that’s what’s really important about this study.”

The researchers say that the patterns revealed by this pottery could help explain why the Wari empire was able to thrive for so long. “Local production, even in a cosmopolitan society with lots of far-flung connections, makes a society more resilient,” says Williams. “If you’re entirely dependent on someone far away sending you things you need, you’re extremely vulnerable.”

Beyond the economic lessons that we might learn from the Wari, Grávalos says that the study matters because “this work challenges some of the assumptions we have about how societies work, particularly Indigenous groups who are often misrepresented or left out of broader narratives of world history. There are many people whose stories haven’t been told, and this study shows their resilience and their accomplishments.”

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

Crafting cosmopolitanism: Ceramic production and exchange during Wari imperialism (600–1000 CE) by M. Elizabeth Grávalos, David A. Reid, Donna J. Nash, and Patrick Ryan Williams. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports Available online 14 March 2023, 103878 In Press, Correctted proof. DOI:

This paper is behind a paywall.

A structural colour solution for energy-saving paint (thank the butterflies)

The UCF-developed plasmonic paint uses nanoscale structural arrangement of colorless materials — aluminum and aluminum oxide — instead of pigments to create colors. Here the plasmonic paint is applied to the wings of metal butterflies, the insect that inspired the research. Credit: University of Central Florida

A March 9, 2023 news item on Nanowerk announces research into multicolour energy-saving coating/paint, so, this is a structural colour story, Note: Links have been removed,

University of Central Florida researcher Debashis Chanda, a professor in UCF’s NanoScience Technology Center, has drawn inspiration from butterflies to create the first environmentally friendly, large-scale and multicolor alternative to pigment-based colorants, which can contribute to energy-saving efforts and help reduce global warming.

A March 8, 2023 University of Central Florida (UCF) news release (also on EurekAlert) by Katrina Cabansay, which originated the news item, provides more context and more details,

“The range of colors and hues in the natural world are astonishing — from colorful flowers, birds and butterflies to underwater creatures like fish and cephalopods,” Chanda says. “Structural color serves as the primary color-generating mechanism in several extremely vivid species where geometrical arrangement of typically two colorless materials produces all colors. On the other hand, with manmade pigment, new molecules are needed for every color present.”

Based on such bio-inspirations, Chanda’s research group innovated a plasmonic paint, which utilizes nanoscale structural arrangement of colorless materials — aluminum and aluminum oxide — instead of pigments to create colors.

While pigment colorants control light absorption based on the electronic property of the pigment material and hence every color needs a new molecule, structural colorants control the way light is reflected, scattered or absorbed based purely on the geometrical arrangement of nanostructures.

Such structural colors are environmentally friendly as they only use metals and oxides, unlike present pigment-based colors that use artificially synthesized molecules.

The researchers have combined their structural color flakes with a commercial binder to form long-lasting paints of all colors.

“Normal color fades because pigment loses its ability to absorb photons,” Chanda says. “Here, we’re not limited by that phenomenon. Once we paint something with structural color, it should stay for centuries.”

Additionally, because plasmonic paint reflects the entire infrared spectrum, less heat is absorbed by the paint, resulting in the underneath surface staying 25 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than it would if it were covered with standard commercial paint, the researcher says.

“Over 10% of total electricity in the U.S. goes toward air conditioner usage,” Chanda says. “The temperature difference plasmonic paint promises would lead to significant energy savings. Using less electricity for cooling would also cut down carbon dioxide emissions, lessening global warming.”

Plasmonic paint is also extremely lightweight, the researcher says.

This is due to the paint’s large area-to-thickness ratio, with full coloration achieved at a paint thickness of only 150 nanometers, making it the lightest paint in the world, Chanda says.

The paint is so lightweight that only about 3 pounds of plasmonic paint could cover a Boeing 747, which normally requires more than 1,000 pounds of conventional paint, he says.

Chanda says his interest in structural color stems from the vibrancy of butterflies.

“As a kid, I always wanted to build a butterfly,” he says. “Color draws my interest.”

Future Research

Chanda says the next steps of the project include further exploration of the paint’s energy-saving aspects to improve its viability as commercial paint.

“The conventional pigment paint is made in big facilities where they can make hundreds of gallons of paint,” he says. “At this moment, unless we go through the scale-up process, it is still expensive to produce at an academic lab.”

“We need to bring something different like, non-toxicity, cooling effect, ultralight weight, to the table that other conventional paints can’t.” Chanda says.

Licensing Opportunity

For more information about licensing this technology, please visit the Inorganic Paint Pigment for Vivid Plasmonic Color technology sheet.

Researcher’s Credentials

Chanda has joint appointments in UCF’s NanoScience Technology Center, Department of Physics and College of Optics and Photonics. He received his doctorate in photonics from the University of Toronto and worked as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He joined UCF in Fall 2012.

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

Ultralight plasmonic structural color paint by Pablo Cencillo-Abad, Daniel Franklin, Pamela Mastranzo-Ortega, Javier Sanchez-Mondragon, and Debashis Chanda. Science Advances 8 Mar 2023 Vol 9, Issue 10 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.adf7207

This paper is open access.

Here’s the researcher with one of ‘his butterflies’ (I may be reading a little too much into this but it looks like he’s uncomfortable having his photo taken but game to do it for work that he’s proud of),

Caption: Debashis Chanda, a professor in UCF’s NanoScience Technology Center, drew inspiration from butterflies to create the innovative new plasmonic paint, shown here applied to metal butterfly wings. Credit: University of Central Florida

Flexible keyboards and wearable sketchpads: all in a touch-responsive fabric armband

Who doesn’t love a panda? It looks like someone is drawing on the armband with their fingers but the lines look a lot finer, more like a stylus was used.

Caption: When a person draws a panda on this touch-responsive armband that’s worn on their forearm (bottom right of photo), it shows up on a computer. Credit: Adapted from ACS Nano 2023, DOI: 10.1021/acsnano.2c12612

A May 2, 2023 news item on ScienceDaily announces the flexible armband,

It’s time to roll up your sleeves for the next advance in wearable technology — a fabric armband that’s actually a touch pad. In ACS [American Chemical Society] Nano, researchers say they have devised a way to make playing video games, sketching cartoons and signing documents easier. Their proof-of-concept silk armband turns a person’s forearm into a keyboard or sketchpad. The three-layer, touch-responsive material interprets what a user draws or types and converts it into images on a computer.

A May 2, 2023 American Chemical Society (ACS) news release (also on EurekAlert), which originated the news item, describes the work in more detail,

Computer trackpads and electronic signature-capture devices seem to be everywhere, but they aren’t as widely used in wearables. Researchers have suggested making flexible touch-responsive panels from clear, electrically conductive hydrogels, but these substances are sticky, making them hard to write on and irritating to the skin. So, Xueji Zhang, Lijun Qu, Mingwei Tian and colleagues wanted to incorporate a similar hydrogel into a comfortable fabric sleeve for drawing or playing games on a computer.

The researchers sandwiched a pressure-sensitive hydrogel between layers of knit silk. The top piece was coated in graphene nanosheets to make the fabric electrically conductive. Attaching the sensing panel to electrodes and a data collection system produced a pressure-responsive pad with real-time, rapid sensing when a finger slid over it, writing numbers and letters. The device was then incorporated into an arm-length silk sleeve with a touch-responsive area on the forearm. In experiments, a user controlled the direction of blocks in a computer game and sketched colorful cartoons in a computer drawing program from the armband. The researchers say that their proof-of-concept wearable touch panel could inspire the next generation of flexible keyboards and wearable sketchpads.       

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

Skin-Friendly and Wearable Iontronic Touch Panel for Virtual-Real Handwriting Interaction by Ruidong Xu, Minghua She, Jiaxu Liu, Shikang Zhao, Jisheng Zhao, Xueji Zhang, Lijun Qu, and Mingwei Tian. ACS Nano 2023, 17, 9, 8293–8302 DOI: Publication Date: April 19, 2023 Copyright © 2023 American Chemical Society

This paper is behind a paywall.

Memristors based on halide perovskite nanocrystals are more powerful and easier to manufacture

A March 8, 2023 news item on announces research from Swiss and Italian researchers into a new type of memristor,

Researchers at Empa, ETH Zurich and the Politecnico di Milano are developing a new type of computer component that is more powerful and easier to manufacture than its predecessors. Inspired by the human brain, it is designed to process large amounts of data fast and in an energy-efficient way.

In many respects, the human brain is still superior to modern computers. Although most people can’t do math as fast as a computer, we can effortlessly process complex sensory information and learn from experiences, while a computer cannot – at least not yet. And, the brain does all this by consuming less than half as much energy as a laptop.

One of the reasons for the brain’s energy efficiency is its structure. The individual brain cells – the neurons and their connections, the synapses – can both store and process information. In computers, however, the memory is separate from the processor, and data must be transported back and forth between these two components. The speed of this transfer is limited, which can slow down the whole computer when working with large amounts of data.

One possible solution to this bottleneck are novel computer architectures that are modeled on the human brain. To this end, scientists are developing so-called memristors: components that, like brain cells, combine data storage and processing. A team of researchers from Empa, ETH Zurich and the “Politecnico di Milano” has now developed a memristor that is more powerful and easier to manufacture than its predecessors. The researchers have recently published their results in the journal Science Advances.

A March 8, 2023 Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (EMPA) press release (also on EurekAlert), which originated the news item, provides details about what makes this memristor different,

Performance through mixed ionic and electronic conductivity

The novel memristors are based on halide perovskite nanocrystals, a semiconductor material known from solar cell manufacturing. “Halide perovskites conduct both ions and electrons,” explains Rohit John, former ETH Fellow and postdoctoral researcher at both ETH Zurich and Empa. “This dual conductivity enables more complex calculations that closely resemble processes in the brain.”

The researchers conducted the experimental part of the study entirely at Empa: They manufactured the thin-film memristors at the Thin Films and Photovoltaics laboratory and investigated their physical properties at the Transport at Nanoscale Interfaces laboratory. Based on the measurement results, they then simulated a complex computational task that corresponds to a learning process in the visual cortex in the brain. The task involved determining the orientation of light based on signals from the retina.

“As far as we know, this is only the second time this kind of computation has been performed on memristors,” says Maksym Kovalenko, professor at ETH Zurich and head of the Functional Inorganic Materials research group at Empa. “At the same time, our memristors are much easier to manufacture than before.” This is because, in contrast to many other semiconductors, perovskites crystallize at low temperatures. In addition, the new memristors do not require the complex preconditioning through application of specific voltages that comparable devices need for such computing tasks. This makes them faster and more energy-efficient.

Complementing rather than replacing

The technology, though, is not quite ready for deployment yet. The ease with which the new memristors can be manufactured also makes them difficult to integrate with existing computer chips: Perovskites cannot withstand temperatures of 400 to 500 degrees Celsius that are needed to process silicon – at least not yet. But according to Daniele Ielmini, professor at the “Politecnico di Milano”, that integration is key to the success for new brain-like computer technologies. “Our goal is not to replace classical computer architecture,” he explains. “Rather, we want to develop alternative architectures that can perform certain tasks faster and with greater energy efficiency. This includes, for example, the parallel processing of large amounts of data, which is generated everywhere today, from agriculture to space exploration.”

Promisingly, there are other materials with similar properties that could be used to make high-performance memristors. “We can now test our memristor design with different materials,” says Alessandro Milozzi, a doctoral student at the “Politecnico di Milano”. “It is quite possible that some of them are better suited for integration with silicon.”

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

Ionic-electronic halide perovskite memdiodes enabling neuromorphic computing with a second-order complexity by Rohit Abraham John, Alessandro Milozzi, Sergey Tsarev, Rolf Brönnimann, Simon C. Boehme, Erfu Wu, Ivan Shorubalko, Maksym V. Kovalenko, and Daniele Ielmini. Science Advances 23 Dec 2022 Vol 8, Issue 51 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.ade0072

This paper is open access.

Biodegradable electronics: a seaweed biosensor

By combining seaweed and graphene, scientists have been able to create sensors that can be worn like a ‘second skin’ and outperform other similar biosensors, according to a March 3, 2023 news item on ScienceDaily,

Scientists at the University of Sussex have successfully trialed new biodegradable health sensors that could change the way we experience personal healthcare and fitness monitoring technology.

The team at Sussex have developed the new health sensors — such as those worn by runners or patients to monitor heart rate and temperature — using natural elements like rock salt, water and seaweed, combined with graphene. Because they are solely made with ingredients found in nature, the sensors are fully biodegradable, making them more environmentally friendly than commonly used rubber and plastic-based alternatives. Their natural composition also places them within the emerging scientific field of edible electronics — electronic devices that are safe for a person to consume.

Better still, the researchers found that their sustainable seaweed-based sensors actually outperform existing synthetic based hydrogels and nanomaterials, used in wearable health monitors, in terms of sensitivity. Therefore, improving the accuracy, as the more sensitive a sensor, the more accurately it will record a person’s vital signs.

A March 2, 2023 University of Sussex press release (also on EurekAlert) by Poppy Luckett, which originated the news item, describes the inspiration for the research,

Dr Conor Boland, a materials physics lecturer in the School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences, said:  “I was first inspired to use seaweed in the lab after watching MasterChef during lockdown. Seaweed, when used to thicken deserts, gives them a soft and bouncy structure – favored by vegans and vegetarians as an alternative to gelatin. It got me thinking: “what if we could do that with sensing technology?”.

“For me, one of the most exciting aspects to this development is that we have a sensor that is both fully biodegradable and highly effective. The mass production of unsustainable rubber and plastic based health technology could, ironically, pose a risk to human health through microplastics leeching into water sources as they degrade.  

“As a new parent, I see it as my responsibility to ensure my research enables the realisation of a cleaner world for all our children.” 

Seaweed is first and foremost an insulator, but by adding a critical amount of graphene to a seaweed mixture the scientists were able to create an electrically conductive film. When soaked in a salt bath, the film rapidly absorbs water, resulting in a soft, spongy, electrically conductive hydrogel.  

The development has the potential to revolutionise health monitoring technology, as future applications of the clinical grade wearable sensors would look something like a second skin or a temporary tattoo: lightweight, easy to apply, and safe, as they are made with all natural ingredients. This would significantly improve the overall patient experience, without the need for more commonly used and potentially invasive hospital instruments, wires and leads.  

Dr Sue Baxter, Director of Innovation and Business Partnerships at the University of Sussex, is excited about the potential benefits of this technology:  “At the University of Sussex, we are committed to protecting the future of the planet through sustainability research, expertise and innovation. What’s so exciting about this development from Dr Conor Boland and his team is that it manages to be all at once truly sustainable, affordable, and highly effective – out-performing synthetic alternatives.  

“What’s also remarkable for this stage of research – and I think this speaks to the meticulous ground-work that Dr Boland and his team put in when they created their blueprint – is that it’s more than a proof of principle development. Our Sussex scientists have created a device that has real potential for industry development into a product from which you or I could benefit in the relatively near future.” 

This latest  research breakthrough follows the publication of a blueprint for nanomaterial development from the Sussex scientists in 2019, which presented a method for researchers to follow in order to optimise the development of nanomaterial sensors.  

Kevin Doty, a Masters student in the School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences, at the University of Sussex, said:  “I taught chemistry previously, but decided I wanted to learn more about nanoscience. My gamble paid off, and not only did I enjoy it more than I expected, but I also ended up with an opportunity to utilize the information I had learned to work on a novel idea that has evolved into a first author publication as an MSc student. Learning about nanoscience showed me just how varied and multidisciplinary the field is. Any science background can bring knowledge that can be applied to this field in a unique way. This has led to further studies in a PhD studentship, opening up an all new career path I could not have previously considered.” 

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

Food-Inspired, High-Sensitivity Piezoresistive Graphene Hydrogels by Adel A. K. Aljarid, Kevin L. Doty, Cencen Wei, Jonathan P. Salvage, and Conor S. Boland. ACS Sustainable Chem. Eng. 2023, 11, 5, 1820–1827 DOI: Publication Date:January 25, 2023 Copyright © 2023 The Authors. Published by American Chemical Society

This paper appears to be open access.

Sponge coated with nanoparticles removes lead from water

It doesn’t look like much but who cares when it does the job and is being made available commercially,

Caption: Commercially available cellulose sponge coated in manganese-doped goethite nanoparticles. Credit: Caroline Harms/Northwestern University

A May 11, 2023 news item on Nanowerk announces the research,

Northwestern University engineers have developed a new sponge that can remove metals — including toxic heavy metals like lead and critical metals like cobalt — from contaminated water, leaving safe, drinkable water behind.

In proof-of-concept experiments, the researchers tested their new sponge on a highly contaminated sample of tap water, containing more than 1 part per million of lead. With one use, the sponge filtered lead to below detectable levels.

After using the sponge, researchers also were able to successfully recover metals and reuse the sponge for multiple cycles. The new sponge shows promise for future use as an inexpensive, easy-to-use tool in home water filters or large-scale environmental remediation efforts.

A May 10, 2023 Northwestern University news release on EurekAlert (also received via email) provides more detail, Note: Links have been removed,

The study was published late yesterday (May 10 [2023]) in the journal ACS ES&T Water. The paper outlines the new research and sets design rules for optimizing similar platforms for removing — and recovering — other heavy-metal toxins, including cadmium, arsenic, cobalt and chromium.

“The presence of heavy metals in the water supply is an enormous public health challenge for the entire globe,” said Northwestern’s Vinayak Dravid, senior author of the study. “It is a gigaton problem that requires solutions that can be deployed easily, effectively and inexpensively. That’s where our sponge comes in. It can remove the pollution and then be used again and again.”

Dravid is the Abraham Harris Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering and director of global initiatives at the International Institute for Nanotechnology.

Sopping up spills

The project builds on Dravid’s previous work to develop highly porous sponges for various aspects of environmental remediation. In May 2020, his team unveiled a new sponge designed to clean up oil spills. [Note: My June 25, 2020 posting highlights the work and includes an embedded video demonstration of the technology.] The nanoparticle-coated sponge, which is now being commercialized by Northwestern spinoff MFNS Tech, offers a more efficient, economic, ecofriendly and reusable alternative to current approaches to oil spills.

But Dravid knew it wasn’t enough.

“When there is an oil spill, you can remove the oil,” he said. “But there also are toxic heavy metals — like mercury, cadmium, sulfur and lead — in those spills. So, even when you remove the oil, some of the other toxins might remain.

Rinse and repeat

To tackle this aspect of the issue, Dravid’s team, again, turned to sponges coated with an ultrathin layer of nanoparticles. After testing many different types of nanoparticles, the team found that a manganese-doped goethite coating worked best. Not only are manganese-doped goethite nanoparticles inexpensive to make, easily available and nontoxic to human, they also have the properties necessary to selectively remediate heavy metals.

“You want a material with a high surface area, so there’s more room for the lead ions to stick to it,” said Benjamin Shindel, a Ph.D. student in Dravid’s lab and the paper’s first author. “These nanoparticles have high-surface areas and abundant reactive surface sites for adsorption and are stable, so they can be reused many times.”

The team synthesized slurries of manganese-doped goethite nanoparticles, as well as several other compositions of nanoparticles, and coated commercially available cellulose sponges with these slurries. Then, they rinsed the coated sponges with water in order to wash away any loose particles. The final coatings measured just tens of nanometers in thickness.

When submerged into contaminated water, the nanoparticle-coated sponge effectively sequested lead ions. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires that bottled drinking water is below 5 parts per billion of lead. In filtration trials, the sponge lowered the amount of lead to approximately 2 parts per billion, making it safe to drink.

“We’re really happy with that,” Shindel said. “Of course, this performance can vary based on several factors. For instance, if you have a large sponge in a tiny volume of water, it will perform better than a tiny sponge in a huge lake.”

Recovery bypasses mining

From there, the team rinsed the sponge with mildly acidified water, which Shindel likened to “having the same acidity of lemonade.” The acidic solution caused the sponge to release the lead ions and be ready for another use. Although the sponge’s performance declined after the first use, it still recovered more than 90% of the ions during subsequent use cycles.

This ability to gather and then recover heavy metals is particularly valuable for removing rare, critical metals, such as cobalt, from water sources. A common ingredient in lithium-ion batteries, cobalt is energetically expensive to mine and accompanied by a laundry list of environmental and human costs.

If researchers could develop a sponge that selectively removes rare metals, including cobalt, from water, then those metals could be recycled into products like batteries.

“For renewable energy technologies, like batteries and fuel cells, there is a need for metal recovery,” Dravid said. “Otherwise, there is not enough cobalt in the world for the growing number of batteries. We must find ways to recover metals from very dilute solutions. Otherwise, it becomes poisonous and toxic, just sitting there in the water. We might as well make something valuable with it.”

Standardized scale

As a part of the study, Dravid and his team set new design rules to help others develop tools to target particular metals, including cobalt. Specifically, they pinpointed which low-cost and nontoxic nanoparticles also have high-surface areas and affinities for sticking to metal ions. They studied the performance of coatings of manganese, iron, aluminum and zinc oxides on lead adsorption. Then, they established relationships between the structures of these nanoparticles and their adsorptive properties.

Called Nanomaterial Sponge Coatings for Heavy Metals (or “Nano-SCHeMe”), the environmental remediation platform can help other researchers differentiate which nanomaterials are best suited for particular applications.

“I’ve read a lot of literature that compares different coatings and adsorbents,” said Caroline Harms, an undergraduate student in Dravid’s lab and paper co-author. “There really is a lack of standardization in the field. By analyzing different types of nanoparticles, we developed a comparative scale that actually works for all of them. It could have a lot of implications in moving the field forward.”

Dravid and his team imagine that their sponge could be used in commercial water filters, for environmental clean-up or as an added step in water reclamation and treatment facilities.

“This work may be pertinent to water quality issues both locally and globally,” Shindel said. “We want to see this out in the world, where it can make a real impact.”

The study, “Nano-SCHeME: Nanomaterial Sponge Coatings for Heavy Metals, an environmental remediation platform,” was supported by the National Science Foundation and U.S. Department of Energy.

Editor’s note: Dravid and Northwestern have financial interests (equities, royalties) in MFNS Tech.

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

Nano-SCHeme: Nanomaterial Sponge Coatings for Heavy Metals, an Environmental Remediation Platform by Benjamin Shindel, Stephanie M. Ribet, Caroline Harms, Vikas Nandwana, and Vinayak P. Dravid. ACS EST Water 2023, XXXX, XXX, XXX-XXX DOI: Publication Date:May 10, 2023 © 2023 American Chemical Society

This paper is behind a paywall.

You can find the MFNS Tech website here.

Anti-dust technology paves way for self-cleaning windows and more

I’m always interested in a ‘self-cleaning window’ story’. From a February 22, 2023 news item on,

Dust is a common fact of life, and it’s more than just a daily nuisance—it can get into machinery and equipment, causing loss of efficiency or breakdowns.

Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin partnered with North Carolina-based company Smart Material Solutions Inc. to develop a new method to keep dust from sticking to surfaces. The result is the ability to make many types of materials dust resistant, from spacecraft to solar panels to household windows.

A February 22, 2023 University of Texas at Austin news release (also on EurekAlert), which originated the news item, describe the research in more detail,

“What we’ve demonstrated here is a surface that can clean itself,” said Chih-Hao Chang, an associate professor in the Cockrell School of Engineering’s Walker Department of Mechanical Engineering and a lead author of the study. “Particulates aren’t able to stick to the surface, so they come off using just the force of gravity.”

In tests, the researchers piled lunar dust on top of their engineered surfaces and then turned each surface on its side. The result: Only about 2% of the surface remained dusty, compared with more than 35% of a similarly smooth surface.

The researchers said the discovery boils down to things the human eye can’t detect. In the experiments, the team altered the geometry of flat surfaces to create a tightly packed nanoscale network of pyramid-shaped structures. These sharp, angular structures make it difficult for the dust particles to stick to the material, instead sticking to one another and rolling off the material via gravity.

These structures provide a passive solution, meaning they don’t require any extra energy or materials to remove dust. Compare that with more active solutions such as a car windshield that requires the use of windshield wipers and wiper fluid to clean off dust.

The research was funded via a grant from NASA’s [US National Aeronautics and Space Administration] Small Business Innovation Research program, so the first applications focus on space technology. Space dust is especially pesky because of how high-risk everything becomes in that environment, and the conditions make cleaning off dust challenging. Dust wreaked havoc on the Apollo missions and has caused Mars rovers to fail.

“There’s not much you can do about lunar dust in space – it sticks to everything and there’s no real way to wipe it off or spray it off,” said Samuel Lee, a lead author who was an undergraduate researcher in Chang’s group. “Dust on solar panels of Mars rovers can cause them to fail.”

This technology also could have tremendous impact on Earth. It could prevent solar panels from collecting dust and losing efficiency over time. It could protect glass windows and someday even digital screens such as phones and TVs.

Anti-dust technology has been around for decades, but it has not gained much traction outside of the lab because of scaling challenges. The researchers used fabrication concepts called nanocoining and nanoimprinting, which prints patterns on objects in a modernized version of the way newspapers and photographs were mass produced during the 1800s.

Chang and Lee led the work for UT Austin, along with Stephen Furst, founder and CEO of Smart Material Solutions, which is working to commercial the technology. Other members of the team are Andrew Tunell, Kun-Chieh Chien and Saurav Mohanty of UT Austin; and Lauren Micklow and Nichole Cates of Smart Material Solutions.

There’s no indication this self-cleaning glass is coming to a window near me or you soon but we can always dream about this video,

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

Engineering Large-Area Antidust Surfaces by Harnessing Interparticle Forces by Samuel S. Lee, Lauren Micklow, Andrew Tunell, Kun-Chieh Chien, Saurav Mohanty, Nichole Cates, Stephen Furst, and Chih-Hao Chang. CS Appl. Mater. Interfaces 2023, 15, 10, 13678–13688 SOI: Publication Date:February 22, 2023 Copyright © 2023 American Chemical Society

This paper is behind a paywall.

You can find the North Carolina company mentioned in the news item, Smart Material Solutions, here.