Tag Archives: Mihail Roco

Sustainable nano society?

There’s a new nanotechnology organization according to the June 15, 2012 news item on Nanowerk,

Nanotechnology has a window of opportunity to aid in the sustainability of the planet. A group of scientists and engineers has recognized this remarkable chance to raise up a sustainable industry while helping sustain the environment, economy and society. The Sustainable Nanotechnology Organization (SNO) promotes research, education, and responsibility to fulfill its mission.

The first meeting, November 4-6, 2012, in Washington DC features plenaries by Nobelist Sir Harry Kroto and National Nanotechnology Initiative founding father, Mihail (Mike) Roco and over 100 individual presentations.

Here’s more about the Sustainable Nanotechnology Organization, from the home page,

The Sustainable Nanotechnology Organization (SNO) is a non-profit, worldwide professional society comprised of individuals and institutions that are engaged in:

  • Research and development of sustainable nanotechnology
  • Implications of nanotechnology for Environment, Health, and Safety
  • Advances in nanoscience, methods, protocols and metrology
  • Education and understanding of sustainable nanotechnology
  • Applications of nanotechnology for sustainability

SNO’s purpose is to provide a professional society forum to advance knowledge in all aspects of sustainable nanotechnology, including both applications and implications.

I find Roco’s involvement in the Nov. 2012 meeting interesting in light of some comments Dexter Johnson made in his June 8, 2 012 posting on Nanoclast (on the IEEE [Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers]) about Roco’s current campaign to encourage international nanotechnology research cooperation (Note: I have removed links from the excerpt),

Roco was the man behind turning a scattering of papers in condensed matter/solid state physics or chemistry into a national initiative. In doing so, he unwittingly—or not—launched an international nanotechnology arms race, which has seen at least 35 countries jump on to the bandwagon since the NNI was started.

Make no mistake, this “race” is no joke. There are billions of dollars at stake and national reputations seem to be built up on success in crossing the vague finish line before some other country.

So after unleashing this billion-dollar nanotech arms race, Roco now is urging collaboration in nanotech to provide the push the field needs to progress.

Well, yes, of course, and it’s about time somebody said it. It probably couldn’t have come from a better source either.

Dexter provides some good insight into the impact Roco has had on nanotechnology research in the US and internationally and, personally, I find these new developments quite fascinating.

Research directions for societal needs to 2020 webcast

A while back (my October 13, 2010 posting) I mentioned a day-long nanotechnology consultation workshop that was live-streamed by the World Technology Evaluation Center (WTEC). At the time it was billed as a launch for a study (Nanotechnology Long-Term Impacts and Research Directions: 2000-2020) but it seems the study may have been a draft report and the workshop part of a larger consultation process. I’m guessing that’s the case after looking at the Project on Emerging Nanotechnolgies’ (PEN) latest invitation,

A new report, “Nanotechnology Research Directions for Societal Needs in 2020” outlines the foundational knowledge and infrastructure development in the last decade, the current ~$15 billion in R&D programs underpinning about $250 billion of products incorporating nanoscale components in the world in 2009, and the likely evolution towards a general purpose technology by 2020. The study includes opinions of leading experts from over 35 countries and brainstorming meetings hosted by the Word Technology Evaluation Center (WTEC) in 2010 in Chicago, Hamburg, Tokyo, Singapore and Arlington, VA.

When: Wednesday, December 1, 2010, 12:30 – 1:30 PM (ET

(Light lunch available at 12:00 noon)

If you’re planning on attending in person in Washington, DC, they ask that you RSVP here: http://www.nanotechproject.org/events/archive/researchdirections/.

You can can go here to view the live webcast on Dec. 1,2010.

The invitation with all the details has been posted on Nanowerk.

Nanomaterials, toxicity, and Canada’s House of Commons Standing Committee on Health

Thanks to a reader who provided me with a link, I found a document (titled Evidence) about a ‘nanomaterials’ hearing held by Canada’s House of Commons Standing Committee on Health on June 10, 2010 and chaired by Joyce Murray, Member of Parliament, Vancouver Quadra. It makes for interesting reading and you can find it here.

The official title for the hearing was Potential Risks and Benefits of Nanotechnology, which I found out after much digging around. The purpose for the *hearing*  seemed to be the education of the committee members about nanotechnology both generally (what is it? is there anything good about it?) and about its possible toxicology.

For information about the committee and the meeting, go here to find the minutes, the evidence (direct link provided in 1st para.), and your choice of webcasts (English version, French version, and floor version). One comment before you go, keep scrolling down past the sidebar and the giant white box to find the list of meetings along with appropriate links and if you choose to listen to the webcast, wait at least 1 minute for the audio to start. There’s a list of the committee members here, again scroll down past the giant white box to find the information.

I am going to make a few comments about this hearing. I will have to confine myself to a few points as the committee covered quite a bit of ground in the proceedings as they grappled with understanding something about nanotechnology, health and safety issues, benefits, and regulatory frameworks, amongst other issues.

It was unexpected to find that Mihail Roco, a well known figure in the US nanotechnology field, was speaking via videoconference (from the document),

Dr. Mihail Roco (Senior Advisor for Nanotechnology, National Nanotechnology Initiative, National Science Foundation, As an Individual) (p. 1 in print version, p. 3 in PDF)

He did have this to say,

First of all, I would like to present an overview of different themes in the United States, and thereafter make some recommendations, some ideas for the future. [emphasis mine] (p. 5 in print version, p. 7 in PDF)

I have to say my eyebrows raised at Roco’s “… make some recommendations …” comment. While appreciative of his experience and perspective, I’ve sometimes found that speakers from the US tend to give recommendations that are better geared to their own situation and less so to the Canadian one. Thankfully,  he offered unexceptional advice that I heartily agree with,

I would like to say, in conclusion, that it’s important to have an anticipatory, participatory, and adaptive governance approach to nanotechnology in order to capture the new developments and also to prepare people, tools, and organizations for the future. (p. 6 in print version, p. 8 in PDF)

The Canadian guests are not as well known to me save for Dr. Nils Petersen who heads up Canada’s National Institute of Nanotechnology. Here is a list of the Canadian guest speakers,

Mr. (sometimes referred to as Dr. in the document) Claude Ostiguy (Director, Research and Expertise Support Department, Institut de recherche Robert-Sauvé en santé et en sécurité du travail) (p. 1 in print version, p. 3 in PDF)

Dr. Nils Petersen (Director General, National Research Council Canada, National Institute for Nanotechnology) (p. 2 in print version, p. 4 in PDF)

Dr. Claude Emond (Toxicologist, Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, Université de Montréal) (p. 3 in print version, p. 5 in PDF)

Ms. Françoise Maniet (Lecturer and Research Agent, Centre de recherche interdisciplinaire sur la biologie, la santé, la société et l’environnement (CINBIOSE) et Groupe de recherche en droit international et comparé de la consommation (GREDICC), Université du Québec à Montréal) (p. 4 in print version, p. 6 in PDF)

Emond spoke to the need for a national nanotechnology development strategy. He also mentioned communication although I’m not sure he and would agree much beyond the point that some communication programmes are necessary,

The different meetings I attend point out the necessity to integrate the social communication transparency education aspect in nanotechnology development, so many structures already exist around the words. As I said before with OECD, NNI, we also have ISO 229. Now we have a network called NE3LS in Quebec, and we also have this international team we created a few years ago, which I spoke about earlier [he leads an international team in nano safety with members from France, Japan, US, Germany, and Canada].

A Canadian strategy initiative in nanotechnology can be inspired by a group above. In closing the discussion, I want to say there is an urgent need to coordinate the national development of nanotechnology and more particularly in parallel with the nanosafety issue, including research, characterization exposure, toxicology, and assessment. I would like to conclude by saying that Canada has to assume leadership in nanosafety and contribute to this international community rather than wait and see.

The NE3LS in Québec is new to me and I wonder if  they liaise with the team in Alberta last mentioned here in connection with Alberta’s Nanotechnology Asset Map.

In response to a question from the committee member, Mrs. Cathy McLeod, Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo,

First, because I am someone who is somewhat new to the understanding of this issue, could we take an example of either a cosmetic or a food or something that’s commonplace and follow it through from development into the product so I could understand the pathway of a nanoparticle in a cosmetic product or food? (p. 6 in print version, p. 8 in PDF)

The example Dr. Ostiguy used for his response was titanium dioxide nanoparticles in sunscreens and his focus was occupational safety, i.e., what happens to people working to produce these sunscreens.  The surprising moment came when I saw Dr. Petersen’s response as he added,

In the case of cosmetics, they take that nanoparticle and put it into the cream formulation at a factory site. Then it normally comes out to the consumer encapsulated or protected in one way or another. [emphasis mine]

In general, in those kinds of manufacturing environments the risks are at the start of the process, when you are making the particles and incorporating them into a material, and possibly at the end of the product’s life, when you’re disposing of it. It might then be released in ways that you might not have anticipated—for example, through the wearing down or opening of the cassette of toner or whatever.

I think those are the two areas. Most consumers would see a product in which nanoparticles are encapsulated or incorporated— maybe inside a cellphone, or something like that—and often not be exposed in that way. (p. 7 in print version, p. 9 in PDF)

As I understand Petersen’s comments, he believes that the nanoparticles in sunscreens (and other cosmetics) do not make direct contact as they are somehow incorporated into a shell or capsule. He then makes a comparison to cell phones to prove his point. This is incorrect. Yes, any nanomaterials in a cell phone are bound to the product (cell phones are not rubbed onto the skin) but the nanoparticles in sunscreens make direct contact and *penetrate the skin. *ETA June 28, 2010: It has not been unequivocally proved that nanoparticles penetrate healthy adult skin. I apologize for the error. ** ETA July 19, 2010: As per the July 18, 2010 posting on Andrew Maynard’s 2020 Science blog, the evidence so far suggests that there is no skin penetration by nanoparticles in sunscreens.

I have posted extensively about nanoparticles and sunscreens and will try later to lay in some links either to my posts or to more informed parties as to safety issues regarding consumers.

There was an interesting development towards the end of the meeting with Carolyn Bennett, St. Paul’s,

Firstly, I wanted to apologize for being late. I think some of you know it was the tenth anniversary of CIHR [Canadian Institutes of Health Research] this morning, the breakfast, and some of us who were there at the birth were supposed to be there at the birthday party. So my apologies.

What happened on the way in to the breakfast was that I ran into Liz Dowdeswell, from the Council of Canadian Academies, and it seems that they have just done a review of nanotechnology in terms of pros and cons. [emphasis mine]So I would first ask the clerk and the analyst to circulate that report to the committee, because I think it might be very helpful to us, and then I think it would be interesting to know if the witnesses had seen it and whether they had further comments on whether you felt it was taking Canada in the right direction.

The report mentioned by Bennett was released in July 8, 2008 (news release). You can find the full report here and the abridged version here.

I wouldn’t describe this report as having just been “done” but I think that as a primer it stands up well. (You can read my 2008 comments here.)

I do find it sad that neither this committee nor Peter Julian the Member of Parliament who earlier this year tabled the first bill concerned with nanotechnology were aware of the report’s existence. It adds weight to an issue (nobody in Ottawa seems to be aware of their work) for the Council of Canadian Academies mentioned on this blog here (where you will find links to a more informed discussion by Rob Annan at Don’t leave Canada behind and the folks at The Black Hole).

I’m glad to see there’s some interest in nanotechnology in Ottawa and I hope they continue to dig for more information.

I have sent Joyce Murray a set of questions which I hope she’ll answer about the committee’s interest in nanotechnology and about the science resources and advice available to the Members of Parliament.

ETA June 30, 2010: I received this correction from Mr. Julian’s office today:

I would like to bring to your attention incorrect information provided in the Frogheart posting on June 23, Nanomaterials, Toxicity, and Canada’s House of Commons Standing Committee on Health. Of particular concern are the closing comments:

“I do find it sad that neither this committee nor Peter Julian the Member of Parliament who earlier this year tabled the first bill concerned with nanotechnology were aware of the report’s existence. It adds weight to an issue (nobody in Ottawa seems to be aware of their work) for the Council of Canadian Academies mentioned on this blog here (where you will find links to a more informed discussion by Rob Annan at Don’t leave Canada behind and the folks at The Black Hole). I’m glad to see there’s some interest in nanotechnology in Ottawa and I hope they continue to dig for more information.”

Mr. Julian is indeed aware of the Council of Canadian Academies excellent report on nanotechnology in 2008. The document is one of many that formed the basis of Mr. Julian’s Bill C-494 which was tabled in Parliament on March 10. It is incorrect to assume that Mr. Julian was not aware of the report’s existence.

There is indeed interest in nanotechnology in Ottawa. Canadians should expect sustained interest when the House of Commons reconvenes in September with a focus on better ensuring that nanotechnology’s benefits are safely produced in the marketplace.

I apologize for the error and I shouldn’t have made the assumption. I am puzzled that the Council of Canadian Academies report was not mentioned in the interview Mr. Julian very kindly gave me and where I explicitly requested some recommendations for Canadians who want to read up about nanotechnology. Mr. Julian’s reply (part 2 of the interview) did not include a reference to the Council’s nanotechnology report, which I consider more readable than some of the suggestions offered.

*’haring’ changed to ‘hearing’ on July 26, 2016.

Upcoming conferences in the Pacific Northwest

I love the name (or is it an acronym?) for this one, the Panomino 2008 meeting which will be held in Friday Harbor, Washington State from  Sept. 3-7, 2008. The full name is the Pacific Northwest Microsystems and Nanotechnology meeting and it’s co-sponsored by the University of British Columbia’s Dept. of Electrical and Computer Engineering.  The website for the meeting is here. The principal contact for the meeting is: Dr. Karen C. Cheung (UBC) at kcheung@ece.ubc.ca or +1 604.827.4114. This seems to be a scholarly meeting and the website doesn’t provide much info. about the presentations unless you’ve registered.

The other conference is the 5th annual Micro Nano Breakthrough Conference. This is being held Sept. 8-10, 2008 in Vancouver, Washington State. This one seems to be more business-oriented or as they put it “Science, Networking, and Commercialization…” I noticed that one of their keynote speakers is Dr. Mihail Roco who was instrumental in the development of the US’s National Nanotechnology Initiative.  More information about the conference is here.

In the next week, I’m hoping to post my interview with Darren Frew, Nanotech BC’s executive director, regarding his recent meePanoting  with a contingent of Indian scientists. Part of their cross-Canada tour to meet Canada’s nanoscientists, it was held August 10-11, 2008 at the Canada Institute of Nanotechnology in Edmonton, Alberta.