Tag Archives: nanotech

Graphene dreams of the Morph

For anyone who’s not familiar with the Morph, it’s an idea that Nokia and the University of Cambridge’s Nanoscience Centre have been working on for the last few years. Originally announced as a type of flexible phone that you could wrap around your wrist, the Morph is now called a concept.  Here’s an animation illustrating some of the concepts which include flexibility and self-cleaning,

There have been very few announcements of any kind about the Morph or the technology that will support this concept. A few months ago, they did make an announcement about researching graphene as a means of actualizing the concept (noted in my May 6, 2011 posting [scroll down about 1/2 way]).

Interestingly the latest research published  on graphene and the flexible, transparent screens that are necessary to making something like the Morph a reality has come from a lab at Rice University. From the August 1, 2011 news item on Nanowerk,

The lab of Rice chemist James Tour lab has created thin films that could revolutionize touch-screen displays, solar panels and LED lighting. The research was reported in the online edition of ACS Nano (“Rational Design of Hybrid Graphene Films for High-Performance Transparent Electrodes”).

Flexible, see-through video screens may be the “killer app” that finally puts graphene — the highly touted single-atom-thick form of carbon — into the commercial spotlight once and for all, Tour said. Combined with other flexible, transparent electronic components being developed at Rice and elsewhere, the breakthrough could lead to computers that wrap around the wrist and solar cells that wrap around just about anything. [emphasis mine]

The lab’s hybrid graphene film is a strong candidate to replace indium tin oxide (ITO), a commercial product widely used as a transparent, conductive coating. It’s the essential element in virtually all flat-panel displays, including touch screens on smart phones and iPads, and is part of organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) and solar cells.

Here’s James Tour and Yu Zhu, the paper’s lead author, explaining how the flexible screen was developed,

There are other flexible screens and competitors to the Morph notably the PaperPhone mentioned in my May 6,2011 posting (scroll down about 2/3 of the way) and in my May 12, 2011 posting featuring an interview with Roel Vertegaal of Queen’s University, Ontario, Canada, about the PaperPhone. (We did not discuss the role that graphene might or might not play in the development of the Paperphone’s screens.)

I wonder what impact this work at Rice will have not only for the Morph and the PaperPhone but on the European Union’s pathfinder research competition (the prize is $1B Euros), mentioned in my June 13, 2011 posting about graphene (scroll down about 1/3 of the way). Graphene is one of the research areas being considered for the prize.

ETA Aug. 5, 2011: Tour’s team just published another paper on graphene, one that proves you can make it from anything containing carbon according the Aug. 4, 2011 news item, One Box of Girl Scout Cookies Worth $15 Billion: Lab Shows Troop How Any Carbon Source Can Become Valuable Graphene, on Science Daily,

The cookie gambit started on a dare when Tour mentioned at a meeting that his lab had produced graphene from table sugar.

“I said we could grow it from any carbon source — for example, a Girl Scout cookie, because Girl Scout Cookies were being served at the time,” Tour recalled. “So one of the people in the room said, ‘Yes, please do it. … Let’s see that happen.'”

Members of Girl Scouts of America Troop 25080 came to Rice’s Smalley Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology to see the process. Rice graduate students Gedeng Ruan, lead author of the paper, and Zhengzong Sun calculated that at the then-commercial rate for pristine graphene — $250 for a two-inch square — a box of traditional Girl Scout shortbread cookies could turn a $15 billion profit.

Here’s the full reference for this second paper,

Gedeng Ruan, Zhengzong Sun, Zhiwei Peng, James M. Tour. Growth of Graphene from Food, Insects and Waste. ACS Nano, 2011; 110729113834087 DOI: 10.1021/nn202625c

The article is behind a paywall.

Haiti, cholera, University of Alberta, and nano-syringes

As I’ve noted before the word nano pops up in unexpected places, in this case, in a news release about a University of Alberta medical researcher’s work on cholera bacteria. We tend not to think about cholera in Canada these days but it was a serious problem here as it still is elsewhere. From the Canadian Encyclopedia essay on cholera in Canada,

Cholera first reached Canada in 1832, brought by immigrants from Britain. Epidemics occurred in 1832, 1834, 1849, 1851, 1852 and 1854. There were cases in Halifax in 1881. The epidemics killed at least 20 000 people in Canada. Cholera was feared because it was deadly and no one understood how it spread or how to treat it. The death rate for untreated cases is extremely high. Grosse Île, near Québec, was opened in 1832 as a quarantine station and all ships stopped there for inspection.

The essay goes on to note that between 1995 and 2004 Canada’s reported annual number of cases ranged from one to eight. Meanwhile, Haiti is experiencing a serious outbreak of cholera as it recovers from last year’s earthquake. From the University of Alberta’s Feb. 3, 2010 news release,

Just over a year after the earthquake in Haiti killed 222,000 people there’s a new problem that is killing Haitians. A cholera outbreak has doctors in the area scrambling and the water-borne illness has already claimed 3600 lives according to officials with Médicin Sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders) [sic].

Bacteriologist Stefan Pukatzki recently achieved a breakthrough understanding of cholera’s disease process which will hopefully help stem outbreaks in the future.

Pukatzki discovered that Vibrio cholerae uses molecular nano-syringes to puncture host cells and secrete toxins straight in to the other organism; this is called the type six secretion system. [emphasis mine]

“Vibrio cholerae uses these syringes so when it comes in contact with another bacteria, like E. coli, which is a gut bacterium, it kills it,” said Pukatzki. “That’s a novel phenomenon. We knew it [Vibrio cholerae] competed with cells of the immune system but we didn’t know it was able to kill other bacteria.

“Keep in mind these syringes are sitting on the outside of the bacterium so they make good vaccine targets,” said Pukatzki. “That’s actually better because you could either inhibit the type six function or you could induce an immune response with these components that are sitting on the outside.”

I’m very interested to see that he (or the writer of the news release) used ‘nano’ as a prefix given that it was already described as molecular. I don’t make much of it other than the fact that it served to grab my attention.

Nanomaterial use in construction, in coatings, in site remediation, and on invisible planes

Next to biomedical and electronics industries, the construction industry is expected to be the most affected by nanotechnology according to a study in ACS (American Chemical Society) Nano (journal). From the news item on Azonano,

Pedro Alvarez and colleagues note that nanomaterials likely will have a greater impact on the construction industry than any other sector of the economy, except biomedical and electronics applications. Certain nanomaterials can improve the strength of concrete, serve as self-cleaning and self-sanitizing coatings, and provide many other construction benefits. Concerns exist, however, about the potential adverse health and environmental effects of construction nanomaterials.

The scientists analyzed more than 140 studies on the benefits and risks of nanomaterials. …

The article in ACS Nano is titled, “Nanomaterials in the Construction Industry: A Review of Their Applications and Environmental Health and Safety Considerations.

Still on the construction theme but this time more focused on site remediation, here’s a story about sulfur-rich drywall which corrodes pipes and wiring while possibly causing respiratory illness. From the news item on Nanowerk,

A nanomaterial originally developed to fight toxic waste is now helping reduce debilitating fumes in homes with corrosive drywall.

Developed by Kenneth Klabunde of Kansas State University, and improved over three decades with support from the National Science Foundation, the FAST-ACT material has been a tool of first responders since 2003.

Now, NanoScale Corporation of Manhattan, Kansas–the company Klabunde co-founded to market the technology–has incorporated FAST-ACT into a cartridge that breaks down the corrosive drywall chemicals.

Homeowners have reported that the chemicals–particularly sulfur compounds such as hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide–have caused respiratory illnesses, wiring corrosion and pipe damage in thousands of U.S. homes with sulfur-rich, imported drywall.

“It is devastating to see what has happened to so many homeowners because of the corrosive drywall problem, but I am glad the technology is available to help,” said Klabunde. “We’ve now adapted the technology we developed through years of research for FAST-ACT for new uses by homeowners, contractors and remediators.”

The company has already tested its new product and found that corrosion was reduced and odor levels dropped to almost imperceptible. There are plans to use the company’s technology in the Gulf Coast and elsewhere there are airborne toxic substances.

In Europe, Germany has plans to introduce new concrete paving slabs that reduce the quantity of nitrogen oxide in the air. From the news item on Nanowerk,

In Germany, ambient air quality is not always as good as it might be – data from the federal environment ministry makes this all too clear. In 2009, the amounts of toxic nitrogen oxide in the atmosphere exceeded the maximum permitted levels at no fewer than 55 percent of air monitoring stations in urban areas. The ministry reports that road traffic is one of the primary sources of these emissions.

In light of this fact, the Baroque city of Fulda is currently embarking on new ways to combat air pollution. Special paving slabs that will clean the air are to be laid the length of Petersberger Strasse, where recorded pollution levels topped the annual mean limit of 40 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3) last year. These paving slabs are coated with titanium dioxide (TiO2), which converts harmful substances such as nitrogen oxides into nitrates. Titanium dioxide is a photocatalyst; it uses sunlight to accelerate a naturallyoccurring chemical reaction, the speed of which changes with exposure to light.

They’ve already had success with this approach in Italy but Germany has fewer hours of sunshine and lower intensities of light so the product had to be optimized and tested in Germany. Testing has shown that the effect for Germany’s optimized paving slabs does not wear off quickly (it was tested again at 14 months and 23 months). Finally, there don’t seem to be any environmentally unpleasant consequences. If you’re curious about the details, do click on the link.

One last item, this time it’s about a nano-enabled coating that’s a paint. An Israeli company has developed a paint for airplanes that can make them invisible to radar. From Dexter Johnson’s July 14, 2010 posting on Nanoclast,

No, we’re not talking about a Wonder Woman-type of invisible plane, but rather one that becomes very difficult to detect with radar.

The Israel-based Ynetnews is reporting that an Israeli company called Nanoflight has successfully run a test on dummy missiles that were painted with the nano-enabled coating and have shown that radar could not pick them up as missiles.

The YnetNews article rather brutally points out that painting an aircraft with this nanocoating is far cheaper than buying a $5 billion US-made stealth aircraft. Of course, it should also be noted that one sale of a $5 billion aircraft employs a large number of aeronautical engineers, and the high price tag also makes it far more difficult for others to purchase the technology and possess the ability to sneak up on an enemy as well.

You can read more and see a picture of Wonder Woman’s invisible plane by following the link to Dexter’s posting.

15th Century painting techniques and nanotechnology; Conference Board of Canada and copyright; Real Vancouver Writers; Better Living

Kate Nichols is a fellow at TED. She is also a painter who trained in 15th century techniques. From the article by Kristen Philipkoski on Boing, Boing,

Nichols learned painting as painters did in 15th century Flanders: by apprenticing under a master and learning to make her own paints. She became skilled at creating the type of complex colors only possible as light travels through thin layers of oil glaze. But she eventually found that no amount of layering could recreate the complexity she saw in the Morpho butterfly’s wings. [I previously posted about nanotech and the colour of butterfly wings here.]

As Philipkoski goes on to recount, the desire to recreate the colours of a Morpho butterfly’s wings is what led her to working with nanotechnology but, first, working with mathematician, Judy Holdener, she learned why she couldn’t recreate those colours with her traditional techniques. Nichols eventually contacted someone at a nanotech laboratory in her pursuit and went on to become the first artist-in-residence at that lab (the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory at the University of California at Berkeley). (You can see images of her work at the article on the Boing Boing site.)

More recently she was awarded the TED fellowship I’ve already mentioned. TED stands for Technology Entertainment Design and it started out as an annual conference. You can find out more about TED here and more about this year’s annual conference here. As for the fellowship, it sounds a bit like a mentoring programme but you can read the description for yourself here.

One last quote from the article,

“I love thinking about plasmon resonance–likely, because I paint motion and grew up dancing,” Nichols said. When light comes into contact with a metal, electrons are displaced. Because the electrons are attracted to the nuclei of the metallic atoms, the electrons fall back into their original positions only to be exiled again, over and over. This oscillatory dance is called a plasmon and we perceived it as color when the wavelength falls within the visible spectrum.

On the copyright (intellectual property) front, Michael Geist is commenting on the latest Conference Board of Canada’s report. As you may recall, the Conference Board was embarrassed last year when it released a report that had large chunks plagiarized from a US lobby group’s materials. You can read more about the contretemps here on Techdirt and Geist’s comments here. From Geist’s blog,

The new report, which weighs in at 113 pages, was completed by Ruth Corbin, a Toronto-based IP expert. Corbin started from scratch, reading a broad range of materials, conducting interviews, and leading a private roundtable on the issue (I participated in the roundtable and met separately with her). While there is much to digest, the lead takeaway is to marvel at the difference between a report cribbed from lobby speaking points and one that attempts to dig into the issues in a more balanced fashion. Three examples:

First, the report puts intellectual property policy into perspective as just one portion of the innovation agenda, noting that over-protection can be lead to diminishing returns…

W2 Community Media House (in Vancouver, Canada) is hosting a writer’s series that has two more weeks to go. The next event is Feb. 17, 2010.

This description from Heather Haley (poet) highlights a couple of radio interviews and her upcoming Real Vancouver Writers appearance,

Real Vancouver Writers Series at the W2 Culture and Media House
Located across from the refurbished Woodwards Building in Downtown Vancouver
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
7:00pm – 10:00pm
112 E. Hastings
“Poet, author, musician and media artist Heather Susan Haley pushes boundaries by creatively integrating disciplines, genres and media. Published in numerous journals and anthologies, her poetry collections Sideways (Anvil Press) and Three Blocks West of Wonderland (Ekstasis Editions) have been described as ³supple and unusual” and ³brawny and uncompromising.² She was an editor for the LA Weekly, publisher of Rattler and the Edgewise Cafe, one of Canada’s first electronic literary magazines. Architect of the Edgewise ElectroLit Centre, the Vancouver Videopoem Festival and SEE THE VOICE: Visible Verse at Pacific Cinémathèque, her works have been official selections at dozens of international film festivals. Haley has gained renown as an engaging performer, sharing her poetry and music with audiences around the world. Most recently she toured eastern Canada and the U.S. in support of her critically acclaimed AURAL Heather CD of spoken word songs, Princess Nut.”
She will be appearing with Teresa McWhirter, Lee Henderson, Elizabeth Bachinsky, Nikki Reimer, Chris Hutchinson, Dina Del Bucchia, Amber Dawn, Donato Mancini, Sonnet L¹Abbe, Jonathon Wilcke and Catherine Owen.
Heather will be live in ‘The Artist Lounge’ hosted by J Peachy on CJSF 90.1 FM on Tuesday Feb 16th at 7pm. Hope you can tune in, its also online at http://wwwcjsf.ca. The next day, the day of the reading, Wed. Feb. 17 Heather will be visiting friends Steve Duncan and RC Weslowki on Wax Poetic @ 2pm (PST) 102.7fm CFRO Co-op Radio, http://www.coopradio.org/. *See* you there!

I like to feature more about the arts and new media on Fridays or, at least, to have something amusing here. Today, I’ve managed both now that I’ve come to this item by Alissa Walker in Fast Company ,

Who knew that paper clips and staples could teach such smart life lessons? Everyday objects you might find at your desk are the stars in Hints for Better Living , a short film by Los Angeles-based designer Mike Afsa, who also does work for companies like Chiat\Day and Quiksilver.

It’s charming and it gave me a whole new perspective on paper clips and staples. Happy Weekend!

Monkey writes baseball story; Feynman symposium at USC; US government releases nanotechnology data sets; World Economic Forum (at Davos) interested in science

To my horror, researchers at Northwestern University in the US have developed software (Stats Monkey) that will let you automatically generate a story about a baseball game by pressing a button. More specifically, the data from the game is input to a database which when activated can generate content based on the game’s statistics.

I knew this would happen when I interviewed some expert at Xerox about 4 or 5 years ago. He was happily burbling on about tagging words and being able to call information up into a database and generating text automatically. I noted that as a writer I found the concept disturbing. He claimed that it would never be used for standard writing but just for things which are repetitive. I guess he was thinking it could be used for instructions and such or perhaps he was just trying to placate me. Back to stats monkey: I find it interesting that the researchers don’t display any examples of the ‘writing’. If you are interested, you can check out the project here.

The discussion about the nanotechnology narrative continues. At the University of Southern California, they will be holding a 50th anniversary symposium about the publication (in 1960)  of Feynman’s 1959 talk, There’s plenty of room at the bottom, and its impact on nanotechnology. You can read more about the event here or you can see the programme for the symposium here.

Bravo to the US government as they are releasing information to the public in a bid for transparency. Dave Bruggeman at Pasco Phronesis notes that the major science agencies had not released data sets at the time of his posting. Still, the Office of Science and Technology Policy did make data available including data about the National Nanotechnology Initiative,

The National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) coordinates Federal nanotechnology research and development among 25 Federal agencies. The data presented here represent NNI investments by agency and program component area (PCA) from the Initiative’s founding in FY 2001 through FY 2010 (requested). These data have been available as part of the NNI’s annual supplements to the President’s Budget. But compared to earlier releases, the data as presented here are more accessible and readily available for analysis by users wishing to assess trends and examine investment allocations over the 10-year history of the NNI. The cumulative NNI investment of nearly $12 billion is advancing our understanding of the unique phenomena and processes that occur at the nanoscale and is helping leverage that knowledge to speed innovation in high-impact opportunity areas such as energy, security, and medicine.

You can get the data set here in either XLS or PDF formats.

It would be very difficult to get this type of information in Canada as we have no central hub for nanotechnology research funding. We do have the National Institute of Nanotechnology which is a National Research Council agency jointly funded by the province of Alberta and the federal government. Not all nanotechnology research is done under their auspices. There’s more than one government agency which funds nanotechnology research and there is no reporting mechanism that would allow us to easily find out how much funding or where it’s going.

The 2010 edition of the World Economic Forum meeting at Davos takes place January 27 – 31. It’s interesting to note that a meeting devoted to economic issues has sessions on science, social media, the arts, etc. which suggests a much broader view of economics than I’m usually exposed to. However, the session on ‘Entrepreneurial Science’ does ring a familiar note. From the session description,

According to the US National Academy of Sciences, only 0.1% of all funded basic science research results in a commercial venture.

How can the commercial viability of scientific research be improved?

I’m not sure how they derived the figure of 0.1%. Was the data international? Were they talking about government-funded research? Over what period of time? (It’s not uncommon for research to lie fallow for decades before conditions shift sufficiently to allow commercialization.) How do you determine the path from research to commercialization? e.g. Perhaps the work that resulted in a commercial application was based on 10 other studies that did not.

Nanotechnology dieting; snowflakes; nano haiku

It’s a bit disconcerting to read about a new drug delivery system using silicon, a substance I strongly associate with computers. From the news item on Azonano,

Different types of drug molecules can be bound to the porous structure of silicon, thereby making it possible to alter their properties and control their behaviour within the body.

Porous silicon can be produced as both micro- and nanoparticles, which facilitates the introduction of the material through different dosing routes – orally, as injections or subcutaneous applications. Furthermore, biodegradable nanoparticles can be used for drug targeting.

Scientists in Finland are working on this project and possible applications include dieting. Apparently peptides which control appetite can be targeted with this new delivery system. I suspect that if this is possible there will be a stampede to use silicon drug delivery systems and public concerns about risk will be left far behind as people chase the dream of dieting without effort.

The NISE (Nanoscale Informal Science Education) Network has included some timely information about snowflakes and nanotechnology it its latest newsletter. The downloadable  education programme is here. The snowflake images are supplied by Kenneth Libbrecht, Caltech and you can see more of those here. The haiku in this month’s newsletter is,

Nano, oh nano
With surface area so
Small, but big impact

This week will be short as I’m not sure if I’ll be posting after tomorrow. Changes are afoot.

Is self-healing paint nanotech-enabled?; intellectual property in science fiction and in science; global nanotech regulation database

Ariel Schwartz has a news item on Fast Company about Japanese cell phones and self-healing paint. It seems to me that this is likely nanotech-enabled technology and an example of how we are more and more able to exploit the properties of matter at the nano scale. But, I couldn’t find any information to confirm my suspicion. More about the paint from the news item,

Nissan recently licensed its Scratch Shield paint, which is scratch resistant and even repairs fine scratches, to Japanese cell phone company NTT DoCoMo. The paint has been used on select Nissan and Infiniti cars worldwide since 1995, but this is the first time it will be used outside of the vehicle market. Unlike the vehicle paint, cell-phone scratch-proof paint will only be available in Japan for now. But considering the wear and tear that most cell phones see, demand for the product will almost certainly expand to a worldwide market.

I did check out the Nissan website which offers a few more pictures than the news item does but not much more information.

I occasionally mention intellectual property (IP) as the current turmoil over copyrights, patents, and trademarks have an impact on writing. It’s with some dismay that I found an item on Techdirt about a science fiction movie that’s being sued for patent infringement. Yes, a fictional device has been patented. Given that lots of items that we take for granted, cell phones/mobiles for example, are based on devices found in fiction first, this lawsuit does not bode well. Coincidentally (on the same day), I saw another item onTechdirt, Yet Another Nobel Prize Winner Says That Intellectual Property Law Is Harming Science. From the item,

For science to continue to flourish, it is necessary that the knowledge it generates be made freely and widely available. IP rights have the tendency to stifle access to knowledge and the free exchange of ideas that is essential to science. So, far from stimulating innovation and the dissemination of the benefits of science, IP all too often hampers scientific progress and restricts access to its products.

If this issue interests you, the item on Techdirt offers more links. Btw, the scientist speaking out is Sir John Sulston (a prize-winning biologist).

Thoughts of intellectual property led me to thoughts about lawyers, which is why the news item on Nanowerk about a global nanotechnology regulation database caught my eye.  From the news item,

A global database of government documents on nanotechnology is being launched by three law professors at Arizona State University who, with their colleagues in Australia and Belgium, have corralled and organized a massive number of regulatory documents dealing with the rapidly advancing technology. The Nanotech Regulatory Document Archive is a free resource built and maintained by the Center for the Study of Law, Science, & Technology at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. Over the past year, Gary Marchant, the center’s executive director, and center Faculty Fellows Douglas Sylvester and Kenneth Abbott, developed the database as part of a multiyear grant from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Genomic Science Program.

I am intrigued to see that the project is being funded though a sort of genome programme being run by the US Dept. of Energy. I find this to be an unusual conflation but I suspect that’s largely due to my ignorance. I’ve certainly noticed the talk about bio-nano so a genome project being run by an energy department is not entirely out of the question but it hints at the idea that the gap between living and nonliving is being bridged. More about that when I’ve had time to think about it.

Idle thought: I wonder how long this free tool will remain free.

Nanotech cosmetics and beauty products labelling; scientists in Japan worried about research cuts; gender imbalance in European science researcher community; nano game;

I mentioned the new European nano labeling regulation cosmetics and beauty products earlier this week (Nov.24.09) in the context of Germany’s resistance to it. Now officially passed(from the news item on Nanowerk),

The nanoparticle decree is part of a new 397-page cosmetics regulation approved on 20 November by the Council of the European Union, which includes ministers from all EU nations and is the EU’s main decision-making body. The cosmetic regulation states that all ingredients present in the product in the form of nanomaterials should be clearly indicated in the list of ingredients, by inserting the word ‘nano’ in brackets after the ingredient listing. The ruling defines nanomaterial as ‘an insoluble or biopersistant and intentionally manufactured material with one or more external dimensions, or an internal structure, on the scale from 1 to 100 nm’.

Now I wonder how  long before we start hearing demands for similar product labeling in the US, Canada, and Australia? As for failing to mention other countries,  I haven’t come across any health and safety or environmental discussions in other countries but I only search English language materials so I’m not likely to find something written in Spanish, Chinese, etc.

More cuts to  scientific research and, this time, in Japan. From the news item on physorg.com,

Top Japanese scientists, including four Nobel laureates, have criticised the new government for plans to slash research budgets, warning the country will loose its high-tech edge.

“The panel’s approach of judging science purely from a cost perspective completely lacks vision,” said 2001 Nobel Chemistry prize winner Ryoji Noyori. “I wonder if the panelists are ready to face the judgement of history.”

Kyoto University professor Shinya Yamanaka, a pioneer of embryonic stem cell research, told reporters: “I am deeply concerned about the development, which is just beyond my imagination.”

“You cannot predict achievements, that’s science,” he said. “I’m worried about Japan’s future.”

It certainly sounds familiar and it seems as if there is a fad sweeping governments ’round the world as they cut back on science funding and/or focus on the short term goal of realizing financial benefits in the immediately foreseeable future. The only exception, the US, seems to be holding firm to a commitment to basic science. If you know of any other countries doing so, please do let me know.

In the three years I’ve been tracking nanotechnology research I’ve noticed that female researchers are few and far between. During a research project in 2007, I asked one of the few I’d come across about my observation and ran into a metaphorical stone wall (she really didn’t want to talk about it). Apparently this dearth of female nanotechnology researchers is a reflection of a larger issue. From the news item on Nanowerk,

Despite a rise in their numbers, female scientific researchers remain a minority, accounting for just 30% of all scientific researchers in Europe. Furthermore, the more senior positions in science and research are still heavily dominated by men. These are some of the main findings in the latest ‘She Figures’, statistics on women in science in Europe which are produced every three years by the European Commission and the Helsinki Group on Women and Science. ‘While some trends are positive, the fact that women remain underrepresented in scientific careers should be a worry for all of us,’ commented European Commissioner for Science and Research, Janez Potocnik. ‘This gender imbalance in science is a waste of opportunity and talent which Europe cannot afford.’

I realize this is a European report but I think it reflects the international situation and, point well taken, it “is a waste of opportunity and talent.”

For a complete change of pace: Nanovor is a new game for 7 to 12 year olds. Yes, it’s all about nano. I find the storyline a bit strange, from the news item on Nanowerk,

Nanovor is based in a rich fictional world where nanoscopic monsters, known as Nanovor live and battle inside computers. These nanoscopic dust mites ruled our still-molten Earth, long before any other species could survive. As Earth cooled and the atmosphere became oxygen-rich, the silicon-based Nanovor slipped into deep hibernation for billions of years. In 1958, when silicon was embedded within a computer chip and electricity pulsed through it for the very first time, the Nanovor sprung back to life.

The business model reminds me of the sticker craze that one of my nieces participated in when she was about 7 or 8 years old. She started collecting stickers to put into books. New themes for stickers and their books were constantly being added to the product line and she was always trying to catch up. This game which can be downloaded free has booster packs (additional nanovors) that can be purchased.  If the game becomes popular, the booster packs (the equivalent of a new sticker theme) will become essential to playing the game.

There is a video about the game at the link to Nanowerk that I’ve provided. After viewing the video I’d say the game does seems a bit male dominated especially when you go to the game’s website and look up the main characters: Lucas, Mr. Sapphire, and Drew (female) who are listed in that order here but it is early days and these things can change over time.  The company producing the game is called, Smith & Tinker, and their tag line is: Reinventing play for the connected generation.

Happy weekend!