The World Gold Council has released a paper, Gold for Good: gold and nanotechnology in the age of innovation which highlights the many benefits of using gold nanoparticles in areas ranging from medicine to the environment. From the news item on Azonano,
The report, which was produced in conjunction with Cientifica Ltd, the world’s leading source of global business and investor intelligence about nanotechnologies, demonstrates how gold nanoparticles offer the potential to overcome many of the serious issues facing mankind over the coming decades.
Gold nanoparticles exhibit a variety of unique properties which, when harnessed and manipulated effectively, lead to materials whose uses are both far-ranging in their potential and cost effective. This report explores the many different applications that are being developed across the fields of health, environment and technology.
I found the report a useful (and rosy) overview of gold nanoparticles, their various benefits, and their potential for business investors as to be expected when one of the report’s authors is Tim Harper of the TNT Blog and principal of Cientifica. The report can be found here.
Michael Berger over at Nanowerk has written up a spotlight feature on a study about safety practices in nanotechnology laboratories that was published in Feb. 2010 in Nature Nanotechnology. From Nanowerk,
Published in the February issue of Nature Nanotechnology (“Reported nanosafety practices in research laboratories worldwide”), Jesus Santamaria, who heads the Nanostructured Films and Particles (NFP) Group at the University of Zaragoza, and his team have conducted an online survey to identify what safety practices researchers are following in their own labs.
“The results of our survey indicate that environmental health and safety practice in many research laboratories worldwide is lacking in several important aspects, and several reasons may contribute to this” Santamaria tells Nanowerk. “Toxicity of nanomaterials is a complex subject because it depends on multiple factors including size, surface area, chemical composition, shape, aggregation, surface coating and solubility. Furthermore, most published research emphasizes acute toxicity and mortality, rather than chronic exposure and morbidity.”
Meanwhile, Andrew Maynard at 2020 Science has written up a pointed critique. From Andrew,
Out of all those researchers surveyed who thought the materials they were using might become airborne at some stage, 21% didn’t use any form of “special protection” and 30% didn’t use respiratory protection. Yet there is no way of telling from the survey whether “special protection” (the authors’ terminology) was needed, or indeed whether any respiratory protection was needed. A researcher handling small amounts of fumed silica for example – used as a food additive amongst other places – might well handle it using established lab safety procedures that are entirely adequate and don’t include the use of a respirator – in this survey they would be classed in the category of “most researchers” not using “suitabe personal and laboratory protection.”
Unfortunately the Nature Nanotechnology article is behind a paywall but it is worth looking at Andrew’s critique both for the insight it gives you into laboratory practices and for a better understanding of the problems posed by the questions in the survey. Properly framing questions and the answers respondents get to choose from is one of the most difficult aspects of creating a questionnaire.
Andrew never mentions it and I can’t get past the paywall to find out but the questionnaire (or instrument as it’s often called) should have been tested before it was used. I suspect it was not. That said, testing won’t necessarily identify all the problems once you start dealing with a larger sample but it should help.
I have a couple of other comments. I didn’t see any mention of demographic information. For example, are they more careful in smaller labs or does lab size make any difference in safety processes? Does age or experience as a researcher have an impact? Are chemists more careful than physicists? Are men more careful than women or vice versa?
My second comment has to do with self-selected respondents. Why did these people respond to a survey? Generally, if you are surveying people about an issue, the most likely to respond are the ones who feel most strongly about the issue and this can give you a false picture of the general population. In other words, your sample is not generalizable. I don’t think that’s necessarily the situation here but it is a factor that needs to be taken into account. I would expect most social scientists (I gather the Spanish team is not composed of social scientists) to use a number of instruments and not just a self-reporting survey although that may be the first step as more work is undertaken.
I should mention the GoodNanoGuide as sharing handling and safety practices are the reasons this site was developed by the International Council on Nanotechnology (ICON). From their website,
The GoodNanoGuide is a collaboration platform designed to enhance the ability of experts to exchange ideas on how best to handle nanomaterials in an occupational setting.
Now for something completely different, Korean robot actresses. From the news item on physorg.com,
EveR-3 (Eve Robot 3) starred in various dramas last year including the government-funded “Dwarfs” which attracted a full house, said Lee Ho-Gil, of the state-run Korea Institute of Industrial Technology.
The lifelike EveR-3 is 157 centimetres (five feet, two inches) tall, can communicate in Korean and English, and can express a total of 16 facial expressions — without ever forgetting her lines. Lee acknowledged that robot actresses find it hard to express the full gamut of emotions and also tend to bump into props and fellow (human) actors. But he said a thespian android was useful in promoting the cutting-edge industry.
Here’s a shot of the robot actress as Snow White (from physorg.com where you can see a larger version if you wish),
Courtesy of the Korean Institute of Technology, Eve Robot 3 in costume for Robot Princess and 7 Dwarfs