Researchers at the University of British Columbia (UBC; Canada) have discovered a way to turn cotton waste into a potentially higher value product. An October 15, 2019 UBC news release makes the announcement (Note: Links have been removed),
In the materials engineering labs at UBC, surrounded by Bunsen burners, microscopes and spinning machines, professor Frank Ko and research scientist Addie Bahi have developed a simple process for converting waste cotton into much higher-value nanofibres.
These fibres are the building blocks of advanced products like surgical implants, antibacterial wound dressings and fuel cell batteries.
“More than 28 million tonnes of cotton are produced worldwide each year, but very little of that is actually recycled after its useful life,” explains Bahi, a materials engineer who previously worked on recycling waste in the United Kingdom. “We wanted to find a viable way to break down waste cotton and convert it into a value-added product. This is one of the first successful attempts to make nanofibres from fabric scraps – previous research has focused on using a ready cellulose base to make nanofibres.”
Compared to conventional fibres, nanofibres are extremely thin (a nanofibre can be 500 times smaller than the width of the human hair) and so have a high surface-to-volume ratio. This makes them ideal for use in applications ranging from sensors and filtration (think gas sensors and water filters) to protective clothing, tissue engineering and energy storage. Ko and Bahi developed their process in collaboration with ecologyst, a B.C.-based company that manufactures sustainable outdoor apparel, and with the participation of materials engineering student Kosuke Ayama.
They chopped down waste cotton fabric supplied by ecologyst into tiny strips and soaked it in a chemical bath to remove all additives and artificial dyes from the fabric. The resulting gossamer-thin material was then fed to an electrospinning machine to produce very fine, smooth nanofibres. These can be further processed into various finished products.
“The process itself is relatively simple, but what we’re thrilled about is that we’ve proved you can extract a high-value product from something that would normally go to landfill, where it will eventually be incinerated. It’s estimated that only a fraction of cotton clothing is recycled. The more product we can re-process, the better it will be for the environment,” said lead researcher Frank Ko, a Canada Research Chair in advanced fibrous materials in UBC’s faculty of applied science.
The process Bahi and Ko developed is lab-scale, supported by a grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. In the future, the pair hope to refine and scale up their process and eventually share their methods with industry partners.
“We started with cotton because it’s one of the most popular fabrics for clothing,” said Bahi. “Once we’re able to develop the process further, we can look at converting other textiles into value-added materials. Achieving zero waste [emphasis mine] for the fashion and textile industries is extremely challenging – this is simply one of the many first steps towards that goal.”
The researchers have a 30 sec. video illustrating the need to recycle cotton materials,
At the mention of ‘zero waste’, I was reminded of an upcoming conference, Oct. 30 -31, 2019 in Vancouver (Canada) where UBC is located. It’s called the 2019 Zero Waste Conference and, oddly,there’s no mention of Ko or Bahi or Ayama or ecologyst on the speakers’ list. Maybe I was looking at the wrong list or the organizers didn’t have enough lead time to add more speakers.
One final comment, I wish there was a little more science (i.e., more technical details) in the news release.
This is a scattering of events, which I’m sure will be augmented as we properly start the month of October 2019.
October 2, 2019 in Waterloo, Canada (Perimeter Institute)
If you want to be close enough to press the sacred flesh (Sir Martin Rees), you’re out of luck. However, there are still options ranging from watching a live webcast from the comfort of your home to watching the lecture via closed circuit television with other devoted fans at a licensed bistro located on site at the Perimeter Institute (PI) to catching the lecture at a later date via YouTube.
That said, here’s why you might be interested,
Here’s more from a September 11, 2019 Perimeter Institute (PI) announcement received via email,
Surviving the Century MOVING TOWARD A POST-HUMAN FUTURE Martin Rees, UK Astronomer Royal Wednesday, Oct. 2 at 7:00 PM ET
Advances in technology and space exploration could, if applied wisely, allow a bright future for the 10 billion people living on earth by the end of the century.
But there are dystopian risks we ignore at our peril: our collective “footprint” on our home planet, as well as the creation and use of technologies so powerful that even small groups could cause a global catastrophe.
Martin Rees, the UK Astronomer Royal, will explore this unprecedented moment in human history during his lecture on October 2, 2019. A former president of the Royal Society and master of Trinity College, Cambridge, Rees is a cosmologist whose work also explores the interfaces between science, ethics, and politics. Read More.
Didn’t get tickets for the lecture? We’ve got more ways to watch. Join us at Perimeter on lecture night to watch live in the Black Hole Bistro. Catch the live stream on Inside the Perimeter or watch it on Youtube the next day Become a member of our donor thank you program! Learn more.
In his October 2  talk – which kicks off the 2019/20 season of the Perimeter Institute Public Lecture Series – Rees will discuss the outlook for humans (or their robotic envoys) venturing to other planets. Humans, Rees argues, will be ill-adapted to new habitats beyond Earth, and will use genetic and cyborg technology to transform into a “post-human” species.
Straddling Sept. and Oct. at the movies in Vancouver
The Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) opened today, September 26, 2019. During its run to October 11, 2019 there’ll be a number of documentaries that touch on science. Here are three of the documentaries most closely adhere to the topics I’m most likely to address on this blog. There is a fourth documentary included here as it touches on ecology in a more hopeful fashion than is the current trend.
One of the most significant scientific breakthroughs in history, the discovery of CRISPR has made it possible to manipulate human DNA, paving the path to a future of great possibilities.
The implications of this could mean the eradication of disease or, more controversially, the possibility of genetically pre-programmed children.
Breaking away from scientific jargon, Human Nature pieces together a complex account of bio-research for the layperson as compelling as a work of science-fiction. But whether the gene-editing powers of CRISPR (described as “a word processor for DNA”) are used for good or evil, they’re reshaping the world as we know it. As we push past the boundaries of what it means to be human, Adam Bolt’s stunning work of science journalism reaches out to scientists, engineers, and people whose lives could benefit from CRISPR technology, and offers a wide-ranging look at the pros and cons of designing our futures.
Tickets Friday, September 27, 2019 at 11:45 AM Vancity Theatre
Saturday, September 28, 2019 at 11:15 AM International Village 10
Thursday, October 10, 2019 at 6:45 PM SFU Goldcorp
According to VIFF, the tickets for the Sept. 27, 2019 show are going fast.
Since mass-production in the 1940s, antibiotics have been nothing less than miraculous, saving countless lives and revolutionizing modern medicine. It’s virtually impossible to imagine hospitals or healthcare without them. But after years of abuse and mismanagement by the medical and agricultural communities, superbugs resistant to antibiotics are reaching apocalyptic proportions. The ongoing rise in multi-resistant bacteria – unvanquishable microbes, currently responsible for 700,000 deaths per year and projected to kill 10 million yearly by 2050 if nothing changes – and the people who fight them are the subjects of Michael Wech’s stunning “science-thriller.”
Peeling back the carefully constructed veneer of the medical corporate establishment’s greed and complacency to reveal the world on the cusp of a potential crisis, Resistance Fighters sounds a clarion call of urgency. It’s an all-out war, one which most of us never knew we were fighting, to avoid “Pharmageddon.” Doctors, researchers, patients, and diplomats testify about shortsighted medical and economic practices, while Wech offers refreshingly original perspectives on environment, ecology, and (animal) life in general. As alarming as it is informative, this is a wake-up call the world needs to hear.
Sunday, October 6, 2019 at 5:45 PM International Village 8
Thursday, October 10, 2019 at 2:15 PM SFU Goldcorp
According to VIFF, the tickets for the Oct. 6, 2019 show are going fast.
Trust Machine: The Story of Blockchain
Strictly speaking this is more of a technology story than science story but I have written about blockchain and cryptocurrencies before so I’m including this. From the VIFF 2019 film description and ticket page,
For anyone who has questions about cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin (and who doesn’t?), Alex Winter’s thorough documentary is an excellent introduction to the blockchain phenomenon. Trust Machine offers a wide range of expert testimony and a variety of perspectives that explicate the promises and the risks inherent in this new manifestation of high-tech wizardry. And it’s not just money that blockchains threaten to disrupt: innovators as diverse as UNICEF and Imogen Heap make spirited arguments that the industries of energy, music, humanitarianism, and more are headed for revolutionary change.
A propulsive and subversive overview of this little-understood phenomenon, Trust Machine crafts a powerful and accessible case that a technologically decentralized economy is more than just a fad. As the aforementioned experts – tech wizards, underground activists, and even some establishment figures – argue persuasively for an embrace of the possibilities offered by blockchains, others criticize its bubble-like markets and inefficiencies. Either way, Winter’s film suggests a whole new epoch may be just around the corner, whether the powers that be like it or not.
Tuesday, October 1, 2019 at 11:00 AM Vancity Theatre
Thursday, October 3, 2019 at 9:00 PM Vancity Theatre
Monday, October 7, 2019 at 1:15 PM International Village 8
According to VIFF, tickets for all three shows are going fast
“We must dare to invent the future.” In 2007, the African Union officially began a massively ambitious environmental project planned since the 1970s. Stretching through 11 countries and 8,000 km across the desertified Sahel region, on the southern edges of the Sahara, The Great Green Wall – once completed, a mosaic of restored, fertile land – would be the largest living structure on Earth.
Malian musician-activist Inna Modja embarks on an expedition through Senegal, Mali, Nigeria, Niger, and Ethiopia, gathering an ensemble of musicians and artists to celebrate the pan-African dream of realizing The Great Green Wall. Her journey is accompanied by a dazzling array of musical diversity, celebrating local cultures and traditions as they come together into a community to stand against the challenges of desertification, drought, migration, and violent conflict.
An unforgettable, beautiful exploration of a modern marvel of ecological restoration, and so much more than a passive source of information, The Great Green Wall is a powerful call to take action and help reshape the world.
Sunday, September 29, 2019 at 11:15 AM International Village 10
Wednesday, October 2, 2019 at 6:00 PM International Village 8 Standby – advance tickets are sold out but a limited number are likely to be released at the door
Wednesday, October 9, 2019 at 11:00 AM International Village 9
As you can see, one show is already offering standby tickets only and the other two are selling quickly.
For venue locations, information about what ‘standby’ means and much more go here and click on the Festival tab. As for more information the individual films, you’ll links to trailers, running times, and more on the pages for which I’ve supplied links.
Brain Talks on October 16, 2019 in Vancouver
From time to time I get notices about a series titled Brain Talks from the Dept. of Psychiatry at the University of British Columbia. A September 11, 2019 announcement (received via email) focuses attention on the ‘guts of the matter’,
YOU ARE INVITED TO ATTEND:
BRAINTALKS: THE BRAIN AND THE GUT
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 16TH, 2019 FROM 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM
Join us on Wednesday October 16th  for a series of talks exploring the relationship between the brain, microbes, mental health, diet and the gut. We are honored to host three phenomenal presenters for the evening: Dr. Brett Finlay, Dr. Leslie Wicholas, and Thara Vayali, ND.
DR. BRETT FINLAY  is a Professor in the Michael Smith Laboratories at the University of British Columbia. Dr. Finlay’s research interests are focused on host-microbe interactions at the molecular level, specializing in Cellular Microbiology. He has published over 500 papers and has been inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame. He is the co-author of the books: Let Them Eat Dirt and The Whole Body Microbiome.
DR. LESLIE WICHOLAS  is a psychiatrist with an expertise in the clinical understanding of the gut-brain axis. She has become increasingly involved in the emerging field of Nutritional Psychiatry, exploring connections between diet, nutrition, and mental health. Currently, Dr. Wicholas is the director of the Food as Medicine program at the Mood Disorder Association of BC.
THARA VAYALI, ND  holds a BSc in Nutritional Sciences and a MA in Education and Communications. She has trained in naturopathic medicine and advocates for awareness about women’s physiology and body literacy. Ms. Vayali is a frequent speaker and columnist that prioritizes engagement, understanding, and community as pivotal pillars for change.
Our event on Wednesday, October 16th  will start with presentations from each of the three speakers, and end with a panel discussion inspired by audience questions. After the talks, at 7:30 pm, we host a social gathering with a rich spread of catered healthy food and non-alcoholic drinks. We look forward to seeing you there!
Vancouver General Hospital; Jim Pattison Pavilion, Vancouver, BC
Two research groups are working to the same end where bone marrow is concerned, encourage bone cell growth, but they are using different strategies.
University of British Columbia and McMaster University (Canada)
The samples look a little like teeth, don’t they?
Before diving into the research news, there’s a terminology issue that should be noted as you’ll see when you read the news/press releases. Nanocrystal cellulose/nanocrystalline cellulose (NCC) is a term coined by Canadian researchers. Since those early day, most researchers, internationally, have adopted the term cellulose nanocrystals (CNC) as the standard term. It fits better with the naming conventions for other nnanocellulose materials such as cellulose nanofibrils, etc. By the way, a Canadian company (CelluForce) that produces CNC retained the term nanocrystalline cellulose (NCC) as a trademark for the product, CelluForce NCC®.
For anyone not familiar with aerogels, what the University of British Columbia (UBC) and McMaster University researchers are developing, are also popularly known known as ‘frozen smoke’ (see the Aerogel Wikipedia entry for more).
Researchers from the University of British Columbia and McMaster University have developed what could be the bone implant material of the future: an airy, foamlike substance that can be injected into the body and provide scaffolding for the growth of new bone.
It’s made by treating nanocrystals derived from plant cellulose so that they link up and form a strong but lightweight sponge — technically speaking, an aerogel — that can compress or expand as needed to completely fill out a bone cavity.
“Most bone graft or implants are made of hard, brittle ceramic that doesn’t always conform to the shape of the hole, and those gaps can lead to poor growth of the bone and implant failure,” said study author Daniel Osorio, a PhD student in chemical engineering at McMaster. “We created this cellulose nanocrystal aerogel as a more effective alternative to these synthetic materials.”
For their research, the team worked with two groups of rats, with the first group receiving the aerogel implants and the second group receiving none. Results showed that the group with implants saw 33 per cent more bone growth at the three-week mark and 50 per cent more bone growth at the 12-week mark, compared to the controls.
“These findings show, for the first time in a lab setting, that a cellulose nanocrystal aerogel can support new bone growth,” said study co-author Emily Cranston, a professor of wood science and chemical and biological engineering who holds the President’s Excellence Chair in Forest Bio-products at UBC. She added that the implant should break down into non-toxic components in the body as the bone starts to heal.
The innovation can potentially fill a niche in the $2-billion bone graft market in North America, said study co-author Kathryn Grandfield, a professor of materials science and engineering, and biomedical engineering at McMaster who supervised the work.
“We can see this aerogel being used for a number of applications including dental implants and spinal and joint replacement surgeries,” said Grandfield. “And it will be economical because the raw material, the nanocellulose, is already being produced in commercial quantities.”
The researchers say it will be some time before the aerogel makes it out of the lab and into the operating room.
“This summer, we will study the mechanisms between the bone and implant that lead to bone growth,” said Grandfield. “We’ll also look at how the implant degrades using advanced microscopes. After that, more biological testing will be required before it is ready for clinical trials.”
National University of Science and Technology “MISIS” (formerly part of the Moscow Mining Academy)
These scientists have adopted a different strategy as you’ll see in the March 19, 2019 news item on Nanwerk, which, coincidentally, was published on the same day as the Canadian research,
Scientists from the National University of Science and Technology “MISIS” developed a nanomaterial, which will be able to rstore the internal structure of bones damaged due to osteoporosis and osteomyelitis. A special bioactive coating of the material helped to increase the rate of division of bone cells by 3 times. In the future, it can allow to abandon bone marrow transplantation and patients will no longer need to wait for suitable donor material.
Such diseases as osteoporosis and osteomyelitis cause irreversible degenerative changes in the bone structure. Such diseases require serious complex treatment and surgery and transplantation of the destroyed bone marrow in severe stages. Donor material should have a number of compatibility indicators and even close relationship with the donor cannot guarantee full compatibility.
Research group from the National University of Science and Technology “MISIS” (NUST MISIS), led by Anton Manakhov (Laboratory for Inorganic Nanomaterials) developed material that will allow to restore damaged internal bone structure without bone marrow transplantation. It is based on nanofibers of polycaprolactone, which is biocompatible self-dissolvable material. Earlier, the same research group has already worked with this material: by adding antibiotics to the nanofibers, scientists have managed to create non-changeable healing bandages.
“If we want the implant to take, not only biocompatibility is needed, but also activation of the natural cell growth on the surface of the material. Polycaprolactone as such is a hydrophobic material, meaning, and cells feel uncomfortable on its surface. They gather on the smooth surface and divide extremely slow”, Elizaveta Permyakova, one of the co-authors and researcher at NUST MISIS Laboratory for Inorganic Nanomaterials, explains.
To increase the hydrophilicity of the material, a thin layer of bioactive film consisting of titanium, calcium, phosphorus, carbon, oxygen and nitrogen (TiCaPCON) was deposited on it. The structure of nanofibers identical to the cell surface was preserved. These films, when immersed in a special salt medium, which chemical composition is identical to human blood plasma, are able to form on its surface a special layer of calcium and phosphorus, which in natural conditions forms the main part of the bone. Due to the chemical similarity and the structure of nanofibers, new bone tissue begins to grow rapidly on this layer. Most importantly, polycaprolactone nanofibers dissolve, having fulfilled their functions. Only new “native” tissue remains in the bone.
In the experimental part of the study, the researchers compared the rate of division of osteoblastic bone cells on the surface of the modified and unmodified material. It was found that the modified material TiCaPCON has a high hydrophilicity. In contrast to the unmodified material, the cells on its surface felt clearly more comfortable, and divided three times faster.
According to scientists, such results open up great prospects for further work with modified polycaprolactone nanofibers as an alternative to bone marrow transplantation.
I wish the folks at the University of British Columbia (UBC) would include more technical/scientific information in their news releases about research. For those who do like a little more technical information, I included the paper’s abstract at the end of this post.
Assistant Professor Hadi Mohammadi runs the Heart Valve Performance Laboratory (HVPL) through UBC Okanagan’s School of Engineering. Lead author on the study, he says the newly developed valve is an example of a transcatheter heart valve, a promising new branch of cardiology. These valves are unique because they can be inserted into a patient through small incisions rather than opening a patient’s chest–a procedure that is generally safer and much less invasive.
“Existing transcatheter heart valves are made of animal tissues, most often the pericardium membrane from a cow’s heart, and have had only moderate success to date,” explains Mohammadi. “The problem is that they face significant implantation risks and can lead to coronary obstruction and acute kidney injury.”
The new valve solves that problem by using naturally derived nanocomposites–a material assembled with a variety of very small components–including gels, vinyl and cellulose. The combination of their new material with the non-invasive nature of transcatheter heart valves makes this new design very promising for use with high-risk patients, according to Mohammadi.
“Not only is the material important but the design and construction of our valve means that it lowers stress on the valve by as much as 40 per cent compared to valves currently available,” says Dylan Goode, a graduate researcher at the HVPL. “It is uniquely manufactured in one continuous form, so it gains strength and flexibility to withstand the circulatory complications that can arise following transplantation.”
Working with researchers from Kelowna General Hospital and Western University, the valve will now undergo vigorous testing to perfect its material composition and design. The testing will include human heart simulators and large animal in-vivo studies. If successful, the valve will then proceed to clinical patient testing.
“This has the potential to become the new standard in heart valve replacement and to provide a safer, longer-term solution for many patients.”
The new design was highlighted in a paper published this month in the Journal of Engineering in Medicine with financial support from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada [NSERC] .
Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,
Proposed percutaneous aortic valve prosthesis made of cryogel by Hadi Mohammadi, Dylan Goode, Guy Fradet, Kibret Mequanint. Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Part H: Journal of Engineering in Medicine, 2019; 095441191983730 DOI: 10.1177/0954411919837302 First Published March 20, 2019
This paper is behind a paywall.
As promised, here’s the abstract,
Transcatheter heart valves are promising for high-risk patients. Generally, their leaflets are made of pericardium stented in a Nitinol basket. Despite their relative success, they are associated with significant complications such as valve migration, implantation risks, stroke, coronary obstruction, myocardial infraction, acute kidney injury (which all are due to the release of detached solid calcific pieces in to the blood stream) and expected issues existing with tissue valves such as leaflet calcification. This study is an attempt to fabricate the first ever polymeric percutaneous valves made of cryogel following the geometry and mechanical properties of porcine aortic valve to address some of the above-mentioned shortcomings. A novel, one-piece, tricuspid percutaneous valve, consisting of leaflets made entirely from the hydrogel, polyvinyl alcohol cryogel reinforced by bacterial cellulose natural nanocomposite, attached to a Nitinol basket was developed and demonstrated. Following the natural geometry of the valve, a novel approach was applied based on the revolution about an axis of a hyperboloid shape. The geometry was modified based on avoiding sharp warpage of leaflets and removal of the central opening orifice area of the valve when valve is fully closed using the finite element analysis. The modified geometry was replaced by a cloud of (control) points and was essentially converted to Bezier surfaces for further adjustment. A cavity mold was then designed and fabricated to form the valve. The fabricated valve was sewn into the Nitinol basket which is covered by Dacron cloth. The models presented in this study merit further development and revisions for both aortic and mitral positions.
So, this new valve partially consists of bacterial cellulose and the design is based on porcine (pig) valves. Cellulose is the most abundant organic material on earth and if it forms part of the nanocomposite, I’d expect to see the word ‘nanocellulose’ mentioned somewhere. What puzzles me is the ‘bacterial cellulose’, a term that is unfamiliar to me. Anyone who cares to clarify the matter for me, please feel free to leave a comment.
Regarding the pig valve, I understand that heart patients who require valves have a choice of a pig valve or a mechanical valve. Apparently, people with porcine valves don’t need to take drugs to counteract rejection amongst other advantages but the valves do have a shorter life span (10 to 15 years) in addition to the other shortcomings mentioned in the abstract.
Assuming I properly understand the abstract, this ‘nanocomposite’ valve could combine the advantages of the mechanical and porcine valves while offering more durability than either one.
Again, should anyone care to increase my understanding of the valves and the advantages of this new one, please do leave a comment.
We’re closing off August 2019 with a couple of talks, Curiosity Collider features an art/science event and Café Scientifique features a discussion about protease research.
Collider Café: Art. Science. Hybrids. on August 21, 2019
From an August 14, 2019 Curiosity Collider announcement (received via email),
How can the hybrids of scientific studies and artistic practices – embroidery, botanical art, projection sculpture, and video storytelling – spark creativity and discoveries?
Our #ColliderCafe is a space for artists, scientists, makers, and anyone interested in art+science to meet, discover, and connect.
Are you curious? Join us at “Collider Cafe: Art. Science. Hybrids.” to explore how art and science intersect in the exploration of curiosity.
When: 8:00pm on Wednesday, August 21, 2019. Doors open at 7:30pm. Where: Pizzeria Barbarella. 654 E Broadway, Vancouver, BC (Google Map). Cost: $5-10 (sliding scale) cover at the door. Proceeds will be used to cover the cost of running this event, and to fund future Curiosity Collider events.
//Special thanks to Pizzeria Barbarella for hosting the upcoming Collider Cafe!//
September 13, 14 We are excited to announce events for Her Story: Canadian Women Scientists, a film series dedicated to sharing the stories of Canadian women scientists. We will be hosting two screening events in September at the Annex. Get your tickets now! August 15 Explore our relationships with waterways across Metro Vancouver at Living Legends of Vancouver: a premiere screening of short videos by students from the Emily Carr. This screening will be hosted by the Beaty Biodiversity Museum (admission by donation), and intermixed with interactive presentations and dialogue led by the artists. August 28 Our friends at Nerd Nite Vancouver is hosting Nerd Nite Goes to the Movies at the VIFF. The next event will focus on evolution. The event will be followed by a screening of Andrew Niccol’s Gattaca. Get tickets now! Until September 29New Media Gallery presents Winds, where artists explore how our perception and understanding of landscape can be interpreted through technology. Until November 10 CC friend Katrina Vera Wong (also speaker for Collider Cafe!), and Julya Hajnoczky will present their exhibition Closer at the Beaty Biodiversity Museum. Using different approaches – Hajnoczky with high-resolution still life photographs and Wong with sections of pressed or dried plants – both artists explore the enchanting world of the often overlooked in this unique joint exhibition
Café Scientifique: From tadpole tails to diagnosing disease – the evolution of protease research, August 27, 2019
From an August 14, 2019 Café Scientifique announcement (received via email),
Our next café will happen on Tuesday, August 27th at 7:30pm in the back room at Yagger’s Downtown (433 W Pender). Our speaker for the evening will be Dr. Georgina Butler from the Centre for Blood Research at UBC [University of British Columbia].
From tadpole tails to diagnosing disease – the evolution of protease research Proteases are enzymes that cut other proteins. Humans have 560 different proteases – why so many? what are they doing? We know that too much protease activity can be detrimental in diseases such as cancer and arthritis, but failed efforts to stop cancer spread by blocking proteases has contributed to the realization that some cuts are essential. In the era of “big data”, at UBC we have developed new techniques (degradomics) to study proteases on a global scale to determine what they really do in health and disease. Hopefully this information will enable us to identify new drug targets as well as novel biomarkers to diagnose or monitor disease.
Dr. Butler completed her undergraduate degree in Biochemistry (with Studies in Italy) at the University of Kent at Canterbury, and her PhD in Biochemistry at the University of Leicester in the UK. She came to UBC as a Wellcome Trust Travelling Fellow in 1999 for 2 years. Still here, she is a Research Associate at the Centre for Blood Research and in Oral, Biological and Medical Sciences at UBC, where she studies novel roles of proteases in health and disease.
A July 22, 2019 announcement (received via email) features an upcoming talk hosted by the local Café Scientifque community,
Our next café will happen on TUESDAY, JULY 30TH  at 7:30PM in the back room at YAGGER’S DOWNTOWN (433 W Pender). Our speaker for the evening will be DR. VAHID RAEESI.
TARGETING HEAT FOR DISEASE TREATMENT
Vahid is a nanotechnologist specializing in the design and development of functional platforms for disease detection and treatment. He holds a PhD in nano-biomaterials from the University of Toronto during which, he engineered nanoscale heat generators for precise destruction of different cancer types and antibiotic-resistant infections. He pursued this concept during postdoctoral studies under a nanoparticle-aided radiotherapy program for advanced prostate cancer at Grand River Cancer Centre, Waterloo. His research has been published in high profile scientific journals and featured in UofT News, “The Varsity” newspaper and NatureAsia.
We hope to see you there!
As per usual I searched for more information about Dr. Raeesi and his topic. First, I was a little curious as to how someone based in Toronto was recruited for talk in Vancouver but it all became clear after seeing Dr. Raeesi’s LinkedIn profile which lists his current employer as Precision NanoSystems Inc. (PNI). The company has its corporate headquarters here in Vancouver and I’m guessing that employees from other offices come here from time to time.
While I was looking for more information about Dr. Raeesi and his work I found that PNI is part of something called the Nanomedicines Innovation Network (NMIN), which is currently being hosted by the University of British Columbia (UBC; Vancouver, Canada). NMIN’s About page includes a history of the organization (scroll down the About page to Vision and Mission where you will see Two buttons, Fast Facts and History on the right side of your screen) ,
NMIN is based on R&D efforts to develop nanomedicines that began in 1980 at the University of British Columbia (UBC). Funding from UBC Excellence Funds in 2016 allowed UBC-based scientists to establish links with investigators across Canada to develop a national nanomedicines program. This resulted in the successful NMIN application to the federal NCE program.
In 2019 NMIN was awarded five years of funding (2019-2024) from the Government of Canada through the Networks of Centres of Excellence (NCE) Program.
NMIN researchers are located at 17 universities across Canada. Team members have contributed to the development of five of the 13 systemically-administered nanomedicines approved by the US FDA, the European EMA and Health Canada to treat human disease.
NMIN researchers, together with Canadian companies Arbutus Biopharma and Acuitas Therapeutics, developed the lipid nanoparticle technology (LNP) incorporated into a gene therapy nanomedicine (Onpattro) that was recently (August 2018) approved by the US FDA to treat an incurable hereditary disease known as hereditary amyloidogenic transthyretin (hATTR) amyloidosis. Onpattro is the first RNAi gene therapy drug to be approved by the US FDA.
The world-class capacity of the network is also illustrated by the strong commercialization record of NMIN researchers. NMIN researchers have co-founded more than 20 companies that now employ more than 500 people across Canada. As a result, Canada has become a leading global hub for the development and commercialization of nanomedicines.
Hope you have a good time at the talk should you be inclined to attend.
SciFact vs SciFiction: Nerd Nite Goes to the Movies v1. Animal
This summer we’re trying something a little different. Our new summer series of talks – a collaboration between Nerd Nite and VIFF – examines the pseudo-science propagated by Hollywood, and seeks to sift real insights from fake facts, in a fun, playful but peer-approved format. Each show will feature clips from a variety of movies on a science theme with a featured scientist on hand all done Nerd Nite style with drinks! We begin with biology, and our first presenter is Dr Carin Bondar.
Dr Bondar has been the host of Science Channel’s Outrageous Acts of Science, and she’s the author of several books including “Wild Moms: The Science Behind Mating in the Animal Kingdom”. Tonight she’ll join Kaylee [Byers] and Michael [Unger] from Nerd Nite to discuss the sci-facts in a variety of clips from cinema. We’ll be discussing the science in Planet of the Apes, The Birds, Arachnophobia, Snakes on a Plane, and more!
When: July 10  Where: Vancouver International Film Centre When: 7:30 – 8:30 – This talk will be followed by a screening of Alfred Hitchcock’s classic The Birds (9pm). Double bill price: $20 Tickets: Here!
SciFact vs SciFi: Nerd Nite Goes to the Movies continues:
July 31  – Dr. Douglas Scott: The Universe According to Hollywood Aug 14  – Mika McKinnon: Disaster According to Hollywood Aug 28  – Greg Bole: Evolution According to Hollywood
This series put me in mind what was then the New York-based, ‘Science Goes to the Movies’. I first mentioned this series in a March 10, 2016 posting and it seems that since then, the series has lost a host and been embraced by public television (in the US). You can find the latest incarnation of Science Goes To The Movies here.
Getting back to Vancouver, no word as to which movies will accompany these future talks. If I had a vote, I’d love to see Gattaca accompany any talk on genetics.
That last sentence is both true and provides a neat segue to the next event.
Genetics at the Vancouver Public Library (VPL)
Coming up on July 23, 2019, a couple of graduate students at the University of British Columbia will be sharing some of the latest information on genetics. From the VPL events page,
Curiosities of the Natural World: Genetics – the Future of Medicine
Tuesday, July 23, 2019 (7:00 pm – 8:30 pm) Central Library Description
Since their discovery over a century ago, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and Alzheimer’s have seemed like diseases without a cure. The advent of genetic treatments and biomarkers are changing the outcomes and treatments of these once impossible-to-treat conditions.
UBC researchers, Adam Ramzy and Maria-Elizabeth Baeva discuss the potential of genetic therapies for diabetes, and new biomarkers and therapeutics for Alzheimer ’s disease and multiple sclerosis.
Additional Details: Alma VanDusen and Peter Kaye Rooms, Lower Level
It’s hard to know how to respond to this as I loathe anything that has ‘future of medicine’ in it. Isn’t there always going to ‘a’ future with medicine in it?
Also, there is at least one cautionary tale about this new era of ‘genetic medicine’: Glybera is a gene therapy that worked for people with a rare genetic disease. It is a **treatment**, the only one, and it is no longer available.
It is one of this country’s great scientific achievements.
The first drug ever approved that can fix a faulty gene.
It’s called Glybera, and it can treat a painful and potentially deadly genetic disorder with a single dose — a genuine made-in-Canada medical breakthrough.
But most Canadians have never heard of it.
A team of researchers at the University of British Columbia spent decades developing the treatment for people born with a genetic mutation that causes lipoprotein lipase disorder (LPLD).
LPLD affects communities in the Saguenay region of northeastern Quebec at a higher rate than anywhere else in the world.
Glybera was never sold in North America and was available in Europe for just two years, beginning in 2015. During that time, only one patient received the drug. Then it was abandoned by the company that held its European licensing rights.
The problem was the price.
The world’s first gene therapy, a remarkable discovery by a dedicated team of scientists who came together in a Vancouver lab, had earned a second, more dubious distinction:
The world’s most expensive drug.
It cost $1M for a single treatment and that single treatment is good for at least 10 years.
Pharmaceutical companies make their money from repeated use of their medicaments and Glybera required only one treatment so the company priced it according to how much they would have gotten for repeated use, $100,000 per year over a 10 year period. The company was not able to persuade governments and/or individuals to pay the cost.
In the end, 31 people got the treatment, most of them received it for free through clinical trials.
Crowe has written an exceptionally good story (November 17, 2018 article) about Glybera and I encourage you to read in its entirety. I warn you it’s heartbreaking.
I wrote about money and genetics in an April 26, 2019 posting (Gene editing and personalized medicine: Canada). Scroll down to the subsection titled ‘Cost/benefit analysis’ for a mention of Goldman Sachs, an American global investment banking, securities and investment management firm, and its conclusion that personalized medicine is not a viable business model. I wonder if part of their analysis included the Glybera experience.
Getting back to the July 23, 2019 talk at the VPL’s central branch, I have no doubt the researchers will be discussing some exciting work but the future might not be as rosy as one might hope.
I wasn’t able to find much information about either Adan Ramzy or Maria-Elizabeth Baeva. There’s this for Ramzy (scroll down to Class of 2021) and this for Baeva (scroll down to Scholarships).
WINDS from June 22 to September 29, 2019
This show or exhibition is taking place in New Westminster (part of the Metro Vancouver area) at the Anvil Centre’s New Media Gallery. From the Anvil Centre’s WINDS event page,
WINDS New Media Gallery Exhibition June 22 – September 29 Opening Reception + Artist Talk is on June 21st at 6:30pm
Chris Welsby (UK) Spencer Finch (UK) David Bowen (USA) Nathalie Miebach (Germany/USA)
Our summer exhibition features four exciting, multi-media installations by four international artists from UK and USA. Each artist connects with the representation, recreation and manifestation of wind through physical space and time. Each suggests how our perception and understanding of wind can be created through pressure, sound, data, pattern, music and motion and then further appreciated in poetic or metaphoric ways that might connect us with how the wind influences language, imagination or our understanding of historic events.
All the artists use sound as a key element ; to emphasize or recreate the sonic experience of different winds and their effects, to trigger memory or emotion, or to heighten certain effects that might prompt the viewer to consider significant philosophical questions. Common objects are used in all the works; discarded objects, household or readymade objects and everyday materials; organic, synthetic, natural and manmade. The viewer will find connections with past winds and events both recent and distant. There is an attempt to capture or allude to a moment in time which brings with it suggestions of mortality, thereby transforming the works into poignant memento-mori.
Landscape and weather have long shared an intimate connection with the arts. Each of the works here is a landscape: captured, interpreted and presented through a range of technologies. The four artists in this exhibition have taken, as their material process, the movement of wind through physical space & time. They explore how our perception and understanding of landscape can be interpreted through technology.
These works have been created by what might be understood as a sort of scientific method or process that involves collecting data, acute observation, controlled experiments and the incorporation of measurements and technologies that control or collect motion, pressure, sound, pattern and the like. The artists then take us in other directions; allowing technology or situations to render visible that which is invisible, creating and focussing on peculiar or resonant qualities of sound, light or movement in ways that seem to influence emotion or memory, dwelling on iconic places and events, or revealing in subtle ways, the subjective nature of time. Each of these works suggest questions related to the nature of illusive experience and how or if it can be captured, bringing inevitable connections to authorship, loss, memory and memento mori
David Bowen tele-present wind Image Biography Credits
Spencer Finch (USA) 2 hours, 2 minutes, 2 seconds (Wind at Walden Pond, March 12, 2007) Image Biography Credits
Nathalie Miebach (USA) Hurricane Noel III Image Biography Credits
Chris Welsby (UK) Wind Vane Image Biography Credits
Address New Media Gallery 3rd Floor Anvil Centre 777 Columbia Street New Westminster, BC V3M 1B6
If you want to see the images and biographies for the artists participating in ‘winds’, please go here..
So there you have it, science events and an exhibition in the Vancouver* area for July 2019.
*July 23, 2019 Correction: The word ‘and’ was removed from the final sentence for grammatical correctness.
**July 23, 2018 Correction: I changed the word ‘cure’ to ‘treatment’ so as to be more accurate. The word ‘cure’ suggests permanence and Glybera is supposed to be effective for 10 years or longer but no one really knows.
A company from Ontario (Canada) has signed a memorandum of unterstanding (MOU) for graphene research with the University of British Columbia (Canada, Okanagan Campus). From a June 20, 2019 news item on Azonano,
ZEN Graphene Solutions has announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding (“MOU”) with the University of British Columbia (UBC), Okanagan Campus, School of Engineering, where ZEN will contribute a minimum of $300,000 over three years in support of graphene research and application development.
The main initial objectives defined in the MOU are:
(a) To formalize a collaborative research program utilizing expertise and capabilities from both ZEN and UBC and, where applicable, utilizing additional support and resources from government agencies such as the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), Mitacs and the National Research Council Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP); and,
(b) To structure an initial three-year research program with a committed minimum contribution by ZEN of $100,000 per year in support of UBC-based research projects.
ZEN has already supplied samples of its graphene and graphene oxide to UBC where it has undergone preliminary testing in the following applications: In multiple battery technologies; As an additive in cement-based composites; As an additive to aluminum and aluminum alloys; and, As a diesel and jet fuel additive.
“UBC has become a strong partner for ZEN over the last year bringing top quality researchers from multiple fields and connecting us with potential industrial partners. We wish to recognize the excellent research contributions made to date by Prof. Lukas Bichler and his team, and we look forward to formalizing our relationship with this agreement,” commented Dr. Francis Dubé.
“The three-year project, slated to begin this summer, challenges UBC engineering researchers to develop the next generation of stronger and lighter composite materials. The partnership with ZEN Graphene will allow for a transformational approach to composite materials development utilizing the unique properties of the Albany Graphite product. This will result in new composite materials with performance characteristics long beyond the reach of engineers and scientists using traditional material processing techniques. Linking to R&D activities at UBC will in turn enable ZEN to develop the Albany Graphite Deposit and get its graphene product to market more rapidly with a clear focus on high-impact real-world applications,” commented Dr. Bichler, associate professor of engineering at UBC’s Okanagan campus and research supervisor. Click here for video
About ZEN Graphene Solutions Ltd
ZEN Graphene Solutions Ltd. is an emerging graphene technology company with a focus on development of the unique Albany Graphite Project. This precursor graphene material provides the company with a competitive advantage in the potential graphene market as independent labs in Japan, UK, Israel, USA and Canada have demonstrated that ZEN’s Albany Graphite/Naturally PureTM easily converts (exfoliates) to graphene, using a variety of simple mechanical and chemical methods.
For further information: Francis Dubé, Chief Executive Officer Tel: +1 (289) 821-2820 Email: email@example.com
To find out more on ZEN Graphene Solutions Ltd., please visit our website at www.ZENGraphene.com. A copy of this news release and all material documents in respect of the Company may be obtained on ZEN’s SEDAR profile at www.sedar.ca
Forward Looking Statements
This news release includes certain “forward-looking statements”, which often, but not always, can be identified by the use of words such as “potential”, “believes”, “anticipates”, “expects”, “estimates”, “may”, “could”, “would”, “will”, or “plan”. These statements are based on information currently available to ZEN and ZEN provides no assurance that actual results will meet management’s expectations. Although the Company believes that the expectations reflected in these forward-looking statements are reasonable, undue reliance should not be placed on them because the Company can give no assurance that they will prove to be correct. Since forward-looking statements address future events and conditions, by their very nature they involve inherent risks and uncertainties. Although ZEN believes that the assumptions and factors used in preparing the forward-looking information in this news release are reasonable, undue reliance should not be placed on such information, which only applies as of the date of this news release, and no assurance can be given that such events will occur in the disclosed time frames or at all. ZEN disclaims any intention or obligation to update or revise any forward-looking information, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, other than as required by law. Neither the TSX Venture Exchange nor its Regulation Services Provider (as that term is defined in the policies of the TSX Venture Exchange) accepts responsibility for the adequacy or accuracy of this release. The Company’s full disclosure can be found at https://zengraphene.com/disclaimer/
Zenyatta’s Albany Graphite Project hosts a large and unique deposit of highly crystalline graphite. Independent labs in Japan, UK, Israel, USA and Canada have demonstrated that Zenyatta’s Albany Graphite/Naturally PureTM easily converts (exfoliates) to graphene, using a variety of simple mechanical and chemical methods. The deposit is located in Northern Ontario, just 30km north of the Trans-Canada Highway, near the communities of Constance Lake First Nation and Hearst. Important nearby infrastructure includes hydro-power, natural gas pipeline, a rail line 50 km away, and an all-weather road just 10 km from the deposit.
For more information on Zenyatta Ventures Ltd., please visit our website at www.zenyatta.ca. A copy of this press release and all material documents with respect of the Company are available on Zenyatta’s SEDAR profile at www.sedar.ca.
CAUTIONARY STATEMENT: Neither TSX Venture Exchange nor its Regulation Services Provider (as that term is defined in the policies of the TSX Venture Exchange) accepts responsibility for the adequacy or accuracy of this release. This news release may contain forward looking information and Zenyatta cautions readers that forward-looking information is based on certain assumptions and risk factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from the expectations of Zenyatta included in this news release. This news release includes certain “forward-looking statements”, which often, but not always, can be identified by the use of words such as “potential”, “believes”, “anticipates”, “expects”, “estimates”, “may”, “could”, “would”, “will”, or “plan”. These statements are based on information currently available to Zenyatta and Zenyatta provides no assurance that actual results will meet management’s expectations. Forward-looking statements include estimates and statements with respect to Zenyatta’s future plans, objectives or goals, to the effect that Zenyatta or management expects a stated condition or result to occur, including the expected uses for graphite or graphene in the future, and the future uses of the graphite from Zenyatta’s Albany deposit. Since forward-looking statements are based on assumptions and address future events and conditions, by their very nature they involve inherent risks and uncertainties. Actual results relating to, among other things, results of metallurgical processing, ongoing exploration, project development, reclamation and capital costs of Zenyatta’s mineral properties, and Zenyatta’s financial condition and prospects, could differ materially from those currently anticipated in such statements for many reasons such as, but are not limited to: failure to convert estimated mineral resources to reserves; the preliminary nature of metallurgical test results; the inability to identify target markets and satisfy the product criteria for such markets; the inability to complete a prefeasibility study; the inability to enter into offtake agreements with qualified purchasers; delays in obtaining or failures to obtain required governmental, environmental or other project approvals; political risks; uncertainties relating to the availability and costs of financing needed in the future; changes in equity markets, inflation, changes in exchange rates; fluctuations in commodity prices; delays in the development of projects; capital and operating costs varying significantly from estimates and the other risks involved in the mineral exploration and development industry; and those risks set out in Zenyatta’s public documents filed on SEDAR. This list is not exhaustive of the factors that may affect any of Zenyatta’s forward-looking statements. These and other factors should be considered carefully and readers should not place undue reliance on Zenyatta’s forward-looking statements. Although Zenyatta believes that the assumptions and factors used in preparing the forward-looking information in this news release are reasonable, undue reliance should not be placed on such information, which only applies as of the date of this news release, and no assurance can be given that such events will occur in the disclosed time frames or at all. Zenyatta disclaims any intention or obligation to update or revise any forward-looking information, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, other than as required by law.
Looking at the June 10, 2019 news release, it seems that they’ve split the company in two with Zenyatta being the corporate name for the mining interests and ZEN Graphene for applications.
Oddly, UBC has not issued its own news release with this happy announcement.
It’s been a while since I’ve received any notices about upcoming talks from the local Café Scientifique crowd but on May 22, 2019 there was this announcement in an email,
Dear Café Scientifiquers,
Our next café will happen on TUESDAY, MAY 28TH  at 7:30PM in the back room at YAGGER’S DOWNTOWN (433 W Pender). Our speaker for the evening will be DR. CATHERINE JOHNSON from the Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences at UBC [University of British Columbia] .
GETTING TO THE HEART OF MARS WITH INSIGHT
Catherine Johnson is a professor of geophysics in the Dept of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences at UBC Vancouver [campus], and a senior scientist at the Planetary Science Institute, Tucson. She is a Co-Investigator on the InSight mission to Mars, the OSIRIS-REx mission to asteroid Bennu and was previously a Participating Scientist on the MESSENGER mission to Mercury.
We hope to see you there!
I did some digging and found two articles about Johnson, the InSight mission, and Mars. The first one is an October 21, 2012 article by James Keller on the Huffington Post Canada website,
As NASA’s Curiosity rover beams back photos of the rocky surface of Mars, another group of scientists, including one from British Columbia, is preparing the next mission to uncover what’s underneath.
Prof. Catherine Johnson, of the University of British Columbia, is among the scientists whose project, named Insight, was selected by NASA this week as part of the U.S. space agency’s Discovery program, which invites proposals from within the scientific community.
Insight will send a stationary robotic lander to Mars in 2016, drilling down several metres into the surface as it uses a combination of temperature readings and seismic measurements to help scientists on this planet learn more about the Martian core.
The second one is a May 6, 2018 article (I gather it took them longer to get to Mars than they anticipated in 2012) by Ivan Semeniuk for the Globe and Mail newspaper website,
Thanks to a thick bank of predawn fog, Catherine Johnson couldn’t see the rocket when it blasted off early Saturday morning at the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California – but she could hear the roar as NASA’s InSight mission set off on its 6½-month journey to Mars.
“It was really impressive,” said Dr. Johnson, a planetary scientist at the University of British Columbia and a member of the mission’s science team. Describing the mood at the launch as a mixture of relief and joy, Dr. Johnson added that “the spacecraft is finally en route to do what we have worked toward for many years.”
But while InSight’s mission is just getting under way, it also marks the last stage in a particularly fruitful period for the U.S. space agency’s Mars program. In the past two decades, multiple, complementary spacecraft tackled different aspects of Mars science.
Unlike the Curiosity rover, which landed on Mars nearly six years ago and is in the process of climbing a mountain in the middle of an ancient crater, InSight is designed to stay in one place after it touches down Nov. 26 . Its purpose is to open a new direction in Mars exploration – one that leads straight down as the spacecraft deploys a unique set of instruments to spy on the planet’s interior.
“What we will learn … will help us understand the earliest history of rocky planets, including Earth,” Dr. Johnson said.
It has been a prolonged voyage to the red planet. In 2015, technical problems forced program managers to postpone InSight’s launch for 2½ years. Now, scientists are hoping for smooth sailing to Mars and an uneventful landing a few hundred kilometres north of Curiosity, at a site that Dr. Johnson cheerfully describes as “boring.”
Does the timing of this talk mean you’ll be getting the latest news since InSight landed on Mars roughly six months ago? One can only hope. Finally, Johnson’s UBC bio webpage is here.
Baba Brinkman brings us up-to-date
Here’s most of a May 22, 2019 newsletter update (received via email) from former Vancouverite and current rapper, playwright, and science communicator, Baba Brinkman,
… Over the past five years I have been collaborating frequently with a company in California called SpectorDance, after the artistic director Fran Spector Atkins invited me to write and perform a rap soundtrack to one of her dance productions. Well, a few weeks ago we played our biggest venue yet with our latest collaborative show, Ocean Trilogy, which is all about the impact of human activities including climate change on marine ecosystems. The show was developed in collaboration with scientists at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, and for the first time there’s now a full video of the production online. Have you ever seen scientifically-informed eco rap music combined in live performance with ballet and modern dance? Enjoy.
Speaking of “Science is Everywhere”, about a year ago I got to perform my song “Can’t Stop” about the neurobiology of free will for a sold-out crowd at the Brooklyn Academy of Music alongside physicist Brian Greene, comedian Chuck Nice, and Neil deGrasse Tyson. The song is half scripted and half freestyle (can you tell which part is which?) They just released the video.
Over the past few months I’ve been performing Rap Guide to Evolution, Consciousness, and Climate Chaos off-Broadway 2-3 times per week, which has been a roller coaster. Some nights I have 80 people and it’s rocking, other nights I step on stage and play to 15 people and it takes effort to keep it lively. But since this is New York, occasionally when there’s only 15 people one of them will turn out to be a former Obama Administration Energy Advisor or will publish a five star review, which keeps it exciting.
What’s Rap Guide to Culture about? Cultural evolution and the psychology of norms of course. I recently attended a conference at the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis in Knoxville, TN where I performed a sneak preview and did a “Rap Up” of the various conference talks, summarizing the scientific content at the end of the day, check out the video.
Okay, time to get back to packing and hit the road. More to come soon, and wish me luck continuing to dominate my lonely genre.
Brinkman has been featured here many times (just use his name as the term in the blog’s search engine). While he lives in New York City these days, he does retain a connection to Vancouver in that his mother Joyce Murray is the Member of Parliament for Vancouver Quadra and, currently, the president of the Treasury Board.
It seems wearable electronic textiles may be getting nearer to the marketplace. I have three research items (two teams working with graphene and one working with carbon nanotubes) that appeared on my various feeds within two days of each other.
This research study is the result of a collaboration between UK and Chinese scientists. From a May 15, 2019 news item on phys.org (Note: Links have been removed),
Wearable electronic components incorporated directly into fabrics have been developed by researchers at the University of Cambridge. The devices could be used for flexible circuits, healthcare monitoring, energy conversion, and other applications.
The Cambridge researchers, working in collaboration with colleagues at Jiangnan University in China, have shown how graphene – a two-dimensional form of carbon – and other related materials can be directly incorporated into fabrics to produce charge storage elements such as capacitors, paving the way to textile-based power supplies which are washable, flexible and comfortable to wear.
The research, published in the journal Nanoscale, demonstrates that graphene inks can be used in textiles able to store electrical charge and release it when required. The new textile electronic devices are based on low-cost, sustainable and scalable dyeing of polyester fabric. The inks are produced by standard solution processing techniques.
Building on previous work by the same team, the researchers designed inks which can be directly coated onto a polyester fabric in a simple dyeing process. The versatility of the process allows various types of electronic components to be incorporated into the fabric.
Most other wearable electronics rely on rigid electronic components mounted on plastic or textiles. These offer limited compatibility with the skin in many circumstances, are damaged when washed and are uncomfortable to wear because they are not breathable.
“Other techniques to incorporate electronic components directly into textiles are expensive to produce and usually require toxic solvents, which makes them unsuitable to be worn,” said Dr Felice Torrisi from the Cambridge Graphene Centre, and the paper’s corresponding author. “Our inks are cheap, safe and environmentally-friendly, and can be combined to create electronic circuits by simply overlaying different fabrics made of two-dimensional materials on the fabric.”
The researchers suspended individual graphene sheets in a low boiling point solvent, which is easily removed after deposition on the fabric, resulting in a thin and uniform conducting network made up of multiple graphene sheets. The subsequent overlay of several graphene and hexagonal boron nitride (h-BN) fabrics creates an active region, which enables charge storage. This sort of ‘battery’ on fabric is bendable and can withstand washing cycles in a normal washing machine.
“Textile dyeing has been around for centuries using simple pigments, but our result demonstrates for the first time that inks based on graphene and related materials can be used to produce textiles that could store and release energy,” said co-author Professor Chaoxia Wang from Jiangnan University in China. “Our process is scalable and there are no fundamental obstacles to the technological development of wearable electronic devices both in terms of their complexity and performance.”
The work done by the Cambridge researchers opens a number of commercial opportunities for ink based on two-dimensional materials, ranging from personal health and well-being technology, to wearable energy and data storage, military garments, wearable computing and fashion.
“Turning textiles into functional energy storage elements can open up an entirely new set of applications, from body-energy harvesting and storage to the Internet of Things,” said Torrisi “In the future our clothes could incorporate these textile-based charge storage elements and power wearable textile devices.”
Prior to graphene’s reign as the ‘it’ carbon material, carbon nanotubes (CNTs) ruled. It’s been quieter on the CNT front since graphene took over but a May 15, 2019 Nanowerk Spotlight article by Michael Berger highlights some of the latest CNT research coming out of India,
The most important technical challenge is to blend the chemical nature of raw materials with fabrication techniques and processability, all of which are diametrically conflicting for textiles and conventional energy storage devices. A team from Indian Institute of Technology Bombay has come out with a comprehensive approach involving simple and facile steps to fabricate a wearable energy storage device. Several scientific and technological challenges were overcome during this process.
First, to achieve user-comfort and computability with clothing, the scaffold employed was the the same as what a regular fabric is made up of – cellulose fibers. However, cotton yarns are electrical insulators and therefore practically useless for any electronics. Therefore, the yarns are coated with single-wall carbon nanotubes (SWNTs).
SWNTs are hollow, cylindrical allotropes of carbon and combine excellent mechanical strength with electrical conductivity and surface area. Such a coating converts the electrical insulating cotton yarn to a metallic conductor with high specific surface area. At the same time, using carbon-based materials ensures that the final material remains light-weight and does not cause user discomfort that can arise from metallic wires such as copper and gold. This CNT-coated cotton yarn (CNT-wires) forms the electrode for the energy storage device.
Next, the electrolyte is composed of solid-state electrolyte sheets since no liquid-state electrolytes can be used for this purpose. However, solid state electrolytes suffer from poor ionic conductivity – a major disadvantage for energy storage applications. Therefore, a steam-based infiltration approach that enhances the ionic conductivity of the electrolyte is adopted. Such enhancement of humidity significantly increases the energy storage capacity of the device.
The integration of the CNT-wire electrode with the electrolyte sheet was carried out by a simple and elegant approach of interweaving the CNT-wire through the electrolyte (see Figure 1). This resulted in cross-intersections which are actually junctions where the electrical energy can be stored. Each such junction is now an energy storage unit, referred to as sewcap.
The advantage of this process is that several 100s and 1000s of sewcaps can be made in a small area and integrated to increase the total amount of energy stored in the system. This scalability is unique and critical aspect of this work and stems from the approach of interweaving.
Further, this process is completely adaptable with current processes used in textile industries. Hence, a proportionately large energy-storage is achieved by creating sewcap-junctions in various combinations.
All components of the final sewcap device are flexible. However, they need to be protected from environmental effects such as temperature, humidity and sweat while retaining the mechanical flexibility. This is achieved by laminating the entire device between polymer sheets. The process is exactly similar to the one used for protecting documents and ID cards.
The laminated sewcap can be integrated easily on clothing and fabrics while retaining the flexibility and sturdiness. This is demonstrated by the unchanged performance of the device during extreme and harsh mechanical testing such as striking repeatedly with a hammer, complete flexing, bending and rolling and washing in a laundry machine.
In fact, this is the first device that has been proven to be stable under rigorous washing conditions in the presence of hot water, detergents and high torque (spinning action of washing machine). This provides the device with comprehensive mechanical stability.
CNTs have high surface area and electrical conductivity. The CNT-wire combines these properties of CNTs with stability and porosity of cellulose yarns. The junction created by interweaving is essentially comprised of two such CNT-wires that are sandwiching an electrolyte. Application of potential difference leads to polarization of the electrolyte thus enabling energy storage similar to the way in which a conventional capacitor acts.
“We use the advantage of the interweaving process and create several such junctions. So, with each junction being able to store a certain amount of electrical energy, all the junctions synchronized are able to store a large amount of energy. This provides high energy density to the device,” Prof. C. Subramaniam, Department of Chemistry, IIT Bombay and corresponding author of the paper points out.
The device has also been employed for lighting up an LED [light-emitting diode]. This can be potentially scaled to provide electrical energy demanded by the application.
This image accompanies the paper written by Prof. C. Subramaniam and his team,
A research team from the University of British Columbia (UBC at the Okanagan Campus) joined the pack with a May 16, 2019 news item on ScienceDaily,
Forget the smart watch. Bring on the smart shirt.
Researchers at UBC Okanagan’s School of Engineering have developed a low-cost sensor that can be interlaced into textiles and composite materials. While the research is still new, the sensor may pave the way for smart clothing that can monitor human movement.
“Microscopic sensors are changing the way we monitor machines and humans,” says Hoorfar, lead researcher at the Advanced Thermo-Fluidic Lab at UBC’s Okanagan campus. “Combining the shrinking of technology along with improved accuracy, the future is very bright in this area.”
This ‘shrinking technology’ uses a phenomenon called piezo-resistivity—an electromechanical response of a material when it is under strain. These tiny sensors have shown a great promise in detecting human movements and can be used for heart rate monitoring or temperature control, explains Hoorfar.
Her research, conducted in partnership with UBC Okanagan’s Materials and Manufacturing Research Institute, shows the potential of a low-cost, sensitive and stretchable yarn sensor. The sensor can be woven into spandex material and then wrapped into a stretchable silicone sheath. This sheath protects the conductive layer against harsh conditions and allows for the creation of washable wearable sensors.
While the idea of smart clothing—fabrics that can tell the user when to hydrate, or when to rest—may change the athletics industry, UBC Professor Abbas Milani says the sensor has other uses. It can monitor deformations in fibre-reinforced composite fabrics currently used in advanced industries such as automotive, aerospace and marine manufacturing.
The low-cost stretchable composite sensor has also shown a high sensitivity and can detect small deformations such as yarn stretching as well as out-of-plane deformations at inaccessible places within composite laminates, says Milani, director of the UBC Materials and Manufacturing Research Institute.
The testing indicates that further improvements in its accuracy could be achieved by fine-tuning the sensor’s material blend and improving its electrical conductivity and sensitivity This can eventually make it able to capture major flaws like “fibre wrinkling” during the manufacturing of advanced composite structures such as those currently used in airplanes or car bodies.
“Advanced textile composite materials make the most of combining the strengths of different reinforcement materials and patterns with different resin options,” he says. “Integrating sensor technologies like piezo-resistive sensors made of flexible materials compatible with the host textile reinforcement is becoming a real game-changer in the emerging era of smart manufacturing and current automated industry trends.”