Tag Archives: University of Copenhagen

Gold-144 is a polymorph

Au-144 (also known as Gold-144) is an iconic gold nanocluster according to a June 14, 2016 news item announcing its polymorphic nature on ScienceDaily,

Chemically the same, graphite and diamonds are as physically distinct as two minerals can be, one opaque and soft, the other translucent and hard. What makes them unique is their differing arrangement of carbon atoms.

Polymorphs, or materials with the same composition but different structures, are common in bulk materials, and now a new study in Nature Communications confirms they exist in nanomaterials, too. Researchers describe two unique structures for the iconic gold nanocluster Au144(SR)60, better known as Gold-144, including a version never seen before. Their discovery gives engineers a new material to explore, along with the possibility of finding other polymorphic nanoparticles.

A June 14, 2016 Columbia University news release (also on EurekAlert), which originated the news item, provides more insight into the work,

“This took four years to unravel,” said Simon Billinge, a physics professor at Columbia Engineering and a member of the Data Science Institute. “We weren’t expecting the clusters to take on more than one atomic arrangement. But this discovery gives us more handles to turn when trying to design clusters with new and useful properties.”

Gold has been used in coins and jewelry for thousands of years for its durability, but shrink it to a size 10,000 times smaller than a human hair [at one time one billionth of a meter or a nanometer was said to be 1/50,000, 1/60,000 or 1/100,000 of the diameter of a human hair], and it becomes wildly unstable and unpredictable. At the nanoscale, gold likes to split apart other particles and molecules, making it a useful material for purifying water, imaging and killing tumors, and making solar panels more efficient, among other applications.

Though a variety of nanogold particles and molecules have been made in the lab, very few have had their secret atomic arrangement revealed. But recently, new technologies are bringing these miniscule structures into focus.

Under one approach, high-energy x-ray beams are fired at a sample of nanoparticles. Advanced data analytics are used to interpret the x-ray scattering data and infer the sample’s structure, which is key to understanding how strong, reactive or durable the particles might be.

Billinge and his lab have pioneered a method, the atomic Pair Distribution Function (PDF) analysis, for interpreting this scattering data. To test the PDF method, Billinge asked chemists at the Colorado State University to make tiny samples of Gold-144, a molecule-sized nanogold cluster first isolated in 1995. Its structure had been theoretically predicted in 2009, and though never confirmed, Gold-144 has found numerous applications, including in tissue-imaging.

Hoping the test would confirm Gold-144’s structure, they analyzed the clusters at the European Synchrotron Radiation Source in Grenoble, and used the PDF method to infer their structure. To their surprise, they found an angular core, and not the sphere-like icosahedral core predicted. When they made a new sample and tried the experiment again, this time using synchrotrons at Brookhaven and Argonne national laboratories, the structure came back spherical.

“We didn’t understand what was going on, but digging deeper, we realized we had a polymorph,” said study coauthor Kirsten Jensen, formerly a postdoctoral researcher at Columbia, now a chemistry professor at the University of Copenhagen.

Further experiments confirmed the cluster had two versions, sometimes found together, each with a unique structure indicating they behave differently. The researchers are still unsure if Gold-144 can switch from one version to the other or, what exactly, differentiates the two forms.

To make their discovery, the researchers solved what physicists call the nanostructure inverse problem. How can the structure of a tiny nanoparticle in a sample be inferred from an x-ray signal that has been averaged over millions of particles, each with different orientations?

“The signal is noisy and highly degraded,” said Billinge. “It’s the equivalent of trying to recognize if the bird in the tree is a robin or a cardinal, but the image in your binoculars is too blurry and distorted to tell.”

“Our results demonstrate the power of PDF analysis to reveal the structure of very tiny particles,” added study coauthor Christopher Ackerson, a chemistry professor at Colorado State. “I’ve been trying, off and on, for more than 10 years to get the single-crystal x-ray structure of Gold-144. The presence of polymorphs helps to explain why this molecule has been so resistant to traditional methods.”

The PDF approach is one of several rival methods being developed to bring nanoparticle structure into focus. Now that it has proven itself, it could help speed up the work of describing other nanostructures.

The eventual goal is to design nanoparticles by their desired properties, rather than through trial and error, by understanding how form and function relate. Databases of known and predicted structures could make it possible to design new materials with a few clicks of a mouse.

The study is a first step.

“We’ve had a structure model for this iconic gold molecule for years and then this study comes along and says the structure is basically right but it’s got a doppelgänger,” said Robert Whetten, a professor of chemical physics at the University of Texas, San Antonio, who led the team that first isolated Gold-144. “It seemed preposterous, to have two distinct structures that underlie its ubiquity, but this is a beautiful paper that will persuade a lot of people.”

Here’s an image illustrating the two shapes,

Setting out to confirm the predicted structure of Gold-144, researchers discovered an entirely unexpected atomic arrangement (right). The two structures, described in detail for the first time, each have 144 gold atoms, but are uniquely shaped, suggesting they also behave differently. (Courtesy of Kirsten Ørnsbjerg Jensen)

Setting out to confirm the predicted structure of Gold-144, researchers discovered an entirely unexpected atomic arrangement (right). The two structures, described in detail for the first time, each have 144 gold atoms, but are uniquely shaped, suggesting they also behave differently. (Courtesy of Kirsten Ørnsbjerg Jensen)

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

Polymorphism in magic-sized Au144(SR)60 clusters by Kirsten M.Ø. Jensen, Pavol Juhas, Marcus A. Tofanelli, Christine L. Heinecke, Gavin Vaughan, Christopher J. Ackerson, & Simon J. L. Billinge.  Nature Communications 7, Article number: 11859  doi:10.1038/ncomms11859 Published 14 June 2016

This is an open access paper.

Heart urchin shells and air

This is a microscale (1 millionth) rather than a nanoscale (1 billionth) story but I find the idea of shells that are mostly composed of air quite intriguing. From a Nov. 10, 2015 news item on ScienceDaily,

Materials researchers love sea creatures. Mother-of-pearl provokes ideas for smooth surfaces, clams inspire gluey substances, shark’s skin is used to develop materials that reduce drag in water, and so on. Researchers have now found a model for strong, lightweight materials by diving below the sea surface to investigate a sea urchin cousin known as the heart urchin.

A Nov. 9, 2015 University of Copenhagen press release (also on EurekAlert), which originated the news item, provides more details,

Heart urchins (Echinocardium cordatum), also known as sea potatoes, measure up to 5 cm in diameter, are heart shaped and burrow in sand. They extend a channel to feed upon organic particles from the waters above their burrow. Like “regular” sea urchins, these “irregular” heart urchins are soft creatures that use their calcium carbonate exoskeletons to protect their otherwise edible bodies from predation. And as it turns out, their shells are unexpectedly robust.

The idea to study heart urchin shells dawned upon a vacationing Müter while he was walking down a Croatian beach. The paper-thin urchin shells were washed up onto the beach, and Müter [Dirk Müter, assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry’s NanoGeoScience research group] observed that they had astonishingly few blemishes despite being so thin.

To understand the sturdy calcium carbonate shells, Müter and his colleagues used a relatively new technology called x-ray microtomography. The technique was used to create three-dimensional images of the material contents, without having to break the shells up into pieces. The x-ray images are so fine that it is possible to distinguish structures of less than one-thousandth of a millimetre. This ultra fine resolution proved decisive in coming to understand the shell’s strength.

Anyone who has ever broken a piece of chalk knows that calcium carbonate is fragile. And, heart urchin shells consist of more air than chalk. In fact, as one gets up close to the shell material, it begins to resemble soapsuds. The material consists of an incredible number of microscopic cavities held together by slender calcium carbonate (chalk) struts. There are between 50,000 and 150,000 struts per cubic millimetre, and in some areas, the material is composed of up to 70% air.

Calcium carbonate can be many things, from unyielding marble to the soft and somewhat brittle chalk that we use to write with. While heart urchin shells and writing chalk share a similar porosity, the urchin shells are up to six times stronger than chalk. Müter’s studies demonstrate that heart urchin shells have a structure that nears a theoretical ideal for foam structure strength – a must for a creature that has evolved to withstand life under 10 metres of water and an additional 30 centimetres of sand.

Müter explains that to their great surprise, heart urchin shell strength varied between shell regions due to greater or lesser concentrations of struts within specific regions, not because of thinner or thicker struts.

“We found an example of a surprisingly simple construction principle. This is an easy way to build materials. It allows for great variation in structure and strength. And, it is very near optimal from a mechanical perspective,” states Assistant Professor Dirk Müter.

Müter and his NanoGeoScience colleagues expect that their new insights will serve to improve shock- absorbent materials among other outcomes.

Here is Müter holding up a sea potato or sea heart,

Caption: The heart urchin lives its entire life dug into the sea bottom. Its fragile looking calcium shell needs to withstand the combined pressure of half a meter of sand and a couple of meters water. Dirk Müter of University of copenhagen Department of Chemistry, discovered, that this makes it one of the toughest creatures known. Credit Photo: Jes Andersen/University of Copenhagen

Caption: The heart urchin lives its entire life dug into the sea bottom. Its fragile looking calcium shell needs to withstand the combined pressure of half a meter of sand and a couple of meters water. Dirk Müter of University of copenhagen Department of Chemistry, discovered, that this makes it one of the toughest creatures known. Credit Photo: Jes Andersen/University of Copenhagen

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

Microstructure and micromechanics of the heart urchin test from X-ray tomography by D. Müter, , H.O. Sørensen, J. Oddershede, K.N. Dalby, and S.L.S. Stipp. Acta Biomaterialia Volume 23, 1 September 2015, Pages 21–26 doi:10.1016/j.actbio.2015.05.007

This paper is behind a paywall.

First year Danish students achieve breakthrough with self-assembling molecular eletronics

This is in fact two stories. One features the students and an educational approach which is achieving some exciting results and the other features self-assembling electronics and the possibility of a step forward in the field. From an Aug. 17, 2015 University of Copenhagen press release on EurekAlert,

When researchers dream about electronics of the future, they more or less dream of pouring liquids into a beaker, stirring them together and decanting a computer out onto the table. This field of research is known as self-assembling molecular electronics. But, getting chemical substances to self-assemble into electronic components is just as complicated as it sounds. Now, a group of researchers has published their breakthrough within the field. The group consists of first-year nanoscience students from the University of Copenhagen.

Thomas Just Sørensen, an associate professor at the University of Copenhagen, spearheaded the research project. … Sørensen believes that the result will spawn new breakthroughs: “This is a clear step forward towards self-assembling electronics. By mixing solutions of the right substances, we automatically built structures that in principle could have been solar cells or transistors. What is more, is that they were built in the same way that nature builds such things as cell membranes,” says Sørensen.

Sørensen’s co-authors are the entire first-year of University of Copenhagen nanoscience students. This impressive feat is the result of a restructuring of the nanoscience programme in 2010, from a programme structured upon research-based instruction, to one that uses teaching-based research. For their first assignment, the students were simply asked to design, conduct and analyse a range of experiments. The new instructional type has shed research results every year since. However, it wasn’t until 2013 that a result was ready to be published.

“For us as a university, the big news is obviously that first year students conducted the research. But, we achieved a very significant result in molecular electronics as well,” states Thomas Just Sørensen.

The press release offers a description of bottom-up (self-assembling) vs. top-down engineering (standard practice) along with a few more details about the self-assembling ‘electronics’,

Electronics are normally produced in such a way that one “draws” components onto a silicon wafer and then removes all the bits that are not part of the electronic component. This is called “Top-down” production. Molecular electronics enables the production of transistors, resistors, LED screens, solar cells and so on, using chemistry-based methods. In principle, this means that electronics can become smaller, cheaper and more flexible, as well as environmentally sustainable. But whereas one can draw an integrated circuit on silicon, molecular components must self-organise into the correct structures. This is a major obstacle in the development of methods where molecules must join and self-organise in such a way that they can be found again, according to Sørensen.

“It doesn’t help to have a pile of transistors, if you don’t know which way they are turned. These cannot be combined in a way to make them work, and one won’t know which end to connect to electric current.”

The secret behind the breakthrough is… Soap. The molecular components that make self-assembling electronics possible are antifungal agents used in various disinfectants, creams and cosmetics. These cleansers kill fungi by disrupting the structures of their cell membranes. This same ability can be used to create order among molecular components. Sørensen and his students experimented by pouring a flood of various soaps, dish-soaps and washing powders together with component-like chemical substances. The mixtures were then poured out onto glass plates in order to investigate whether or not the “components” were organised by the various cleansing agents. And now they have been, says Sørensen.

“Our self-assembling electronics are a bit like putting cake layers, custard and frosting in a blender and having it all pop out of the blender as a perfectly formed layer cake,” says Thomas Just Sørensen.

In the long term, these new discoveries open the door to developing powerful and economical solar energy facilities, as well as improved screen technologies. That being said, the molecules used in the nanoscience programme had no electronic functionality. “If they did, we would have been on the cover of Science instead of in a ChemNanoMat article,” says Just Sørensen. Regardless, he remains confident.

“We were able to obtain a structure simply by mixing the right substances. Even random substances were able to organise well and layer, so that we now have complete control over where the molecules are, and in which direction they are oriented. The next step is to incorporate functionality within the layers,” says Associate Professor Sørensen. He is convinced that the next batch of challenges will make for perfect assignments for the many years of nanoscience students to come, and that like their current peers, these students will also have the opportunity to publish while in their first year of study.

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

Template-Guided Ionic Self-Assembled Molecular Materials and Thin Films with Nanoscopic Order by Marco Santella, Fatima Amini, Kristian B. Andreasen, Dunya S. Aswad, Helene Ausar, Lillian Marie Austin, Ilkay Bora, Ida M. I. Boye, Nikolaj K. Brinkenfeldt, Magnus F. Bøe, Emine Cakmak, Alen Catovic, Jonas M. Christensen, Jonas H. Dalgaard, Helena Maria D. Danielsen, Abdel H. El Bouyahyaoui, Sarah E. H. El Dib, Btihal El Khaiyat, Iqra Farooq, Freja K. Fjellerup, Gregers W. Frederiksen, Henriette R. S. Frederiksen, David Gleerup, Mikkel Gold, Morten F. Gruber, Mie Gylling, Vita Heidari, Mikkel Herzberg, U. Laurens D. Holgaard, Adam C. Hundahl, Rune Hviid, Julian S. Høhling, Fatima Z. Abd Issa, Nicklas R. Jakobsen, Rasmus K. Jakobsen, Benjamin L. Jensen, Phillip W. K. Jensen, Mikkel Juelsholt, Zhiyu Liao, Chung L. Le, Ivan F. Mayanja, Hadeel Moustafa, Charlie B. B. Møller, Cecilie L. Nielsen, Marius R. J. E. H. Nielsen, Søren S.-R. Nielsen, Markus J. Olsen, Bandula D. Paludan, Idunn Prestholm, Iliriana Qoqaj, Christina B. Riel, Tobias V. Rostgaard, Nora Saleh, Hannibal M. Schultz, Mark Standland, Jens S. Svenningsen, Rasmus Truels Sørensen, Jesper Visby, Emilie L. Wolff-Sneedorff, Malte Hee Zachariassen, Edmond A. Ziari, Henning O. Sørensen, and Thomas Just Sørensen. ChemNanoMat Volume 1, Issue 4, pages 253–258, August 2015 DOI: 10.1002/cnma.201500064 Article first published online: 2 JUL 2015

© 2015 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim

This is an open access paper.

X-raying fungus on paper to conserve memory

Civilization is based on memory. Our libraries and archives serve as memories of how things are made, why we use certain materials rather than others, how the human body is put together, what the weather patterns have been, etc. For centuries we have preserved our memories on paper. While this has many advantages, there are some drawbacks including fungus infestations.

A July 21, 2015 news item on ScienceDaily describes how a technique used to x-ray rocks has provided insights into paper and its fungal infestations,

Believe it or not: X-ray works a lot better on rocks than on paper. This has been a problem for conservators trying to save historical books and letters from the ravages of time and fungi. They frankly did not know what they were up against once the telltale signs of vandals such as Dothidales or Pleosporales started to spot the surface of their priceless documents

Now Diwaker Jha, an imaging specialist from Department of Chemistry, University of Copenhagen, has managed to adapt methods developed to investigate interiors of rocks to work on paper too, thus getting a first look at how fungus goes about infesting paper. …

A July 21, 2015 University of Copenhagen press release (also on EurekAlert), which originated the news item, expands on the theme,

This is good news for paper conservators and others who wish to study soft materials with X-ray tomography. “Rocks are easy because they are hard. The X-ray images show a very good contrast between the solid and the pores or channels, which are filled with low density materials such as air or fluids. In this case, however, paper and fungi, both are soft and carbon based, which makes them difficult to distinguish,” says Diwaker.

Diwaker Jha is a PhD student in the NanoGeoScience group, which is a part of the Nano-Science Center at Department of Chemistry. He investigates methods to improve imaging techniques used by chemists and physicists to investigate how fluids move in natural porous materials. At a recent conference, he was presenting an analysis method he developed for X-ray tomography data, for which he was awarded the Presidential Scholar Award by the Microscopy Society of America. And this sparked interest with a conservator in the audience.

Hanna Szczepanowska works as a research conservator with the Smithsonian Institution in the USA. She had been wondering how fungi interact with the paper. Does it sit on the surface, or does it burrow deeper? If they are surface dwellers, it should be easy to just brush them off, but no such luck, says Jha.

“As it turns out, microscopic fungi that infest paper grow very much the same way as mushrooms on a forest floor. However, unlike mushrooms, where the fruiting body emerges out of the soil to the surface, here the fruiting bodies can be embedded within the paper fibres, making it difficult to isolate them. This is not great news for conservators because the prevalent surface cleaning approaches are not adequate,” explains Diwaker Jha.

In working out a way to see into the paper, Jha investigated a 17th century letter on a handmade sheet and a 1920 engraving on machine-made paper. Compared with mushrooms, these fungi are thousands of times smaller, which required an advanced X-ray imaging technique available at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF), Grenoble, France. The technique is very similar to medical tomography (CT scanning) done at hospitals but in Grenoble the X-ray is produced by electrons accelerated to about the speed of light in an 844 meter long circular tube. A handy comparison: “If I were to use medical X-ray tomography to look at an Olympic village, I would be able to make out only the stadium. With the synchrotron based X-ray tomography, I would be able to distinguish individual blades of grass on the field..”

Diwaker hopes that conservators will be able to use the new insight to develop conservation strategies not just for paper artefacts but for combating biodegradation on a host of other types of cultural heritage materials. And that the developed methods can be extended to other studies related to soft matter.

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

Morphology and characterization of Dematiaceous fungi on a cellulose paper substrate using synchrotron X-ray microtomography, scanning electron microscopy and confocal laser scanning microscopy in the context of cultural heritage by H. M. Szczepanowska, D. Jha, and Th. G. Mathia. Anal. At. Spectrom. (Journal of Analystical Atomic Spetrometry), 2015,30, 651-657 DOI: 10.1039/C4JA00337C First published online 27 Nov 2014

This paper is behind a paywall. By the way, it is part of something the journal calls a themed collection:  Synchrotron radiation and neutrons in art and archaeology. Clicking on the ‘themed collection’ link will give you a view of the collection, i.e., titles, authors and brief abstracts.

World’s largest DNA origami: 200nm x 300nm

If the 200nm x 300nm size is the world’s largest DNA origami, what is the standard size?  Before you get the answer to that question, here’s more about the world’s largest from a Sept. 11, 2014 news item on Nanowerk,

Researchers from North Carolina State University, Duke University and the University of Copenhagen have created the world’s largest DNA origami, which are nanoscale constructions with applications ranging from biomedical research to nanoelectronics.

“These origami can be customized for use in everything from studying cell behavior to creating templates for the nanofabrication of electronic components,” says Dr. Thom LaBean, an associate professor of materials science and engineering at NC State and senior author of a paper describing the work …

A Sept. ?, 2014 North Carolina State University (NCSU) news release, which originated the news item, describes DNA origami and the process for creating it,

DNA origami are self-assembling biochemical structures that are made up of two types of DNA. To make DNA origami, researchers begin with a biologically derived strand of DNA called the scaffold strand. The researchers then design customized synthetic strands of DNA, called staple strands. Each staple strand is made up of a specific sequence of bases (adenine, cytosine, thaline and guanine – the building blocks of DNA), which is designed to pair with specific subsequences on the scaffold strand.

The staple strands are introduced into a solution containing the scaffold strand, and the solution is then heated and cooled. During this process, each staple strand attaches to specific sections of the scaffold strand, pulling those sections together and folding the scaffold strand into a specific shape.

Here’s the answer to the question I asked earlier about the standard size for DNA origami and a description for how the researchers approached the problem of making a bigger piece (from the news release,

The standard for DNA origami has long been limited to a scaffold strand that is made up of 7,249 bases, creating structures that measure roughly 70 nanometers (nm) by 90 nm, though the shapes may vary.

However, the research team led by LaBean has now created DNA origami consisting of 51,466 bases, measuring approximately 200 nm by 300 nm.

“We had to do two things to make this viable,” says Dr. Alexandria Marchi, lead author of the paper and a postdoctoral researcher at Duke. “First we had to develop a custom scaffold strand that contained 51 kilobases. We did that with the help of molecular biologist Stanley Brown at the University of Copenhagen.

“Second, in order to make this economically feasible, we had to find a cost-effective way of synthesizing staple strands – because we went from needing 220 staple strands to needing more than 1,600,” Marchi says.

The researchers did this by using what is essentially a converted inkjet printer to synthesize DNA directly onto a plastic chip.

“The technique we used not only creates large DNA origami, but has a fairly uniform output,” LaBean says. “More than 90 percent of the origami are self-assembling properly.”

For the curious, a link to and a citation for the paper,

Toward Larger DNA Origami by Alexandria N. Marchi, Ishtiaq Saaem, Briana N. Vogen, Stanley Brown, and Thomas H. LaBean. Nano Lett., Article ASAP DOI: 10.1021/nl502626s Publication Date (Web): September 1, 2014
Copyright © 2014 American Chemical Society

This paper is behind a paywall.

The Danes get more from their marijuana

A Sept. 8, 2014 news item on ScienceDaily features work at the University of Copenhagen where scientists are researching a new method for reducing consumption of drugs such as adrenaline and cannabis when used therapeutically,

About 40% of all medicines used today work through the so-called “G protein-coupled receptors.” These receptors react to changes in the cell environment, for example, to increased amounts of chemicals like cannabis, adrenaline or the medications we take and are therefore of paramount importance to the pharmaceutical industry.

“There is a lot of attention on research into “G protein-coupled receptors,” because they have a key roll in recognizing and binding different substances. Our new method is of interest to the industry because it can contribute to faster and cheaper drug development,” explains Professor Dimitrios Stamou, who heads the Nanomedicine research group at the Nano-Science Center, where the method has been developed. …

A Sept. 8, 2014 University of Copenhagen news release on EurekAlert, which originated the news item, provides a little more detail,

The new method will reduce dramatically the use of precious membrane protein samples. Traditionally, you test a medicinal substance by using small drops of a sample containing the protein that the medicine binds to. If you look closely enough however, each drop is composed of thousands of billions of small nano-containers containing the isolated proteins. Until now, it has been assumed that all of these nano-containers are identical. But it turns out this is not the case and that is why researchers can use a billion times smaller samples for testing drug candidates than hitherto.

“We have discovered that each one of the countless nano-containers is unique. Our method allows us to collect information about each individual nano-container. We can use this information to construct high-throughput screens, where you can, for example, test how medicinal drugs bind G protein-coupled receptors”, explains Signe Mathiasen, who is first author of the paper describing the screening method in Nature Methods. Signe Mathiasen has worked on developing a screening method over the last four years at the University of Copenhagen, where she wrote her PhD thesis research project under the supervision of Professor Stamou.

Although the title doesn’t betray its marijuana orientation, this is a link to and a citation for the researchers’ work,

Nanoscale high-content analysis using compositional heterogeneities of single proteoliposomes by Signe Mathiasen, Sune M Christensen, Juan José Fung, Søren G F Rasmussen, Jonathan F Fay, Sune K Jorgensen, Salome Veshaguri, David L Farrens, Maria Kiskowski, Brian Kobilka, & Dimitrios Stamou. Nature Methods 11, 931–934 (2014) doi:10.1038/nmeth.3062 Published online 03 August 2014

This paper is behind a paywall.

Journal of Responsible Innovation is launched and there’s a nanotechnology connection

According to an Oct. 30, 2013 news release from the Taylor & Francis Group, there’s a new journal being launched, which is good news for anyone looking to get their research or creative work (which retains scholarly integrity) published in a journal focused on emerging technologies and innovation,

Journal of Responsible Innovation will focus on intersections of ethics, societal outcomes, and new technologies: New to Routledge for 2014 [Note: Routledge is a Taylor & Francis Group brand]

Scholars and practitioners in the emerging interdisciplinary field known as “responsible innovation” now have a new place to publish their work. The Journal of Responsible Innovation (JRI) will offer an opportunity to articulate, strengthen, and critique perspectives about the role of responsibility in the research and development process. JRI will also provide a forum for discussions of ethical, social and governance issues that arise in a society that places a great emphasis on innovation.

Professor David Guston, director of the Center for Nanotechnology in Society at Arizona State University and co-director of the Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes, is the journal’s founding editor-in-chief. [emphasis mine] The Journal will publish three issues each year, beginning in early 2014.

“Responsible innovation isn’t necessarily a new concept, but a research community is forming and we’re starting to get real traction in the policy world,” says Guston. “It is our hope that the journal will help solidify what responsible innovation can mean in both academic and industrial laboratories as well as in governments.”

“Taylor & Francis have been working with the scholarly community for over two centuries and over the past 20 years, we have launched more new journals than any other publisher, all offering peer-reviewed, cutting-edge research,” adds Editorial Director Richard Steele. “We are proud to be working with David Guston and colleagues to create a lively forum in which to publish and debate research on responsible technological innovation.”

An emerging and interdisciplinary field

The term “responsible innovation” is often associated with emerging technologies—for example, nanotechnology, synthetic biology, geoengineering, and artificial intelligence—due to their uncertain but potentially revolutionary influence on society. [emphasis mine] Responsible innovation represents an attempt to think through the ethical and social complexities of these technologies before they become mainstream. And due to the broad impacts these technologies may have, responsible innovation often involves people working in a variety of roles in the innovation process.

Bearing this interdisciplinarity in mind, the Journal of Responsible Innovation (JRI) will publish not only traditional journal articles and research reports, but also reviews and perspectives on current political, technical, and cultural events. JRI will publish authors from the social sciences and the natural sciences, from ethics and engineering, and from law, design, business, and other fields. It especially hopes to see collaborations across these fields, as well.

“We want JRI to help organize a research network focused around complex societal questions,” Guston says. “Work in this area has tended to be scattered across many journals and disciplines. We’d like to bring those perspectives together and start sharing our research more effectively.”

Now accepting manuscripts

JRI is now soliciting submissions from scholars and practitioners interested in research questions and public issues related to responsible innovation. [emphasis mine] The journal seeks traditional research articles; perspectives or reviews containing opinion or critique of timely issues; and pedagogical approaches to teaching and learning responsible innovation. More information about the journal and the submission process can be found at www.tandfonline.com/tjri.

About The Center for Nanotechnology in Society at ASU

The Center for Nanotechnology in Society at ASU (CNS-ASU) is the world’s largest center on the societal aspects of nanotechnology. CNS-ASU develops programs that integrate academic and societal concerns in order to better understand how to govern new technologies, from their birth in the laboratory to their entrance into the mainstream.

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About Taylor & Francis Group

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Taylor & Francis Group partners with researchers, scholarly societies, universities and libraries worldwide to bring knowledge to life.  As one of the world’s leading publishers of scholarly journals, books, ebooks and reference works our content spans all areas of Humanities, Social Sciences, Behavioural Sciences, Science, and Technology and Medicine.

From our network of offices in Oxford, New York, Philadelphia, Boca Raton, Boston, Melbourne, Singapore, Beijing, Tokyo, Stockholm, New Delhi and Johannesburg, Taylor & Francis staff provide local expertise and support to our editors, societies and authors and tailored, efficient customer service to our library colleagues.

You can find out more about the Journal of Responsible Innovation here, including information for would-be contributors,

JRI invites three kinds of written contributions: research articles of 6,000 to 10,000 words in length, inclusive of notes and references, that communicate original theoretical or empirical investigations; perspectives of approximately 2,000 words in length that communicate opinions, summaries, or reviews of timely issues, publications, cultural or social events, or other activities; and pedagogy, communicating in appropriate length experience in or studies of teaching, training, and learning related to responsible innovation in formal (e.g., classroom) and informal (e.g., museum) environments.

JRI is open to alternative styles or genres of writing beyond the traditional research paper or report, including creative or narrative nonfiction, dialogue, and first-person accounts, provided that scholarly completeness and integrity are retained.[emphases mine] As the journal’s online environment evolves, JRI intends to invite other kinds of contributions that could include photo-essays, videos, etc. [emphasis mine]

I like to check out the editorial board for these things (from the JRI’s Editorial board webpage; Note: Links have been removed),,

Editor-in-Chief

David. H. Guston , Arizona State University, USA

Associate Editors

Erik Fisher , Arizona State University, USA
Armin Grunwald , ITAS , Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Germany
Richard Owen , University of Exeter, UK
Tsjalling Swierstra , Maastricht University, the Netherlands
Simone van der Burg, University of Twente, the Netherlands

Editorial Board

Wiebe Bijker , University of Maastricht, the Netherlands
Francesca Cavallaro, Fundacion Tecnalia Research & Innovation, Spain
Heather Douglas , University of Waterloo, Canada
Weiwen Duan , Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, China
Ulrike Felt, University of Vienna, Austria
Philippe Goujon , University of Namur, Belgium
Jonathan Hankins , Bassetti Foundation, Italy
Aharon Hauptman , University of Tel Aviv, Israel
Rachelle Hollander , National Academy of Engineering, USA
Maja Horst , University of Copenhagen, Denmark
Noela Invernizzi , Federal University of Parana, Brazil
Julian Kinderlerer , University of Cape Town, South Africa
Ralf Lindner , Frauenhofer Institut, Germany
Philip Macnaghten , Durham University, UK
Andrew Maynard , University of Michigan, USA
Carl Mitcham , Colorado School of Mines, USA
Sachin Chaturvedi , Research and Information System for Developing Countries, India
René von Schomberg, European Commission, Belgium
Doris Schroeder , University of Central Lancashire, UK
Kevin Urama , African Technology Policy Studies Network, Kenya
Frank Vanclay , University of Groningen, the Netherlands
Jeroen van den Hoven, Technical University, Delft, the Netherlands
Fern Wickson , Genok Center for Biosafety, Norway
Go Yoshizawa , Osaka University, Japan

Good luck to the publishers and to those of you who will be making submissions. As for anyone who may be as curious as I was about the connection between Routledge and Francis & Taylor, go here and scroll down about 75% of the page (briefly, Routledge is a brand).

Responsible innovation at the Center for Nanotechnology in Society’s (Arizona State University) Virtual Institute

The US National Science Foundation (NSF) has a funding program called Science Across Virtual Institutes (SAVI) which facilitates global communication for scientists, engineers, and educators. From the SAVI home page,

Science Across Virtual Institutes (SAVI) is a mechanism to foster and strengthen interaction among scientists, engineers and educators around the globe. It is based on the knowledge that excellence in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) research and education exists in many parts of the world, and that scientific advances can be accelerated by scientists and engineers working together across international borders.

According to a Sept. 24, 2013 news item on Nanowerk, the NSF’s SAVI program has funded a new virtual institute at Arizona State University’s (ASU)  Center for Nanotechnology in Societ6y (CNS), Note: Links have been removed,

The National Science Foundation recently announced a grant of nearly $500,000 to establish a new Virtual Institute for Responsible Innovation (VIRI) at the Center for Nanotechnology in Society at ASU (CNS-ASU). In a global marketplace that thrives on technological innovation, incorporating ethics, responsibility and sustainability into research and development is a critical priority.

VIRI’s goal is to enable an international community of students and scholars who can help establish a common understanding of responsible innovation in research, training and outreach. By doing so, VIRI aims to contribute to the governance of emerging technologies that are dominated by market uncertainty and difficult questions of how well they reflect societal values.

VIRI founding institutional partners are University of Exeter (UK), Durham University (UK), University of Sussex (UK), Maastricht University (Netherlands), University of Copenhagen (Denmark), Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (Germany), University of Waterloo (Canada), Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences (Norway), and State University of Campinas (Brazil).

VIRI founding institutional affiliates are the US National Academy of Engineering’s Center for Engineering, Ethics and Society, IEEE Spectrum Online and Fondazione Giannino Bassetti.

Interesting cast of characters.

The Sept. 23, 2013 ASU news release, which originated the news item, offers some insight into the time required to create this new virtual institute,

Led by ASU faculty members David Guston and Erik Fisher, VIRI will bring a social and ethical lens to research and development practices that do not always focus on the broader implications of their research and products. Guston, director of CNS-ASU, co-director of the Consortium of Science, Policy and Outcomes, and professor in the School of Politics and Global Studies, has been pushing for the establishment of academic units that focus on responsible innovation for years.

“We are thrilled that NSF has chosen to advance responsible innovation through this unique, international collaboration,” Guston said. “It will give ASU the opportunity to help focus the field and ensure that people start thinking about the broader implications of knowledge-based innovation.”

Fisher, assistant professor in the School for Politics and Global Studies, has long been involved in integrating social considerations into science research laboratories through his NSF-funded Socio-Technical Integration Research (STIR) project, an affiliated project of CNS-ASU.

“Using the insights we’ve gained in the labs that have participated in the STIR project, we expect to be able to get VIRI off the ground and make progress very quickly,” Fisher said.

The VIRI appears to be an invite-only affair and it’s early days yet so there’s not much information on the website but the VIRI home page looks promising,

“Responsible innovation” (RI) is an emerging term in science and innovation policy fields across the globe. Its precise definition has been at the center of numerous meetings, research council decisions, and other activities in recent years. But today there is neither a clear, unified vision of what responsible innovation is, what it requires in order to be effective, nor what it can accomplish.
The Virtual Institute for Responsible Innovation (VIRI)

The Virtual Institute for Responsible Innovation (VIRI) was created to accelerate the formation of a community of scholars and practitioners who, despite divides in geography and political culture, will create a common concept of responsible innovation for research, training and outreach – and in doing so contribute to the governance of emerging technologies under conditions dominated by high uncertainty, high stakes, and challenging questions of novelty.
Mission

VIRI’s mission in pursuit of this vision is to develop and disseminate a sophisticated conceptual and operational understanding of RI by facilitating collaborative research, training and outreach activities among a broad partnership of academic and non-academic institutions.
Activities

VIRI will:

  • perform interlinked empirical, reflexive and normative research in a collaborative and comparative mode to explore and develop key concepts in RI;
  • develop curricular material and support educational exchanges of graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, and faculty;
  •  create a dynamic online community to represent the breadth of the institute and its multi-lateral activities;
  •  disseminate outputs from across the institute through its own and partner channels and will encourage broad sharing of its research and educational findings.

VIRI will pursue these activities with founding academic partners in the US, the UK, the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Norway, Brazil and Canada.

The site does offer links to  relevant blogs here.

I was a bit surprised to see Canada’s University of Waterloo rather than the University of Alberta (home of Canada’s National Institute of Nanotechnology)  as one of the partners.

Danish Chinese collaboration on graphene project could lead to smaller, faster, greener electronic devices

A mixed team of Danish and Chinese scientists have made a transistor from a single molecular monolayer that works on a computer chip according to a June 19, 2013 University of Copenhagen news release,

The molecular integrated circuit was created by a group of chemists and physicists from the Department of Chemistry Nano-Science Center at the University of Copenhagen and Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing. Their discovery “Ultrathin Reduced Graphene Oxide Films as Transparent Top-Contacts for Light Switchable Solid-State Molecular Junctions”  has just been published online in the prestigious periodical Advanced Materials. The breakthrough was made possible through an innovative use of the two dimensional carbon material graphene.

Here’s how the transistor works (from the news release),

The molecular computer chip is a sandwich built with one layer of gold, one of molecular components and one of the extremely thin carbon material graphene. The molecular transistor in the sandwich is switched on and of using a light impulse so one of the peculiar properties of graphene is highly useful. Even though graphene is made of carbon, it’s almost completely translucent.

Using the new graphene chip researchers can now place their molecules with great precision. This makes it faster and easier to test the functionality of molecular wires, contacts and diodes so that chemists will know in no time whether they need to get back to their beakers to develop new functional molecules, explains Nørgaard [Kasper Nørgaard, an associate professor in chemistry at the University of Copenhagen].

“We’ve made a design, that’ll hold many different types of molecule” he says and goes on: “Because the graphene scaffold is closer to real chip design it does make it easier to test components, but of course it’s also a step on the road to making a real integrated circuit using molecular components. And we must not lose sight of the fact that molecular components do have to end up in an integrated circuit, if they are going to be any use at all in real life”.

In addition to the other benefits of this graphene chip, greater precision, etc., it is also greener, requiring no rare earths or heavy metals.

If you have problems accessing the news release, you can find the information in a June 20, 2013 news item on Nanowerk.