Tag Archives: University of Virginia

Thin-film electronic stickers for the Internet of Things (IoT)

This research is from Purdue University (Indiana, US) and the University of Virginia (US) increases and improves the interactivity between objects in what’s called the Internet of Things (IoT).

Caption: Electronic stickers can turn ordinary toy blocks into high-tech sensors within the ‘internet of things.’ Credit: Purdue University image/Chi Hwan Lee

From a July 16, 2018 news item on ScienceDaily,

Billions of objects ranging from smartphones and watches to buildings, machine parts and medical devices have become wireless sensors of their environments, expanding a network called the “internet of things.”

As society moves toward connecting all objects to the internet — even furniture and office supplies — the technology that enables these objects to communicate and sense each other will need to scale up.

Researchers at Purdue University and the University of Virginia have developed a new fabrication method that makes tiny, thin-film electronic circuits peelable from a surface. The technique not only eliminates several manufacturing steps and the associated costs, but also allows any object to sense its environment or be controlled through the application of a high-tech sticker.

Eventually, these stickers could also facilitate wireless communication. …

A July 16, 2018 University of Purdue news release (also on EurekAlert), which originated the news item, explains more,

“We could customize a sensor, stick it onto a drone, and send the drone to dangerous areas to detect gas leaks, for example,” said Chi Hwan Lee, Purdue assistant professor of biomedical engineering and mechanical engineering.

Most of today’s electronic circuits are individually built on their own silicon “wafer,” a flat and rigid substrate. The silicon wafer can then withstand the high temperatures and chemical etching that are used to remove the circuits from the wafer.

But high temperatures and etching damage the silicon wafer, forcing the manufacturing process to accommodate an entirely new wafer each time.

Lee’s new fabrication technique, called “transfer printing,” cuts down manufacturing costs by using a single wafer to build a nearly infinite number of thin films holding electronic circuits. Instead of high temperatures and chemicals, the film can peel off at room temperature with the energy-saving help of simply water.

“It’s like the red paint on San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge – paint peels because the environment is very wet,” Lee said. “So in our case, submerging the wafer and completed circuit in water significantly reduces the mechanical peeling stress and is environmentally-friendly.”

A ductile metal layer, such as nickel, inserted between the electronic film and the silicon wafer, makes the peeling possible in water. These thin-film electronics can then be trimmed and pasted onto any surface, granting that object electronic features.

Putting one of the stickers on a flower pot, for example, made that flower pot capable of sensing temperature changes that could affect the plant’s growth.

Lee’s lab also demonstrated that the components of electronic integrated circuits work just as well before and after they were made into a thin film peeled from a silicon wafer. The researchers used one film to turn on and off an LED light display.

“We’ve optimized this process so that we can delaminate electronic films from wafers in a defect-free manner,” Lee said.

This technology holds a non-provisional U.S. patent. The work was supported by the Purdue Research Foundation, the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL-S-114-054-002), the National Science Foundation (NSF-CMMI-1728149) and the University of Virginia.

The researchers have provided a video,

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

Wafer-recyclable, environment-friendly transfer printing for large-scale thin-film nanoelectronics by Dae Seung Wie, Yue Zhang, Min Ku Kim, Bongjoong Kim, Sangwook Park, Young-Joon Kim, Pedro P. Irazoqui, Xiaolin Zheng, Baoxing Xu, and Chi Hwan Lee.
PNAS July 16, 2018 201806640 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1806640115
published ahead of print July 16, 2018

This paper is behind a paywall.

Dexter Johnson provides some context in his July 25, 2018 posting on the Nanoclast blog (on the IEEE [Institute of Electronic and Electrical Engineers] website), Note: A link has been removed,

The Internet of Things (IoT), the interconnection of billions of objects and devices that will be communicating with each other, has been the topic of many futurists’ projections. However, getting the engineering sorted out with the aim of fully realizing the myriad visions for IoT is another story. One key issue to address: How do you get the electronics onto these devices efficiently and economically?

A team of researchers from Purdue University and the University of Virginia has developed a new manufacturing process that could make equipping a device with all the sensors and other electronics that will make it Internet capable as easily as putting a piece of tape on it.

… this new approach makes use of a water environment at room temperature to control the interfacial debonding process. This allows clean, intact delamination of prefabricated thin film devices when they’re pulled away from the original wafer.

The use of mechanical peeling in water rather than etching solution provides a number of benefits in the manufacturing scheme. Among them are simplicity, controllability, and cost effectiveness, says Chi Hwan Lee, assistant professor at Purdue University and coauthor of the paper chronicling the research.

If you have the time, do read Dexter’s piece. He always adds something that seems obvious in retrospect but wasn’t until he wrote it.

US White House establishes new initiatives to commercialize nanotechnology

As I’ve noted several times, there’s a strong push in the US to commercialize nanotechnology and May 20, 2015 was a banner day for the efforts. The US White House announced a series of new initiatives to speed commercialization efforts in a May 20, 2015 posting by Lloyd Whitman, Tom Kalil, and JJ Raynor,

Today, May 20 [2015], the National Economic Council and the Office of Science and Technology Policy held a forum at the White House to discuss opportunities to accelerate the commercialization of nanotechnology.

In recognition of the importance of nanotechnology R&D, representatives from companies, government agencies, colleges and universities, and non-profits are announcing a series of new and expanded public and private initiatives that complement the Administration’s efforts to accelerate the commercialization of nanotechnology and expand the nanotechnology workforce:

  • The Colleges of Nanoscale Science and Engineering at SUNY Polytechnic Institute in Albany, NY and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health are launching the Nano Health & Safety Consortium to advance research and guidance for occupational safety and health in the nanoelectronics and other nanomanufacturing industry settings.
  • Raytheon has brought together a group of representatives from the defense industry and the Department of Defense to identify collaborative opportunities to advance nanotechnology product development, manufacturing, and supply-chain support with a goal of helping the U.S. optimize development, foster innovation, and take more rapid advantage of new commercial nanotechnologies.
  • BASF Corporation is taking a new approach to finding solutions to nanomanufacturing challenges. In March, BASF launched a prize-based “NanoChallenge” designed to drive new levels of collaborative innovation in nanotechnology while connecting with potential partners to co-create solutions that address industry challenges.
  • OCSiAl is expanding the eligibility of its “iNanoComm” matching grant program that provides low-cost, single-walled carbon nanotubes to include more exploratory research proposals, especially proposals for projects that could result in the creation of startups and technology transfers.
  • The NanoBusiness Commercialization Association (NanoBCA) is partnering with Venture for America and working with the National Science Foundation (NSF) to promote entrepreneurship in nanotechnology.  Three companies (PEN, NanoMech, and SouthWest NanoTechnologies), are offering to support NSF’s Innovation Corps (I-Corps) program with mentorship for entrepreneurs-in-training and, along with three other companies (NanoViricides, mPhase Technologies, and Eikos), will partner with Venture for America to hire recent graduates into nanotechnology jobs, thereby strengthening new nanotech businesses while providing needed experience for future entrepreneurs.
  • TechConnect is establishing a Nano and Emerging Technologies Student Leaders Conference to bring together the leaders of nanotechnology student groups from across the country. The conference will highlight undergraduate research and connect students with venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, and industry leaders.  Five universities have already committed to participating, led by the University of Virginia Nano and Emerging Technologies Club.
  • Brewer Science, through its Global Intern Program, is providing more than 30 students from high schools, colleges, and graduate schools across the country with hands-on experience in a wide range of functions within the company.  Brewer Science plans to increase the number of its science and engineering interns by 50% next year and has committed to sharing best practices with other nanotechnology businesses interested in how internship programs can contribute to a small company’s success.
  • The National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology is expanding its partnership with the National Science Foundation to provide hands-on experience for students in NSF’s Advanced Technology Education program. The partnership will now run year-round and will include opportunities for students at Hudson Valley Community College and the University of the District of Columbia Community College.
  • Federal agencies participating in the NNI [US National Nanotechnology Initiative], supported by the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office [NNCO], are launching multiple new activities aimed at educating students and the public about nanotechnology, including image and video contests highlighting student research, a new webinar series focused on providing nanotechnology information for K-12 teachers, and a searchable web portal on nano.gov of nanoscale science and engineering resources for teachers and professors.

Interestingly, May 20, 2015 is also the day the NNCO held its second webinar for small- and medium-size businesses in the nanotechnology community. You can find out more about that webinar and future ones by following the links in my May 13, 2015 posting.

Since the US White House announcement, OCSiAl has issued a May 26, 2015 news release which provides a brief history and more details about its newly expanded NanoComm program,

OCSiAl launched the iNanoComm, which stands for the Integrated Nanotube Commercialization Award, program in February 2015 to help researchers lower the cost of their most promising R&D projects dedicated to SWCNT [single-walled carbon nanotube] applications. The first round received 33 applications from 28 university groups, including The Smalley-Curl Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology at Rice University and the Concordia Center for Composites at Concordia University [Canada] among others. [emphasis mine] The aim of iNanoComm is to stimulate universities and research organizations to develop innovative market products based on nano-augmented materials, also known as clean materials.

Now the program’s criteria are being broadened to enable greater private sector engagement in potential projects and the creation of partnerships in commercializing nanotechnology. The program will now support early stage commercialization efforts connected to university research in the form of start-ups, technology transfers, new businesses and university spinoffs to support the mass commercialization of SWCNT products and technologies.

The announcement of the program’s expansion took place at the 2015 Roundtable of the US NanoBusiness Commercialization Association (NanoBCA), the world’s first non-profit association focused on the commercialization of nanotechnologies. NanoBCA is dedicated to creating an environment that nurtures research and innovation in nanotechnology, promotes tech-transfer of nanotechnology from academia to industry, encourages private capital investments in nanotechnology companies, and helps its corporate members bring innovative nanotechnology products to market.

“Enhancing iNanoComm as a ‘start-up incubator’ is a concrete step in promoting single-wall carbon nanotube applications in the commercial world,” said Max Atanassov, CEO of OCSiAl USA. “It was the logical thing for us to do, now that high quality carbon nanotubes have become broadly available and are affordably priced to be used on a mass industrial scale.”

Vince Caprio, Executive Director of NanoBCA, added that “iNanoComm will make an important contribution to translating fundamental nanotechnology research into commercial products. By facilitating the formation of more start-ups, it will encourage more scientists to pursue their dreams and develop their ideas into commercially successful businesses.”

For more information on the program expansion and how it can reduce the cost of early stage research connected to university projects, visit the iNanoComm website at www.inanocomm.org or contact info@inanocomm.org.

h/t Azonano May 27, 2015 news item

Clay disks and flowerpots that purify water

Ben Schiller writes in a Mar. 1, 2013 article for Fast Company about a not-for-profit organization, PureMadi, a joint venture between the University of Virginia (US) and the University of Venda (South Africa) and its water purification technology,

PuriMadi has already built a factory in the Limpopo province of South Africa and hopes to expand further. “Eventually that factory will be capable of producing about 500 to 1,000 filters per month, and our 10-year plan is to build 10 to 12 factories in South Africa and other countries,” Smith says. “We plan to eventually serve at least 500,000 people per year with new filters.”

The University of Virginia Feb. 5, 2013 news release by Fariss Samarrai describes both a disc and a flowerpot version of the water purification technology (Note: Some links have been removed),

PureMadi, a nonprofit University of Virginia organization, will introduce a new invention – a simple ceramic water purification tablet – during its one-year celebration event Friday [Feb. 8, 2013] from 7 to 11 p.m. at Alumni Hall.

Called MadiDrop, the tablet – developed and extensively tested at U.Va. – is a small ceramic disk impregnated with silver or copper nanoparticles. It can repeatedly disinfect water for up to six months simply by resting in a vessel where water is poured. It is being developed for use in communities in South Africa that have little or no access to clean water.

“Madi” is the Tshivenda South African word for water. PureMadi brings together U.Va. professors and students to improve water quality, human health, local enterprise and quality of life in the developing world. The organization includes students and faculty members from engineering, architecture, medicine, nursing, business, commerce, economics, anthropology and foreign affairs.

During the past year, PureMadi has established a water filter factory in Limpopo province, South Africa, employing local workers. The factory produced several hundred flowerpot-like water filters, according to James Smith, a U.Va. civil and environmental engineer who co-leads the project with Dr. Rebecca Dillingham, director of U.Va.’s Center for Global Health.

Here’s the flowerpot filter,

 A worker molds a filter from local clay, sawdust and water. (Photo: Rachel Schmidt)


A worker molds a filter from local clay, sawdust and water. (Photo: Rachel Schmidt)

Here are the discs or, as they are known, the MadiDrops,

 The new MadiDrops can be produced in the same factories as the filters. (Photo: Rachel Schmidt)


The new MadiDrops can be produced in the same factories as the filters. (Photo: Rachel Schmidt)

The factory is more than just a producer of water purification technologies, from the University of Virgina news release,

“Eventually that factory will be capable of producing about 500 to 1,000 filters per month, and our 10-year plan is to build 10 to 12 factories in South Africa and other countries,” Smith said. “Each filter can serve a family of five or six for two to five years, so we plan to eventually serve at least 500,000 people per year with new filters.”

The idea is to create sustainable businesses that serve their communities and employ local workers. A small percentage of the profits go back to PureMadi and will be used to help establish more factories.

The PureMadi website’s About page offers more information about the partners, the technology, and the economic impact,

PureMadi has been created by an interdisciplinary collaboration of students and faculty at the University of Virginia.  In partnership with the University of Venda in Thohoyandou, South Africa, and developing-world communities in Limpopo Province, South Africa, PureMadi is working to provide sustainable solutions to global water problems.

Our first project is the development of a sustainable, ceramic water filter factory in South Africa.  Ceramic filters are a point-of-use (e.g. household-level) water treatment technology.  Ceramic filters can be produced with local materials (clay, sawdust, and water) and local labor. The materials are mixed in appropriate proportions, pressed into the shape of a filter pot, and fired in a kiln at 900 ˚C.  Upon firing, the clay forms a ceramic and the sawdust combusts, leaving a porous ceramic matrix for filtration.  In addition, the filters are treated with a dilute solution of silver nanoparticles.  The nanoparticles lodge in the pore space of the ceramic matrix and act as a highly effective disinfectant for waterborne pathogens like Vibrio cholerae and pathogenic strains of Escherichia coli.   Untreated water can then be passed through the filter and collected in a lower reservoir with a spigot to obtain purified water.

In the field and in the laboratory, we have demonstrated that this technology is highly effective at purifying water and the filters are socially acceptable to developing-world communities.  In some of our most recent work, we have shown that the filters significantly improve the health outcomes of human populations using the filters relative to groups who only drink untreated water.

A filter factory can become a sustainable business venture that provides economic stimulus to the local community.  Our goal is to create a blueprint for a successful factory, including its architecture, efficiency of water and energy use, technological performance of the filter itself, and an effective and sustainable business model.

While the flowerpot filter has been well received the MadiDrop fills another need, from the University of Virginia news release,

MadiDrop is an alternative to the flowerpot filter, but ideally would be used in conjunction with it. The plan is to mass-produce the product at the same factories where the PureMadi filters are produced.

“MadiDrop is cheaper, easier to use, and is easier to transport than the PureMadi filter, but because it is placed into the water, rather than having the water filter through it, the MadiDrop is not effective for removing sediment in water that causes discoloration or flavor impairment,” Smith said. “But its ease of use, cost-effectiveness and simple manufacturing process should allow us to make it readily available to a substantial population of users, more so than the more expensive PureMadi filter.”

Testing shows that the filters are safe to use and release only trace amounts of silver or copper particles, well within the safe water standards of the developed world. The filters also would be useful in rural areas of developed countries such as the United States where people rely on untreated well water.

Smith noted that U.Va. Architecture School professor Anselmo Canfora and his students have worked closely with PureMadi to design sustainable filter factories for developing countries that would optimize use of local labor and materials.

The National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, U.Va.’s Jefferson Public Citizen Program and the Vice Provost for Global Affairs provide support to PureMadi. Partners include the University of Venda in South Africa; Potters for Peace, a nonprofit organization committed to providing safe drinking water in the developing world; and local communities in Limpopo province in South Africa.

Taken in conjunction with my Feb. 28, 2013 posting titled, Silver nanoparticles, water, the environment, and toxicity, where I juxtaposed two articles about toxicity and silver nanoparticles (they’re ok/they’re not ok) to illustrate the complexity surrounding the question of risk, this article which features silver (and copper) nanoparticles in use for water purification adds another dimension to the question. What are the risks?, to add, are they worth taking?

Canadian attosecond researcher wins medal

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC)  awarded Dr. Paul Corkum at the University of Ottawa with $1M in funding and the Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal for Science and Engineering. Corkum’s work is in the field of attosecond science.

I looked up attosecond to find out that it is one quintillionth of a second or one thousandth of a femtosecond. I found the description of the work a little more helpful (from Attosecond science researcher wins Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal),

Dr. Paul Corkum and his team at NRC used the world’s fastest laser light pulses to capture the first image of an electron, one of the smallest bits of matter in the universe.

And this helped too,

Dr. Paul Corkum and his team … used the world’s fastest laser light pulses to capture the first image of an electron, one of the smallest bits of matter in the universe. This manipulation of electrons could lead to breakthroughs in fields as diverse as computing, engineering and medicine.

I’m still trying to find ways to describe nanotechnology and now there’s attosecond science. Not to mention synthetic biology (I’m still not sure I can define the difference between that and biotechnology). Btw, there’s a Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies event, Synthetic Biology: The Next Biotech Revolution Is Brewing on Wednesday, March 25, 2009 from 9:30 am to 10:30 am PST. It will be webcast live and posted on their website a few days later. If you’re in the Washington, DC area and want to attend please RSVP by clicking on the event title link. The event features Michael Rodemeyer from the University of Virginia. He’s the author of a report titled New Life, Old Bottles: Regulating First-Generation Products of Synthetic Biology and will be discussing the US regulatory framework for biotechnology and whether synthetic biology can be contained within that framework.

Quantum dots possibly toxic? And a followup to the Canadian 2009 budget and Genome Canada

After last week’s (and continuing into this week) excitement over Canadian scientists creating the smallest quantum dot ever, there’s an article about possible toxicity in Science Daily here. The gist of the article is that quantum dots which are used in solar cells, medical imaging devices, and elsewhere could decompose during use or after they’re disposed. In any event, the decomposed dots could release metals that are toxic when they are exposed to acidic and/or alkaline environments. According to the article, there’s no need to sound an alarm yet but it’s a good idea to keep an eye on the situation.

I made a comment abut mapping genomes when discussing the science funding cuts in the Canadian budget which featured Genome Canada’s complete disappearance [from the budget].  I referred to a comment by Denise Caruso (she was featured in a Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies webcast discussing synthetic biology here). I’ve reviewed the webcast and found that she wasn’t referring to genome mapping per se but was discussing something called the Encode Study which was four years long and funded by the Human Genome Project. It featured an international consortium of 80 organizations that were working together to create an encyclopedia of DNA elements. Here’s a rough transcription of her comments,

We have no idea what we’re talking about here. The genes don’t operate the way we thought they did. The genome is not a tidy collection of independent genes where the sequence of DNA does this [action] and always does this so we can put it on a shelf [and have it on a] parts inventory list. [The genes] operate within networks. What they [study participants] said was almost 180 degrees opposite to what we have believed for quite some time.

Rick Weiss who was interviewing her went on to describe how a genes that are seemingly unrelated signal each other in ways that we had not expected. Who knows how it all works in the environment i.e. when you get out of the lab?

So getting back to my original point, mapping is fine but it’s not the most primary goal. As per the webcast, it’s the relationships or networks that are important.

A quick note: the University of Virginia has a virtual lab that features information and podcasts about nano. You can go here to see it.