Nano Now Issue 3 by omerahm

VIEWS: 597 PAGES: 44



Nanotechnology and the
The future of life on earth Ian Pearson asks what limits there are to life A leaf out of nature’s book Michael Grätzel reveals his passion for solar cells 21st Century Fashion Nanotech and eco-friendly fashion What’s new in nano? Keep up with the latest news Polish potential Going nano in Poland Global warming Nanoscientists take it on



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In the next issue: Nanotechnology in Transport. Cars of the future. Solar aeroplanes. Space travel. Building solar cells. What’s new in Nano. Nano in the Netherlands. Nanomedicine and governance …and lots more.
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Issue 3 September 2007
Editor Elaine Mulcahy elaine.mulcahy +44 (0)1786 447520 IoN Publishing Ltd Dr David Rickerby, European Commission Joint Research Centre. Richard Moore, Institute of Nanotechnology. Frances Geesin, University of the Arts London. Design Different Voice Dr Antonietta Gatti University of Modena and Reggio Emilia Advertising Ottilia Saxl Nanotechnology. Ian Pearson, futurologist. Dr Semali Perera, Bath University. Keith Barnham, Quantasol. Sandy Black, London College of Fashion. Andrzej Wajs, British Embassy, Warsaw. Michael Grätzel Ecole Polytechnique de Lausanne. Robert Akid, Sheffield Hallam University. ©2007 IoN Publishing Ltd 6 The Alpha Centre Stirling University Innovation Park Stirling FK9 4NF Scotland Subscriptions Gemma McCulloch +44 (0)1786 447520 +44 (0)1786 447520

Contributors Ottilia Saxl, Institute of

Polish potential ....................................024 Enhanced funding, education and industry links could see Poland become a world player in nanotechnology

Tackling Global Warming ..................016 A new technology that could drastically reduce the amount of pollution emitted by a range of industrial processes

Taking a leaf out of nature’s book ....027 Michael Grätzel explains how nature inspired him to create revolutionary solar cells and discusses the future of harvesting

Harnessing the sun .............................018
Nanotechnology is leading to effective and affordable ways of energy generation and offers great potential for reducing carbon emissions


solar light and renewable energy

More Fashion = Less waste? ............021 Nanotechnology and the fashion paradox

The future of life on earth ..................012 Ian Pearson asks whether the natural world and cyberspace could one day co-exist

Small additions for big savings ........032 Novel nano-solutions for corrosion resistant coatings


Editorial.................................................004 Events ....................................................006

Nanoprotection ....................................034 What’s new in nano .............................008 Some future technologies that could help clean contaminated drinking water and purify polluted air Medical nanotechnology....................038



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Nanotechnologies for the Environment
This issue of nanonow examines some of those nanotechnologybased advances that have a real potential to make a difference in terms of energy generation, and pollution reduction.
might have on the planet. But with the ongoing destruction of the rainforest (which is responsible for 25% of carbon emissions), burning fossil fuel for transport (another 45%) and the population of the world reaching over 6.3 billion, the earth, the sea and the atmosphere are showing signs of being unable to bounce back. Where can we seek solutions? Apart from those who demand the most and those prepared to make real sacrifices – of which there is no evidence whatsoever(!) – what can technology, especially nanotechnology, offer as a first step in this battle for survival? This issue of nanonow examines some of those nanotechnology-based advances that have a real potential to make a difference in terms of energy generation, and pollution reduction. These include new, nanotechnology-based solar energy collectors which can be deployed as small units in our homes and offices. The importance of these is thrown into sharp relief when it is realised that energy from sunlight is sufficient to meet our demands ten thousand times over. These new solar collectors work well in diffuse light, so even suit less sunny climates. They also have the important benefit of not sterilizing precious land (a diminishing but essential resource, if we want to continue to feed ourselves!), and can quickly improve the quality of many people’s lives, including raising the education and medical standards for the poorer inhabitants of the world. With regard to reducing pollution, replacement of solvents are a good place to start. Most are highly toxic. Nanotechnology is the basis of breakthroughs in new nanocoatings and nano structured surfaces that are effective in repelling dirt and other contaminants leading in some cases to the eradication of

Ottilia Saxl, CEO, Institute of Nanotechnology

‘Whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad…’ Euripedes Last month the US blasted off a rocket to find out whether there is, or has been life on Mars. The Russians planted a flag on the seafloor at the North Pole, deep in the Arctic Ocean, in a dramatic attempt to stake their claim on future oil and gas reserves. Both are triumphs of technical ingenuity, but some commentators may see them as verging on the bizarre. On one hand, we are searching for life in other planets, while on the other we treat the rich diversity of life on our own with careless familiarity, verging on contempt. On one hand, we condemn the excessive burning of coal, oil and gas as the root cause of global warming and an upsurge in natural disasters, while on the other we are insatiably searching for more. There is little doubt that the pressures we are putting on the planet are leading us inexorably to potentially catastrophic consequences. In the ‘developed’ world, we are particularly profligate. In the last fifty years, as the global population has increased by a factor of three, our greed and expectations have also increased exponentially. We have grown accustomed to using a car to go to the local shops, take weekend cruises, and even day trips to farflung places that might have taken three or more months to reach before air travel became commonplace. We demand vegetables and fruit out of season, and increasingly expect to eat meat at least once, if not twice a day. We haven’t given a single thought to the effect these activities

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the need for solvents, so harmful to the environment and its inhabitants. Nanotechnology is also underpinning a new approach to the anti-corrosion coatings that contain chromium and cadmium deadly substances which the EU is seeking to ban. Heavy users such as vehicle and component producers are also keen to find alternatives, as recycling of these toxic compounds is both costly and unpleasant. Their wish is being granted through new, smart nanocoatings which are non-toxic and highly effective. Serious contamination of the environment with heavy metals and other pollutants also occurs from the fumes and smoke emitted from industrial processes. Most of these particles and gases (including carbon dioxide) will shortly be able to be ‘scrubbed’ out - and even reclaimed and reused, using specially functionalised spun nanofibres, which can be placed in the waste gas stream. Our focus on environmental technologies is rounded off with an interview with the astonishing Michael Grätzel, whose obsession with light and the natural world led him to capture the miracle of photosynthesis in his Grätzel solar cell, now being mass produced in a state-ofthe-art facility in Cardiff. Finally, when Geoffrey Sacks, the American economist and inspiration for this issue, presented the latest (2007) series of BBC Reith lectures, on the topic of ‘Bursting at the Seams’, he commented: “The fate of the planet is not a spectator sport”. He pointedly continued: ‘The problems confronting us require the application of new technologies on a scale to address the challenge. Those technologies exist, or can be developed, and public policies will be needed to get them into place”. This is a clarion call, loud and clear, to politicians and policy makers to actively use the skills of scientists - perhaps especially nanoscientists - to ensure that we can pass this magical planet on, in the wonderful state we found it, to the next generation. Or they will, justifiably, never forgive us.

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Events Calendar
September 02 – 06 COMS 2007, Australia 12th International Commercialization of Micro and Nano Systems Conference 2007: COMS2007 brings together leaders from all over the world from high tech companies, national labs, regional development and government agencies, investment and consulting groups, market researchers, educationalists and students, to explore all areas relating to the commercialization of micro and nano systems from research, technology transfer manufacturing processes, facilities, infrastructure, investment, applications and markets to regulation, social implications, education and work force development. September 03 – 07 Trends in Nanotechnology, Spain TNT2007 will present a broad range of current research in Nanoscience and Nanotechnology as well as related topics (European Commission, etc.) and other initiatives (iNANO, FinNano, GDR-E, etc.) September 11 – 13 NanoEurope, Switzerland The NanoEurope fair and conference provides a meeting platform to promote the exchange of knowledge and its commercialization. The conference will present successful industrial developments in nanotechnology and introduce new scientific insights that may be commercialized. messen/nanoeurope/ September 12 – 13 NanoRegulation conference, Switzerland The 3rd International NanoRegulation conference will explore the international regulation landscape with regards to current and future nano consumer products September 25 – 26 Pollution Prevention through Nanotechnology Conference, Arlington VA, USA A forum to exchange ideas and information on using nanotechnology to develop new ways to prevent pollution, with representatives from industry, academia, government and non-governmental organizations. The conference will feature discussions of nano-technology life-cycle considerations and the responsible development of nanotechnology. October 02 – 04 nanoTX’07, Texas This major Nanotechnology Conference and Trade Expo, which takes place in Texas during International Nanotechnology Week, highlights the world’s commercial micro and nanotechnology initiatives. Exhibitors at nanoTX present their brands to major industry leaders in science, technology, September 17 – 21 E-MRS Fall Meeting, Poland The European Material Research Society’s Fall meeting will include 10 symposia, two plenary sessions, training activities for young researchers or scientists wishing to extend their expertise to new fields as well as an exhibition of products and services of interest to those working in the field. fall2007/index.html October 17 – 18 Nano for September 18 – 19 Nanoforum 2007, Italy The third Nanoforum conference, expo, poster and partnering event is a meeting point for the spreading of new opportunities offered by nanotechnologies and to forge links between academia and industry. english/english.htm the 3rd Millenium, Prague Elmarco Ltd is holding this specialized conference which focuses on nanofiber applications and products. Nano for the 3rd Millenium – Nano for LifeTM presents the latest research and development results of nanofiber applications and technology in practice. October 08 – 12 6th ESA Round Table on Micro & Nano Technologies for Space Applications, The Netherlands Examining the role of micro & nano technologies in European space projects engineering and the Nanotech Business Community and attract the attention of thousands of technology leaders around the world.

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September 24 – 25 Environmental Effects of Nanoparticles and Nanomaterials, UK The SETAC 2nd International conference on the environmental effects of nanoparticles and nanomaterials will cover themes ranging from chemical and physical properties of nanoparticles, fate, behaviour, interaction and biogeochemistry to environmental and industrial applications of nanotechnologies, knowledge transfer and regulation, legislation, policy and public perception of this new technology.

October 24 – 25 Nanoparticles for European Industry II, London UK The Institute of Nanotechnology event will examine the latest developments in the manufacture of nanoparticles, sessions on toxicology and risk and an update on current approaches to regulation. ionevents.htm November 11 – 13 Commercialisation of NanoMaterials 2007 Pittsburgh PA, USA Bringing together industrial, government and academic groups producing nanomaterials, this conference looks into the multi-faceted technical, manufacturing and business issues related to the commercialization and

rational use of nanomaterials and provides a forum for discussion. speciality/nano07/home.html November 12 – 14 BIO-Europe 2007, Germany BIO-Europe brings together international decision-makers from the biotechnology, pharmaceutical and financial sectors offering networking opportunities, workshop participation, pre-scheduled one-to-one meetings and the potential for investment and collaboration opportunities. bioeurope/index.htm November 14 – 16 SmallTimes NanoCon International, California Nanotechnology and MEMS Networking Event featuring a dynamic conference

program that covers important business and technical commercialization issues, networking events and exhibition. fl/index.cfm November 21 – 23 Nano Solutions 2007, Germany Nano Solutions 2007 is three events rolled into one: the former “Nanotechnologieforum Hessen” exhibition, parallel conference and the exhibition Material Vision – Materials for product development, design and architecture. Nanosolutions is focused on current products and applications which have already successfully been launched onto the market and explores product improvements, cost reductions and innovative product ideas with nanotechnology.

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Lasers distinguish crops from weeds
Australian researchers are developing a world-first weed sensor and spraying system that can distinguish between crops and weeds and could significantly reduce the need for herbicides and chemicals for increased crop yields. The researchers at Edith Cowan University (ECU) in Perth say the technology uses lasers to distinguish between crops and weeds based on extracting the slopes between different wavelengths of plant colour, characteristics and leaf size. Lead researcher Professor Kamal Alameh says, “We have been investigating the optimum laser wavelengths needed to maximise the discrimination efficiency of the sensor. Further research will focus on the design and implementation of the electronic drivers and optical components to develop full photonic detection system prototypes. “ECU nanophotonic facilities will be used to develop nano-engineered thinfilm structures that effectively combine the various wavelength components to realise compact multi-wavelength laser modules for the prototypes. “The number and wavelengths of lasers in each device depend on the type of weed targeted. It’s an intelligent mechanism and can be programmed to sense changing spectral characteristics of the specific weed arising from variations in season, location and plant age.” Current indications are that the accuracy of the sensor system is about 98 per cent, but the final accuracy rate will be determined in field tests.

White light from quantum dots
South Korean researchers have created a novel light source. By coating Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) with a mixture of different sized nanophosphors they have successfully created natural-looking white-lights that possess the advantages of an LED. The quantum dots range from two to six nanometers in diameter and emit different colours depending on their size. The researchers have shown for example that by covering a blue LED with red and green quantum dots, white light can be created. The team at Seoul National University, led by Soenghoon Lee, is now perfecting the technology with the hope of eventually commercializing the design in collaboration with an industry partner. From:

NSA investment in environmental solders
NanoDynamics subsidiary MetaMateria has been awarded a US$150,000 Phase 1 Small Business Technology Transfer grant from the National Science Foundation to develop a novel low-temperature, lead-free solder technology for heating sensitive microelectronic, nanoelectronic and MEMS devices. The technology will lead to a lower-melting, environmentally friendlier lead solder material. Based on a lowering of the bulk melting temperature using nanoparticles under 10nm, the tin-, silver- and copper-alloyed nanometals employed in this project have exhibited preliminary melting depressions of 30- to 50-degrees Celsius. The result will be the development of lower-melting, leadfree solder pastes that can melt below 180-degrees Celsius. The grant will allow for further exploration into the behaviour of nanometals when prepared in different ways and with different fluxes and organics. It is also intended to develop processes applicable to additional nanometals used in brazing and other joining techniques where lower melting temperatures are ideal.

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Aromatherapy …In a pencil
Japanese stationery company Pentel has brought nanotechnologists and aromatherapists together to create what is probably the world’s first aromatherapy pencil. Sweet smells have been trapped within nano-bubbles, which are in turn infused into the pencil lead to give a long-lasting aroma designed to enhance mental capacity. The microscopic size of the nano-bubbles gives them extra strength to hold their fragrance for long periods of time — about 3 years if kept in the unopened package, 2 years if kept in their plastic case, and more than 3 months out in the open air.

Super-thin sheet could sniff out deadly toxins
Researchers at the University of Manchester have used the world’s thinnest materials to create sensors that can detect just a single molecule of a toxic gas. The devices which could eventually be used to detect hidden explosives or deadly carbon monoxide were developed by a team led by Dr Kostya Novoselov and Professor Andre Geim and reported in Nature Materials. The devices are made using graphene – a one-atom-thick gauze of carbon atoms – that was discovered by Manchester scientists. The latest research has revealed the extreme sensitivity that grapheme has to minute amounts of gases such as alcohol vapour or carbon monoxide. The researchers believe that graphene-based gas detectors could one day be commercially available but warn that more research is needed to make the detectors sensitive to individual gases.

Called “Ain supplio” the pencils were named Stationery of the Year 2007. Three flavours are available – Refresh, Healing and Positive. From:

Image courtesy of Nanosurf

Atomic Force Microscope set for Mars mission
A microscope built by Swiss nanoscience company Nanosurf in collaboration with Hans-Rudolf Hidber at the Basle Institute of Physics and nanotechnologist Urs Staufer at the Neuchâtel Institute of Microtechnology is on a mission to Mars. The so-called atomic force microscope has been designed to withstand the tough conditions on Mars and will help in the search for a habitable zone in the Martian soil where microbial life could exist as well as in the study of the geological history of water on the red planet. The AFM will provide sample images down to ten nanometres – the smallest scale ever examined on Mars. Using its sensors, the AFM creates a very small-scale "topographic" map showing the detailed structure of soil and ice grains and will hopefully provide some useful clues about life on Mars.
A one-atom-thick gauze of carbon atoms resembling chicken wire – is one of the hottest topics in materials science and solid-state physics. Courtesy of University of Manchester

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the race to exploit the vast new range of technological possibilities. Whether this would actually happen in Europe is a moot point but the Commission suggests that the Code of Conduct should set out specific measures that the Community, Member States and the scientific community could put into place to ensure the integrity of research in nanosciences and nanotechnology. As well as these three basic principles, the Consultation Paper stresses the need for

better and constant vigilance, including risk governance structures for nanoscience and nanotechnology shaping research to address societal needs and benefits increasing credibility and trust by means of an ongoing public engagement and dialogue protecting fundamental rights

Towards a European code of conduct for nanotechnology research
Nanotechnologies Research” by the end of 2007 and has issued a Consultation Paper on this proposed Code. The Code focuses on three basic principles that the Commission believes are central to a good governance of nanotechnology, namely:




Some examples of areas where these could be breached are given in the Consultation Paper, for example,

free release of solid insoluble nanoparticles into the environment (without the knowledge of the impacts); the remote control of human behaviour; physical alteration or enhancement of the human brain or of the heritable genetic code for non therapeutic purposes; human enhancement with the sole purpose to increase achievements in competitive sports; non-therapeutic enhancement of human capabilities that create a risk of dependence, or are irreversible or are beyond the range of normal human capabilities.

precaution inclusiveness; and integrity



2002 study by the Mitsibishi Institute predicts a market of €110 billion by 2012, while a 2004 Lux Research study predicts a market of €1.9 trillion by 2014 which is ten times larger than biotechnology and even exceeds information and communication technology. Whatever the exact figure, nanotechnology is set to boom and research and development is mushrooming across all sectors of industry. Materials at the nanoscale may present many novel properties that are both exciting but sometimes poorly understood. Because of this, there are fears from some quarters, including laypeople and legislators, that research in nanotechnology could lead to new ethical issues, the protection of fundamental human rights and dignity, protection of the environment and safeguarding of personal information. Some commentators have even called for a moratorium on research until safety issues have been addressed… although how one can ascertain risk and safety on novel technologies without research is debatable. Recognising these dilemmas, the European Commission has stated that it intends to adopt a “Recommendation on a Code of Conduct for Responsible Nanosciences and

The Commission’s 2000 Communication on the Precautionary Principle states that "the Commission considers that the Community …has the right to establish the level of protection - particularly of the environment, human, animal and plant health that it deems appropriate". In the field of nanotechnology, the Commission considers that such a precautionary approach should extend “…beyond the scope of physical damage to the environment, to humans and to animals, extending to protection of human dignity, the right to privacy and to personal data protection. The principle of informed consent should always be respected in any intervention on human beings. Principles relating to the safety of researchers in the course of their work should receive particular attention.” Concerning inclusiveness, the values of openness and of impartial scientific advice are stressed together with the need for open and clear dissemination of information arising from publicly-funded research while protecting sensitive data. The importance of integrity in science is emphasised but the Consultation Paper warns against the dangers of publication standards being jeopardised and ethical and fundamental rights being breached in



The initiative to prepare a Code of Conduct for the responsible development of nanosciences and nanotechnologies within the European Union is to be welcomed. Implementing the Code may, however, raise some important and difficult challenges that may need to be overcome, such as some level of harmonisation of the differing approaches to risk management and risk governance between different sectors and even different European directives and regulations, developing and implementing the necessary new testing methods and determining the appropriate balance between risk and benefit to individuals and society. Richard Moore Institute of Nanotechnology

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For a better view of technology.

Carbon Nanotubes – Will They Make it in Electronics?
by Stefan de Haan Since the beginning of carbon nanotube (CNT) research in the early 1990s, thousands of exciting experiments have been reported. Now the technology is poised to leave the lab, as evidenced by the fact that more and more findings are increasing commercially relevant. Industries like display and sensor manufacturers are already beginning to harvest the fruits of early investment and are driving a variety of CNT-based products towards market-readiness. than their silicon counterparts. However, regardless of the many proof-of-principle experiments demonstrating that CNT FETs can be integrated in existing silicon processes, manufacturability problems in this area are even greater than for interconnects: first, CNT chirality has to be controlled, since only semiconducting CNTs can be used for FETs, and second, a technology for the fabrication of good Ohmic contacts - essential to exploit the excellent transport properties - has to be developed. These are severe obstacles, making it doubtful whether CNT-based FETs will ever establish themselves.

What about electronics?
Today, applications in electronics account for less than 10% of the CNT world market, which is expected to reach about US$80 million in 2007. However, this segment features a growth rate exceeding 100% per year. CNTs amount to over 50% of all “revolutionary” nanomaterials exploited for electronics and are forecasted to remain the largest segment. We at WTC examine this evolving field and present a selection of the many examples of CNT use in the electronics industry.

Mass application in mobile phones
Remarkable developments are also occurring in the area of CNT-based RF components. Nano-electromechanical systems (NEMS) that rely on suspended CNTs can be used to implement switches, oscillators or high Q filters. The combination of outstanding mechanical and electrical properties for CNTs allows very high operation speeds and 100 GHz is within reach. Particularly the use of CNTs for fast transmit/receive switches in GSM modules is an interesting opportunity in mass markets. This application will require switching on a nanosecond scale.

Carbon nanotubes are promising for two reasons
Moore’s Law states that the number of transistors crammed onto a single chip doubles every 18 months, with feature sizes shrinking correspondingly. While there are various possible solutions in the mid-term - for instance new materials and new processes addressing the 32 nm process node - classical silicon technology is likely to hit the technological wall before 2030. To extend beyond these inherent constraints associated with “traditional” CMOS, carbon nanotubes could turn out as the alternative of choice, enabling the extension of Moore’s Law. Indeed CNTs are promising for two main reasons: an ability to carry very high current densities and valuable ballistic transport properties. This can be exploited both for future chip interconnects and field effect transistors, addressing exactly the two main problems in CMOS manufacturing. With a growing number of transistors on a chip the total wiring length increases, leading to an increase in RC delay effects and power dissipation. Looking beyond copper, the only material with the potential to improve interconnects is carbon. However, the use of CNTs here would require a great deal of parallel channels. This implies an extremely high tube density in the case of vertical interconnects (vias) and a controlled growth in the chip plane in the case of horizontal interconnects. Although it’s a highly non-trivial task to fulfill these conditions, optimistic estimates expect first CNT-based interconnects could be applied in large-scale production in less than ten years from now – simply as a result of the lack of alternatives. The case of transistors the situation is slightly different. Thanks to ballistic transport, CNT-based field effect transistors (FETs) have the highest performance figure of merit of all FET implementations investigated to date. In particular, CNT FETs perform much better

First markets will emerge in less than five years!
A great deal of R&D is still required to bring CNT technology to volume production. Achieving precise control of the growth, in particular location and chirality, is the biggest problem to be solved. But as the technology develops, markets that can exploit these devices will open up. First markets for CNTs in electronics will emerge in less than five years. So, watch out for opportunities in your business and prepare for the electronic future with CNTs. 
Stefan de Haan graduated with a distinction in physics from LMU Munich, and has deep knowledge in the field of experimental semiconductor physics and nanophysics. He is a Senior Consultant at WTC responsible for nanotechnology. He is a passionate cyclist and builds his own LED bike lights.

WTC – Wicht Technologie Consulting Frauenplatz 5 D-80331 Munich Tel +49 89 2070 260-0 Fax +49 89 2070 260-99



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on Earth
Can the natural world and cyberspace coexist? Will extinct species be recreated and new ones created? Could artificial life forms ever have consciousness? The futurologist Ian Pearson asks what limits there can be to life. New life is not necessarily restricted to conventional biology, even if it is inspired by it. It might be electronic, conventionally biological but of a new design, or based on new types of synthetic biology, or any combination of these. Additionally, in the same way as biology has single celled organisms, complex multi-cellular organisms and many varieties of cooperative systems such as slime moulds, the potential scope for totally new life forms once cyberspace is added into the mix of electronics with synthetic and real biology will be enormous. For example, we could design and build a networked organism that physically spans the whole world, which exists partially in cyberspace and partially in the real physical world. The toolkit of life Genetic modification capabilities will increase over the coming decades as we learn more about both genetics and proteomics, and as nanotechnology improves and extends our toolkit, both to work out how nature does things, and then to improve on it. One day we may be able to recreate extinct species, customise existing organisms, and design and build new organisms. These may coexist with natural organisms in the same ecosystems. Work is also going on to create artificial life in cyberspace, eventually with consciousness exceeding that of humans. It is an obvious extension to link these two domains together so that life can inhabit the organic world, cyberspace world, or span both. Having a dual existence spanning both cyberspace and the natural world will bring interesting new capabilities such as partial immortality. Creating new life is surely one of the biggest breakthroughs mankind will ever make, and certainly raises ethical issues. Yet it is in the next few years rather than the far future that it will happen. Already, simple viruses can be assembled from DNA samples, with the genetic code available on the web. The next few years will almost certainly see the creation of the first bacterium effectively from scratch, again using off-the-shelf components and the appropriate assembly instructions. But the companies that are undertaking challenges such as this will not stop at using existing biology. The intent of at least some researchers is to develop a whole toolkit of ‘synthetic biology’, which does much the same as ‘natural’ biology, but in refined or re-engineered ways. Eventually, when we understand molecular mechanics much better, humans will inevitably re-engineer vast swathes of biology. We will have a new form of ‘nature’ - a man-made version.  

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Synthetic nature - Replacing the rain forests Engineers can already accomplish limited genetic modification and genetic selection of embryos. In due course, they will be able to customise many characteristics of our offspring, as well as editing and designing other species. Although today, it is considered unethical to modify human embryos for enhancement purposes, in the sufficiently far future, it may be considered irresponsible parenting not to give children the best possible genetic and proteomic start in life. It may also become feasible to recreate extinct species by using derivatives of cloning and GM technology, provided that high quality samples of that species’ DNA are available. Later, we may be able to fill in the gaps where only incomplete samples of DNA are available, by using educated guesswork and some ‘off-theshelf’ assembly. The first instance of a species brought back from extinction by such a technique seems likely before 2010. So although Jurassic Park may remain science fiction, we will one day have at least the theoretical capability to rebuild and repopulate rain forests. But why stick with historically ‘natural’ organisms? Surely that is just a nostalgic constraint? It may become fairly routine to blend characteristics of different species to make organisms that don’t and never have existed in nature, such as Furbies for example. There could be a potentially high demand for such creatures as pets. Engineers might design both the appearance and behaviours of new organisms, from scratch, and introduce them into either existing natural systems, or even build wholly synthetic ecosystems. Even if rain forests have been totally destroyed, and their species lost, humans could design and build new ones, perhaps optimised for CO2 fixation tasks, or to be prettier or more interesting, and perpetuate life on earth, even long after humans become extinct. We may not go all the way to replacing existing nature completely, but it seems inevitable that the future organic world will be a combination of natural and synthetic life forms. Nature will certainly become even more harnessed to human goals. ‘Read-write-edit and delete’ control of nature would put humans firmly in control of future evolution. Will such power be used for the good of nature, or the good of the market? It is a sad reflection, but we will almost certainly gain the required technological knowledge and capability many years before we will have reached a level of cultural and governmental sophistication that would ensure the power is wielded with appropriate wisdom. It is like giving a powerful chemistry set to a child for its 3rd birthday! Smart bacteria One of the most significant areas of future development will be in using customised (perhaps synthetic) proteins within living cells to assemble nano-structures such as small molecular clusters or tiny electronic circuits. Meanwhile, development of molecular switches is accelerating, along with molecular sensing technology, as is of course the use of carbon nanotubes to connect components. Such bottom up assembly is often hailed as the natural replacement for today's lithography. So far however, the assembly has been presumed by most people to be done by tiny machines, not by biological cells. However, assembly of simple circuits by DNA in a test tube has already been demonstrated. Perhaps it will become feasible to do this inside living cells using customised DNA. If and when bacteria can be genetically modified to do the assembly of circuitry, it will be a major breakthrough. Once circuits are assembled, the bacteria could be disposed of, leaving the circuits. Another would be that the circuitry could actually stay inside a bacterium, and be powered by the bacterium's own biological powerhouses, the mitochondria. In a decade or two, there could well be bacteria that enclose fully functioning electronic circuits. Even though the circuitry within each cell might be limited, self organisation could link many bacteria together into useful computing, storage or sensing devices. These bacteria would self replicate quite naturally, with their computing power growing organically. It might become possible to grow very large and powerful computers in this way, without the traditional problems of power supply and heat dissipation directly taken care of by nature. Using an evolutionary design methodology, it might be possible to program large clusters for consciousness. It is a frightening thought, but in the far future, your yoghurt might be much smarter than you are! Furthermore, once we establish that bacteria could be networked directly in such a way, it is a relatively trivial step to network them across the entire world via the internet, making global organisms. And further even to this, it then becomes possible to use on-line intelligence as part of the organism’s system, making for truly hybrid organic-electronic-software organisms. This concept of hybridising organisms to have a dual existence in both the physical and electronic world is extremely thought provoking and begs the question of what limits there might be to future life, if any. They can have a wide

eBaybies For less than $1000 in 2010, it will be possible to get your full genome listed on a CD. A PC could combine your listing with your friend’s listing, to produce any number of unique genetic listings of potential children. Celebrities could combine their genetic listings to produce collectable ‘ebaybies’ that they could sell on ebay, hence the name. Each of these listings is a potential future human, once we have the technology to assemble the required chromosomes. It will become possible to assemble the required DNA and implant it into a host cell to make a real embryo. In the further future, it may even be possible to simulate the likely phenotype so that parents can choose which they would like to make real, and edit their offspring’s characteristics until they are just right. Although the ‘digital conception’ could be any time soon, it won’t be possible to use the data to create a real embryo until some time after 2020. But that is not so far away.

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variety of physical forms, but also an infinite variety of on-line or cyberspace forms. The cyberspace world is not physically continuous in the same way as the physical universe, either in time or space. There are many disconnected islands, and things can pop in and out of existence at different times and locations for example. There are many other variables too. Virus crossover from machine to human It is already demonstrably possible to assemble a polio virus from off-the-shelf genes. We should expect such capability to become more powerful, more widespread and more routine, and almost certainly heavily automated. Some machines capable of modifying or assembling viruses will be networked. This raises the potential problem that a virus could be assembled by a machine under remote control, or as the result of a specially constructed computer virus. This is a potential security threat. More interesting is the possibility that smart computers could design and construct real organic viruses without being instructed to do so by humans. So apart from terrorists sending bird flu viruses across the network, we may also have another type of ‘terminator scenario’ to worry about. Return of the Coliseum Artificial intelligence is developing more slowly than was expected 40 years ago, but is still progressing, and it is likely that we will have conscious and intelligent machines some time around 2020. Such machine intelligence and consciousness will inevitably be very different in some ways to our own, very alien. There will be a lot of debate as to whether conscious machines are ‘alive’ too, and what their rights and responsibilities should be. We must ensure that this debate is at the highest level of human capability, since the stakes are high. Sadly, there is little evidence that human nature has changed much since Roman times, when one of the forms of public entertainment was watching people hack each other to death in gladiatorial combat. Today, we have Robot Wars, where remote controlled machines do battle. The machines are clearly just machines, so there is no debate yet about their treatment. But some future robots will have strong AI and some will be designed to look and feel just like real people, with polymer muscles covered in silicone rubber. We cannot be sure whether these will ever be used in Robot Wars. It would certainly be a great crowd-pleaser if they were human-like, with synthetic blood, the more gore the better as far as audience numbers are concerned. Many will argue that it is okay because they are ‘just machines’. But if we do permit such use of androids, even if they don’t have full consciousness, we will have stooped once again to the lowest level of human morality. Need for thought Humans are embarking on an exciting new journey, with the power to create new kinds of life. This is not something that should be undertaken lightly. At the moment, there is too little discussion, and far too little in the public domain. It is not something that should be decided by big biotech and a few ethicists, the whole population needs to be engaged. And it certainly shouldn’t be done in one country without discussion in the whole global community. Once synthetic life is here, its impact will be permanent, and no country should be permitted to inflict such wide reaching impact on the whole of and the ecosystem and mankind without proper consent. The ethical, legal and practical issues arising with conscious machines, synthetic biology and networked and hybrid organisms are numerous, let alone the environmental ones. It will take a long time to evaluate them sensibly and yet the technological capabilities will mostly arise over the next two decades. It is time to start discussion in earnest now. If you have any comment on this or any other article in nanonow, or nanotechnology in general, please send it to the editor Dr Elaine Mulcahy,

Sims 5 - Real Life One of the most popular computer games to date is The Sims, produced by EA Games. It allows players to design and orchestrate a virtual soap opera. The player designs the environment, architects the buildings, does the interior design, designs both the appearance and personality of the characters, and then interferes at will in every aspect of their virtual lives. It is highly compelling, and has the ethical advantage of being creative rather than destructive. Of course, the characters only have a tiny amount of AI behind them today, but each upgrade brings slightly more advanced AI. We should expect that similar games in the far future could invoke characters with strong AI foundations, giving them real consciousness and intelligence. So there might be the capability of producing real conscious beings inside the game. Again this raises ethical issues. What level of consciousness or sentience should a game character be permitted before it is given some basic rights and protection against suffering? Will we even be able to measure such things by the time we can create them? Should children be able to control conscious beings? They would be like gods to the game characters. Furthermore, smart Sims might start producing saleable goods, such as software or music, sell them online, and make money, which they could invest in a timeshare robot and migrate into the real world. I don’t think the Foreign Office is quite ready for dealing with immigration from cyberspace. These issues are still at least a decade away, but it is time to start serious discussion about them now.

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A Novel Fibre Technology to

Tackle Global Warming
This novel molecular sieving technology using doped, spun, polymer fibres, traps carbon dioxide (CO2) and other pollutants so they can be removed and, where possible, recycled back into the production process. Although its first applications are most likely to be in the beverage industry, the technology could find uses in other areas, such as removing benzene from petrol vapour at filling stations. The technology is made up of nano-porous fibres that have tiny pores less than 1,000th of the width of a human hair and contain materials which trap volatile hydrocarbons and other gases so they can be removed from the air flow. Early trials of the technology have shown that it needs less than five per cent of the energy needed by the cleaning processes currently in use. Dr Semali Perera from Bath University’s Department of Chemical Engineering, who developed the technology along with research officer Chin Chih Tai, was awarded the prestigious £185,000 Brian Mercer Award for Innovation from the Royal Society in February 2007, to be used to help develop the technology to a stage where it has proven its commercial viability. The problem VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) and CO2 are liberated in huge volumes from waste gas streams as the result of many industrial processes. Around 24,000 million tonnes of CO2 alone are released per year worldwide, equivalent to 6,500 million tonnes of carbon annually, contributing dramatically to global warming. VOCs, as well as damaging the environment, also pose a serious risk to human health. The ability to extract VOCs and CO2 before they enter the atmosphere is essential to many industries, from food, beverage and dairy processing, to chemical, pharmaceutical and oil/gas industries. The largest emitters of VOCs by far, each accounting for around 30 per cent of the total, is solvent use and road transport. In addition to its role in ozone formation, one of the constituents of petrol vapour is benzene, also a known human carcinogen. (There is a drive to install in the UK, by 2010, new petrol vapour recovery systems in all filling stations that process over 3.5 million litres per year). So, not only does the loss of containment of VOCs from these industrial processes threaten health - it also represents the loss of valuable resources. Reducing the emission of volatile organic compounds is therefore a key issue. Existing Technologies Techniques for capturing CO2 using solvent absorption (such as monoethanolamine & MEA), have been commercially available for many years. However, for applications involving the treatment of dilute concentrations of CO2, such as in power generation (which is the world's single

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largest source of anthropogenic CO2 emissions) and combustion plants, the size, expense and inefficiency of the absorption processes are major drawbacks. In the battle to remove VOCs from waste gases, membrane tubes are widely commercially available. These are inserted into waste streams, and ‘scrub’ or extract the polluting compounds. The efficiency of these tubes depends on the ratio of membrane area to volume, and in the case of those presently on the market, this is around 30–250 m2/m3. Dr Semali Perera and her team at Bath University have created a completely new kind of pollutant extractor. These are novel, hollow-fibre ‘molecular sieving’ devices that have much higher membrane area-tovolume ratios (>3000 m2/m3) than existing membrane tubes. They are adsorbent hollow fibres that have tiny pores less than 1,000th of the width of a human hair and contain nanomaterials which trap the VOCs and other gases so they can be removed from the air flow. They have been found to be very effective indeed. It is also important to remember that VOCs and CO2 represent a valuable resource, and using this technology means that once extracted, they can be recycled. This patented nanofibre technology is being commercialised through a new company, Nanoporous Solutions Ltd, headed by Colin Billiet. The development of these revolutionary molecular sieving devices addresses one of the major areas of concern in the extraction and recovery of CO2 and VOCs pollutants – the need for a cost effective technology. Conventional thermal oxidation processes presently used to clean process waste are usually energy hungry themselves, whereas the novel nano-porous fibre technology developed at Bath has an energy requirement of less than 5 per cent of these processes, offering great energy savings that could help to reduce the environmental impact even further. This novel nanoporous fibre technology offers improved performance with much lower energy consumption, as well as providing a range of solutions for which current technology is inapplicable, including cutting emissions from a range of different pollutants. Although initial work has been geared towards the beverage industry, where recovery and reuse of CO2 could lead to significant operational savings, there are clear opportunities in a wide range of other industries, as it can be applied to many types of gases - VOC, as discussed, also H2S, many different processes and all scales of gas throughput, allowing efficient reduction in emissions across the board. The development of this exciting technology will go a long way to achieving the desired aim of making all processing plants zeroemission, through greater deployment of VOC and CO2 capture, reuse and storage, and has the potential to make a truly significant positive impact on the environment world-wide. What is needed now is investment commensurate with the scale of benefits and a fast track to market.

Pollution Control through Molecular Sieving Nano Fibres – How they work The production of molecular-sieving fibres grew out of conventional fibre ‘spinning’ techniques. Dr Perera and her team at Bath developed these techniques, and created new equipment to produce a range of nano-porous fibres from different “recipes”. The hollow fibre is formed when the polymer/solvent/adsorbents dope is forced through a special orifice (a spinneret) in parallel with an internal coagulant which is pumped through the inner tube of the spinneret. Properties of single, double, triple and quadruple layer hollow fibres have been controlled by the manipulation of the polymer type, composition/concentration and variation of the spinning parameters. Experience gained from previous studies has enabled optimisation of polymers, solvents, polymer/additives compositions and spinning conditions for systems suitable for both CO2 and VOC removal. This research has paved the way for a new generation of adsorbent fibres with low mass transfer resistance, high separation and recovery efficiencies. Devices using the technology could be tailored to remove or recycle a diverse range of gases by varying the composition of the fibres employed. Because the fibres can be ’spun’ with a high surface area to volume ratio, the devices have superior efficiency and can be constructed in compact configurations making them suitable for applications in which space is a particular constraint.

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Harnessing the Sun
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The sun is the largest and most powerful energy source, and the sun’s energy falling on the earth is sufficient to meet our needs ten thousand times over. Yet, bizarrely, the bulk of the energy we use to heat our buildings, light our houses and run our offices is not generated from the sun, but from either fossil fuels - such as coal and gas, or from nuclear sources. The burning of fossil fuels is responsible for a colossal 44 per cent of the carbon dioxide we pump into the atmosphere - widely believed to be the main culprit in global warming; and the risks associated with nuclear power are considered by many to far outweigh the benefits of using it as a source of energy generation. The ideal, safe and apparently obvious solution is to harness energy from natural sources, such as wind and wave, but the most prolific, powerful and least environmentally detrimental by far is to obtain our energy from the sun. Using novel nanotechnology solutions to improve the performance of collectors, solar power is at last offering a real potential for wide-scale electricity generation. An emerging super power The technology of generating electricity from light is called photovoltaics. Photovoltaic cells can convert free solar energy into electricity that can be used to boil a kettle, light an office or power a vacuum cleaner. This technology is distinct from the perhaps more familiar thermal solar panels which are used to heat buildings and water. The first generation of photovoltaic cells were essentially semiconductors made from silicon. Exposure to sunlight excites electrons in the silicon causing them to move through the material and generate a small electrical current. Later, second generation photovoltaic cells used less silicon or alternative materials, and although just as efficient, were much cheaper to make. The first practical application of photovoltaics was to power orbiting satellites and spacecraft. Closer to home, the first solar-powered calculators emerged in the late 1970s, but the more wide-scale application of photovoltaics to the electricity grid has remained insignificant, mainly due to high costs of the cells and their low efficiency. Increasing demand over the past decade for energy from renewable sources has rekindled interest in improving the efficiency and reducing the costs of photovoltaic cells. A leading researcher in the field, Professor Keith Barnham claims that today, photovoltaics is not only the fastest growing renewable energy source, but the only one with real potential to replace nuclear power. He goes on to say, “The recent exponential rise in photovoltaic installations at over 40 per cent a year world-wide is threatened by a temporary shortage of silicon supply. For this exponential expansion to continue and for PV to make a major impact on climate change, third generation systems must have higher efficiency and cheaper cost. Nanotechnology is now making this a real possibility”. Nano wells Barnham and his team at Imperial College London have been working on how the application of nanotechnology can raise efficiency and reduce the cost of solar cells. Led by Barnham, the Imperial College spinout company, QuantaSol, was formed in June 2007 to provide third generation photovoltaic solutions for the solar power generation market. These third generation cells are made from gallium arsenide (GaAs) rather than silicon, and have tiny quantum wells sandwiched among the GaAs layers. The different layers each harvest a different colour or wavelength of light and the wells absorb extra sunlight that would not be absorbed by the GaAs alone. The extra energy produced in these nano wells therefore improves the overall current generated in the cell, which have more than doubled the photovoltaic efficiency of the siliconbased cells. The team at Imperial have also overcome a common problem of photovoltaic nanotechnology – radiative recombination, which results in the loss of photons, and consequently a reduction in the electric  


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current produced by the cell. Rather than the photon being lost at the bottom of the well, Professor Barnham and his colleagues have shown that by placing a mirror at the back of the cell the photons are reflected back into the cell where they are reabsorbed and contribute to the output current. This finding has even further enhanced the efficiency of the cells and is the first direct observation of a process known as “photon recycling”. “If fully exploited, this could take the efficiency of the single cell to 30 per cent, which is comparable to multi-junction cells but with longer lifetime and better energy harvesting,” Professor Barnham says. One exciting application of the technology is in the development of transparent blinds for so-called ‘Smart Windows’. This overcomes one of the major hurdles of harnessing power from the sun. It is commonplace to close the blinds from direct sunlight on hot summer days in order to maintain the temperature in the room and avoid the need for expensive air conditioning. But, the dark room means electric lights need to be switched on – and so even more energy is used!

Smart Windows, in contrast, use small, transparent plastic lenses that can track the sun and focus sunlight onto tiny, third generation photovoltaic cells. The cells generate electricity which can be used to run electrical equipment within the building, while at the same time cutting out direct sunlight, which in turn reduces the need for air conditioning, refrigeration and interior lighting, while allowing diffuse sunlight to penetrate the building and provide interior light. These clever systems are a major boost for dramatically reducing the need for nonrenewable energy in homes and offices. Even in the UK, with its notorious weather, seven times the solar radiant energy falls on buildings than is used by electrical systems inside. Not making use of this free energy could seem like an unnecessary and expensive waste. Nano or nuclear Governments around the world are recognising the importance of reducing carbon emissions and supporting environmentally friendly technologies for generating electricity. Nuclear power is an option considered by many to have the potential for generating clean electricity, however, there are also many risks perceived to be associated with it, including issues surrounding the clean up of nuclear waste, and the potential risks of terrorism. Professor Barnham, who was a founder member of Scientists for Global Responsibility, believes that, with the right incentives, the use of small photovoltaic and wind systems will expand much faster and much sooner than big, new nuclear stations can be built, and eventually make the latter unnecessary. Many countries have already successfully demonstrated this potential for rapid expansion of renewables. Germany and Japan, for example, both increased their photovoltaic production by nearly two thirds from 2003 to 2004 and high-concentration

cells using the third generation technology discussed above are being developed in both of these countries. Australia too has seen major investment in photovoltaics with the planned development of the world’s largest photovoltaic power station. Expected to be completed in 2013, the power station will generate enough electricity to supply 45,000 homes while reducing the country’s carbon emissions by 400,000 tonnes per year. “Nuclear is the option with the lowest potential and the slowest implementation,” Professor Barnham says. “Using advances in nanotechnology, photovoltaics has the potential to revolutionise the energy industry and provide a clean, cost effective solution to electricity generation.”

Keith Barnham is a professor of physics at Imperial College London. He started his research career in High Energy Nuclear Physics at CERN and at Berkeley, California. In 1989 he switched to studying the potential of photovoltaics, being unconvinced that nuclear power was the solution to the impending global energy crisis. Professor Barnham strongly believes that solar energy can provide the world with much of its energy needs, especially in the light of new advances in efficiency, enabled by nanotechnology, combined with reduced generation costs.

Image: The solar cells are about the size of a one pence piece. Image: Meilin Sancho, Imperial College London

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More Fashion= Less waste?


ashion has become faster and cheaper, especially in the last decade. Global communications and marketing, together with sourcing of manufacturing around the world to produce the cheapest clothing, have fuelled increasing demand and higher consumer expectations. This has resulted in faster and faster fashion cycles, which are reaching their limits an unsustainable position in both the medium and long term. There are complex contradictions between fashion’s economic and socio-cultural importance and its inbuilt obsolescence and wastefulness, a set of issues which I have named ‘The Fashion Paradox’ . Fashion is a powerful construct, both commercially and culturally, driven by constant change and bound up with identity and the social imperatives desire for novelty and personal expression. The production and consumption of fashion represent the extremes of a very long and complex supply chain that transforms fibre into yarn and fabrics, which are then mediated by designers, manufacturers and buyers into the clothing on offer at retail. The clothing and textile sector is a significant employer – 2.7 million employed in the EU alone. Clothes are now far cheaper relative to incomes than they were a few decades ago; we now consume one third more clothing than even four years ago, and discard it after wearing just a few times or perhaps even once. The stampede at the recent opening of value fashion chain Primark’s new Oxford Street store showed how popular this cheap fashion is, but cheap fashion now means disposable fashion, and itself encourages more consumption. Fast fashion also puts pressure on the clothing manufacturers and their suppliers to squeeze more output in less time, impacting those at the bottom end of the production chain.  

Models present clothing designed by Olivia Ong, at the Cornell Design League fashion show. The dress and jacket contain nanoparticles with antibacterial and air-purifying qualities. Photo credit: Samuel Bell

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Chain of fashion The traditional fashion supply chain comprises many levels: fibre to yarn to fabric (including dyeing and finishing processes), design, sourcing and garment manufacturing, through to the buying, production and retail consumption stages. Ordering in advance is by nature speculative and sales are uncertain, due to the operation of fashion cycles, the influence of trends and the volatile factor of the weather. Continuity is therefore not guaranteed for manufacturers and their suppliers. Fashion cycles are inherently wasteful much stock is unsold even after being put ‘on sale’. Waste comes from both pre- and post-consumption phases, and surplus is burnt, dumped or traded to the developing world through the charity shops network. Almost one million tonnes of textiles are discarded annually in the UK, 70 per cent of which is dumped into landfill, despite half of this being reusable. Eco-fashion Until recently the sustainability agenda has largely been sidestepped by the fashion and textile industries – but the groundswell of consumer awareness of global environmental and ethical issues in the supply chain has now tipped over into action by the large clothing companies such as Marks & Spencer, Gap and Next. Companies that were previously seen as a major part of the problem are now becoming part of the solution. With similarities to the organic food movement, lobbying over a period of time by small eco-fashion companies and campaigning organisations has now taken hold and new thinking is beginning to emerge on a much more comprehensive scale, to impact all levels of the supply chain. Top Shop, doyen of fast fashion, has now adopted corporate social responsibility in a new mission statement, and Primark have joined the Ethical Trading Initiative, a consortium of major retailers, stating they are ‘committed to monitoring and progressively improving the conditions of the people who make products for Primark’ on signs placed next to their £1 t-shirts . The environmental impact of many processes used in clothing manufacture is now being closely examined: fibre production, dyeing and coloration, transportation and waste materials and the energy consumed in laundering and aftercare throughout the lifecycle of a garment to its disposal. There is a pressing need to reconcile these conflicting ethical, environmental, economic and personal agendas through future product development and new manufacturing cycles in the fashion industry. Traceability has become the watchword for ethical consumption. However, developed societies will not suddenly switch to an ascetic lifestyle and fashion will not disappear (even if it were not needed economically to sustain livelihoods), so ways must be found to minimise materials and waste both in manufacturing and in consumption.

Fashion designers and nano-scientists at Cornell University have come together to create novel “functional clothing”. A garment that can prevent colds and flu and never needs washing and one that destroys harmful gases and protects the wearer from smog and air pollution are the first line in the so-called “Glitterati” collection. The two-toned gold dress and metallic denim jacket, which contain cotton fabrics coated with nanoparticles, were designed by Olivia Ong in collaboration with fibre scientists Assistant Professor Juan Hinestroza and Hong Dong. Electrostatically charged nanoparticles create a protective shield around cotton fibres in the dress and jacket, giving them unique qualities. The nanoparticles in the dress were coated with silver nanoparticles which contain natural antibacterial qualities and give the dress the unusual power of being able to deactivate many harmful bacteria and viruses. The silver infusion also reduces the need to wash the garment, since it destroys bacteria. The denim jacket includes a hood, sleeves and pockets made from soft, grey tweed cotton embedded with palladium nanoparticles. The resulting material has the ability to oxidize smog – a property that would be useful for someone with allergies or living in a crowded, polluted city. The work is an example of where fashion may be heading in the future. However, it is expensive. One square yard of nano-treated cotton would cost somewhere in the region of US$10000.

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Nano-coated The opportunity presents itself for new solutions to these problems through application of emerging technologies to provide new manufacturing processes and ultimately lead us to a new relationship with our clothes. Current fast-growing technological developments and potential applications of nanotechnology to textiles and clothing are an exciting area which may offer some new solutions to these complex issues. This will require clothes to provide ongoing novelty for the consumer, perhaps by changes in functionality and appearance, to increase the value placed on garments and their longevity. For example, using nanotechnology in protective surface coatings and plasma treatments can provide longer lasting clothes, reducing consumption and waste. Textile treatments such as NanoTex® and NanoSphere® by Schoeller are already available to achieve stain repellence and ‘self cleaning’ properties. UK chain store BHS trialled nano-coated men’s trousers in 2006 (complete with point-of-sale video to educate the consumer in this invisible technology), ‘Stormwear’ water repellent jeans and chinos are on sale in Marks & Spencer, and in America Brooks Brothers ties with nano coatings are available. Anti-microbial socks containing micro silver particles embedded in the yarn have been on sale for some time. A US survey has identified more than 200 products already on the market, from sunscreens to textiles and electronic devices incorporating some form of nanotechnology. The future holds many possibilities for technology to provide environmental benefit. Imagine a t-shirt which did not fade in colour after a few washings, remained as new and could change its logo, or a skirt that could be reprogrammed to become a different colour or pattern for a different occasion. Indications in this direction are given by research in biomimetics and the study of the reflective surfaces of butterfly wings,
Photo credit: Michael Grace-Martin

the water-repellent ‘lotus effect’ or ‘smart holograms’ indicating acidity changes by colour changes in liquid. Coloration may be achieved without using traditional dyes by the behaviour of nanoparticles of gold and silver in colloidal solutions. Research in electronic functionality in fibres and textiles may soon be able to offer colour change effects on a very small scale, through the continuing development of organic light-emitting diodes and printed electronic circuits. Our clothes will continue to become more therapeutic and responsive to our needs. Future trends My wish list includes:

through protective nano-coatings which do not change the handle of the fabrics expected by the consumer. However, nanotech coatings on fibres and fabrics which are polymer based will require new methods of recycling for reclamation and reuse of raw materials - a crucial new problem to solve. The negative environmental impact of water contamination through textile dyeing is a cause for great concern which could be tackled by micro and nanotechnology, to clean and recycle available water in closed loop systems. In order to achieve this ambitious agenda, global standards are being established to ensure safety. Designers must be invited to collaborate at an early stage in technology applications and development. Together new design thinking, science and technology may yet help save the planet.

fabrics which can ventilate or insulate in response to external conditions fabrics made from materials which decompose benignly; multifunctional fabrics which can change in colour and pattern, without using battery power, in response to mood or situation fabrics which can renew themselves and recharge their functionalities



Sandy Black is a Reader in Fashion Design and Technology at the London College of Fashion. Fashion Paradox is a theme of the Interrogating Fashion research cluster. See and the forthcoming book by Sandy Black, ‘Eco-Chic: The Fashion paradox’ for more information.


Important energy savings can be made by reducing the impact of laundering clothes reducing both the temperature required and the amount of washes a garment needs

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Polish potential


anosciences and nanotechnology are expected to be among the most important factors in the development of the global economy over the next 20 years – it is widely predicted that by 2015 about 15 per cent of all products produced around the globe will use nanotechnology. And Poland does not want to be left behind. Recognising the enormous role that nanotechnology will play in determining its competitive position in the global, knowledgebased economy in years to come, the Ministry of Science and Higher Education in Poland last year commissioned an expert report on the current state of play in Polish nanotechnology with proposals for future investment, infrastructure and education. That report – Strategy for the reinforcement of Polish research and development in the field of nanosciences and nanotechnologies – was published in July this year. Poland’s limited resources for research and development, currently at 0.59 per cent GDP presents one of the biggest , challenges. This is only about 31 per cent of the EU average, placing Poland 6th in the

A8, and makes it very difficult for industrial centres in Poland to finance nanotechnology developments in the country. Despite the low investment to date, more than 50 research centres across the country have an active interest in nanotechnology and Poland has already reached world standards in certain areas of nanotechnology including nanometals, polymeric nanocomposites, spintronics, and semiconductive nanostructures, quantum programming, synthesis of nano-powders and nanolayers. The expert report therefore found solid foundations for the development of nanosciences and nanotechnologies in Poland and reported that strategic support of R & D activities would undoubtedly lead to an increase in the competitiveness of the Polish economy and Polish research teams. It recommend enhancing state budget funding to match other EU countries – equivalent to about US$100120M over 3-4 years – focusing on the key priority areas of ‘Nanomaterials and composites’ and ‘Nanoscale phenomena and processes’.

Other key objectives of the report included building specialist laboratories and the establishment of several cooperative networks for collaboration between science and industry. A virtual nanotechnology institute would coordinate nano-research across the country and facilitate links with industry and research teams striving for the same goals. Poland has also recognised the great international competition that exists in attracting the best staff and talented young researchers to work in the nanotechnology field. Attractive scholarship and grants programmes for the top students, early career researchers and established academics from both Poland and overseas are likely to draw people to the country. Meanwhile, a re-shaping the of the education system and the creation of continuing education systems in the field of nanotechnology are likely to further develop the country’s position as a world-leading education provider in nanosciences and nanotechnology.

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2007 E-MRS Fall Meeting
Demonstrating the growing strength of nanotechnology in Poland, the European Materials Research Society (E-MRS) will hold their Fall 2007 meeting in Warsaw from 17-21 September. Shape Memory Materials for Smart Systems, Genetic algorithms in materials science and engineering, and commercial exhibitions are among the conference topics. Professor Shuji Makamura, of the University of California in Santa Barbara, will be awarded the Czochralski Award, named in honour of one of Poland’s greatest scientists. The Acta Materialia Gold Medal Award will be received by Professor Herbert Gleiter who will also present the plenary lecture “Our thoughts are ours, their ends none of our own - Are there ways to synthesize materials beyond the limitations of today’s?" The Acta Materialia Gold Medal Workshop “Perspectives of nanoscience and nanotechnology”, which gathers about 30 speakers covering all nano-tech fields and the hottest present topics promises to be particularly interesting. Special fee reductions are available for PhD students. The conference will take place at Warsaw University of Technology and is being organised by Witold Lojkowski. More information is available on the conference website:

Despite Poland’s success in nanotechnology research, industry has been slow to invest in the country. Foreign companies focus on selling and distributing their products in Poland but appear less interested in investing in Polish research and development. The strategic report recommends tax incentives as well as improved exchange of information and continuing education to encourage industry investment in Polish nanotechnology research and development. Following the recommendations outlined in the report, Poland is set to become a major world player in the field of nanosciences and nanotechnologies.

The time is now right to capitalise on Polish nanotechnology. The scientists have already gone nano, the ball is now in the court of the industrial sector, and its high time for them to start it rolling. Contributor: Andrzej Wajs, Science & Innovation / EU Assistant, British Embassy, Warsaw Strategy for the reinforcement of Polish research and development in the field of nanosciences and nanotechnologies. Report of the Interdisciplinary Committee for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology Ministry for Science and Higher Education in Poland, July 2007. Available to download on

Prof. Krzysztof J. Kurzydlowski, Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Science and Higher Education, Poland

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manufacturing, and stronger materials with fewer defects. In addition, the ability to enhance and tune chemical activity can result in catalysts that improve the efficiency of chemical reactions in automobile catalytic converters, power generation plants, and manufacturing facilities. Energy and Resource Efficiency Efficiency of resource use could be improved through nanotechnologies such as light-emitting diodes. Nanocomposites are valued in automotive applications for their improved physical properties and their ability to produce parts with reduced weight (leading to improved fuel efficiency). Carbon nanotubes added to inherently nonconductive polymers allow nanocomposite parts to be painted using electrostatic methods, significantly reducing paint emissions. Conventional and rechargeable batteries are used in a growing number of portable electronic devices, and nanomaterials are beginning to make an impact by enabling batteries to last longer and withstand an increased number of charging cycles. In addition, nanomaterials can be used to make aerogels: porous and extremely lightweight materials that can save energy when used as insulation. Responsible development While nanomaterials have beneficial applications, they also raise concerns over potential implications for human health and the environment. Bioaccumulation potential, toxicity, worker and community exposure, and ultimate fate are among the concerns that merit consideration. The pursuit of pollution prevention applications of nanotechnology should be undertaken with consideration of the potential impacts across the entire life cycle of the nanomaterials, including production, use, and end-of-life disposition. A broad consideration of the benefits and potential impacts can help to ensure that economic and environmental benefits are maximized, while minimizing the likelihood of unintended adverse consequences. The conference will be help in Arlington, Virginia on September 25-26. The program will begin on Tuesday 25 September with individual presentations on current and anticipated nanotechnologies with potential pollution prevention applications. This will be followed by panel discussions on selected case studies on Wednesday 26 September. For more information or to register for the conference, visit the conference web site at nano-confinfo.htm.

Pollution Prevention

The conference – Pollution Prevention through Nanotechnology – is being organized by the EPA’s Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics and the Office of Research and Development and focuses on the need for responsible attainment of the pollution prevention benefits that can result from nanotechnologies. Since the inception of the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI), nanotechnology has become one of the United States’ top multi-agency research and development priorities. With 26 federal agency participants, NNI is a federal research and developments program established to coordinate the multi-agency efforts in nanoscale science, engineering, and technology. EPA is organising the Pollution Prevention through Nanotechnology Conference as one of several actions to further its understanding of nanoscale materials and to encourage the responsible development of nanotechnology that prevents pollution. The information from this conference will also inform the development of EPA’s program for nanoscale materials under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), including the development of a Nanoscale Materials Stewardship Program.

Conference focus This conference will focus on three major areas of pollution prevention:

Products – Products that are less toxic, less polluting, and wear-resistant; Processes – Processes that are more efficient and waste-reducing; Energy and Resource Efficiency – Processes or products that use less energy and fewer raw materials because of greater efficiency.



Products Examples of products with potential for preventing pollution include coatings that are free of volatile organic compounds and diisocyanates, safer surfactants, and selfcleaning surfaces. Nanotechnology and nanomaterials can help create alternatives to light-emitting or absorbing applications that previously relied upon heavy metalbased semiconductors. Nanocomposites may be used in a variety of products, resulting in reduced need for addition of flame retardant chemicals. In addition, products including a variety of tools, automobile and airplane components, and coatings can be made harder and more wear-, erosion-, and fatigue-resistant than conventional counterparts. Processes Processes that could prevent pollution include more efficient industrial chemical production through the use of nanoscale catalysts, and the bottom-up self-assembly of materials, resulting in processing efficiency, reduction of waste in

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Taking a leaf out of nature’s book:

harvesting solar light

Ottilia Saxl interviews Michael Grätzel, Director of the Laboratory of Photonics and Interfaces at the Ecole Polytechnique de Lausanne. Professor Grätzel invented a new type of solar cell, which now bears his name, based on dye-sensitized mesoscopic oxide particles. He also pioneered the use of nanomaterials for electroluminescent and electrochromic displays, as well as for lithium ion batteries. Author of over 500 publications, two books and with 46 patents to his name, Michael Grätzel’s papers have received over 30,000 citations, ranking him amongst the most highly cited scientists in the world. OS: Can you tell me about your own background – where you started, how you became interested in the sciences…

MG: I was driven by natural curiosity. I got good grades in science, and wanted to learn more about life in general, the laws of nature, the composition of materials and so on. I became infatuated with light, and the interaction between light and matter, and was very motivated to work in that area. I did my PhD in radiation chemistry, a postdoc in laser photolysis and then I worked on energy conversion, focusing on how to mimic natural photosynthesis. After my doctoral thesis, I was funded by the PRF (Petroleum Research Foundation) working with Kerry Thomas at Notre Dame University and met the great Melvin Calvin, the 1961 Nobel Prizewinner for research into carbon dioxide assimilation in plants. See the citation at: nobel_prizes/chemistry/laureates/1961/ The Carter administration, driven by the oil crisis in the 70’s, was investing $500 million dollars / year into solar energy – a huge amount! So, research money was relatively easy to get. Later, the Reagan administration put the funding for solar back to $50 million/year! Oil prices went back to $5 a barrel, and funding became very difficult. Nearly everyone doing research into solar  

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energy dropped out. A few people did continue - like us! I thought - I’d better work on something related to getting low cost energy from sunlight, and that’s what kept driving me. But when the oil boom was on, I found it really hard to sell such research ideas to the funding bodies. How we arrived at our solar cells came about because I was then working on our newly–discovered nanocrystalline semiconductors particles. Colloidal titania, on to which the photosensitive dye for the solar cells is deposited, was just a natural follow-on. We used lasers, to excite the bare or dye loaded titania and studied the charge carrier generation and recombination dynamics using time resolved spectroscopy with a resolution down to the picosecond domain. We made electrodes and tested their photoelectrochemical performance. All of this was really fundamental research, the beauty of it being that it gave us a wealth of new information on these nanocrystalline semiconductor systems offering us options to discern which effects were important and worth pursuing in a creative fashion. All these pieces of the jigsaw came together in our solar cells. This early work has been the foundation, not only of novel solar cells, but also of other important applications, including lithium ion batteries and electrochromic displays. You could say my research was essentially curiosity-driven, but with a mission in mind! I am pleased to say that, a couple of decades on, research in the area of nanocrystalline systems for energy conversion and storage which we pioneered is booming and several industrial enterprises in Japan, Australia, the United States and Europe have developed practical applications for our solar cell. For example, a 30MW solar cell production plant was built in Cardiff by the company G24i. Solar cells are being produced here on flexible foil for telecommunications for the African and Indian markets – a huge undertaking for potentially huge markets. It is so gratifying to see that our early work on solar cells has now become a reality and has resulted in the generation of new jobs– nearly a hundred people are already employed at the Cardiff facility. Even the energy for driving the factory comes from renewable sources - a windmill has been built on the site to generate it! All the principals of the company have a huge enthusiasm for solar energy generation –which would not exist without the NANO dimension of the oxide particles that are at the heart of the solar light harvesting device! Importantly, one part of the site is being devoted to outreach, on educating children especially, and showing them how to make solar cells from natural products. Although the cells use a number of "advanced" materials, the cells are cheap compared to other cells, because they require no expensive manufacturing steps, and their construction is so simple, and children can even make simple versions of them at home, using kits. See: I visited the plant at Cardiff last week, and was very impressed with the incredible progress that has been made since my last visit in December 2006. OS: So what advantages do the Grätzel solar cells offer? How widely are they being used? MG: The main advantage is easy fabrication low cost and a short energy pay back time, that is, the energy used to make the cells is recuperated in less than a year compared to 3-4 years for silicon solar cells. They can be screen printed on glass, foil and plastic materials rendering roll to roll production possible. They can also be made transparent and in different colors which is attractive for building integration. Their main disadvantage is that they are at present a factor of two less efficient than silicon when measured under standard reporting conditions, that is. 25°C and 1000

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W/m2 light intensity. However this efficiency gap is narrowed significantly when our cells are compared to silicon PV under real outdoor conditions. This is due to the lower sensitivity of their performance to heat and to the angle at which the sun strikes them. They reach a very high efficiency on cloudy days. There are also supply problems for silicon whose price has increased recently 50 times. Current research aims at increasing the cell efficiency – the challenge being to reach values close to the theoretical limit of 32% eventually. OS: So where does the future for Grätzel cells lie? MG: On this planet we are in desperate need of TERAWATTS of new energy sources - a supply gap for 20TW worldwide is predicted by 2050. If we want to avoid using fossil fuel, we certainly need all available renewable energy options to cover our needs. When you consider, that only 2GW photovoltaic power was installed last year - and peak generation capacity is a fifth or sixth less than that, which corresponds to 400 MW a year! We are far away from filling the 20TW gap. This gap between available energy and our needs is still huge. OS: What about money for research? MG: Funding for photovoltaic research has increased in the USA recently but we are still far away from the level of the support that was granted under the Carter administration. We need to spend BILLIONS of dollars on research for solar energy technology, and the ways we harvest energy from the sun. Fortunately, there is no lack of excellent research ideas to make good use of such high levels of funding. OS: What about the battery technologies you are working on? MG: I am working on novel lithium ion batteries for electric cars - solar energy needs to be stored! We are also working on hydrogen generation, using mesoscopic iron oxide – a new efficiency benchmark has been reached with such mesoscopic electrodes which can be used in tandem with our dye sensitized solar cells. A module for practical demonstration of this system is presently developed by Hydrogen Solar Ltd in the UK ( OS: Is there anything you wish to add about the future of nanotechnology, in terms of research and development? MG: Nanotechnology will play a pivotal role for energy generation and storage and will thrive in the future as mankind will rely on nanocrystalline systems to cover its needs in these vital fields.

The new G24 Innovations, Limited ('G24i') factory in Cardiff, Wales is 187,000 sq ft, and set on a 9.3 hectares (23 acres) site. It has been operational since early 2007. This factory will be the first facility ever to produce solar cells while relying exclusively on renewable energy, including solar, wind, geothermal and other green sources. The advanced manufacturing techniques utilises a high speed and environmentally friendly, 'roll-to-roll' process, similar to inkjet printing, to combine dye-sensitised solar cells ('DSSC') with a flexible, silicon-free surface. This eliminates the high production costs, excessive energy usage and environmental impact associated with traditional silicon manufacturing. It is expected that G24i's initial 30 MW production line will reach 200 MW production capacity by the end of 2008.

The plant at Cardiff will also include an Environmental Learning Centre. G24i has joined with Techniquest (Science and Educational Museum), Cardiff City Council, Dr Michael Grätzel of EPFL, and Polar Explorer and climate change advocate Sir Robert Swan and his organization, 2041 along with others to develop the programme for the Centre. It will serve to educate students and the public about the dramatic effect of climate change on humanity and our environment, the environmental and economic and benefits of harnessing renewable energy such as solar, geothermal, wind and tidal applications, and how students and other members of the public can personally benefit by adopting a sustainable lifestyle.

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Maximizing commercial benefit from patent protection of nanotech developments - and some interesting trends in nanotech patent activity
Nick Fox-Male, a Partner at Eric Potter Clarkson LLP reviews some of the important issues to address when seeking patent protection for nanotech inventions and discusses interesting recent trends in patent activity in the nanotechnology area. Nanotechnology offers myriad opportunities for technology development, with large amounts of funding being available to support such development. Thus it is essential to ensure wherever possible that patent protection is sought for all aspects of that technology development in order to support the investment made and to maximise the assets of the technology developer. Likewise, it is crucial to ensure that the patent protection achieved is as strong, broad and secure as possible. There follows some guidelines on how to seek to achieve these goals. Accordingly, care and specialist expertise must be employed when drafting a Firstly it is important to consider what aspects of the technical development may be protectable by patent rights. Certainly there are a wide variety of potentially suitable aspects, including known materials and substances with greatly improved properties and new functional features, wholly new nanomaterials with custom-designed features and effects, new products and systems which may be based on such materials, and processes for measuring and testing at the nano-scale. Also manufacturing techniques and processes may be suitable, but in some situations they could alternatively be protected by secrecy. It is well-appreciated that nanotechnology is a multi-disciplinary technical field such that any given development may encompass any one or more aspects of, for example, materials science, chemistry, biotechnology, physics and electronics, often being a blend of two or more. Thus, when considering the preparation of a patent application for a given technical development, it is essential that consideration is given to what technical expertise is required. If deemed appropriate, this could mean the use of two or more patent attorneys, each with an expertise in nano-related aspects of their different technical disciplines, in order to ensure that the appropriate blend of individual technical disciplines is achieved. Without such melding of knowledge and expertise, it is not truly feasible to make an adequate analysis of where the invention lies in a multi-disciplinary nanotech invention, nor what is its technical significance or commercial importance – all crucial aspects in the drafting of a useful comprehensive patent specification. Another issue of concern is that often there may be inconsistency between different technical disciplines within nanotechnology as to the use of particular technical terms and issues. A physicist may look at a quantum dot from a wholly different perspective to a chemist. Thus, it may be essential to use patent attorneys expert in different disciplines in order to address both viewpoints when preparing a patent application on a quantum dot invention. For all these reasons, it is important in many nanotechnology cases that at least the initial review and analysis of a prospective new invention is made by two or more patent attorneys having complementary technical disciplines in respective areas, and each being experienced in the nano-scale environment of that discipline. It is a significant challenge for any patent attorney firm to have a team of patent attorneys covering all the possible permutations of disciplines within the entire nanotechnology range while being able to interact in a truly collaborative environment. patent specification to ensure that all feasible ways of exploiting fully the technologies of the fundamental invention are disclosed, covering the respective potential applications, markets and opportunities, possibly in terms of not only the standard macroscopic environments, but also in the nano-scale dimensions and the new nanotech environments of structures including nanotubes, fullerenes and quantum dots. Thus again, it may be essential to utilise two or more specialist patent attorneys in collaboration. Furthermore, nanotechnology is primarily an “enabling technology”, namely it is the route to the end result, rather than being the end result itself. Thus, it is essential that the definition of the protection (i.e. the claims of the patent specification) and the description fully address all the particular applications of the invention, in order to provide comprehensive basis e.g. for licensing opportunities. Having determined the novelty and inventive-step issues of the invention, it is then necessary to ensure the patent specification adequately describes how to put the invention into practice. This may involve a description of the purity levels, the structure, the properties and physical characteristics of a new material and/or a new form of material, or a method of manufacturing any such material, or tests for establishing the presence of such materials or new properties or new effects. All these aspects could likewise require the expertise of two or more patent attorneys in collaboration.

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Turning now to the two graphs accompanying this article, they are part of a set of ten graphs commissioned by Eric Potter Clarkson, illustrating the patent activity in nanotechnology both generally and in specific technical areas from 1990 to 2006 inclusive, by year and also cumulatively over that period. Data was collated according to country of priority patent filing, thereby providing a strong indication of country of origin of the technology development, and also ensuring that the data has direct relationship with the time at which published reports for example based on US issued patents, in which there is no direct relationship between the time of development and the patent issue date. Graph 1 is a pie chart illustrating the number of patent publications in the nanotech field generally, cumulatively since 1990 and divided out according to country of priority patent filing (i.e. the original or initial patent filing). The principal individual European countries are collated into a single group

Graph 2 lists the top ten applicants for 2006 of nanotech patent cases first published in 2006.
Graph 2: - Top Ten Patentees/Applicants for Nanotech patent publications in 2006
140 120 100 80 60 40 20 0
ia ng gf uj in ng g u Ha i ha T i ng Ho n Un iS ha IT RI Ya n IS ha rn su fo in jia Un iZ he

Number of publications

development of the technology occurred. This is wholly different to other



In previous years, particularly up until 2004, equivalent annual statistics had
Graph 1: Pie Chart of Nanotech patent publications totalled over the period 1990 - 2006 according to country of original patent filing

displayed the predominance in the top ten of corporations (mainly US and Japanese), also with some presence of Japanese governmental bodies for example NIAST and ITRI; by 2005, the Chinese universities of Qinhua, Zhejiang

Rest (2260) Europe (5581)

Taiwan (733) USA (16058)

and Shanghai were included. Now this second graph illustrates that in 2006 there has been a further shift, with the appearance of significant Chinese industrial presence in the form of Hongfujin Precision Industries and W D Yang. Also for the first time, there is a Taiwanese company, Hong Hai Precision Industries.

South Korea (3917)

China (8501) Japan (8479)

These two graphs indicate clearly the substantial recent increase in patent
South Korea (3917) Europe (5581) Rest (2260) Taiwan (733) USA (16058) Japan (8479) China (8501)

activity in the nanotech industry not only by Chinese universities but also corporations, indicating that China is now established as a major presence in This pie chart shows that USA is by far the principal origin of nanotech-related cases with over 16000, representing approximately 35.3% of the total. In second place, there is China with 8501 cases (or about 18.6%), very closely followed by Japan with 8479 (being about 18.6%). Some way behind, there is Europe with 5581 (about 12.3%), then South Korea with 3917 (about 8.6%), and Taiwan with 733 (about 1.6%), and the remaining unspecified countries amounting to 2260 cases (about 5.0%). Further analysis of these statistics (not illustrated in the graphs accompanying this article) by looking at annual figures for individual countries, reveal that China’s annual figures have increased substantially in the last four years, indicating that China has actually overtaken Japan for second place only in 2006. Eric Potter Clarkson LLP is an International firm of patent attorneys situated at a single location within UK having over 40 patent and trademark attorneys with technology specialists in all the individual technical disciplines relevant to nanotechnology, and thereby ensuring immediate availability of any blend of technical expertise as required within the field of nanotechnology. We have extensive experience in the patenting of all technology areas allowing appropriate application to the particular requirements of nanotechnology. world research into nanotechnology.



designated “Europe”.




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Small additions for

big savings
Novel nano-solutions for corrosion resistant coatings
Corrosion costs society a fortune. Literally. A 2002 report by the US Federal Highway Administration estimated that the direct annual cost of corrosion in the US exceeds $275 billion dollars. Internationally, the figure is estimated to equate to between 3-4 per cent of GDP . “Corrosion affects everyone – from the DIY enthusiast to the office worker, we’ve all been affected. Leaky pipes, corroded brake pipes and faulty machines are all examples of corrosion that impact in everyday life,” Professor Akid says. “And, it is costing each one of us about £600 a year - that’s equivalent to one Hurricane Katrina every year!” So what is the solution? Corrosion occurs because atoms in the metal of a component, for example, a pipe, vessel or car body panel, combine with oxygen and water in the air (oxidation), essentially creating a metal oxide, commonly referred to as ‘rust’. This leads to the overall loss of structural strength or metal thickness. There are a number of ways to protect against corrosion. For example, a noble metal such as platinum, which does not interact with oxygen in the same way that other metals, such as iron, do, is a possible corrosion prevention measure. However noble metals are expensive and do not have the mechanical properties required of everyday components and structures. Changing the environmental conditions has a profound effect, for example, temperature and moisture in the air influences the rate of corrosion for most metals. Adding chemicals called “inhibitors” are also a recognised method of slowing down corrosion, as found in central heating radiators. Cathodic or sacrificial protection is commonly used to protect structures such as offshore oilrigs, pipelines and storage tanks. This approach involves the application of an impressed current or the coupling of one material, such as zinc to another, such as steel, essentially creating an electrochemical battery between the two metals where electrons are provided by an external source or sacrificed by the less noble metal during oxidation. Finding the right coat The most obvious protection method is to prevent the environment coming into contact with the metal by applying a protective outer layer so that oxygen and water cannot come into contact with the metal. However, finding the right coating in which to protect the metal is not always quite so straightforward. Early corrosion protection measures involved coating the susceptible structure with a compound that had low reactivity. Examples of such coatings include red lead and chromate-based systems. Both have since been found to be toxic and carcinogenic. Red lead has been outlawed for years while the use of chromates in manufacturing is highly restricted in the EU and their use is soon to be banned from many products. Research is now focused on finding more environmentally sound solutions, including a novel approach that uses nanoparticles

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“These organic-inorganic coatings are of increasing interest to industry due to their potential widespread applications. The organic component in the matrix offers the advantage of mechanical toughness and flexibility, while the inorganic component provides the coating with its hardness and thermal stability properties,” Professor Akid says. Using the sol gel matrix the team have already developed a low-temperature rapid-cure system with added inhibitors that can be applied directly to mild steel that is now being considered for use in the white goods industry. Using bacteria to fight bacteria As well as coatings to protect against corrosion, Professor Akid and his colleagues are also taking on the world of bacteria and biofilms. “We need no reminding that microbes are everywhere and can survive almost anywhere – particularly where there are food sources (nutrients),” he says. “Sulphate Reducing Bacteria, for example, reduce sulphate to sulphide, which in turn leads to the formation of hydrogen sulphide, which is a very effective catalyst for rapidly corroding metals, especially alloys of copper and iron. “Bacteria are very effective multipliers and large numbers of them can inhabit the insides of pipes, fuel tanks and engines where they create a bacterial film on the surface which inevitably leads to contamination and corrosion”. A conventional strategy used to counteract the formation of biofilms is that of the addition of biocides. However these compounds are often environmentally unfriendly and require monitoring to ensure the right concentration is present. By encapsulating a biological molecule, such as a friendly bacterium, inside the sol gel matrix, Professor Akid and his colleagues have successfully proven that colonisation of other bacteria present within an estuarine environment can be prevented (see Thames Barrier picture). He adds “Applying this system as a coating ensures the protective bacteria are where they need to be, on the surface of the metal.” Professor Akid says,“We are pleased to announce that we have recently received EPSRC funding, and as such this provides an exciting opportunity to understand and develop a range of environmentally-compliant corrosion resistant, anti-bacterial coatings which could potentially be applied to a huge range of applications from power plant pipes to surgical instruments and implants”.

and bacteria to create tough protective coatings with anti-bacterial type properties (see below). Sol gel systems Professor Akid and his colleagues have developed a sol-gel coating that provides barrier protection combined with inhibition via a “slow release mechanism” that involves the gradual release of a chemical compound that slows down the rate of corrosion. The inhibitor (a rare earth compound) is suspended in a thin film on the surface of the material, several microns thick, called a sol gel. Historically sol gel techniques produce thin-films that have thickness values of the order of one micrometre. Furthermore these film are generally inflexible and require high cure temperatures, above 300˚C due to their high inorganic content. To overcome these limitations the coating systems developed at Sheffield Hallam University use a mixture of organic and inorganic compounds to create a hybrid sol gel. Not only has this enabled them to create thicker, flexible coatings, but it also provides the opportunity to functionalise the coating properties by allowing the addition of nanoparticles and/or bacteria. Further modification of the chemistry by adjusting the organic-inorganic ratio allows the cure temperature to be controlled, even down to room temperature.

Professor Robert Akid is the founder and Director of the Centre for Corrosion Technology and Head of the Structural Materials & Integrity Research Centre at Sheffield Hallam University. He is the Chairman of the Corrosion Committee, Institute of Materials, Minerals & Mining, a Council member of the Institute of Corrosion and a UK Delegate on the European Federation of Corrosion (EFC) Working Party on Corrosion Testing. In addition he is an Associate member of the EFC Working Party on Environment Sensitive Fracture and current Technical Editor of the Institute of Corrosion publication, 'Corrosion Management'.





Sol gel coated Al alloy samples after 6 months immersion in the river Thames. (a) Bare, uncoated, (b) sol gel coating without bacteria, (c) sol gel 'biocoat'

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Can nanotechnology save the environment?
Environmental nanotechnologies have the potential to contribute to economic growth and innovation while at the same time enabling sustainable development and protecting the environment. Environmental nanotechnologies also offer massive commercial potential - the projected world market for applications of environmental nanotechnologies by 2010 is about US$6 billion. Water treatment and purification and decontamination methods for air, water and soil are some of the areas where innovative nanotechnologies could provide environmentally sound solutions. Remediation is the fastest growing area of environmental nanotechnology and one of major importance for reducing the levels of pollutants in air, water and soil as well as the challenges of major cleanup operations, such as that recently experienced in parts of England which witnessed some of the worst flooding ever seen in the country. The estimated market for soil and groundwater remediation is expected to grow to around £16 billion worldwide and there is a drive to develop technologies with improved and more accurate capabilities so that excessive or unnecessary remediation is avoided. Current research shows nanotechnology might be able to provide more sensitive detection systems for air and water quality monitoring, allowing for the simultaneous measurement of multiple parameters, a fast response capability, simplified operation and lower running costs to conventional methods. Learning from nature By studying chemical reactions at the nanoscale, scientists can discover how to exploit nature’s own tricks. Suitable techniques for such nanoscale surface studies have only become available in the last 15-30 years and investigations focus primarily on nanoscale reactions in calcite and iron oxide, minerals that are abundant in nature. An important objective is to reduce contamination of and develop methods for purifying drinking water at the source. Nickel is released into groundwater from industrial sites, waste leakage, and by oxidation from natural pyrite. Experiments on natural chalk columns at the University of Copenhagen have shown that reduced pumping speeds result in lower nickel concentrations in the water because nickel is taken up by calcite. The greater the surface area the faster and more extensive is the uptake. The structure of naturally occurring chalk is now being studied in order to develop an understanding of the fundamental mechanisms of this biomineralisation. The eventual aim is to develop calcite nanoparticles that will clean up the nickel content in drinking water. The natural mechanisms that see green rust turn to red rust is also of interest for the protection of groundwater from contamination with heavy metals in fly ash – the mineral residue that is left over from the combustion of coal in electricity generating plants. Nanoparticles of green rust have been shown to be efficient at removing redox sensitive elements from the groundwater. Photocatalysis Treatment of water using photocatalysis – the speeding up or slowing down of reactions using sunlight – has proven in both the laboratory and pilot schemes to be an effective method for the treatment of water containing pollutants and microorganisms. For example, the photocatalytic inactivation of bacterial spores in river water samples has been shown by the University of Ulster to be effective over a period of a few hours. Photocatalytic disinfection of water containing pathogenic microorganisms is therefore an effective method for providing clean drinking water. It has also been shown to work for chlorineresistant organisms, which are an indicator of faecal pollution. Tests on E. coli have shown significantly increased disinfection efficiencies using photocatalysis when compared to the more conventional method of UVA irradiation. This technology could therefore have major implications for clean drinking water in developing countries or in emergency situations, where water borne diseases constitute a severe threat. Also, because it uses sunlight, which is free of charge, the running costs are low. Titanium dioxide modified with gold nanoparticles has proved to be particularly interesting. Titanium dioxide is a photocatalyst – when modified with gold nanoparticles its photocatalytic activity can as much as double, revealing enormous potential for groundwater remediation. Field trials are now underway to explore the potentials of this technology. Solar photocatalysis will be the main technology breakthrough for water treatment and purification, particularly in developing regions. Further research is now needed in order to control the treatment to eliminate toxic products and investigate the potential risks of using nanoparticles for the purification of water and air.

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Nanofiltration An alternative to photocatalysis for the treatment of waste water is the use of membrane technologies for nanofiltration, which is effective at removing ions and small organic molecules from the fluid. The membrane pores are in the order of one nanometre in diameter – similar to that of pesticide molecules and other chemicals that may contaminate water. Nanofiltration has been shown to have potential uses in water softening, removal of natural organic matter, micropollutants and heavy metals, disinfection, desalination, and ion separation. The applications range from the safe discharge and reuse of waste water, high quality drinking water, groundwater treatment, removal of organic and inorganic pollutants from surface water, and the recycling of process water. Air purification Photocatalysis reactions can also be used to degrade air pollutants. Titanium dioxide is the most commonly used photocatalyst because it has a high oxidative ability, is chemically stable and is very abundant and inexpensive. The major areas of research on titanium dioxide photocatalysis concern self cleaning, anti-fogging, water treatment, antibacterial effects, and air cleaning applications. Incorporation of titanium dioxide in building materials or surface coatings imparts to them self cleaning and depolluting properties. When exposed to solar radiation it acts as a catalyst for photodecomposition of pollutant molecules adsorbed on its surface and transformation into non-toxic compounds. The basic principles of photocatalysis are already exploited in some commercial

products such as self-cleaning glasses, architectural coatings and building blocks able to remove harmful Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) from air. A consistent reduction in levels of Nitrogen Oxide by as much as 80 per cent has been reported in tests at the Joint Research Centre, Ispra for paints and cements containing titanium dioxide nanoparticles. A cautious approach One of the potential dangers of environmental remediation is that the products might be more toxic than the original pollutants. Other risks include the entry of toxic by-products into the foodchain, plant pathology and soil degradation. The most urgent problems for remediation are old and abandoned contaminated industrial and military sites. A major concern regarding nanoparticles is that they might not be detectable after release into the environment, which in turn can create difficulties if remediation is needed. Therefore, analysis methods need to be developed to detect nanoparticles in the environment that accurately determine the shape and surface area of the particles (two of the factors that define their toxic properties). It is important that full risk assessments are performed on new nanomaterials that present a real risk of exposure during manufacture or use. Such assessments should take into consideration the toxicological hazard, the probability of exposure and the environmental and biological fate, transport, persistence, transformation into the finished product and recycling.

Overall, nanotechnology offers significant opportunities for improving the environment. Nevertheless, in order to achieve sustainable and safe development, research on the potential risks and exposure routes must be carried out in parallel with any new techniques or developments. Further reading: D.G. Rickerby and M. Morrison (2007) “Nanotechnology and the environment: A European perspective”, Science and Technology of Advanced Materials 8 (1-2): 19-24. D. Rickerby and M. Morrison (2007) “Report from the Workshop on Nanotechnologies for Environmental Remediation” JCR Ispra, 16-17 April 2007, Nanoforum. Dr David Rickerby is based at the Institute for Environment and Sustainability, European Commission Joint Research Centre in Italy. He is currently a member of the Task Force on Environment and Health, developing research strategies to reduce the disease burden caused by environmental factors, to identify and to prevent new environmental health threats, and to strengthen the capacity for EU policy making in this area. His main scientific interests are in the field of nanostructured materials and sensors for environmental monitoring and medical diagnosis. He has also participated in healthcare technology roadmapping studies, nanoscience and nanotechnology foresight and the evaluation of emerging environmental risks of nanotechnologies.

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Nano particles by Dr Frances Geesin


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rances Geesin is a Senior Research Fellow at The London College of Fashion at The University of the Arts London. She has worked as a consultant to Philips Design where her research provided the building blocks for their work into wearable electronics. Together with her partner Ron Geesin they created interactive sound and

light work for the Science Museum in London. Passionate about materials she uses industrial shielding and thermoplastic nonwoven fabrics which she electroplates. She exhibits in the UK, Europe and Japan. During the last three years she has been fascinated by developments in the Nano world and is capturing and interpreting

images from electron microscopes to create 2D and 3D images to help make the discoveries more visible to a broader public.

The nano particles in the image are made from thermoplastic geo textiles which have been electroplated silver, tin and nickel.

At Kelvin Nanotechnology Ltd (KNT) we provide nanofabrication solutions to industry and academia delivered through our state of the art James Watt Nanofabrication Centre in Glasgow.

Kelvin Nanotechnology provides a wide range of R&D and prototyping services for the semiconductor, optoelectronic, bioelectronic and nanoelectronic market places. Our Core Competencies include: • Electron Beam Lithography • Molecular Beam Epitaxy • Nanofabrication services • Technology prototyping and proof of concept • Product development We specialise in high resolution, large area, multilevel electron beam lithography for applications such as transistor gate writing, imprint masks, optical elements, photonic crystals, nanotextured surfaces and many more. Kelvin Nanotechnology has over twenty years experience in electron beam lithography and nanofabrication. Electron beam lithography provides a route to rapid and flexible nano-patterning for a vast range of applications. Single or multi-level patterns can be written onto almost any type of substrate then transferred by etching or depositing any number of metals, insulators, biocompatible materials, optical or electronic layers. As the proliferation of nanotechnology into new application spaces gathers pace, KNT is constantly expanding and developing our industrially facing processes and technology. We are keen to learn about client applications and technical challenges and how we might use our expertise and experience to satisfy their micro and nanofabrication needs. With the help of Kelvin Nanotechnology Ltd, companies can use nanotechnology to develop new products and services and benefit from an established Nanotechnology Centre of Excellence. KNT has set up a strategic partnership with incubation and business support provider Photonix Ltd to provide companies, research institutes and funders access to the advanced capabilities and expertise that exist within both. This partnership enables KNT to deliver a clear route from idea through technology and company incubation to production.

Kelvin Nanotechnology Ltd T: +44 (0)141 330 4869 E: For more information or to find out how we can help you, please contact us at


Are our risk tools sufficiently evolved?


n this first article, what nanomedicine is and what new challenges it brings in the way of risk governance and management are explored.

diagnosis and therapy that are based on interactions between the human body and materials and structures whose properties are defined at or around the nanometre scale.” According to Robert A Freitas Jr at the Institute for Molecular Manufacturing, Palo Alto, California and a leading researcher in the field of medical applications of nanotechnology, nanomedicine may be defined as: “The monitoring, repair, construction and control of human biological systems at the molecular level, using engineered nanodevices and nanostructures.” Although subtly different, all of these definitions are useful in helping us understand the potential impact that

nanomedicine may have. Common themes between them include:

reference to the properties of materials, or the ability to engineer materials, at the nanoscale level diagnosis or monitoring of disease or of physiological condition treatment of disease or repair of tissues or biological systems

What is nanomedicine? Nanomedicine is defined by the European Technology Platform on Nanomedicine as: “The application of nanotechnology in medicine. It exploits the improved and often novel physical, chemical, and biological properties of materials at the nanometric scale. Nanomedicine has potential impact on the prevention, early and reliable diagnosis and treatment of diseases.” Another useful current definition is as follows: “Nanomedicine is defined as those practices of medicine, including prevention,



It seems clear that novel medical devices with characteristics at the nano-level will often act with a different range of mechanisms to “classical” devices and will certainly interface with biological systems in a new way. And new modes of interaction bring new challenges…

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New mechanisms… new challenges for risk management In many cases the application of nanotechnology to a medical device may be an incremental innovation, for example, the use of nano-contoured surfaces on orthopaedic implants to improve cell growth and fixation in the bone, and although a risk management procedure needs to be carried out as usual, it is unlikely that such an innovation would mean any change to the principal mode of action, classification or regulatory status of such a device. In other cases, nanotechnology may have the effect of further blurring traditional demarcation boundaries between, for example, the medical device and pharmaceutical regulatory regimes. Often with innovative devices, such as coated stents, regulatory clarification has been required and the application of nanotechnology may further serve to obscure the key defining factor, that is, what is the principal intended mode of action and what is the ancillary effect? This erosion of the boundary between different regulatory regimes is certainly a challenge, and one that needs to be addressed, but that process should not serve to delay innovative therapies reaching the patient. In their Nature paper Maynard et al1 also state that “Understanding and preventing The risks posed by the various facets of nanomedicine are so diverse and so specific that a single prescriptive approach is likely to be of little use and, indeed, may be counter-productive. In some cases, such as the nanocontoured implant mentioned above, the risk profile may be relatively easy to characterise. In others, for example those that may involve the release of novel nanoparticles in the body, there may be relatively less information available on the hazards and associated risks posed. Size of nanoparticle, surface area, surface chemistry, solubility and possibly shape may all play a role in determining the risk in such instances. And, as with all, medical therapies, any risks must always be balanced against the benefits to the patient. Again, here, what may be acceptable in one situation, for example, critical surgery to save a life, may not be acceptable in another, elective treatment for a non lifethreatening condition. The author believes, as do many others, for example, Maynard et al and Renn and Roco2, that an effective and systematic riskbased approach is needed if emerging nano-industries are to survive and flourish, whatever the applicable regulatory regime.

risk often has a low priority in the competitive world of research funding.” And that, “The science community needs to act now if strategic research is to support sustainable nanotechnologies, in which risks are minimized and benefits maximized.” This is a crucial aspect which was further reinforced in a BBC News report on 28 March 2007 where it was claimed that the UK government was “failing” nanoscience. As a part of that news item Professor Ann Dowling, chair of the working group that produced a government-sponsored report by the Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering in 2004 that outlined possible opportunities and risks from developing nanotechnology, agreed that, "More targeted research to reduce the uncertainties around the health and environmental effects of nanomaterials must be funded - especially in light of the growing number of products on the market containing these manufactured ultra-small materials. This is a vital step to ensuring that nanotechnologies are well regulated and inspire the confidence of the public and investors." Professor Sir John Beringer, who chaired a Council for Science and Technology (CST) review of government commitments made in 2005, in the same news item said, "The government made a very clear commitment that research needed to be done to understand more about the toxicology and possible risks that may arise from some of the nanotechnologies. But there has been virtually nothing done by government to resolve this problem." The pace of research in the domain of nanomedicine continues to accelerate and the technology holds great future promise for numerous exciting and improved products and therapies for patients. But the means and tools for adequately assessing the risk and benefit of such technologies must also evolve if that promise is to be realised. Richard Moore is Manager of Nanomedicine and Life Sciences at the Institute of Nanotechnology Further reading: 1. A. Maynard et al, Nature 444, 267-269, 16 November 2006 2. O. Renn and M. Roco, White Paper no. 2 “Nanotechnology Risk Governance”, International Risk Governance Council, Geneva, June 2006


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An International Conference on Nanomaterial Toxicology is being jointly organized by ‘Industrial Toxicology Research Centre’ and ‘Indian Nanoscience Society’ during February 5-7, 2008 at Lucknow, India.
Several sessions will cover the advances and future perspectives in safety and toxicity of nanomaterials. A conclave of the pioneers in academia as well as industry in nanotechnology is also envisaged. The conference will cover the broad areas of: • Nanomaterial Synthesis and Characterization; • Nanomaterials in Pharmaceuticals; • Models for Nanomaterial Safety and Toxicology; • Nanosensors and Imaging in Nanomaterial Toxicology; • Ethical and Regulatory Issues in Nanomaterial Toxicology; • Impact of Nanomaterials on Environment and Ecosystem. For details visit the conference website or contact: Dr. Alok Dhawan, Organising Secretary by email:; The conference will be an ideal platform for researchers and industry alike to interact with eminent scientists in the area of nanotechnology for open exchange of ideas and presentation of exciting scientific results.

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