Archive for November, 2006|Monthly archive page

Green nanotechnology: Synthesizing nanoparticles with sunlight

In nano on November 30, 2006 at 1:27 am

While the first reported fullerenes and nanotube structures were composed of carbon, it was soon recognized that a plethora of comparable inorganic candidates should also exist. A rich assortment of IF (inorganic fullerene-like structures, or IF for short) nanostructures have been synthesized, and are finding practical uses in tribology, photonics, batteries, and catalysis.
Read more at Source

Instant Expert: Brilliant Minds Forecast the Next 50 Years

In Uncategorized on November 27, 2006 at 7:55 pm

Link to Source

Samsung and Nanosilver in a washing machine

In Health, nano on November 24, 2006 at 10:48 pm

Nanowerk reports
that the German branch of Friends of the Earth (BUND) is calling for Samsung to withdraw from the market its washing machine using silver nanoparticles:
Link to source

India developing regulatory guidelines for nanotechnology drugs

In nano on November 24, 2006 at 10:41 pm

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Infant Mortality In Africa Still Dire: WHO

In Health on November 23, 2006 at 11:10 pm

New report identifies ways of preventing millions of baby deaths
The World Health Organization, in partnership with nine other organizations, released on Wednesday the results of their recent study on infant mortality in Africa in a report titled, “Opportunities for Africa’s newborns.” According to the findings, Sub-Saharan Africa remains the most dangerous place in the world for a child to be born, with 1.16 million babies per year dying within a month of being born.
Link to Source

EPA to Regulate Form of Nanotechnology

In nano on November 23, 2006 at 11:02 pm

A type of nanotechnology used in a wide range of consumer products to kill germs will be regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency as part of a change in federal policy.

The EPA said Wednesday its decision will require manufacturers that use bacteria-killing particles of silver to provide scientific evidence that they won’t harm waterways or public health.

Environmentalists and others are concerned that nanosilver may be killing helpful bacteria and aquatic organisms as it enters the environment when discarded and may even pose a risk to humans. Nanosilver is used to kill germs in shoe liners, food-storage containers, air fresheners, washing machines and other products.
Link to Source

Discovery Of Cardiac Stem Cells May Advance Regenerative Heart Therapy

In Health on November 23, 2006 at 10:57 pm

An immediate early publication of the journal Cell, published by Cell Press, on Nov. 22, 2006 points to the possible existence of master cardiac stem cells with the capacity to produce all three major tissues of the mammalian heart. A companion Cell paper also published online reports the discovery of a second population of cardiac progenitors, which are capable of forming both cardiac muscle and the smooth muscle found in the heart’s blood vessel walls.
Link to Source

Driving a Wheelchair with Your Shirt

In Uncategorized on November 21, 2006 at 6:31 pm

Adaptive, sensor-laden garments could provide a new way for quadriplegics to control their wheelchairs. The system, which is still in an early stage of development, identifies the ideal set of movements that can be employed as control commands for each individual user. “We think this will benefit the most difficult patients, such as those who can move only their head or shoulders,” says Alon Fishbach, a scientist at Northwestern who is among those developing the device.
Link to Source

Team to build solar cell from DNA

In Uncategorized on November 20, 2006 at 3:10 am

Filed in archive Energy by george elvin on November 17, 2006
In every solar cell, light energy is converted to electricity. But even the most advanced solar cells can harness only a small percentage of the available sunlight energy. The majority of the energy is lost and simply escapes as heat.

Now, a team of researchers from Arizona State University has received a $1.1 million grant from the National Science Foundation to use DNA as scaffolding for solar cells in order to break through the current technological hurdles of solar energy.

One researcher, Hao Yan, is an expert in the burgeoning science of DNA nanoarchitecture – or molecular-scale DNA “origami” – for folding DNA into a broad range of technological applications important for human health and bioelectronic sensing devices.

“The DNA will act as the scaffold that holds everything together,” says team co-leader Stuart Lindsay. “It will hold the antenna that gathers light together with the molecules that convert the intensified light to electricity. The antenna, by concentrating light, will increase the rate of absorption of the light photons.”

The team’s goal is to create nanoscale devices for higher-efficiency solar energy and photonics applications. (Hat tip to Carbon Free)
Link To Source

Gene Machine: Cells Engineered To Prevent Sepsis Win Synthetic Biology Competition

In Uncategorized on November 19, 2006 at 10:40 pm

A team of eight undergraduates from the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia — cheering and leaping onto MIT’s Kresge Auditorium stage in green team T-shirts — won the grand prize earlier this Month at the international Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition at MIT.

The group — which received an engraved award in the shape of a large aluminum Lego piece — explored a way to use engineered cells to intercept the body’s excessive response to infection, which can lead to a fatal condition called sepsis.

The goal of the 380 students on 35 university teams from around the world was to build biological systems the way a contractor would build a house–with a toolkit of standard parts.

iGEM participants spent the summer immersed in the growing field of synthetic biology, creating simple systems from interchangeable parts that operate in living cells. Biology, once thought too complicated to be engineered like a clock, computer or microwave oven, has proven to be open to manipulation at the genetic level. The new creations are engineered from snippets of DNA, the molecules that run living cells.

Cells may one day be programmed to manufacture and deliver drugs or key molecules within the body, churn out fuel, detect pollutants and carry out a slew of as-yet-unimagined functions. The MIT team, dubbed “eau d’ecoli,” genetically engineered E. coli bacteria to smell like mint while they were growing and to smell like banana when they were done. The technique could potentially be used to improve the scent of other foul-smelling substances.

“It’s kind of a cool thing to tell your bacteria how to smell,” said team member Veena Venkatachalam, an MIT sophomore majoring in chemistry and physics.

The Slovenian team was one of the few to work with mammalian cells. Ljubljana microbiology student Monika Ciglic said that the team chose the more challenging and complicated mammalian cells over bacteria or viruses because of the potential rewards of coming up with a system that could work in the human body. Sepsis has been cited as the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. But while the other teams had an available toolkit of 500 “BioBricks”–snippets of DNA that have been proven to accomplish certain tasks–the Slovenian team had to build all its BioBricks from scratch.

Information about BioBricks, and a toolkit to make and manipulate them, was provided by the Registry of Standard Biological Parts created by MIT.

The first runner-up was a team from the Imperial College in London for its creation of an oscillator that was stable, had a high signal-to-noise ratio and could be easily integrated into other systems. Such a device has potential biomedical applications.

The second runner-up was the Princeton team for its work on programming mouse embryonic stem cells to differentiate on command. The technique could one day be used to create organs and tissues from stem cells, which have the ability to turn into any part of the body. Other projects with potential applications included the University of Edinburgh’s device to detect arsenic in well water, a problem that affects 100 million people around the world, especially in poorer nations.

The director of iGEM, Randy Rettberg, principal research engineer in biological engineering, said he is convinced synthetic biology will spawn a worldwide industry. The possibilities for start-ups include companies that make and catalog individual parts, as well as companies that exploit the technology to solve myriad problems.

Drew Endy, assistant professor of biological engineering, said that it is “completely remarkable that 40 months ago, none of this was happening anywhere.” A small pilot program held during Independent Activities Period has grown into an international competition, and Endy said that as DNA synthesis becomes more common, the field will expand even more rapidly.

As with any technology, there is the danger of misuse. Perceptions of synthetic biology range from excitement to fear and mistrust. Endy said that the work is so new, it’s bound to scare some people. “A lot of people who were scaring folks in 1975 now have Nobel prizes,” he said.

iGEM is an initiative of the MIT iCampus program, which is funded by Microsoft Corp. Competition winners were selected by a panel of judges from industry and academia.
// http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/11/061114193826.htm”>Link to Source

Artificial Hippocampus, the Borg Hive Mind, and Other Neurological Endeavors

In Uncategorized on November 19, 2006 at 4:09 pm

new column by me out

Bedfellows at the Biosecurity Board

In Uncategorized on November 18, 2006 at 3:21 am

2006-11-17 | How US science’s nouveau riche bioweapons constituency is flexing its muscle to carve up safety and security rules.

Karl Rove would probably be impressed by the brand of government “oversight” being developed by the National Science Advisory Board on Biosecurity (NSABB). http://www.biosecurityboard.gov Like a Bush administration investigation of itself, on last Wednesday (October 25th) an NSABB working group moved to creatively thwart its charge. Although it was formed to recommend biosecurity rules to govern the new field of synthetic biology, the working group will instead assault regulation of a wide range of biodefense and biotech risks.

The working group’s outlook is more political than technical. Its science is a veneer that disguises the maturing political muscle of a constituency of bioscientists that has become accustomed, perhaps addicted, to lavish federal biodefense funding. This constituency is challenging the regulations that apply to it and has allied itself with those seeking to block effective regulation of the emerging field of synthetic biology. As such, it will pose a major long-term obstacle bringing under control the wild proliferation of dangerous biodefense research in the US.

The working group’s politics deftly unite two distinct scientific camps under the same banner. One camp is synthetic biology, a burgeoning, dangerous science that currently is an unregulated Wild West free-for-all, a condition that many practitioners believe is desirable. The working group also tapped a deep vein of discontent among its other camp, infectious disease researchers. Specifically, the researchers that receive biodefense handouts; but who resent being required to comply with the Select Agent Rule, a law designed to protect the public from bioterrorism.

In biodefense, the synthetic biologists (who use DNA like building blocks) and the infectious disease bug jockeys (who work with full-blown dangerous microbes) usually don’t get along very well. The synthetic crowd scoffs at the bug jockey’s focus on vaccines and pills for specific microbes, dubbing the narrow approach a “Maginot Line” after the inflexible border defenses that failed to protect France from German invasion in 1940. Genetic tweaks and new bugs, the synthetic biologists say, can outflank these countermeasures. A subtext, of course, is that synthetic biologists think they should get a bigger piece of the biodefense pork pie from the federal budget.

The bug jockeys, on the other hand, argue that the synthetic guys are a bunch of nerdy engineers whose science of using genes like tinker toys is young and unproven. The bug jockeys claim that they can deliver here and now, whereas the synthetic folks are still in scientific diapers, working out basic principles of their discipline. Perhaps interesting down the road, the bug jockeys say, but what counts is the present. (Neither group questions the wisdom of the government bankrolling tens of billions of dollars in biodefense research at hundreds of places across the country.)

What unites these two quarrelling factions? Apart from the fact that their science is potentially dangerous, the two share an appetite for tax dollars and a disdain for federal security rules. The latter point has led to an NSABB marriage of convenience: The synthetic biologists want to shake pressure for new regulation while the bug jockeys want to assassinate the existing Select Agent Rule, enabling both to do as they please with less “interference” from Uncle Sam.

Thus was born a politico-scientific Coalition of the Willing that aims to invade federal rulemaking to take down what they perceive as a threat: biosecurity legislation designed to protect the public. By hijacking the NSABB, they are on well on their way to Mission Accomplished. And because the current political leadership of the US holds itself to its own unique (nonbinding) standards and sees little reason to reign in dual-use research for safety, security, or treaty compliance reasons, the NSABB working group probably won’t have to waterboard anybody in the US government – unless there are radical changes in officialdom.

The specifics of the working group recommendations? They include unusual and dubious arguments about taxonomy, gene sequences, and law. These have far broader implications than the working group apparently paused to contemplate. More on that later.
From an unsurprising “finding” that microbial taxonomy systems are imperfect, the working group leaps to the illogical conclusion that this is justification to eviscerate government regulation of (but not cash handouts for) research with biological weapons agents. That’s quite a jump. Considering the recommendations carefully, however, it is clear that the working group’s intellectual shortcomings – its recommendations don’t logically follow from its findings – stem from an attempt to paper over the distinctions between the need for synthetic biology regulation and the need for the select agent rule.

Synthetic biology may be new; but challenges to taxonomic conventional wisdom are not. Evolution happens. Genes turn up in new places, by the hand of man and through the many ways that biodiversity moves itself. The novel possibilities of synthetic biology are thus not without precedent in nature, in the sense that taxonomy is always encountering the difficult-to-classify and is currently incapable of fully describing naturally occurring diversity.

No matter what is cooked up in a synthetic biology lab, that doesn’t change the fact that there are diseases out there that can kill you. Scientists know what most of them are, and can reasonably define them. Hence the need for the Select Agent Rule is unaltered by the powers to manipulate, even create, dangerous forms of life (and nucleic acids) that is possibly offered by synthetic biology.

But don’t tell the NSABB working group, because that would get in the way of its political agenda. That the working group’s logic doesn’t parse is unsurprising in view of the fact its science is merely a pretext to table a pre-emptive attack on regulation of synthetic biology and the extant Select Agent Rule. For good measure, the working group adds a pork barrel recommendation to loosen controls on smallpox virus and DNA that suffers from the same logical flaws as the other recommendations.

And, in an easy to overlook item, the working group suggests that biosafety of synthetic DNA can be handled by the failed genetic engineering oversight system known as the NIH Guidelines, designed three decades ago and declining ever since. It’s another failure of the logic to parse. The synthetic biologists literally argue that their science antiquates biodefense before it like the Nazi blitzkrieg through Belgium outmoded the Maginot Line. But then they go on to reason that, for biosafety, the scientific equivalent of the Treaty of Versailles (NIH Guidelines) is sufficient to keep the peace!

In the long run, this quagmire of faulty scientific-legal verbiage won’t stop the real risks of biodefense proliferation. It would take an intelligence failure of a very different type than Iraq in order for NSABB to be allowed to thwart its charge and debilitate proper federal oversight of dual-use research. But that may be exactly what NSABB does. Certainly that’s the way that its working group on synthetic biology is heading. And if it is an indicator of how biodefense researchers, a sort of bioscience nouveau riche, intend to flex their political muscle, then we may be in for many more dangerous years before the wild excesses of the biodefense boom are brought under control.

The Sunshine Project http://www.sunshine-project.org and in our Links section

From the UN observer

Israel developing futuristic weaponry

In nano on November 18, 2006 at 12:22 am

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has given the green light for Israel to set up a special office to develop a nanotechnology arsenal.

Yediot Aharonot said that Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres had been told to choose 15 top thinkers to focus on developing futuristic weaponry. The 15 would be selected from within the security establishment, the world of hi-tech and academia.
Link to Source

World Military Spending Out Does Anything Else

In Uncategorized on November 15, 2006 at 1:28 pm

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Nano ink indicates safety breach in food packaging

In nano on November 15, 2006 at 1:25 pm

14/11/2006 – A new ink leverages nanotechnology to detect the presence of oxygen in food packages, giving a warning that the product is no longer safe to eat.

The ink can be used by processors as another way of assuring wary consumers that their products are protected against faulty packaging and tampering. Once oxygen enters a food package, either accidentally or by tampering, the ink changes colour, warning the consumer that the food is no longer safe to eat.
Link to Source

Military nanotechnology – how worried should we be?

In nano on November 14, 2006 at 1:05 pm

(Nanowerk Spotlight) Link to Source All major powers are making efforts to research and develop nanotechnology- based materials and systems for military use. Asian and European countries, with the exception of Sweden (Swedish Defence Nanotechnology Programme), do not run dedicated programs for defense nanotechnology research. Rather, they integrate several nanotechnology-related projects within their traditional defense-research structures, e.g., as materials research, electronic devices research, or bio-chemical protection research. Not so the U.S. military. Stressing continued technological superiority as its main strategic advantage, it is determined to exploit nanotechnology for future military use and it certainly wants to be No. 1 in this area. The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) is a major investor, spending well over 30% of all federal investment dollars in nanotechnology. Of the $352m spent on nanotech by the DoD in 2005, $1m, or roughly 0.25%, went into research dealing with potential health and environmental risks. In 2006, estimated DoD nanotechnology expenditures will be $436m – but the risk-related research stays at $1m.
Annual DoD investment in nanotechnology; 2006 estimated. (Source data: DoD “Defense Nanotechnology Research and Development Programs”, May 8, 2006)
Proposed and actively pursued military nanotech programs cover a wide range of applications to improve the performance of existing systems and materials and allow new ones. The main areas of research deal with explosives (their chemical composition as well as their containment); bio and medicine (for both injury treatment and performance enhancement); biological and chemical sensors; electronics for computing and information; power generation and storage; structural materials for ground, air and naval vehicles; coatings; filters; and fabrics.
Structure of the DoD Nanotechnology Program
In the mid-1990s the DoD identified nanotechnology as one of six “Strategic Research Areas” (the other five being bioengineering sciences, human performance sciences, information dominance, multifunction materials, propulsion and energetic sciences). The DoD nanotechnology program is grouped into seven program component areas (PCAs), which mirror the PCAs of the U.S. National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI):

* PCA 1: fundamental nanoscale phenomena and processes
* PCA 2: nanomaterials
* PCA 3: nanoscale devices and systems
* PCA 4: instrumentation research, metrology, and standards for nanotechnology
* PCA 5: nanomanufacturing
* PCA 6: major research facilities and instrumentation acquisition
* PCA 7: societal dimensions

About half of the DoD’s nanotech investment goes to DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), with the rest roughly evenly split between Army, Navy and Air Force. Besides DARPA, the major agencies leading the effort are the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), the Army Research Laboratory (ARL), the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR), and MIT’s Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies (ISN). In addition, the DoD established a Defense University Research Initiative on NanoTechnology (DURINT). The DURINT program is intended to enhance U.S. universities’ capabilities to perform basic science and engineering research and related education in nanotechnology critical to national defense.
Most of the DoD dollars spent to date have gone into basic research and engineering. Insofar as these engineering and materials aspects of military nanotechnology incorporate engineered nanomaterials, there are near-term issues that need to be discussed and resolved: the potential toxicity of such materials (which applies to all engineered nanomaterials, not just those for military use), their impact on humans and the environment, and if and how release of such nanomaterials into the environment through military use could exceed release from non-military uses.
While very active in developing nanotech applications, the military is much more passive in assessing the risks and is content to monitor what other agencies do. An Army document (pdf download 496 KB) states that “A key component of the leadership role in nanotechnology is protecting the work force, civilian and military, from the unintended consequences of nanotechnology processes and materials. The Army should take an active role in drafting environmental, safety, and occupational health guidelines for nanomaterials to ensure contractors follow best environmental practices in the development, manufacture, and application of the new technology.” However, this “active role” appears not yet to have materialized.
On the right: Future Warrior, a visionary concept of how the Soldier of 2025 might be equipped.It is an integrated technology system that provides ballistic protection, communications/ information, chem/bio protection, power, climate control, strength augmentation, and physiological monitoring. Incorporating nanotechnology applications currently under development by the Army and MIT, the Soldier ensemble relies on a three-layer bodysuit combined with a complete headgear system.(Source: MIT’s Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies)
A spokesman for the U.S. Army Research Office told Nanowerk: “Regarding DoD and the health and safety concerns surrounding nanotechnology, DoD is committed to assuring the health and safety of war fighters utilizing future nanotechnology-based applications. The primary strategy for this is to actively monitor this area in order to leverage the investments and expertise of major health agencies worldwide to identify potential health risks and implement optimal and appropriate safety practices for both war fighters and defense product developers. By partnering with and relying upon agencies such as NIH (National Institutes of Health), EPA, and NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health), who are the true experts with such matters, we believe we will be able to rapidly and accurately address these concerns while simultaneously avoiding duplicative efforts.”

Military Nanotech Risk Factors Go Beyond Civilian Risk
Some of the military-motivated research could clearly have a positive impact on everyday life (e.g., more powerful batteries, bio and chemical sensors to detect pollutants, filters to remove nanoscale pollutants and toxins, smart fabrics). Others not only pose the same potential risk that commercially used engineered nanomaterials do, for instance during production, but, due to their intended area of use, could have a greater chance of reaching and affecting the environment. Two examples:
1) Military activities often result in stuff being blown up. Blasts by high-tech weaponry could release toxic nanoparticles (which already is the case with depleted uranium munitions) as well as large quantities of nanoengineered particles contained in both munitions and defensive weapons systems and armors (e.g., coatings could release particles into the environment, especially during weapons impact).
2) Large-scale use of nanotech sensors could have an impact on the environment when these sensors start to degrade and engineered nanoparticles leak into the soil.
Of considerable concern is the question to what degree military nanotech could lead to destabilization (when one military power develops a technology that others cannot effectively defend against) and undermine arms-control agreements like the Biological Weapons Convention. A NATO study group states that “the potential for nanotech-driven innovations in chemical and biological weapons are particularly disquieting as they can considerably enhance the delivery mechanisms of agents or toxic substances. The ability of nanoparticles to penetrate the human body and its cells could make biological and chemical warfare much more feasible, easier to manage and to direct against specific groups or individuals.”
Other, longer-term risk factors arise from hotly debated concepts dealing with molecular assembly and self-replicating nanomachinery or from societal issues such as the potential destabilization posed by military nanotechnology applications (e.g., What will be the impact of omnipresent sensor nets and autonomous fighting systems? What are the ethical implications of non-medical implants in soldiers?).
Some examples
Here are current and near-term (from today until 2010) projects that will incorporate “free” engineered nanoparticles, i.e., where at some stage in production or use individual nanoparticles of a substance are present (compiled from public information on various DoD websites):

1. Field-responsive particles impregnated in microchannels, fibers, and foam packages to be used as load-transfer devices to remove/relieve skeletal loads (e.g., for built-in splints) (ISN – Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies)
2. Thin films made of carbon nanotubes that can be deposited onto surfaces for electrically active coatings (Naval Research Laboratory – NRL)
3. Quantum dots for sensors (NRL)
4. Advanced coatings containing polymer nanocomposites (DARPA – Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and AHPCRC – Army High Performance Computing Research Center)
5. Nanocomposites and engineered nanoparticles for high-energy munitions (ICB – Institute for Collaborative Biotechnologies)
6. Bio-molecular motors (DARPA)
7. Polymeric and nanostructured materials for biological and chemical sensors (NRL)
8. Nanometallics for armaments (Army Research Laboratory – ARL)
9. Energy-absorbing nanomaterials (ISN)
10. Nanostructured magnetic materials for controlled adhesives (DARPA and AHPCRC) and as transduction mechanism for monitoring and controlling biological activity at the cellular and, ultimately, single-molecule level (DARPA)
11. Self Decontaminating Surfaces exploiting surface structures of nanomaterials (DARPA)
12. Nanowires and carbon nanotubes for nanoelectronics (NRL)
13. Neural-electronic interfaces for visual, auditory and motor prostheses implanted into the body (DARPA, NRL)
14. Gold nanocluster-based sensors and electronics (NRL)
15. Incorporating carbon nanotubes into continuous high-strength and high-stiffness structural carbon fiber (DARPA)
16. Energy-absorbing and mechanically active nanomaterials in clothing and body armor that will be part of the future soldier’s battlesuit (ISN)

This list is far from exhaustive. More visionary applications and materials such as performance- enhancing nanoengineered protheses and bio-engineered weapons are conceptually feasible but are unlikely to see realization within the next 10-15 years.
By Michael Berger, Copyright 2006 Nanowerk LLC


In Uncategorized on November 13, 2006 at 5:44 pm

New York, Nov 13 2006 12:00PM
African countries suffering or facing water shortages as a result of climate change have a massive potential in rainwater harvesting, with nations like Ethiopia and Kenya capable of meeting the needs of six to seven times their current populations, according to a United Nations report released today.

“The figures are astonishing and will surprise many,” UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director Achim Steiner said of the study, compiled by his agency and the World Agroforestry Centre, which urges governments and donors to invest more widely in a technology that is low cost, simple to deploy and maintain, and able to transform the lives of households, communities and countries Africa-wide.

Overall the quantity of rain falling across the continent is equivalent to the needs of 9 billion people, one and half times the current global population. About a third of Africa is deemed suitable for rainwater harvesting if a threshold of 200 millimetres of arrival rainfall, considered to be at the lower end of the scale, is used.

Although not all rainfall can or should be harvested for drinking and agricultural uses, with over a third needed to sustain the wider environment including forests, grasslands and healthy river flows, the harvesting potential is still much more than adequate to meet a significant slice of human needs, the report notes.

“Africa is not water scarce,” it concludes. “The rainfall contribution is more than adequate to meet the needs of the current population several times over. For example Kenya would not be categorized as a ‘water stressed country’ if rainwater harvesting is considered. The water crisis in Africa is more of an economic problem from lack of investment, and not a matter of physical scarcity.”

Until recently the importance of such harvesting as a buffer against climate-linked extreme weather has been almost invisible in water planning with countries relying almost exclusively on rivers and underground supplies, the report notes.

Unlike big dams, which collect and store water over large areas, small-scale rainwater harvesting projects lose less water to evaporation because the rain or run-off is collected locally and can be stored in a variety of ways.

“Over the coming years we are going to need a range of measures and technologies to capture water and bolster supplies,” Mr. Steiner said. “Conserving and rehabilitating lakes, wetlands and other freshwater ecosystems will be vital and big dams, if sensibly and sustainably designed and constructed, may be part of the equation too.

“However, large-scale infrastructure can often by-pass the needs of poor and dispersed populations. Widely deployed, rainwater harvesting can act as a buffer against drought events for these people while also significantly supplementing supplies in cities and areas connected to the water grid,” he added.

The report mapped the rainwater harvesting potential of nine countries in Africa –Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Kenya, with a population of somewhere under 40 million people, has enough rainfall to supply the needs of six to seven times its current population, according to the study. Ethiopia, where just over a fifth of the population is covered by domestic water supply and an estimated 46 per cent of the population suffer hunger, has a potential rainwater harvest equivalent to the needs of over 520 million people.
2006-11-13 00:00:00.000


For more details go to UN News Centre at http://www.un.org/news

Nano in Israel

In nano on November 13, 2006 at 12:46 am

Eye on Israel Link to original article

A business opportunity for you! Israeli nano centers receive 230 million USD of funding:

In addition to matching funds, the Israeli government will also provide over $8 million for nanotech-related equipment purchases and for advanced research projects in water treatment using nanotechnology.The triangle donation matching program will give preference to research in areas considered to have the strongest potential for Israeli breakthroughs: nanomaterials, nanobiotechnology, nanoelectronics, and nanotech for applications in water treatment and alternative energy.

You can download the complete press-release from the Israeli’s National Nanotechnology Initiative here. The map of the Nano-biotech industry is provided by d&a hi-tech information here. A very complete compendium and links to Nano Industries and companies in Israel is available here.

Kyoto Style Disease Intervention Credit Trading and Neglected Diseases

In Health on November 11, 2006 at 2:54 am

Notice a little bit late
my latest biweekly column
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Cheap, Superefficient Solar

In Uncategorized on November 10, 2006 at 6:53 pm

Solar-power modules that concentrate the power of the sun are becoming more viable.

By Kevin Bullis
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A worker arranges wafers that will be fabricated into superefficient solar cells. These cells could help dramatically reduce the cost of generating electricity from solar energy. (Credit: The Boeing Company)

Technologies collectively known as concentrating photovoltaics are starting to enjoy their day in the sun, thanks to advances in solar cells, which absorb light and convert it into electricity, and the mirror- or lens-based concentrator systems that focus light on them. The technology could soon make solar power as cheap as electricity from the grid.

The idea of concentrating sunlight to reduce the size of solar cells–and therefore to cut costs–has been around for decades. But interest in the technology has picked up in the past year. Last month, Japanese electronics giant Sharp Corporation showed off its new system for focusing sunlight with a fresnel lens (like the one used in lighthouses) onto superefficient solar cells, which are about twice as efficient as conventional silicon cells. Other companies, such as SolFocus, based in Palo Alto, CA, and Energy Innovations, based in Pasadena, CA, are rolling out new concentrators. And the company that supplied the long-lived photovoltaic cells for the Mars rovers, Boeing subsidiary Spectrolab, based in Sylmar, CA, is supplying more than a million cells for concentrator projects, including one in Australia that will generate enough power for 3,500 homes.

The thinking behind concentrated solar power is simple. Because energy from the sun, although abundant, is diffuse, generating one gigawatt of power (the size of a typical utility-scale plant) using traditional photovoltaics requires a four-square-mile area of silicon, says Jerry Olson, a research scientist at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, in Golden, CO. A concentrator system, he says, would replace most of the silicon with plastic or glass lenses or metal reflectors, requiring only as much semiconductor material as it would take to cover an area the size of a typical backyard. And because decreasing the amount of semiconductor needed makes it affordable to use much more efficient types of solar cells, the total footprint of the plant, including the reflectors or lenses, would be only two to two-and-a-half square miles. (This approach is distinct from concentrated thermal solar power, which concentrates the heat from the sun to power turbines or sterling engines.)

“I’d much rather make a few square miles of plastic lenses–it would cost me less–than a few square miles of silicon solar cells,” Olson says. Today solar power is still more expensive than electricity from the grid, but concentrator technology has the potential to change this. Indeed, if manufacturers can meet the challenges of ramping up production and selling, distributing, and installing the systems, their prices could easily meet prices for electricity from the grid, says solar-industry analyst Michael Rogol, managing director of Photon Consulting, in Aachen, Germany.

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