Archive for February 26th, 2007|Daily archive page

Africa, here we come! World Nano-Economic Congress (WNEC)

In nano on February 26, 2007 at 12:39 am

from TNTlog
Africa, here we come!

Posted by Tim on 25 Feb 2007 at 6:17 pm under Events, Nanotech, Africa

We’ve been running the World Nano-Economic Congress (WNEC) series of events continuously since 2003 all around the world: Washington DC, London, Dublin, Singapore, and Mumbai. Developed by my colleague Dexter Johnson who also runs our VIP Events for corporate clients, this has established the WNEC event as the only truly global nanotechnology conference.

Now we are adding a new continent to our list: Africa. The WNEC will hold its first African continent event in Pretoria, South Africa: The World Nano-Economic Congress South Africa.

The reason for bringing the WNEC to South Africa is the same as the reasons why we ran successful events in Dublin, Singapore and Mumbai: South Africa is quickly developing into one of the fastest growing nanotechnology hubs in the world. This rapid development is fueled in part by last year’s launching of the South African National Nanotechnology Strategy, which earmarked R450 million ($61.6 million) to be spent on infrastructure and research over the next three years (Cientifica has partnered with the Department of Science and Technology of South Africa and CSIR to run the event).

But it is also based on South Africa’s industrial base of mining, textiles, and chemicals all of which have something to gain from employing nanotechnology and many of the major tool companies, such as FEI, have set up offices in the country to support this new growth.

If nanotechnology is going to have an impact in Africa, it will start in South Africa. If you want to be a part of that movement, attending the WNEC South Africa would be a very good place to start.

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Sustainable Nanotech

Posted by Tim on 25 Feb 2007 at 6:04 pm under Products, Publications, Health & Safety, Nanotech

Energy WhitepaperOne of the great breakthroughs we expected from nanotechnology was abundant clean energy, and the plentiful supply of funds diverted towards companies such as Konarka and Nanosolar (and previously Nanosys) indicated that there was plenty ofopportunities in that sector. With the coming mania for Cleantech, we decided to take a look at nanotech and energy in a new report and white paper.

As usual the aim of the study was not to simply create another long list of applications of nanotechnologies that could or might have some impact on the energy sector, but to try to understand what applications will be coming onto the market in the next seven years and to make a realistic assessment of their impact.

Fuel Cell Powered Laptop

We took a rather conservative view as most applications of nanotechnologies in this sector are running a few years late. If you have followed nanotech for a while, you may remember that NEC developed direct methanol fuel cells based on nanohorns back in 2001 and were supposed to have them on the market by 2004/5.

They haven’t been heard of since then (maybe concerns about airline security and current restrictions on liquids were the death knell for the half litre of methanol attached to the back of the laptop), and a historical analysis of forecasts for fuel cell use in general shows a history of wildly overoptimistic predictions.

The results were quite surprising. It turns out that many of the overhyped applications such as thin film solar or fuel cells will have relatively little impact between now and 2015, with solid state lighting, nanocomposite materials and aerogels used in insulation and the increasing use of fuel borne catalysts being the major winners. In fact, we predicy energy saving technologies to account for 77% of the energy related applications of nanotechnologies by 2014, up from 62% today.

(nano)Energy Market in 2014

Another interesting fact to emerge from the analysis was that 75% of the nanotech applications will be in the automotive sector, covering everything from using composites to save weight, catalysts to burn fuel more efficiently, and of course the use of fuel cells and hydrogen storage materials once they start to hit the market around 2010.

So overall, the smart money is on saving energy rather than generating it, at least that is where the money will be for the next five years.

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We’ve Moved!

Posted by admin on 25 Feb 2007 at 4:45 pm under Uncategorized

Regular readers may be wondering where TNTlog went for the past few days. The answer is right here. The main Cientifica site has also been upgraded to Web 2.0 making it easier for users to find the information they need. There may be a few bedding in issues, if you find any feel free to let us know.

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Newton, Einstein and Drexler

Posted by Tim on 09 Feb 2007 at 2:28 pm under US & Canada, Unmitigated Hype, Publications

Hypebole of the week has to go to web based publishers WOWIO who have just republished the web version of Engines Of Creation which has been kicking around on the Foresight site for ages.

Ray Kurzweil, whon is beter known these days for taking obscene quantities of vitamins and claiming that the singularity is near – yes, here it comes, just around the corner, hold on, it will be here in a few minutes, or years, maybe, I promise -puts down his acai berries long enough to trumpet

“Some seminal works stand out like beacons in the history of science. Newton’s Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica and Watson and Crick’s A Structure for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid come quickly to mind. In recent decades we can add Eric Drexler’s Engines of Creation which established the revolutionary new field of nanotechnology.”

We had a quick check and couldn’t find it on the Wowio site, and yes, we did check both the science fiction & fanatasy and the science categories.

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Nanoscientists Swinging From the Lamposts of Paris?

Posted by Tim on 01 Feb 2007 at 11:03 am under Europe, Products, Events, Health & Safety, Nanotech

The public enagement bug has spread to France, with a recent Citizen’s conference on nanosciences and nanotechnologies.

We have commented before about the value of these exercises. While it is good to engage ‘citizens’ in debates about technologies that may affect their future, it is hard to make rational decisions based on facts if those facts are not well understood. We have already been through this with organic produce, which far from significantly improving anyone’s health simply allows supermarkets to charge 50% more for essentially the same product and ancreasing numbers of manufacturers are attracted by the fat margins.

The French study put its finger on the core of the paradox, that people want to make the right decision but don’t have the right information or ability to do so, with the finding that “current information on the issue is elitist and reserved to specialists.” Oner has to wonder whether that also applies to the whole of science and technology – is anything that requires a PhD elitist and should we follow the example of Pol Pot and remove all intellectuals?

But seriously, society and business functions as an interlinked collection of individual specialists, and a nanoscientist is no more elitist that a garage mechanic. So while public consultation is a great idea, in the end you need a scientific elite to make the scientific decisions, a bureaucratic elite to implement them and a financial elite to fund them.

The panels’ final conclusions seem to recognise this, and were no different to those of any other public engagement exercise, that they were more or less in favour of nanotechnologies, provided that suitable controls were in place (not disregarding ethics in favour of profits, environmental controls etc.) and that the regional and national government should make sure that they get a decent slice of any economic benefits.

So, not much new, but we couldn’t resist following the lead of Euractive and popping a sensationalist headline on this.

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Academics Shocked To Find General Public Ignorant Of Nanotech

Posted by Tim on 23 Jan 2007 at 8:49 am under US & Canada, Publications, Nanotech

Another new report manages to astound the nanoworld with the news that the General Public is only vaguely aware of nanotechnology.

What seems to be lost in all the clamour to engage the public in debates about emerging technologies is that much of the general public is only vaguely aware of most of science and engineering – asking how a lightbulb or a steam engine works can produce some dismaying results.

Perhaps a fertile subject for future social scientists to study would be why anyone thinks that the public should show any more interest in nanotech than in electrical engineering or nuclear physics?

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I Hung My Head And Wept

Posted by Tim on 19 Jan 2007 at 3:11 pm under Finance, Asia, Nanotech

One of our white papers last year looked at how long it takes for anyone to get hold of nanotech funding, and how easy it is to announce major programs and then hang onto the money. This will be familiar to anyone who has spent much time working on EU Framework programs where the bureaucratic overhead can seem to take up more effrt than the science, but the Indian Government seems to have taken this to an extreme level.

An article in the Hindu entitled “Scientific research in India is hampered by a growing inability to spend budgetary allocations fully” highlights the obstacles scientists have to negotiate to get their hands on funding. This is particularly embarrassing, given India’s nanotech friendly president and as the Hindu noted:

One may be tempted to ask what prompted the President to make such a remark now. It is quite likely that, having looked at the 2005-06 expenditure figures, he must have discovered, to his utter despair, that the Rs.200 crores allocated for the national Nanoscience and Nanotechnology Mission (Nano Mission), of which he was the prime moving force, had to be surrendered entirely unspent. The total amount unspent by the DST is 14.68 per cent of the total allocation in the 2005-06 budget, and the Nano Mission alone accounts for 12 per cent.

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Those Atoms Are Dangerous

Posted by Tim on 16 Jan 2007 at 8:34 am under Social and Ethical, Health & Safety, Nanotech

The winner of ETCs competition to design a nanohazard symbol was due to be announced yesterday, but in the meantime, a gallery of almost 500 entries is available here.

Many of the entries are based around the theme that atoms are dangerous (perhaps they should be banned forthwith?) but my particular favourite is the entry below based on the warning sign for old people crossing the road, although perhaps roads are more likely to be the real hazard than dipping your stick into a puddle of grey goo.


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Nanomission Demo Now Available For Free Download

Posted by Tim on 09 Jan 2007 at 4:09 pm under Europe, Products, Publications, Nanotech


While the rest of the world was taking a few weeks off over Xmas, the elves in PlayGens’ grotto were busy putting the finishing touches to the nanomedicine module of Nanomission. If you ever wondered what nanomedicine would really look like then you can download the demo here.

While it’s a cracking good game, there is as serious side to it and you will learn quite a bit about the nanoworld such as

1. Dispelling the myth of small mechanical robots in the body.

Much of the early ideas about nanotechnology were based on the idea that simple mechanical structures could be built at the nanoscale using atoms as building blocks. These structures would, in theory, be able to operate very quickly and with high precision. However, many of the proposed devices would not actually work on this scale as chemical forces, viscosity and Brownian motion are the dominant forces in the nanoworld, rather than friction and gravity which we all are more accustomed to in our daily lives.

As a result, designing any machine to operate inside the body requires a rather different approach from simply shrinking a submarine to the size of a pinhead as happened in the film “Fantastic Voyage.” If we were somehow able to do this, then the occupants of the craft would be reduced to the size of a few cells, and result in the loss of almost all of their neurons.

2. Learning from nature when designing nanomedicine.

Rather than reducing our world to the nanoscale, many scientists are now realizing that the best nanotechnologist is in fact Mother Nature. Through three billion years of evolution, life has evolved a huge array of complex devices such as DNA, viruses and cells which allow us to store data and repair our damaged parts. Someone who loses a finger is still able to function normally, but pulling a leg off a chip inside your computer could result in the whole machine becoming useless. As a result, scientists are now learning from nature’s nanotech to design devices that work in a similar, but far simpler way. Rather than introducing new machines such as submarines and robots, scientists are mimicking nature for delivery of new anti cancer drugs by the use of structures such as vesicles which move with a flagella rather than a propeller (which is what bacteria do owing to the viscosity of liquids on this scale) or by locking the toxic materials inside an outwardly benign structure that does not trigger the body’s immune systems, keeping the drug from harming healthy cells until the payload is delivered.

3. Being inside the human body.

The human body is a hostile place for things that shouldn’t be there. The body is very sensitive to anything that it sees as a foreign body and deals with them very efficiently. One of the biggest challenges for drug manufacturers is to deliver compounds to the site where they are needed without the immune system or the body’s other defense mechanisms neutralizing or altering the compound.

4. How nanomedicine may be used to cure cancer.

There are hundreds of different types of cancer, so an overall cure is not likely anytime soon, but nanomedicine will allow more effective treatment of many types of cancer by targeting compounds more effectively. The reason why a number of very effective anti cancer compounds cannot be used is because they will also kill healthy cells or they may be altered by the human body before they get to where they are needed, so scientists are finding ways of wrapping them up inside other structures, in this case vesicles, and only releasing them at the site of the cancer.


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Mapping UK Nanotech

Posted by Tim on 09 Jan 2007 at 3:39 pm under Europe, Publications, Nanotech

The new version of the UK’s Industrial Map OF UK Micro and NanoTechnology has just been released, profiling 643 companies which “are either exclusively or partly, manufacturing or developing products based on micro and nanotechnology or offering services in this field.”

The conclusion that “as a consequence, micro and nanotechnologies are contributing to company turnover in excess of £90 billion and employing 400,000 people within the UK” would indicate that either a) most of the companies listed are in the micro domain or b) that the inclusion of large companies such as BNFL who have a small program with Leeds University on uranium nanoparticles (if they could somehow involve GMO’s the program would scandalize every environmental group on the planet!) has skewed the data somewhat.

Overall its a useful bit of work, although the inclusion of law firms and anyone who wants to add a gratuitous nano to their description means that it fails to paint a true picture of the situation, and a lot more work needs to be done before drawing any conclusions about the health, or otherwise, of the UKs MNT sector.