Scientists purify copper nanowires – Woot – Woot! Why this Discovery will Matter to YOU – Apple and Others


An illustration of the separation process from a mixture of various copper nanocrystal shapes (two tubes to the left) to pure nanowires and nanoparticles (two tubes to the right). Credit: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory



Cell phones and Apple watches could last a little longer due to a new method to create copper nanowires.

A team of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) scientists have created a new method to purify copper nanowires with a near-100 percent yield. These nanowires are often used in nanoelectronic applications.




The research, which appears in the online edition of Chemical Communications and on the cover of the hardcopy issue, shows how the method can yield large quantities of long, uniform, high-purity copper nanowires. 
High-purity copper nanowires meet the requirements of nanoelectronic applications as well as provide an avenue for purifying industrial-scale synthesis of copper nanowires, a key step for commercialization and application.

Metal nanowires (NWs) hold promise for commercial applications such as flexible displays, solar cells, catalysts and heat dissipators.

The most common approach to create nanowires not only yield nanowires but also other low-aspect ratio shapes such as nanoparticles (NPs) and nanorods. These undesired byproducts are almost always produced due to difficulties in controlling the non-instantaneous nucleation of the seed particles as well as seed types, which causes the particles to grow in multiple pathways.

“We created the purest form of copper nanowires with no byproducts that would affect the shape and purity of the nanowires,” said LLNL’s Fang Qian, lead author of the paper.
The team demonstrated that copper nanowires, synthesized at a liter-scale, can be purified to near 100 percent yield from their nanoparticle side-products with a few simple steps.

Functional nanomaterials are notoriously difficult to produce in large volumes with highly controlled composition, shapes and sizes. This difficulty has limited adoption of nanomaterials in many manufacturing technologies.




“This work is important because it enables production of large quantities of copper nanomaterials with a very facile and elegant approach to rapidly separate nanowires from nanoparticles with extremely high efficiency,” said Eric Duoss, a principal investigator on the project. “We envision employing these purified nanomaterials for a wide variety of novel fabrication approaches, including additive manufacturing.”

The key to success is the use of a hydrophobic surfactant in aqueous solution, together with an immiscible water organic solvent system to create a hydrophobic-distinct interface, allowing nanowires to crossover spontaneously due to their different crystal structure and total surface area from those of nanoparticles.

“The principles developed from this particular case of copper nanowires may be applied to a variety of nanowire applications,” Qian said. “This purification method will open up new possibilities in producing high quality nanomaterials with low cost and in large quantities.”
Other Livermore researchers include: Pui Ching Lan, Tammy Olson, Cheng Zhu and Christopher Spadaccini.

“We also are developing high surface area foams as well as printable inks for additive manufacturing processes, such as direct-ink writing using the NWs,” said LLNL’s Yong Han, a corresponding author of the paper.

 Explore further: A novel method of making high-quality vertical nanowires

More information: Fang Qian et al. Multiphase separation of copper nanowires, Chem. Commun. (2016). DOI: 10.1039/C6CC06228H 

Journal reference: Chemical Communications  

Provided by: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

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Searching for Global Water and Food Solutions: MIT


1-mit-john-lienhard_0John Lienhard leads coordinated interdisciplinary research efforts to confront resource challenges at the Abdul Latif Jameel World Water and Food Security Lab.

MIT Industrial Liaison Program
November 4, 2014

 

 

 

As world population continues to grow, so does the need for water and food. It would be easy if the fix were laying down more pipes and cultivating more crops. But it’s not that simple. The global climate is becoming unevenly warmer and more people are moving into cities. Both conditions put stress onto already-limited resources. These complex issues need complex solutions, and, for that, MIT has created the Abdul Latif Jameel World Water and Food Security Lab.

Started in the fall of 2014 under the direction of Professor John Lienhard, the lab will be able to support and coordinate research all over campus, helping at once industries trying to improve their productivity and localities trying to thrive. As Lienhard says, it’s the interdisciplinary approach, coupled with MIT’s unique capabilities, that will set the lab apart and bring innovative solutions to bear.

Taking on each region

The lab was established through a gift from Mohammed Abdul Latif Jameel ’78, a civil engineering graduate, with the intent of tackling world food and water issues and the interplay of factors that affect them. As an example, in the Arabian Gulf States, conditions are arid with little agricultural capacity. Most of the water comes from desalinated seawater, and much of the food is imported. It’s an area that will become warmer and drier and be subjected to extreme weather in the coming years, with a population that is rapidly growing, Lienhard says.

Along the equator, climate change will particularly affect agricultural regions. Some of these areas are going to warm faster, but Lienhard says that the bigger issue is that food productivity will shift, making some crops less viable in equatorial areas and more productive closer to the poles, changing what can be grown, and turning strong producers into weaker ones and vice versa. Since food always requires water, one question is whether changing management practices can be the answer to increased production. Fertilizer is a known commodity and would be an easy solution, but, as Lienhard says, it brings with it runoff into waterways and resulting damage to ecosystems.

These specific considerations are reflective of the inherent nature of what the lab faces. “Each of these issues is a regional problem that needs to be looked at in its own context,” says Lienhard, adding, “There is no single answer that’s going to come from a neat invention and a new technology.”

The lab will address this complexity by engaging faculty from across schools, including science, engineering, architecture and urban planning, humanities, arts and social sciences, and management, and by drawing upon work being done in various labs — for example, graphene membranes that can be used for desalination and wireless communication signals that can identify pipe leaks. “When we put people from different disciplines together, we get radically new ideas and approaches to the problems,” he says.

The entry into food

One particular opportunity the lab will provide MIT is having a clear presence in solving global food needs. The impact of population growth is a central issue. In 1960, the world had 3 billion people. Today, it’s 7 billion, and in 2050, the estimate is 9 billion. With that three-fold increase and ongoing development, 50, possibly 70, percent more food will be needed by 2050 than is produced today, Lienhard says. The challenge is that more than one-third of the world’s ice-free land is already being used for farming. Since converting more land to farms through practices such as cutting down rainforests isn’t viable, the answer may lie in more efficient production techniques or different food choices. As he says, one-third of all crops are used for livestock, and producing beef takes 15 times more water than producing an equivalent amount of grain.

Another issue is the rise in urbanization. More than 50 percent of the population already lives in cities. By 2050, it’s estimated that 86 percent of the developed world and 64 percent of the developing one will be there, Lienhard says. Most food, accordingly, is consumed in cities, and so another question is whether urban agriculture can be developed as a water and energy efficient approach to some portion of the food supply.

Many of these issues are known and studied, but a course of action hasn’t been established, let alone enacted. While the lab will be able to identify already-existing food technology on campus to address a problem, one other benefit is it can help identify work that wasn’t conceived for food-related uses but which nonetheless can be applied.

Take food spoilage: One MIT program in nanotechnology has developed sensors that can detect chemical weapons. But these sensors can also be used to detect ripening or rotting food. This could provide the chance to improve food distribution and reduce waste and spoilage along the supply chain. If that can be done, a significant obstacle can be cleared, since estimates suggest that wasted food is four times the amount needed to feed the world’s hungry people, Lienhard says.

In search of partnersChildren and globe

The next step, and the essential one, is collaboration, not only within the university but also with industry. Lienhard says that the lab is looking for partners around the world who can develop and implement new water and food technologies and approaches. But more than that, the lab will help partners address their own business challenges. Some companies want to make their environmental footprints smaller. Others face product struggles in international markets, such as beverages and water. They have to contend with a different quality while also competing for it with locals. Lienhard says the lab can help find an equitable balance between commerce and sharing resources for domestic use.

Because the lab is new, Lienhard says there’s an unknown element to what the work will look like. But for potential partners, there is also a certainty. “They get MIT,” says Lienhard. They know, in other words, that they’ll be working in a context where there are world-recognized faculty members, a large population of graduate and postdoctoral researchers, approximately 120 United States patents issued to Institute-related projects annually, and 20 spinoff companies per year, he says.

There is also the overall guiding philosophy of MIT’s approach. It’s a place that doesn’t keep its work in the lab but instead focuses on translating research to real-world use. Supplying sufficient water and food as the population grows and the climate changes is a large task, but Lienhard says that’s precisely the nature of what MIT does. “We take basic science. We apply it to human needs, and we solve problems.”

Stanford’s GCEP awards $10.5 million for Research on Renewable Energy


 

Nano fuel cells c2cs35307e-f1The Global Climate and Energy Project (GCEP) at Stanford University has awarded $10.5 million for seven research projects designed to advance a broad range of renewable energy technologies. The funding will be shared by six Stanford research teams and an international group from the United States and Europe.

“The seven projects funded by GCEP could spark discoveries that lead to dramatic improvements in energy storage, solar cells and renewable biofuels,” said GCEP Director Sally Benson, a professor of energy resources engineering at Stanford. “I’m delighted to add that many of the scientists who received funding for these innovative projects will be featured speakers at our 2014 GCEP Research Symposium in October.”

The seven awards bring the total number of GCEP-supported research programs to 117 since the project’s launch in 2002. In total, GCEP has awarded approximately $161 million to researchers at Stanford and 40 other institutions worldwide.

“These awards demonstrate GCEP’s continued commitment to advancing cutting- edge research in energy,” said GCEP management committee member Steven Freilich, director of materials science at DuPont Central Research & Development. “As a science company, DuPont believes that collaboration enhances our power to innovate. Programs like GCEP help build the great working relationships between scientists and engineers at universities, companies and government institutions that are required to develop innovative solutions for people everywhere.”

The following Stanford faculty members received funding for advanced research on photovoltaics, battery technologies and new catalysts for sustainable fuels:

Self-healing polymers for high energy density lithium-ion batteries. The goal is to develop high-energy, durable lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles by improving the cycle life of the battery electrodes. Researchers will design self-healing polymers that can stretch to accommodate large volume changes in the battery during charge and discharge. Investigators: Zhenan Bao, Chemical Engineering; Yi Cui, Materials Science and Engineering.Battery Secret untitled

Photo-electrochemically rechargeable zinc-air batteries. The zinc-air battery is a promising technology that has high energy density but limited power density. The research team will develop a photo-electrochemical battery with a stable zinc electrode capable of generating electricity using sunlight and air. Investigator: Hongjie Dai, Chemistry.

Novel inorganic-organic perovskites for photovoltaics. The mineral perovskite is a promising, low-cost material for enhancing the efficiency of silicon solar cells. The goal of this project is to develop a hybrid perovskite-silicon solar cell that significantly improves the light-to-energy conversion efficiency of conventional cells. Investigators: Michael McGehee, Materials Science and Engineering; Hemamala Karunadasa, Chemistry.

ElectrodeBarrierLight trapping in high‐efficiency, low‐cost silicon solar cells. This work aims to develop a new technique for trapping sunlight in thin-film silicon solar cells. Silicon and other materials will be engineered into nanosize spheres, domes and wires that promote light absorption and improve the overall efficiency of the solar cell. Investigator: Mark Brongersma, Materials Science and Engineering.

Maximizing solar-to-fuel conversion efficiency in photo-electrochemical cells. The goal is to create an efficient, stable photo-electrochemical cell capable of converting sunlight into hydrogen and other renewable fuels at elevated temperatures of 500°C to 700°C. Investigators: William Chueh and Nick Melosh, Materials Science and Engineering.

Electrochemical conversion of carbon gases to sustainable fuels and chemicals. Researchers will use computational analysis and experimental techniques to develop new catalysts that convert carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide into renewable fuels and chemicals. Investigators: Thomas Jaramillo, Chemical Engineering; Jens Nørskov, Chemical Engineering and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory; Anders Nilsson, SLAC.

A team of scientists from the United States, Belgium and Scotland also received support for research that could lead to the large-scale conversion of cellulosic plants to biofuels:

Optimizing yield and composition in lignin‐modified plants. The inability to process lignin, a cement-like component of plant cell walls, has been a major hurdle in the production of biofuels from switchgrass and other cellulosic plants. In a previous GCEP study, the research team genetically engineered plants with reduced lignin that were smaller than normal. This project seeks to develop larger lignin-modified plants that can be cultivated for biofuels at scale. Investigators: Clint Chapple, Purdue University; Wout Boerjan, VIB and University of Ghent (Belgium); John Ralph, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Xu Li, North Carolina State University; Claire Halpin and Gordon Simpson, University of Dundee (Scotland).

GCEP is an industry partnership that supports innovative research on energy technologies that address the challenge of global climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Based at Stanford, the project includes five corporate sponsors – ExxonMobil, GE, Schlumberger, DuPont and Bank of America.

###

For more information visit http://gcep.stanford.edu.

This article was written by Mark Shwartz, Precourt Institute for Energy, Stanford University.

Novel Solar Cell Production Using X-Ray Imaging


X Ray Solar id37265The sharp X-ray vision of DESY’s research light source PETRA III paves the way for a new technique to produce cheap, flexible and versatile double solar cells. The method developed by scientists from the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) in Roskilde can reliably produce efficient tandem plastic solar cells of many metres in length, as a team around senior researcher Jens W. Andreasen reports in the journal Advanced Energy Materials (“Enabling Flexible Polymer Tandem Solar Cells by 3D Ptychographic Imaging”).

 

The scientists used a production process, where the different layers of a polymer (plastic) solar cell are coated from various solutions onto a flexible substrate. This way, the solar cell can be produced fast and cheap in a roll-to-roll process and in almost any desired length – up to several kilometers long single solar cell modules have already been manufactured. However, the energy harvesting efficiency of this type of solar cell is not very high. To increase the efficiency, a DTU team around Frederik C. Krebs stacked two such solar cells onto each other. Each of these absorbs a different part of the solar spectrum, so that the resulting tandem polymer solar cell converts more of the incoming sunlight into electric energy. But the multilayer coating presents several new challenges, as Andreasen explained: “Lab studies have shown that already coated layers may be dissolved by the solvent from the following layer, causing complete failure of the solar cell.”

 

X Ray Solar id37265

Ptychographic phase contrast projection of the polymer tandem solar cell stack (two by four microns in size), showing the silver electrode (lower green band) with a polymer layer on top, the upper electrode (upper green band, with red) and the zinc oxide layer (narrow dark blue band) between the two solar cells. The green triangel on top of the sample is the cut-off of a wolfram pin used to manipulate the sample under a scanning electron microscope. (Image: Jens Wenzel Andreasen/DTU)

To prevent redissolution of the first solar cell, the scientists added a carefully composed protective intermediate coating between the two solar cells. The protective coating contains a layer made of zinc oxide (ZnO) that is just 40 nanometres thick – about a thousand times thinner than a human hair. To check shape and function of the protective coating and the other layers of the tandem solar cell, the scientists used the exceptionally sharp X-ray vision of DESY’s research light source PETRA III that can reveal finest details. “The solar cell structure is very delicate, consisting of twelve individual layers altogether.

Imaging the complete structure is challenging,” explained co-author Juliane Reinhardt from DESY’s experimental station P06 where the investigations were made. “And the sample was just two by four microns in size.” Still, with the brilliant X-ray beam from PETRA III, the researchers could peer into the layer structure in fine detail, using a technique called 3D ptychography. This method reconstructs the three-dimensional shape and chemistry of a sample from the way it diffracts the incoming X-rays. For a full 3D reconstruction a great number of overlapping X-ray diffraction images have to be recorded from all sides and angles. The advantage of ptychography is that it yields a higher resolution than would be possible with conventional X-ray imaging alone. And in contrast to electron microscopy, X-ray ptychography can also look deep inside the sample.

“With 3D ptychography, we were able to image the complete roll-to-roll coated tandem solar cell, showing, among other things, the integrity of the 40 nanometres thin zinc oxide layer in the protective coating that successfully preserved underlying layers from solution damage,” said DESY scientist Gerald Falkenberg, head of the experimental station P06. “These are the 3D ptychography measurements with the highest spatial resolution we have achieved so far. The results show that with the correct formulation of the intermediate layer, the underlying solar cell is protected from redissolution.”

The investigation paves the way to a possible industrial application of the new technique. “In a complex multilayer device like a polymer tandem solar cell, the device may fail in multiple ways,” Andreasen pointed out.

“What we were able to see with 3D ptychography was that the preparation of the substrate electrode combines the good conductivity of a coarsely structured silver electrode with the good film forming ability of a conducting polymer that infiltrates the silver electrode and forms a smooth surface for the coating of the subsequent layers.” This is what allows the coating of very thin layers, at very high speeds, still forming contiguous layers, without pinholes.

Looking into the complete structure can also provide valuable information for a possible optimization of the device and the production process. “In principle we make the devices without knowing what the internal structure looks like in detail. But knowing the structure tells us which parameters we can modify, and which factors are important for the device architecture, for example the special type of substrate electrode, and the formulation of the intermediate layer,” Andreasen explained.

“We were now able to verify that we can coat contiguous, homogeneous layers, roll-to-roll from solution, at speeds up to several meters per minute. We have shown that roll-to-roll processing of tandem solar cells is possible, with all of the layers roll-coated from solution, and that it is only possible using a specific formulation of the intermediate layer between the two sub-cells.”

The resulting polymer tandem solar cell converts 2.67 per cent of the incoming sunlight into electric energy, which is way below the efficiency of conventional solar cells. “The efficiency is low, compared to conventional solar cells, by a factor of 7 to 8, but one should consider that the production cost of this type of solar cell is several orders of magnitude lower than for conventional solar cells. This is the particular advantage of polymer solar cells,” explained Andreasen. “Furthermore, this is the first example of a roll-to-roll coated tandem solar cell where the efficiency of the tandem device actually exceeds that of the individual sub-cell devices by themselves.”
Source: DESY

 

 

 

 

 

 

Genesis Nanotech ‘News and Updates’ – September 9, 2014


Nano Sensor for Cancer 50006

Genesis Nanotech ‘News and Updates’ – September 9, 2014

Follow This Link: https://paper.li/GenesisNanoTech/1354215819#

Or by Individual Articles:

Transfer Printing Methods for Flexible Thin Film Solar Cells: Basic Concepts and Working Principles – ACS Nano (ACS Publications)

Nanotechnology to slash NOx and “cancerous” emissions

Tumor-Homing, Size-Tunable Clustered Nanoparticles for Anticancer Therapeutics – ACS Nano (ACS Publications)

New Detector Capable of Capturing Terahertz Waves at Room Temperature

Quotable Coach: Plug In And Participate – The Multiplier Mindset: Insights & Tips for Entrepreneurs

Genesis Nanotechnology – “Great Things from Small Things!”

The World Of Tomorrow: Nanotechnology: Interview with PhD and Attorney D.M. Vernon


Bricks and Mortar chemistsdemoThe Editor interviews Deborah M. VernonPhD, Partner in McCarter & English, LLP’s Boston office.

 

 

 

Why It Matters –

” … I would say the two most interesting areas in the last year or two have been in 3-D printing and nanotechnology. 3-D printing is an additive technology in which one is able to make a three-dimensional product, such as a screw, by adding material rather than using a traditional reduction process, like a CNC (milling) process or a grinding-away process.

The other interesting area has been nanotechnology. Nanotechnology is the science of materials and structures that have a dimension in the nanometer range (1-1,000 nm) – that is, on the atomic or molecular scale. A fascinating aspect of nanomaterials is that they can have vastly different material properties (e.g., chemical, electrical, mechanical properties) than their larger-scale counterparts. As a result, these materials can be used in applications where their larger-scale counterparts have traditionally not been utilized.”

nanotech

Editor: Deborah, please tell us about the specific practice areas of intellectual property in which you participate.

 

 

Vernon: My practice has been directed to helping clients assess, build, maintain and enforce their intellectual property, especially in the technology areas of material science, analytical chemistry and mechanical engineering. Prior to entering the practice of law, I studied mechanical engineering as an undergraduate and I obtained a PhD in material science engineering, where I focused on creating composite materials with improved mechanical properties.

Editor: Please describe some of the new areas of biological and chemical research into which your practice takes you, such as nanotechnology, three-dimensional printing technology, and other areas.

Vernon: I would say the two most interesting areas in the last year or two have been in 3-D printing and nanotechnology. 3-D printing is an additive technology in which one is able to make a three-dimensional product, such as a screw, by adding material rather than using a traditional reduction process, like a CNC (milling) process or a grinding-away process. The other interesting area has been nanotechnology. Nanotechnology is the science of materials and structures that have a dimension in the nanometer range (1-1,000 nm) – that is, on the atomic or molecular scale.

A fascinating aspect of nanomaterials is that they can have vastly different material properties (e.g., chemical, electrical, mechanical properties) than their larger-scale counterparts. As a result, these materials can be used in applications where their larger-scale counterparts have traditionally not been utilized.

Organ on a chip organx250

I was fortunate to work in the nanotech field in graduate school. During this time, I investigated and developed methods for forming ceramic composites, which maintain a nanoscale grain size even after sintering. Sintering is the process used to form fully dense ceramic materials. The problem with sintering is that it adds energy to a system, resulting in grain growth of the ceramic materials. In order to maintain the advantageous properties of the nanosized grains, I worked on methods that pinned the ceramic grain boundaries to reduce growth during sintering.

The methods I developed not only involved handling of nanosized ceramic particles, but also the deposition of nanofilms into a porous ceramic material to create nanocomposites. I have been able to apply this experience in my IP practice to assist clients in obtaining and assessing IP in the areas of nanolaminates and coatings, nanosized particles and nanostructures, such as carbon nanotubes, nano fluidic devices, which are very small devices which transport fluids, and 3D structures formed from nanomaterials, such as woven nanofibers.

Editor: I understand that some of the components of the new Boeing 787 are examples of nanotechnology.

Vernon: The design objective behind the 787 is that lighter, better-performing materials will reduce the weight of the aircraft, resulting in longer possible flight times and decreased operating costs. Boeing reports that approximately 50 percent of the materials in the 787 are composite materials, and that nanotechnology will play an important role in achieving and exceeding the design objective. (See, http://www.nasc.com/nanometa/Plenary%20Talk%20Chong.pdf).

While it is believed that nanocomposite materials are used in the fuselage of the 787, Boeing is investigating applying nanotechnology to reduce costs and increase performance not only in fuselage and aircraft structures, but also within energy, sensor and system controls of the aircraft.

Editor: What products have incorporated nanotechnology? What products are anticipated to incorporate its processes in the future?

Vernon: The products that people are the most familiar with are cosmetic products, such as hair products for thinning hair that deliver nutrients deep into the scalp, and sunscreen, which includes nanosized titanium dioxide and zinc oxide to eliminate the white, pasty look of sunscreens. Sports products, such as fishing rods and tennis rackets, have incorporated a composite of carbon fiber and silica nanoparticles to add strength. Nano products are used in paints and coatings to prevent algae and corrosion on the hulls of boats and to help reduce mold and kill bacteria. We’re seeing nanotechnology used in filters to separate chemicals and in water filtration.

The textile industry has also started to use nano coatings to repel water and make fabrics flame resistant. The medical imaging industry is starting to use nanoparticles to tag certain areas of the body, allowing for enhanced MRI imaging. Developing areas include drug delivery, disease detection and therapeutics for oncology. Obviously, those are definitely in the future, but it is the direction of scientific thinking.

Editor: What liabilities can product manufacturers incur who are incorporating nanotechnology into their products? What kinds of health and safety risks are incurred in their manufacture or consumption?Nano Body II 43a262816377a448922f9811e069be13

Vernon: There are three different areas that we should think about: the manufacturing process, consumer use and environmental issues. In manufacturing there are potential safety issues with respect to the incorporation or delivery of nanomaterials. For example, inhalation of nanoparticles can cause serious respiratory issues, and contact of some nanoparticles with the skin or eyes may result in irritation. In terms of consumer use, nanomaterials may have different material properties from their larger counterparts.

As a result, we are not quite sure how these materials will affect the human body insofar as they might have a higher toxicity level than in their larger counterparts. With respect to an environmental impact, waste or recycled products may lead to the release of nanoparticles into bodies of water or impact wildlife. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has established the Nanotechnology Research Center to develop a strategic direction with respect to occupational safety and nanotechnology. Guidance and publications can be found at http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/nanotech.

Editor: The European Union requires the labeling of foods containing nanomaterials. What has been the position of the Food & Drug Administration and the EPA in the United States about food labeling?

Vernon: So far the FDA has taken the position that just because nanomaterials are smaller, they are not materially different from their larger counterparts, and therefore there have been no labeling requirements on food products. The FDA believes that their current standards for safety assessment are robust and flexible enough to handle a variety of different materials. That being said, the FDA has issued some guidelines for the food and cosmetic industries, but there has not been any requirement for food labeling as of now. The EPA has a nanotechnology division, which is also studying nanomaterials and their impact, but I haven’t seen anything that specifically requires a special registration process for nanomaterials.

Editor: What new regulations regarding nanotech products are expected? Should governmental regulations be adopted to prevent nanoparticles in foods and cosmetics from causing toxicity?

Vernon: The FDA has not telegraphed that any new regulations will be put into place. The agency is currently in the data collection stage to make sure that these materials are being safely delivered to people using current FDA standards – that materials are safe for human consumption or contact with humans. We won’t really understand whether or not regulations will be coming into place until we see data coming out that indicates that there are issues that are directly associated with nanomaterials. Rather than expecting regulations, I would suggest that we examine the data regarding nano products to optimize safe handling and use procedures.

Editor: Have there ever been any cases involving toxicity resulting from nano products?

Vernon: There are current investigations about the toxicity of carbon nano tubes, but the research is in its infancy. There is no evidence to show any potential harm from this technology. Unlike asbestos or silica exposure, the science is not there yet to demonstrate any toxicity link. The general understanding is that it may take decades for any potential harm to manifest. I believe my colleague, Patrick J. Comerford, head of McCarter’s product liability team in Boston, summarizes the situation well by noting that “if any supportable science was available, plaintiff’s bar would have already made this a high-profile target.”

Editor: While some biotech cases have failed the test of patentability before the courts, such as the case of Mayo v. Prometheus, what standard has been set forth for a biotech process to pass the test for patentability?

Vernon: There is no specified bright-line test for determining if a biotech process is patentable. But what the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has done is to issue some new examination guidelines with respect to the Mayo decision that help examiners figure out whether a biotech process is patent eligible. Specifically, the guidelines look to see if the biotech process (i.e., a process incorporating a law of nature) also includes at least one additional element or step. That additional element needs to be significant and not just a mental or correlation step. If a biotech process patent claim includes this significant additional step, there still needs to be a determination if the process is novel and non-obvious over the prior art. So while this might not be a bright-line test to help us figure out whether a biotech process is patentable, it at least gives us some direction about what the examiners are looking for in the patent claims.

Editor: What effect do you think the new America Invents Act will have in encouraging biotech companies to file early in the first stages of product development? Might that not run the risk that the courts could deny patentability as in the Ariad case where functional results of a process were described rather than the specific invention?

Vernon: The AIA goes into effect next month. What companies, especially biotech companies, need to do is file early. Companies need to submit applications supported by their research to include both a written description and enablement of the invention. Companies will need to be more focused on making sure that they are not only inventing in a timely manner but are also involving their patent counsel in planned and well-thought-out experiments to make sure that the supporting information is available in a timely fashion for patenting.

Editor: Have there been any recent cases relating to biotechnology or nanotechnology that our readers should be informed about?

Vernon: The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in April in the Myriad case. This case involves the BRCA gene, the breast cancer gene – and the issue is whether isolating a portion of a gene is patentable. While I am not a biotechnologist, I think this case will also impact nanotechnology as a whole. Applying for a patent on a portion of a gene is not too far distant from applying for a patent on a nanoparticle of a material that already exists but which has different properties from the original, larger-counterpart material. Would this nanosize material be patentable? This will be an important case to see what guidance the Supreme Court delivers this coming term.

Editor: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Vernon: I think the next couple of years for nanotech will be very interesting. As I mentioned, I did my PhD thesis in the nanotechnology area a few years ago. My studies, like those of many other students, were funded in part with government grants. There is a great deal of government money being poured into nanotechnology. In the next ten years we will start seeing more and more of this research being commercialized and adopted into our lives. To keep current of developments, readers can visit www.nano.gov.

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U of Maryland Researchers Discover New synthesis Method: Could Impact the Futures of Nanostructures, Clean Energy


IBM Graphene CircutsA team of University of Maryland physicists has published new nanoscience advances that they and other scientists say make possible new nanostructures and nanotechnologies with huge potential applications ranging from clean energy and quantum computing advances to new sensor development.
 
Published in the September 2, issue of Nature Communications (“Hierarchical synthesis of non-centrosymmetric hybrid nanostructures and enabled plasmon-driven photocatalysis”) the Maryland scientists’ primary discovery is a fundamentally new synthesis strategy for hybrid nanostructures that uses a connector, or “intermedium,” nanoparticle to join multiple different nanoparticles into nanostructures that would be very difficult or perhaps even impossible to make with existing methods.
 
The resultant mix and match modular component approach avoids the limitations in material choice and nanostructure size, shape and symmetry that are inherent in the crystalline growth (epitaxial) synthesis approaches currently used to build nanostructures.

“Our approach makes it possible to design and build higher order [more complex and materially varied] nanostructures with a specifically designed symmetry or shape, akin to the body’s ability to make different protein oligomers each with a specific function determined by its specific composition and shape,” says team leader Min Ouyang, an associate professor in the department of physics and the Maryland NanoCenter.

“Such a synthesis method is the dream of many scientists in our field and we expect researchers now will use our approach to fabricate a full class of new nanoscale hybrid structures,” he says.

 
IBM Graphene Circuts
Among the scientists excited about this new method is the University of Delaware’s Matt Doty, an associate professor of materials science and engineering, physics, and electrical and computer engineering and associate director of the UD Nanofabrication Facility. “The work of Weng and coauthors provides a powerful new tool for the ‘quantum engineering’ of complex nanostructures designed to implement novel electronic and optoelectronic functions. [Their] new approach makes it feasible for researchers to realize much more sophisticated nanostructure designs than were previously possible.” he says.

Lighting a Way to Efficient Clean Power Generation

Applications of Nanomaterials Chart Picture1

The team’s second discovery may allow full realization of a light-generated nanoparticle effect first used by ancient Romans to create glass that changes color based on light.. This effect, known as surface plasmon resonance, involves the generation of high energy electrons using light.
More accurately explains Ouyang, plasmon resonance is the generation of a collective oscillation of low energy electrons by light. And the light energy stored in such a “plasmonic oscillator” then can be converted to energetic carriers (i.e., “hot” electrons)” for use in various applications.
In recent years, many scientists have been trying to apply this effect to the creation of more efficient photocatalysts for use in the production of clean energy. Photocatalysts are substances that use light to boost chemical reactions. Chlorophyll is a natural photocatalyst used by plants.
“The ingenious nano-assemblies that Professor Ouyang and his collaborators have fabricated, which include the novel feature of a silver-gold particle that super-efficiently harvests light, bring us a giant step nearer the so-far elusive goal of artificial photosynthesis: using sunlight to transform water and carbon dioxide into fuels and valuable chemicals,” says Professor Martin Moskovits of the University of California at Santa Barbara, a widely recognized expert in this area of research and not affiliated with the paper.
Indeed, using sunlight to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen to produce hydrogen fuel has long been a clean energy “holy grail”. However, decades of research advances have not yielded photocatalytic methods with sufficient energy efficiency to be cost effective for use in large scale water splitting applications.
“Using our new modular synthesis strategy, our UMD team created an optimally designed, plasmon-mediated photocatalytic nanostructure that is an almost 15 times more efficient than conventional photocatalysts,” says Ouyang.
In studying this new photocatalyst, the scientists identified a previously unknown “hot plasmon electron-driven photocatalysis mechanism with an identified electron transfer pathway.”
It is this new mechanism that makes possible the high efficiency of the UMD team’s new photocatalyst. And it is a finding made possible by the precise materials control allowed by the team’s new general synthesis method.
Their findings hold great promise for future advances that could make water splitting cost effective for large-scale use in creating hydrogen fuel. Such a system would allow light energy from large solar energy farms to be stored as chemical energy in the form of clean hydrogen fuel. And the UMD team’s newly-discovered mechanism for creating hot (high energy) electrons should also be applicable to research involving other photo-excitation processes, according to Ouyang and his colleagues.
Source: University of Maryland

KAUST: No Water, Mechanical, Automated, Dusting Device (NOMADD) for Solar Panels


KAUST Solar ic8dbMM9X_FMPublished on Jun 23, 2014

How do you remove the “dust” from hundreds of acres of Solar Panels? (Video)

 

The No Water, Mechanical, Automated, Dusting Device for photovoltaic installations (NOMADD) effectively removes dust without requiring any water or labor. This environmentally friendly technology enables more widespread use of solar photovoltaics in arid regions and helps to conserve the Earth’s water resources and harness the full potential of solar energy.

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This technology is part of KAUST’s technology commercialization program that seeks to stimulate development and commercial use of KAUST-developed technologies. For more information, contact us at IP@kaust.edu.sa.

New $AUD30 M Research Facility at RMIT University in Melbourne


A new $AUD30 million research facility at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, will drive cutting-edge advances in micro- and nano-technologies.

RMIT University’s $AUD30 million MicroNano Research Facility.

The MicroNano Research Facility (MNRF) will bring to Australia the world’s first rapid 3D nanoscale printer and will support projects that span across the traditional disciplines of physics, chemistry, engineering, biology and medicine.

The City campus facility will be launched by Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Margaret Gardner AO, on Wednesday, 27 August.

Professor Gardner said the opening of the state-of-the-art laboratories and clean rooms was the start of an exciting new chapter in cross-disciplinary nano research.

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“At the heart of the MicroNano Research Facility’s mission is bringing together disparate disciplines to enable internationally-leading research activity,” she said.

“RMIT has long been a pioneer in this field, opening Australia’s first academic clean rooms at the Microelectronics and Materials Technology Centre in 1983.

“Over three decades later, this investment in the world-class MNRF will enable RMIT’s leading researchers to continue to break new ground and transform the future.”

Among the equipment available to researchers in the 1200 square metre facility will be the world’s first rapid 3D nanoscale printer, capable of producing thousands of structures – each a fraction of the width of a human hair – in seconds.

Designed by architects SKM Jacobs, the MNRF also offers researchers access to more than 50 cutting-edge tools, including focused ion beam lithography with helium, neon, and gallium ion beams to enable imaging and machining objects to 0.5 nm resolution – about 5 to 10 atoms.

Director of the MNRF, Professor James Friend, said 10 research teams would work at the new facility on a broad range of projects, including:

  • building miniaturised motors – or microactuators – to retrieve blood clots from deep within the brain, enabling minimally invasive neurological intervention in people affected by strokes or aneurysms;
  • improving drug delivery via the lungs through new techniques that can atomise large biomolecules – including drugs, DNA, antibodies and even cells – into tiny droplets to avoid the damage of conventional nebulisation;
  • developing innovative energy harvesting techniques that change the way batteries are recharged, using novel materials that can draw on the energy generated simply by people walking around; and,
  • inventing ways to use water to remove toxins from fabric dyes, with new nanotechnologies that can facilitate the breaking down of those dyes with nanostructured catalysts.

“This facility is all about ensuring researchers have the freedom to imagine and safely realise the impossible at tiny scales and beyond,” Professor Friend said.

“Having access to purpose-designed laboratories and leading-edge equipment opens tremendous opportunities for RMIT and for those we collaborate with, enabling us to advance the development of truly smart technology solutions to some of our most complex problems.”

Laboratories in the MNRF will include:

  • Gas sensors laboratory
  • Metrology laboratory
  • Novel Fabrication laboratory
  • PC2 mammalian cell laboratory
  • Photolithography laboratory
  • Physical vapour deposition laboratory
  • Polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) and nanoparticle laboratory
  • Wet etch laboratory
  • Support laboratory

The MNRF will be a key enabler of RMIT’s flagship Health Innovations Research Institute and Platform Technologies Research Institute.

A unique teaching facility will also be affiliated with the MNRF.

The Micro Nano Teaching Facility (MNTF) is the first of its kind in Australia, enabling undergraduate and postgraduate engineering student trainees to study clean room operations and micro-fabrication

IBM Solar Dish Does Double Duty


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IBM Researchers build solar concentrator that generates electricity and enough heat for desalination or cooling.

Cooling a supercomputer can provide clues on how to make solar power cheap, says IBM.

IBM Research today detailed a prototype solar dish that uses a water-cooling technology it developed for its high-end computers (see “Hot Water Helps Super-Efficient Supercomputer Keep Its Cool”). The solar concentrator uses low-cost components and produces both electricity and heat, which could be used for desalination or to run an air conditioner.

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Researchers envision giant concentrators, built with low-cost materials, that produce electricity and heat for use in desalination or cooling. Credit: IBM Research.

The work, funded by $2.4 million grant from the Swiss Commission for Technology and Innovation, is being done by IBM Research, the Swiss company Airlight Energy, and Swiss researchers. Since this is outside IBM’s main business, it’s not clear how the technology would be commercialized. But the high-concentration photovoltaic thermal (HCPVT) system promises to be cost-effective, according to IBM, and the design offers some insights into how to use concentrating solar power for both heat and electricity.

Typically, parabolic dishes concentrate sunlight to produce heat, which can be transfered to another machine or used to drive a Stirling engine that makes electricity (see “Running a Marine Unit on Solar and Diesel”). With this device, IBM and its partners used a solar concentrator dish to shine light on a thin array of highly efficient triple-junction solar cells, which produce electricity from sunlight. By concentrating the light 2,000 times onto hundreds of one-centimeter-square cells, IBM projects, a full-scale concentrator could provide 25 kilowatts of power.

In this design, the engineers hope to both boost the output of the solar cells and make use of the heat produced by the concentrator. Borrowing its liquid-cooling technology for servers, IBM built a cooling system with pipes only a few microns off the photovoltaic cells to circulate water and carry away the heat. More than 50 percent of the waste heat is recovered. “Instead of just throwing away the heat, we’re using the waste heat for processes such as desalination or absorption cooling,” says Bruno Michel, manager, advanced thermal packaging at IBM Research.

Researchers expect they can keep the cost down with a tracking system made out of concrete rather than metal. Instead of mirrored glass on the concentrator dish, they plan to use metal foils. They project the cost to be 10 cents per kilowatt-hour in desert regions that have the appropriate sunlight, such as the Sahara in northern Africa.

One of the primary challenges of such a device, apart from keeping costs down and optimizing efficiency, is finding a suitable application. The combined power and thermal generator only makes sense in places where the waste heat can be used at least during part of the day. The researchers envision it could be used in sunny locations without adequate fresh water reserves or, potentially, in remote tourist resorts on islands. In those cases, the system would need to be easy to operate and reliable.