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Foresight Nanotech Institute Weekly News Digest: September 27, 2006

Dear Readers: The Weekly News Digest will not be published on October 4, 2006. We will resume publication on October 11, 2006.

In this issue:

Nanotechnology that's Good For People

Foresight Challenge: Supplying clean water globally

Foresight note: Nanoscale research for water purification solutions has begun to receive funding.

Headline: Nanotechnology being tested to purify water
News source: WaterTech Online

Through funding from organizations like the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), researchers around the nation are investigating the use of nanotechnology to purify public water supplies, according to a recent report by Scienceline article by Susan Cosie.

Dr. Mamadou Diallo, director of molecular environmental technology at the California Institute of Technology and recipient of an EPA grant, said in the story that nanotechnology water purification methods "will become critical components of industrial and public water purification systems."

Foresight Challenge: Supplying clean water globally

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Foresight Challenge: Increasing health and longevity

Foresight note: This targeted cancer treatment may enhance or correct the genetic code that causes the disease.

Headline: Synchronized delivery for DNA and drugs
News source: Chemistry World

Polymer capsules that can simultaneously deliver drug molecules and DNA into a cell could boost the power of cancer treatments, scientists say.

The capsules are biodegradable nanoparticles that have an internal hydrophobic cavity that can hold drug compounds. In contrast, the outer shell of the capsule is positively charged and can bind DNA or RNA.

Previously, scientists have used viruses as gene delivery systems, forcing them to infect target cells with a corrective strand of DNA. If the treatment is successful the new gene is incorporated into the cell, correcting or enhancing the genetic code. Obeying these new instructions, the cell will start to make proteins to cure the illness, for example.

But there are limitations to this strategy. Viral manipulation at such a fundamental level is challenging, and there are still safety concerns about using viruses in this way. Alternative approaches have hidden the DNA inside soft self-assembled nanostructures to smuggle it into the cell.

The new nanocapsules go one better by carrying a double-pronged attack to cancer cells. Yi-Yan Yang from the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology, Singapore, and colleagues, built the capsules using a mixture of poly(N-methyldietheneamine sebacate) (PMDS) and a cholesterol-carrying monomer. This produced a molecular chain that self-assembled into a sphere with a hydrophobic internal cavity, lined with cholesterol molecules.

Foresight Challenge: Increasing health and longevity

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Nanotechnology that's Good For the Planet

Foresight Challenge: Providing renewable clean energy

Foresight note: More funding and commercial alliances in the search for producing better batteries using nanoscale solutions.

Headline: Nanoexa inks battery technology deal
News source: San Francisco Business Times

Nanoexa signed a deal to work with Argonne National Laboratory and a South Korean company to develop and sell advanced battery technology.

Nanoexa didn't give financial details of the deal.

The South San Francisco-based company owns a controlling stake in Decktron, the South Korean company in the deal. Decktron makes lithium batteries and flat displays.

Through the deal, Nanoexa seeks to sell new lithium battery technology developed by Argonne lab, which is managed by the University of Chicago. Such batteries could be used in cars, and Michael Pak, the CEO of Nanoexa, cited Argonne's connections to automobile makers as a benefit of the agreement.

Nanoexa bought its controlling stake in Decktron this year.

Foresight Challenge: Providing renewable clean energy

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Foresight News

Foresight Nanotech Institute Announces Feynman Prize Winners: Researchers, Author, and Student Honored

Foresight Nanotech Institute awarded prizes to leaders in research, communication and study in the field of nanotechnology at nanoTX '06 today. These prizes are conferred on individuals whose work in research, communication and study are moving our society towards the ultimate goal of atomically-precise manufacturing.

The 2006 Foresight Institute Feynman Prizes, named in honor of pioneer physicist Richard Feynman, are given in two categories, one for experimental work and the other for theory in advances in nanotechnology. This year's winning research team, Drs. Erik Winfree and Paul W.K. Rothemund of Caltech, received the prizes in both categories.

The Foresight Prize in Communication was presented to nanotechnology author and computer scientist J. Storrs Hall. A Georgia Institute of Technology graduate student, Berhane Temelso, received the Foresight Distinguished Student Award.

"For the first time ever, the same research team is being honored with the Feynman prizes in both categories, theory and experiment," said Jillian Elliott, President of Foresight Nanotech Institute. "This is an exciting example of how nanotechnology theory and experiment are meeting in research institutions. Discoveries that were considered 'theory' years ago are becoming a reality through experiment."

Foresight Supports National Academies' Call for Experimental Work Toward Atomically-Precise Manufacturing

Foresight Nanotech Institute added its support for recommendations from the National Academies advocating experimental work to explore the potential of molecular manufacturing. The report, which evaluates the overall effectiveness of U.S. federal research on nanotechnology, recommends experimental testing of key principles on the pathway to building large-scale products with atomic precision.

Christine Peterson, founder and Vice President of Foresight Nanotech Institute, stated, "With this report, the National Academies recognize the visionary engineering analysis that has been done and recommend that greater coordination be given to the relevant research communities. As a public interest group focused on the medical, environmental, and economic benefits expected from atomically-precise manufacturing, Foresight strongly seconds this recommendation and looks forward to seeing U.S. federal funds deployed effectively toward this goal."

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Become a member of Foresight

If you are interested in advancing beneficial nanotechnology, please consider becoming a member of Foresight. With your support, Foresight will continue to be the leading public interest voice for nanotechnology that will focus on using this powerful technology to improve the health and well being of people and the planet.

We have membership levels designed for inclusion of all who are interested in our nanotechnology future whether you are a student, individual or corporation.

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Foresight Partners

National Nano Engineering Conference

National Nano Engineering Conference
Sponsored by NASA Tech Briefs
November 9-10, 2006
Boston, Massachusetts

NASA Tech Briefs proudly presents the 2006 National Nano Engineering Conference (NNEC). Produced for design engineers who want to discover what's real, what's close and what might be coming in the world of nanotechnology.

The 2006 NNEC will include technical presentations and exhibits from companies leading the nanotechnology industry. The Nano50 Awards will also be presented during the conference, showcasing the top innovators, technologies and products in nanotechnology.

Discover the latest nanoscale engineering breakthroughs impacting:

  • Power & Energy
  • Electronics & Communications
  • Bio-Medicine
  • Manufacturing
  • Test & Measurement
  • Health & Safety

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Nanotech Research

Headline: 55,000 Tiny Thomas Jeffersons Show Power Of New Method

News source: ScienceDaily

Ever since the invention of the first scanning probe microscope in 1981, researchers have believed the powerful tool would someday be used for the nanofabrication and nanopatterning of surfaces in a molecule-by-molecule, bottom-up fashion. Despite 25 years of research in this area, the world has hit a brick wall in developing a technique with commercial potential — until now.

Northwestern University researchers have developed a 55,000-pen, two- dimensional array that allows them to simultaneously create 55,000 identical patterns drawn with tiny dots of molecular ink on substrates of gold or glass. Each structure is only a single molecule tall.

This advance of a patterning method called Dip-Pen Nanolithography (DPN), which was invented at Northwestern in 1999, was published online by the journal Angewandte Chemie

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Nanotech News

More comment on the National Academies' Report

Headline: Nanotechnology Risks Unknown, Insufficient Attention Paid to Potential Dangers, Report Says

News source: Washington Post by Rick Weiss

The United States is the world leader in nanotechnology — the newly blossoming science of making incredibly small materials and devices — but is not paying enough attention to the environmental, health and safety risks posed by nanoscale products, says a report released yesterday by the independent National Research Council.

If federal officials, business leaders and others do not devise a plan to fill the gaps in their knowledge of nanotech safety, the report warns, the field's great promise could evaporate in a cloud of public mistrust.

"There is some evidence that engineered nanoparticles can have adverse effects on the health of laboratory animals," the congressionally mandated report said, echoing concerns raised by others at a House hearing last week. Until the risks are better understood, "it is prudent to employ some precautionary measures to protect the health and safety of workers, the public, and the environment."

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China closing gap with US on nanotechnology - report

News source: Forbes.com

BEIJING – China is making rapid advances in the field of nanotechnology and the US should monitor China's progress in order to maintain a competitive edge in the cutting-edge scientific research sector, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing a visiting US commerce official.

'China is one of the players that is gaining on us. We are wise to take a look at what they are doing that's been successful, and see how it might apply to improve our system,' the newspaper said, citing Robert Cresanti, undersecretary for technology at the US Department of Commerce.

Cresanti, who is in Beijing to meet with Chinese policymakers, said China's gains were obvious.

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Nanotech Events

Annual Tech Transfer Investing

4th Annual Tech Transfer Investing
Venture Investing in IP Commercialization and Research Spinouts
Co-presented by Boston University and IBF-International Business Forum
October 18, 2006
Boston, Massachusetts

This conference facilitates commercial collaboration & investing between research labs, venture capitalists and corporations. Venture capitalists and corporations are identifying promising technologies in research labs in universities, medical centers, and government agencies for spinouts and commercialization.

The conference is focused on starting, building and financing technology based spinouts from universities, national labs and corporations. The event is different from annual association meetings because the event unites tech transfer executives, venture capitalists and corporations for open and honest dialogue on investing opportunities, term structures and deal partnerships.

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Editor's Pick

Dear readers – When reviewing news for this digest, I often read about something that I think is cool, but it doesn't fit within the usual editorial categories of the News Digest. This section highlights a nanotech advance, event or idea that I think is especially cool.

This is a Q&A with John Patrick and three nanotechnology experts in three different areas, medical, computing and materials. A good and insightful read on what to expect. I have pulled one of my favorite quotes from this Q&A for your reading pleasure.

Please note that the news digest will be not published next week. I am taking a much-needed vacation. Look for the next news digest on October 11, 2006. Until then, thanks for reading.

— Judy

Nano ideas

News source: Rational Rants by Mitch Ratcliffe on ZDNet

John Patrick: "So some of the biggest breakthroughs [in nanotech] may be unexpected."

Gian-luca Bona, IBM Almaden Research: "Absolutely, and we should not limit ourselves by closing our minds to these opportunities."

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Join the Discussion on Nanodot

Headline: U.S. nanotechnology funds study ethics of human enhancement
News source: Nanodot

Patrick Lin over at the Nanoethics Group let us know that the principals of that group have received a US$250,000 grant from the NSF to study the ethics of using nanotechnology to do human enhancement, through their academic affiliations at Dartmouth and Western Michigan U.

"The questions to be investigated by the nanoethics research team include, but are not limited to: What exactly constitutes enhancement? Is there a right to be enhanced? Is it justifiable to enhance people in order for them to undertake certain tasks, e.g., in the military? Is there an obligation to enhance our children? Should there be limits on the types of enhancement allowed or the degree to which someone can be enhanced? Does it make an ethical difference if some enhancing device is implanted into the body rather than worn on the outside? Does the notion of human dignity suffer with such enhancements?"

These are fun questions to debate, and I look forward to doing so with Patrick and his team. But I find myself becoming a bit uneasy about a meta-ethical issue: while we in the U.S. (and Europe) spend our time and money discussing these admittedly fascinating topics, are people in other countries spending their time and money on technical R&D instead, and what are the ethical implications of their winning the race to advanced nanotechnologies? It seems to me that whoever develops a particular technology first can exert a huge influence over how it's used, regardless of how our debates turn out.

— Christine Peterson

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Contact Foresight

The Foresight Nanotech Institute Weekly News Digest is emailed every week to 15,000 individuals in more than 125 countries. Foresight Nanotech Institute is a member-supported organization. We offer membership levels appropriate to meet the needs and interests of individuals and companies.

Judy Conner, Director of Communications at Foresight Nanotech Institute, is the editor of the Foresight Nanotech Institute Weekly News Digest. If you would like to submit a news item or contact her with comments about the News Digest, please send an email to: editor@foresight.org.

If you would like to browse past issues of the News Digest.

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