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quinta-feira, 10 de janeiro de 2013

Good and Bad News About Global Risks

The World Economic Forum publishes its Global Risks Report 2013 today, and my opinion is buried in there somewhere among the other thousand experts. It’s always a fascinating document, although it is a survey of opinion, hence nanotechnology being defined as a high likelihood high impact risk eight years ago!
That said, the first paragraph of the report flags carbon nanotubes as a risk on a par with asbestos, which although similar in morphology are vastly different in both application and the attitude of manufacturers to health and safety.
The nature of global risks is constantly changing. Thirty years ago, chlorofluorocar­bons (CFCs) were seen as a planetary risk, while threat from a massive cyber attack was treated by many as science fiction. In the same period, the proliferation of nuclear weapons occupied the minds of scientists and politicians, while the proliferation of orbital debris did not. We see a similar story with asbestos then and carbon nanotubes today, and the list goes on.
The good news for nanotechnologies is that their unforeseen consequences are still a low risk, low impact issue, as they have been for many years now, although the potential impact seems to have edged up a little.  More relevant to emerging technologies are the gradual progression towards the upper right quadrant, symbolising high likelihood and high impact, of the unforeseen consequences of new life science technologies and climate change mitigation, i.e. geoengineering (of which more later). To some extent the likelihood and severity of risks are a function of their visibility, the NGO’s that were using nanotechnology as a poster child for all that is bad about technology – creating a north-south imbalance, controlled by an elite, lack or transparency etc. – have all moved onto other issues meaning that while the risks still exist, they are much less visible.
Another issue flagged by the Global Risks Report 2013 is that experts views differ from those of non-specialists, so environmental experts are far more alarmed by climate change than those withe no direct involvement, while experts in nanotechnology and life sciences are less worried about unforeseen consequences than others. The report asks:
Are economists more informed about economic issues than others, or are there ideological differences at play? Are the technological specialists more knowledgeable here, or does their excitement about new technologies dampen their risk perceptions? And where experts are more worried, does that mean that we should listen to them more, or do they just feel more strongly about their issue without knowing enough about other threats?
Perhaps it is all of the above?
Reports of this nature are a useful starting point to identify risks, taking action is more difficult. Indeed some of the most severe risks such as chronic fiscal imbalances or diffusion of weapons of mass destruction are either insoluble or can only be addressed at a global level, but are there others that we can head off?
At Cientifica we have looked at using emerging technologies to mitigate some of the risks identified by the WEF,food and water shortages, and the vulnerability of the supply of critical minerals for example. Through a number of on going initiatives we are working to ensure that we can at least attempt to find cures for some of the inevitable crises that will lead to plenty of human suffering and even war. While technology is not the only solution to risk mitigation, it requires political and diplomatic effort too, though the efforts of the WEF Global Council on Emerging Technologies, technology is at least appearing on the geopolitical agenda with a far greater frequency than in the past.
The Global Risks Report 2013 contains a few questionable statement however, such as this discussion of the need to combat antibiotic resistant bacteria, which seems to advocate diverting effort away from understanding the genomics of bacteria to researching herbal cures!
An increasing amount of effort has been invested in exploring the potential of new life science technologies such as genomics, nano-scale engineering and synthetic biology, without yet yielding new approaches in the treatment of bacterial disease. One unintended consequence of this has been to divert researchers’ attention from the traditional approach of discovering natural compounds to kill bacteria, which may be getting harder.
New for this year is the inclusion of X Factors, summarised below, emerging concerns of possible future importance and with unknown consequences, developed in conjunction with Nature.

Runaway Climate Change

The threat of climate change is well known. But have we passed the point of no return? What if we have already triggered a runaway chain reaction that is in the process of rapidly tipping Earth’s atmosphere into an inhospitable state?

Significant Cognitive Enhancement

Once the preserve of science fiction, superhuman abilities are fast approaching the horizon of plausibility. Will it be ethically accepted for the world to divide into the cognitively-enhanced and unenhanced? What might be the military implications?

Rogue Deployment of Geoengineering

In response to growing concerns about climate change, scientists are exploring ways in which they could, with international agreement, manipulate the earth’s climate. But what if this technology were to be hijacked by a rogue state or individual?

Costs of Living Longer

We are getting better at keeping people alive for longer. Are we setting up a future society struggling to cope with a mass of arthritic, demented and, above all, expensive, elderly who are in need of long term care and palliative solutions?

Discovery of Alien Life

Given the pace of space exploration, it is increasingly conceivable that we may discover the existence of alien life or other planets that could support human life. What would be the effects on science funding flows and humanity’s self-image?It was only in 1995 that we first found evidence that other stars also have planets orbiting them. Now thousands of “exoplanets” revolving around distant stars have been detected. NASA’s Kepler mission to identify Earth-sized planets located in the “Goldilocks Zone” (not too hot, nor too cold) of Sun-like stars, has only been operating for 3 years and has already turned up thousands of candidates, including one the size of Earth. The fact that Kepler has found so many planet candidates in such a tiny fraction of the sky suggests there are countless Earth-like planets orbiting sun-like stars in our galaxy. In 10 years’ time we may have evidence not only that Earth is not unique, but that life exists elsewhere in the universe.

Fonte: Cientifica

quarta-feira, 9 de janeiro de 2013

NIOSH: From the Director’s Desk

John Howard, M.D.
Director, NIOSH
For many of us the New Year is a time for reflection on what we have accomplished and a time to look forward and make our resolutions for the upcoming year. I wanted to take this opportunity to share with you some NIOSH milestones and highlights of 2012 as well as some of our upcoming activities in 2013.
cobrir de 2013-101In 2012 as always our strong partnerships played a big role in creating and disseminating worker safety and health information. Some highlights of these activities include:
  • Continued partnerships on understanding the occupational health implications of nanotechnology, advancing scientists’ ability to conduct risk assessment, and identifying prudent workplace controls and health practices.  Notably, 2012 saw publication of the updated document Knowledge Gaps for Safe Nanotechnology in the Workplace.  As we enter the second decade of our strategic nanotechnology research partnerships, we continue to strive to address stakeholders’ priority needs.

  • Continued collaborations with our partners at OSHA and MSHA, providing robust scientific data that help our fellow agencies address the increasingly complex challenges that they and we face.  These collaborations include pioneering field studies and a Hazard alert Adobe PDF fileExternal Web Site Icon with OSHA on hydraulic fracturing: illustrating our partnerships to promote safe and economically robust U.S. energy production (also including motor vehicle safety studies in oil/gas and through-the-ground emergency radio transmission in mining).
  • The Fall Prevention Campaign provides an example of our success in marshaling diverse partners to disseminate and use strategies on a large scale that would be difficult for any one agency, company, union, or professional safety organization to undertake alone.
Most recently NIOSH is working with partners to encourage inclusion of occupational information into Electronic Health RecordsExternal Web Site Icon and addressing new frontiers in medical technologies and IT. Thus, reflecting strategic advancements in moving from film-based to digital radiography for identifying work-related pneumoconiosis.
Also of note in 2012, the World Trade Center Health Program continued to provide service to the World Trade Center community under the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2012 and engaged the complex issue of cancers associated with WTC exposures, at stakeholders' request.
As we move forward in 2013 NIOSH has many projects planned as well as many already underway.
In 2013 NIOSH will engage partners and the public as we plan and take needed steps in aligning the NIOSH cancer policy with new knowledge since its last revision in 1996.
NIOSH will continue to enlist new partners with the Total Worker Health™ initiative, with the 2013 national conference on work, stress, and healthExternal Web Site Icon to highlight new research in that area. We have had great success in partnering with our co-sponsors, the American Psychological Association and the Society for Occupational Health Psychology, on earlier national conferences, and we welcome the opportunity to give special attention to Total Worker Health™ in the 2013 conference.
We are also reviewing the 2012 report by the independent reviewers of the Ag program, and determining steps ahead. This illustrates ongoing positive impact of the National Academies program review initiative and the value that NIOSH and partners in the agricultural community have brought to safety in this fundamental American industry.
New initiatives in the extramural research program in 2013 will include key stakeholder engagement in the development of a clearly articulated research portfolio of diverse projects that reflect the strategic research priorities in occupational safety and health, and an integrated approach toward high impact research and performance measurement. Initiatives under our legislative mandate of supporting training for occupational safety and health professionals will continue to respond to a documented national need that is estimated to surpass supply in the coming years. To facilitate information dissemination, reporting of extramural performance data is now a regularly reported on the NIOSH OEP website.
2013 also brings us closer to the beginning of the second half of the second decade of NORA and thus planning ahead as we approach 2016, the 20th anniversary.
2012 illustrated the continuing importance of emergency preparedness, and marked the milestone of incorporating emergency responder health monitoring/surveillance in national response protocols. I look forward to further engagement with partners in 2013 as we continue to advance research to serve the health and safety needs of responders, including research to help ensure that personal protective equipment keeps pace with emerging needs in 21st Century emergency response.
There are always uncertainties in predicting the future, but we know that the major changes that have swept the workplace and working life over the last decade – an increasingly diverse workforce, changes in working arrangements, more people nearing or reaching retirement age, impact of new technologies – will continue to influence events in the foreseeable future.A safe and healthy workforce is a vital component of U.S. economic growth and competitiveness. We look forward to further opportunities in 2013 to serve this national need.

terça-feira, 8 de janeiro de 2013

Another tiny miracle: Graphene oxide soaks up radioactive waste

Rice, Moscow State universities collaborate on solution to toxic groundwater woes

Graphene oxide has a remarkable ability to quickly remove radioactive material from contaminated water, researchers at Rice University and Lomonosov Moscow State University have found.
A collaborative effort by the Rice lab of chemist James Tour and the Moscow lab of chemist Stepan Kalmykov determined that microscopic, atom-thick flakes of graphene oxide bind quickly to natural and human-made radionuclides and condense them into solids. The flakes are soluble in liquids and easily produced in bulk.
Graphene oxide and simulated nuclear waste
A new method for removing radioactive material from solutions is the result of collaboration between Rice University and Lomonosov Moscow State University. The vial at left holds microscopic particles of graphene oxide in a solution. At right, graphene oxide is added to simulated nuclear waste, which quickly clumps for easy removal. Image by Anna Yu. Romanchuk/Lomonosov Moscow State University
The experimental results were reported in the Royal Society of Chemistry journal Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics.
The discovery, Tour said, could be a boon in the cleanup of contaminated sites like the Fukushima nuclear plants damaged by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. It could also cut the cost of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) for oil and gas recovery and help reboot American mining of rare earth metals, he said.
Graphene oxide’s large surface area defines its capacity to adsorb toxins, Kalmykov said. “So the high retention properties are not surprising to us,” he said. “What is astonishing is the very fast kinetics of sorption, which is key.”
“In the probabilistic world of chemical reactions where scarce stuff (low concentrations) infrequently bumps into something with which it can react, there is a greater likelihood that the ‘magic’ will happen with graphene oxide than with a big old hunk of bentonite,” said Steven Winston, a former vice president of Lockheed Martin and Parsons Engineering and an expert in nuclear power and remediation who is working with the researchers. “In short, fast is good.”
Determining how fast was the object of experiments by the Kalmykov group. The lab tested graphene oxide synthesized at Rice with simulated nuclear wastes containing uranium, plutonium and substances like sodium and calcium that could negatively affect their adsorption. Even so, graphene oxide proved far better than the bentonite clays and granulated activated carbon commonly used in nuclear cleanup.
Graphene oxide introduced to simulated wastes coagulated within minutes, quickly clumping the worst toxins, Kalmykov said. The process worked across a range of pH values.
“To see Stepan’s amazement at how well this worked was a good confirmation,” Tour said. He noted that the collaboration took root when Alexander Slesarev, a graduate student in his group, and Anna Yu. Romanchuk, a graduate student in Kalmykov’s group, met at a conference several years ago.
The researchers focused on removing radioactive isotopes of the actinides and lanthanides – the 30 rare earth elements in the periodic table – from liquids, rather than solids or gases. “Though they don’t really like water all that much, they can and do hide out there,” Winston said. “From a human health and environment point of view, that’s where they’re least welcome.”
Naturally occurring radionuclides are also unwelcome in fracking fluids that bring them to the surface in drilling operations, Tour said. “When groundwater comes out of a well and it’s radioactive above a certain level, they can’t put it back into the ground,” he said. “It’s too hot. Companies have to ship contaminated water to repository sites around the country at very large expense.” The ability to quickly filter out contaminants on-site would save a great deal of money, he said.
He sees even greater potential benefits for the mining industry. Environmental requirements have “essentially shut down U.S. mining of rare earth metals, which are needed for cell phones,” Tour said. “China owns the market because they’re not subject to the same environmental standards. So if this technology offers the chance to revive mining here, it could be huge.”
Tour said that capturing radionuclides does not make them less radioactive, just easier to handle. “Where you have huge pools of radioactive material, like at Fukushima, you add graphene oxide and get back a solid material from what were just ions in a solution,” he said. “Then you can skim it off and burn it. Graphene oxide burns very rapidly and leaves a cake of radioactive material you can then reuse.”
The low cost and biodegradable qualities of graphene oxide should make it appropriate for use in permeable reactive barriers, a fairly new technology for in situ groundwater remediation, he said.
Romanchuk, Slesarev, Kalmykov and Tour are co-authors of the paper with Dmitry Kosynkin, a former postdoctoral researcher at Rice, now with Saudi Aramco. Kalmykov is radiochemistry division head and a professor at Lomonosov Moscow State University. Tour is the T.T. and W.F. Chao Chair in Chemistry as well as a professor of mechanical engineering and materials science and of computer science at Rice.
The Office of Naval Research Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative, M-I SWACO and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research funded work at Rice. The Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation, a Russian Federation President stipend to Romanchuk and the Russian Basic Research Foundation funded research at Moscow State.

La déclaration des nanomatériaux devient obligatoire

Ministère de l'Ecologie, du Développement durable et de l'Energie, Ministère du Développement durable
Depuis le 1er janvier 2013, l’ensemble des fabricants, distributeurs ou importateurs doivent déclarer les usages de substances à l’état nanoparticulaire ainsi que les quantités annuelles produites, importées et distribuées sur le territoire français. Un site dédié a été ouvert,, pour réaliser cette première déclaration relative à l’année 2012.

A ce jour, il semble que plus d’un millier de produits de notre vie courante contiennent des nano-matériaux : cosmétiques, articles de sport, matériaux de construction et peintures, électronique… Pour autant, leurs usages ainsi que leurs profils de risques, du fait du caractère émergent de cette technologie, demeurent encore peu connus.
La mise en place de la déclaration de ces produits doit permettre de mieux connaître les substances à l’état nanoparticulaire mises sur le marché et leurs usages, de disposer d’une traçabilité des filières d’utilisation et d’une meilleure connaissance du marché et des volumes commercialisés.
Le dispositif permettra également de collecter des informations sur leurs propriétés toxicologiques et écotoxicologiques, afin de guider les travaux de recherche et d’expertise sur les risques éventuels et les mesures de prévention à adopter.
De premières informations seront mises à la disposition du public d’ici la fin de l’année 2013.

La déclaration en bref :

  • Elle est obligatoire lorsqu’au moins 100 grammes de substance à l’état nanoparticulaire ont été produits, distribués ou importés sur le territoire.
  • Réalisée par les fabricants, les distributeurs et les importateurs, elle doit être complétée annuellement avant le 1er mai et correspond aux données de l’année civile précédente.
  • L’Agence nationale de sécurité sanitaire de l’alimentation, de l’environnement et du travail (Anses) est chargée de la gestion des déclarations et des données qu’elles contiendront.
  • Les déclarations doivent être réalisées sur une interface informatique sécurisée A partir des données recueillies, une information du public sera assurée sur les types de substances et leurs usages.
  • Une liste de questions et réponses est en ligne sur le site du ministère afin de faciliter la bonne compréhension du dispositif, notamment par les entreprises concernées par la déclaration ou susceptibles de l’être.
L’ensemble des textes réglementaires, décret et arrêté, ont été élaborés en concertation avec des représentants de l’industrie, du monde de la recherche, des associations de protection de l’environnement, des associations de consommateurs et des syndicats de salariés.

Cette initiative est une première en Europe, et devrait être suivie par plusieurs États membres avec lesquels la France collabore très étroitement.

Nano-objetos de DNA: rumo à fabricação em série

Fabricação de nano-objetos de DNA em linha de produção
Alguns dos 19 projetos criados pela nova
 técnica de fabricação rápida com DNA.
[Imagem: Dietz Lab, TU Muenchen]
Origami de DNA

Sob as condições adequadas, é possível fazer com que moléculas de DNA dobrem-se para formar estruturas complexas.
A técnica vem ganhando espaço sobretudo através dos chamadosorigamis de DNA, que já resultaram em nanorrobôs de DNA  e uma sériede nanoestruturas 3-D.
O mecanismo só não é mais utilizado porque é lento, por vezes levando vários dias para se completar, e produzindo uma quantidade muito pequena dos objetos.
E os pesquisadores precisam esperar todo esse tempo para ver se seuprojeto estava certo, ou seja, se o objeto saiu realmente como planejado.
Agora, pesquisadores da Universidade Técnica de Munique estão abrindo caminho para acelerarautomontagem das fitas de DNA na forma dos objetos desejados.
O grupo descobriu como ajustar as condições das reações para que o processo se complete não mais em uma questão de dias, mas de minutos.
A quantidade de objetos produzidos também pode ser duas vezes maior em cada reação.
Jean-Philippe Sobczak e seus colegas afirmam que o novo processo lembra o processo de enovelamento das proteínas.
Isso, segundo a equipe, abre a possibilidade de que os origamis de DNA possam ser usados no futuro não apenas para formar nanoestruturas complexas, mas também funcionar no interior de células vivas.
Nanotecnologia de DNA
"Estamos mais convencidos do que nunca de que a nanotecnologia de DNA pode levar à criação de um novo tipo de fabricação, com um futuro comercial e até mesmo industrial," disse Hendrik Dietz, orientador do estudo.
"Além de nos dizer que é possível fabricar objetos complexos de DNA em série, estes resultados sugerem algo que mal nos atreveríamos a imaginar antes - que pode ser possível montar nanodispositivos de DNA em uma cultura de células ou mesmo dentro de uma célula viva," prevê o pesquisador.

Rapid Folding of DNA into Nanoscale Shapes at Constant Temperature
Jean-Philippe J. Sobczak, Thomas G. Martin, Thomas Gerling, Hendrik Dietz
Vol.: 338 no. 6113 pp. 1458-1461
DOI: 10.1126/science.1229919

Fonte: Inovação Tecnológica

segunda-feira, 7 de janeiro de 2013

EPA Regulatory Agenda Includes Notices Concerning Nanoscale Materials

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is scheduled to announce in the January 8, 2013, Federal Register the availability of its 2012 Regulatory Agenda. EPA’s Regulatory Agenda includes the following notice concerning nanoscale materials:
Nanoscale Materials; Chemical Substances When Manufactured, Imported, or Processed as Nanoscale Materials; Reporting and Recordkeeping Requirements; Significant New Use RuleEPA is developing a proposal to establish reporting and recordkeeping requirements under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) for chemical substances when manufactured (defined by statute to include import) or processed as nanoscale materials. 
Specifically, EPA is developing a significant new use rule (SNUR) under TSCA section 5(a)(2) that would require persons who intend to manufacture, import, or process nanoscale materials for an activity that is designated as a significant new use by the proposed rule to notify EPA at least 90 days before commencing that activity. The required notification would provide EPA with the opportunity to evaluate the intended use and, if necessary, to prohibit or limit that activity before it occurs to prevent unreasonable risk to human health or the environment. In addition, EPA is developing a proposal to require reporting and recordkeeping under TSCA section 8(a), which would require that persons who manufacture these nanoscale materials notify EPA of certain information including production volume, methods of manufacture and processing, exposure and release information, and available health and safety data. The proposed reporting of these activities will provide EPA with an opportunity to evaluate the information and consider appropriate action under TSCA to reduce any risk to human health or the environment.
According to the Regulatory Agenda item, EPA intends to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking in July 2013.

Nanorrelógio de luz e silício fará microinternet em um chip

Nanorrelógio de luz e silício fará microinternet em um chip
A luz que circula pelo disco gera uma deformação que
modula o sinal, transportando a informação.
[Imagem: Zhang et al.]
Sincronização por luz
Como a bola numa roleta de cassino, uma partícula de luz percorre a borda de um disco de silício, com metade do diâmetro de um fio de cabelo.
Diferente da roleta, no entanto, o disco é leve o bastante para que o fóton o faça vibrar, uma vibração que é transmitida pela luz para outro disco idêntico, separado do primeiro, que passa a oscilar em sincronia com o original.
Ao deslizar pela borda da roleta de silício, o fóton faz com que ela se deforme - a massa do disco é da ordem de picogramas, ou trilionésimos de grama. Essa deformação modula o sinal de luz, que dessa forma transporta informação, que pode ser lida ou reproduzida, sobre o modo de vibração do disco.
Este experimento de sincronização em nanoescala pode vir a ter importantesconsequências no desenvolvimento da tecnologia de informática.
Seus realizadores, entre eles o físico brasileiro Gustavo Wiederhecker, já requisitaram patente pelo invento.
Os osciladores fotônicos também poderão ser úteis para a tecnologia dos computadores multicore, que usam vários núcleos de processamento. Com o aumento do número de núcleos em cada máquina, há uma tendência de que a comunicação entre eles passe a ser feita por uma rede de fibras ópticas. Numa arquitetura do tipo, ter nanorrelógios de silício que podem ser sincronizados por sinais de luz é uma vantagem.
"A verdade é que as empresas já estão trabalhando nessa área. Se você pegar a Intel, por exemplo, eles têm um protótipo que é um processador de 80 núcleos", diz o pesquisador, que compara as redes ópticas internas desses processadores a uma "microinternet" - já que a rede global de dados é, hoje, interligada por cabos ópticos.
"É aí que entra a física", afirma Wiederhecker. "É tentar fazer esses bloquinhos fundamentais que demonstrem a possibilidade de um dia se construir, de forma barata e viável, a tecnologia dessa microinternet. E um desses bloquinhos talvez seja este trabalho que a gente vem desenvolvendo."
"A base de qualquer sistema que envolva tempo, o GPS, a comunicação óptica, todos os sistemas de comunicação, os computadores em si, depende de sincronização", explica Wiederhecker, que já havia sido pioneiro em outro experimento com nanoestruturas manipuladas pela luz.
Nanorrelógio de luz e silício fará microinternet em um chip
A vantagem de usar luz é que ela leva informação do disco A para o disco B sem limitação de distância. [Imagem: Zhang et al.]
"E hoje em dia, em todas as escalas, as bases de medição do tempo dependem de oscilações, sejam elas mecânicas ou transições atômicas, como nos relógios mais precisos do mundo. Mas nem todo mundo pode ter um relógio atômico. Localmente, dentro do seu celular, você tem um cristal de quartzo, que é uma pecinha que fica vibrando mecanicamente," complementa.
A sintonia de equipamentos como telefones celulares também depende de osciladores, que permitem isolar e selecionar as diferentes faixas de comunicação.
"Dentro do celular há um filtro mecânico que garante que se consiga ter a seletividade de frequências. Você coloca várias pessoas conversando simultaneamente e cada celular consegue pegar só a conversa A, só a conversa B, só a conversa C. Para isso acontecer, você precisa de um cristal de quartzo, de um sistema mecânico que oscile por períodos muito longos de tempo," explica Wiederhecker.
Tecnologia CMOS
Do ponto de vista tecnológico, principalmente para aplicações de informática, os novos nano-osciladores criados por Wiederhecker, que atualmente trabalha no Laboratório de Nanofotônica do Instituto de Física da Unicamp, tem as vantagens de usar o mesmo material predominante nos processadores - o silício -, o que pode vir a tornar a fabricação de equipamentos mais simples e barata - além do fato de a sincronização das unidades poder ser feita por meio de raios de luz.
"Toda a tecnologia de computadores hoje é baseada num conceito que se chama CMOS [Complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor], que é um processo de fabricação, o processo usado para fazer chips de computador," explica o brasileiro.
"Se uma tecnologia é barata ou não hoje em dia, ela é avaliada nos seguintes termos: ela é compatível com o CMOS? Ou seja, você consegue ir a uma fábrica de chips e falar, olha, eu tenho aqui uma ideia nova. Se essa ideia é compatível com o CMOS, amanhã ela está pronta. Você consegue fabricar em larga escala, colocar isso em celulares, etc. Se isso não é compatível com o CMOS, será necessário um trabalho muito mais árduo para integrar isso ao CMOS."
Usando-se a luz, dispensa-se a existência de uma ligação mecânica - como uma barra ou uma mola - entre os osciladores que se deseja sincronizar.
"Nesse artigo [para a Physical Review Letters] o que a gente demonstrou foi que se consegue fazer isso sem um vínculo mecânico, diz Wiederhecker. "Aqui, a vantagem de usar luz é que ela leva informação do seu oscilador A para o seu oscilador B. E assim estabelece o sincronismo entre eles. Você pode usar o próprio sinal óptico para estabelecer o sincronismo, e então não está mais limitado a pequenas distâncias."

Synchronization of Micromechanical Oscillators Using Light
Mian Zhang, Gustavo S. Wiederhecker, Sasikanth Manipatruni, Arthur Barnard, Paul McEuen, Michal Lipson
Physical Review Letters
Vol.: 109, 233906
DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.109.233906

Fonte: Inovação Tecnológica

sábado, 5 de janeiro de 2013

Cetene investe cerca R$ 10 milhões em projetos científicos

CETENE Centro de Tecnologias Estratégicas do Nordeste
O Centro de Tecnologias Estratégicas do Nordeste (Cetene), com sede no Recife (PE), anunciou que durante 2012 aplicou mais de R$ 10 milhões no desenvolvimento de projetos com foco em ciência e tecnologia e na consolidação de sua infraestrutura.

Parte dos recursos, pouco mais de R$ 4 milhões foram repassados por financiadoras como a Fundação de Amparo à Ciência e Tecnologia do Estado de Pernambuco (Facepe) e a Finep. O restante do valor é proveniente do MCTI, pasta a qual a unidade de pesquisa está vinculada.

De acordo com o diretor do centro, André Galembeck, as pesquisas feitas são essenciais para o desenvolvimento regional. “Desde a inauguração, em 2005, o Cetene vem apoiando o desenvolvimento e aperfeiçoamento de projetos em áreas como biotecnologia, microeletrônica e nanotecnologia, sempre tendo como foco ideias com caráter estratégico para o crescimento econômico e social da região Nordeste”, explica.

Entre os estudos realizados pelos laboratórios da instituição, destacam-se projetos como Cana de Meristema para o Nordeste, o sistema microeletrônico para detecção do vírus da dengue e a implantação do Centro de Tecnológico de Bioenergia em Caetés (PE).

Fonte: INT

Nanoparticles shine through tissue

New imaging technology could help clinicians see tumors more clearly

By Jim Fessenden

A team of scientists, led by researchers from UMass Medical School, is developing novel biocompatible nanoparticles that can both absorb and emit near-infrared light through tissue. These particles could be attached to anomalies beneath the skin and used with deep tissue imaging, providing clinicians a new tool to see and diagnose tumors more clearly from the outside.

“I can foresee their utilization as analytical sensors for biomarkers or diagnosis in just a few years,” said Gang Han, PhD, assistant professor of biochemistry & molecular pharmacology and lead investigator on the study published in ACS Nano. “Though there are definitely some barriers to overcome, I do see great potential with respect to these special probes as to usage in the medical field and believe these agents will ultimately find their way into doctor’s offices.”

Composed of a crystalline core containing thulium, sodium, ytterbium and fluorine, encased inside a square, calcium-fluoride shell, the nanoparticles use a process known as near-infrared-to-near-infrared up-conversion (NIR-to-NIR) to help produce high-contrast bioimages. Through the NIR-to-NIR process, the particles absorb pairs of photons and combine them into a single, higher energy photon that it then emits, which is unnatural in biology.

Because the near-infrared region of the electromagnetic spectrum is the one at which biological tissue absorbs and scatters light the least, the concentrated light emitted by the nanoparticles has little competition from background noise. As a result, these emissions can potentially provide sharper images from deeper depths than traditional fluorescence-based imaging techniques. Physicians could use the nanoparticles to check disease development or diagnose tumors deep beneath the skin and deep tissue.

“These particles are special because they both absorb and emit near-infrared light with the emitted light having a shorter wavelength,” said Dr. Han. “This is important because it’s different from how molecules in biological tissues absorb and emit light. As a result, the light emitted from the nanoparticle can be more readily distinguished from nearby biological tissues, giving us higher-contrast images.”

And because calcium-fluoride is common in bones and teeth, its inclusion in the shell of the novel nanoparticles makes it biocompatible within the body.

So far, the scientists have injected the nanoparticles into animal models and a three-centimeters-thick slice of pork. In both cases, Han and colleagues were able to obtain “vibrant, high-contrast images of the particles shining through tissue,” he said.

Before advancing to the clinic though, Han cautions that a complete biocompatibility and toxicity profile will need to be done. At the same time, medical devices adapted to the unique optical properties of the nanoparticles will need to be built.

Han and colleagues are now working to develop methods of attaching these particles to various therapeutics (e.g., siRNA, proteins, small molecule drugs, stem cells) to precisely record their in vivo traffickings and the concomitant treatment responses that were either unseen or blurred using existing tools.

“(α-NaYbF(4):Tm(3+))/CaF(2) Core/Shell Nanoparticles with Efficient Near-Infrared to Near-Infrared Upconversion for High-Contrast Deep Tissue Bioimaging” by Guanying Chen, Jie Shen, Tymish Y. Ohulchanskyy, Nayan J. Patel, Artem Kutikov, Zhipeng Li, Jie Song, Ravindra K. Pandey, Hans Ågren, Paras N. Prasad, and Gang Han appears in ACS Nano, one of the top scientific journals in the nanoscience field.

sexta-feira, 4 de janeiro de 2013

France sets requirements for nanoparticles

France has become the first country in Europe to require manufacturers to identify use of nano-particles, the extremely fine grains that are increasingly found in drugs and consumer products.

Manufacturers must make a declaration if they used at least 100 grammes (3.52 ounces) of nano-particles in products that were imported, manufactured or distributed in France in 2012, the ecology ministry said on Thursday. 

The rule took effect on January 1 following a government decree dated to last February 17. 

It applies to particles with a diameter of between 1 and 100 billionths of a metre. Companies must make the declaration on a website,, by May 1. 

In its press release, the ministry said the requirement was a precautionary measure, given that "the risk profile (of nanomaterials) is still poorly understood." 

Nano-particles are used increasingly in the form of titanium oxide or as aluminium silicates in pills to help ingestion of pills and in food, where they are used as stabilisers or anti-caking agents in fluids and creams. 

Some research, including a study carried out on chickens in February last year, has suggested that the particles may be harmful for the gut, where they interact with intestinal processes. 

However, these investigations are still small-scale and are far from conclusive.

Fonte: PHYS.Org

Jumping Droplets Help Heat Transfer: Scalable Nanopatterned Surfaces for More Efficient Power Generation and Desalination

Jumping-droplet superhydrophobic condensation shown on
a nanostructured CuO tube.
(Credit: Image courtesy of the researchers)

Many industrial plants depend on water vapor condensing on metal plates: In power plants, the resulting water is then returned to a boiler to be vaporized again; in desalination plants, it yields a supply of clean water. The efficiency of such plants depends crucially on how easily droplets of water can form on these metal plates, or condensers, and how easily they fall away, leaving room for more droplets to form.
The key to improving the efficiency of such plants is to increase the condensers' heat-transfer coefficient -- a measure of how readily heat can be transferred away from those surfaces, explains Nenad Miljkovic, a doctoral student in mechanical engineering at MIT. As part of his thesis research, he and colleagues have done just that: designing, making and testing a coated surface with nanostructured patterns that greatly increase the heat-transfer coefficient.
The results of that work have been published in the journal Nano Letters, in a paper co-authored by Miljkovic, mechanical engineering associate professor Evelyn Wang, and five other researchers from the Device Research Lab (DRL) in MIT's mechanical engineering department.
On a typical, flat-plate condenser, water vapor condenses to form a liquid film on the surface, drastically reducing the condenser's ability to collect more water until gravity drains the film. "It acts as a barrier to heat transfer," Miljkovic says. He and other researchers have focused on ways of encouraging water to bead up into droplets that then fall away from the surface, allowing more rapid water removal.
"The way to remove the thermal barrier is to remove [the droplets] as quickly as possible," he says. Many researchers have studied ways of doing this by creating hydrophobic surfaces, either through chemical treatment or through surface patterning. But Miljkovic and his colleagues have now taken this a step further by making scalable surfaces with nanoscale features that barely touch the droplets.
The result: Droplets don't just fall from the surface, but actually jump away from it, increasing the efficiency of the process. The energy released as tiny droplets merge to form larger ones is enough to propel the droplets upward from the surface, meaning the removal of droplets doesn't depend solely on gravity.
Other researchers have worked on nanopatterned surfaces to induce such jumping, but these have tended to be complex and expensive to manufacture, usually requiring a clean-room environment. Those approaches also require flat surfaces, not the tubing or other shapes often used in condensers. Finally, prior research has not tested the enhanced heat transfer predicted for these types of surfaces.
In a paper published early in 2012, the MIT researchers showed that droplet shape is important to enhanced heat transfer. "Now, we've gone a step further," Miljkovic says, "developing a surface that favors these kinds of droplets, while being highly scalable and easy to manufacture. Furthermore, we've actually been able to experimentally measure the heat-transfer enhancement."
The patterning is done, Miljkovic says, using a simple wet-oxidation process right on the surface that can be applied to the copper tubes and plates commonly used in commercial power plants.
The nanostructured pattern itself is made of copper oxide and actually forms on top of the copper tubing. The process produces a surface that resembles a bed of tiny, pointed leaves sticking up from the surface; these nanoscale points minimize contact between the droplets and the surface, making release easier.
Not only can the nanostructured patterns be made and applied under room-temperature conditions, but the growth process naturally stops itself. "It's a self-limiting reaction," Miljkovic says, "whether you put it in [the treatment solution] for two minutes or two hours."
After the leaflike pattern is created, a hydrophobic coating is applied when a vapor solution bonds itself to the patterned surface without significantly altering its shape. The team's experiments showed that the efficiency of heat transfer using these treated surfaces could be increased by 30 percent, compared to today's best hydrophobic condensing surfaces.
That means, Miljkovic says, that the process lends itself to retrofitting thousands of power plants already in operation around the world. The technology could also be useful for other processes where heat transfer is important, such as in dehumidifiers and for heating and cooling systems for buildings, the authors say.
Challenges for this approach remain, Miljkovic says: If too many droplets form, they can "flood" the surface, reducing its heat-transfer ability. "We are working on delaying this surface flooding and creating more robust solutions that can work well [under] all operating conditions," he says.
The research team also included postdocs Ryan Enright and Youngsuk Nam and undergraduates Ken Lopez, Nicholas Dou and Jean Sack, all of MIT's mechanical engineering department.

Programme on Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials (NANO2021)

PlannedSupport for events and networks under the NANO2021 programmeChoose


The NANO2021 programme aims at enhancing the national knowledge base within nanotechnology and advanced materials to meet high international standards. The programme’s primary objectives are to develop sustainable technological solutions as a basis for innovation and to address central societal challenges.
Background for the programme 
The Research Council of Norway’s 10-year Programme on Nanotechnology and New Materials (NANOMAT), part of the Large-scale Programme initiative, was concluded at the end of 2011 and is being replaced by the NANO2021 programme, a new 10-year large-scale programme that will run from 2012 through 2021. The NANO2021 programme has been established as in accordance with the priorities set out in the government white paper on research and the government strategy being drawn up within the technology area. The programme encompasses the areas of nanoscience, nanotechnology, microtechnology and advanced materials.

Focus and further development 
The NANO2021 programme will cultivate concentrated, integrated research activities to further enhance the expertise, quality and capacity built up by Norway’s R&D community in the field of nanotechnology during the past decade.

The programme promotes fundamental knowledge and responsible technological development as a basis for innovation and for tackling wide-ranging societal challenges relating to energy, the environment, health, food, the marine sector and use of natural resources. This entails ensuring that new knowledge and technology are utilised to the benefit of society. Importance will therefore be attached to research on issues relating to health, safety and environment (HSE) and risk, as well as on ethical, legal and social aspects (ELSA) of the development and application of nanotechnology.

The programme also focuses on promoting researcher mobility, interaction between research groups and industry players, and national and international research cooperation. The Norwegian Government’s new national strategy for nanotechnology (to be launched in spring 2012) will provide the framework for further targeting of research topics, focus areas and priorities under the programme. The preliminary work programme may be accessed via the link to the right. The work programme will be finalised in the course of 2012. 


This programme/activity normally accepts grant applications from:

Universities, university colleges, independent research institutes and trade and industry.



Overall budget:

Approximately NOK 112 million per year for a period of 10 years.

Fonte: The Research Council of Norway