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ISSN 1757-2517
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Nanomaterials for Architects

and Architecture
Architects need to learn more about
nano to design sustainably

Discovering Nanotech’s Potential

One architectural practice is
developing their own nanoproducts

Biomimetics – Turning Nature’s

Successes into Gold
After 3.8 billion years, Mother Nature
can teach us a thing or two

Interview: George Whitesides,

Professor of Chemistry at Harvard
Elder statesman of nanotechnology is turning his
attention to healthcare for the world’s poor

Country Profile: Brazil

Pursuing industrial innovation through nanotechnology

Ethics and Nanotechnology

How society determines the way it adopts technology

Nano – Maintaining Independence

for an Ageing Population
Offering a route to less intense intervention
by healthcare professionals


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In the next issue: Nanomedicine - the latest in diagnostics; Continuing the ethics
theme – how do we define disability, now?; How a strong science and industry base
in Germany is enabling nano to be translated into economic benefit; Learn how one
company in France is taking nano to the market. And how nanotechnology is making
a real difference in agriculture.
Plus: Nano for environmental sensing, the latest in cancer treatment… and lots more!
Issue 19, August 2010
Managing Director: Ottilia Saxl

Assistant Editor: Fraser Shand

Marketing: Jana Perlet

Sales: Chris Arnold

Design: Different Voice

Website design: Tobias Haag

Sales Liaison Manager: Scott McMillan

Print and Online Advertising:

Sylvia Leydecker, 100% interior; Martina Decker and Peter
Yeadon, Decker Yeadon; Bharat Bhusan, Ohio State University;
José d'Albuquerque e Castro, Universidade Federal do Rio de
Janeiro; Marc Pavlopoulos, CEA-Larsim; Yoel Rothschild and
Dov Kipperman, ORT Israel; Ottilia Saxl, NANO Magazine;
Amarnath Maitra, University of Delhi.

©2010 ION Publishing Ltd

6 The Alpha Centre, Stirling University Innovation Park
Stirling FK9 4NF Scotland UK
Article contributions to NANO magazine come from a range of sources and while we
always strive to ensure accuracy in reporting, NANO accepts no responsibility for
inaccuracies that may arise. The views of contributors do not necessarily reflect the
views of NANO magazine or IoN Publishing Ltd.

Nanomaterials for Architects and
Architecture ........................................012
Nano-aware architects are needed to design
the sustainable buildings of the future.

Finding Nanotech’s Potential for 020

architecture .........................................016
The Decker Yeadon agency isn’t waiting for
new nanotechnology products – they are EDUCATION
developing their own. NANOYOU ............................................032
The leaders of an EU-project describe how
Biomimetics – Turning Nature’s
to inspire the next generation through
Successes into Gold ..........................020
games, role playing and multimedia.
3.8 billion years in perfecting its products?
Bharat Bhusan shows that Mother Nature
provides the best solutions. Clarifying the Ethical Questions on
Nanotechnology ..................................036 Does Nanomedicine Really Belong to
INTERVIEW Marc Pavlopoulos sheds light on the the Field of Nanotechnology? ..........034
George Whitesides, Professor of sometimes surprising ways we adopt new Amarnath Maitra argues that nanomedicine
Chemistry at Harvard .........................027 technologies. What are the ethical questions belongs to cell biology as nanotechnology
Multifaceted scientific genius, entrepreneur, we really should be asking? deals only with entities dominated by
surface atoms.
and one of nanotechnology’s elder
statesmen, is turning his attention to almost MEDICINE
zero cost healthcare for the world’s poor. Nanotechnology – Cost and Efficiency REGULARS
Benefits for an Ageing Population 040 Editorial.................................................004
Ottilia Saxl looks at what the ageing population Events ....................................................006
Brazil .....................................................025 needs, and how nanotechnology can deliver What’s new in nano .............................008
José d’Albuquerque e Castro writes how independence for longer. Nanoart..................................................043
Brazil is accelerating its pursuit of
innovation through nanotechnology. OPINION


Nanotechnology – making
sustainability possible?
Nanotechnology is no longer a technology-in-waiting. It is already
ubiquitous in its reach and effect. In this issue of NANO
magazine, we look at many applications of nanotechnology to our
everyday lives, and its promise for the future. For example,
nanotechnology has great potential for architecture, and it is
recognised that buildings are a major contributor to global
warming. It is argued that if architects are better informed about
Ottilia Saxl, Director, NANO Magazine nanotechnology and prepared to design-in innovative materials to
make buildings more sustainable, this will have an immediate and beneficial effect. One
architecture practice is already so committed to nanotechnology, the partners are even
developing their own nanomaterials, to suit specific architectural applications.
Another theme this issue is inspiration from for the poor also works in favour of the rich, and understand the possibilities offered by
nature. Smart companies and researchers are and many lessons can be learned. Finally, nanotech, if they are to meaningfully
looking at the natural world for a treasure trove informing the general public is the key to address sustainability in their work.
of ideas that can form the basis of innovative acceptance of a technology, and the
new products and processes, and several nanocommunity has not succeeded very well Following on from a plea that architects
exciting possibilities are explored in an article in this sphere. However, a far-sighted EU- become more acquainted with
by a world expert in the field of biomimetics. funded project, NANOYOU, is reaching out to nanotechnology, the Decker Yeadon
Nano risk and toxicology are favourite media schools across Europe, and providing agency in New York has come up with new
subjects, but perhaps more importantly, how teachers and pupils with exciting teaching concepts based on nanotechnology that
society perceives the benefits of materials, so, if this generation isn’t particularly could shape the future of homes and offices.
nanotechnology will be critical to influencing well-informed, the next one will be! They are so convinced by its benefits that
its acceptance. What ethical questions should they have just invested in making
we really be asking, and are these are different Nanotechnology in architecture is addressed Buckypaper, a new material which has an
for nanotechnology, as opposed to any new compellingly by Sylvia Leydecker in this electrically conductive coating of multi-
technology? A problem that affects us all is the issue. She states that innovation-driven walled nanotubes. As half of all energy
growing costs of providing for an ageing materials and products are critical in consumption and greenhouse gas
population. Nanotechnology can offer ways to achieving green construction, which is now emissions in the U.S. can be attributed to
help older people retain the use of their at the forefront of much architectural debate. buildings, it is hoped that this new material
faculties, and more importantly, their Ms Leydecker believes that nanomaterials will reduce cooling-costs and green house
independence, for longer, while reducing the have a huge potential in this area, which is gas emissions in hot climates. Other
costs borne by the State. Healthcare, but for yet to be realised, as architects have not yet nano-based ideas for sustainable
the world’s poor, is also a theme uppermost in engaged fully with what is available. As a buildings are discussed, including low
the mind of George Whitesides, subject of the basic principle, she call for architects, power smart devices that would help
interview this month. Interestingly, what works planners and project developers to learn control ambient temperatures.


In a world where nanotechnology products The subject of this month’s interview is funded by the European Commission's
are becoming increasingly ubiquitous, the Harvard Professor George Whitesides. Seventh Framework Programme that aims
search for new and better nano-based Professor Whitesides is not only successful to achieve this through an appealing variety
products continues. Mother Nature has as an academic, but is also named on over of media, games, role playing and other
evolved an answer to many problems over 50 patents. A lifetime of knowledge and interactions.
the 3.8 billion years since life is estimated to experience has led him to a profound
have first appeared on earth. By gaining an understanding of what society needs from The country profile this month is Brazil. In
understanding of how the natural world science. His view is that, where science the last few decades, many South American
works, we can imitate nature to produce new thrives on complexity, and unexpected countries have sloughed off their old images
and better materials, devices and processes. outcomes, society needs simplicity allied to of corruption and poverty, and replaced
The emphasis on nanoscience and function, and at low cost. And once given them with a go-ahead, entrepreneurial
nanotechnology since the early 1990s has the ‘tools’ that meet this definition, Professor culture and an increasingly fairer
provided a significant impetus in mimicking Whitesides predicts “People will build stuff distribution of wealth and opportunity. Brazil
nature, using nanofabrication techniques for you cannot begin to imagine”. At present, may have been a little later in getting to
commercial applications. It is estimated that one of his interests focuses on the delivery grips with the potential of nanotechnology,
the 100 most important products based on of healthcare in the developing world, at but investment and strong policies linking
biomimetics have generated about US $1.5 close to zero cost. These low cost solutions science and industry are reaping the
billion over 2005-2008, and annual sales and paradoxically also represent major benefits. José d’Albuquerque e Castro who
product diversity are expected to continue to opportunities in combating the spiralling has been involved in nanotechnology in
increase dramatically. Bharat Bhusan takes and unsustainable costs of healthcare in the Brazil, both from within University and
us on a whistle stop tour of the natural world developed world. Government, gives an all-round perspective
and some of its attributes that are leading to on the state of the technology and where it
new commercial products. Nanoscience and nanotechnologies are is headed.
widely seen as having huge potential to
The ethical debate on nanotechnology is an bring benefits to many areas of research The cost of supporting the needs of an
exciting one, which poses many complex and application, and are attracting rapidly ageing population is growing, with longer
questions - such as how we perceive nature, increasing investments from Governments life expectancies. This month’s article on
as opposed to artefact; the possible and from businesses in many parts of the nanomedicine by Ottilia Saxl, explores
redefinition of the norms of health and world. At the same time, it is recognized the broader issues of how nanotechnology
disease; the likelihood of Transhumanism that their application may raise new can provide important benefits to an
(which forecasts that nanotechnology will challenges in the safety, regulatory or ageing population, in terms of prolonging
radically transform our world, and even ethical domains that will require societal independence and quality of life for as
ourselves); questions such as the fair debate. Nanotechnologists are often long as possible, while reducing costs.
distribution of the benefits of nanotechnology; criticised for their lack of interest or inability She discusses how nanotechnology
and the nature and extent of scientists’ to communicate the issues around research is leading to a range of medical
responsibility for the consequences of nanotechnology to the general public. One interventions that can extend the use of
technological innovations. Marc Pavlopoulos way to improve understanding is by faculties and senses for longer, and
explores how we can ask the right questions, engaging young people in dialogue about also technological advances that can
and discusses the surprising ways in which its ethical, legal and social aspects. reduce dependency on expensive
society adopts a new technology. NANOYOU (Nano for Youth) is a project healthcare professionals. n


Events Calendar
August 20 – August 22 September 21
International Nanoscience Conference Nanotechnology Innovations For High Performance
(INASCON 2010), Baarlo, The Netherlands Motorsport, Cranfield University, UK
The aim of the conference is to focus on the students in contrast to With 30% of sales revenue being spent on innovation within the
most conferences where it is the more established researches that are
focused upon. A criterion for European innovation in the field of motorsport industry and a list of potential applications for nano scale
nanotechnology in the future will without a doubt be teamwork between techniques and products within the motorsport sector continuing to
European Universities. To facilitate this teamwork we feel that it is grow, this exclusive event, hosted by CEMMNT, will explore the
essential to start networking between students as early as possible. challenges and benefits of applying the innovations in nanotechnology to this highly competitive and highly innovative sector.
This event is FREE to attend. Contact George Guildford at
August 29 – September 2
Commercialization of Micro-Nano Systems Conference
(COMS 2010), Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA
COMS brings together leaders from all over the world and every sector high-performance-motorsport-event
of industry. From high tech companies, national labs, regional
development and government agencies, investment and consulting October 20-22
groups, market researchers, educators and students; all sharing, NanotechItaly 2010, Venice, Italy
learning and creating partnerships in an open interactive setting. This The aim of the conference is to give a comprehensive picture of
is a powerful environment focused on accelerating commercialization nanotechnology activity, perspectives and needs in Italy; Present the
activity among established and emerging micro and nano businesses. latest developments and trends at world level about research,
applications and governance; Foster a debate amongst representatives
September 12-15 of industry, public research, the financial community and governmental
3rd International conference on bodies to promote the development of nanotechnologies and
Advanced Nano Materials (ANM 2010), Morocco cooperation.
The aim of the conference is to bring together worldwide leading
experts of nano technology for the exchange of ideas, experiences and
knowledge. Therefore, the conference will provide a unique forum October 19-21
convening researchers, scientists and engineers from industry,
MATERIALICA 2010- Product Engineering in Motion,
research laboratories and academia to address state-of-the-art
developments in all aspects of Nanotechnology. Munich, Germany Europe’s top event for material-driven and provider-oriented product
innovations focussing on important sectors of engineering and
September 13-17 materials such as composites, lightweight metal design, high
X International Conference on Nanostructured performance and functional ceramics and surface- and
Materials (NANO2010), Rome, Italy nanotechnology. The sophisticated visitor and exhibitor structure has
The X international Conference on nanostructured Materials (NANO)
had a great share in implementing innovative technology solutions
is the highest level international Conference designed to bring together
the international communitity of scientists and engineers interested in within core industries like automotive, aerospace, engineering, medical
recent developments on nanostructured materials in many different engineering and sports and consumer goods.
fields. It will foster the exchange of ideas, techniques, experiments and
applications in this exciting and rapidly developing field. October 23-28
Nanomedicine: Reality Now and Soon,
September 19-23 ESF-UB Conference, Sant Feliu de Guixols, Spain
Adriatic School on Nanoscience, Dubrovnic, Croatia
The aim of the first School is to provide young scientists, primarily PhD The application of nanotechnology will have a major influence in many
students working in the nanosciences, with a systematic overview of fields of medicine. Novel nano-based materials appear in drug delivery
modern nanoscience through selected contributions from the field's systems, diagnostics, imaging, biosensing, and medical materials and
most relevant experts. Beyond that, it is intended to establish ASON as devices. This conference aims to provide detailed understanding and
an international forum for the growing community of young scientists discuss the clinical utility of those areas of nanomedicine which are
and engineers working in the fields of nanoscience and close to application or already clinically applied/on the market.
nanotechnology. In this manner ASON is conceived to flexibly adjust to
encompass the most recent advances and developments in these
rapidly evolving disciplines, including related characterisation
techniques and applications. October 25-29
Iran Nano, Tehran, Iran
September 19 – 24 The goals of the Iran Nano conference include: discovering research
International Microscopy Congress (IMC17), and industrial potentials in the field of nanotechnology and introducing
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil them to the market; fostering research-industry linkages and
The event for an update on the challenges at the frontiers of applied
collaborations in the field of nanotechnology; providing nanotechnology
scientific research, bringing together, through all forms of microscopy,
advances on Nanotechnologies and applications, Medicine and health, companies with the opportunity to participate in international markets
Energy conversion, Environmental protection, and much more. and raising public knowledge on nanotechnology.

November 16-18
NANOSAFE 2010, Grenoble, France
The objectives of the conference will be to make available the major
progresses and future trends in the domain of the safe production and
use of nanomaterials. Topics include Exposure assessment,
Characterization, Detection and Monitoring, Nanomaterials life cycle,
Toxicology and Environmental impact.

November 19-21
International Conference on Nanotechnology
(Nanotech India 2010), Kerala, India
This conference is aimed at pulling together industry leaders,
researchers, entrepreneurs and investors to create a platform for
discussion on the issues and opportunities that are vital in
commercializing Nanotech innovations. It is no wonder then that this
conference has emerged as the premier nanotechnology research and
business event in India.

December 8-9
Technology World in partnership with
UK NanoForum, London, UK
Technology World and UK NanoForum have joined together for 2010 to
bring you the only event where UK science and technology excellence
meets face to face with senior international business professionals.
This joint event will showcase over 200 industry and academic
exhibitors and host around 2000 senior business decision makers from
over 25 countries. Connect with innovators, manufacturers, scientists
and service providers and take advantage of the unique business
partnering opportunities.

To advertise your event here, please contact:


Breathing easy:
Researchers develop
a ‘lung-on-a-chip’
esearchers from the Wyss Judah Folkman professor of vascular The team followed this experiment with a

R Institute for Biologically

Inspired Engineering at Harvard
University, Harvard Medical School
Biology at Harvard Medical School and “real-world application of the device,” says
Children’s Hospital Boston. “We really can't Huh. They introduced a variety of nano-
understand how biology works unless we scaled particles (a nanometer is one-
and Children’s Hospital Boston have put it in the physical context of real living billionth of a meter) into the air sac
created a device that mimics a living, cells, tissues and organs.” channel. Some of these particles exist in
breathing human lung on a microchip. commercial products; others are found in
The device, about the size of a rubber The lung-on-a-chip microdevice takes a air and water pollution. Several types of
eraser, acts much like a lung in a new approach to tissue engineering by these nanoparticles entered the lung cells
human body and is made using human placing two layers of living tissues – the and caused the cells to overproduce free
lung and blood vessel cells. lining of the lung’s air sacs and the blood radicals and to induce inflammation.
vessels that surround them – across a Many of the particles passed through the
Because the lung device is translucent, it porous, flexible boundary. Air is delivered model lung into the blood channel, and
provides a window into the inner-workings to the lung lining cells, a rich culture the investigators discovered that
of the human lung without having to invade medium flows in the capillary channel to mechanical breathing greatly enhanced
a living body. It has the potential to be a mimic blood and cyclic mechanical nanoparticle absorption.
valuable tool for testing the effects of stretching mimics breathing. The device
environmental toxins, absorption of was created using a novel The Wyss Institute team is also working to
aerosolized therapeutics and the safety and microfabrication strategy that uses clear build other organ models, such as a gut-
efficacy of new drugs. Such a tool may help rubbery materials. The strategy was on-a-chip, as well as bone marrow and
accelerate pharmaceutical development by pioneered by another Wyss core faculty even cancer models. Further, they are
reducing the reliance on current models, in member, George Whitesides, who features exploring the potential for combining
which testing a single substance can cost in this month’s NANO Magazine interview. organ systems.
more than $2 million.
To determine how well the device replicates For example, Ingber is collaborating with
“The ability of the lung-on-a-chip device to the natural responses of living lungs to Kevin Kit Parker, associate professor at
predict absorption of airborne nanoparticles stimuli, the researchers tested its response Harvard University’s School of Engineering
and mimic the inflammatory response to inhaled living E.coli bacteria. They and Applied Sciences and another Wyss
triggered by microbial pathogens, provides introduced bacteria into the air channel on core faculty member, who has created a
proof-of-principle for the concept that the lung side of the device and at the same beating heart-on-a-chip. They hope to link
organs-on-chips could replace many animal time flowed white blood cells through the the breathing lung-on-a-chip to the beating
studies in the future,” says Donald Ingber, channel on the blood vessel side. The lung heart-on-a-chip. The engineered organ
senior author on the study and founding cells detected the bacteria and, through the combination could be used to test inhaled
director of Harvard’s Wyss Institute. porous membrane, activated the blood drugs and to identify new and more
vessel cells, which in turn triggered an effective therapeutics that lack adverse
Until now, tissue-engineered microsystems immune response that ultimately caused the cardiac side effects. n
have been limited either mechanically or white blood cells to move to the air chamber
biologically, says Ingber, who is also the and destroy the bacteria. Source: Harvard University


means dentists
could bring
teeth back to life
cientists are reporting an advance Regenerative endodontics,

S toward the next big treatment

revolution in dentistry – the era in
which root canal therapy brings
the development and
delivery of tissues to
replace diseased or
diseased teeth back to life, rather than damaged dental pulp,
leaving a “non-vital” or dead tooth in the has the potential to
mouth. In a report in the monthly journal provide a revolutionary
ACS Nano, they describe a first-of-its- alternative to pulp removal.
kind, nano-sized dental film that shows
early promise for achieving this long- The scientists are reporting
sought goal (“Nanostructured development of a multilayered, nano-
Assemblies for Dental Application”). sized film – only 1/50,000th the thickness of
a human hair containing a substance that produced a material that fights
Nadia Benkirane-Jessel and colleagues could help regenerate dental pulp. inflammation in dental pulp fibroblasts.
note that root canal procedures help Previous studies show that the substance, Fibroblasts are the main type of cell found
prevent tooth loss in millions of people called alpha melanocyte stimulating in dental pulp. Nano-films containing alpha-
each year. During the procedure, a dentist hormone, or alpha-MSH, has anti- MSH also increased the number of these
removes the painful, inflamed pulp, the soft inflammatory properties. The scientists cells. This could help revitalize damaged
tissue inside the diseased or injured tooth showed in laboratory tests alpha-MSH teeth and reduce the need for a root canal
that contains nerves and blood vessels. combined with a widely-used polymer procedure, the scientists suggest. n

Drinks leave a trail of crumbs that could

be used to track people’s movement
he bottled water, soda pop, or Lesley Chesson and colleagues explain that cities and found that patterns in the beverages

T micro brew-beer that you drank

in Pittsburgh, Dallas, Denver or
30 other American cities contains a
the body removes hydrogen and oxygen
atoms from water (H2O), and beverages
containing water, and incorporates them into
generally matched those already known for
the tap water. They noted that the isotope
pattern in beverages tends to vary from city to
natural chemical imprint related to proteins, including the protein in hair. city in ways that give cities in different regions
geographic location. When you consume Hydrogen and oxygen exist in different characteristic “iso-signatures.” A person who
these beverage you may leave a chemical forms, or isotopes. The proportions of those drinks a beer or soda in Denver, Des Moines,
imprint in your hair that could be used isotopes vary in a predictable way or Dallas, for instance, consumes a different
to track your travels over time, a new geographically, with higher values in low- isotope signature than a person in Las Cruces,
study suggests. latitude, low-elevation, or coastal regions, for Las Vegas, or Laramie. The finding may help
instance, and lower values elsewhere. Since trace the origin of drinks or help criminal
The findings, believed to be the first manufacturers usually use local or regional investigators identify the geographic travels of
concerted effort to describe the use of water sources in producing beverages, crime suspects and other individuals through
beverages as a potential tool to investigate isotope patterns in hair could serve as a analysis of hair strands, the study suggests. n
the geographic location of people, appears chemical “fingerprint” to pinpoint the
in ACS' bi-weekly Journal of Agricultural and geographic region where a person has been. Source: American Chemical Society
Food Chemistry (“Links between Purchase
Location and Stable Isotope Ratios of Bottled The scientists analyzed isotope patterns in
Water, Soda, and Beer in the United States”). bottled water, soda pop, and beer from 33


he fastest growing waste in the

T EU could soon be helping to

combat hospital infections,
according to scientists at the University
TV really could
of York. Researchers at the University’s
Department of Chemistry have
discovered a way of transforming the
chemical compound polyvinyl-alcohol
(PVA), which is a key element of
television sets with liquid crystal
be good for us
display (LCD) technology, into an anti-
microbial substance that destroys
Turning LCD waste into an
infections such as Escherichia coli and
some strains of Staphylococcus aureus.

The York research team had earlier found

infection fighting substance.
a method of recovering PVA from television
screens and transforming it into a substance
which, due to its compatibility with the European Union. But we can add E.coli. Potentially, it could be used in
human body, could be suitable for use in significant value this waste. By heating hospital cleaning products to help to
tissue scaffolds that help parts of the body then cooling the PVA and then reduce infections.”
regenerate. It could also be used in pills dehydrating it with ethanol we can
and dressings that are designed to deliver produce a high surface area mesoporous The project’s next steps will be to test the
drugs to particular parts of the body. material that has great potential for use PVA-based substance against commercial
in biomedicine.” compounds to determine relative
Dr Hunt, of the York Green Chemistry effectiveness, and to secure approval
Centre of Excellence, said: “The influence “Now we have gone a step further by from regulatory agencies regarding the
of LCDs on modern society is dramatic – enhancing its anti-microbial properties suitability of silver nanoparticles for
it is estimated that 2.5 billion LCDs are through the addition of silver human health applications. n
approaching the end of their life, and they nanoparticles, with the result being that it
are the fastest growing waste in the can destroy bacterial infections such as Source: University of York

Greening the Alberta Oil Sands the CO2 capture project, s noted that the
successful commercialization and
widespread adoption of this technology
using nano could reduce CO2 emissions from the
production of synthetic crude oil from the
Oil Sands by up to 25%.
n the quest to develop more cost- The technology is based on naturally

I effective ways to reduce carbon

emissions from fossil fuels, GE is
partnering with the University of Alberta
occurring zeolites identified by UA. These
materials are rocks with molecularly sized
pores, which allow small molecules to
With fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural
gas projected to be a large portion of our
energy mix for decades to come, GE is
(UA) and Alberta Innovates Technology enter while excluding larger molecules. committed to developing new, cost-
Futures (AITF) on a $4 million CO2 Zeolites are widely used in the chemical effective technologies for the
capture project supported by the industry as catalysts, and this project management of greenhouse gas
Climate Change and Emissions seeks to form these materials into emissions. This technology collaboration
Management (CCEMC) Corporation. membranes that can be used for high is supported in part through GE's
temperature gas separation. The materials ecomagination initiative. Ecomagination
This team is leveraging cutting-edge also have the potential to be used as represents GE’s commitment to deliver
research in nanotechnology to tackle two filters for contaminated water. The new clean products and technologies to
of the most pressing environmental CCEMC is providing $2 million in support market for its customers and society.
challenges facing the Oil Sands – of this project, with an equal cost share Recently, the company pledged to double
reduction of CO2 emissions associated from GE and its project partners. its investment in clean R&D over the next
with the extraction and upgrading process, five years from $5 billion to $10 billion. n
and treatment of produced water Anthony Ku, a chemical engineer and
generated during the oil recovery. project leader for GE Global Research on Source: GE Research

As the molecules translocate, they block

ELECTRONIC DNA the flow of ions and are detected as a drop

in the measured current. Because the four
DNA bases block the current differently,

SEQUENCING graphene nanopores with sub-nanometer

thickness may provide a way to distinguish
among bases, realizing a low-cost, high-

USING GRAPHENE throughput DNA sequencing technique.

In addition, to increase the robustness of

NANOPORES graphene nanopore devices, Penn

researchers also deposited an ultrathin
layer, only a few atomic layers thick, of
titanium oxide on the membrane which
further generated a cleaner, more easily
esearchers at the University of The research team had made graphene wettable surface that allows the DNA to go

R Pennsylvania have developed a

new, carbon-based nanoscale
platform to electrically detect single
nanopores in a study completed two years
ago and in this study put the pores to work.
through it more easily. Although graphene-
only nanopores can be used for
translocating DNA, coating the graphene
DNA molecules. To conduct the experiments, Drndic and membranes with a layer of oxide
postdoctoral fellow Christopher A. consistently reduced the nanopore noise
Using electric fields, the tiny DNA strands Merchant, together with Ken Healy, Meni level and at the same time improved the
are pushed through nanoscale-sized, Wanunu, Vishva Ray and other members robustness of the device.
atomically thin pores in a graphene from the Drndic lab made use of large-area
nanopore platform that ultimately may be graphene material developed by Because of the ultrathin nature of the
important for fast electronic sequencing of postdoctoral fellow Zhengtang Luo and graphene pores, researchers were able to
the four chemical bases of DNA based on Professor A.T. Charlie Johnson, both detect an increase in the magnitude of the
their unique electrical signature. physicists at Penn. The team used a translocation signals relative to previous
chemical vapour deposition, or CVD, solid state nanopores made in silicon
The pores, burned into graphene method to grow large flakes of graphene nitride, for similar applied voltages.
membranes using electron beam technology, and suspend them over a single micron-
provide Penn physicists with electronic sized hole made in silicon nitride. An even The Penn team is now working on
measurements of the translocation of DNA. smaller hole, the nanopore in the very improving the overall reliability of these
centre of the suspended graphene, was devices and on utilizing the conductivity of
“We were motivated to exploit the unique then drilled with an electron beam of a the graphene sheet to create devices with
properties of graphene – a two- transmission electron microscope, or TEM. transverse electrical control over DNA
dimensional sheet of carbon atoms – in transport. Specifically, this transverse
order to develop a new nanopore electrical Solid-state nanopores are proving to be electrical control may be achievable by
platform that could exhibit high resolution,” invaluable tools for probing biology at the carving graphene into nanoelectrodes and
said Marija Drndic, associate professor in single-molecule level. utilizing its conducting nature. Towards
the Department of Physics and Astronomy this goal, Michael Fischbein and Drndic
in Penn's School of Arts and Sciences and Graphene nanopore devices developed by have previously demonstrated
the paper's senior author. “High resolution the Penn team work in a simple manner. The nanosculpting of graphene into arbitrary
of graphene nanopore devices is expected pore divides two chambers of electrolyte structures, such as nanoribbons,
because the thickness of the graphene solution and researchers apply voltage, nanopores and other shapes, published in
sheet is smaller than the distance between which drives ions through the pores. Ion Applied Physics Letters in 2008, creating a
two DNA bases. Graphene has previously transport is measured as a current flowing firm foundation for future research. n
been used for other electrical and from the voltage source. DNA molecules,
mechanical devices, but up until now it has inserted into the electrolyte, can be driven The article, submitted on March 25, is published
not been used for DNA translocation.” single file through such nanopores. in the current issue of Nano Letters.



ano has become a word which at least an acceptably designed layout able possible to do this. Nano-science definitely

N isn’t as unheard-of in the

architectural world as it was a
couple of years ago. Nevertheless, what
to fulfil aesthetic demands. (Incidentally,
exactly this gap is filled by the book I’ve
written: “Nanomaterials in Architecture,
offers the chance to solve our global climate
problems, answering the questions which
governments have been struggling with up
it actually means and what it can be used Interior Architecture and Design”!) to now. If there is a single reason to use
for is still almost unknown in the nanotechnology in architecture, it is
architectural community. Despite these problems with its mode of definitely because of energy efficiency and
communication, the role that nano is already sustainability. Ecological and economical
Having little substantial information, playing is getting bigger with the increase in advantages are offered by nanotechnology,
nebulous ideas are formulated, fact and use of smart materials. On one hand we’re which cannot be ignored as a way to reduce
fiction are mixed up in several web-forums still building with brick and mortar, which climate change. This is more important now
or the whole topic is reduced to the catchy sounds quite medieval, or we use concrete, than it ever was. Climate protection pays off,
name “Lotus effect”. The main problem which was invented by the Romans. On the this is why in the long run ecology in
seems to be a lack of information due to the other hand we are building smart facades, architecture is also economical. In the
huge gap between the world of science and constructing ambitious buildings composed meantime very cheap material is still used
the world of architecture. Chemical of glass and membranes - today’s in construction, for the sake of quickly
formulas, curves, diagrams, hard to technology for the future. gained and maximized profits.
comprehend vocabulary, underexposed
pictures of poor-quality architecture, Omnipresent today is the term Nanotechnology as progressive science is
accompanied by badly designed layouts “sustainability”. This is exactly what we have today’s answer for the future, it will change the
isn’t the appropriate way to attract architects to achieve: today, now and here, not later, future of architecture to the use of advanced
at all. Much better is understandable writing, we have to build for our future on this planet. construction and materials, which help to
images of high-quality built examples, and With the help of nanotechnology, it is reduce carbon emissions. At least, its promise

for the future of our planet offers a chance providing completely new materials and the surfaces, mostly glass and paint, also
which we simply do not have otherwise. optimization of existing products. membranes, are quite common worldwide.
These surfaces are, contrary to the above-
Fundamentally there are three ways for Easy Clean Surfaces named, not hydrophobic but hydrophilic.
architects to approach the use of material. There are several nanofunctions already Water runs off in films and loose dirt is
Traditionally, ‘real’ material, such as stone or implemented in the market and easily washed away. All these surfaces are
wood, is used. This approach is favoured by comparatively well established. Self- in the strict sense only, almost selfcleaning,
those architects who tend to prefer authenticity. cleaning surfaces are at the forefront: The which means cleaning cycles are
well known Lotus-Effect ®, despite its considerably longer, but cleaning is still
Second, there is a mass of fake-materials popularity, isn’t really present in the market. required. That cleaning is needed at all,
which are used for cost and maintenance The scientist Barthlott, who investigated the causes difficulties because of expectations
reasons. Artificially designed fake surfaces, effect, was clever enough to not only find a of the contrary. Antibacterial functions are
such as wood-effect plastics, laminates etc. catchy name, but to protect it as well. now the most interesting function for the
are continually perfected and are more Nevertheless its micro-rough surface can’t healthcare sector. You can find tiling,
visible and increasingly difficult to stand mechanical treatment, and so the flooring, light-switches, handles, paints –
differentiate from the original and identify as licence is given to only a few building a broad range of applications, but
fake. Even patina is forged, whereas – products such as paint. Because of its sometimes in a very limited product range,
strangely enough - at the same time, a real hydrophobic effect, it is quite often confused for instance in just a single model. Anti-
patina would not be accepted by clients. with easy-to-clean surfaces, which show the fingerprint protection on stainless-steel or
same effect but are different in function. coloured glass, is perfect for interior use.
Third, there is emerging nanotechnology: Easy-to-clean surfaces have started to be Ultra-high-performance concrete (UHPC)
emancipated from the underlying material, quite common in the sector of sanitation and is one of the most exciting new
properties of functional surfaces are invisible are used for shower-glazing, toilets, wash- developments, because of its strength,
and can be completely different. Another basins and are now found in other products provides elegant and thinner construction,
approach is offered by nanocomposites, as well. Photocatalytic self-cleaning needing just the minimum material.

Sylvia Leydecker is
interior architect at BDIA
and director of the
Cologne-based studio
100% interior.


REGARDING DESIGN Nano Insulation Phase Change Materials (PCM) are

Some of the most promising future designed to regulate temperatures, to cut off
AESTHETICS IT’S STILL applications are in the field of nano-infused peak temperatures by stowing warmth or
DIFFICULT FOR ARCHITECTS thermal-insulation. One third of energy even cold. It comes in microcapsules
worldwide is wasted for heating, which is a (MPCM) and is conveniently integrated in
TO DEAL WITH NANO big challenge for sustainable building. several building materials, such as plaster,
PRODUCTS. WE SEE IT Highly efficient insulation-material called plasterboard or aerated concrete-blocks. All
Vacuum Insulation Panels (VIPs) are ten the above are mentioned just to name a few,
AS A BATTLE SOMETIMES times as effective as conventional as there is already more examples on the
BETWEEN CONFLICTING polystyrene. This is interesting for both old market. The potential for further material-
and new buildings, as it provides a much and product innovations is there, think about
DESIRES FOR FORM higher thermal conductivity at a much Organic Light Emitting Diodes (OLED) or
AND FUNCTIONALITY. thinner insulation thickness. At present highly efficient photovoltaic (PV) modules.
planning with VIPs is still very challenging
and also building at the construction site Aesthetics and Function
itself is demanding, as VIPs have to be Regarding design aesthetics it is still
handled with care. Improvements in their difficult for architects to deal with nano-
production are expected, and their potential products. We see it as a battle sometimes
worldwide is vast. between conflicting desires for form and
functionality. For instance there may be a
Aerogel, which is also used as filling for desire to use a certain product because of
VIPs, comes as a filling for glazing as well. its colour and texture – but this product
As a NASA-designed material for use in does not provide the necessary antibacterial
outer space, it contributes extremely high and easy-to-clean function. Another product
thermal insulation, which makes it perfect does integrate these favoured functions, but
for the external envelope of buildings. is only available in non-suitable colours. So


INNOVATIONS ARE HARD TO IMPLEMENT INTO production-steps whereas indirectly highly

efficient insulation conserves energy, needs
THE NOTORIOUSLY CONSERVATIVE FIELD OF less material and in consequence less
transportation and reduces carbon
ARCHITECTURE. CONSTRUCTION, WITH THE HELP OF emissions. Reduction in the use of energy,
SOMETHING NEW, ALWAYS REQUIRES A READINESS minimum use of raw materials and
reduction in the waste of resources forms a
TO ASSUME A RISK. NOT ONLY BY THE ARCHITECTS powerful argument for using nanomaterials
WHO PLAN THE BUILDINGS, AS THEY ARE THE ONES in architecture. As architectural discussion
today is all about sustainability, especially in
TO BE LIABLE FOR A LONG TIME, BUT ALSO BY THE the context of worldwide property ratings by
innovation-driven and highly-effective
materials are of substantial interest. The
use of nanomaterials is an effective tool
the architect must resort to using the first in fact do, lose their reliability and for green building.
product, knowing at the same time that it reputation. How can one believe what else
could have been a better, updated version. they are saying? The Way Ahead
The winner is always the product which In the last few years, there has been an
provides both – aesthetically and As such, for architects nano is quite difficult enormous hype about materials in the fields
functionally, in the advanced sense. to deal with, especially when they don’t of architecture and design. Books about
Hopefully these products are becoming know anything about it and are unable to materials have popped up everywhere,
more available, as innovations are always on ask the right questions to the right people. accompanied by the installation of several
the producer’s roadmap. The confusion is confounded because there material archives aimed at architects,
isn’t a precise definition of “nano” and it is designers and also producers. Materials are
Marketing Nano in Architecture sometimes difficult to find the appropriate at a certain point of the supply chain – it’s
– Benefits and Pitfalls contacts with the knowledge to help - so nice to get to know the material, but it’s also
It is difficult for architects to get to know better stick to technical departments or important is to get to know the real people
what they are actually dealing with in the even labs of the producing firms. behind it. At this point, it is necessary to see
products and materials they plan with. the importance of working together through
Depending on changing marketing Innovations are hard to implement into the several fields. Scientists, producers,
strategies companies may choose to notoriously conservative field of architecture. architects – they have to work together to
communicate or conceal the use of nano Construction, with the help of something form the materials which are needed, and
in their product. new, always requires a readiness to assume the products which are wanted. Scientists,
a risk. Not only by the architects who plan producers and creative people have to
Three ways of marketing “nano” the buildings, as they are the ones to be communicate with each other and work
actually occur: liable for a long time, but also by the together, regarding the long chain from raw
construction firms that realise their ideas. material to successful products, to selling
1) The use of nanotechnology is They also might not win a tender because of on the market.
communicated in an offensive way, as a the higher prices incurred by the use of
response to a demand for innovation, and more expensive nano-products. This will Finally, for architects it’s not a “must” but a
at the same time demonstrate an hopefully change in the future, as the use of “nice to have” knowledge about nanotubes
innovative approach and market leadership. nano results in lower prices in the long run. and buckyballs as icons of the nano-world.
Just to attach the word “nano” isn’t quite Clients should be fully informed as well, as A very promising way to get to know
enough to convince architects, it is also they can be the ones to start with the buckyballs, is the American architect
necessary to communicate its purpose, implementation of clever construction and Richard Buckminster Fuller, who is well-
its use and the advantages of the specific materials. There is still a lack of known in architect’s circles. His impressive
material or product. communication from architect to client to geodesic domes, self-supporting cupolas,
firms, which creates a barrier for innovation. are characterized by Buckyball-Structures
2) Contrarily, the use of nanotechnology in a There are built references around the world which are adored. Almost unknown is that
product or design is not communicated at which show that nano-products work, and do before him, German architect Bauersfeld
all, and furthermore, even concealed, not belong to the realms of science fiction. realized these structures, but he failed to
because of a fear about negative “risk”- label it in a handy way, which again shows
reaction. This is thoroughly understandable, Some Unquestionable Nanobenefits the importance of communication. n
but it can’t be allowed to be the case For clients dealing with public private
because of two reasons: on one hand the partnerships (PPP) and facility managers,
consumer wants just be informed what it is nanotechnology in architecture is a “do not
all about (if it’s not “nano” it can’t work …) ignore” topic, as it reduces maintenance Sylvia Leydecker, Dipl.-Ing., is interior
on the other hand it’s just not possible, as costs. Energy savings and reduced cleaning architect at BDIA and director of the
there seems to be a stigma about using NT. are two of the main factors, which show up Cologne-based studio 100% interior.
in lower maintenance costs and which can
3) The product is labelled “nano” to take be a huge benefit for operator to gain profits. She is the author of
advantage of the term nano as a futuristic Nanomaterials in Architecture,
brand, while in reality it has nothing to do More efficient production-processes and Interior Architecture and Design
with nanotechnology at all. All-in-all, the cost-efficiency is integrated in the lifecycle- published by Birkhauser.
strategy of truth is the better one, as firms chain of a product. Directly, for instance, For more information, visit
who pretend to have or claim not to have but scratch resistant lacquer helps to reduce


potential for
Fullerenes come in a variety of shapes, but
INDUSTRIES MAY BE RESISTING THE APPLICATION all of the molecules in the fullerene family
OF NANOTECHNOLOGY PRODUCTIONS, are composed entirely of carbon. They
might be cylindrical fullerenes, in which
THE DECKER YEADON AGENCY IS GETTING TO case they are called carbon nanotubes or
GRIPS WITH THE SCIENCE IN ORDER TO COME UP buckytubes, or they might be more complex
shapes. Fullerene molecules might also be
WITH INTERESTING NEW CONCEPTS THAT COULD spherical, as in the buckminsterfullerene
C60 molecule, which was named in honour
SHAPE THE FUTURE OF OUR HOMES AND OFFICES. of R. Buckminster Fuller, architect of the
geodesic dome. Despite the homage,
Buckminster Fuller never worked directly
with nanotechnology. But few architects
have. Even today, as other disciplines rush
to experiment with nanotechnology in the
pursuit of new applications, it is extremely
rare to find anyone in the architecture
community that is engaged in nanotech
research and development. A few nano-
enabled building products have been
specified for some projects here and there,
but architects are well behind other creative
Carbon Nanotubes are used disciplines, such as industrial design and
to create Buckypaper apparel design in embracing this new field.

Buckypaper – offering infinite behind a "paper" mat that is less than prototype of the artificial muscle should be
architectural possibilities? 100µm thick. completed and demonstrated this year. It
Lack of interest in nanotechnology by will be small, limited by the size of
architects might be changing. Decker There is a great deal of interest in the Buckypaper that can currently be produced.
Yeadon, a young firm in New York City scientific community recently surrounding The sheet is about the same size as the
interested in the potential of nanotechnology, Buckypaper research. Buckypaper, made of filtration membrane, 90mm in diameter.
has just synthesized a thin sheet of carbon carbon nanotubes, has a number of novel Although its surface has an area that is
nanotubes, called Buckypaper. To make it, properties that could be advantageous for a similar to the palm of a hand, the active
single walled carbon nanotubes were variety of applications. It is hundreds of surface area of the nanotubes in the
dispersed in sodium dodecyl sulfate and times stronger than steel, it can filter material is tremendous. If all the tiny tubes
deionized water. Because the 1-2nm particles, it can conduct and disperse heat were rolled out flat, they would have a
diameter nanotubes are hydrophobic, like metals, and it can conduct electricity. surface area of about an astonishing 100
sodium dodecyl sulfate was used as a square meters.
surfactant that enabled the nanotubes to Decker Yeadon have been active in
disperse well in water. pursuing new applications for smart Using nanobots in self-assembly design
materials and emergent nanomaterials, and Decker Yeadon have also been exploring
The solution containing the nanotubes was the Buckypaper material they have just the future potential offered to design by
then poured into a vacuum filtration unit, made springs from earlier attempts, in 2009, nanobots, developing nanomuscles using
which contained a microporous filtration to make an electrically conductive coating rotaxane molecules.
membrane with 200 nanometer diameter of multi-walled nanotubes. The company is
pores. Because each nanotube was just hopeful that this new Buckypaper can be Rotaxane molecules consist of two main
over 20µm long, the tubes collected on the used as a thin, flexible electrode surface in molecular components: a ring and a shaft.
surface of the membrane as the solution an artificial muscle that they are developing When excited by electricity or light, an
was drawn through its pores, like long hairs for architecture, as well as for its many electron jumps back and forth along the
collecting at the drain of a bathtub, leaving potential uses in other applications. The first shaft while the ring follows it. The company

SmartScreen reduces Half of all energy
greenhouse gas consumtion and CHG
emissions by reducng emissions in the U.S. can
energy consumption in be attributed to
buildings. By regulating buildings. Globally the
solar heat gain, it percentage is much
reduces the cooling load greater. The majority of
on mechanical systems. energy is used for space
conditioning (heating
Additionally, and cooling) and all
SmartScreen does not US Electricity use recent studies show that
need any power in buildings our net energy use for
whatsoever, thus it space conditioning will
provides an important increase significantly in
alternative to commercial the future, especially for
motorised systems that cooling. We urgently
require electricity, need innovative solutions
sensors, processors, that can reduce energy
controls and motors. consumption, and
emissions associated
with fossil fuel power
SmartScreen uses smart
materials to mitigate
US Electricity use
solar heat gain,
in residential buildings
effectively reducing
energy consumption
without consuming any
electricity itself.

US Electricity use
in commercial buildings
Source: US Department
of Energy / 2007 Buildings

has designed a novel molecular machine environmental costs of cooling and heating. temperature, so the system can directly
with two rotaxanes joined end-to-end. These Half of all energy consumption and influence a building’s climate without
rotaxanes bend molecular beams to serve greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. can expending any fuel or electricity for its
as autonomous artificial nanomuscles for a be attributed to buildings. Globally, the own operation.
small nanorobotic device. The rotaxane percentage is even greater. The majority of
muscles are covered by a thin, flexible skin this energy is consumed for space The Decker Yeadon team investigated how
of conductive graphene, just one carbon conditioning (heating and cooling), and all a particular set of smart materials, thermo-
atom thick, which can distribute and recent studies show that net energy use for responsive shape-memory alloys (SMAs),
delivers energy to the array of rotaxane space conditioning will increase can regulate solar heat gain through glazed
muscles below. Each nBot has four arms substantially in future, especially for cooling. building envelopes, to conserve energy
that are covered with carbon nanotubes. Van Innovative solutions are urgently needed expended on cooling.
der Waals forces generated in the that can reduce energy consumption and
nanotubes enable the nBots to stick to each emissions associated with the fossil fuel The main objective was to demonstrate how
other, like the fine spatulae of a gecko's foot. power production. a new class of material devices might be
engineered to open/close apertures in a
Individually the nBots would be too small to It is widely understood that motorized surface when solar heat gain is
be seen. However, they can self-assemble window treatments, such as shades and advantageous/disadvantageous, simply by
into larger structures, creating objects and blinds, can assist in the reduction of solar changing their shape when the interior
environments that can change their form heat gain in buildings; these electrically- ambient air temperature falls/rises. As these
and density on demand. driven systems can help conserve energy smart materials are only activated by
that is expended on cooling. A novel temperature changes, the aim was to create
Smart nano materials to reduce material device might be engineered to a system that can directly influence a
cooling-costs and green house gas open/close apertures in a surface when building’s climate without expending any
emissions in hot climates solar heat gain is advantageous/disadvant- fuel or electricity for its own operation. The
Decker Yeadon are working on a novel way ageous is described. This device would system is called SmartScreen, and the next
to deal with regulating temperatures in include a smart material that is only SmartScreen prototype is expected to be
buildings so as to avoid the financial and activated by changes in interior ambient air developed for Spring 2011.


US Energy Flow: Supply & Use US Electricity Flow: Supply & Use
Quadrillion BTU Values Quadrillion BTU Values

Rotaxane molecules consist of two main molecular

components: a ring and a shaft. When excited by
electricity or light, an electron jumps back and forth
along the shaft while the ring follows it.

We designed a novel molecular machine with two

rotaxannes, joined end to end. These rotaxannes bend
molecular beams to serve as autonomous artificial
nanomuscles for a small nanorobotic device.

The rotaxanne muscles are covered by a thin, flexible

skin of conductive graphene. Just one carbon atom
thick, the graphene distributes and delivers energy to
the array of rotaxanne muscles below.

Each nBot has four arms that are covered with carbon
nanotubes. Van der Waals forces generated in the
nanotubes enable the nBots to stick to each other, like
the fine spatulae of a gecko’s foot.

Individually, the nBots would be too small to be seen.
However they can self-assemble into larger structures,
creating objects and environments that can change
their form and density on demand.

Following on the SmartScreen project, The aim is to also try to make a stretchable, Decker Yeadon are an architectural
interest has grown in developing a brise- conductive fabric that is impregnated with company which is focusing on how new
soleil shading system that would be nanotubes, as the buckypapers can bend material technologies can enable the
installed on the exterior of building facades but do not stretch, which limits what can be significant problems of our time to be
and could change its configuration to done with them. addressed. In particular, design applications
permit/deny solar heat gain. This projects is for smart materials and nanotechnology that
currently being worked on, and it relies on New Challenges – New Solutions can offer innovative solutions to a variety of
artificial muscles (electroactive polymers) Given the challenges of architecture in the problems, including: water conservation and
that move and serve as the ribbons of the 21st century in meeting goals of sustainability, quality, energy conservation, health and
brise-soleil. new materials and new approaches are
safety, and security are being pursued.
needed in order to find new solutions problems.
There are a number of different types of
dielectric EAPs that could work, but the As a small young office, Decker Yeadon are The firm’s founding partners, Martina
company was interested in looking at how committed to developing applications for Decker and Peter Yeadon, are committed to
nanotubes might provide a thin, flexible novel materials, so there are many balancing research and practice. Although
material that is not metal but could serve as challenges in advancing this kind of work. It both trained as architects, the scope of their
an electrode. Since starting the is also highly unusual for architects to be works – from art installations and consumer
development of conductive buckypapers the involved in leading edge research and products, to civic memorials and buildings –
company has had had some success in development. Conventional architecture represents a penchant for interdisciplinary
creating thin (50-100µm) sheets from single- practices routinely specify new materials work that extends the conventional
walled nanotubes that have low resistance. and products for their projects, but are boundaries of architectural practice.
rarely involved in developing those
During the next eight months or so, work technologies. This is slowly changing, for a
will focus on assembling a variety of variety of reasons, and a new generation of
artificial muscle prototypes that use the architects and designers could usefully
buckypapers and other materials (e.g., contribute to the debate surrounding the
elastomers and ionomeric polymers). promise and problems of nanotech. n


Professor Bharat Bhushan is the Director of the Nanoprobe
Laboratory for Bio- & Nanotechnology and Biomimetics at The
Ohio State University. His research is focussed on scanning probe
techniques in the interdisciplinary areas of bio/nanotribology/
nanomechanics and nanomaterials characterization in
bio/nanotechnology and biomimetics. Here he gives us a
guide to the way nature's successes are being adapted to
bring new properties to commercial products.


Turning ature has evolved over the 3.8 assembly, anti-reflection, structural

N billion years since life is estim-

ated to have first appeared on
earth. By gaining an understanding of how
colouration, thermal insulation, self-healing
and sensory aid mechanisms, are some of
the examples found in nature which are of

Nature’s the natural world works, we can imitate

nature to produce new and better
materials, devices and processes.
commercial interest.

The emphasis on nanoscience and

Nature-inspired design is referred to as nanotechnology since the early 1990s has

Successes biomimetics. The word was coined by

polymath Otto Schmitt in 1957, who, in his
doctoral research, developed a physical
provided a significant impetus in mimicking
nature, using nanofabrication techniques for
commercial applications. Biomimetics has
device that mimicked the electrical action spurred interest across many disciplines. It is

into Gold of a nerve.

The field of biomimetics is highly

estimated that the 100 most important
products based on biomimetics has
generated about US $1.5billion over 2005-
interdisciplinary. It involves the 2008. Annual sales and product diversity are
understanding and analysis of the biological expected to continue to increase dramatically.
function, structure, and principles of
operation of the natural world. To acquire Lessons from Nature and
and utilize this knowledge in the design and Their Applications
fabrication of materials and devices of Many life forms, including bacteria, plants,
commercial interest requires input from land and aquatic animals, have properties
many disciplines, including biologists, of commercial interest. Some examples
physicists, chemists, and material scientists. from nature, which serve as the inspiration
for various technological developments are
The word biomimetics first appeared in shown throughout this article.
Webster’s dictionary in 1974 and is defined
as “the study of the formation, structure or Roughness-induced superhydrophobic
function of biologically produced and self-cleaning surfaces are of interest
substances and materials (as enzymes or in various applications, including self-
silk) and biological mechanisms and cleaning windows, car windshields,
processes (as protein synthesis or exterior paints for buildings, boats, ships
photosynthesis) especially for the purpose and aircraft, utensils, roof tiles, textiles,
of synthesizing similar products by artificial solar panels, and applications requiring
mechanisms which mimic natural ones.” antifouling and a reduction of drag in
fluid flow, e.g., in micro/nanofluidics,
Biological materials are highly organized and for boats, ships, and aircraft.
from the molecular to the nano, micro, and Superhydrophobic surfaces can also
macroscales, often in an hierarchical be used for energy conversion and
manner with an intricate nanoarchitecture conservation. Nonwetting surfaces
that ultimately leads to a myriad of different also reduce stiction at contact interfaces
functional elements. Nature creates the in machinery.
materials and functions it needs through a
complex interplay between surface Self-Cleaning
structure and morphology, and physical and A model surface for superhydrophobicity
chemical properties, using commonly found and self-cleaning is provided by the leaves
materials. Many materials, surfaces, and of the Lotus plant (Nelumbo nucifera)
devices produced by nature are Fig (a). The so-called papillose epidermal
multifunctional. Molecular scale devices, cells form asperities or papillae and
superhydrophobicity, self-cleaning, drag provide roughness on the microscale. The
reduction in fluid flow, energy conversion surface of the leaves is usually covered with
and conservation, reversible adhesion, waxes made from a mixture of long-chain
aerodynamic lift, materials and fibers with hydrocarbon compounds that are strongly
(a) Lotus effect
Bhushan et al
high mechanical strength, biological self- hydrophobic. Sub-micron sized asperities

(b) pond skater walking (c) Gecko foot exhibiting
on water reversible adhesion
Gao and Jiang Gao et al

composed of 3-D epicuticular waxes are 1-2mm in length, that are located on the
superimposed over microscale roughness, attachment pads (toes) and that compress
creating an hierarchical structure. The wax easily so that contact can be made with
asperities consist of different morphologies, rough, bumpy surfaces. Tiny curved hairs
they are tubular on Lotus leaves, and known as setae extend from the lamellae
platelet-shaped on Colocasia leaves. with a density of approximately 14,000 per
Water droplets on these surfaces readily sit square millimeter. These setae are typically
on the apex of the wax nanostructures, and 30-130µm in length and 5-10µm in diameter
remove any contaminant particles from and are composed primarily of β-keratin
their surfaces when they roll off, leading to with some α-keratin component.
self-cleaning. At the end of each seta, 100-1000 spatulae
with a diameter of 0.1-0.2µm each, branch
Water striders (Gerris remigis) are insects out and form the points of contact with the
which live on the surfaces of ponds, slow surface. The tip of each spatula is
streams, and quiet waters. A water strider approximately 0.2-0.3µm in width, 0.5µm
has the ability to stand and walk upon water in length, and 0.01µm in thickness, and gets
surface without getting wet, Fig (b). Even beetles and flies), spiders, and lizards (e.g., its name from their resemblance
the impact of rain droplets of a size greater geckos), are capable of attaching to a variety to a spatula.
than the strider’s size does not make it of surfaces and can travel even on vertical
immerse into water. The special hierarchical walls or across ceilings. Biological evolution The attachment pads on two feet of the
structure of strider legs, which are covered over a long period of time has led to the Tokay gecko have an area of about 220mm2.
by large numbers of oriented tiny hairs optimization of their attachment systems. This About three million setae on their toes can
(microsetae) with fine nanogrooves and dynamic attachment ability is referred to as produce a clinging ability of about 20N
covered with cuticle wax, makes the leg reversible adhesion or smart adhesion. (vertical force required to pull a lizard down
surfaces superhydrophobic and is a nearly vertical (85º) surface) and allow
responsible for the water resistance and Attachment systems in insects, spiders, and them to climb vertical surfaces at speeds of
enables them to stand and walk quickly on lizards have similar structures. As the weight over 1m/s with the capability to attach or
the water surface. The setae on the water of a creature increases, the radius of the detach their toes in milliseconds. It should
strider’s legs are needle-shaped hairs with terminal attachment elements decreases. be noted that a three-level hierarchical
diameters ranging from 3µm down to This allows a greater number of setae to be structure allows adaptability to surfaces with
several hundred nm. Most setae are roughly packed into an area, hence increasing the different magnitudes of roughness. The
50µm in length and arranged at an inclined linear dimension of contact and adhesion gecko uses a peeling action to unstick itself.
angle of about 20° from the surface of the strength. Flies and beetles have the largest
leg. Elaborate nanoscale grooves have been attachment pads and the lowest density of Replication of the structure of gecko feet
found on each microseta, and these form an terminal attachment elements. Spiders have would enable the development of a
unique hierarchical micro- and highly refined attachment elements that cover superadhesive polymer tape capable of
nanostructuring on the leg’s surface which their legs. Geckos have both the highest clean, dry adhesion, which is reversible.
seems to be responsible for its water body mass and greatest density of terminal (It should be noted that common man-made
resistance and the strong supporting force. elements (spatula). Spiders and geckos can adhesives such as tape or glue involve the
Remarkably, a leg does not pierce the water generate high dry adhesion, whereas beetles use of wet adhesives that permanently
surface until a dimple of 4.4 mm depth is and flies increase adhesion by secreting attach two surfaces.) Reusable, gecko-
formed, and the maximum supporting force liquids at the contacting interface. inspired adhesives have potential for use in
of a single leg is 1.52mN, or about 15 times stickytape, fasteners, toys, and in high
the total body weight of the insect. The The gecko is the largest animal that can technology such as microelectronic and
corresponding volume of water ejected is produce high (dry) adhesion to support its space applications. Replication of the
roughly 300 times that of the leg itself. weight, with a high factor of safety. As dynamic climbing and peeling ability of
shown in Fig (c), the gecko skin consists of geckos could find use in the treads of
Stickiness an intricate hierarchy of structures wall-climbing robots.
Several animals, including many insects (e.g., beginning with lamellae, soft ridges that are


(d) Scale structure of shark

reducing drag



Drag Minimisation Due to the relatively high Reynolds number transverse flow. Thin, vertical scales result
Many aquatic animals, such as sharks, can of a swimming shark, turbulent flow occurs. in low transverse flow and low drag, and the
move through water at high speeds with a Longitudinal scales on the skin surface ratio of the scale height to tip-to-tip spacing
low energy input. Drag is a major hindrance result in a lower wall shear stress, than if the of 0.5 is the optimum value for low drag.
to movement. Through its ingenious design, surface was smooth surface. They enable
the skin of a shark turns out to be an the water to move more efficiently over the In addition to reduction of drag, the shark
essential aid by reducing drag by 5 to 10% surface than if the shark scales were skin surface prevents marine organisms
and auto-cleaning ecto-parasites from their completely featureless. Over smooth from adhering to it. It is not because of the
surface. The very small individual tooth-like surfaces, fast-moving water begins to break Lotus effect, as the shark skin is hydrophilic
scales of shark skin, called dermal denticles, up into turbulent vortices, or eddies, in part and wets with water. There are three factors
are ribbed with longitudinal grooves aligned because the water flowing at the surface of which appear to keep the surface clean:
parallel to the local flow direction of the an object moves slower than water flowing
water, which result in water moving very further away from the object with so-called 1) the accelerated water flow at a shark’s
efficiently over their surface. An example of low boundary slip. This difference in water surface reduces the contact time of fouling
the scale structure on the right front of a speed causes the faster water to get organisms,
Galapagos shark is shown in Fig.(d). The “tripped up” by the adjacent layer of slower
scales are present over most of the shark’s water flowing around an object, just as 2) the roughened nanotexture of shark skin
body, and are upstream swirls form along riverbanks. The reduces the available surface area for
V-shaped, about 200-500µm in height, and grooves in a shark’s scales simultaneously adhering organisms, and
regularly spaced (100-300µm). reduce eddy formation in a surprising
number of ways: 3) the dermal scales themselves perpetually
realign or flex in response to changes in
1) the grooves reinforce the direction of flow internal and external pressure as the shark
Reynolds Number by channeling it moves through water, creating a “moving
The most important dimensionless target” for fouling organisms.
number in fluid dynamics, Reynolds 2) they speed up the slower water at the
number (Re) is the ratio of inertial forces to shark’s surface (as the same volume of Emulating the skin of a shark, Speedo
viscous forces and is given by the formula: water going through a narrower channel created a wholebody swimsuit called the
increases in speed), reducing the difference Fastskin Bodysuit in 2006 for elite swimmers.
Re = ρVD/μ in speed of this surface flow and the water The suit is made of polyurethane woven
where just beyond the shark’s surface fabric with a texture based on shark scales.
ρ = density of the fluid, In the 2008 Summer Olympics, two thirds of
V = velocity, 3) conversely, they pull faster water towards the swimmers wore Speedo swim suits, and
D = pipe diameter, the shark’s surface so that it mixes with the a large number of world records were
and μ = fluid viscosity. slower water, reducing this speed broken. Boats, ships and aircraft
differential, and finally, manufacturers are also trying to mimic the
Reynolds number is used to determine structure of shark skin to reduce friction
whether a flow will be laminar or 4) they divide up the sheet of water flowing drag and minimize the attachment of
turbulent. If Re is high (>2100), inertial over the shark’s surface so that any organisms on their bodies. One possibility is
forces dominate viscous forces and the turbulence created results in smaller, rather to create riblets on the surface by painting
flow is turbulent; if Re number is low than larger, vortices. or attaching a film (3M). Skin friction
(<1100), viscous forces dominate and contributes about half of the total drag
the flow is laminar. It is named after the It is also reported that longitudinal scales between a solid surface and air in an
British physicist and engineer Osborne influence the fluid flow in the transverse aircraft, and transparent sheets with a
Reynolds (1842–1912), of the University direction by limiting the degree of ribbed structure in the longitudinal direction
of Manchester who discovered it in 1883. momentum transfer. It is the difference have been used on the commercial Airbus
in the protrusion height in the longitudinal 340 aircrafts. It is expected that a riblet film
Source: Internet Encyclopaedia of Science and transverse directions which govern on the body of an aircraft can reduce drag
how much the scales impede the in the order of 10%.

(e) antireflective moth’s eye
Genzer & Efimenko



Antireflectivity This moth eye effect should not be confused Outlook

Optical reflection and anti-reflection is with reduction of the specular reflectance by The emerging field of biomimetics is
achieved in nature by using nanoscale roughening of a surface. Roughness merely already gaining a strong foothold in the
architecture. The eyes of moths are redistributes the reflected light as diffuse scientific and technical arena. It is clear that
antireflective to visible light, and the scattering. In the case of the moth eye there nature has evolved and optimized a large
so-called ‘moth-eye effect’ was is no increase in diffuse scattering, the number of materials and structured
discovered in the 1960s. For nocturnal transmitted wavefront is not degraded, and surfaces with unique characteristics. As we
insects, it is important not to reflect the the reduction in reflection gives rise to a understand the underlying molecular
light, since the reflection makes the corresponding increase in transmission. mechanisms, we can begin to exploit them
insect vulnerable to predators. for commercial applications. These
Attempts are being made to incorporate applications include superhydrophobic
The eyes of moths consist of hundreds of microscopic corrugations in solar panels to self-cleaning and/or low drag surfaces,
hexagonally organized nanoscopic pillars, reduce light reflection. Attempts are also surfaces for energy conversion and
each about 200nm in diameter and height being made to produce a glare-free computer conservation, superadhesives, robotics,
that result in a very low reflectance for screen by creating facets on a photosensitive objects which provide aerodynamic lift,
visible light, Fig (e). These nanostructures’ lacquer using lasers. Some 25 thousand materials and fibers with high mechanical
optical surfaces make the eye surface dots of texture per square mm can essentially strength, anti-reflective surfaces and
nearly antireflective in any direction. eliminate the glare on the screen. Patterned surfaces with hues, artificial furs and
silicon surfaces with 300nm periodicity and textiles, various biomedical devices and
Light reflection is avoided by a depth up to 190nm have been made, which implants, self-healing materials, and
continuously increasing refractive index offer a significant reduction in reflectivity, sensory aid devices - to name but a
of the optical medium. Little protuberances partially due to the moth-eye-effect. Epoxy very few! n
on the surface of the moth’s cornea and resin has been used to replicate the
increase the refractive index. These antireflective surface of a cicada’s eye. It is
protuberances are very small microtrichia also possible to create transparent surfaces
(about 200 nm in diameter). For an using the moth-eye-effect.
increase in transmission and reduced
reflection, a continuous matching of the Hierarchical Organization
refraction index at the boundary of the in Biomaterials
adjacent materials (cornea and air) is Nature develops by means of a biologically-
required. If the periodicity of the surface controlled, self-assembly technique,
pattern is smaller than the light wavelength, adapted to environmental conditions and
the light is not reflected. If this condition is using the most commonly found materials.
satisfied, it may be assumed that, at any Biological materials are developed by using
depth, the effective refraction index is the the recipes contained in the genetic code.
mean of that of air and the bulk material, These biological materials and tissues are
weighted in proportion to the amount of created by hierarchical structuring at all
material present at that depth. For a moth levels, adapting form and structure to
eye surface with a protuberance height function, and materials optimization at each
of h and spacing of d, it is expected that level. They have the capability of adapting
the reflectance is very low for wavelengths to changing conditions and are self-healing.
less than about 2.5h, and greater than
d at normal incidence, and for Nature uses hierarchical structures,
wavelengths greater than 2d for oblique consisting of nanostructures in many cases,
incidence. For protuberances with 220nm to achieve the required performance.
depth and the same spacing (typical values Understanding the role of these hierarchical
for the moth eye), a very low reflectance is structures would facilitate the development
expected for the wavelengths between 440 of low cost and flexible fabrication
and 550nm. techniques with commercial applications.


An Overview of
Nanoscience and
in Brazil

n 2001, the first Federal initiative focused formulation and implementation of the which had been created in 2001, were

I on Nanoscience and Nanotechnology

(N&N) was taken by the National
Council for Development of Science and
“Nanotechnology National Program” (PNN).
It followed the launching of the Industrial,
Technological and Foreign Trade Policy
replaced by the Program “National Institutes
for Science and Technology”, with a budget
of about R$ 609 millions.
Technology (Conselho Nancional de (PITCE) and the creation of nanotechnology
Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico – transverse actions from Sectoral Funds(*), The 2007 Action Plan for Science, Technology
CNPq), a funding agency of the Ministry of which significantly raised the amount of and Innovation for National Development – a
Science and Technology of Brazil (Ministério money allocated to the field (see Table 1). landmark for technological progress in Brazil.
da Ciência e Tecnologia - MCT). It created
four national research networks, involving As a consequence, since 2005, the following In November 2007, the Ministry of Science
about 300 scientists from different research advances related to N&N in Brazil took and Technology of Brazil (Ministério da
institutes and universities in Brazil, and 13 place. The initial four research networks Ciência e Tecnologia - MCT) launched the
companies. In the period 2002-2005, the four were replaced by 10 new ones. Investments Action Plan 2007-2010 “Science, Technology
networks published a total of more than 1000 in the laboratory facilities have been made and Innovation for National Development”
scientific articles and were granted more since then, particularly in the National (C,T&I Plan), aiming at stimulating
than 90 patents. Synchrotron Laboratory (LNLS), the National technological innovation in the industrial
Institute for Metrology, Normalization and sector, and at consolidating the National
In 2004, counting on additional funds from the Industrial Quality (Instituto Nacional de Science, Technology and Innovation System.
“Program for Accelerated Growth” of the Metrologia, Normalização e Qualidade The Plan integrated the Industrial,
Federal Government, the MCT launched the Industrial - Inmetro), the Brazilian Center for Technological and Foreign Trade Policy, which
“Program for the Development of Nanoscience Research in Physics (Centro Brasileiro de was conducted by both the MCT and the
and Nanotechnology”. Its aim was to support Pesquisas Físicas – CBPF), the Brazilian Ministry of Development, Industry and the
both basic and technological research Agricultural Research Corporation (Empresa Foreign Trade (Ministério do Desenvolvimento,
activities in these fields, involving groups Brasileira de Pesquisa Agropecuária - Indústria e Comércio Exterior - MDIC).
from both academia and industry. EMBRAPA), the Northeastern Center
Strategic Technologies (Centro de The Action Plan comprises four Strategic
The next step towards promoting the Tecnologias Estratégicas do Nordeste - Priorities, distributed along 21 Lines of Action.
development of nanotechnology in Brazil CETENE), and the Nanotechnology Cesar The 7th Line establishes Biotechnology and
was taken by the MCT in 2005, with the Lattes (C2Nano). The Millennium Institutes, Nanotechnology as “future bearing areas”.


Indeed, both have received special attention resources. Research activities in Brazil the Brazilian-Argentinean Centre for
not just from the MCT and MDIC, but also started quite late, even when compared to Nanotechnology (Centro Brasileiro-Argentino
from other Ministries, such as those of Health other Latin American countries. In the first de Nanotecnologia – CBAN). The Centre has
(MS), Education (MEC), Agriculture, half of last century, the number of scientists as its mission to stimulate the development of
Stockbreeding and Supply (MAPA), Defence in the country was still very small. In the joint research projects and to help improving
(MD), and Mines and Energy (MME). 1950s Brazil started sending students abroad the formation of human resources in the two
to get their PhDs, and in the 1960s, the first countries. In this regard, the Centre regularly
The launching of the C,T&I Plan, in 2007 and graduate courses were created. In the organizes topic schools directed to PhD
the creation of the transverse actions, following decades, the system expanded students and post-doctors, from distinct
together with approval and regulation by the and became highly successful. The areas, such as Physics, Chemistry, Biology,
Brazilian Congress of the Innovation Bill (Lei following figures clearly demonstrate this. Medicine and Material Sciences. The
da Inovação) and the so-called “Goodness Centre’s activities are supported, on equal
Bill” (Lei do Bem), have made it possible for In 2009, Brazil produced 38,800 MScs and basis, by the Ministries of Science and
the Government to share with private 11,400 PhDs. In 2001, the corresponding Technology of Brazil and Argentina.
companies the costs of research and figures were 20,000 and 6,000 respectively. Negotiations between the Brazilian
development activities, representing The amount of money expended on graduate Government and those of Chile and Mexico,
landmarks in the process of establishing scholarships went from R$ 813 millions in aiming at establishing similar centres with
conditions for the scientific and technological 2001 to R$ 2 billions in 2009! these two countries are on the way.
progress in the country.
Brazil has now succeeded in building up a Moving Ahead
The actions carried out by the MCT strong presence in science and technology Building a science and technology system
Financing Agency for Studies and Projects research and development. Nowadays, the that could enable the country to advance its
(Financiadora de Estudos e Projetos – country counts on more than 100,000 active social and economical progress, against the
FNEP), aiming at supporting joint projects scientists, who have produced in 2009 about face of international competitivity is a rather
involving industrial companies and research 32,100 indexed scientific articles, which complex task. In the case of Brazil, it
institutes have significantly contributed to corresponds to 2.69 % of the world production. required to overcome many difficulties, such
the introduction of nanotechnology in the For the sake of comparison, in 2001 the as the lack of experience of its scientific and
industrial sector. Approximately 29 % of the corresponding figures were 11,581 and 1.45 %, technological communities, the absence of
projects so far approved by the agency respectively. According to the Thomson an innovation culture, steady science and
involve nanotechnology. Reuters database, Brazil ranks thirteenth in the technology policies, and substantial
world in terms of scientific publications, ahead investment. Despite all these problems,
of countries such as Russia and Holland. Brazil has succeeded in making significant
scientific and technological progress. n
Table 1: Investment on Nanoscience and As regards Nanocience and
Nanotechnology from MCT Nanotechnology, in the period from 1990 to (*) The first Sectoral Funds were created in 1999.
2006, Brazil was responsible for 1.2 % of the Their purpose is to finance research,
Year TOTAL (Brazilian Reais) world publications [Kay and Shapira, J. development and innovation projects in the
Nanopart. Res. 11, 259 (2009)], twice as country. Their budgets are composed, as for
2001-2003 23,577,528.84 much as Mexico, ranked second in Latin example, from contributions coming from result
2004 9,230,674.38 America. In that period, the number of of exploitation natural resources belonging to the
2005 50,315,650.51 papers on N&N published by Brazil Union and the taxation on certain industrialized
corresponded to almost half (50.2 %) of the products. At the moment, there are 16 Sectoral
2006 26,118,219.44
total Latin America production. Funds. The transverse actions are devoted to
2007 54,069,343.12 supporting strategic programs, with emphasis
2008 (1) 173,987,066.44 Brazil has given special attention to the on the PITCE, and are composed from
2009 7,779,812.06 establishment of scientific and technological contributions from different Sectoral Funds.
2010 (2) 15,000,000.00 cooperation programs with other countries,
including traditional partners (United States
(1) Including R$ 70 millions from the Ministry of and several European countries), as well as
Education Agency CAPES.
(2) Partial more recently India, South Africa, China,
Russia, and others in Latin America.

International Co-operation and the

Accelerating Brazil’s Scientific Brazilian-Argentinean Centre for
Development through its People Nanotechnology
One of the main points in the promotion of Regarding international cooperation in
the scientific and technological development Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, an
is the availability of well-qualified human important fact was the creation, in 2005, of




Professor Whitesides is a co-founder of ‘Diagnostics for All’,
a not-for-profit company that aims to provide diagnostic
devices at very low cost, to provide healthcare support for
the developing world. The diagnostic technique is simple
and reliable, and based on the same technique used for
printing comics.

The technique is paper-based and provides diagnostic

information by changing colour when exposed to a fluid such
as urine, giving information on glucose or protein levels for
example. Professor Whitesides’ aim is to distribute these
simple and cheap diagnostic systems in developing
countries, where people can administer the tests, given only
very basic training, and transmit the results easily to medical
centres using mobile camera phone technology.

eorge Whitesides, Professor Whitesides, would you be black). When I went to college, I thought I

G acknowledged multifaceted
scientific genius, is one of
nanotechnology’s elder statesmen. He is
so kind as to tell our readers a little
bit about you, as a young person.
What interested you as you grew up?
might become a mathematician, but I had no
talent for it. Another possibility was English,
but it seemed doubtful from the point of view
not only successful as an academic, but Were you keen on sports? was it of income. Chemistry was a fall-back
is also named on over 50 patents. A nature that inspired you? were you a position: it was (or at least washing dishes
lifetime of knowledge and experience bookish child? - and was school the and measuring melt viscosity were) one of
has led him to a profound understanding exciting and stimulating environment the few things in which I had any special
of what society needs from science. that set you on the ladder of talent. But I’m very glad I did become a
Where science thrives on complexity, subsequent high achievement? chemist. Chemistry is the most fundamental
and unexpected outcomes, society of the scientific disciplines that deals with the
needs simplicity allied to function, and at I was born in 1939. It was not just a different perceptible world. Everywhere you look,
low cost. And once given the ‘tools’ that century, it was a different world. No what you see is chemistry in operation. And
meet this definition, Professor computers, a rotary-dial party line for a most of the big questions – What is life? How
Whitesides predicts “People will build telephone, polio, no TV, propellers on does the mind think? How does climate
stuff you cannot begin to imagine”. airplanes. Children were less attentively work? What can be done with carbon
managed than now. Any memories of that dioxide? How best to provide for the
At present, one of his interests focuses on the time that I have now are completely suspect: machinery that makes the world run – from
delivery of healthcare in the developing world, revisionism is what it is. But I do remember drugs to water and energy? What is
at close to zero cost. Professor Whitesides that I read all the time, I was enthusiastic photosynthesis? How does the quantum
clearly understands that paradoxically these about sports but not at all good, and mostly world with all its weirdnesses become
low cost solutions also represent major I was left to my own devices. Schools were, I “ordinary” reality? – are now ones that are
opportunities in combating the spiralling and think, pretty bad until I went to high-school. exclusively or largely about chemistry. It’s
unsustainable costs of healthcare in the endlessly interesting.
developed world. Perhaps it has never been Why did you choose to become a
quite so clear before, that the lessons learned chemist? In retrospect, are you pleased You are a leading figure in the
from addressing the needs of the poor and with the choice you made? academic world, with many scientific
disadvantaged can also have unexpectedly papers and awards to your credit, but
large and beneficial repercussions in the My father was a chemical engineer: he made you have not neglected the commercial
world of the rich and privileged! additives and coatings for concrete and other potential of your work. Was it obvious
materials in a small company in Kentucky. to you from the early days that science
George Whitesides looks back on what My first jobs were as a laboratory technician should have outcomes that were
shaped his life, and discusses some of his in his company (washing dishes, and applicable in the real world? What was
current aspirations with Ottilia Saxl. measuring the melt viscosity of coal-tar your thinking on this?


to tolerate activities that could cause harm to

those with more.

3) The technical constraints in diagnostics in

the developing world are similar to those in
many other areas – military operations,
environmental monitoring, food and water
testing, home and point-of-care biomedical
analysis, agricultural testing – where
simplicity and cost are important.

4) The basic idea of reducing costs in

I BELIEVE THAT THERE ARE THREE healthcare has to be a theme for the future of
SEPARATE TYPES OF ACTIVITIES IN THE biomedical technology in the developed
world: we simply spend too much money on
TECHNICAL ENTERPRISE: THERE IS SCIENCE, healthcare, and the benefits are too limited
WHICH ASKS “HOW DOES IT WORK?”; THERE IS for what we spend. Healthcare is a great
ENGINEERING, WHICH ASKS “HOW DO I USE success in a capitalist model of a society, but
not in a social model. The problem of low-
IT?”; AND THERE IS INVENTION, WHICH STARTS cost biomedical analysis is a test problem
WITH “SUPPOSE I DO THIS AND THAT?” that is letting us ask if it might be possible to
reduce cost in biomedical analysis
dramatically, while maintaining quality.

5) It’s simply fun to do. It’s more difficult

In universities, we are extraordinarily is different than the financial management scientifically than one might think to develop
fortunate: we can do more or less what we that is so important in the later stages. Also, technology that works so well that it is almost
want. I believe that there are three separate our students will variously work on all free, and transparently simple.
types of activities in the technical aspects of this string of styles, and it’s
enterprise: there is science, which asks helpful to them to see as much of it as Occasionally you bemoan the fact that, if
“How does it work?”; there is engineering, possible while it is still easy for them to learn a solution to a societal problem is not
which asks “How do I use it?”; and there is different ways of thinking about problems. viewed as a way to bring in profits, there
invention, which starts with “Suppose I do will be no interest in its development.
this and that…? Maybe something might Just now you seem to be highly focused Where do you see the main need for
come of it that would be on providing solutions to the healthcare non-profit based action? Do you see any
interesting/useful/amusing somehow?” It’s problems of the developing world. When way forward in solving this dilemma?
more interesting to do all three than just and why did you think this might be a
one, and each has a separate charm. That’s good use of your time and knowledge? It is expensive to develop a technology fully. It
all fine, if a little self-indulgent. But it’s also What inspired you to ‘get involved’? is expensive to go through regulatory
good to remember that the money that we processes, and to do quality control, and to
use to pursue these various activities Your statement is only partly correct: we are, establish manufacturing. Making a fully
comes largely from our fellow citizens, at any given time, highly focused on three or developed new technology is simply
acting in their reluctant role as taxpayers, four things, and loosely focused on a dozen expensive, any way you go about it, and the
and they expect something in return. Our others. “Zero-cost diagnostics” is one of the part that involves university science is usually
students also expect (or should expect) to high-focus ones. the least expensive part. Capitalism is a great
be given a guided tour of the whole circus: way of generating capital to use in the
who knows, when they start, where their There are at least five reasons for being expensive parts of product development,
talents lie? interested in this problem. regulatory clearance, manufacturing, and so
on, but capitalism is by definition part of a for-
Interestingly, it is also difficult (in my 1) Contributing to the health of people – profit system. And if one is interested in
experience) to carry a project through to the especially children – is an ethical obligation, making a product that is as low-cost as
point that that it has real influence on other and science can help. It is simply not right possible, then it isn’t clear how one makes a
scientists, and even more difficult to try to for the developed world not to share its return on investment.
use it to make some contribution to solving a expertise in healthcare.
problem in the real world. It’s interesting to In healthcare, in principle, I think the problem
try to learn the whole process—from 2) It is an issue in national security. To the is less than elsewhere, since health is
invention, through science, through extent there are very large disparities important to everyone, and since our medical
engineering, and into a solution to a problem. between the standard of living in different system has many inefficiencies that can be
The curiosity that goes into the early stages societies, those with less are more motivated taken out with simultaneous improvements in


its benefits and reductions in its cost. For We’ll see if this business model works - all interested in understanding how things
example, in the medical system that we are signs are favourable so far - but it requires worked: that is, in scientific scholarship.
familiar with, we pay to generate biomedical thinking about a structure that combines public Now, the whole range of activities - invention,
information (clinical analyses, x-rays, and so and private capital to achieve an objective that science, engineering, transition to reality
on). One could, however, imagine a system will have both social and financial components. (which usually involves commercialization,
more on the public health model in which but, as in the case of DfA, may follow some
generating the information was done at very My point in this lengthy answer is that other path) - is interesting. I am not involved
low cost, and the value came in manipulating accomplishing the task of getting something in the down-stream activities, product
and storing and applying that information. new to work - from picking the technical engineering, regulatory trials, manufacturing,
approach and inventing the prototype to and such, because these are not areas I
But even in biomedical information—in our putting a validated product into the hands of know enough about to be useful. But
case, low-cost diagnostics--the availability of users - is actually a very challenging and everything has to work to get a new
capital is a constant concern. We are working interesting problem, one with many parts, technology into society.
with a model in which we try to break up the that requires thinking about funding, and
job of developing the technology we are about the range of human skills required, One might say you are a scientist
concerned with - paper-based diagnostics; and about intellectual property, in a way that working on scientific research for
what we call, optimistically, “Zero-cost takes into account the fact that there are philanthropic outcomes. People don’t
diagnostics” - into parts. At Harvard, we do many moving parts to the problem. view science as a route to philanthropy
invention and basic science - microfluidics, in general. Should more be made of
electrochemistry, microfabrication - well. The You complained recently about the science as a career route for individuals
Gates Foundation and DARPA pay for most of rejection of a paper that proposed keen to use their lives to benefit society?
this research: so, here we are using the a simple and cheap solution to centr-
Foundation and government money to ifuging blood by using an eggbeater. Many of the world’s problems - healthcare,
accomplish the earliest phases of the work. Would you like to make some comment global stewardship, commodity
For the next step - engineering development of on attitudes to scientific research by infrastructure (energy, water, waste),
products - we have established a not-for-profit the ‘scientific establishment’? education, creation of jobs, and on and on -
Foundation. This foundation - Diagnostics for will require science and technology for at
All (DfA) - has as its CEO a very Sometimes academic science makes the least some part of their solution. Of course
accomplished biologist and entrepreneur - assumption that an idea that is simple and people who are interested in benefitting
Una Ryan - who understands the development workable must also be trivial. Sometimes society should consider science and
of products as I never will. DfA will hold most that may be true; at others it is not. The
of the intellectual property. It is also relying on “Eggbeater as Centrifuge” problem was not
Foundation and public funds and on donations a great new concept, but it has led -
from individuals, while it is starting. But it will because it required us to think along a
cooperate in various ways with for-profit different set of lines - to very interesting new
organizations (some of which know science. Academic science should be
enormously more about diagnostics than we careful not to wall itself off from society.
do; and albeit less, perhaps, about low-cost,
paper diagnostics). DfA will eventually, in our What were your views originally on the
current plan, become self-sustaining objectives of scientific research? Have
financially by licensing technology for uses in you changed your views over time?
the developed world that are not competitive
with our real objectives of providing When I started my career I was an assistant
technology for the developing world. professor at M.I.T, and I was primarily


engineering! (And there are many ways of analysis is essential; I don’t think its value is
benefitting society; capitalism works really in doubt. One gives a malaria patient George Whitesides is professor of chemistry
wonders when it is applicable, but it is not antimalarials, but not an AIDS patient - at Harvard University. He is best known for his
always the best or only solution). Almost antimalarials are not useful to patients with work in the areas of NMR spectroscopy,
always, someone has to make money for AIDS. And the type of antimalarial depends on organometallic chemistry, molecular self-
something to get done. It’s just a question of the type of malaria. Many of the illnesses in assembly, soft lithography, microfabrication,
how to do it. After all, even philanthropic the developing world are due to infectious microfluidics and nanotechnology.
giving is based on past financial success. disease. Clinical analysis is particularly
important there. Yes, there are diseases in
In the case of DfA and paper diagnostics, which a diagnosis is not useful, but healthcare
I simply would like to try to contribute (as almost every other activity) depends on
to solving what I think is an important understanding what is happening, and that
problem (medical diagnosis in the requires information derived from analyses
developing world). If I could do it within and observation.
the usual for-profit structure, I certainly
would, it would be a lot easier. But if one Finally, what outcome of your life’s
approach does not work, then one has to work has given you the most pleasure?
try a second.
There are so many! Being alive is
You are now working on one aspect of thoroughly amusing. Science and teaching
healthcare for the developing world, (that is, working with students) combine to
namely diagnostics. It could be said make an excellent way of spending a life; I
cynically, you can find out what is wholeheartedly recommend it.
wrong, but you can’t do anything about
it. How do you think the ‘doing What challenge do you most look
something about it’ can be achieved? forward to solving in the future?

“If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” I’m not good at picking favourites! The
(An old business school adage.) There are answer usually depends on when I had my
many problems in healthcare in which clinical last cup of coffee - or glass of wine… n




Students playing Role play:

Nanotechnology Teachers simulating
memory games Stakeholders role on
a nanotechnology

Introducing nanotechnology
to the classroom:

anoscience and nanotechnologies NANOYOU partners

N are widely seen as having huge

potential to bring benefits to many
areas of research and application, and are
The project is being led by ORT Israel and financed by the European Union,
with 9 bodies from 7 European countries.

attracting rapidly increasing investments

1 ORT Israel (Coordinator) ORT Israel
from Governments and from businesses
in many parts of the world. At the same 2 EUN Partnership AISBL EUN Belgium
time, it is recognized that their application (European Schoolnet)
may raise new challenges in the safety,
regulatory or ethical domains that will 3 The Chancellor, Masters and Scholars UCAM-DENG UK
require societal debate. Therefore, of the University of Cambridge
increasing young people’s basic 4 Interdisciplinary Nanoscience Center iNANO-AU Denmark
understanding of nanotechnologies at the University of Aarhus
and engaging them in the dialogue
about its ethical, legal and social aspects 5 Barcelona Science Park PCB Spain
is needed.
6 The Centre for Social Innovation ZSI Austria
NANOYOU (Nano for Youth) is a project 7 Centre de Culture Scientifique CCSTI Grenoble France
funded by the European Commission's Technique et Industrielle de Grenoble
Seventh Framework Programme that aims to
increase young people’s basic 8 La Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie CSI France
understanding of nanotechnologies (NT)
9 Halevi Dweck & Co. ART Israel
and to engage in the dialogue about its
ARTTIC Israel Company Ltd
ethical, legal and social aspects (ELSA).


The Project is scheduled to last 27 months. Health, ICT, sustainability score higher in stakeholder (e.g., worker, consumer,
The Project involves developing an online the hit parade of application areas which politician, journalist, environmental
survey and teaching-learning materials raise enthusiasm. protection advocate).
(computer games, video, posters, hand on
activities, exhibitions) to raise awareness and When properly informed, adults and A virtual dialogue: This online platform
promote a dialogue around ELSA (Ethical, young people show criticism and respect will enhance students’ discussions on
Legal, Social, Aspects) of nanotechnology. the potential risks and societal impacts topics related to nanotechnology and they
on privacy, consumer protection, will be able to respond to each other
Who is it for? environment and health. through a forum on the project website.
NANOYOU's target audience is composed of
young people in the 11-25 age group. At Gender difference is apparent: females A blog: All schools results can be
least 400 schools are meant to participate, are more interested in health applications, uploaded in the NANOYOU blog.
with programmes reaching more than 25,000 albeit showing more concerns for safety,
students. The science centres programme is while males prefer ICT applications. The project portal
expected to reach an initial 4,000 young Teachers are provided with training
adults, followed by many more as more Finally, young people clearly ask for materials and guides for all the activities.
science centres adopt the programme. setting up independent regulation and Materials are mainly online and free to
control agencies. download from the portal. These materials
The activities of NANOYOU will be based on have been translated into 10 languages.
three main areas related to the theme: Teaching-learning materials
Medicine, the Environment and Energy, and Schools that take part in the project will
ICT. These fields have been highlighted benefit from many creative and interesting Teacher training
because they generate a high level of public activities and materials for the whole On January 2010, teachers from selected
concern, are relevant to young people’s classroom, namely: schools took part in two days training
interests and are of great social importance. workshop in Brussels. 24 pilot schools have
An introductory video, (about the effects been selected as the first to launch
The activities will be divided into two different of nanoscience and nanotechnology and NANOYOU into the classroom. These
age groups, one dealing with 11 to 13-year- their fields of application) and a poster. schools are based in Austria, Belgium,
olds, the other with the 14 to 18-year-olds. Cyprus, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Italy,
A virtual lab that will present current Latvia, Lithuania, Portugal, Romania,
The whole picture research through virtual experiments. UK(Scotland), Slovakia, and Spain.
Below presents an overview of NANOYOU
project program and its target audiences: A nanotechnology time machine game Those training days was the first step for
implementation of the NANOYOU project in
NanoYou Program Schools their schools, starting from March 2010.
The teachers that participated in the
training days will serve as leaders that will
Information Provision
NT Basic Knowledge pass on these activities to other teachers in
• Video, Presentation, Posters Level A their countries.
11 - 13
• What is NT Workshop
• Virtual Exhibition v el A School outreach across EU
• NT time machine virtual game Le
During the 2009-2010 academic year 25 pilot
ve l schools and many other followers have been
Promotion of Dialogue
ELSA of NT for Science Centres teaching nanotechnologies in their classrooms
• Role Play Workshop Level B 14 - 18 with a wide range of materials, including
• NT Virtual Dialogue videos, online animations, games, workshops,
virtual dialogues, and virtual experiments.
Promotion of Dialogue Science Centres
ELSA of NT for Science Centres NANOYOU offers schools the opportunity to
• NT Daily Environment Investigation
address European citizen’s lack of
• Real sized NT Experiment
• NT User’s Conference 19 - 25 understanding nanotechnologies as shown
• Travelling Exhibition in recent survey. It is a great chance for
schools and teachers to receive first hand
The survey (this game will take students on a “time- information on nanotechnologies and to
The project started with an online survey that tour” of human needs and show their past, discover the opportunities and risks of this
was carried out from June to November 2009, present and possible future solutions) – discipline for present and future scientific
receiving inputs from 2.400 respondents in age group 10-15. and technological development. n
25 European Member and Associated States.
A workshop: “What is nanotechnology?” Become a NANOYOU school
Results show that: This workshop will introduce We are now looking for the next generation
Their interest in nanotechnology is bigger nanotechnology through games like nano of NANOYOU schools. Any interested schools
than their knowledge jigsaw puzzle among others. A user are invited to register.
guide will be provided for this workshop. To become a NANOYOU school you can
Television, radio and press are the main register online
sources of information, while the internet A role play workshop: This role play
is used for more in depth search. game will present different dilemmas, in
which students will choose the role of a


Does nanomedicine
really belong to the field
of nanotechnology?

anomedicine is a branch of that required in a normal drug therapy. As a starts with its definition, keeping in mind

N science which involves delivery of

drugs or other biochemicals to
specific cell types through endocytosis
result, much less drug is needed and the
side effect of the drug may be significantly
diminished. The unique properties of
that a uniform international definition of
nanomedicine does not currently exist.
International conferences, articles, journal
either in the form of nanocrystals or nanodrug therapy have attracted the editorials and unpublished public talks
loaded in a nano-sized carrier of size attention of scientists world-wide. define nanomedicine in such a diversified
range 10-100nm diameter. These drugs or Nanomedicine research is now translating way, which is mostly controversial and
chemicals can then be released inside the efforts made around the world into confusing. This is really problematic for
cell to perform a range of functions commercial reality, and as a result, in many those who want to understand the meaning
including therapy, diagnosis and imaging, countries the number of patents available on of the field.
ex-vivo or in-vivo. Since it is primarily nanomedicine is more than the number of
relevant to the cell uptake process, publications. Globally, more scientists are Nanobiotechnology
nanomedicine belongs to the area of cell also involved in research involving vs. Nanotechnology
biology and not nanotechnology because nanomaterials in healthcare compared to Most of the time nanobiotechnology,
the field of nanotechnology deals only that in other areas of research like including that which involves cellular uptake
with the science and technology of nanomaterials applications in energy, of nanosized materials such as drugs and
entities dominated by surface atoms. electronics, communication, drinking water, other healthcare chemicals used in
agriculture and defence. nanomedicine, is thought to be derived from
Nanomedicine is a unique therapeutic nanotechnology, which is not true. The study
approach where the dosage is reduced by a Taking a closer look at the different aspects of physical properties such as electrical,
couple of thousand times or even more than of nanomedicine research, it is better if one optical, magnetic, mechanical and thermal


Do you agree?
Join the discussion on
Amarnath Maitra
Prof. Maitra was a Professor in Chemistry at the University of Delhi
until recently; presently he is working as an honorary adviser to the
Vice Chancellor of Delhi University on Nano-science and
Nanotechnology. He has recently developed a nano-formulation of
methylglyoxal in collaboration with IACS, Kolkata which is going for
clinical studies through a Gurgaon based company. His current
interest is oral chemotherapy and cancer nanotechnology, nano-
formulations of herbal drugs, gene delivery and DNA vaccines. He
is a Fellow of the Indian National Science Academy and the
recipient of MRSI and several other awards.

pathway, the size of the entity is restricted to under no circumstances can be said to be
10nm to 100nm. Atomic or molecular sized an offshoot from nanotechnology.
particles do not need to be endocytosed
into the cell. Rather, these can readily Because of the targeted delivery of drug-
diffuse through the cell membranes in a loaded nano-entities, the dosage form is
reversible way. Larger sized particles are very small and large drug accumulation in
taken up only by the macrophages or by the the diseased cells is possible. While in
nutraphils to be phagocytosed and are regular drug therapy one often requires
unlikely to be taken up by the other living milligram to gram quantities of drug per
cells through endocytosis. These large dose, the dose is reduced to a couple of
sized particles (>200nm) sometimes micrograms when a nanomedicine
disrupt the structure of cell organelles and formulation is used. This results in
thereby kill the cell through lysis. economization of the drug as well as
Endocytosis is a one-way traffic and hence, minimization of the side effects of the drug.
an entity entering the cell through
endosomal pathways cannot come out of In a recent experiment on the anticancer
the cell. As a result, unlike diffusional entry effect of methylglyoxal in nanomedicine
of molecular sized drugs, endocytosis leads formulation, we have shown that by using
to more cellular uptake of these particles. only 5 g of nanomethylglyoxal we can
The cell up-take of these nano-entities by achieve the same therapeutic effect as using
characteristics of an entity in which the specific cell types can be further enhanced 2mg of methylglyoxal. The nanomethylglyoxal
surface atoms dominate over the bulk atoms if these entities are recognized by those particles (of size 30-50nm diameter) are
is called nanotechnology. Incidentally, an cells through chemical or biological means. endocytosed into the cancer cells and are
entity dominated by surface atoms and This is the targeted delivery of the nano- accumulated into the cells.
depleted by bulk atoms automatically entities to specific cell types.
assumes nano-size in one, two or all the Therefore it can be concluded that
three dimensions of the material. Therefore Therefore, nanomedicine is a field of nanobiotechnology including nanomedicine
nanotechnology is the science and science, which is based on cellular uptake is not an offshoot from nanotechnology,
technology of surface atoms. Because of the of targetable nano-sized materials and can rather it is a part of cell biology.
size restriction of these surface atom- be used in drug delivery, imaging, and Nanomedicine is primarily concerned with
dominated entities, the mobile electrons are diagnostic purposes, as biomarkers as well the delivery of drug or other chemical to
confined either in quantum wells, quantum as ex-vivo and in-vivo sensors. It has nothing specific cell types with the help of a nano-
wires or in quantum dots. to do with physical properties of the surface sized carrier, which enters the cell through
atoms although these physical character- endocytosis and releases the drug
Nanobiotechnology is the science and istics (like fluorescence, surface-plasmon molecules inside the cell. Nanomedicine
technology of the modulation of cell function resonance, superparamagnetism etc) can has nothing to do with surface atoms,
on the engulfment of a nano-sized entity by be utilized in nanomedicine research if although the physical properties manifested
the cell. Therefore, the more a cell uptakes appropriate cellular uptake of these nano- by a surface-atom dominated entity can be
nano-sized entities, the more will be particles is taken care of. Hence nanobio- utilized to study nanomedicine
manifest by the cell. When an entity is taken technology or the science nanomedicine
up by the cell through the endosomal derived from it is a part of cell biology and n


A Guide to
Clarifying Ethical
Questions on
Marc Pavlopoulos, CEA-Larsim
and ObservatoryNano
hile discussions and media
NANOTECHNOLOGY W coverage often focus exclusively
on toxicology and risk
assessment, the ethical debate on
WHERE ETHICAL nanotechnology poses a vast array of
questions. These could include issues such
CONCERNS SEEM OUT OF as our concept of nature, as opposed to
PLACE IS NANOMEDICINE. artefact; the possible redefinition of our
norms of health and disease; nanoICT-
A CURE FOR CANCER induced modifications in all aspects of
SEEMS MORE AND MORE communication; the validity of human
dignity in relation to technological
WITHIN OUR REACH; development; the likelihood of future
HOW CAN SUCH prophesies such as Transhumanism (which
forecasts that nanotechnology will radically
PROSPECTS BE transform our world, and even ourselves);
ETHICALLY QUESTIONED? the question of a fair distribution of the
benefits of nanotechnology; and the nature
and extent of the responsibility of scientists
for the consequences of technological
innovations. This is a large and complex
debate, and it very difficult to sort the right
questions out from bogus and superficial
ones; and it is unclear whether these
questions are specific to nanotechnology or
common to other emerging technologies.

Is Nanotechnology Doomed because

it Artificializes Everything?
The first step is to dispel bogus questions.
Take the intuitive difference we tend to make
between natural and artificial. Most of us


believe that what is natural is wholesome, natural, developing by itself and look at the changes these tools and methods
genuine and good for us, while artificial autonomously, as opposed to artificial, will induce in our behaviour and thinking
products are likely to be dangerous, programmed from the outside, is doomed about our health. Thanks to bio-sensors and
hazardous and generally suspicious. But, by the development of nanotechnology, and lab-on-a-chip, nanomedicine will make it
according to the scientific picture of nature, is therefore unsettling. We need concepts easier and easier to diagnose disease before
this contrast does not make sense: if Nature other than “natural” and “artificial” to the symptoms even occur, and medicine will
is whatever follows the laws of physics, then appraise and assess this development. increasingly become a science of probabilities.
every thing is natural - even artefacts! For This change asks new questions, such as:
artefacts, too, obey the laws of physics. If one Will Nanomedicine change Health? how early will the probable development of a
really wants to understand the opposition The ethics of technology are not about disease need to be diagnosed in order to
between Nature and Artefact, one has to go approving or regretting the development of trigger preventive treatment? Should the
deep into history and philosophy, back to a technology: the technology is with us decision to initiate treatment be left to doctors?
Aristotle’s notion of the natural, as the anyway, and ethics takes this as fact. Rather, Or should each patient be able to make
character of what moves by itself, as opposed the ethics is about understanding how the her/his own choice? If the former,
to artefact, which is set into motion externally. introduction of a new technology changes nanomedicine may lead to a return to a
us, as individuals as well as a society, and paternalistic type of medicine; if the latter
What does this talk of nature and Aristotle then trying to orient and influence these (which is more likely in liberal societies such
have to do with the debate on changes for the better. as ours) then health and disease as such will
nanotechnology? Nanotechnology may blur tend to become a matter of individual beliefs
the distinction between nature and artefact. One area of nanotechnology where ethical and definitions.
Nanotechnology-enabled devices can enter concerns seem out of place is nanomedicine.
the bodies of living creatures, and interact A cure for cancer seems more and more Imagine that Jane and Judy independently
with their components at the nanoscale, to the within our reach; nanomedicine also promises learn that they each have a 40% chance of
point where it may becomes impossible to new, cheap pharmaceuticals which could be developing breast cancer within the next 5
differentiate behaviour at the macroscopic of great help for developing countries. How years. At first Jane becomes quite panicked;
scale, according to whether it is caused by can such prospects be ethically questioned? then she reflects that breast cancer
the artificial devices, or by the “natural” Again, the point of the ethics of technology is treatment has recently considerably
functioning of the body itself. not to dispute that curing cancer and progressed, and that she still has 60%
providing cheap pharmaceuticals to poor chance not to develop the disease: so she
We sometimes want to apply our old countries are good. Rather, regardless of decides to do nothing. But Judy is
concepts to realities that do not support whether the new tools and methods of concerned, reflects that a long-lasting
them anymore. The very idea of something nanomedicine are beneficial to us, we should disease within the next 5 years will be

detrimental to her career, that she is still
attractive to men but doesn’t plan to seduce
anyone but her husband, and so decides to
go for immediate surgery.

Traditionally, health is conceive as a state of

organic well-functioning; but when Jane and
Judy deliberate about going or not going for
treatment, they consider, not simply their
organic functioning, but their future well-
being as a whole. As well-being is a very
subjective notion, every person is likely to
come up with a different answer to an
identical objective diagnosis.

Such little stories are likely to multiply in the

foreseeable future. It is likely that
nanomedicine will lead to an explosion in
preventive medicine and to the conflation of
the norm of organic well-functioning with that
of personal well-being. The consequence
should be an individualization of the norms of
health. Needless to say, this will have
momentous consequences for European
public health insurances, which have been
based on a quite negative vision of health as have very real effects. In their 2002 report tempted to use positive and negative hype
the “absence of disease”, since WWII. from the US National Science Foundation, strategies (e.g. by overemphasizing
Roco and Bainbridge listed the benefits to toxicological risks) to get attention or to attract
Nanoprophecies and Hype be expected from nanotechnology, funding to their research. What are the
The case of nanomedicine illustrates that predicting a new golden age: consequences of this use of hype for society
nanotechnology is likely to transform our ways “Technological convergence could become and for the research community? On the other
of life, beliefs and norms. Some even venture the framework for human convergence. The hand, can the scientist repel hype altogether,
that nanotechnology will transform not only the twenty-first century could end in world peace, at a time when research is more and more
way we live and think, but what we are. This is universal prosperity, and evolution to a oriented towards industrial applications, and
the prophecy upheld by Transhumanism, higher level of compassion and financed accordingly? There are several
which states “Humanity stands to be profoundly accomplishment. It is hard to find the right points of conflict between the needs of
affected by science and technology in the metaphor to see a century into the future, but industrial development and those of science.
future. [Transhumanism] envisions the it may be that humanity would become like a The attitude towards hype is one of them.
possibility of broadening human potential by single, distributed and interconnected
overcoming ageing, cognitive shortcomings, “brain”, based in new core pathways of Technology, our Modern Magic?
involuntary suffering, and our confinement to society.” Such statements seem to be sheer A recent European report on the public
planet Earth”. For the human species as a dreams but they were instrumental in perception of nanotech has shown that even
whole, transhumanists support human convincing the US government and after being given information about
enhancement as a way to progressively Congress to further fund the National nanotechnology, laypeople tend to react by
generate a new species. Nanotechnology Initiative at its inception. invoking ancient narratives and myths, such
Between 2002 and 2005, the NNI budget as Pandora’s box or the tale of the
What should we think of such radical and more than doubled – a quite unusual Sorcerer’s apprentice. There are many such
marvellous forecasts? Since the invention of increase for a publicly funded research examples. Why is the latest technology so
the wheel, technology has always transformed organization. The use of visionary language often appraised through the prism of time-
both Man and the world around him; and so to attract public attention is called hype. worn images, tales and sayings?
will nanotechnology. This is no surprise.
The claim of a “radical” change, a change Contrary to a certain image of science as Unless they fall within our professional
never seen before, is historically “morally neutral”, scientists do have their own, area of expertise, most of us don’t know how
unwarranted: each and every significant professional ethics. These ethics guide technological devices work. We approach
technological progress has brought about a scientists in their work, exchanges and them as if they were black boxes: we know
change “never seen before”, and was communication with one another. Tenets of the input we feed into them (say, pressing
largely unpredictable. This is no novelty! these scientific ethics are modesty, honesty, such-and-such a button) and we expect a
objectivity, truth… all values quite antagonist given output (taking a photograph or making
However, whether right or wrong, to hype. How then should the scientist reply to a phone call); but we don’t have a faintest
Transhumanist visions do not only fire our hype, should he support it, ignore it or try to clue as to what happens inside the device
imagination about nanotechnology; they refute it? On one hand, researchers are between input and output. We feel powerless,


fills in the void of ignorance, and paves the was chained to a rock to have his liver eaten
way to imagination and hope. This is the out every day by an eagle. Every night his
root reason why, in our societies, liver would grow back. This was to be his
nanotechnology is loaded with symbolic punishment for all of eternity.
expectations and imaginary powers.
What is the most striking in this myth is
The only way to dispel magical and certainly its end, Prometheus’ punishment. But
eschatological visions of nanotechnology is one should also note the ambivalent beginning.
through education. But education always has By giving technology to Men, Prometheus
to start with what students know and think. makes them a divine gift. At the same time, he
Although they typically know nothing about seems to give them a curse, for before tech-
the scientific content of nanotechnology, nology, Men didn’t even have to work in order
laypeople tend to have a lot of things to say to survive; they were provided with all they
about it. It comes without surprise that they needed by the Gods. The morale is clear: as
frequently refer to the wonderful world of he receives technology, Man becomes the
myths, tales or sci-fi rather than to the reality keeper of himself. His fate is no more
of scientific laboratories. It is no surprise guaranteed by the Gods, nor by Nature. The
either that people resist scientific Promethean project may therefore lead to the
explanation and cling to their time-worn better, or to the worse.
narratives and images: it is always painful to
dispel magic and faith in mighty powers. Why is Prometheus still with us? Because
the myth does well illustrate the ambiguous
relationship of our societies to technology: a
mixture of trust and fear. Technology is at
the same time the only path to progress and
MAGIC FILLS IN THE VOID OF IGNORANCE, AND human liberation, and a constant source


The ethical debate on nanotechnology is
NANOTECHNOLOGY IS LOADED WITH SYMBOLIC surprisingly broad. Who would have guessed
EXPECTATIONS AND IMAGINARY POWERS that the invention of nanoelectronics would
induce a redefinition of private and public
spheres, for instance? The answer is that,
whether or not sociologists might have
sometimes even annoyed, when our Still, a critical analysis of myths and foreseen this consequence, no expert on
computers, cameras, TVs, etc., break down: narratives reveals that magic is not always nanoelectronics would have. It is often said
we cannot say what went wrong inside. In irrational, but on the contrary framed by that technological change induces social
such cases, many of us tend to deal with subtle and powerful reasoning. Also, these change, but the reverse influence seems
machines as if they were intelligent or time-worn narratives paradoxically provide even more important and true: social norms,
sentient beings: we pray or curse them, we good training for prospective analysis: by concepts and values shape the way a
endow them with will (“My computer just plunging back to the imaginary world and society uses a new technology. In essence,
won’t work”), emotions and moods (“My cell values created by societies and individuals society determines the way it adopts
phone is slow, it’s a bit grumpy today”) or so remote from us in the past, we may technology; this has nothing to do with the
cognitive capacities (“Stupid machine!”). become more able to imagine the technology nor with the science. n
behaviours and norms of future societies.
This attitude is a typical of magic. Like rain CEA-Larsim, a research team based in Saclay
dancers invoking a god to make water pour Take the Greek myth of Prometheus. (France) and a partner in ObservatoryNano, has
from the sky, we are ignorant of the “Prometheus” means “with forethought”. just delivered a Toolkit for Ethical Reflection and
functioning of our environment. We appeal Prometheus was the wisest of all the Titans – Communication aiming at clarifying the picture.
to a soul in the machine as if it could make those wonderful and mighty beings who This Toolkit aims at providing the reader with the
the phone call go through, or a film finally reigned before the Olympian Gods are were means to frame his / her own vision of the debate
appear on the black screen. What is going finally overrun by them. Prometheus stole and to sharpen the ethical awareness of those
on here? Since we don’t know how the fire from the Gods of Mount Olympus. involved in the development of nanosciences and
device works inside, we project human, Through fire, he is credited with bringing nanotechnology. The June 2010 version of the
anthropomorphic features onto it. Such a mankind craftsmanship, knowledge, Toolkit can be downloaded at
projection appears purely irrational because enlightenment; but also work. Before they
we are fully aware that machines aren’t like had fire, Men used to be provided with all project/catalogue/4ET/
humans, but at the same time it is the only they needed by the Gods. For acting against
way we can come into contact with their the decree of the Gods, who wanted to keep
internal structure and functioning. Magic the power of fire to themselves, Prometheus

Nanotechnology –
Cost and Efficiency
Benefits for an
Ageing Population
Ottilia Saxl explores how nanotechnology
could have beneficial implications for
every stage of the ageing process.

Beyond three score years and ten independent lives, at least until they become Stage 1. ‘Low Level Medical Intervention’
With improved nutrition and healthcare, the pensioners, when hopefully they will drop Prolonging independence through cost-
population dynamics in many developed down dead quickly and with little fuss. effective medical intervention (cataract
countries of the world indicates a trend surgery, hearing aids, hip replacement,
towards an increasing proportion of people The questions this article addresses are - heart pacemakers and so on).
living well beyond their allotted ‘threescore how and where nanotechnology can be
years and ten’. Healthcare is at a crossroads, applied to the maintenance of an Stage 2. ‘High Level Medical Intervention’
where there are increasing possibilities to independent life for as long as possible, to Prolonging independence through
extend an individual’s lifespan, but at ever the reduction in the cost of healthcare at expensive medical intervention (organ -
increasing costs allied to decreasing different stages of the ageing process, and to heart, kidney etc – transplants, treatment
resources. For the extremely elderly and minimising the need for human intervention. of certain cancers), requiring
sick, it is the law of diminishing returns; with convalescence support, but offering the
more and more money being spent with The Ageing Process and potential of future independence.
less and less benefit. However, for Cost-Effective Interventions
commercial health providers, it is very For most individuals, old age is Stage 3. ‘Low Level
much a law of increasing returns. pleasurable if they can retain their Mechanical Intervention’
Prolonging life pays. However, not every faculties, and even more importantly, their Prolonging independence through cost-
individual can afford private healthcare, or independence. From the economic point effective technical intervention (electric
the support of carers as they age, and then of view, it is critical to examine how an wheelchairs, sound or touch activated
it is up to the State. The State has a finite ageing population can be ‘managed’ in gadgets, remote health monitoring).
budget, but is keen to offer the best it can order that this independence is maintained
for the pot of money that is available. (as that is the most cost-effective form of Stage 4. ‘Life Support Intervention’
healthcare), and what the role of Prolonging life, but not independence,
There is a real tension between commercial nanotechnology might be in this, so the through expensive medical intervention,
medical companies, whether in the potentially explosively expensive burden of long term technical and personnel support
pharmaceutical or devices industries, and support, both economic and physical can (drip feeding, surgical or therapeutic short
State-sponsored healthcare. The former be lessened at each stage. term fixes, intensive caring)
grows and thrives on diagnosing and treating
disease and prolonging life for as long as If we consider the following four Given the bottomless pit that is healthcare
possible; the State on the other hand wishes main stages of ageing that require today, the imperative is to seek ways of
that its citizens would live healthy and external intervention: reducing the cost of each intervention,



especially how to reduce the need for, and Stage 1. Apart from early diagnostics, The ear and its connection to the brain is a
cost of, support personnel at each stage. nanotechnology is already certainly leading highly complex system, but the eye is
to many improvements that enable the arguably even more so. Great strides have
What Nanotechnology Offers retention of faculties, such as hearing, been made in understanding the function of
Nano-enabled diagnostics are offering the seeing, moving about and chewing. the eye, and micro and nanoelectronics are
earlier and earlier detection of degenerative now offering the potential to miniaturise
diseases such cancer and coronary heart Until recently, hearing aids were crude imaging ‘chips’ and attach them to brain
disease, and this early detection can be one devices, offering a poor quality transmission neurones so effectively that in some
of the keys to a long and healthy life. At a of sound. Now, from being able to analyse instances, individuals classified as blind
very early stage, quick and effective how the ear works at the nanoscale, the through some degeneration of the optical
treatment becomes possible, minimising or developers of cochlear implants are able system, can be reclassified as sighted.
neutralising the potential effects of the to more closely mimic the ear’s natural
disease, and leading to a much improved function, linking implants to the brain’s Even the ‘everyday’ hip implant has had a
life expectancy, allied to good heath. sensory system much more effectively. makeover due to nanotechnology. As we


understand more and more about how the There are many complexities to solve when central medical location. This allows the at-
cells of our body adhere, we can modify the growing new tissue that is destined to risk person to stay out of hospital for as long
characteristics of an implant accordingly, to become an organ, differentiation is one, but as possible.
make it more acceptable. For example, cells also ensuring that the new tissue links to the
like to adhere to a bone-like substrate, and body’s blood supply is another. Great Individuals who need ongoing therapeutic
nanotechnology not only enables us to strides are being made in growing tissue to intervention, say for hormone deficiency,
analyse and reproduce the composition of replace part of a diseased organ. can be fitted with a small implanted device
bone, but also enable us to imprint a which monitors the levels of hormone in the
nanoscale pattern on the implant that mimics More complex is the growth of tissue to body and elutes the required hormone over
the roughness of a real bone, encouraging replace a failed organ totally. However, out a relatively period, as required, continuing
cells to settle and grow round the implant of experiments on tissue growth, growing the possibility of independent living.
structure. This means that hip implants last skin has been a great success, and new
longer and feel more comfortable. skin can be generated from an individual’s Stage 4. It is possible with medical care to
own tissue that can be grafted without the prolong life even though an individual has
Teeth are another issue, and we need to keep spectre of rejection. This is useful for tissue virtually no independence whatsoever.
our teeth in as good a shape as we can for as that has been destroyed by burns, the Advances in healthcare mean that the
long as possible. Nanotechnology inspired ravages of diabetes or sores. functions of certain organs can be replaced
toothpastes have active ingredients which fill by machine, degeneration can be
in cracks and cavities, ensuring teeth stay as Stage 3. Elderly people can be temporarily halted and survival prolonged.
strong as possible for as long as possible. helped to maintain their independence This can be the time of greatest cost to the
through the application of nanotechnology healthcare system, and high dependency on
Stage 2 occurs when some key organ begins in the home. Simple applications are in the care of professionals. Nanotechnology
to fail. In the past this would be a death basic household maintenance. Relatively can substitute for human resources. For
sentence, but today, in an otherwise healthy widespread is the use of nano-based stay- example, as part of an online system that
person, replacing an organ, such as a kidney, clean antibacterial surfaces for kitchens measures vital signs, nanotechnology can
is more and more routine. After the operation and bathrooms, as well as window glass. enable fine tuning of an appropriate
and convalescence, the patient can generally Also some window glasses change colour response to be taken, such as matching the
return to living an independent existence. to reduce the amount of ultraviolet or infra rhythm of an artificial lung with a comfortable
red light transmitted, maintaining a breathing pattern. External support for liver
Although the replacement itself is more routine, comfortable temperature. Carpets and or kidney function is also improved by the
there is an acute shortage of donor organs, clothes can also be made dirt repellent, application of nanotechnology, through better
and there have been many scandals relating to and low maintenance. In terms of health filters and reduced biofouling, meaning that
their unethical acquisition. Nanotechnology is monitoring, many elderly people who are at time between the intervention of healthcare
beginning to offer a way to break this log jam. risk from coronary or diabetic ‘episodes’ for professional can be increased. n
Today nanoscale scaffolds, sometime made of example, require constant monitoring of
carbon nanotubes, can be constructed. These their blood pressure and / or sugar levels.
are formed into a structure into which To discover more about nanotechnology and its
(normally undifferentiated) cells can be This can be undertaken remotely by application to medicine in general, visit the EU’s
seeded. These cells are then stimulated to attaching nano enabled sensors to the Cordis website,
grow and hopefully differentiate into the ‘patient’ whose readings can be transmitted
required organ tissue, such as kidney or liver. wirelessly to a monitoring hub at some /nanomedicine.htm

NanoArt The Carl Zeiss Image contest
arl Zeiss is running its first Nano Image Contest A picture says more than a thousand words. And images taken

C and are inviting users of all Zeiss electron and ion

microscopes to submit their work.
with electron and Ion microscopes frequently provide unique
insights into the specimens and lead to new scientific-technical
knowledge. At the same time, these images often feature
“Fascinating electron microscope images are sitting around outstanding aesthetic properties.
in numerous archives without an opportunity for recognition.
With this competition, we want to give users of our systems an Here’s just a small selection of the images which have been sent
innovative platform to present their images and the underlying into the contest so far, entries are open until August 29, 2010.
work to the public,” explains Dr. Peter Fruhstorfer, Member of
the Management Board of the Nano Technology Systems Visit for more details on how to enter and vote.
Division at Carl Zeiss.