Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Lots of Nanotechnology at the American Chemical Society Meeting

I am currently attending the ACS National Meeting in Chicago. They have had dozens of nanotechnology themed sessions and posters for their new journal, ACS Nano, are near all of the rooms where materials science talks are held. There have been seminars with the following titles among others.
  • Nanoscience Fostered Advances in Sustainability
  • Unconventional Processes for Nanostructured and Microstructured Polymers and Emerging Frontiers in Polyolefins
  • Nanostructures from Block Copolymers and Supramolecular Polymers
  • Nanotechnology in Undergraduate Education
  • Ensuring the Effective Patent Protection of Innovative Molecular Technology
  • Nanoscience: Synthesis
  • One dimensional Nanomaterials
  • Nanoscale Inorganic Catalysis
  • Nanoscience: Characterization and Application
  • Nanotechnology and the Environment: Focus on Green Nanotechnology
  • Environmental Characterization, Impacts and Applications of Nanocarbons
We should be sending the social science fellows to this meeting twice a year. It would be worth every penny. They would learn a lot and have an opportunity to ask the top scientists great questions.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Nanoelectronics in China

Intel and China were set today to announce plans to build the company's first 'fab' plant in China. Estimated to cost some $2.5 billion, the new plant will likely produce 90 nanometer feature chips with more sophisticated nanoscale electronics made elsewhere.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Really Great Blog

There is a really great blog by some people at the American Chemical Society.

nanotubes readily enter cells

This is one of the few good nanotube projects that I have heard of. It shows that nanotubes with chemical modifications on their surfaces can readily enter cells. With that said, I think that nanotubes are a fantastic tool for research but perhaps are too often the focus of research. Magnetic beads are equally exciting, but do not carry the nanotechnology label and thus can not become a standalone force in science. They are viewed as a useful new tool for separating biological molecules but not a field of study.

Judging Nano

Recent research describes how the public may respond to nanotech. This study (led by Yale's Cultural Cognition Project) surveyed some 1850 people. Some 90% of people surveyed had some opinion about nano's risks or benefits. However (and this only comes out around the middle of the paper) over 80 percent of U.S. respondents knew "little" or "nothing at all" about nanotechnology. Sooooo..... when people know nothing about nano, their reaction will be colored on the basis of how they respond to things they have heard of.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Nano Education Website

There is an absolutely fantastic or at least hilarious website that is intended to offer free interactive nanoscience education to kids. It feels like the site would be appropriate for ten year olds but the content seems to be closer to the highschool level. It reminds me of the Nickelodeon website. One section of the site has baseball card style profiles of famous nanoscientists and describes their pedigrees.

I would not be surprised to hear that few teachers make use of resources like this. I often moan about how LOGO, perhaps the best teaching tool ever invented, is no longer used in most of the Kindergarten through Third Grade classrooms where it belongs.

Nanoscience Subculture

I wonder if nanoscience will develop a very distinct culture through the rapid communication of graduate students that use blogs and message boards skillfully. Nanoscience and blogs are coming of age at the same time. Computer science and electrical engineering have a very well defined geek culture. Will nanoscience be absorbed into that or will it become it's own entity? I predict that most nanoscience students will be obsessed with ethnic food because of the extremely diverse groups of people that nanoscience labs bring together.

I assume that the average slashdot reader is a caffeine guzzling, late night working, star trek watching, science fiction reading, anime watching, video game playing, gadget loving, tinkerer. Stores like Thinkgeek market nerdy toys to them accordingly. Geeks got that way by turning each other on to these things through message board posts, emails, and blog entries. They were some of the first adopters of rapid online forms of communication so their culture rapidly evolved into what we see today and continues to change as rapidly.

The modal organic chemistry graduate student is an overworked, name-dropping, chain-smoking, alcoholic with no hobbies. I suspect that this style developed over the past hundred years rather than the last ten. I imagine that organic chemist culture will become more homogenous with the advent of websites like The Chem Blog that humorously and accurately portray the lifestyle of a graduate student in organic synthesis. How would we describe the average nanoscientist? Perhaps we will be able to make some predictions about this when the first large nanoscience online communities develop. Computer science and Electrical Engineering types seem to have about a decade long head start on us, but we are catching up quickly.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Squalid State Gets Respect

The most recent issue of Nature has an interesting editorial praising recent accomplishments of solid state physicists (who once were referred to by the supposedly 'better' theoretical physicists as investigating the 'squalid state'). The editorial nicely links the anniversary of high Tc superconductivity (20 yrs), BCS theory (50 yrs), with advances being made in understanding the behavior of nanoscale materials including the discovery of unusual electronic and mechanical properties in graphene — individual crystalline layers of carbon only one atom thick.

As the editorial notes, research done by solid state physicists, now at the nanoscale, has already revolutionized modern economies and societies. Developments in fields like nanoelectronics were used by policy makers 8-9 years ago to get approval for government nano funding. However, the focus on these applications and the research behind them has been lost in some quarters of the nano-enterprise, as focus shifted to nanoparticles and nanoHEE (health, enviro, ethics). Nonetheless, as Nature editorialized, "solid-state physicists will carry on unobtrusively changing our lives."