Sunday, March 26, 2006

Green nanochemistry - have a look

Chemistry is in the business of nanotechnology. Using principles of green chemistry, scientists are designing materials and processes that provide the maximum benefits of nanotechnology while minimizing potential hazards.

A Eurekalert press statement says that green nanochemistry is featured during a four-day symposium, "Nanotechnology and the Environment," at the 231st national meeting of the American Chemical Society. The symposium also will address applications of nanotechnology in medicine, electronics, and energy.

EPA scientist addresses “state of the science” of environmental nanotechnology —Barbara Karn, Ph.D., an environmental scientist with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Center for Environmental Research, provides an overview of the current “state of the science” of environmental nanotechnology, including greener processes and new applications of green nanotechnology.

“Twelve Principles of Green Chemistry” — Paul T. Anastas, Ph.D., director of the ACS Green Chemistry Institute, will discuss how to use the Twelve Principles of Green Chemistry to design the next generation of nanomaterials and the transformations necessary to make them. The principles, which include the prevention of waste and the design and use of safer chemicals, are key to achieving genuine sustainability for the simultaneous benefit of the environment, economy and society, he says.

Surface chemistry called key to designing non-toxic nanomaterials — Surface chemistry, not size and shape, appears to be the key feature governing the biological activity of nanoparticles, says Vicki Colvin, Ph.D., director of the Center for Biological and Environmental Nanotechnology at Rice University in Houston. This finding is being used to guide the development of greener nanomaterials that are less likely to pose health and environmental risks, she says.

New water-soluble carbon nanotubes could lead to improved electronics, medicine — Researchers at the New Jersey Institute of Technology say they have developed a simple, quick method - using microwave energy - for developing highly water-soluble carbon nanotubes. Because the new nanotubes are up to 125 times more water soluble than other carbon nanotubes, they also are more functional for a wider variety of potential applications, including thin films, composites, faster computer chips and improved drug delivery, according to study leader Somenath Mitra, Ph.D.

Nanomaterials shine spotlight on cheaper, more efficient solar cells — A. Paul Alivisatos, Ph.D., co-editor of the ACS journal Nano Letters and a chemist at the University of California, Berkeley, will discuss recent efforts to develop improved solar cells using nanomaterials, which could lead to greener, cheaper and more efficient ways to generate electricity.

Fuel cells may get efficiency boost with nanomaterials - Joseph M. DeSimone, Ph.D., a chemist at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, is developing new proton exchange membranes patterned at the nanoscale that could lead to better, more efficient fuel cells. The development also may allow methanol to be used directly as a fuel source instead of hydrogen, he says.

Nanosphere sensors used to detect hazardous materials — Researchers at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater have developed polymer nanospheres that can be used to detect hazardous materials in aquatic environments near parts per billion levels. The sensors, which change their shape and optical properties depending on the chemical that is present, can be read by optical spectroscopic techniques to identify the chemical, the researchers say.

This is a facinating topic with so much to explore - for science junkies, that is.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Clinical trials have some risk

ABC News reports today on a story in London: "Shortly after receiving an injection of a new experimental drug on Monday, six men in a research unit in London fell violently ill and developed multiple organ failure. Now, five days later, four of the men have regained consciousness, the BBC reports, while two are still under sedation in critical condition. Their harrowing experience - various reports indicate the men quickly swelled up, having undergone anaphylactic shock, or an extremely potent allergic reaction - is casting light on the clinical trial process, a system that has undeniably made important and frequent discoveries in medicine, but also creates unavoidable risks for the people who volunteer to be test subjects."

In the U.S. says ABC: "Unknown problems can arise at any step in this pipeline, researchers say, even when all the scientists involved try their very hardest to prevent any negative outcomes, said Dr. Ezekiel J. Emanuel, chair of the Department of Clinical Bioethics at the National Institutes of Health."

I am saddened for the families of the clinical trial patients - participants are our heroes when they go before us to try out drugs that we may someday benefit from having.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

SxSW generates creative payload

Please note this logo came directly from the SxSW web site - I am guessing it is okay with the conference organizers that I use the logo for my blog today.

As I have posted on FI Space, according to the SXSW conference promo Craig Newmark founded Craigslist in 1995 as a way to tell friends about cool events in and around San Francisco. It now serves more than 170 cities in the United States and in many other countries. Despite the power of this global community, Newmark's overall approach has changed very little. Newmark retains a simple motto for his site: "Give people a break." For SXSW, Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia fame interviews Newmark. Wales and Newmark are talking about how a simple interface and an easy-going zen attitude have helped Craigslist make life better for millions of users, forever changing our approach to classified ads.

Wales has discussed previously three elements critical to the success of Wikipedia which, he says, define what is important about the web itself: its political and religious neutrality, which makes it accessible for a wider audience; its social parameters, because people understand that they are contributing their work to a network that will not be made proprietary; and the openness of the site itself that can be edited and republished instantly."

Today Newmark comments about the culture of trust – where his site expects people to be trustworthy and people trust each other. The staff of 19 does not run the site – just infrastructure but people who use the site run the site. Newmark says he is the chief customer service rep and monitors the site. Why is he involved in customer service – this provides the opportunity to be in touch with reality. On another note, with Tivo-saving democracy, says Newmark, you can skip through advertising and political ads could be avoided. Currently, Newmark says he is interested in journalism and now that people want to hear from him he has begun to take interest in news and dabbling on a collaborative filtering venture of ordinary people commenting on the news – both key news outlets and ordinary people. Newmark says a lot of people are focusing on citizen journalism now on the internet. The audience questioned Newmark about his view of the accountability of citizen journalist – he says with today’s fast news it is hard to do all fact-checking fast enough – but the citizen media model is changing with and other fact checking.

Asked about Katrina – his site was used by people to accomplish a lot to find each other and many other helpful connections. A comment from the audience was that Craig’s list is the only one available as an open site to help Katrina survivors. As for his design on his site – a team is looking at how it is designed and how it might change. He was complimented about its simple design currently. Expansion will be “more of the same” to more cities, and possibly using Google Maps to help people find things. It will charge for job listings in more cities, and parking listings in NYC. A goal will be to reduce redundancy on the site. With the free use of the site, Newmark believes he is able to give back the equivalent hundreds of millions of dollars back to society – but the site is making money, according to Newmark.

Again, the afternoon keynote session focuses on the lives of the interviewee and interviewer, and much of what they discussed was about user-generated content and the role it plays in society.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Sudoku solved every time

Here is a fun science story reported on Eurekalert that may get your attention:

"Cornell physicist Veit Elser has been engrossed recently in resolving a pivotal question in biological imaging. So he hasn't had much time for brainteasers and number games. But in discovering an algorithm critical for X-ray diffraction microscopy, Elser and colleagues solved two problems. First, they gave researchers a new tool for imaging the tiniest and most delicate of biological specimens. And second, they discovered that the same algorithm also solves the internationally popular numbers puzzle Sudoku.

Not just one puzzle. All of them."