Landmark poll shows little knowledge of emerging technologies

Washington, DC — A groundbreaking poll finds that almost half of U.S. adults have heard nothing about nanotechnology, and nearly nine in 10 Americans say they have heard just a little or nothing at all about the emerging field of synthetic biology, according to a new report released by the Project and Peter D. Hart Research. Both technologies involve manipulating matter at an incredibly small scale to achieve something new.

This new insight into limited public awareness of emerging technologies comes as a major leadership change is about to take hold in the nation’s capital. Public policy experts are concerned, regardless of party, that the federal government is behind the curve in engaging citizens on the potential benefits and risks posed by technologies that could have a significant impact on society.

“Early in the administration of the next president, scientists are expected to take the next major step toward the creation of synthetic forms of life. Yet the results from the first U.S. telephone poll about synthetic biology show that most adults have heard just a little or nothing at all about it,” says PEN Director David Rejeski. The poll findings are contained a report published today, The American Public’s Awareness Of And Perceptions About Potential Risks and Benefits of Nanotechnology & Synthetic Biology.

Synthetic biology is the use of advanced science and engineering to construct or re-design living organisms–like bacteria–so that they can carry out specific functions. This emerging technology is likely to develop rapidly in the coming years, much as nanotechnology did in the last decade. In the near future the first synthetic biology “blockbuster” drug is anticipated to hit the market—an affordable treatment for the 500 million people in the world suffering from malaria.

The poll, which was conducted by the same firm that produces the well-known NBC News/Wall Street Journal polls, found that about two-thirds of adults say they have heard nothing at all about synthetic biology, and only 2 percent say they have heard “a lot” about the new technology. Even with this very low level of awareness, a solid two-thirds of adults are willing to express an initial opinion on the potential benefits versus risks tradeoff of synthetic biology.

This survey was informed by two focus groups conducted in August in suburban Baltimore. This is the first time—to the pollsters’ knowledge—that synthetic biology has been the subject of a representative national telephone survey.

At the same time, the poll found that about half of adults say they have heard nothing at all about nanotechnology. About 50 percent of adults are too unsure about nanotechnology to make an initial judgment on the possible tradeoffs between benefits and risks. Of those people who are willing to make an initial judgment, they think benefits will outweigh risks by a three to one margin when compared to those who believe risks will outweigh benefits. The plurality of respondents, however, believes that risks and benefits will be about equal. A major industry forecasting firm determined that last year nanotech goods in the global marketplace totaled $147 billion.

According to the poll, the level of U.S. public awareness about nanotechnology has not changed measurably since 2004 when Hart Research conducted the first poll on the topic on behalf of the PEN.

Nanotechnology could be the answer to ensuring a safe supply of drinking water for regions of the world stricken by periodic drought or where water contamination is rife. Writing in the International Journal of Nuclear Desalination, researchers in India explain how carbon nanotubes could replace conventional materials in water-purification systems.

Water shortages and lack of access to safe drinking water will continue to grow as major global problems. At present, more than one billion people lack access to safe drinking water and 2.4 billion people lack access to proper sanitation, nearly all of them in the developing countries. At present a third of the world's population live in water-stressed countries, and by 2025, this is expected to rise to two-thirds.

S. Kar, R.C. Bindal, S. Prabhakar, P.K. Tewari, K. Dasgupta, and D. Sathiyamoorthy of the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) in Mumbai, India, explain how new water purification technologies are constantly being investigated but to be viable in the developing world these have to be relatively simple and inexpensive to install, operate, and maintain.

They have turned to nanostructured, the carbon nanotubes, hollow carbon fibers less than a billionth the thickness of a human hair. The unique chemical properties of carbon nanotubes mean that only very small molecules, such as water molecules can pass along their interiors, whereas viruses, bacteria, toxic metal ions, and large noxious organic molecules cannot.

The team points out that the smooth and water repellant interior of carbon nanotubes means that a filter based on this technology would be very efficient, allowing a high flow rate of water through the filter without fouling. Importantly, the power needed to drive water through such a system will be low compared to conventional membrane technology.

However, to be useful as a nanotech filtration system for contaminated water, these nanoscale structures need to be engineered to form well-defined arrangements to allow the efficient decontamination of water. The team has now investigated the potential of forming water filtration systems based on carbon nanotubes that could remove arsenic, fluoride, heavy metals and toxic organic chemicals. Carbon nanotubes have impressive credentials for water purification, the researchers say.

Written by Ariel Schwartz

Flower-shaped nanoparticles, or “nanoflowers”, might lead to superior batteries in the near future. Chemist Gaoping Cao and colleagues report in the latest issue of Nano Letters that they are working on developing nanoflowers which could lead to longer battery life for cell phones, laptops, and more.

While nanoflowers are not new, Cao claims that previously discovered forms of the nanoparticle weren’t able to provide the longer battery life that will be necessary for electronics of the future.

In Cao’s study, scientists grew clusters of carbon nanotubes—each 50,000 times smaller than a strand of human hair—that have strong electrical conductivity. They then put manganese oxide on top of the nanotubes. The process resulted in dandelion-shaped nanoclusters that will ultimately lead to a battery system with a higher energy storage capacity, longer life, and greater efficiency that current batteries.

And while I would be happy to have a more self-sustaining laptop, perhaps the nanoflowers will have even more important uses— like keeping future plug-in hybrid vehicles running for longer.

Photo Credit: Nanowerk

The images allow the viewer to explore structures that would otherwise only be seen by analytical chemists. State-of-the-art technologies such as scanning electron microscopy and transmission electron microscopy help to create a genuinely different view of the world. These spectacular pictures come all from current research at BASF.

A fungus as a living factory

The filamentous fungus Aspergillus niger has the natural capacity to produce various technically useful enzymes such as phytase, glucanase and xylanase. However it is only able to produce these biocatalysts in small quantities. The microorganism was genetically modified to enable it to manufacture large quantities of phytase and other enzymes – as a kind of living factory. Aspergillus niger is cultured in fermenters. These are special sterile reactors in which the fungus produces the enzyme phytase from sugar and salts in a series of biochemical reactions. The picture shows the so-called mycelium, a collection of filamentous cells, of Aspergillus niger. The filaments have a diameter of around two to five micrometers.

Crystalline forms of boscalid

The picture shows crystalline particles of the crop protectant boscalid, which fights fungi in crops such as fruit, vegetables and vines but also in cereals and canola (oil seed rape). Boscalid consists of one to 10 micrometer sized particles that are distributed evenly on the leaf surface, forming a protective coating. An extremely important area of application is viniculture, where boscalid is available under the brand name Cantus® and is mainly used against the fungus Botrytis cinerea, also known as gray mold.

Proteins for surfaces

The spherical spores produced by the fungus Emericella nidulans are coated in a thin layer of the protein hydrophobin. Hydrophobin ensures that water rolls off the spores. Other fungi, such as mushrooms, also have a layer of hydrophobin on their caps. BASF researchers have succeeded in transferring the gene responsible for hydrophobin production to Escherichia coli bacteria. With the help of the bacteria, hydrophobin can be produced as a so-called performance protein on a large scale. Hydrophobin has versatile properties. It can change surfaces to such a degree that they become water resistant. BASF is the world’s first company to manufacture hydrophobin on an industrial scale using biotechnology.

Switching off genes for improved starch

The genetically modified potato Amflora produces a special starch with potential applications in the paper, textile and adhesive industries. The starch in conventional potatoes consists of two components – amylopectin and amylose. Certain industrial applications require only amylopectin. However, separating the two components is energy intensive and thus uneconomical. BASF scientists have succeeded in using gene technology to switch off the gene responsible for synthesizing the undesired amylose in potatoes. This led to the development of Amflora, a potato that only produces the desired starch component amylopectin. This optimized starch makes printer paper glossier and keeps adhesives liquid for longer. The image shows the surface of a potato leaf covered with superfine hairs and glandular cells that are invisible to the naked eye.

Securing the integrity of rock formations

These tiny particles have enormous strength since they stabilize loose rock in mining or tunnel construction, for example. The material that makes it possible is Meyco® MP 364 Flex, a resin produced from the reaction of two liquid components: modified polyisocyanate and a water glass solution. Both components are mixed on site using a static in-line mixer and pressed into the rock on the construction site. It hardens in just a few minutes, stabilizing the rock. Another advantage of the resin is that it is extremely difficult to ignite, and thus plays an important role in fire control, for example in tunnels.

Spiky spheres used as an adhesive

These spiky structures are polyvinylpyrrolidone (PVP) spheres. They have a diameter of around 100 ┬Ám and are extremely porous. This means that they dissolve in water very quickly, which can save a lot of time during certain processes in which they are used. Researchers are still investigating potential applications for these spiky spheres but they could be similar to those of conventional polyvinylpyrrolidone, which has good adhesive properties and is used in the pharmaceutical industry for tablets or as a binder. The cosmetics industry uses it in hair gel and hair spray and it is also deployed as an oilfield chemical.

Microstructures made from designer proteins

Self-assembling R16 type proteins, pictured here, are able to form spherical structures. Because the R16 protein is not found in this form in nature, BASF scientists have designed the synthetic protein in the laboratory using gene technology. Nature however provided them with a template: The R16 protein is modelled on silk proteins as well as the elastic protein resilin found in insects. During the production of the one to 10 micrometer-sized spheres, individual protein units join together in a kind of self-organizing process. Because the protein spheres demonstrate a skin smoothening effect, for example, an application in the cosmetics industry is a possibility.

Healthy fatty acids from plants

Researchers at BASF Plant Science have succeeded in genetically optimizing canola (oil seed rape) plants to make them capable of producing unsaturated omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids have a positive effect on human health because they lower the risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease. The human body is unable to produce these unsaturated fatty acids itself. This can only be done by deep-sea algae. BASF scientists have transferred the genes of the deep-sea algae responsible for the production of the fatty acids into canola plants. The oil will be added to foods such as yogurt and cheese or sold as food supplements in the form of oil capsules, for example. The electron microscopic image shows canola pollen on a petal.

Elastic fibers

For more than forty years, spandex fibers have ensured the permanent elasticity of many textiles, such as swimsuits, sportswear and hosiery. Seen through an electron microscope, the fibers consist of several filaments. One of the raw materials of these fibers is PolyTHF®, which BASF supplies to spandex manufacturers. The textile producers often combine the spandex fibers with polyamide (nylon), cotton or polyester fibers to give the textiles the desired elasticity. A spandex fiber of the most common thickness has an average diameter of around 70 micrometers, which is equivalent to the diameter of a normal human hair. Just 250 grams of spandex fiber of this thickness wound onto a bobbin can be up to 45 kilometers long.

Thermal insulation with cavities

The insulating material Styrodur® C (XPS) protects buildings from high and low temperatures. This BASF product, in the form of green rigid foam panels, is directly available to end customers in the construction industry. Its material structure is more homogeneous and fine-pored than conventional Styropor and thus much more stable. This is why Styrodur C is mainly used for insulation in applications under pressure load, such as floors. The material is made from polystyrene and foamed with CO2. Thanks to its many small cavities, the foam weighs very little. In contrast to solid structures such as steel or glass, the air contained in the cavities is a poor conductor of heat, which makes Styrodur C a good insulating material.

Unique iridescent colors

These thin platelets create a special iridescent effect in cosmetics. Known as UltradescenceTM pigments, they are made of pure titanium dioxide and are found in many cosmetic articles, such as lip gloss, powder, luminous foundation or lotions. By varying the thickness of the titanium dioxide platelets, BASF scientists can create any color they want. Because the platelets are only around 5 micrometers long and 0.6 micrometers wide, they are especially well suited for cosmetic products. Users do not feel the particles. The iridescent effect is created by the titanium dioxide: It reflects light like myriads of tiny mirrors without absorbing any of it. Ultradescence is currently available in green, gold, red, violet and blue.

Spherical catalysts

These tiny spheres are zeolite crystals that act as catalysts to speed up the chemical reaction in the production of amines. The amines produced with this catalyst are used in the manufacture of automobile tires. wThe zeolite crystals are interspersed with micropores. Like many natural enzymes, these pores contain acidic centers that activate the starting materials and thus speed up the reaction. Producing amines with the help of zeolite catalysts conserves resources and is safe because, in contrast to conventional methods, there is no waste and problematic raw materials can be avoided.

Zinc oxide particles protect against sunburn

Z-COTE® is a special zinc oxide which, used in sun creams, offers protection against sunburn. The nanopowder is used as a broadband filter against harmful UVA and UVB radiation. The fine zinc oxide particles in Z-COTE act as inorganic UV filters by reflecting the incident UV light like tiny mirrors. Since conventional zinc oxide pigments are white, they can produce an undesired whitening effect on the skin. This is prevented by reducing the size of the pigment particles to about 200 nanometers which makes them transparent. An additional benefit: the zinc oxide particles have an antimicrobial action and can also relieve skin irritation.

Pickering emulsions: dispersing water insoluble substances in water

An emulsion is a mixture of two liquids such as water and oil. One liquid is present in the form of droplets and is dispersed in the other liquid. Depending on which liquid is in droplet form, we speak of an oil-in-water or a water-in-oil emulsion. Emulsifiers and surfactants are important components of emulsions, as they promote the formation of droplets and thereby stabilize the mixture. But certain solids can also be added to stabilize an emulsion, that is, to prevent it from separating out into two different liquids. These solid-stabilized and thus surfactant-free emulsions are called Pickering emulsions. They are named after their discoverer S.U. Pickering and can be seen in this picture. With this technique, a hydrophobic – in other words, not miscible with water – active agent is enclosed in micrometer sized oil droplets. These are stabilized by nanometer sized particles made of a biodegradable polymer. Systems like this are suitable for introducing hydrophobic agents such as agrochemicals, pharmaceutical active ingredients or vitamins into aqueous formulations. Pickering emulsions are also used in cosmetic products such as sun creams.

Paliocrom keeps cars gleaming

Because of their smooth surface, Paliocrom® Orange pigments are used mainly for automotive coatings. They consist of aluminum flakes coated with a thin layer of iron oxide measuring only a few nanometers. Even at 1600 fold magnification the extremely thin iron oxide films are still smooth – and thus optimally reflect the light. They also guarantee bright colors. The high covering power of the pigments is also important for automotive coatings. Paliocrom Orange is particularly suitable for orange shades and red metallics.

Astacin Novomatt keeps leather matt, supple and clean

The leather matting agent Astacin Novomatt® is used for coating leather surfaces. The dispersion is suitable for any leather surface. In particular, Astacin Novomatt is ideally suited for the treatment of automotive leather. The inorganic or organic matting agents based on the aqueous acrylate or polyurethane dispersions used for coating are distinguished by their long service life on the leather surface. Besides the matting effect, Astacin Novomatt also endows the leather with a soft handle and protects it against soiling.

Nanocubes act as a storage medium for hydrogen

The desire to be mobile and yet not to be without communication and entertainment had led to ever smaller and lighter electronic devices. Whether it’s laptops, cell phones or CD players, a key issue is how to power these portable devices. What batteries do today could in the future be done by mini fuel cells. Hydrogen could act as a source of energy provided that the problem of storage for its use in mobile devices can be solved. A possible storage medium for hydrogen would be nanocubes made of metal organic frameworks (MOFs), whose properties are currently being tested by BASF researchers.


BASF is working on a new generation of foams with a cell size no longer in micro but in nanometer size. The idea behind these nanocellular foams is to reduce the cell size until they correspond to the mean free path of a gas molecule. This would cause the exchange of heat, which is the result of collisions between gas molecules, to come to a virtual standstill. The resulting foams would have thermal insulating properties similar to those of vacuum plates without the need to use a vacuum. This would improve the insulating performance of a foam by more than 50 % or reduce by more than half the material thickness required for a given insulating performance.

SlurryGloss - an environmentally friendly automotive coating

The clearcoat SlurryGloss is used in automotive production line coating. Unlike other car coatings, it is environmentally friendlier because organic solvents were replaced by water. The coating particles seen in the picture are formed during a certain production step known as dispersing of the binders in the aqueous phase. After the coating is applied, the particles melt during the baking process to produce a colorless, high-gloss clearcoat. This coat is particularly resistant to light, weatherproof and scratch-resistant and is also resistant to aggressive contaminants such as bird droppings. The network outside the coating particles consists of additives which – in combination with the adjusted particle size – are important for application of the clearcoat film and for its flow characteristics on the substrate.

Versatile range of uses for carbonyl iron powder

Carbonyl iron powder (CIP) was industrially produced for the first time by BASF 80 years ago. It has a wide variety of applications, for example in metal injection molding in conventional powder metallurgy, in the production of diamond tools, microwave absorbing materials and in inductor cores of electronic components. CIP is also incorporated in magnetic printing inks used to create security features on credit cards, tickets, banknotes or passports. CIP's unique electromagnetic properties, among others, make it superior to competitor materials. CIP is produced by the thermal decomposition of iron pentacarbonyl. During this decomposition process, spherical iron particles with the characteristic shell structure are formed.

Nanotechnology makes textile fibers dirt-repellent

Nanoparticles give the surface of these textile fibers a structure with an effect similar to that of the lotus plant’s leaves. From the leaves of this plant water and dirt just roll off. This effect makes the fibers water- and dirt-repellent. Tiny particles measuring less than 100 nanometers on the textile fibers produce a similar self-cleaning effect. These surfaces are coated with billions of these nanoparticles so close together that a speck of dust wouldn't fit between them. Between a particle of dirt and the surface of the textile fibers, a layer of air is formed on which the impurities "hover" – and can simply be washed off with water. Even stubborn dirt is then easy to remove. The nanocoating has so far been applied mainly to engineering textiles, such as fabrics for tents, awnings or sunshades. But materials used for work clothing and home textiles will also be benefiting from this new technology in future.

Keroflux optimizes diesel fuels

Diesel fuels are complex mixtures of hydrocarbons containing wax particles known as paraffins. At low temperatures these paraffins form large plate-like crystals that adversely affect the flow properties of diesel fuel. The consequence: after cold winter nights diesel engines may have difficulty starting. To prevent this happening, flow improvers like Keroflux® are used to reduce the crystalline growth of the paraffins. More precisely: the Keroflux wax dispersers can disperse and reduce the size of paraffin crystals and prevent paraffin deposits forming in diesel tanks. Diesel powered vehicles then start without problem even at low temperatures

Neopor insulates better

Neopor® is the improved form of Styropor®, BASF's classic among insulating materials. Neopor is made of blowing agent-containing and thus expandable polystyrene granules. The photo shows the bead-shaped particles after processing into foam blocks. Using an innovative technique, BASF has succeeded in integrating infrared absorbers and reflectors into the foam. They prevent the conduction of heat even at low material densities. Thus, Neopor provides a much better insulating performance than classical material because it insulates as good as, for example, Styropor, using much less material. This means that foam manufacturers save up to 50 percent on raw materials. Neopor panels are also approximately half the weight of their Styropor counterparts.

Silver flakes make plastics conductive

Silver is the most electrically conductive of all metals. When tiny flakes of silver are combined with non-conductive materials - such as plastics - the conductivity of the silver flakes can greatly extend the range of possible uses of plastics. Conductive plastics are in demand in the electronics industry, for example, as they are highly suitable for applications in which high-quality components have to be protected against electrostatic discharge or stray electromagnetic radiation – in the housings of electric motors, for instance. Conductive plastics also open up new possibilities for designing electronic components and equipment. Acknowledgements to BASF

Watchdog group slams FDA for continued delay and inaction
The Food and Drug Administration came under heavy fire today at a meeting it held to once again solicit comments regarding the agency’s oversight of nanomaterials. The FDA held a similar meeting in October 2006. A coalition of nonprofit consumer and environmental groups accused the agency of being derelict in its duty to protect Americans from harmful products.
“Emerging science raises concerns about potential human health threats from Nanoparticles, but the FDA allows them to be put into our cosmetics, our medicines—even our food,” said Ian Illuminato of Friends of the Earth. “More than two years after being warned about these dangers, the FDA still refuses to act. It’s unacceptable.”
At the 2006 meeting, many scientists and nonprofit groups—including Friends of the Earth and the International Center for Technology Assessment (ICTA)—gave presentations and submitted comments detailing why FDA oversight of nanotechnology was inadequate. The organizations also urged Americans to send written comments to the FDA and demand stronger oversight.
“Despite having received thousands of comments from Americans concerned about the threat that nanomaterials pose to human health and the environment, FDA still refuses to regulate such materials, adapt regulations for the new properties and risks of nanotechnology, or even require products be labeled,” said Jaydee Hanson, the International Center for Technology Assessment’s (ICTA) policy director. “This meeting is more of the same: all talk, no action. The agency has not even tried to address the public’s vocal concerns.”
The manufacture of products using nanotechnology—a powerful platform for manipulating matter at the level of atoms and molecules in order to alter their properties—has exploded in recent years. Hundreds of consumer products incorporating nanomaterials are now on the market, including cosmetics, sunscreens, sporting goods, clothing, electronics, baby and infant products, and food and food packaging. But evidence indicates that current nanomaterials may pose significant health, safety, and environmental hazards. Studies have raised doubts about the safety of nanoparticles, suggesting that their tiny size may make them more toxic, that they may produce unpredictable immunological responses, and that some can penetrate major organs including the brain.
In May 2006, a coalition including ICTA and Friends of the Earth filed the first legal action on the risks of Nanotechnology, a legal petition to the FDA calling on the agency to regulate nanomaterials in consumer products. “FDA has had the blueprint on how to move forward with nanotechnology pending before it for over two years, wrapped with a bow,” said ICTA staff attorney George Kimbrell. “That the agency has failed to act is more of this administration’s anti-science, anti-regulatory political agenda that will pass the buck to the next administration to tackle.”
FDA called today’s meeting to again request public comments regarding the agency's oversight of Nanomaterials in various consumer products. The public meeting was also held with an eye towards implementing guidelines proposed by an FDA task force. The task force’s report is not new—it came out in August 2007—and did not recommend any mandatory action by the agency.
About Friends of the Earth
Friends of the Earth ( ) is the U.S. voice of the world’s largest grassroots environmental network, with member groups in 70 countries. Since 1969, Friends of the Earth has been at the forefront of high-profile efforts to create a more healthy, just world.
About The International Center for Technology Assessment
The International Center for Technology Assessment is a non-profit, non-partisan group that assesses a full range of technologies for their effects on the environment, human health, and social justice. Its latest work on nanotechnology can be found at: .

New ECS Professor Darren Bagnall manages an energetic research group within the Nano Group that is investigating new types of solar cell based on nanotechnology.
He is one of a number of staff in the School of Electronics and Computer Science (ECS) who will be moving this month into the new Mountbatten Building, a £55M development for leading-edge research in nanotechnology and optoelectronics.

This is an incredibly exciting time for us’, he says. ‘Over the last few years there has been a massive increase in funding for research into renewable energy. Even with currently available technology photovoltaics will probably provide 50 per cent of the world’s energy in around 40 years time, but what we actually want is to use nanotechnology so that solar cells are efficient and reliable, and yet so cheap that they can be afforded by the tens of thousands of villages around the world that currently do not have electricity.’

Some of Darren’s most eye-catching work includes the use of nanostructures that copy the complex patterns that produce extreme colour effects on moth-eyes and butterfly wings. He is also exploring the use of metallic nanoparticles – plasmonics - that can help to trap light within thin semiconductor layers in a solar cell.

Growing up in Stoke-on-Trent, Darren was a keen science student from an early age. His interest in electronics was probably triggered when his Dad, who was in the nightclub business, brought home a broken pinball machine. ‘It was no use to anyone’, says Darren, ‘but provided a whole load of sensors, switches and actuators that my brother and I used to build some crazy systems.’ The interest that developed from this led Darren to do a degree in electronics at Salford University, where he became interested in semiconductor devices and went on to do a PhD in Photovoltaics.

After his PhD, Darren went to Strathclyde University to develop blue laser diodes. Although they could not be manufactured in the 80s, blue laser diodes were known to be important requirements particularly for what has become known as Blu Ray technology. At Strathclyde Darren developed mono-layer quantum well lasers based on ZnCdSe, and was subsequently offered a research fellowship in Japan at the prestigious Institute of Materials Research of Tohoku University. During this time he made one of his most notable research contributions in producing the first zinc oxide laser. ‘This paper has helped kick-start a whole new research front and our paper now has over 1000 citations,’ he says.

After spending three years in Japan, Darren wanted to return to the UK and he was delighted when he was appointed to a lectureship at ECS. ‘I found the infrastructure and the cleanrooms amazing’, he said. ‘I was also really struck by the tremendous ambition and energy in ECS.’

Since arriving in Southampton Darren has had the opportunity to use his experience in optoelectronics and apply it to working with silicon, a material that can be made to interact with light only with extreme ingenuity: ‘What we can do is create nanoscale features that are much smaller than the wavelength of light and thereby trick light into doing things it wouldn’t normally do.’

For example, Darren has shown that if tens of thousands of nanoscale swastikas are arranged on a square millimetre, he can ‘twist’ light in accordance with the rotation of the swastikas and thereby create artificial ‘metamaterials’ that control polarization. It is this concept of the metamaterials and their application to photovoltaics that drives his current research.

Darren’s commitment and optimism carried him through the fire which destroyed £50M worth of ECS research three years ago. Although each of his team lost at least a year’s work, he feels the episode has now given them a unique opportunity.
‘We are now in a position where we have a great deal of knowledge and yet have the chance to redesign our experiments right from the very beginning,’ he said. ‘Although this will take us some time, I expect it to yield some very exciting results.’
Darren’s first aim in the new facility will be to make the first 20 per cent efficient solar cell based on thin film silicon – ‘It won’t be easy’, he says, ‘but we think we know the way to do it.’

Meanwhile, Darren does not confine all of his energy to the University. He is also something of a fitness fanatic. In the past he has raced triathlons, marathons and fell races at a high level, and still holds ambitions to complete an Ironman triathlon and to swim Loch Lomond.

Most serious of all he wants to get back into his old habit of beating Dr Neil Broderick on their regular runs around the New Forest. ‘It’s such an amazing place and we’re very lucky to have it on our doorstep,’ he says. Of course, now I tend to find it’s at its best when we’re running towards the pub! And especially when Australia hasn’t managed to keep up.’

NanoMarkets, a leading industry analyst firm based here, today announced its next report on thin-film and organic photovoltaics markets. The report titled, "The Future of Thin-Film and Organic Photovoltaics Manufacturing" will be available the week of September 8th. Additional details about the report including a preview are available on the firm's website at

About the Report:

The rapid and recent commercialization of thin-film and organic PV has automatically put the spotlight on manufacturing issues. There are many different approaches being used today from traditional sputtering to avant-garde functional printing approaches. In some cases the old and the new are combined in the same fabrication plant. Some solar panel firms are going with a turnkey plant supplied by a large equipment manufacturer. Others are building their own plants from scratch.

With so much diversity and change in this field, NanoMarkets believes that the time is right for this new report which surveys the manufacturing of thin-film PV (TFPV) and organic PV (OPV.) One goal of this report is to analyze the underlying performance of the plants built to date and to both understand where the challenges are and where the solutions to these challenges may be coming from. Another goal is to forecast the aggregate capacity of TFPV and OPV plants that are currently being built throughout the world or likely to be built in the near future. A third is to project the expenditures of TFPV firms on production equipment over an eight year period.

One question that this report deals with specifically is the thorny question as to how important the future role of printing will be to the PV sector and which equipment firms are having success selling into this sector. We also discuss such matters as the tradeoffs between low manufacturing costs and cell efficiencies, the importance of economies of scale, integration of manufacturing facilities, approaches to manufacturing new cell types, etc.

This report analyzes the state of the art in fabrication of both the manufacture of the photoactive layers themselves and the metallization process. We analyze the available data on how successful each approach to the manufacture of thin-film and organic PV is currently being and where the firms active in this space are looking for improvements and breakthroughs. In addition to the analysis itself, this report includes profiles of the manufacturing operations of 15 firms involved in producing solar products in the TFPV and OPV sector.

About NanoMarkets:

NanoMarkets tracks and analyzes emerging market opportunities in electronics created by developments in advanced materials. The firm has published numerous reports related to organic, thin film and printable electronics materials and applications and maintains a blog at that comments on industry trends and events. For a full listing of the firm's reports and downloadable white papers and report summaries please visit

Scientists grow 'nanonets' able to snare added energy transfer
New structure improves material used in microelectronics and water-splitting
Researchers at Boston College report creating nanonets, pictured here magnified 50,000 times. The novel nano-scale structure was grown from titanium and silicon in a two-dimensional network of wires that resembles...

CHESTNUT HILL, MA (September 2, 2008) – Using two abundant and relatively inexpensive elements, Boston College chemists have produced nanonets, a flexible webbing of nano-scale wires that multiplies surface area critical to improving the performance of the wires in electronics and energy applications.
When pushed by the pin-like tip of a scanning tunneling microscope, the nanonet rolls up. When the device is removed, the nanonet unfurls, demonstrating a remarkable flexibility in this new...

Researchers grew wires from titanium and silicon into a two-dimensional network of branches that resemble flat, rectangular netting, Assistant Professor of Chemistry Professor Dunwei Wang and his team report in the international edition of the German Chemical Society journal Angewandte Chemie.

By creating nanonets, the team conquered a longstanding engineering challenge in nanotechnology: creating a material that is extremely thin yet maintains its complexity, a structural design large or long enough to efficiently transfer an electrical charge.

"We wanted to create a nano structure unlike any other with a relatively large surface area," said Wang. "The goal was to increase surface area and maintain the structural integrity of the material without sacrificing surface area and thereby improving performance."

Tests showed an improved performance in the material's ability to conduct electricity through high quality connections of the nanonet, which suggest the material could lend itself to applications from electronics to energy-harvesting, Wang said. Titanium disilicide (TiSi2) has been proven to absorb light across a wide range of the solar spectrum, is easily obtained, and is inexpensive. Metal silicides are also found in microelectronics devices.
Nanonets grown by Boston College Assistant Professor of Chemistry Dunwei Wang and his research team are shown in this photo fully extended (a). At right is the tip of a...

The nanonets grew spontaneously from the bottom-up through simple chemical reactions, unprovoked by a catalyst, according to Wang and co-authors, post doctoral researcher Xiaohua Liu and graduate students Sa Zhou and Yongjing Lin.

Basic nano structures are commonly created in zero or one dimension, such as a dot composed of a small number of atoms. The most complex structures grow in three dimensions – somewhat resembling the branches of a tree. Working in 2D, Wang's team produced a web that under a microscope resembles a tree with all branches growing in the same perpendicular direction from the trunk.

Using titanium disilicide intrigued Wang because of the material's superior conductivity. Late last year, researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Bioinorganic Chemistry observed that a titanium disilicide semiconductor photo catalyst splits water into hydrogen and oxygen. The semiconductor also stores the gases produced, enabling the simple separation of hydrogen and oxygen. So-called water splitting may play a key role in producing hydrogen for fuel.

"We're excited to have discovered this unique structure and we are already at work to gauge just how much the nanonet can improve the performance of a material that is already used in electronics and clean energy applications," said Wang.

Nanotechnology Consumer Products Are in Your Mouth and On Your Face

WASHINGTON — New nanotechnology consumer products are coming on the market at the rate of three to four per week, a finding based on the latest update to the nanotechnology consumer product inventory maintained by the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies (PEN).

One of the new items among the more than 600 products now in the inventory is Swissdent Nanowhitening Toothpaste with “calcium peroxides, in the form of nano-particles.” Today, in testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation, PEN Project Director David Rejeski cited Ace Silver Plus—another of the nine nano toothpastes in the inventory—as an example of the upsurge in nanotechnology consumer products in stores. The hearing marks the start of U.S. Senate debate on the future direction of the annual $1.5 billion federal investment in nanotechnology research and development (R&D).

The number of consumer products using nanotechnology has grown from 212 to 609 since PEN launched the world’s first online inventory of manufacturer-identified nanotech goods in March 2006. Health and fitness items, which include cosmetics and sunscreens, represent 60 percent of inventory products. The colorful and searchable list of nanotechnology merchandise—containing everything from nanotech diamonds and cooking oil, to golf clubs and iPhones—is available free at

There are 35 automotive products in the PEN inventory, including the Hummer H2. General Motors Corporation bills the H2 as having a cargo bed that “uses about seven pounds of molded in color nanocomposite parts for its trim, center bridge, sail panel and box rail protector.”

Nanoscale silver is the most cited nanomaterial used. It is found in 143 products or over 20 percent of the inventory. Carbon, including carbon nanotubes and fullerenes, is the second highest nanoscale material cited. Other nanoscale materials explicitly referenced in products are zinc (including zinc oxide) and titanium (including titanium dioxide), silica and gold.

While polls show most Americans know little or nothing about nanotechnology, last year nanotechnology was incorporated into more than $88 billion worth of products sold. By 2014, Lux Research estimates $2.6 trillion in manufactured goods will incorporate nanotechnology—or about 15 percent of total global output. Despite a 2006 worldwide investment of $12.4 billion in nanotech R&D, comparatively little was spent on examining nanotechnology’s potential environmental, health and safety risks.

“Public trust is the ‘dark horse’ in nanotechnology’s future,” says Rejeski in his testimony. “If government and industry do not work to build public confidence in nanotechnology, consumers may reach for the ‘No-Nano’ label in the future and investors will put their money elsewhere.”

According to Rejeski, “The use of nanotechnology in consumer products and industrial applications is growing rapidly, with the products listed in the PEN inventory showing just the tip of the iceberg. Public perceptions about risks—real and perceived—can have large economic consequences. How consumers respond to these early products—in food, electronics, health care, clothing and cars—is a litmus test for broader market acceptance of nanotechnologies in the future.”