Carbon nanotube-rubber composite set to double operating lifetime of deep oil wells

October 6, 2008

Nanotechnology may be about engineering materials at a nanoscopic scale, but it is also about making a big impact through small changes.  Both aspects of the emerging technology are exemplified in a new breakthrough from Shinshu University in Japan and the oilfield services company Schlumberger—a multi-walled carbon nanotube-rubber composite that ...

Is nanotechnology suffering from “silent rave” syndrome?

October 5, 2008

The silent rave might seem a rather bizarre social phenomenon; a group of strangers converging in a public place and dancing to their own individual iPod soundtracks.  But I have a sneaking suspicion that the emerging technology community has been indulging in the new tech-equivalent of silent raves for some ...

Small particles are sexy; Synthetic biologists are sexier!

September 30, 2008

The October issue of Esquire magazine is remarkable.  Not for the world’s first e-ink cover (appearing on limited special editions of the magazine).  But because three of the five scientists featured amongst the seventy-five most influential people of the twenty first century are synthetic biologists… Forget the recent poll suggesting most ...

Synthetic biology and the public: Time for a heart to heart?

September 30, 2008

So, you have a cool new science that could make a major impact on global challenges like energy, disease and pollution and you want to make sure it reaches its full potential.  What do you do?  At some point, having a heart to heart with “the public” might be a ...

Presidential Choice: It’s the science, stupid!

September 24, 2008

Forget the economy, healthcare, the war in Iraq.  For some, the next President of the United States will need to rise to a far higher bar:  Is he an e-mail junkie, or still stuck on snail mail? John McCain’s lack of e-mail-savvy was the butt of recent Obama/Biden campaign ads.  “Things ...

2020 Science – looking forward with clarity

September 21, 2008

I’m sitting here putting the finishing touches to 2020science.org—a new science blog—and having the latest in a long stream of panic attacks: What on earth am I doing? Who wants to read yet another tedious list of personal musings, what makes me think I have anything interesting to say, and ...

Nano-silver: Old problems or new challenges?

September 9, 2008

The blogging community is no stranger to the use (and possible abuse) of nanometre-scale silver—products ranging from silver-enhanced socks and toothpaste to plush toys and cure-alls have all appeared in the spotlight recently. With each passing month, the number of nano-silver gizmos on the market is growing. Share this:Click to share ...

Nanotoxicologists self-assemble

September 9, 2008

If you evaluate the toxicity of an engineered nanomaterial, how far can you trust your results?  If someone else repeats your tests and gets a different answer, did they do it wrong? Did you?  Or was the material used different in some subtle but nevertheless important way? These are questions that ...

Value-added nanotechnology

September 3, 2008

Amidst the cacophony of debate swirling around the true meaning of nanotechnology, I head a voice or reason last week.  The voice was that of Dr. Bernd Sachweh of BASF, speaking at the European Aerosol Conference in Thessoloniki. I paraphrase, but the essence of Bernd’s point was this: ‘Nano’ is not a thing or a ...

A consumer’s guide to nanotechnology

August 21, 2008

  How cool is this: A nanotech-enabled labcoat to protect the user against… well, nanomaterials presumably, amongst other things!   The labcoat—which uses Nanotex technology to make it stain resistant—is part of a major update to the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies Consumer Products Inventory that tracks manufacture-identified nano-products.  Other eye-catchers in the update include a hunting shirt ...

Late lessons from early warnings

July 20, 2008

As the rate of technological progress advances, are we learning the lessons of past successes and failures?  And are we applying these lessons successfully to nanotechnology?  In 2001, the European Environment Agency (EEA) published a seminal report on developing emerging technologies responsibly.  Through a series of fourteen case studies spanning the past century, ...

Benny the Bear comes clean

June 28, 2008

Last December I highlighted the case of Benny the Bear—a soft toy using nano-silver to give it antimicrobial properties (Benny the Bear, and the case of the disappearing nanoparticles). It appeared at the time that the manufacturer was being rather coy about the use of nanotechnology, leading to me suggesting: “perhaps ...

Nano-sunscreens leave their mark

June 21, 2008

Painted metal roofs are cheap, convenient, and usually very durable.  But over the past two years, a rash of accelerated ageing has blighted pre-painted steel roofing in Australia.  And intriguingly the ageing—which affects the coating—seems to be localized to small patches, taking on the form of fingerprints, handprints and even ...

Synthetic biology, ethics and the hacker culture

June 13, 2008

Read Thomas L. Friedman’s “The World is Flat” or Neal Stephenson’s “Cryptonomicon”, and you get a glimpse into how the hacker culture that emerged at the tail end of the twentieth century revolutionized the digital world.  Will a confluence of emerging technologies—including information tech, biotech, and nanotech—lead to a similar ...

Smart materials; smart choices?

May 31, 2008

Why nano?  Why care?  For non-nanotech initiates, an obsession with nanotechnology must sometimes seem a bizarre occupation of the sad and lonely.  And even within the nanotechnology community, who hasn’t had occasional doubts over the legitimacy of singling out “nano” as something special?  Yet occasionally a piece of work comes ...

Carbon nanotubes: the new asbestos? Not if we act fast.

May 21, 2008

Mix carbon nanotubes and asbestos together (metaphorically) and you get an explosive mix—at least if news coverage of the latest publication coming out of Professor Ken Donaldson’s team is anything to go by.  The research—published on-line today in Nature Nanotechnology—is the first to explicitly test the hypothesis that long carbon ...

Decoupling “nanotechnology”

May 17, 2008

“Nanotechnology” as an overarching concept is great for sweeping statements and sound bites, but falls short when it comes to real-world decision-making.  As nanoscale technologies are increasingly used in everything from antimicrobial socks to anti-cancer drugs, perhaps its time to rethink how we talk about the myriad diverse technologies that ...

Enough meetings already!

May 8, 2008

My worst nightmare—I’m sitting at the back of a small plane (by the bathroom), my knees up round my ears (because someone else with a bigger case got to the overhead storage before me), and a small child screaming its head off two rows down.  But unlike a nightmare, this ...

Nano-silver: Looking a little tarnished?

May 2, 2008

The author Neal Stephenson got it wrong—at least, if this week’s nano-news is anything to go by!   In his landmark 1995 novel “The Diamond Age,” Stephenson described a future built on nano-innovation.  But thirteen years later, nanotechnology seems to be ushering in “The Silver Age.”  And to some it’s looking ...

Nanotechnology—in bed with Madonna?

April 25, 2008

If you want proof that nano is mainstream, just pick up the U.S. May edition of fashion magazine “Elle.”   Sharing cover-space with Madonna is the latest article on nanotech and the beauty business. Elle might not be your first choice of reading for cutting edge science, but Joanne Chen’s article “Small Wonders” is ...