Small Times' Small Tech Talk Blog
- Mark Bünger Research Director, Lux Research
- Walt TrybulaDirector of the Nanomaterials Application Center, Texas State University-San Marcos
- Dr. Kristen Kulinowski Department of Chemistry, Rice University
- Nina HorneInvited Expert
- Dr. Antonietta M. GattiPh.D. Experimental PhysicsUniversity of Bologna, Italy
What You’ll Learn:
- Trends in nanotechnology and how it is used in manufacturing.
- The real risks of nanotechnology.
- What can happen to the body when exposed to hazardous nano materials.
- How to minimize your risk of exposure.
- Government safety regulation.
Workers may be exposed to nanomaterials in many different manufacturing environments, and this seminar will educate them on the real risks. The seminar is also designed to educate employers about what they need to know to ensure worker safety and what types of nano materials are of the most concern. Of significant interest to CEOs/CTOs of technology companies (SMEs), Health and Safety officers of technology companies (SMEs), Government officials (HSE), Toxicology experts, and venture capitalists.
"Dear ladies and gentlemen,
I offer for purchase made by me 254 inventions in the sphere of nanotechnologies with the help of the single-purpose heuristic method aimed at inventions making in the sphere of nanotechnologies.
Already Socrates defined the heuristic method as a method creating new systems. Currently more than 200 heuristic methods are created for technical systems development. In this country “Invention Algorithm” developed by G.S. Altschuller is the most common. On the basis of this method in the USA a well-reputed program “Invention Machine” was developed and is distributed by the Invention Machine Corporation.
But all these developments fall into the wide area of general engineering and are of little use for nanotechnologies development.
There didn’t yet exist a single-purpose heuristic method. The author studied heuristic methods for more than 20 years and he has managed to develop a powerful heuristic method for inventions in the nanotechnology sphere making. With the help of this method more than 250 inventions in the sphere of nanotechnologies were made. The inventions appeared to be very powerful and they can result in a very great economic effect.
The author wasn’t able to patent the inventions himself and to test them experimentally. Your company can easily make this job.
Details:I shall try to describe my work in more detail. I was engaged in heurisms more than 20 years and I had a desire to create a heurism for area nanotechnology. It was possible to me. The heurism has turned out very powerful and effective. By means of these method I managed to create 254 inventions in the field of nanotechnology. The created inventions concern to various areas nanotechnologyand in them various physical effects are used. The greatest attention has been given by me to nanotubes, a matter from nanotubes, updatings of these objects and to creation new nanomaterials from various nanopowders and their mixes by means of compacting. 3 demonstration, insignificant inventions created by algorithm I apply.
Gennady Vladimirovich Mayorov.
E-mail: email@example.com Phone in Moscow : + 7 (495) 310-06-84
120. The method of a work-piece abrasive treatment with the help of nanosized magnetic ferromagnetic particles placed in vortex magnetic field.129. The method of nanomatter of electret nanopowder producing. Electret nanopowder compacting is made by nanopowder ultrasounds pressing followed by baking and cooling in electrostatic field.222. The method of nanotubes matter surface behavior change. Nanotube matter surface behavior is changed by an electron bunch."
Aside from the fallout of a devastating recession (good luck with the recovery as Newseek notes in the latest issue), I think there’s also some alarm among the exhibiting (and advertising) community that the semiconductor industry is "closed" in that there will not be any new entrants, no new companies popping up to manufacture microprocessors or memories. The same is true albeit to a lesser extent on the equipment and materials side. Process technology has been commoditized (not a real word but you know what I mean). Even if you were to build a better mousetrap, it’s quite a long uphill battle to get the likes of Intel to consider putting it through all the qualifications necessary to put it into volume production, and convince them that you’ll be able to support it on a worldwide basis with field engineers, spare parts, etc. In short, companies think they know all their customers — there are no surprise $5 billion fabs (and if there were they’d be in China) — so what’s the point of spending big bucks on a tradeshow booth.
That’s true to some extent but it’s a bit early to be hoisting the white flag of surrender. The semiconductor industry is still massive and evolving and is still the "oil of the IT industry" as someone once said. "More than Moore" is just a catchphrase at the moment but I think that’s where the future lies. Higher levels of integration made possible through 3D chip stacking, and other advanced types of packaging, will be where the action is. Sure, we’ll still see shrinking dimensions (is it EUV or imprint?? — expect the status quo for years imho) and probably lots more talk on 450 mm as the economy improves. BUT there will be new players, new opportunities, lots of room for strong growth which all gets back to the critical importance of a show such as SEMICON West. It will return with gusto, we’ll be talking about cool things that have yet to be dreamed up and it will remain a vibrant and dynamic industry. Why? People want to watch movies on their cell phones while sitting on a smart toilet that analyzes how close they are getting to death from the inevitable cancer, heart attack, diabetes, or just old age. The best presentation at SEMICON West? From Proteus on Intelligent Medicine: Helping to Solve the Healthcare Crisis with MEMS and ICs. "First there was the Apple on your desktop, next there was a Blackberry on your belt. Now there will be a raisin inside you," said Andrew Thompson, president and CEO, co-founder, Proteus Biomedical.
Speaking of presentations, huge kudos to the staff of SEMI who did an excellent job of lining up great speakers for a variety of tech sessions running throughout the three days of the show. They were particularly speedy in getting the presentations posted on-line. That’s a ton of work that sometimes goes unrecognized. I’d link to them here but I they they should be easy enough to find on the SEMI site. You have Google, don’t you?
This week I’m spooling up for Semicon – ya know, like the Gatling Gun has to spool up before you can fire it (blam blam blam). Next week’s Semicon West will be a busy one for our PennWell team, with our colleagues from SST, Photovoltaics World, The ConFab, Advanced Packaging, SMT, Small Times, Laser Focus World and Renewable Energy World out in force. We have a boatload of video interviews lined up, plus podcasts and yes I’ll be “tweeting”. Sign up for Pete’s Tweets. I’m also moderating a couple sessions – one Tuesday morning on Opportunities in MEMS and another on thin film PV Thursday morning. Don’t miss ?em! Standing room only!
Last year, the three big things that had people talking were 1) the state of the industry, 2) the co-located InterSolar show, and 3) 450 mm (or 45 cm as was noted at the SEMI press conference). This year, #1 and #2 are sure to be the hot topics – 45 cm not so much.
At the time, SEMI released a mid-year consensus forecast for the chip equipment industry that indicates that, following a six percent market growth in 2007, the equipment market will decline 20% in 2008, but will experience a rebound with annual growth of 13 percent and six percent in 2009 and 2010, respectively. That was wishful thinking, but good signs abound that the recovery has begun. Bill McClean is still calling for a couple of boom years; he just moved the proverbial hockey stick out to 2010, 2011.
The InterSolar last year had 209 exhibitors, 48 of which are SEMI members. SEMI said there were 251 total Semicon West exhibitors with PV product offerings. The InterSolar show had some good traffic, but a fair amount of the exhibitors were fairly low-tech, including such things as roof mounting brackets. More of the same this year? You bet. I know it’s bigger but don’t have the stats in front of me. Will we see more traditional SEMI exhibitors setting up camp at InterSolar? I expect some, but not a mass exodus.
I feel like it is 1909, rather than 2009, as I hear a derisive chorus of "get a horse" from much of the media mocking the MEMS-enabled PUMA prototype electric vehicle from General Motors and Segway.
An automotive correspondent from Newsweek wrote on Twitter that he "thinks the GM Segway vehicle is a farce." And even the editor of Wired.com, who should know how to spot possibilities better than other journalists, Tweeted: "NOte to GM: car with no door = FAIL."
It is likely the PUMA uses the same MEMS gyro/accelerometer cluster as the Segway, which last I heard was supplied by the UK MEMS company Silicon Sensing Systems.
The mockery doesn’t say much for the vision of many in my profession … again. It seems like members of the news media — the survivors who are left employed, anyway — would have learned from the recent past to recognize the early stages of something that could potentially change everything. But, even now as newspapers close and bleed jobs, many continue to lovingly clutch onto their dinosaurs, failing to look up to see the meteor looming in the sky.
A century ago, those funny, noisy, slow horseless carriages seemed as much a ridiculous joke as perhaps the rickety-looking GM/Segway electric carriage might seem now. But, as most Small Times readers know, the thing to look for is not always right in front of you. We cover, for the most part, enabling technologies — the invisible "stuff" on the inside that enhances existing products or enables new ones.
Like the Segway, itself — also a subject of tech-writer derision when first unveiled — entrepreneurs look at the capabilities of a prototype like the PUMA and see how the enabling technologies can be used to fit their own visions of how a "smart" vehicle should run.
Writers based in New York, or Detroit, at times fail to realize that the world does not necessarily look like their own familiar surroundings. Newly prosperous residents of jam-packed cities in Asia, for example, are all looking to become "American-style" consumers. But the level of traffic congestion that would suggest is not possible if we are truly going to reduce greenhouse gases.
Let ’em walk, ride bikes or take buses? Easy for the current "haves" to say.
No, I look at the PUMA, and see possibilities. And, I suspect, so do the engineers, scientists and entrepreneurs who read these pages.
Beware of nanotech "news stories" that declare that the scientific breakthrough of the day "may someday lead to … " or "will be on the market in the next 5-10 years …" Odds are, it’s great science, but its business application is miles away from port.
And that’s fine. I love to follow science news from the world’s top universities and labs. I read tons of it every day. Not much of it, however, makes it onto the pages of Small Times or is posted online here.
There are lots of other online nanotech portals for that.
Back in 2001, when I was among the founding editors of Small Times, the mantra we began as one of the first to cover nanotech from a business perspective was "Is it us?" I would ask my group of scattered of freelance correspondents — sometimes to their annoyance — what about the story they were pitching to me makes it rise above the level of lab breakthrough and into the realm of a business story.
About eight years later now, it’s a lot easier to tell the difference as more of the science experiments we covered in the beginning are being commercialized.
It has gotten to the point now where Scott E. Rickert, chief executive of Nanofilm Ltd., has gone as far as to declare that "the era of endless exploration is over — at least as long as the economy stumbles." Writing in IndustryWeek, Rickert expresses his impatience now with nanotech information that is not directly related to business.
"Nanobusiness is business. Period. First, last, always," Rickert declares.
And, of course, he names Small Times as one of the few publications he turns to when he wants to read about trends in nanobusiness as opposed to nanoscience.
I thank Scott for the "shout-out." We’ve been trying for years to make Small Times different than your average sci/tech publication. And, of course, your contribution helps, too. If you are commercializing nanotech, or are about to, please contact me and let’s generate some coverage.
But, as those who know me from some of my other projects have seen, I do not always believe in hard-and-fast rules. Sometimes, it is just plain cool to read about the future possibilities of where today’s nanobusiness might take us.
Yesterday’s headline in The UK’s Guardian blared "Nanotechnology goes to war."
The story is about how the Pentagon is using small tech for improved sensors, robotics and other applications. The only trouble is that very little of the information there is new and, aside from the headline, the article contains no examples of actual nanotechnology. Much of it was about labs-on-a-chip, MEMS and other technologies you read about on this site every day.
But, in an age where print journalism is dying and online journalism is still trying to define itself, the Guardian article is not the last word. It is, in fact, only the beginning of the conversation about the news.
Ideas today are circulating in 140-word, self-contained blocks — mostly via social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.
Yesterday’s Guardian piece was just a few hour old, when the NanoTwitterVerse chimed in — the opening shot coming from British nanopundit Tim Harper, who Tweeted that the "nano" piece was not about nano.
Harper was answered by prolific Twitterer Andrew Maynard, chief science adviser for the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies in Washington. On Twitter, he is known by the name of his blog: 2020science. His response to Harper: "Hate to say it, but nano-promoters have been piggybacking on MEMS for some time – not surprising that journalists mix’n’match!"
Harper: Thought it was the other way around -MEMS have been trying to get their claws into sexy nano funding 4 years
2020science: think you’re probably right – from a distance, thinks get a little blurry!
The exchange was important for a few reasons. First, despite the appearance of a cozy two-way conversation, it was read by their thousands of Twitter "followers," or other people on Twitter who are interested in their updates. Any one of them can "retweet" the conversation and the word can spread virally. It also was a necessary counterpoint from two nanotech "insiders" to the viral spread of the story outside the world of nanotech experts.
The Guardian story was also posted on the news networking site Digg.com, with readers’ comments indicating that they couldn’t care less about the accuracy of the headline, but used it as a launching point for their own personal fears or hopes for however they define "nanotechnology."
Through Twitter and Digg, what we’re still talking about here is not even the "blogosphere," but a new layer that has emerged — quick, opinionated, emotional, probably unfair, but increasingly responsible for what becomes widely circulated and commented upon by the public at large.
Comparitively, blogs are practically "the establishment" now. And they’re so damn wordy. (Looking back at my first month of blogging back in 2003, it looked like I was going for "War and Peace" with each long-winded post).
For the Guardian story, Harper saw something deeper in the misuse of "nanotechnology" in the headline and needed the longer blog format to express them.
"There’s no space for more considered opinions on Twitter so you need to combine it with other media," Harper told me in a brief interview I conducted with him yesterday on Twitter ("Twitterview"?)
What resulted was a post on his blog called "politicizing nanotechnology," in which he discussed how nanotech is viewed through the prism of political agendas.
In comparison to his "Tweets," Harper’s blog posts require an attention span and the ability to follow more than one simultaneous theme. That’s not to knock Twitter at all, though. Sifting through dozens of Tweets every day — or even hundreds, depending on how much time you have during the day — on a nanotech theme, you can get differering views on the same topic.
Harper’s Tweets are enjoyable because, aside from his usual rants against the "nanobot crowd" he’ll slip in a few personal tidbits — like how he sat near Jacques Chirac at a Paris restaurant. I can picture him sitting there, noticing Chirac and the first thing he thinks of is Twittering the news.
The largest criticism I have of the NanoTwitterVerse is that it at times can be a feedback loop — the usual suspects talking inside baseball to one another, or "retweeting" one another to the point where only one point of view bounces around an echo chamber. That will change as more nanotech voices join the conversation.
Another notable nano voice on Twitter is Kristen Kulinowski, executive director for policy at Rice University’s Center for Biological and Environmental Nanotechnology. She recently Tweeted the Rice Alliance Nanotechnology and Sustainability Venture Forum, giving live, as-it-happens updates.
The live events are enjoyable, although sometimes a bit cryptic, since 140 words a pop seems limiting for an on-the-spot reporter. Maynard does it, too, and knows when to Tweet (Congressional hearing on the Toxic Substances Control Act) and when not to Tweet (NNI exposure assessment workshop).
Like blogging about five years ago, Twitter is something that you either "get," or you do not. A great many believe that, in the words of Houston Chronicle Science Writer (and prolific Twitterer) Eric Berger, "it was mostly people posting pics of their breakfast."
Well, yes, there’s that, too.
But amid some of the silliness, there’s substance in Twitter when taken as a whole. Does it stand alone as a source of news? Of course not. Does it give more people a chance to participate in the discussion about the news? Maybe it will, someday, but for now it is another way to interact with the world by telling it to others from your own perspective — a kind of Seussian, "we are here" for journalists, too, who sometimes forget about all those Whos down in Whoville.
Oh, and speaking of kids’ stuff, have you heard about that "nanosong" video that explains nanotech with music and puppets? It was first spread virally via the Twitterverse.
If you ask Canadian entrepreneur Neil Gordon about new rules coming next month requiring companies to detail their use of engineered nanomaterials, he’ll tell you it’s just another example of his government placing artificial constraints on nanotech commercialization.
That’s why Gordon is now the ex-president of the now-defunct Canadian NanoBusiness Alliance.
"If Canada is becoming the first government in the world to require companies to provide information about their use of ‘potentially’ harmful nanomaterials in products, then there is another reason for entrepreneurs to avoid commercializing nanotechnology products in Canada," said Gordon, who is now president and CEO of Early Warning Inc., which is commercializing a nanotech-based biosensor.
But ask science adviser Andrew Maynard about Canada’s first-in-the-world nanotech regulations, and he’ll tell you how they are exactly what is needed now — before too many companies use nanotechnology in their products. Maynard advises the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies (PEN) in Washington, which focuses on the environmental, health and ethical implications of nanotechnology.
The rules are needed, he said, even though available toxicity information on some engineered nanomaterials is "patchy."
"But even patchy information is going to be more helpful to developing informed future regulations, than no information," Maynard said.
The rules, instituted by Environment Canada, are expected to come out in February, according to a news release issued by PEN earlier this week.
Canadian companies that manufactured or imported 1 kg or more of engineered nanoparticles in 2008 will be required to provide information about how the substance is used or managed and any existing data on their physical or chemical properties. It is a one-time requirement. The Canadian government will then use the information to evaluate possible risks to the public and the environment.
The regulations would be in line with a proposed regulatory framework released by Environment Canada and Health Canada in September 2007.
One problem with the rule, Gordon said, is that there are not too many Canadian nanotech companies around to regulate. And these rules could be the nail in the coffin.
"I have observed first-hand how the Canadian government had ignored the massive economic development opportunity from nanotechnology," he said.
"The Canadian government’s informal nanotechnology policy of allocating its limited nanotechnology funding almost exclusivity to government labs and government-owned universities has created a void of Canadian nanotechnology companies which for the most part are struggling to survive or have left Canada."
It is important to remember, too, Gordon said, that the question is not simply which substances are toxic, but also whether they are toxic in the small amounts used inside nanotech products.
Many of the current research on nanoparticle toxicity expose test animals to artificially high amounts of nanomaterials.
"A fish can die from eating too much fish food," Gordon said. "If the amount of nanoparticles in a product are at some miniscule level, as is typical for nano products, then the risk must account for what is really being used — not some artificially high amount."
But it is just this shortage of information on nanoparticles that makes these rules needed, Maynard indicated.
"This decision by Canada — to establish the world’s first national mandatory nanoscale materials reporting program for companies — is an important step toward ensuring that nanotechnology regulation is driven by accurate information and high-quality science," he said in a news release.
If you could just tune your ears above the recent clatter and racket that passed for debate over a bridge loan for the Big Three, you might have been able to just make out the tiny baby cries of a newborn U.S. auto industry.
I live in Detroit, so I heard the slap on that baby’s ass, followed by the opening shrieks of a brat already born into a disadvantaged, dysfunctional family.
You see, in the literal power struggle over the next age of the automotive industry — the electric age — the U.S. battery industry is arriving late.
It’s not that innovation is lacking. Some of the leading research into nanotech-enabled lithium-ion batteries is being done right in my hometown. But only now has it dawned on the federal and state governments to push that innovation forward through financial aid and tax breaks. And only now have U.S. battery companies realized that they can combine some of their efforts to bring those innovations from the lab to the marketplace.
Late and late.
But hopefully not too late.
Two years and an economic lifetime ago, I covered the Detroit auto show when a proud Bob Lutz unveiled the Chevrolet Volt (PDF 219k) hybrid electric concept vehicle to a great many ooohs and aahhhs even from the jaded press.
But a few months later, at the Society of Automotive Engineers’ 2007 World Congress, I peaked under the hood of all that shiny new plastic and found disparate and desparate U.S. and European engineers sweating it out for what they assumed would be second place in the race to create safe, long-lasting batteries for vehicles like the Volt.
Today, the race is still for second place, behind Asia. And, as I covered the North American International Auto Show again this year, it looks like nanotechnology has come in second, too. GM chose Compact Power, a subsidiary of the Asian LG Chem, to provide the lithium-ion batteries for the Volt. A close second was A123 Systems, whose nanophosphate formula is an important ingredient in its li-ion batteries. The reason, according to GM, was the the formula seemed too experimental, the company too inexperienced and, most importantly, the battery manufacturing infrastructure just does not yet exist in the United States.
To its credit, GM is working on building its own battery infrastructure from the ground up. Another lesson learned from Toyota. So, there is still hope for nano-enhanced li-ion batteries, as there will be room for many players, eventually.
It’s about time.
Of course, not in time to save my Motown hometown from further pain. But perhaps enough to implant an embryo that will, in time, give birth to a brand spanking new auto industry.