Nanocatalysis - the use of nanoparticles to catalyze reactions - is a rapidly growing field which involves the use of nanomaterials as catalysts for a variety of homogeneous and heterogeneous catalysis applications. Heterogeneous catalysis represents one of the oldest commercial practices of nanoscience; nanoparticles of metals, semiconductors, oxides, and other compounds have been widely used for important chemical reactions. Since nanoparticles have a large surface-to-volume ratio compared to bulk materials, they are attractive candidates for use as catalysts. Although surface science studies have contributed significantly to our fundamental understanding of catalysis, most commercial catalysts, are still produced by 'mixing, shaking and baking' mixtures of multi-components; their nanoscale structures are not well controlled and the synthesis-structure-performance relationships are poorly understood.
A new 290-page tome titled 'Strategic impact, no revolution' is the result of a year-long effort to study the strategic value and impact of NMP in its wider European and international context, with special focus on the ERA dimension, against the general policy objectives of FP6 and against the specific objectives of NMP. The title of this report refers to the general finding that the third thematic priority in FP6 strategically affected Europe's competitive position and was an important programme which also influenced Member States' policies and research agendas. However, it cannot be directly linked to a revolution with regard to creating substantial scientific or industrial breakthroughs although these were among the explicitly targeted objectives. The program strengthened Europe's position as one of the world leaders in the respective scientific and industrial fields, but did not enable Europe to outperform other key actors such as the United States or Japan.
Here is a perfect example of how someone, who apparently doesn't understand or care much about the science, writes a sensational press release hyping nanotechnology by cherry-picking information and distorting issues. And all that to sell a product that doesn't even have to do with nanotechnology. Two days ago we ran a press release from Thomson Reuters about a brief report they compiled on patent data relating to nanotechnology in the cosmetics industry. Now, Thomson Reuters is in the business of selling information and information services products and applications. Their press release basically is advertising for their IP Market Reports. There is nothing wrong with that. What is very wrong, though, is the nonsense and unbalanced take on certain aspects on nanotechnologies. Let's take a closer look.
Tailing after emerging nanotechnology applications in biomedical and electronic industries, the construction industry recently started seeking out a way to advance conventional construction materials using a variety of manufactured nanomaterials. The use of nanotechnology materials and applications in the construction industry should be considered not only for enhancing material properties and functions but also in the context of energy conservation. This is a particularly important prospect since a high percentage of all energy used (e.g., 41% in the United States) is consumed by commercial buildings and residential houses by applications such as heating, lighting, and air conditioning. A recent review by scientists at Rice University has looked at the benefits of using nanomaterials in construction materials but also highlights the potentially harmful aspects of releasing nanomaterials into the environment.
Why does silicon, which usually shatters catastrophically like glass when fractured, suddenly change and show ductile fracture like metals when the temperature is increased? Large atomistic models that incorporate quantum mechanical effects of how atoms interact in the material have now unravelled the fundamental events that cause the sudden change from brittle cleavage to ductile dislocation emission at a crack tip in silicon. This research has revealed that at low temperatures, silicon fails under spreading of cracks, where atomic bonds are broken continuously such that fractures spread easily in the material. For temperatures beyond a critical point, however, this changes dramatically and rather than breaking atomic bonds, stacked planes of atoms in the silicon lattice are sheared altogether, shutting down the spreading of cracks and giving rise to a much more graceful mode of failure that resembles that of metals.
'You cannot have an appropriate social dialogue on nanotechnology without an open-minded, consistent and even audacious communication roadmap aiming to bring everyone in.' So begins the foreword to a new Communication Roadmap by the European Commission on communicating nanotechnology in Europe. The EC has now compiled a roadmap for communicating nanotechnology across Europe. It presents the focus, objectives, methodology and actions already in place and to be developed over the next few years. The 188-page document is structured into three main parts: Where are we now? Where do we want to be? and How do we get there? and provides a detailed overview of all relevant activities and initiatives existing or planned across Europe.
A European project has completed an extensive five-year study of the needs and opportunities for coordinating future research and development in nanomaterials science and nanotechnology for the advancement of technologies ranging from communication and information, health and medicine, future energy, environment and climate change to transport and cultural heritage. Based on the collaborative work of more than 600 experts from all over the world, the project has compiled an overall picture of the present and future developments in the large spectrum of nanomaterials. Although one of the foci was to highlight the important roles of advanced analytical equipment at European research infrastructures, especially at synchrotron radiation, laser and neutron facilities, the 500-page project report provides an excellent overview of the nanomaterials revolution that is upon us. This is one of the best, up-to-date primers on nanotechnologies!
One of the key issues in the young field of nanotoxicology is the lack of standards and definitions. Although there have been some efforts, there still is no coherent international approach to determining if and what risks are posed by what kind of nanotechnology materials. At the core of the problem are the serious challenges that are created when comparing test results and drawing conclusions without adequate standardization and nanomaterial characterization. Exemplifying this set of problems further, a new study shows that even the most basic set of data, the nanomaterial characterization information provided by the manufacturer, can't be relied on - something which shouldn't come as a complete surprise given the existing problems with characterization data.