Australian Nanotechnology Alliance

In This Issue

Research News

Safer Medical Devices using enhanced antibacterial coatings
A research group at the University of South Australia is working on techniques to permanently bind antibacterial coatings to medical devices by binding them to a plasma polymer coating.

Know your material

Rare elements important for future technologies
Rare Earth Elements (REEs) are a group of specialty metals with unique physical, chemical and light-emitting properties that are seeing dramatic increases in demand, owing to their technological applications.

Tin Tacks

Melbourne Centre for Nanofabrication
The Melbourne Centre for Nanofabrication (MCN), the Victorian Node and headquarters of the Australian National Fabrication Facility (ANFF), is a new multi-user research facility, operating the largest purpose-built cleanroom complex in Australia.

Sensational Materials

Big environmental outcomes using very small particles
VSPC is producing nanoscale lithium iron phosphate (LFP - LiFePO4) material for use in the latest generation of rechargeable batteries for consumer electronics, and all types of electrically powered vehicles.

Strong and stretchy polyurethanes
TenasiTech is an innovative materials science company which has developed strong, stable and flexible thermoplastic polyurethanes (TPUs). These materials can be used for burst resistant flexible hoses, tougher laminated bullet-proof glass, and better scuff-resistant golf balls.

Australia Gets Its First Manufacturer of Carbon Nanotubes
Eden Energy Limited, based in Perth, is set to become Australia's first commercial producer of high strength carbon nanotubes.

Ian's Corner

Welcome to the ANA Newsletter 2011

Ian Gentle

I have great pleasure as the newly elected Chairman of the ANA to welcome you to our first newsletter for 2011. For those who don’t know me, I’m in the School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences at The University of Queensland where my research interests are in nanostructured thin films and interfaces. For the last two years I was seconded to the position of Head of Science at the Australian Synchrotron.

Voluntary organisations like the ANA face a number of challenges to ensure they continue provide value to the diverse stakeholders in the nanotechnology eco-system that range from researchers, industry, government through to the general public. To my immediate predecessor Dr Richard Taylor, my sincere thanks for your contribution. I have my work cut out to build on the strategy and direction you set.

You may have noticed a gap between this newsletter and our last. There have been two changes that caused this. The first is that the strategic partnership between the ANA and Future Materials that was in place for the last two years ceased in December with Future Materials coming to an end. The second change is that Carla Gerbo, who was the face of the ANA, left to take a role to establish The Australian Centre for NanoMedicine at UNSW. While Carla remains on the ANA Board and will continue to work with me, she will be less in the ANA spotlight. I would like to offer my heartfelt thanks for her great work with both the ANA and Future Materials over many years.

In this my first column I would like to look both backwards to highlight some of the successes from the year past, and look forward and share my direction for the ANA in 2011 and beyond.

The ANA was successful in a number of Federal Government grants that have allowed us to undertake promotional activities. In conjunction with the ARC Centre of Excellence for Functional Nanomaterials (ARCCFN) we developed a buckyball puzzle and a series of bookmarks and a postcard. The buckyball in particular has been very popular and shortly another 20,000 will be sent to young up and coming scientists as a way to promote nanotechnology. Again through the Federal Government’s National Enabling Technology Strategy (NETS) we were successful in undertaking a series of 11 nanotechnology industry case-studies which will shortly be on the ANA website, and are currently developing the 5th version of the Australian Nanotechnology Capability Report.

With funds from Enterprise Connect, ANA was able to expand its successful Executive Series networking series to Hobart, Adelaide, Perth and to the Clayton area of Melbourne. In terms of making nanotechnology better known to the general public, a most successful project was to take a booth at the Melbourne Home Show. With more and more nano-based products coming onto the market, this was a highly novel way to chat to large numbers of the public – and talk we did - to thousands of people.

Looking into 2011, the ANA will continue our successful networking projects, but seek to build our relations with likeminded associations to ensure the nanotechnology message continues to spread. Our first MOU has recently been signed with Engineers Australia to collaborate on a number of fronts which I and my ANA Board members feel is a strong way to share our resources.

The current economic climate has certainly changed the way many organisations have had to do business, and if you are looking for productivity improvements, I cannot stress enough the importance of research and development in the equation. I feel it is vital that we keep in touch with relevant science and technology breakthroughs, and I hope this newsletter helps you meet that goal.

As Carla always said at the end of each newsletter, I’m just an email or phone call away (07 3365 3829 or i.gentle@uq.edu.au)

Ian Gentle (Professor)
President - Australian Nanotechnology Alliance


Event Calendar

February 2011
March 2011
April 2011
May 2011
June 2011
July 2011
August 2011
September 2011
August 2011
November 2011

For more information on international conferences in minerals, metals & materials click here


Notice Board

  • New chemical requirements for the use of nanomaterials - National Industrial Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS) has issued guidance on new chemical requirements for the notification of industrial nanomaterials. The notification and assessment process came in effect on January 1, 2011. (nicnas.gov.au/Current_Issues/Nanotechnology.asp)
  • Postdoctoral and Invitational Fellowships in Japan 2011 - The Australian Academy of Science, in association with the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS), invites applications from Australian researchers to undertake Postdoctoral and Invitational Fellowships in Japan. Researchers in any field of natural sciences, including technology, engineering and medicine may apply. Closing date 14 January 2011 – visit (science.org.au/internat/asia/japan.html)
  • Grants for international travel: International Science Linkages - Scientific Visits to Japan
    The Australian Academy of Science is inviting applications from professional scientists to visit Japan between 1 April and 30 September 2011 to collaborate with researchers in those countries. Proposals in any field of natural science, basic and applied, including mathematics and engineering science, will be considered. View www.science.org.au/internat/asia/japan.html
  • Industry & Investment NSW will be promoting NSW's nano and enabling technology expertise at NanoTech 2011 in Japan from15-18 February. Industry & Investment NSW will exhibit at NanoTech 2011 and invite interested NSW organisations to participate. For more information contact Nicole.Smith@business.nsw.gov.au before January 12.
  • Carla Gerbo appointed Manager of The Australian Centre for NanoMedicine (ACN) based at the University of New South Wales.
  • 2010-11 Queensland - Smithsonian Fellowship Program is open for submissions until 11 March 2011 - With up to three Fellowships available for minimum 13 weeks to maximum of 26 weeks and up to $30,000 awarded, the annual Fellowships allows Queenslanders to undertake research projects at the Smithsonian Institution. View www.science.qld.gov.au/international.
  • Dr Calum Drummond has been appointed the new Group Executive for Manufacturing, Materials and Minerals (MMM) within CSIRO.
  • Prof Ian Gentle has resigned as Head of Science at the Australian Synchrotron to return to his position as Professor of Chemistry at the University of Queensland. Replacing Prof Gentle is Dr Andrew Peele from La Trobe University.

Australian Nanotechnology Alliance
8/108-110 Boyce Road
MAROUBRA NSW 2035

Phone: 0413 441 276 • Email: info@nanotechnology.org.auWeb: www.nanotechnology.org.au

Newsletter Editor: Gary Day


Research News

Safer Medical Devices using enhanced antibacterial coatings

Bacteria have a natural ability to attach themselves to surfaces, both natural and synthetic. Once attached, they often work cooperatively to form biofilms, thin layers of bacterial colonies that can coat the surface of a medical device and introduce the risk of infection. As a result, orthopaedic implants, catheters, and even contact lenses can become vehicles for infection.

Antibacterial materials on the surface can reduce the risk but generally these materials do not stick well to the devices. A research group at the University of South Australia is working on techniques to permanently bind antibacterial coatings to medical devices by binding them to a polymer layer.

The UniSA scientists start by applying a plasma polymer coating, a technique that works on many different base materials including glass, metal, and many polymers used in devices. This ultrathin film acts as a scaffold on which to bind materials that either signal the bacteria not to attach by interfering with the cell's attachment mechanism or that prevent multiplication once the bacteria are attached.

They presented their research at the AVS 57th International Symposium & Exhibition, in New Mexico. The presentation compared several different antibiotics applied to the polymer film, including established antibiotic compounds, silver nanoparticles, and novel diterpene compounds derived from Australian plants that have been used in traditional medicine. Each approach has pros and cons that must be carefully weighed before using them on a device implanted in the human body.

"We believe that no solution will be universal so we want to establish an array of approaches," says Hans Griesser of the Ian Wark Research Institute at the University of South Australia. "The new diterpene compounds that we are testing are structurally quite different from established antibacterial compounds, and they are effective against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. That is what got us excited about them."

The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations) from materials provided by American Institute of Physics, via EurekAlert!


Know your materials

Rare elements important for future technologies

Rare Earth Elements (REEs) are a group of specialty metals with unique physical, chemical and light-emitting properties that are seeing dramatic increases in demand, owing to their technological applications. The unique properties of REEs make them critical materials to many emerging technologies which are becoming increasingly commonplace in today’s society. Despite their name, they are relatively common within the earth's crust, but are not often found in economically exploitable concentrations.

While global consumption has been steadily increasing, supply of REEs has tightened dramatically. For the last 10 years, China has dominated global supply. However, owing to the importance of REEs to growing internal industries, REEs are now in short supply.

With demand forecast to progressively increase, the world drastically needs new suppliers of REEs.

The Rare Earth Elements group includes the 15 lanthanide elements: lanthanum, cerium, praseodymium, promethium (does not occur naturally), neodymium, samarium, europium, gadolinium, terbium, dysprosium, holmium, erbium, thulium, ytterbium, and lutetium. The elements yttrium and scandium are also included as they have similar chemical properties. The resource markets refer to REEs in the oxide form, i.e., Rare Earth Oxides (REOs).

Rare Earth Oxides. Image credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture / Peggy Greb

Hard-rock deposits yield the most economically exploitable concentrations of REEs. Placer deposits are alluvial formations of sandy sediments, which often contain concentrations of heavy, dense minerals, some containing REEs. Phosphorite deposits, which mostly occur in the southeastern USA, contain large amounts of phosphate-bearing minerals. These phosphates can yield yttrium and lanthanum.

Over 95% of REEs produced globally now comes from China. New REE mines are being developed in Australia, and projects exploring the feasibility of economically developing additional REE deposits are under way in the US, Australia and Canada.

REE are important ingredients in high-strength magnets, metal alloys for batteries and light-weight structures, as well as catalytic converters fitted to exhaust systems of automobiles. They are essential components for many current and emerging alternative energy technologies, such as electric vehicles, photo-voltaic cells, energy-efficient lighting, and wind power.

The use of REEs in magnets, rechargeable batteries and catalysts accounts for over 60% of REE consumption, with demand expected to increase significantly in all these areas.

The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations) from materials provided by United States Geological Survey.


Tin Tacks

Melbourne Centre for Nanofabrication

The Melbourne Centre for Nanofabrication (MCN), the Victorian Node and headquarters of the Australian National Fabrication Facility (ANFF), is a new multi-user research facility, operating the largest purpose-built cleanroom complex in Australia. The purpose of the MCN is to provide Australia with a strategic, internationally competitive, broad-based micro-nanotechnology fabrication and integration capability that, through linkages with the Australian National Fabrication Facility (ANFF), will grow the nation’s advanced manufacturing capability.

Image courtesy of Melbourne Centre for Nanofabrication

The MCN is a partnership between Monash, Melbourne, La Trobe, Swinburne, RMIT and Deakin universities and CSIRO, and is based next door to the Australian Synchrotron.

The MCN’s state of the art facility houses a diverse range of flagship capabilities ranging from electron, ion and optical lithography through to multiple etching and deposition technologies across a very wide range of material systems (including the bio-hard materials interface). The facility houses class 100-10,000 cleanroom and biological laboratory environments.

The emphasis of the MCN is the chemical and biological manipulation of nanostructures; packing of components into functional devices; and rapid prototyping to design and build devices.

Cleanroom capabilities of the new Centre include photo- and electron beam lithography, patterned deposition and patterned etching, as well as novel techniques such as embossing, inkjet and electroforming.

Flagship equipment includes an electron beam lithography (EBL) system for generating patterned structures and features on a nanoscale; a dual-beam focussed ion beam electron microscope (FIB-SEM) for etching nanoscale patterns; a nanoimprinting system; and a reactive-ion etcher (RIE) with deep reactive-ion etching (DRIE) capability.

The facility offers open access to its state of the art equipment and processes for all sectors of the industrial, research and academic communities, both in Australia and overseas.


Sensational Materials

Big environmental outcomes using very small particles

Image courtesy of VSPC

Very Small Particle Company (VSPC) uses its unique manufacturing process to produce complex metal oxides at the nanoscale level.

World-wide demand for complex metal oxides is rising, especially for applications such as vehicle emission catalysts, industrial and petroleum catalysts, fuel cells, batteries, computer chips, electronics, and electronic displays. VSPC is producing nanoscale lithium iron phosphate (LFP - LiFePO4) material for use in the latest generation of rechargeable batteries for consumer electronics, and all types of electrically powered vehicles, and is one is one of the few companies in the world currently able to make these materials at the nanoscale.

Currently, rechargeable lithium ion batteries mainly use lithium cobalt oxide, which is toxic and can be unstable at high temperatures. By comparison, lithium iron phosphate batteries are cheaper to produce, non-toxic, have fast charge times, high power density and can tolerate extreme conditions.

VSPC’s production of LFP for Hybrid Electric Vehicles is the current priority product. The impetus towards electrification of passenger vehicles is driven by the limited global supply of oil, and concerns over air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. A battery electric vehicle has zero fossil fuel consumption, will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by between 90 - 100% if renewable sources of electricity such as solar or wind power are used.

For more information: contact@vspc.com

Strong and stretchy polyurethanes

Image courtesy of TenasiTech

TenasiTech is an innovative materials science company which has developed strong, stable and flexible thermoplastic polyurethanes (TPUs). These materials can be used for burst resistant flexible hoses, tougher laminated bullet-proof glass, and better scuff-resistant golf balls.

TPUs are an important class of commercial polymers, used in areas including biomedical devices (pacemakers, catheters, balloon devices and other implants), textiles (Lycra and Spandex fabrics), automotive and industrial components (high-pressure hoses, soft-touch interior coverings, life rafts and aircraft escape slides, hand grips for power tools and recreational vehicles), footwear (high performance sports shoe soles) and sporting goods (ski boots and golf ball covers). The worldwide market for TPUs is worth $US12 billion and growing.

TPU materials can be greatly stretched, but return to original size and shape. However, there is a need for these materials to do more than they currently are able to, so enhancing strength and temperature stability is needed, but without losing flexibility. To achieve these properties, TenasiTech uses nanocomposites to create new “stretchy” TPUs with increased strength and stability, while preserving the flexibility of the material. The thermoplastic polyurethane nanocomposites are reinforced with small amounts of synthetic clay nanoparticles to significantly increase the strength of the material. By adding as little as two per cent nanoparticles to material, tensile strength can be improved by up to 130 per cent, thus creating the “stretchy but strong” TPU material.

For more information: inquiries@tenasitech.com

Australia Gets Its First Manufacturer of Carbon Nanotubes

Eden Energy Limited, based in Perth, is set to become Australia's first commercial producer of high strength carbon nanotubes.

The company claims the product is expected to generate new-world markets worth billions of dollars a year.

Carbon nanotubes have a wide range of modern day technological, construction and electronic applications, and will be produced in the Denver, Colorado laboratory of the ASX-listed company. Eden Energy said it had now made a decision to proceed during 2011 with the scaling up of its initial batch plant installed in Denver last year after the Company acquired full rights to the nanotechnology from its former project partner, The University of Queensland.

"The decision to scale-up the plant by year's end follows the successful trial batching over Christmas which saw our plant run in a continuous production cycle for the first time," Eden Energy's executive chairman Greg Solomon said.

"Our trial plant, which we used more to perfect the production and quality control process rather than focus on output, can probably produce up to about three tonnes of nanotubes a year.

"The scale-up, however, will take that capacity more to between 25–100 tonnes per annum and that makes Eden's nanotubes supply competitive on the world-stage."

Solomon said the largest manufacturer in the world currently is a Chinese company, Cnano, which is reported to produce around 500 tonnes per annum (tpa). Europe's Bayer Corporation is currently the second largest global producer at 200 tpa, but there are other similar sized producers in Germany and France.

For more information: + 61 (08) 9282 5889 or mailroom@edenenergy.com.au

The above story (with editorial adaptations) is sourced from Eden Energy (press release)