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Australian Nanotechnology Alliance

In This Issue

Announcements

Successful Executive Series networking event held at the Australian Synchrotron.

Research News

ANU cutting the cost of solar power
The Minister for Resources and Energy has launched the ASI Round Two Photovoltaic Core Project which will see ANU collaborating with Trina Solar, one of the largest manufacturer of solar cells worldwide, to build better, cheaper silicon solar cells.
Fighting cancer with nanotechnology
Researchers at Deakin University and the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) have joined efforts to build a nanotechnology- based drug delivery system to target cancer stem cells.
Silicon photonic crystals to slow down light
Groundbreaking research in quantum light source led by the University of Sydney will result in information speeds many times faster and data that is almost impossible to hack. The breakthrough uses silicon photonic crystals to slow down light.
Bullet-resistant wool
Researchers at RMIT University are developing wool-Kevlar blends for ballistic materials, in a bid to create lighter, cheaper and more effective bullet-resistant vests that work in both dry and wet conditions

Know your materials

Magnetic attraction
A subject of fascination for thousands of years, magnets are an essential part of modern electronic devices such as computers, microphones, electric motors and cars. Australian researchers are using synchrotron techniques to understand the formation of the key magnetic phase in a new generation of magnets with improved cost effectiveness

Sensational Materials

Graphene paper stronger than steel
University of Technology Sydney Scientists have reported remarkable results in developing a composite material based on graphite that is a thin as paper and ten times stronger than steel.
Nanotechnology for polyurethane industrial seals
TenasiTech Pty Ltd has launched a nano-composite thermoplastic polyurethane system for use in seals to increase the operating time of pumps and lower costs for the end user.
Nanoparticles reveal unseen fingerprints
A technique using gold nanoparticles in combination with antibodies has shown promising results for enhancing fingerprints that are over a week old.

Chair's Corner

Ian Gentle

Watching the news programs during the lead-up to the May budget I was reminded of the 1970’s Australian music group Skyhook’s song “Horror Movie”. Media reports started with a leaked cabinet document that up to $400 million could be cut from the medical research budget. To me this news was horrific but it wasn’t to be the end of the bad news. A further media article indicated concerns about the quality of science teaching in Australian primary schools after the Federal Government announced that it would stop funding a teacher training program, but the “horror movie” continued with a further story that women are “ditching” their careers in science and engineering.

One has to ask what’s happening!

Australia has over decades put significant money into medical research that has paid handsome dividends back to the community and we have great success stories such as Cochlear, ResMed, Starpharma, Seagull Technologies to name just a few. We’ve had two Australian of the Year winners that have come from medical research in Professor Fiona Wood with her treatment for burns patients and Professor Ian Frazer and his research into the human papilloma virus resulting in the production of Gardasil. Yet rather than building up this smart sector which keeps many of our PhDs and talented scientists in Australia, we have rumours leading to scientists protesting at rallies around the country.

At one of the rallies it was pointed out that, perhaps surprisingly, funding for medical research only constitutes one percent of the health budget, yet every dollar invested in research reaps $5 in returns. Obviously those returns should influence increased investment in this sector in which Australia very obviously has a competitive advantage. What also surprised me was the number of people that attended the rallies - not just scientists and researchers, but everyday people who had felt the impact of the tragedy of disease yet, because of the results of medical research, are thankful that they or members of their families are still with us.

It strikes me that for decades we have been talking about Australia not being able to continue to rely on extraction of minerals and our agricultural sectors and that we need to broaden our industrial base with sectors that are “smart”. We have heard over the same decades about the need to halt the brain-drain out of Australia and even to reverse it. Research is a very important part of the equation. Research that results in a medical procedure requiring one less day in hospital, or drugs that target the disease requiring lower dosage, or preventative medical testing that limits the impact of future diseases – all these advances flow on to the economics of healthcare. It’s staggering that the “smarts” in politics seem to be missing this point.

But how can we talk about “smarts” if at the critical primary level of education, the Australian Academy of Science reports that over 90 percent of primary school students are not receiving basic science education because their teachers lack a science background and are therefore reluctant to teach science at all, and that Primary Connections, a program to boost teacher confidence in teaching science will not receive new funding?

While all this has been happening literally in our streets, a summit in Canberra has been addressing the very real issue of female scientists considering leaving science or engineering. Naturally they find it extremely difficult to recover from a break in publications after taking time out for having a family when they re-enter the workforce and apply for funding. It’s a valid argument especially in an environment in which funding is already tight.

Australia cannot afford to lose momentum or even lift the foot off the accelerator. We desperately need every cent we can manage to invest in research.

I’m just an email or phone call away (07 3365 3829 or i.gentle@uq.edu.au).

Ian Gentle (Professor)
Chariman - Australian Nanotechnology Alliance


Event Calendar

May 2011
June 2011
July 2011
August 2011
September 2011
August 2011
November 2011
December 2011

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


Notice Board

Professor Sean Smith from the University of Queensland has accepted the position of director for the Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences, Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Professor Smith currently leads the Computational Bio and Nanotechnology Group at The University of Queensland’s Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN). ORNL's nanocenter is one of five Department of Energy Nanoscale Science Research Centers that together form a national user network. Each facility is associated with other major national research institutions, enabling nanoscale science and technology to be applied to a variety of research areas. ORNL's nanocenter provides unique opportunities for scientists to understand nanoscale materials by creating a research environment that accelerates the process of discovery by working across disciplines.


The 2011 Prime Minister's Prizes for Science nomination round is now open and will close on Friday, May 13, 2011 at 17:00 AEST.The Prime Minister's Prizes for Science are a national tribute to excellent and dedicated work in Australian science and science teaching.

The major Prize, the Prime Minister's Prize for Science, is one of the nation’s most highly-regarded awards and the premier national award for scientific achievement. It is awarded for an outstanding specific achievement or series of related achievements in any area of science advancing human welfare or benefiting society.

The Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year and the Science Minister's Prize for Life Scientist of the Year are awarded to scientists to recognise and reward outstanding early-career research and to demonstrate to the public, and to school students and science undergraduates in particular, that outstanding early-career achievement in science is not only possible but can be of world-class importance.

The Prime Minister's Prizes for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary and Secondary Schools honours our inspirational science teachers.


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


Australian Nanotechnology Alliance Announcements

Successful Executive Series networking event held at the Australian Synchrotron

The Executive Series program showcases the value of collaborative partnerships between research and industry that create innovative products through materials engineering, with the outcome being superior or novel performance and commercial application.

The most recent Executive Series networking event was held at the Australian Synchrotron on May 5. Well over 70 people attended this event, which also included a tour of this impressive facility.

Synchrotron

Two highly respected speakers presented on the evening. Dr Rahul Gupta from the School of Civil, Environmental & Chemical Engineering at RMIT University, presented on the topic of clay nanocomposites, his current research in the field, and how improvements in rheological, mechanical and barrier properties of clay nanocomposites can vastly improve a variety of materials, in particular, ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) based packaging films.

The second speaker of the night was Dr Tom Caradoc-Davies, the Principal Scientist for Macromolecular Crystallography, at the Australian Synchrotron. Dr Caradoc-Davies presented on the cutting edge research being performed on the macromolecular crystallography beamline. He discussed the current capabilities of the MX beamlines at the Australian Synchrotron, how it was used for determining the structure of protein crystals and the impact research in this area has on the medical field, using a selection of current research highlights as examples.

The Australian Nanotechnology Alliance wishes to thank all those who helped organise and run the event, and also thanks the sponsors, Davies Collison Cave intellectual property law services and the Australian Synchrotron.

In 2011, future Executive Series events will be held in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Hobart and Newcastle.


Research News

ANU cutting the cost of solar power

The Australian National University continues to be at the forefront of national and international solar research thanks to funding provided by the Commonwealth via the Australian Solar Institute (ASI).

ANU Solar

Photo source: ANU

The Hon Martin Ferguson, Minister for Resources and Energy has launched the ASI Round Two Photovoltaic Core Project which will see ANU collaborating with Trina Solar, one of the largest manufacturer of solar cells worldwide, to build better, cheaper silicon solar cells.

Project Leader Dr Daniel Macdonald from the ANU College of Engineering and Computer Science said that the n-type silicon cells will be more affordable.

“Most solar cells today are made with silicon wafers which contain positively charged particles to carry the electricity, a material known as ‘p-type’ silicon. However, based on fundamental research conducted at ANU and other institutes, it is now clear that n-type silicon, which uses negatively charged particles, is a better alternative.

“In collaboration with Trina Solar, we will develop n-type silicon solar cells which use the same standard low-cost processing tools that are used for today’s p-type cells. This will increase the efficiency of the solar cells from 18 to 20 per cent, without appreciably increasing the production costs. This will cut the cost of a photovoltaic module by 10 per cent,” said Dr Macdonald.

As well as the development of the new solar cells with Trina, the $10.7 million project will see collaboration with the University of New South Wales to develop even more efficient n-type solar cells, aiming for even greater efficiencies above 22 per cent.

“This part of the project will use state-of-the-art technologies, such as high powered lasers, and intense beams of charged atoms, for precise structuring of the solar cell surfaces. This will lead to new methods for making very efficient solar cells, and maintain the advantages of fast fabrication,” said Dr Macdonald.

Source: ANU press release 29.04.11

Fighting cancer with nanotechnology

Researchers at Deakin University and the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) have joined efforts to build a nanotechnology- based drug delivery system to target cancer stem cells.

Deakin University scientists led by Wei Duan, director of Deakin Medical School's nanomedicine programme, have developed a ribonucleic acid (RNA) antibody nearly one-tenth the size of a natural antibody to act like a guided missile to seek and bind to cancer stem cells. "IISc would be joining hands in producing nano-sized lipid particles that will encapsulate the desired drug and other cancer- targeting epitopes (part of a molecule recognized by the immune system) for delivery," Wei said. "The assembling and testing, clinical trials will be done in our laboratory." The project is funded by India's department of science and technology and by the Australia-India Strategic Research Fund.

Cancer treatment currently uses two main approaches- chemotherapy that uses chemicals and radiation therapy using laser beams to kill cells cells.

A third approach is based on nanotechnology. Therapies like polymer nanotubes carrying anti-cancer drug and building nano-particles to replace the DNA in cancerous cells with healthy ones are in the research stage. In a targeted drug delivery system, antibodies that bind to target cells and stimulate the immune system to attack the affected cells are used to kill the tumours. But cancer stem cells are usually resistant to drugs. So even if the cancer cells are killed, the root stays alive and can regenerate. This makes the root cells an important target in new treatments, Wei said. In the IISc-Deakin programme, the system is designed to deliver drugs directly to stem cells, or the root of cancerous cells.

When injected or taken orally, the system floats in the body till it reaches stem cells, penetrates them and melts, releasing the drug and killing the specified cell. "Our research caught the attention of Wei, who wrote to us on possible collaboration to work together," said Santanu Bhattacharya, faculty member at the department of organic chemistry in IISc, who has been working in the field of lipids for two decades. While IISc brings expertise in developing nano-sized lipids, Wei's team has expertise in making chemical antibodies.

The nano-sized lipid aggregates being developed by IISc in Bangalore will be combined with the antibody and tested in Deakin University's laboratory in pre-clinical tests. "This is capable of better penetration across the cells since it has very small size and possesses the specific information for targeting cancer cells as opposed to healthy cells," Bhattacharya said. "Also, such lipid aggregates should have no adverse immunogenic reactions." Apart from IISc, Deakin University's School of Medicine and its Institute for Technology Research and Innovation are collaborating with Australiabased hospital Barwon Health's Andrew Love Cancer Centre and ChemGenex Pharmaceuticals Ltd on the project. According to the World Health Organisation, cancer caused 7.6 million deaths (13% of all deaths) globally in 2008, which is expected to rise to about 11 million in 2030. "Personalised treatment is being used for cancer these days, where affected cells are targeted.

However, we still target the whole body, and in the process, end up killing some unaffected cells as well," said B. S. Ajai Kumar, radiation oncologist and chairman of Health- Care Global Enterprises Ltd, which does research and development of innovative cancer treatment methods. "The nanotechnology- based drug system is one step advanced in this category, which targets the affected stem cells." Wei said the IISc-Deakin product will need five years to reach the market and can be adapted to other ailments as well such as Alzheimer's, heart disease and diabetes.

Source: University of Technology Sydney media release 20.04.11

Silicon photonic crystals to slow down light

Groundbreaking research in quantum light source led by the University of Sydney will result in information speeds many times faster and data that is almost impossible to hack.

The breakthrough, which uses silicon photonic crystals to slow down light, is a collaboration between Centre of Excellence for Ultrahigh Bandwidth Devices for Optical Systems (CUDOS) nodes at the University of Sydney and Macquarie University, along with colleagues at the University of Bristol and the University of St Andrews (UK), and the Ecole Centrale de Lyon in France.

CUDOS researchers have generated individual pairs of photons in the smallest device ever by slowing light down using silicon photonic crystals. At 100 microns long (approximately the thickness of a human hair) CUDOS's quantum photon device is 100 times smaller than the one-centimetre devices used by other groups.

Dr Chunle Xiong of the University of Sydney, a co-author and project leader for the CUDOS program in Quantum Integrated Photonics, says the device's nano-scale means that potentially hundreds of these photon devices can be incorporated into a single chip. This is a key step to building practical quantum technologies that will make communications much more secure and computations many times faster.

"We are able to do this by slowing light down through the use of silicon photonic crystals, which means the ultrashort device behaves as a much longer device, so that the photons are generated in only 100 microns," says Dr Xiong.

Macquarie University's Associate Professor Michael Steel, co-author and CUDOS Chief Investigator, says: "Current systems use classical light to carry information, which hackers can easily tap into and use to their advantage. But you cannot copy the information encoded in quantum states without being noticed by the system. Single photon devices will ensure communication and information systems are secure from hackers, guaranteeing peace of mind for the users."

This pioneering technology will ensure the next generation of information systems is secure and faster, says the University of Sydney's Professor Ben Eggleton, co-author and director of ARC Centre of Excellence CUDOS. The experiment is outlined in a groundbreaking paper to be presented at a prestigious international conference in Baltimore, USA next week for the world's leading researchers in laser and quantum electronics.

Professor Eggleton says this breakthrough is taking CUDOS 'Mark II' into a new and exciting direction.

Source: University of Technology Sydney media release 20.04.11

Bullet-resistant wool

Researchers at RMIT University are developing wool-Kevlar blends for ballistic materials, in a bid to create lighter, cheaper and more effective bullet-resistant vests that work in both dry and wet conditions.

Dr Rajiv Padhye and Dr Lyndon Arnold, from RMIT's School of Fashion and Textiles, have found a vest made of wool-Kevlar blend works better in the wet and needs fewer layers compared with existing ballistic vests, potentially reducing manufacturing costs.

Dr Padhye said Kevlar was a strong but expensive fabric that lost about 20 per cent of its effectiveness when wet, requiring a costly treatment to waterproof the material.

"While a typical Kevlar vest is made of about 36 layers, our wool-Kevlar blend only needs 28 to 30 layers to achieve the same bullet-resistant effect," Dr Padhye said.

"And because wool fibres expand naturally in water by up to 16 per cent, the wool-Kevlar blend actually becomes more effective in wet conditions.

"The result is a cheaper bullet-resistant vest that works even better when it's wet."

Woven bullet-resistant vests are designed to prevent blunt trauma injury by slowing bullets within the layers of fabric to dissipate their energy.

Dr Arnold said tight weaves were needed to ensure the bullets dissipate their kinetic energy by breaking the fibres, rather than sliding past them.

"By adding wool to Kevlar, we increase the friction and hold the yarns more closely together, enabling us to reduce the number of layers required," he said.

"With Kevlar averaging about $70 per kilogram, compared to about $12 for wool, reducing the amount required to make a vest is a real incentive for manufacturers."

The research found the optimum blend for the wool-Kevlar ballistic material was 20-25 per cent wool and 80-75 per cent Kevlar.

The project was funded by Australian Wool Innovations. The researchers are currently working with ballistics vest manufacturers towards the commercialisation of the product.

A video demonstration can be found here

Source: RMIT University media release 04.04.11


Know your materials

Magnetic attraction

A subject of fascination for thousands of years, magnets are an essential part of modern electronic devices such as computers, microphones, electric motors and cars. Australian researchers are using synchrotron techniques to understand the formation of the key magnetic phase in a new generation of magnets with improved cost effectiveness.

The strongest permanent magnets currently known are made from iron, boron and rare earth elements. The world market for permanent magnets is worth around US$11 billion, with neodymium- iron-boron (Nd2Fe14B) magnets accounting for 62 per cent of this total. Permanent magnets are typically made from ‘hard’ magnetic materials, which have a high resistance to becoming demagnetised; ‘soft’ magnets have much lower resistance to becoming demagnetised. These characteristics are measured in terms of properties called coercivity (resistance to demagnetisation) and remanence (ability to retain magnetisation).

Researchers are using powder diffraction to find out how heat influences the properties of a new generation of strong permanent magnets. A three-centimetre-long glass capillary contains an amorphous precursor that is gradually transformed into a magnetic material when heat is applied.

PhD student Vanalysa Ly and her Monash University supervisors Christopher Hutchinson and Kiyonori Suzuki are developing computer models of crucial stages in the production of nanocomposite Fe-Nd-B magnets. These magnets consist of a magnetically-hard Nd2Fe14B phase and a neodymium-free soft phase, significantly reducing the total amount of costly Nd. They are produced by applying heat to transform an amorphous precursor (a ‘melt-spun’ Fe77.5B18Nd4.5 metal alloy ribbon created by rapidly cooling a molten stream of the metal) into a crystalline material with the optimum arrangement of phases. The challenge is to select the right precursor from an infinite range of compositions and then subject it to a suitable heat treatment.

Vanalysa used the powder diffraction beamline at the Australian Synchrotron in February 2011 to examine the in situ crystallisation at varying temperatures of a series of amorphous precursors for nanocomposite Fe-Nd-B materials. Vanalysa acquired a continuous series of five-second ‘snapshots’ of her materials over the course of the heat treatment in order to obtain time-resolved measurements of the different phases as they formed and disappeared. The beamline setup enabled her to capture both the thermodynamic and kinetic aspects of the crystallisation of the amorphous melt-spun ribbon as heat was applied.

Vanalysa’s powder diffraction results will help her to modify and validate a phenomenological phase transformation model she has developed to quantitatively capture the nucleation and growth of competing phases as a function of alloy composition and thermal treatment. The next step will be to perform desktop experiments that simulate heat treatments with the aim of identifying promising heat treatment schedules that could potentially enhance the magnetic properties of the resulting material.

The above story first appeared in the Australian Synchrotron's Lightspeed newsletter, April 2011


Sensational Materials

Graphene paper stronger than steel

University of Technology Sydney Scientists have reported remarkable results in developing a composite material based on graphite that is a thin as paper and ten times stronger than steel.

A graphene paper sample. Picture by Lisa Aloisio

In work recently published in the Journal of Applied Physics, a UTS research team supervised by Professor Guoxiu Wang has developed reproducible test results and nanostructural samples of graphene paper, a material with the potential to revolutionise the automotive, aviation, electrical and optical industries.

Graphene paper (GP) is a material that can be processed, reshaped and reformed from its original raw material state - graphite. Researchers at UTS have successfully milled the raw graphite by purifying and filtering it with chemicals to reshape and reform it into nano-structured configurations which are then processed into sheets as thin as paper.

These graphene nanosheet stacks consist of monolayer hexagonal carbon lattices and are placed in perfectly arranged laminar structures which give them exceptional thermal, electrical and mechanical properties.

Using a synthesised method and heat treatment, the UTS research team has produced material with extraordinary bending, rigidity and hardness mechanical properties. Compared to steel, the prepared GP is six times lighter, five to six times lower density, two times harder with 10 times higher tensile strength and 13 times higher bending rigidity.

Lead researcher Ali Reza Ranjbartoreh said, "No one else has used a similar production and heat testing method to find and carry out such exceptional mechanical properties for graphene paper. We are definitely well ahead of other research societies."

"The exceptional mechanical properties of synthesised GP render it a promising material for commercial and engineering applications.

"Not only is it lighter, stronger, harder and more flexible than steel it is also a recyclable and sustainable manufacturable product that is eco-friendly and cost effective in its use."

Mr Ranjbartoreh said the results promise great benefits for the use of graphene paper in the automotive and aviation industries, allowing the development of lighter and stronger cars and planes that use less fuel, generate less pollution, are cheaper to run and ecologically sustainable.

He said large aerospace companies such as Boeing have already started to replace metals with carbon fibres and carbon-based materials, and graphene paper with its incomparable mechanical properties would be the next material for them to explore.

The production of GP from graphite also provides a remarkable amount of added value for the mining, material processing and manufacturing industries in Australia. In the last decade, metals have increasingly and rapidly been replaced with carbon-based materials.

Australian mines have immense graphite resources making the new material a favourable option to industry as an economical, home-grown and world-class technological advancement for mass production and industrial application.

The findings of the UTS research group have been published in the article "Advanced mechanical properties of graphene paper" in the current edition of the Journal of Applied Physics..

Source: University of Technology Sydney media release 20.04.11

Nanotechnology for polyurethane industrial seals

TenasiTech Pty Ltd has launched a nano-composite thermoplastic polyurethane system for use in seals to increase the operating time of pumps and lower costs for the end user.

The company is based in Brisbane but has manufacturing capability in the USA, Germany and Australia, has produced nano-composites exhibiting excellent improvements in mechanical strength, creep resistance, compressive set and barrier properties.

Creep resistance improvements are up by 67%, and compression set gains are up by 45%. The nano-polyurethanes are also performing significantly better after exposure to elevated temperatures for extended periods.

These dramatic improvements in materials performance are made with no trade-off in flexibility.

“The performance gains from our nano-additives are directly relevant to seals, giving their users the potential of longer Mean Time Between Failure and the possibility of pushing operating temperature ratings further for polyurethanes, which is a historical weakness for this class of polymer,” Richard Marshall, Managing Director, said.

“TenasiTech is a rare nanotechnology in that it is able to produce material at industrial scale, is competitively priced and fits within the existing polymer supply chain.

“We have partners in the northern hemisphere for applications other than seals, but we are now actively seeking a partner to develop product in this exciting market,” said Mr Marshall.

“The novelty of our nanofillers, designed specifically with the host polymer’s chemistry in mind, is one thing. But the ability to effectively disperse these nanofillers into the polymer with no capital expenditure for our partners is a major breakthrough; perhaps equally as important,” Dr Darren Martin, Chief Scientific Officer, said.

Source: TenasiTech media release 14.04.11

Nanoparticles reveal unseen fingerprints

A technique using gold nanoparticles in combination with antibodies has shown promising results for enhancing fingerprints that are over a week old.

Xanthe Spindler at the University of Technology Sydney in Australia and colleagues now report a technique that targets amino acids - present ubiquitously in sweat and thus in most fingerprints. They linked amino acid-binding antibodies to gold nanoparticles and applied them to fingerprints. To develop and image the prints, they used red fluorescent secondary antibodies that would stick to the nanoparticle-bound antibodies.

The technique builds on research at the University of East Anglia in the UK to create fingerprints from drugs residual in sweat, coating a nanoparticle with antibodies to identify all fingerprints.

The new nanoparticle-based method performed well for prints made more than a week previously. However, conventional fingerprint enhancing techniques still work better for fresh prints. Fresh fingerprints contain enough water to keep the amino acids fairly soluble and with the addition of reagents, they tend to get washed away.

'We are looking at other methods to try and keep them on the surface, so hopefully we'll have a reagent that works for any fingerprints of any age,' says Spindler. 'But that's still to come.'

Source: University of Technology Sydney