Australian Nanotechnology Alliance

In This Issue

ENVIRONMENT: Nanosheets soak up oil spills

Material scientists have manufactured a lightweight and reusable material that can absorb up to 33 times its weight in certain chemicals, creating a possible new tool against water pollution.

ENVIRONMENT: Soaking up CO2 emissions

CSIRO scientists have created a 'solar sponge' that captures and then releases carbon dioxide using the power of natural sunlight. The research has been published in the journal Angewandte Chemie.

INNOVATION: Fibre Optic cables getting better

Monash University researchers have played a pivotal role in the invention of an energy efficient method to increase the data capacity of optical networks to the point where all of the world's internet traffic could travel on a single fibre.

ENERGY: New battery for electric cars

Australian researchers have developed a Germanium-based battery that stores five times more energy than lithium-ion ones and has the potential to go two times farther on charge than current electric car batteries.


RESEARCH: New super material foir medical applications

In a world first, a team of researchers from Australia, China and the US has created a super strong metallic composite by harnessing the extraordinary mechanical properties of nanowires.

 

RESEARCH: Making molecular movies

Ultrafast high-resolution imaging in real time could be a reality with a new research discovery led by the University of Melbourne.

 

 

Chair's Corner

Aiden

Following the ANA's Annual General Meeting held in April I had the pleasure of taking on the role of President, following a two year term from Professor Ian Gentle (UQ) who I thank for his leadership during that period.
It’s a great honour for me to take on this role, especially bringing my experience from industry to this role. I'm based in Brisbane and work as a Project Engineer at Australian Aerospace. This as you can image is a cutting edge position with work on defence aviation. Previous to joining Australian Aerospace I was with Boeing. During my term as President I look forward to meeting many of you and hearing how ANA can better deliver its key aims of encourages collaboration and self-assembly between the three key stakeholder groups in the Australian nanotechnology ecosystem: Researchers, Developers and Manufacturers.
I start my tenure at the ANA in an environment in which just two months ago the university sector was faced with $3.3 billion of cuts. I and my fellow directors of the ANA are concerned that the impact of his will be far-reaching with potential a generation of students being disadvantaged; this is a real concern to Australia’s science sector. This massive cut in university funding was marginally offset by the Budget announcement that an additional $135.5 Million was made available to the important ARC Future Fellowship program, aimed at mid-career researchers establishing their careers in Australia.
One of my first activities as President will be to co-host a networking event on July 22 at QUT’s new Science and Engineering Centre. We are pleased that in conjunction with the Australian Centre for NanoMedicine we will be hosting Prof Samuel Stupp who is on the Board of Trustees Professor of Materials Science, Chemistry and Medicine and Director, Institute for BioNanotechnology in Medicine, Northwestern University, USA. With research interests including molecular self-assembly, supramolecular organic nanostructures, electronic and photonic properties of organic materials, biomolecular mineralization, templating chemistry of inorganic nanostructures, and biomaterials for regenerative medicine, including the central nervous system, organ cell transplantation, bone, and cartilage, this will be a great event with one of the world leaders in nanomedicine. We will also be working with the ACN for a Melbourne and Sydney date.
If you are interested in being involved in the ACN, send me an email at info@nanotechnology.org.au.

Aidan

 

 


Australian Nanotechnology Alliance

School of Chemistry and Molecular Biology
The University of Queensland

Phone: +61 (0)7 3365 4800 • Email: info@nanotechnology.org.auWeb: nanotechnology.org.au

 


 

Event Calendar

 

June 2013

 

5-7 June

Suzhou China

BITS 4th World Congress on Nanomedicine 2013

16-21 June

Pisa Italy

European Polymer Congress - EPF 201

17-21 June

Taipei Taiwan

14th International Conference on Metrology and Properties of Engineering Surface

18-19 June

Liverpool UK

S-Lab Conference and Awards 2013

18-20 June

Dublin Ireland

EuroNanoForum 2013

18-20 June

Bad Gastein Austria

Intensive Course: Nanomaterials

19-21 June

Milan Italy 

Nanoparticles in Medicine

20-21 June

Istanbul Turkey

ICBBBE 2013 : International Conference on Biochemical, Bioprocess and Biomedical Engineering

23-26 June

Basel Switzerland

The European Foundation for Clinical Nanomedicine (CLINAM) and the European Technology Platform on Nanomedicine (ETPN)

24-26 June

Uppsala Austria

5th World Conference on Drug Absorption, Transport and Delivery (WCDATD): Responding to Challenging Situations

27-28 June

Paris France

CEBB 2013 : International Conference on Emerging Biosensors and Biotechnology

30 June - 5 July

Singapore

7th International Conference on Materials for Advanced Technologies

 

July 2013

1-3 July

Sydney Australia

4th International NanoMedicine Conference

7-10 July

Darwin Australia

34th Australasian Polymer Symposium

9-12 July

Edinburgh Scotland

ICNS 2013: International Conference on Neutron Scattering

14-19 July

Chiba Japan

12th Asia Pacific Physics Conference

14-19 July

West Dover Vermont USA

Cancer Nanotechnology

15 July

Namur Belgium

International Conference on Advanced Complex Inorganic Nanomaterials

15-16 July

Stockholm Sweden

ICBB 2013 : International Conference on Biotechnology and Bioengineering

22-23 July

Oslo Norway

ICBB 2013 : International Conference on Bioengineering and Bionanotechnology

30-31 July

Zurich Switzerland

ICBSE 2013 : International Conference on Biomedical Science and Engineering

 

August 2013

 

8-9 Aug

Amsterdam NL

ICBBB 2013 : International Conference on Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry

12-14 Aug

Quebec City Canada

ICANM 2013: International Conference & Exhibition on Advanced & Nano Materials

12-15 Aug

San Diego USA

Nanoscience and Engineering - Biosensing and Nanomedicine

15-16 Aug

Venice Italy

ICMMPE 2013 : International Conference on Materials, Minerals and Polymer Engineering

20-23 Aug

Singapore

15th Asian Chemical Congress

29-30 Aug

Paris France

ICBBE 2013 : International Conference on Bioinformatics and Biomedical Engineering

 

 

September 2013

 

September 8-10, 2013

Boston USA

Vaccine Delivery and Stabilization: Improving the Reach of Vaccines A New International ECI Conference

12-13 Sept

Singapore

ICBBS 2013 : International Conference on Biotechnology and Biological Sciences

19-20 Sept

Istanbul Turkey

ICBSE 2013 : International Conference on Biomedical Science and Engineering

23-27 Sept

Warsaw Poland

Conference on Mathematical Chemistry and Drug Design

26-27 Sept

Rome Italy

ICBBBE 2013 : International Conference on Biotechnology, Bioengineering and Bioprocess Engineering

 


October 2013

14-15 Oct

Osaka Japan

ICBBE 2013 : International Conference on Biotechnology and Biosystems Engineering

19-22 Oct

Mumbai India

4th International Conference on Stem Cells and Cancer: Proliferation, Differentiation and Apoptosis

22-23 Oct

Dubai UAE

ICEBB 2013 : International Conference on Emerging Biosensors and Biotechnology

 


November 2013

5-8 Nov San Diego USA The 6th International IEEE EMBS Conference on Neural Engineering
13-17 Nov Xcaret Mexico Zing Nanomaterials Conference 2013
20-21 Nov Capetown South Africa ICBE 2013 : International Conference on Biomedical Engineering
28-29 Nov Malaga Spain ICBBN 2013 : International Conference on Biotechnology, Bioengineering and Nanoengineering

 


December 2013

1-6 Dec

Boston USA

2013 MRS Fall Meeting & Exhibit

 

February 2014

2-6 Feb

Adelaide Australia

23rd Australian Conference on Microscopy and Microanalysis (ACMM23) and the International Conference on Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (ICONN 2014), to be jointly held at the Adelaide Convention Centre, South Australia, from February 2-6 2014

26-28 Feb

London UK

International Conference on Nanotechnology in Medicine

 

 

April 2014

21-25 Apr

San Francisco USA

2014 MRS Spring Meeting & Exhibit

 

 

June 2014

30 June - 2 July 2014

Sydney Australia

5th International NanoMedicine Conference

 


ENVIRONMENT

Nanosheets soak up oil spills

Material scientists have manufactured a lightweight and reusable material that can absorb up to 33 times its weight in certain chemicals, creating a possible new tool against water pollution.

"Environmental protection is a important issue globaly, especially with so many reports of oil spillage and contaminated rivers by industry or water resources," says study co-author Professor Ian Chen from Deakin University.

Chen and colleagues developed nanosheets of boron nitride, also called white graphene, which can soak up a wide range of spilt oils, chemical solvents and dyes such as those discharged by the textile, paper and tannery industries. Highly porous, the sheets have a high surface area, can float on water and are water-repellent. The results have been reported in the journal Nature Communications.

"This material has an overall excellent performance compared to other materials," says Chen. "If we used one gram of our material it will absorb 30 grams of oil." He says materials such as activated carbon or natural fibres commonly used to counter spills generally have a much lower absorption rates. The other materials can absorb 10 times or maybe 40 times their weight depending upon the chemicals".

Once the white sheets are dropped on an oil-polluted water surface they immediately absorb the brown oil and become dark brown. "This process is very fast; after just two minutes, all oil has been taken up by the nanosheets," they write.

But rapid absorption isn't the only advantage. Once saturated, the sheets can be easily picked up from the water surface and cleaned by burning, heating or washing to be reused several times. "Our material can be burnt in air to clean all the absorbed oil. "You cannot do this with all the other carbon-based material because you burn everything off. "After heating the oil-saturated material you can reuse the material again to reabsorb new oil."

The ability to recycle makes it a cost-effective alternative, he adds. Chen says the material would be suitable to use for deep-sea spillages such as the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster. While the material is light enough to float on water, it won't decompose with wave action, he says. "This material is produced at high temperatures about 1000 degrees C so it cannot be changed easily by waves or other environmental conditions”.

 

Source: ABS Science News, May 2013

 



Soaking up CO2 emissions

CSIRO scientists have created a 'solar sponge' that captures and then releases carbon dioxide using the power of natural sunlight. The research has been published in the journal Angewandte Chemie.

The breakthrough presents a new way to recycle CO2 emissions using renewable energy. The 'sponge', made from a new smart material called a MOF (metal organic framework), absorbs carbon dioxide, but when exposed to sunlight, instantaneously releases it. Known as dynamic photo-switching, this capture-and-release method is extremely energy efficient and only requires UV light to trigger the release of CO2 after it has been captured from the mixture of exhaust gases.

Dr Matthew Hill, who was awarded a 2012 Eureka Prize for his MOF research and led the CSIRO group conducting this research, said: "The capture and release process can be compared to soaking up water with a sponge and then wringing it out. When UV light hits the material its structure bends and twists and stored gas is released." "This is an exciting development for carbon capture because concentrated solar energy can be used instead of further coal-based energy to drive the process," he added.

The traditional process for carbon dioxide capture has been to use liquid absorbers such as amines to remove flue gases at a coal-fired power station before they are released into the atmosphere. They are then heated to release the CO2, which is then stored and can be re-used. This process can consume as a much as 30 per cent of a power plant's production capacity.

MOFs absorb as much as a litre of nitrogen gas in just one gram of material. This is possible because MOFs have the surface area of a football field in just one gram, meaning that gases can be soaked up like a sponge to all of the internal surfaces within.

In their paper titled "Dynamic Photo-Switching in Metal Organic Frameworks as a Route to Low Energy Carbon Dioxide Capture and Release" CSIRO researchers show that when exposed to concentrated UV light the MOF sponge instantaneously releases up to 64 per cent of absorbed CO2.

Lead researcher and author of the paper, Richelle Lyndon, who is also a Monash University student, said: "The MOFs are impregnated with light-responsive azobenzene molecules, which react to UV light and trigger the release of CO2. It is this reaction, and the material's ability to bend and flex, which makes the material we have created so unique."

Source: Science Alter and CSIRO news, February 2013


 

INNOVATION

Fibre optic cables getting better

Monash University researchers have played a pivotal role in the invention of an energy efficient method to increase the data capacity of optical networks to the point where all of the world's internet traffic could travel on a single fibre.

The breakthrough uses commercial components manufactured in Australia to optimise the efficiency of the existing optical fibre networks that connect towns and cities. It could dramatically boost the overall performance of networks like the National Broadband Network (NBN) while reducing costs.

Professor Arthur Lowery and Dr Liang Du of the Monash Department of Electrical and Computer Systems Engineering collaborated with Jochen Schroeder, Joel Carpenter and Ben Eggleton at the University of Sydney, through the Centre of Excellence for Ultrahigh Bandwidth Devices for Optical Systems (CUDOS). Their findings were presented at the world's largest optical communications conference, Optical Fiber Communications (OFC), in California earlier in the year.

The significant was considered so significant that the OFC accepted the submission after the deadline for presentations had closed. The CUDOS researchers re-programmed a network component (known as a Wavelength Selective Switch) to work with data encoding technology that makes more efficient use of the available data channels.

They transmitted a signal of 10 terabits per second more than 850 km. As a comparison, current ADSL 2+ speeds are commonly around six megabits per second. Professor Lowery said using the switch, the signals could squeeze into gaps in the data traffic that flows around the large optical-ring networks between cities.

"Importantly, new traffic can be squeezed into the fibre at any location and added to any ‘lane’ of the fibre freeway, even between existing lanes. Our approach is so flexible, network operators could adjust capacity to respond to increased demand, for example from people following big sport events like the Olympics," Professor Lowery said. The technology would maximise existing infrastructure, allowing it to cope with the rising demand for internet, which is expected to increase 1000-fold over the next decade.

"Rather than laying hundreds of new parallel optical fibres to boost network capacity, we can make more efficient use of the existing network by tweaking the way data is transmitted over long distances," Professor Lowery said. "The NBN is effectively building a data road to every single house in Australia. We've found a way to make the data highways between cities and countries, far more efficient, with minimal extra investment."

Dr Du said the demonstrated method packs the data channels very close together, effectively allowing more lanes on the same super-highway. "Previously, data was transmitted with gaps between the channels - this translates to wasted carrying capacity," Dr Du said. "Because we have made use of equipment that is already on the market, this technology could be translated to the consumer quite quickly."

Source: Science Alert, March 2013

 


ENERGY

New battery for electric cars

Australian researchers have developed a Germanium-based battery that stores five times more energy than lithium-ion ones and has the potential to go two times father on charge than current electric car batteries.

Ditching petrol for a clean-tech electric car sounds like an earth-saving move in theory. But if your charge is going to run out half way through your journey, it’s not very practical to make the switch.

Nano-engineer, Professor Zaiping Guo from the University of Wollongong, is working on improving lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries for use in electric vehicles, as well as portable devices like mobile phones, and her team has just had a breakthrough. They have developed a new Germanium (Ge)- based material with five times more energy storage and the potential to go at least two times farther on a charge than current electric vehicles.

Professor Guo, an ARC QEII Fellow, said the development of this inexpensive manufacturing technique is a breakthrough that will provide a significant improvement in battery technology, which can be used to power the next generation of clean-tech electric cars. “The novel anode materials are very simple to synthesize and cost-effective.” “They can be fabricated at a large-scale by industry and therefore have great commercial potential”, Professor Guo said, noting that while the price of Ge is still high compared to other candidate materials at the moment, mass production may bring the price down.

Professor Guo said independent tests also showed significant reduction in charging time for the Ge-based batteries, which she noted could also be used for consumer electronics, like mobile phones and laptops, as well as grid-scale energy storage. “We’re truly excited about this breakthrough and are looking forward to transitioning this technology to the commercial marketplace,” she said.

The research was recently published in the journals Nano Letters and Angewandte Chemie.

Source: Science Alert, 24 April 2013

 


RESEARCH

New super material for medical applications

In a world first, a team of researchers from Australia, China and the US has created a super strong metallic composite by harnessing the extraordinary mechanical properties of nanowires.

Co-author and Head of the School of Mechanical and Chemical Engineering at The University of Western Australia, Winthrop Professor Yinong Liu, said the work has effectively overcome a challenge that has frustrated the world's top scientists and engineers for more than three decades, nicknamed the "valley of death" in nanocomposite design.

"We know that nanowires exhibit extraordinary mechanical properties, in particular ultrahigh strengths in the order of several gigapascal, approaching the theoretical limits. With the fast development of our capability to produce more variety, greater quantitates and diverse shapes and sizes of nanowires, the chance of creating bulk engineering composite materials reinforced by these nanowires has become high," Professor Liu said.

However, all the attempts to date have failed to realise the extraordinary properties of the nanowires in bulk materials. Professor Liu says the problem is with the matrix: "In a normal metal matrix-nanowire composite, when we pull the composite to a very high stress, the nanowires will experience a large elastic deformation of several per cent. That is OK for the nanowires, but the normal metals that form the matrix cannot cope. They can stretch elastically to no more than one per cent. Beyond that, the matrix deforms plastically," he said.

Plastic deformation damages the crystal structure at the interface between the nanowires and the matrix. In this regard, the properties of the composite are limited by the properties of the ordinary matrix, and not determined by the extraordinary properties of the nanowires.

A breakthrough has come in the form of a Nickel Titanium composite. "NiTi is a shape memory alloy, a fancy name but not totally new. It is no stronger than other common metals but it has one special property that is its martensitic transformation. The transformation can produce a deformation compatible to the elastic deformation of the nanowires without plastic damage to the structure of the composite. This effectively gives the nanowires a chance to do their job, that is, to bear the high load and to be super strong.

With this we have crossed the ‘valley of death'!" Professor Liu said. Using this idea, the researchers have created composite materials that are twice as strong as high strength steels, that have elastic strain limits up to six per cent - which is 5-10 times greater than the elastic strains of the best spring steels currently available - and a Young's modulus of ~30 GPa, which is unmatched by any engineering materials so far.

The breakthrough opens the door for a range of new and innovative applications. The very low Young's modulus matches that of human bone, making it a much better material for medical applications such as implants. The ability to produce and maintain extremely large elastic strains also provides an unprecedented opportunity for "elastic strain engineering", which could lead to improvements in many functional properties of solid materials, such as electronic, optoelectronic, piezoelectric, piezomagnetic, photocatalytic and chemical sensing properties.

This work has been published in the journal Science

Source: Science Alert March 2013

 

Making molecular movies

Ultrafast high-resolution imaging in real time could be a reality with a new research discovery led by the University of Melbourne.

In work published in Nature Communications, researchers from the University of Melbourne and the ARC Centre for Excellence in Coherent X-ray Science have demonstrated that ultra-short durations of electron bunches generated from laser-cooled atoms can be both very cold and ultra-fast.

Lead researcher Associate Professor Robert Scholten said the surprising finding was an important step towards making ultrafast high-resolution electron imaging a reality. He said the finding would enhance the ability of scientists in labs to create high quality snapshots of rapid changes in biological molecules and specimens.

“Electron microscopy, which uses electrons to create an image of a specimen or biological molecule has revolutionised science by showing us the structure at micro and even nanometre scales,” Associate Professor Scholten said.

“But it is far too slow to show us critical dynamic processes, for example the folding of a protein molecule which requires time resolution of picoseconds (billionth of a billionth of a second).” “Our discovery opens up the possibility to dramatically enhance the technology.”

Researchers say imaging at this level is like making a ‘molecular movie’, the temperature of the electrons determines how sharp the images can be, while the electron pulse duration has a similar effect to shutter speed. The team has been able to combine these two qualities of speed and temperature, generating ultrafast electron pulses with cold electrons, paving the way for new advances in the field.

Image: Ultra-short durations of electron bunches generated from laser-cooled atoms are very cold and ultra-fast, a finding that could help researchers find a way to make 'molecular movies' a reality. In the image: shaped bunch of ultrafast electrons.
Image: Andrew McCulloch/University of Melbourne

Source: Science Alert, April 2013