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Australian Nanotechnology Alliance
Nanovate: Nanotechnology Industry News and Views
Issue #3 - July 2007

In This Issue


News: Contributed Articles
  • Taking on the critics - Alexis Vlandas, International Network of Engineers and Scientists for Global Responsibility and the University of Oxford, UK.
Member News
  • ARC Centre for Function Nanomaterials appointed Centre of Excellence
  • Invest Australia – European Commissioner meets ANA members
  • ARCCFM appoints Dr Fouad Haghseresht as Manager, Astute Nanotechnology

Events
Australian Nanotechnology Alliance
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Phone: (07) 3216 4717
Fax: (07) 3216 4017
Email: info@nantechnology.org.au
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Call for articles
News, views and articles are welcome. Please submit material for inclusion in NanoVate to editor@nanotechnology.org.au

Disclaimer


News:

Message from the NanoVate Editor

Welcome to Issue 3 of NanoVate. the official newsletter of the Australian Nanotechnology Alliance (ANA). Nanotechnology has certainly been in the news recently and the regulation issues surround nanotechnology are getting more attention. This month we have a special guest article from Alexis Vlandas from the International Network of Engineers and Scientists for Global Responsibility and the University of Oxford in the UK. In his article, "Taking on the critics", Alexis talks about ways that scientists can interact with the public and promote frank a nd honest debates in the public arena with "controversial groups" as he calls them.

At NanoVate, we welcome contributions and feedback to the newsletter. Interested parties can write articles, comment on news items, even tell us what you think about this newsletter. If you wish to contact me directly, feel free to use this email address: editor@nanotechnology.org.au.

I would also like to encourage everyone to peruse the ANA web site since it is regularly updated. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy reading this edition of NanoVate.

Gary Day




Message from President Steven Healy

Steve Healy The ANA in conjunction with BDO Kendalls recently undertook, as part of the Innovation Festival, a Brisbane based bus tour allowing the 25 attendees to view research through to manufacturing processes utilising technologies including nanotechnology.

The purpose of the bus tour was to allow people from within the nanotechnology eco-system to see how other players ultilise their research and development processes to achieve world best practice outcomes. Visit one was to G James Glass where Gavin Harrop has led the company's research and development division since 1985 and continues to specialise in value-adding to the next generation of glass for construction and consumer applications. Nano-enabled glasses, such as non-reflecting glass panels for skyscrapers, have been manufactured at the Eagle Farm site in Brisbane for many years and are exported globally. The next generation of glass products will feature a number of properties made possible by nanoparticle and vapour deposition methods currently being developed in-house at G James Glass.

The innovations that Harrop and his team are making continue to create an architectural landscape that is underpinned with glass paneled high-rise buildings with the smarts to delivery energy efficiencies and added strength for the safety of the occupants and contractors.

Meanwhile, visit two to the Queensland Centre for Advanced Technologies (QCAT) allowed for presentations and visits to three programs CSIRO are undertaking. Dr. Nigel Ricketts is working with the CSIRO Manufacturing and Materials Technology Alloy Development group. His research involves manipulating the microstructure of magnesium and aluminium engine block alloys at a nano-scale. The results to date have been impressive with car companies, including BMW, VW and Audio, incorporating this Australian technology into their design. But it isn't solely engine blocks that Dr. Ricketts is working on. Australian cyclists at the 2008 Beijing Olympics may just be the recipients of Dr. Ricketts research with new bicycle frames that will be lighter and offer less vibration than current models.

Dr. Leigh Morpeth of CSIRO Energy Technology is investigating next generation power systems that address our future energy demand and climate change issues. Dr. Morpeth's research focuses on a key component of this system, separating hydrogen fuel from carbon dioxide using amorphous metal membranes. The final presentation by Dr Phil Valencia of the CSIRO ICT team concentrated on sensors and the work being done developing fenceless paddocks for Australian farmers.

ANA's unique networking and knowledge sharing activities continue with Dr. Ziggy Switkowski chairman of ANSTO as guest speaker at the ANA's Brisbane breakfast event on July 12.

As always, I look forward to keeping you informed on our developments and welcome your thoughts, either via our web's blog session or by email at info@nanotechnology.org.au.

Steven Healy - ANA President




Nanotech in the News

Australian nano regulation
The Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) recently announced that they have been assessing and regulating nanomaterials for some decades, although not always under that description.

"There is a considerable blur between materials that might legitimately be described as macromolecules and those that in more recent times would be described as nanomaterials or the product of nanotechnology. Drug carrying liposomes with nanometre diameters, pegylated proteins with molecular diameters in that range and nanoparticle suspensions to improve bioavailability are some of the more common nanomaterials encountered over the past decade. One of the first nanomaterials encountered by the TGA was Technegas™, a lung contrast imaging agent consisting of hexagonal flat crystals of technetium metal cocooned in multiple layers of graphite sheets. A technology developed right here in Canberra in the mid-1980s, as it happens."

The TGA release also went on to say,

"One of the key concerns raised by many commentators in the public arena is that of the potentially unique hazards associated with nanomaterials and the capacity of existing regulatory paradigms to adequately identify and manage such risks. While it is true that nanomaterials may, and often do, have different physical and chemical characteristics compared to the same material at larger particle sizes, these differences may either increase or decrease the toxicity of that material. Equally there is currently no evidence for any unique toxicological hazards associated with nanomaterials. Certainly, some nanomaterials potentially present significant hazards which will need to be carefully managed, but the specific toxicological endpoints involved have previously been observed with other, soluble or larger particle size, materials."

Nanotechnology database for societal and ethical implications
The Center for the Study of Ethics in the Professions (CSEP) at the Illinois Institute of Technology has recently launched NanoEthicsBank, a database for researchers, scholars, students, and the general public who are interested in the social and ethical implications of nanotechnology. Items in the database include normative documents, such as guidelines for safety in the workplace, and descriptive materials, such as analysis of the U.S. government's capacity for oversight and studies of the media coverage of nanotechnology. New material is added to the NanoEthicsBank as it becomes published or available online.

More on nano-based products
In the last edition of NanoVate there were two articles concerning nanotechnology being used in consumer products. This month the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies at the US-based Woodrow Wilson Centre in Washington reported that about 475 nano products were on the market by the end of 2006. Top categories: Clothing (77 products), cosmetics (75) and food and beverages (61).

Big Statements
"Because we have the ability to change materials - even at the nanoscale - to construct materials, build them up atom by atom essentially, that gives material scientists a great deal of power in terms of designing a macroscopic material that we can use, based on the nanoscale."
- Devon Hamilton, Ontario Science Centre




Australian Nanotechnology Funding
The Australian Government has recently announced the establishment of the $21.5 million National Nanotechnology Strategy. The announcement on 1 May 2007 by Prime Minister John Howard and Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane. The National Strategy will draw together industry, researchers, the community and government to:

Further information can be obtained from the fact sheet.




Latest edition of the 'Nanotechnology - Australian Capability Report' released
Invest Australia has released its 3rd edition of the Nanotechnology - Australian Capability Report. The report provides a capability overview of nanotechnology companies, commercial opportunities and fundamental research covering more than 75 nanotechnology research organisations and around 80 nanotechnology companies. The report is summarised within sectors: Materials, Nano-biotechnology and Medical Devices, Energy and Environment, Electronics and Photonics, Quantum Technology, Instrumentation and Software, Facilities, Networks and Associations. There is also a useful Australian Nanotechnology Matrix at the end of the document which lists all the companies and research orgainsations and the sectors they are involved in.




New CSIRO Research Flagship for Manufacturing
The Minister for Education, Science and Training the Hon Julie Bishop MP, announced on 1 May that $36.2 million over four years will be given the CSIRO to further develop research into critical challenges facing Australia's manufacturing sector.

The additional funding, to be provided to the CSIRO as part of the 2007-08 Budget, will look at ways to assist the development of the sector in an increasingly globalised economy.

This funding brings the Australian Government investment in CSIRO's National Flagships Programme to almost $400 million to date.




ARC Scheme Calendar Available
It was recently announced that a schedule of key dates for researchers planning to apply for Australian Research Council (ARC) funding for projects commencing in 2008 has been released. Full details can be found here.




2007 Federation Fellowships Announced
The Federations Fellowships for 2007 were recently announced with a number of researchers working in various "nano" related fields. Congratulations to all who received them.

Since the scheme began in 2002, 144 Federation Fellowships have been offered, and in this funding round, eight existing Federation Fellows have been offered a second fellowship.

A list of the new Federation Fellows can be found here.




Articles

Taking on the Critics

Alexis Vlandas

International Network of Engineers and Scientists for Global Responsibility and the
University of Oxford, UK

alexis.vlandas@materials.ox.ac.uk

Scientists are increasingly asked to interact with 'the public' in addition to their research-related tasks, such as competing for funding, developing partnerships with industry, managing a research group, and teaching. However, in today's scientific world, the 'quality' of a researcher is increasingly measured in terms of easily quantifiable parameters, the foremost of which is the number of research articles. Although there are often fine words from funding institutions, government bodies, and the European Union regarding engagement with the public, this is not translated into genuine recognition for such work, especially for PhD students and postdocs. Any science communication work is thus at best an extracurricula activity to be indulged in by less serious colleagues, at worst a dangerous distraction that does nothing to further a scientist's career and distracts from the task at hand.

So it must be even more damaging to career prospects to engage with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) dealing with political questions related to science and, in particular, those sometimes perceived as extremist groups. How can rational scientists interact with radical groups? Are such scientists stepping away from home ground, the objective, unbiased terrain of pure science, and tainting themselves by association with such groups? Should researchers therefore steer clear of such 'activists'? Is there a 'bad' public to engage with as well as a 'good' one? For me, this is not an idle question. As an executive committee member of a scientific NGO, the International Network of Engineers and Scientists for Global Responsibility (INES), I accepted an invitation to judge a controversial competition on nanotoxicity launched by the ETC Group, an organization that campaigns on nanotechnology issues and is often perceived as radical. This decision was deemed to be a surprising one in an editorial in Materials Today [Wood, J., Materials Today (2006) 9 (12), 1]. I believe, however, that provided some conditions are fulfilled, scientists should not refuse to engage with these organizations or shy away from controversial debates.

Consequences of engagement
The first positive consequence of involvement in discussions with controversial groups is to bring accurate scientific facts to the table. This is not to say that these represent an absolute truth in themselves, but they are different in nature from personally held opinions. Grasping complex phenomena taking place at the nanoscale is a challenge in itself, and conveying these to an audience is not easy, far from it. However, by removing confusion, we set the ground for interesting questions such as the concept of nature's transgression by science - in my experience, a recurrent theme in these discussions. A candid exchange also reveals how research works - its strengths and weaknesses. Many criticisms voiced against nanotechnology will not be nanospecific, but rather consist of political statements, for example, about the way our economic system works, valuing profit above safety and accepting of growing economic inequalities. Should scientists share their views on, for instance, the allocation of millions of pounds to quantum cryptography research - a worthwhile subject but one whose first application will be secure communications - and not water purification? Confronting the public forces us to think about these issues, and we might also begin to realize that we have some responsibility within the structure and should wield it effectively.

Last but not least, looking the other way will not make these groups disappear. On the contrary, isolation and marginalization will probably lead to radicalization - a story, alas, already all too familiar in other arenas (destruction of GM crops, bombing campaigns by antivivisectionists, etc.).

Conditions for engagement When asked to engage with the public, scientists face a drastic change from private citizen to public figure. While being entitled to personal opinions, professional obligations have to be met. I do not believe that a scientist should turn down lectures and debates because of their personal opinions. This is not to say that we should engage with anyone under any conditions. Some prerequisites must be agreed beforehand for a healthy debate to take place. Here are my own: (i) no use of my name without my prior approval of documents or webpages - one of a scientist's main assets is their credibility and this should not be damaged by unintentional endorsement; and (ii) full representation of my arguments - this ensures that comments reach the public in context. The need for frank and honest debate should drive scientists to engage with a wide range of different audiences, sharing their passion for science, discussing the responsibility of scientists toward society, and also the limits of the current system. There should be no a priori limits to who should be considered a valid interlocutor in this exchange, although the way in which it takes place should allow genuine dialogue. Science and technology will continue to transform the world at an increasing pace. As citizens, scientists or not, we must all think about what we want to achieve with the amazing capabilities provided by modern science.

Reprinted from NANOTODAY, Vol 2, No 2, 2007, Page 6, Vlandas, 'Taking on the critics', Copyright 2007, with permission from Elsevier.




Member News

Nanotech Testing - AIBN makes the news pages
This from the Courier Mail recently, "The University of Queensland researchers are using nanotechnology to revolutionise medical diagnostic testing of diseases such as cervical cancer. Dr Simon Corrie, from UQ's Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN) is looking at bio-markers - substances in the body whose levels can indicate the presence of disease - for each detection of cervical cancer without invasive testing. "what we are doing is looking at deeper molecular changes to detect diseases at a much easier stage, with results known straight away", Dr Corrie said. "We intend on developing the test that uses blood, urine and saliva so it is much less invasive. We are concentrating on cervical cancer at the moment - but this technology can be applied to any disease where the bio-markers are known." The work is being done in collaboration with the University of Washington."




Disclaimer

This newsletter is for general information purposes only . The views expressed in this newsletter are not necessarily those of the ANA, and all reasonable measures have been taken to ensure that the material contained in this newsletter is correct. However, the ANA gives no warranty and accepts no responsibility for the accuracy or the completeness of the material. Readers are advised not to rely solely on this information when making any decision and should seek independent advice before making any decision. The ANA reserves the right at any time to make changes as it deems necessary.