Archive for Barack Obama
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University of Delaware materials science professors Darrin Pochan and Kristi Kiick are taking a new approach to building new nanomaterials from biomolecules—namely peptides and proteins—that could increase the efficiency of photovoltaics, and other electronic devices. “Peptides and polypeptides offer unlimited potential in designing new materials that can uniquely address limitations in current electronic devices,” Kiick notes. This is because proteins can be engineered to display chemically reactive groups at desired positions. By constructing a nanomaterial with proteins, researchers can subsequently add inorganic nanoparticles that will “stick” to the nanomaterial surface in targeted locations. If successful, Pochan says the project could offer manufacturers a “dirt simple” processing and materials technique for creating a structured, protein-based backing that could be applied to photovoltaic devices to improve their efficiency. It may also create new opportunities to work with colleagues in energy disciplines - particularly those at UD - to test and refine the materials process. “Normal semiconductor manufacturing processes are extremely difficult and expensive at this small of a length scale, making this research area very important,” Pochan says.
Scientists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) and the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) in Germany have created a new synthetic hybrid material with a mineral content of almost 90%, yet extremely flexible. They imitated the structural elements found in most sea sponges and recreated the sponge spicules using the natural mineral calcium carbonate and a protein of the sponge. Natural minerals are usually very hard and prickly, as fragile as porcelain. Amazingly, the synthetic spicules are superior to their natural counterparts in terms of flexibility, exhibiting a rubber-like flexibility. The synthetic spicules can, for example, easily be U-shaped without breaking or showing any signs of fracture. This highly unusual characteristic is mainly due to the part of organic substances in the new hybrid material. It is about ten times as much as in natural spicules. The synthetic spicules were made from calcite and silicatein-α. The synthetic material was self-assembled from an amorphous calcium carbonate intermediate and silicatein and subsequently aged to the final crystalline material. After six months, the synthetic spicules consisted of calcite nanocrystals aligned in a brick wall fashion with the protein embedded like cement in the boundaries between the calcite nanocrystals. The spicules were of 10 to 300 micrometers in length with a diameter of 5 to 10 micrometers.
(Oil & Gas Journal) Technological breakthroughs in the last few years have significantly improved the US energy situation, but more needs to be done, US President Barack Obama said on Mar. 15. He specifically called for creation of an Energy Security Trust to develop and deploy transportation alternatives that would be funded by federal crude oil leasing revenue. He acknowledged, as he did in his Feb. 12 State of the Union address, that the idea came from Securing America’s Future Energy (SAFE), which is committed to protecting US national and economic security by combating domestic dependence on oil for transportation fuels.
(Technology Review) Taking advantage of recent advances in flexible electronics, researchers have devised a way to “print” devices directly onto the skin so people can wear them for an extended period while performing normal daily activities. Such systems could be used to track health and monitor healing near the skin’s surface, as in the case of surgical wounds. So-called “epidermal electronics” were demonstrated previously in research from the lab of John Rogers, a materials scientist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; the devices consist of ultrathin electrodes, electronics, sensors, and wireless power and communication systems. In theory, they could attach to the skin and record and transmit electrophysiological measurements for medical purposes. These early versions of the technology, which were designed to be applied to a thin, soft elastomer backing, were “fine for an office environment,” says Rogers, “but if you wanted to go swimming or take a shower they weren’t able to hold up.” Now, Rogers and his coworkers have figured out how to print the electronics right on the skin, making the device more durable and rugged.
When a crystal is hit by an intense ultrashort light pulse, its atomic structure is set in motion. A team of scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, the Technischen Universität München (TUM), the Fritz-Haber Institute in Berlin (FHI) and the Universität Kassel can now observe how the configuration of electrons and atoms in titanium dioxide, a semiconductor, changes under the impact of an ultraviolet laser pulse, confirming that even subtle changes in the electron distribution caused by the excitation can have a considerable impact on the whole crystal structure. Knowledge regarding the interaction between light and solid matter on an atomic scale is still comparable to a map with many blank spots. A new, up to date unknown aspect of the interplay between light and matter has now been examined by a team of scientists using intensive ultraviolet laser pulses with only a few femtoseconds duration. The physicists illuminated a titanium dioxide crystal (consisting of titanium and oxygen atoms) with an intense ultraviolet laser pulse of less than five femtoseconds duration. The laser pulse excites the valence electrons in the crystal and generates a small number of hot electrons with a temperature of several thousand Kelvin. The continuous interplay between the positions of the atomic cores and the valence electrons determines the material characteristics such as electric conductivity, optical properties or the crystal lattice structure.
A twist on thin-film technology may provide a way to optically detect and analyze multiple substances simultaneously, leading to quicker diagnostics in such industries as health care and homeland security, according to Penn State researchers. One current optical-sensing technology can launch and guide a single light wave, called a surface-plasmon-polariton wave—SPP wave—that travels along the flat interface of the sample to be analyzed and a metal film. The SPP wave is launched by sending a light beam through a prism to the other face of the metal film. A photon detector eventually collects the beam that was reflected back into the prism. Any change in the optical properties of the sample critically alters the reflected beam. However, because the technology allows for only one SPP wave of a certain frequency to be guided through the device, the properties of only one substance can be analyzed for each sensor. The researchers designed a thin film that can create additional channels for the SPP waves. This thin film, which is attached to the metal surface, is porous and can be infiltrated by fluids that can later be analyzed. To make more channels for the SPP waves, they slowly rotated the substrate during the fabrication of the thin film, sculpturing it to create nanoscale springs, so that the regions between the springs can be infiltrated.
The New York Times and other major newspapers are reporting that the United States economy grew in the second quarter of 2012, but at a paltry (annualized) rate of 1.5 percent (first quarter growth was two percent). The concern, of course, is that the economic recovery from the recession is losing some of its momentum. However, the NYT article also cites updated statistics from the Commerce Department indicating that the recession was not as deep as previously thought.
But, being in the shallow end of a recession can be as unpleasant as the deep end; hopefully it just means less energy is needed to pull out. New initiatives recommended by a report out of the White House to support advanced manufacturing may provide some of the needed boost.
The report “Capturing Domestic Competitive Advantage in Advanced Manufacturing,” is the product of the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership Steering Committee of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. The AMP was announced last summer by President Obama when he visited Carnegie Mellon University, and is a “national effort bringing together industry, universities, and the federal government to invest in the emerging technologies that will create high quality manufacturing jobs and enhance our global competitiveness,” says a press release from the CMU event.
According to a fact sheet released by the White House, the US manufacturing sector has grown by 500,000 jobs since 2010, bringing the number of jobs connected to manufacturing to about 12 million. The manufacturing sector is responsible for much more than blue-collar jobs, though. The document also says that 70 percent of all private sector R&D is in the manufacturing sector and that about 60 percent of the R&D workforce is employed by the private manufacturing sector.
The fact sheet says, “… our nation’s ability to make things is inextricably linked to our ability to innovate,” and few would argue. At the recent ICC4-CLS meeting in Chicago, plenary speaker Delbert Day, professor at Missouri S&T and entrepreneur, showed several maps that correlated investment to discovery in his home state of Missouri. The “hot spots” of cities where patents were issued in Missouri from 1975-1999 were cities that have research universities, and similarly, the number of SBIRs awarded was much higher in those same cities. The link is pretty clear: investment begets innovation, which begets spin-off companies and jobs. Day’s spin-off company, Mo-Sci, is a good example. In his talk, Day chronicled the role of sponsored research and SBIR funding that led to a company that today manufactures bioglass and employs about 40.
Innovation is not necessarily a “blank-slate-to-product” process, either, as work by University of Buffalo professor, Sarbajit Banerjee testifies. As we reported earlier, the goal of his work was to adapt existing coating manufacturing processes to the application of novel graphene corrosion-prevention coatings to standard. His research was supported by industrial powerhouse, Tata Steel, and a university research consortium.
The AMP Steering Committee—led by Andrew Liveris, president/chair/CEO of Dow Chemical and Susan Hockfield, recent past president of MIT—recognized that there are many pathways to innovation. The executive summary of the report opens with, “Advanced manufacturing is not limited to emerging technologies; rather, it is composed of efficient, productive, highly integrated, tightly controlled processes across a spectrum of globally competitive US manufacturers and suppliers.” It goes on to say that the growth and health of advanced manufacturing will “require the active participation of communities, educators, workers, and business,” as well as all levels of government.
The 18 member committee is comprised of the top brass from manufacturing business and research universities, skewing a bit toward industry with 16 members from companies like Honeywell, Intel, Procter & Gamble, etc. The committee spent about a year holding regional meetings across the US and consulted over 1,200 stakeholders from industry and all levels of education and government, according to a press release.
The report makes 16 recommendations organized into three categories that it hopes will provide the framework for a national advanced manufacturing strategy. The AMP Steering Committee also endorsed Obama’s $1 billion proposal to establish a National Network for Manufacturing Innovation back in March. The NNMI’s purpose is to “catalyze up to 15 manufacturing institutes nationwide.”
The recommendations, taken from the report, are:
Securing the Talent Pipeline
Improving the Business Climate
Our nation’s capitol was an interesting place to be last week, but not because of the impossible-to-escape budget politics that dominated the newscasts. Last week I was in DC attending the NSF-ACerS workshop for principal investigators, and at every level of the NSF the message is “innovation.”
On Thursday, NSF director Subra Suresh announced a major new program-the NSF Innovation Corps, or I-Corps. Using the tagline “Science to Start-ups,” the purpose of the program (supported with new FY11 funds) is to leverage science and engineering discoveries into economically useful products and processes. In a press release Suresh says, “The United States has a long history of investing in-and deploying-technological advances derived from a foundation of basic research.”
In the press conference (video), John Holdren, assistant to the President for science and technology and director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, outlined the three goals of the program: “to spur translational research, to encourage university-industry collaboration and to provide students with innovation and entrepreneurship training.”
Also in his press conference comments, Suresh predicted that the I-Corps will establish an “innovation ecosystem” that will “transition scientific output funded by NSF into technological innovation.”
The I-Corps also involves a public–private collaboration with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and the Deshpande Foundation. Each I-Corps team will have a principal investigator, a mentor with exptertise at transitioning lab research into business, a post-doc or graduate student. The mentors are to be recruited from the ranks “technology developers, business leaders, venture capitalists and others from private industry.
Up to 100 projects per year will be funded at $50,000 per project for a six-month effort and a maximum of $5k can be allocated to indirect costs. Interested PIs are required to receive written approval to submit a proposal from an NSF program director. The submission window for FY11 proposals is Aug. 17-Sept. 9, 2011.
Because the program is new and has some unusual requirements and limitations, the NSF is conducting informational webinars on the first Tuesday of every month at 2:00 pm (Eastern time) beginning tomorrow, Aug. 2, 2011.
To be eligible for I-Corps funding, PIs must have current NSF funding or have had NSF funding within the last five years. New funding has been established for I-Corps, and the first awards will be made before FY11 closes on Sept. 30. NSF expects to award $1-2 million in FY11 and to grow I-Corps into a $10 million program. Awards will be made quarterly in FY12 and beyond.
President Obama announced the launch of a Materials Genome Initiative during his speech at Carnegie Mellon University last week when he also announced the launch of the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership. (Read our report on the AMP announcement). The goal of the MGI, he said, is to “to help business develop, discover and deploy new materials twice as fast…”
Stating the obvious — This is great news for the materials science and engineering community.
The president did not say much more about the MGI than the above quote, but the White House released a white paper the same day, “Materials Genome Initiative for Global Competitiveness (pdf),” written by an ad hoc committee of the National Science and Technology Council (a Cabinet-level cross-agency entity). In the press release announcing the MGI white paper, the White House says “current “time-to-market” from discovery to deployment for new classes of materials is far too slow, given the range of urgent problems that advanced materials can help us solve.”
The white paper presents a vision for “how the development of advanced materials can be accelerated through advances in computational techniques, more effective use of standards, and enhanced data management.” Envisioned is a comprehensive collaboration among stakeholders, from theorists to R&D labs to manufacturers that will encompass academia, small and large businesses, professional societies and government.
In broad strokes, the paper addresses key issues like materials deployment and acceleration of the materials continuum by developing a materials innovation infrastructure, achieving national goals with advanced materials and preparing the next-generation workforce. A six-point action plan outlines activities that will be coordinated by DOD, DOE, NSF and NIST. The president has written $100M into his FY12 budget to launch the MGI (but it is not clear whether this is included in the $500 million AMP funding request for FY12).
Computational tools are expected to be used extensively to get around the time-consuming and repetitive experimentation that is inevitable but necessary to the development and testing of new materials. The authors of the white paper observe that researchers need to have access to large data sets for accurate simulation and modeling, and that there is no standardized mechanism for sharing algorithms, models or data at present.
Getting good data to feed into models is easy to say, hard to do.
In the March 2011 issue of the Bulletin, the article “A perspective on materials databases,” addresses the issue of data, noting the importance of easy access to reliable materials property data, but large volumes of data are hidden in widely dispersed or unavailable databases. The provenance of available data is often unknown, so the quality of conclusions drawn from such data is also unknown. Old data with well-known provenance still can prove to be insufficiently well-known. The example of 96 percent alumina is given. The composition of the remaining 4 percent can matter enormously, but is not always known. Often processing and preparation information that can affect properties is missing.
The NSF is working to resolve this dilemma by requiring its investigators to include a plan for data sharing in their proposals. The article’s authors admit that the cost of developing and maintaining a comprehensive data system is a formidable obstacle, one which the MGI should help mitigate.
There are plenty of examples of computational tools being used already for materials engineering. In the May 2010 issue of the Bulletin, the article “Atomic-scale computational modeling of cement and concrete,” describes the application of ab-initio and molecular dynamics methods to the engineering of the concrete and cement, materials that nearly everyone worldwide knows. Nanoscale engineering of skyscrapers!
The Chicago-based company, QuesTek - with the tagline “Materials by Design” - is an alloy development company that uses computational methods to expedite alloy development including the commercially available Ferrium line of alloys, one which is under consideration for a use as a helicopter gear by Bell Helicopter. QuesTek’s computational know-how is based on the industry-funded research of its founder, Greg Olson, professor at Northwestern University.
Not surprisingly, QuesTek has come out in strong support of the MGI.
Last week President Obama unveiled a new initiative to invest in emerging technologies and create new manufacturing jobs and increase the nation’s global competitiveness. During a visit to Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pa., Obama introduced the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership, which, according to the White House press release, will invest more than $500 million to leverage existing programs and proposals to meet these goals.
The press release said that AMP’s initial investments will target manufacturing for critical national security industries, advanced materials development, robotics, improving energy efficiency of manufacturing processes and accelerating the product development timeline for manufactured goods.
“Today, I’m calling for all of us to come together- private sector industry, universities, and the government- to spark a renaissance in American manufacturing and help our manufacturers develop the cutting-edge tools they need to compete with anyone in the world,” said Obama in the press release. “With these key investments, we can ensure that the United States remains a nation that ‘invents it here and manufactures it here’ and creates high-quality, good paying jobs for American workers.”
AMP is a response to the first of four recommendations made by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology in their just-released report, “Ensuring Leadership in Advanced Manufacturing (pdf).” The report cites an erosion of domestic leadership in manufacturing and the heavy investment of other nations to fill that void, the advantages of having R&D and manufacturing located in the United States, the essential role of an advanced manufacturing competence in national security and that, historically, federal investment in new technologies has cleared the way for fledglings to become major new industries.
The PCAST report concludes that individual companies cannot go it alone: “Private investment must be complemented by public investment to overcome market failures. Key opportunities include investing in the advancement of new technologies with transformative potential, supporting shared infrastructure, and accelerating the manufacturing process through targeted support for new methods and approaches.”
To create an environment conducive to innovation and to overcome market failures, the PCAST report recommended a four-point plan:
AMP is the administration’s response to the first of these, and as recommended by PCAST, is a government, industry and academic partnership. It will be led by Andrew Liveris, CEO of Dow Chemical and Susan Hockfield, president of MIT, and will work closely with the White House’s National Economic Council, Office of Science and Technology Policy, as well as with PCAST.
The first team has been picked already. From industry it will be Allegheny Technologies, Caterpillar, Corning, Dow Chemical, Ford, Honeywell, Intel, Johnson & Johnson, Northrop Grumman, Proctor & Gamble and Stryker. Participating universities are MIT, Carnegie Mellon, Georgia Tech, Stanford, UC-Berkeley and University of Michigan. Government players are DARPA, DOE, DOD, and the Commerce Department.
The White House press release gives examples of how several partnerships that are in place will modify their programs to support AMP goals. Several of the named agencies have a long history as important, strategic investors in materials science and engineering such as NSF, NASA and NIST. For example, NIST, a Commerce Department agency, issued a press release outlining its programs that will support the AMP initiative including robotics, nanomanufacturing, advanced materials design through the Materials Genome Initiative and an advanced manufacturing technology consortium scheduled for launch in FY2010.
The PCAST report recommended that AMP funding should rise from $500 million to $1 billion over the course of four years. While touring Carnegie Mellon and seeing demonstrations of several cutting-edge technologies developed at the university, Obama said that it was important for ideas to have a place to incubate and become products that can be made in the US and sold worldwide. “And that’s in our blood. That’s who we are. We are inventors, and we are makers, and we are doers.”