small plans: nanotechnology for the building industry

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Better beer thanks to nanotech insulation

Nanotechnology is truly impacting every aspect of our lives these days, now including the beer we drink.

Industrial Nanotech said in an announcement today that the maker of Corona, the fourth most popular beer in the world, is using Nansulate High Heat for thermal insulation and corrosion protection on an interchanger, a common piece of industrial equipment found in the industry.

And get this: The interchanger showed a 20 degrees Centigrade (36 degrees Fahrenheit) difference after a three coat application of Nansulate, at a thickness of approximately 7 mils (seven one thousands of an inch).

So let’s see, we’ve got fiberglass at R-19, rigid foam at R-30, and now Nansulate at about what, R-1,000,000,000? Pretty good stuff.

They make paint for buildings too. (photo

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Nanobeads create environmentally friendly wood preservative

Researchers at Michigan Technological University have discovered a way to embed organic insecticides and fungicides in plastic beads only about 100 nanometers across, according to an AScribe Newswire report.

"Six hundred of them in a row would be about the width of a human hair," says Peter Laks, a professor in the School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science, who pioneered the work along with Pat Heiden, a chemistry professor.

Suspended in water, the beads are small enough to travel through the wood when it is placed under pressure. "Wood has a very fine, sieve-like structure," Laks said. "You need particles small enough to fit through those very small channels."

The beads go right to the heart of the wood and stay there, protecting it from decay.

The technology has been licensed to the New Jersey-based company Phibro-Tech, which supplies chemicals to the wood preservation industry.

The technology may be tiny, but the advantages could be huge. "It allows the industry to use more environmentally friendly biocides," said Jim Baker, Michigan Tech's director of technology partnerships.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Thermal barrier coating wins award

nCoat has announced that one of its nano-structured coatings has won the Utah Innovations Award in the Chemicals/Materials Science category of the fourth annual Stoel Utah Innovations Awards competition.

The winning nCoat nanotechnology-based coating is specially designed to protect materials requiring a high level of heat resistance (thermal barrier). The nCoat coating has been tested and used for use on space vehicles to create thermal barriers upon re-entry. nCoat's nano-coating has been tested to withstand temperatures in excess of 4,200 degrees Fahrenheit for sustained durations.

"The commercial prospects are huge and apply across multiple markets,” said Paul Clayson, nCoat's co-founder, CEO and chairman. “This team has created a world-class product." (photo nCoat)

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Mercury-devouring nanomaterial now commercially available

A material designed to capture and remove mercury and other toxic substances from industrial waste streams is now available for commercial use, according to EurekAlert.

Battelle has licensed the SAMMS technology developed at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to Steward Environmental Solutions of Chattanooga, Tenn. Battelle operates the laboratory for the Department of Energy and transfers lab-developed technologies to the marketplace.

SAMMS, or Self-Assembled Monolayers on Mesoporous Supports, is a technology that can be tailored to selectively remove metal contaminants without creating hazardous waste or by-products. Steward intends to initially market use of the SAMMS for treating stack emissions from coal fired power plants, process industry and municipal facilities.

In tests conducted at PNNL, 99.9 percent of mercury in simulated waste water was successfully removed. That reduction places the mercury levels well below the Environmental Protection Agency's discharge limits. This could equate to significant savings in disposal charges for users with mercury or other toxic metals in their facility waste streams, said Rick Skaggs, PNNL commercialization lead. (photo PNNL)

Friday, May 19, 2006

Site analysis for nanotech labs

Departing from our usual emphasis on materials, let’s look at the design of nanotech labs.

Nanotechnology facilities, according to R&D Magazine, are appearing rapidly at university campuses, government installations, and science parks around the world due to the extensive governmental and institutional competition to exploit the economic development advantages of this relatively new technology.

The first important steps for nanotechnology facilities include site and facility assessments to see if the research, can indeed, be performed on the site.

In terms of nanotech facility planning, a “one site does not fit all” approach may be the best description. The research being carried out in these facilities require controls for excessive vibration, noise, electromagnetic interference (EMI), and radio frequency interference (RFI), all which vary from site to site, as well as strict attention to “interior contaminants” including, temperature, air quality, and life safety issues.

All of these design issues must be identified and quantified as early as possible in order to minimize cost impact on the project.

The full article is available in pdf form. (photo Purdue University)

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Hybrid coatings increase hardness of plastic

Increasing the surface hardness of many materials opens them up for use in a wide variety of new applications. These new hybrid materials could be used in areas like anticorrosion coatings for metals, scratch and abrasion resistant coatings for plastics, antistatic films plus color decorative coatings for glass and plastics.

Researchers at the Universidad Autonoma de Sinaloa, Fuente de Poseidon y Prol and Centro de Investigacion y Estudios Avanzados del Instituto Politécnico Nacional developed composite materials with reinforced properties to produce hybrid coatings combining the complementary properties of inorganic and organic materials.

They found that the hardness of the hybrid coatings was three to ten times higher than that of ordinary acrylic plastics. Their full paper is available at (photo Plastics Institute of America)

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Nanotube sandwich creates super-strong fabric

By stacking layers of ceramic cloth with interlocking nanotubes in between, a team of researchers has created new composites with significantly improved properties compared to traditional materials. The “nanotube sandwiches” could find use in a wide array of structural applications, according to a Rensselaer press release.

To make the new materials, the researchers at Rensselaer and the University of Hawaii at Manoa deposited a forest of carbon nanotubes across the surface of a cloth woven from fibers of silicon carbide — a ceramic compound made from silicon and carbon. The fabric layers were infiltrated with a high-temperature epoxy matrix, and then several layers of cloth were stacked on top of each other to form a three-dimensional composite “sandwich,” with interlocking nanotubes acting to fasten the layers together.

The researchers ran several experiments to test the new material’s properties, and they found that the interlocking nanotubes provided remarkable improvements in strength and toughness under various loading conditions.

Tests also showed that both the thermal and electrical conductivity of the new composites were significantly improved, which means that they could potentially be employed as sensors to monitor crack propagation in various structures. (photo University of Hawaii/Vinod Veedu)

Wireless sensors sniff out toxins

While nanotechnology is transforming the materials buildings are made from, there’s another more subtle revolution underway as well. It’s in the area of remote sensing, which could have a big impact on controlling Sick Building Syndrome, improving building security, and the operation of appliances and HVAC systems.

Thanks to nanotechnology, sensors are becoming so small that we can monitor many conditions in buildings in ways never possible before. Dr. Kensall Wise, Director of the Center for Wireless Integrated MicroSystems at the University of Michigan calls wireless integrated microsystems (WMS) "the final frontier in the pervasiveness of microelectronics.”

He’s working on a micropower environmental monitor for the precision analysis of gaseous materials. This wristwatch-sized device can detect the presence of toxic gasses at the level of just 100 parts per trillion. It can also monitor temperature, humidity, pressure and more. It can recognize the presence of mustard gas in a building’s air supply in just 4 seconds.

Oh, and microsensors can sniff out money too. US border security officials sponsored the development of a sensor at the University of Michigan that detects the gasses given off by the ink on paper bills, making it easier to catch currency smugglers.

Wise presented his findings in “Wireless Integrated Microsystems (WMS): Coming Revolution in the Gathering of Information” at the Nano Science and Technology conference in Boston. (photo University of Michigan)

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Solar startups shine at NSTI conference

Solar startups took center stage at today’s Nano Science and Technology conference in Boston.

Solar represents less than .5% of today’s energy market, but that’s about to change. The solar market is $7 billion, growing 30% annually, and with crude oil prices going through the roof, that percentage is sure to grow.

Nanotechnology figures to be a big player in the new solar market, as two startups pitching to investors today demonstrated.

Damoder Reddy presented a technology pioneered by startup Solexant that captures infrared (IR) radiation typically not captured by traditional silicon-based solar cells. 45% of solar radiation is IR, explained Reddy, and today's solar technologies don't capture it.

The company uses IR photon absorbing nanostructures and brodband thin film solar cells that can be combined with traditional solar cells to create hybrid cells.

The technology could be used to create window films that generate energy and reduce heat gain, said Reddy.

David Waimann presented OrionSolar Photovoltaics’ plan to produce low-cost dye cell photovoltaics.

Dye cells can be much less expensive than silicon cells, potentially reducing the cost per peak watt from $2 to 65 cents.

Waimann and his colleagues think the biggest market for solar will be the do-it-yourself (DIY) market because of the high cost of installation. They propose to cut the cost of DIY installations in half with their 'concertina' folding panels. (photo OrionSolar)

Architectural applications abound at Nano Science and Technology conference

Today’s post comes to you live from the floor of the 2006 Nano Science and Technology conference in Boston, where I’m presenting the work of my NanoStudio.

There’s no shortage of nanomaterials for the construction industry, including the following:

Spire Corporation makes Building Integrated Photovoltaics that enable architects and contractors to integrate photovoltaic technology into the design of a building or structure so that the solar components also serve as structural or design elements.

Evident Technologies offers quantum dots for white LEDs, leading to lighting fixtures of any color and shape.

Raynor Industries is the world’s leading producer of single-walled carbon nanotubes, which they believe will eventually replace steel in buildings because they are 100 times stronger at 1/6 the weight.

Advance Nanotech fosters a wide range of building-related applications including flexible displays.

Accsense makes tiny wireless sensors for monitoring temperature, humidity and a host of other environmental factors.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Miami to host “The Future of Nanocoatings and Ultra-thin Films” conference

The Future of Nanocoatings and Ultra-thin Films conference will be May 17, 2006 in Miami.

According to host Intertech-Pira:

The Future of Nanocoatings and Ultra-Thin Films will give you a chance to move from studying projections and hype to learning how the technology can add real value and tangibly improve your products – with genuine benefits for your bottom line!

This breakthrough technology is undoubtedly ripe with potential but how do you move it from the lab to the market? The Future of Nanocoatings and Ultra-Thin Films brings together experts from across the supply chain to explore and demonstrate routes to commercial success. You’ll hear live case studies from companies that have generated outstanding results. Find out how to achieve the rewards and avoid pitfalls.

This is a vital event for businesses across the coating and nanotechnology supply chain. You need up-to-date information on the latest technological developments and commercial realities in nanocoatings and ultra thin films:

Discover new applications for your products, get updates on what the competition is doing and scientific breakthroughs with investment potential.

Understand end users’ demands, expectations and needs. Assess the current market situation and the direction your company should take for the future.

Get the first hand information about the most exciting technological innovations. Assess their potential for improving your existing products, streamlining production, reducing costs, and staying in the frontline of your industry. (photo City of Miami Beach)

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Bio-based composite gives new meaning to green roof

Researchers at the University of Delaware’s Department of Chemical Engineering and Center for Composite Materials have created a bio-based composite roof structure using soy.

Soy oil-based resin and cellulose fibers, in the form of paper sheets made from recycled cardboard boxes, were successfully used to manufacture the composite structures.

The roof was designed and a 1/3 scale structure was manufactured. Following this 1/3 scale design, two composite panels were manufactured to serve as the two sides of a pitched roof connected at the ridge.

The recycled paper was tested in composite sheets and structural unit beams and gave the required stiffness and strength required for roof construction.

The authors, M.A. Dweib, B. Hu, H.W. Shenton III and R.P. Wool, have made their abstract and article available in the journal, Composite Structures.

Cabot enters pipe insulation arena with four new Nanogel products

Cabot Corporation has entered the oil and gas insulation market with the launch of four new Nanogel aerogel products, says a company press release.

The four new products use Nanogel aerogel, Cabot's branded aerogel in different forms and are marketed under the names Expansion Pack, Compression Pack, Particle Pack, and Thermal Wrap.

With an operating temperature range from -200 degrees C to 250 degrees C (-330 degrees F -480 degrees F), Nanogel systems can be used where many competing insulations cannot.

The Particle Pack system leverages Cabot's proprietary particle filling techniques to fill annular spaces of any size or dimension. Cabot has been using this technology to fill spaces as narrow as a few millimeters with Nanogel aerogel in the building and construction market. In particulate form Nanogel flows like water and with proper vibration techniques can be densely packed for long life, high performance use without settling or shifting without any residual air gaps.

Sometimes called "frozen smoke," aerogels are the lightest and best insulating solids in the world. Nanogel, Cabot's branded aerogel is a hydrophobic aerogel produced as particles each of which consists largely of air (approx. 95%) trapped in nano-sized pores that severely inhibit heat transfer through the material.

Nanogel is already available for a variety of building applications.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Nanowire electrodes: the link between brain and building?

Researchers at New York University and MIT have developed a nanowire electrode that can send and receive signals to the brain, according to Technology Review.

"This is a completely out-of-the box way to think about enabling deep-brain stimulation," says Joseph Pancrazio, program director for neural engineering projects at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

Patrick Anquetil, a mechanical engineering postdoctoral fellow at MIT, says they have made polymers that act as pressure sensors, and they see the possibility of using semiconducting polymers as the basis for simple electric switches.

"One thing that really excites us about this is, in principle, there's no reason why, with the same material, you cannot build a whole system in which you have contraction, measurement, sensing, and computation," says Anquetil.

Eventually, nanowire electrodes for sensing and computation could form the interface between brains and buildings. As buildings become smarter, they will become increasingly interactive with their users. Building components will increasingly be able to communicate with their users, raising the question of how much interaction we want.

Will we want to exchange information electronically with our buildings? Computers give us some distance between ourselves and our information, but as nanotechnologies like these advance, we’ll have the power to integrated that information more directly to our brains. Is that a good thing? (photo Zina Deretsky, National Science Foundation/Technology Review)

Monday, May 01, 2006

Gold nanoparticles are powerful heaters

Nanoparticles of gold can act as tiny, precise and powerful heaters, according to a new study.

When stimulated with the right frequency of laser light, a small collection of metal nanoparticles, such as gold, can heat an area up to 1,000 times its size, according to Ohio University scientists Hugh Richardson and Sasha Govorov.

Other scientists are using that superheating capacity in novel applications that could result in huge reductions in heating bills, according to the Smart Economy Blog.

By suspending nanoparticles made of gold or other materials such as carbon, copper or copper oxide in water or other liquids, engineers have created 'nanofluids' which can transfer heat up to 400% faster than other liquids (up from 150% in 2003).

In a central heating system, nanofluids could increase efficiency without the need to use a more powerful pump, saving energy and providing major environmental benefits. (photo Hugh Richardson)