Scientists at IBM invent thermometer for nanoscale

newSource  :

The IBM lab responsible for inventing the scanning tunneling microscope and the atomic force microscope has invented another critical tool for helping us understand the nanoworld.


Accurately measuring the of objects at the nanoscale has been challenging scientists for decades. Current techniques are not accurate and they typically generate artifacts, limiting their reliability.

Motivated by this challenge and their need to precisely characterize the temperature of new transistor designs to meet the demand of future cognitive computers, scientists in Switzerland from IBM and ETH Zurich have invented a breakthrough technique to measure the temperature of nano- and macro-sized objects. The patent-pending invention is being disclosed for the first time today in the peer-review journal Nature Communications, “Temperature mapping of operating nanoscale devices by scanning probe thermometry.”

A History of Invention

In the 1980s, IBM scientists Gerd Binnig and the late Heinrich Rohrer wanted to directly explore a surface’s electronic structure and imperfections. The instrument they needed to take such measurements didn’t exist, yet. So they did what any good scientist would do: they invented one. It became known as the scanning tunneling microscope (STM), opening the door to nanotechnology. Just a few years later, the invention was recognized with the highest of honors, the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1986.

Read more at:


8th Bangalore India Nano Conference, March 2016 – Registrations Open





NanoFar, Erasmus Mundus Joint Doctorate in nanomedicine and pharmaceutical innovation


The call for application for the 2016-2019 edition of NanoFar is open !

Call for application 2016 – Important Dates

–      Beginning of November 2015: Opening of the applications
–      February 5, 2016: Closure of the applications
–      February 26, 2016: Main and reserve lists of candidates submitted to EACEA for approval
–      Week of the 7 of March, 2016: Candidates will be informed of their status (selected candidate, reserve list candidate, non-selected candidate).

1. Admission criteria

To apply to our programme, you must comply with the following conditions:
–       Candidates must hold a Master Degree (300 ECTS credits) or a Single-Cycle Degree (minimum 300 ECTS credits) in Nanomedecine, Pharmaceutical Sciences, Medical Sciences, Physico-Chemistry, Applied Biology, Chemical Engineering or Bio-Engineering, or a equivalent degree in a pertinent field, awarded by a College, University or Technical School with recognized standing.
–       Candidates are required to provide all appropriate information supporting their ability to apply and complete a doctoral programme: academic record, professional experience and qualification, motivation letter and letters of recommendation.
–       Candidates are required to demonstrate their proficiency in English by submitting the results of a recognized language proficiency test (IELTS with minimum score of 6 with no less than 5.5 in any element (i.e. reading, writing, listening and speaking), passed no longer than 2 years prior to the entry onto the programme, or equivalent .

2. Application procedure


2-1 Thesis subjects

Candidates have to apply to thesis subjects proposed by our consortium of universities.

These subjects are available on the page PhD projects offers.


      2-2 Application form

Candidates interested in applying have to complete the online NanoFar Application Form (see action 2 on the Application form page).
At the end of the application form, candidates have to upload all required documents listed below:
–       Detailed Curriculum Vitae in English, specifying scientific and professional experiences, academic degrees, publications and special skills. Europass CV template is preferred. Maximum 3 pages.
–       Copy of passport (preferably) or identification card.
–       Certified copy of academic degree(s) in original languages and translated in English, stating the transcript of records, final classification obtained or the intermediate results for on-going courses.
–      Certified copies of official transcripts (mark sheets) of academic courses attended to obtain each degree (Bachelor, Master or equivalent) with translation in English, and correspondent Grade Point Average.
–       Signed Letter of Motivation in English, covering the following aspects: what made the candidate decide to apply to NanoFar Doctorate, which skills and abilities make the applicant a good candidate for NanoFar, motivations to carry out research abroad, professional interests in coming to Europe for education (statement of purpose) must be included in this letter. Maximum 1 page.
–       Letter of Research Statement, relating the research experience in relation with the project(s) the candidates apply for (Max 1500 words). It will be mentioned the master research project description of the candidate.
–       2 reference letters signed by university lecturers or experts in the area of Nanomedicine.
        Letters must be printed on letterhead and duly signed to be sent by email by the referees (= the persons recommending the candidate), to the following address:
–       Official proof of English language proficiency (language test certification or written confirmation from institution that the degree was conducted in English). Please note that if you apply to a project involving the University of Nottingham, the submission of an English test is mandatory.
–       Declaration by the candidate: this should be a simple document of 1 or 2 lines drafted by the candidate certifying that all the information given on the application are true. This document should be signed and dated.
–       Any other qualifications relative to the areas of the research dealt with in the course.
–       Applicants with disabilities or special needs may apply, if they wish, for special aids.
–       Applicants who wish to make use of this facility must enclose a medical certificate substantiating the validity of their request with their application form.

      2.3 Selection

The selection committee, representing the partner universities of the consortium, is in charge of the applicant selection. For each Category (Partner and Programme countries, previously named A and B) a ranked list of candidates will be established. The following criteria will be used to rank the candidates:
·         Academic records & training in Nanomedicine (40%)
·         Research experience related to the specific project (30%)
·         Letters of recommendation (20 %)
·         Motivation letter (10%)
·         Reserve criteria: nationality (max. of 2 students with the same nationality)
In order to achieve the ranking, the candidates at the top of the selection list will then be invited to an interview using the appropriate means (video-conference, call via Skype® or similar tools).
Applicants will be informed of the committee decision at all stages of the selection process.
The final list will be sent to the EACEA by the end of February, with a reserve list. The selected applicants have then 2 weeks after the notification of the results to confirm or refuse the decision.
All application documents for successful applicants will be distributed to all partners.

Notice that for some Admission Office inside the consortium, it will be asked additional documents: all degrees obtained since high school, i.e. High School diploma and Bachelor degree. Candidates retained on main and reserve list should ensure to have those documents in due time.



Appeals will only be considered if the applicant believes there has been a failure in the admissions procedure or that they have been discriminated against unlawfully. All appeals should be made in writing to the general NanoFar coordinator, unless the appeal is regarding the coordinator, in which case the written appeal should be directed to the NanoFar Supervisory Board. Any appeal will be accorded thorough consideration and will normally be addressed within 28 days of receipt. Where an appeal does not produce the outcome sought by the applicant, reasons should be given for any decision. NanoFar staff are encouraged to acknowledge when an error has been made and to take steps to ensure that similar problems do not arise in future. Please note that due to the requirements of data protection, the NanoFar Supervisory Board will only correspond on any issue regarding an application with the applicants themselves, unless the applicant has provided written permission for the NanoFar consortium to discuss it with another person.
1–  Read carefully through the GENERAL AND SPECIFIC CRITERIAS.
Make sure that you have on your possession all the documents requested and listed on the Application procedure.
If a document is missing, the consortium will make every effort to contact you and give you a chance to amend your application, but we can only do so prior to the deadline of application. So the earlier you apply the better your chances are of having the application completed on time.
2– Complete the APPLICATION FORM.

The 2016 call for application is now OPEN!

3– Your application will be received by our secretariat, and  will be analyse by the thesis directors. If you have some questions, please contact us at
4Applicants selection
Based on the selection criteria, the applicants at the top of the selection list are informed by email and then invited to an interview.

PhD position at University of Twente, Netherland

Tiny materials in countless products raise big questions for environment and health


Nanotechnology opens a universe of possibilities — but also creates a world of unknowns.

In recent years, efforts to develop the Next Big Thing — whether in medicine, computer technology, pollution prevention or high-performance materials — have turned to some really, really small things: nanomaterials.

Working at the nanoscale — which can mean the near-atomic scale, with substances a million times shorter than the length of an ant, a thousand times thinner than human hair — brings the ability to create new materials that can perform tasks in ways that might not otherwise be possible. But it also brings new concerns and challenges related to understanding environmental and human health impacts, because at the nanoscale, substances often take on chemical, biological and physical properties they might not otherwise have and behave in ways they might not at conventional sizes.

Nano in a Nutshell

While definitions differ, nanomaterials typically measure in at a length, width, height or diameter of about 1 to 100 nanometers — 1 to 100 billionths of a meter. They take advantage of the physical, chemical and other characteristics substances exhibit at this miniscule size. At the nanoscale, materials can have different boiling points, different magnetic properties and different optical properties (color, fluorescence or transparency). They can conduct electricity or permeate and interact with living cells and other materials in ways they do not at larger sizes. And simply because they are so small, nanomaterials are capable of moving in ways and to places — whether in the environment or the human body — larger compounds cannot.

It’s because of these special properties that nanomaterials are being developed for so many different applications. Not long ago the subject of science fiction (Michael Crichton’s “nanobots,” for example), nanomaterials can now be found in a vast array of items. Some are being used to make extremely strong yet lightweight building materials, to efficiently store energy, to detoxify pollutants or to create antibacterial surfaces. Others are being used to deliver medical treatments to individual cells, to detect harmful bacteria or to create new ways of producing computer chips and semiconductors.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is now looking at how nanotechnology can be used to detect pathogens in poultry and is exploring ways nanomaterials might be added to edible food, says Bosoon Park, a lead scientist at the U.S. National Poultry Research Center. Using nanotechnology to detect harmful bacteria, Park says, could significantly reduce the time it currently takes to identify the source of an outbreak. In another application, researchers in Canada are harnessing the apparent ability of nanoparticles to remove highly persistent, toxic hydrocarbon compounds from oil sands wastewater.

Nanosilver toothpaste

More mundanely, some of these properties are being harnessed to control odor in clothing such as socks and underwear, to deter microbes in plastic food containers and children’s stuffed animals, and to make sunscreens disappear more easily into your skin. The list of everyday and more specialized products in which nanomaterials are being used goes on: bicycles, cosmetics, personal care products and household appliances as well as electronics, aircraft and automotive parts, and pharmaceuticals. One database has logged more than 400 consumer products that contain nanosilver used as an antibacterial agent — just one of many nanomaterials used in products now on the market. Among these are toothpaste, pet and baby blankets, hair brushes, and a vacuum cleaner.

“Nanotechnology is already pervasive. It’s not a research fantasy any more,” says Lisa Friedersdorf, deputy director of the U.S. National Nanotechnology Coordination Office.

Small Stuff, Big Questions

Nanosilver socks

Nanotechnology is often referred to as an “emerging” technology, and we are a long way from fully understanding its toxicology and environmental impacts. But the same traits that make nanomaterials so uniquely useful also raise serious questions about their interaction with the environment, wildlife, our food supply and human bodies.

As the University of California Santa Barbara’s Center for Nanotechnology in Society notes, “These new nanotechnologies pose many uncertainties for society. The risks that may accompany their use are largely unknown [and may be] difficult to anticipate.”

Some studies show that socks treated with nanosilver can release that silver when they’re washed. Others suggest that nanosilver can be released from plastics, including those used in food containers. Testing commissioned by the Center for Food Safety has found nanoparticles of titanium dioxide in numerous different food products, including cheese, chocolate, candy and mayonnaise.

Because these particles are so small, there is concern they may behave in ways more toxic than their larger cousins.A whitening agent, titanium dioxide is approved for use in food at the conventional size. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the federal agency that approves food additives, says we don’t yet know enough about materials engineered at the nanoscale to use them without special approval. Manufacturers of food in which the nanoscale titanium dioxide was found say these particles were not specially engineered or added but occurred unintentionally with those of conventional size. But because these particles are so small, there is concern they may behave in ways more toxic than their larger cousins. Right now European chemicals authorities are considering how to classify the carcinogenicity of titanium dioxide — including in its nano-form — a deliberation that could lead to its restriction in consumer products.

Some researchers are examining how ecosystems might be affected if nanosilver gets into soil and water sediment after products end up in the waste stream. Others have found that plants can absorb nanosilver in minute quantities if it’s present in the soil. As the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency explains on its website, evaluating the toxicity of nanomaterials “is difficult because they have unique chemical properties, high reactivity, and do not dissolve in liquid” and because existing tests “may not work to test the safety of nanomaterials.”

Researchers at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee working with the Center for Sustainable Nanotechnology are exploring whether nanomaterials affect gene expression. The aim is to learn about how “sub-lethal” exposures might set the stage for later health problems. Given nanomaterials’ ability to penetrate cells, this seems particularly important.

“There are big questions about toxicity,” says Park.

There is also concern that, given their size, nanomaterials can penetrate skin and cells in ways larger materials cannot. Numerous studies have been looking at these effects as a result of occupational exposure, environmental exposure and exposure to consumer products containing nanomaterials. One recent study has found engineered carbon nanotubes in children’s lungs, particles that apparently were present in the mix of other air pollutants. These tiny tubular particles pose concerns because of their ability to penetrate lung tissue and cause respiratory problems. Other research has noted carbon nanotubes’ similarity to asbestos fibers, and researchers are investigating if these nanomaterials can affect lung tissues in the same way asbestos does – causing scarring and inflammation that can lead to lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis.

Risks: Unknown

Adding to the inherent challenge of understanding the life-cycle impacts of these products is the fact that the proliferation of nanomaterials and products containing them appears to be outpacing any systematic cataloguing or labeling of these products. Put simply, we don’t know exactly where and how they’re being used.

That means that in addition to not fully understanding nanomaterials’ hazards, the risks of exposure are also not yet well understood. “Until we understand what realistic environmental concentrations [of nanomaterials] are likely to be, we don’t really know what the impacts are,” says University of California, Santa Barbara, Bren School of Environmental Science & Management doctoral candidate Kendra Garner, who is studying ways of measuring nanomaterials’ environmental effects, including developing a special statistical model that will help with these estimations.

“It’s very complicated,” says Garner. “There are not really techniques at this point to measure nanomaterials in situ in the environment.” Even if researchers are able to take samples, “by the time you get to the lab they may have changed because they are so reactive,” Garner says. “It’s even harder to figure out where they come from.”

When considering potential environmental or health impacts of nanomaterials, National Nanotechnology Initiative deputy director Lisa Friedersdorf says it’s important to understand that “in very few applications are you talking about individual nanoparticles.” Rather, she explains, they’re more often “part of a system.”

While a particular nanomaterial might not pose concerns in a finished consumer product, it might still have “worker implications” during manufacturing.In electronics, for example, “nanofeatures may be wires that are really tiny or transistors that have features that are at the nanoscale,” she explains. The same thing is true of super-hydrophobic coatings that are stain or mud resistant — materials that use compounds at the nanoscale to make a texture that creates the desired performance. There are, however, some applications in which individual nanoparticles perform the job — in medicine, for example, where they can be used to home in on individual cells whether as a diagnostic tool or a pharmaceutical.

But as Center for Food Safety senior policy analyst Jaydee Hanson observes, while a particular nanomaterial might not pose concerns in a finished consumer product, it might still have “worker implications” during manufacturing.

Knowledge Gap Meets Regulatory Chasm

As the proliferation of nanomaterials continues and scientists try to get a handle on their potential human and environmental health effects, regulators are facing their own challenge: How to manage materials that don’t behave like those that existing chemicals policies were designed to deal with.

The European Union has required labeling for nanomaterials used as antibacterials and in cosmetics since 2013. Under its new “novel food” regulation, the EU will also require prior approval of engineered nanomaterials used in food and may require special labels if the food “is not recommended for certain vulnerable groups” such as infants, children or pregnant women.

The U.S., on the other hand, has no labeling requirements of any kind to specify that products contain nanomaterials. In fact, the U.S. federal agencies that oversee chemical ingredient safety — primarily the EPA and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration — treat nanomaterials as they would any other new chemical on a case-by-case basis rather than singling them out for special scrutiny of any kind because of their size.

Simply put, we don’t know enough about nanomaterials to know if standard health and safety measures will be effective. This, says Hanson, can pose problems, because it means using regulatory “tools to do jobs they weren’t necessarily intended to do.” For example, because nanoparticles are so small and behave so differently than larger particles, equipment that would ordinarily be used to clean up an indoor spill or protect workers from inhaling particles won’t necessarily work on them. Similarly, nanomaterials’ size means they can’t be treated as other environmental contaminants might be in terms of pollution prevention. At the same time, assumptions about how chemicals will behave once in products won’t necessarily apply to nanomaterials. Currently, there is “a growing concern about the lack of environmental health and safety data,” says the EPA.

Simply put, we don’t know enough about nanomaterials to know if standard health and safety measures will be effective or if we’re asking the right questions about these new materials to make sure they will be used safely.

Push for Oversight

The lack of regulations requiring labeling or other listing of these materials also means the U.S. is without any official inventory of products containing nanomaterials. Currently, the most comprehensive catalog in terms of product categories is one compiled by the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies, a joint initiative of the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Woodrow Wilson International Center. Another database of products containing nanomaterials was recently launched by the Center for Food Safety and focuses on food and food-contact products. Some of the products listed in both of these inventories make explicit claims for their nanotechnology — such as carbon nanofiber materials in sports gear or nanosilver used as an antimicrobial agent in clothing or food containers — but others do not.

“This makes it a confusing situation for consumers,” says Wilson Center Science and Technology Innovation Program senior associate Todd Kuiken. And says Kuiken, it’s very possible that a company may not know the details of the nanotechnology used in its products since it may have purchased ingredients or other components for which full details of proprietary formulas or technology may not have been disclosed. This also adds to the difficulty in understanding these products’ potential environmental and health impacts.

Environmental and consumer advocates say the EPA is not keeping close enough tabs on how nanomaterials are being used.

For example, the Center for Food Safety, Beyond Pesticides, Clean Production Action, Center for Environmental Health and other groups filed suit against the agency asking it to regulate all uses of nanosilver as it would a pesticide or another antimicrobial chemical. Under existing regulations, the EPA is responsible for granting approval of materials that make antibacterial claims. So if a manufacturer explicitly says its food containers will “kill germs” or its fabric treatment will “destroy microbes,” these products are supposed to be registered with and individually approved by the EPA. But, claim the groups involved in the lawsuit, when it comes to products containing nanosilver, the EPA has failed to adequately enforce these regulations, allowing products containing nanosilver — but not making specific germ-killing claims — to be sold without EPA approval.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has been taking a hard look at some consumer products containing nanomaterials. Back in 2008, these groups filed a legal petition with the EPA asking it to take such action. Six years later, the EPA had failed to respond — so in December 2014, the groups filed suit against the EPA both for the EPA’s failure to respond to their petition and to again ask the EPA to fully regulate nanosilver as a pesticide. In March of this year the EPA agreed that nanosilver products sold with the intent of killing microorganisms do qualify as pesticides. But it refused the groups’ request to automatically consider all nanosilver products as pesticides — including those that don’t make explicit germ- or bacteria-killing claims.

At the same time, however, since 2011 as part of the National Nanotechnology Initiative — funded at $1.6 billion in the 2016 federal budget — the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has been taking a hard look at some consumer products containing nanomaterials. With other federal agencies, including the EPA, FDA and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the CPSC has been working to develop ways of assessing the potential airborne release of nanoparticles from various consumer products — among them aerosol sprays, sports equipment and products that might pose special exposures to children.

And while there doesn’t appear to be any federal move afoot to require labeling of nanomaterials in products sold in the U.S., the Environmental Working Group has launched an initiative involving personal care products and cosmetics asking manufacturers to add product toxicity details to the information visible to consumers either in stores, on packages or online. Companies that stay with the program for a year will also be asked to disclose ingredients on labels in a way that conforms with EU requirements — which would include disclosing use of nanomaterials. The hope is this will help create consumer demand for other companies to follow suit. Such pressure for ingredient disclosure has led to passage of state chemical reporting and GMO labeling laws.

“We call it ‘move the marketplace,’” says EWG’s deputy director of research, Nneka Leiba.

And the groups that have been pushing the EPA for more rigorous oversight of nanosilver products are also pushing the agency on its review of other nanomaterials, including a nano-silica compound that’s being developed for use in plastics, says Center for Food Safety’s Hanson.

The Bottom Line

So what is the bottom line on nanotechnology’s impacts on human health and the environment?

Essentially, we don’t yet know. On the one hand, nanotechnology applications offer many promising solutions, whether in pollution prevention, medicine, water treatment, electronic and energy production, or countless other areas. On the other hand, there is much science emerging to suggest these materials present potential environmental and health hazards. And right now nanomaterials are not being fully catalogued, monitored or regulated, which only adds to the challenges of understanding their environmental impacts.

In other words, the application of very, very small technologies still carries some very, very big questions about where these materials are being used, how they are behaving and what we need to do to protect ourselves and the rest of the planet against unwanted impacts and exposures.View Ensia homepage