Friday, April 30, 2010

Nanopediatrics Look at Diagnosis, Treatment, and More

Children are not small adults"—pediatricians say that's what makes their specialty different from the practice of medicine in adults. For similar reasons, researchers exploring the medical uses of nanotechnology believe that the use of molecular-level nanomedicine techniques in children will also require its own specialty. In their annual supplement for 2010, the editors of Pediatric Research present some of the research that will form the basis of the emerging field of "nanopediatrics." 
The journal is published by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, a part of Wolters Kluwer Health, a leading provider of information and business intelligence for students, scientists, professionals, and institutions in medicine, nursing, allied health, and pharmacy.
Edward R.B. McCabe, M.D., Ph.D., of David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles, is Guest Editor of the special supplement. "Nanotechnology and nanomedicine are anticipated to be major drivers of personalized medicine," he writes in an introductory article. "It is essential that we focus the power of these technologies to enable personalized medicine for children, in a specialty of NanoPediatrics."
Initial Studies in Nanopediatrics Look at Diagnosis, Treatment, and More
The papers in the special issue highlight the potential uses of molecular-level nanotechnology to promote children's health in a variety of areas, including disease diagnosis. Nanotechnology could detect subtle DNA abnormalities for rapid, point-of-care diagnosis of genetic-related conditions. Molecular thermometry techniques could detect very small changes in temperature down to the subcellular level, aiding in early detection of tumors or infections. The issue also outlines the development of combined diagnostic and treatment techniques, called "theranostics," which may one day enable diagnosis and treatment of cancers in a single procedure.
New approaches to detect and identify antibiotics in milk illustrate the potential for nanotechnology to enhance food safety. "Nanoinformatics" and DNA-based computing could revolutionize processing of medical information, promoting the clinical uses of nanomedicine. Nanoparticles are being used to study the role of calcification in various diseases, illustrating the use of nanotechnology to advance understanding of how diseases develop.
Several papers in the special supplement describe possible uses of nanomedicine techniques for the treatment of diseases in children:
• "Nano-modified" coatings could help to prevent infection of ventilator tubes in children undergoing mechanical ventilation.
• Designer molecules called "Protacs" could be used to disrupt the growth of cancer cells, providing new approaches to cancer treatment.
• Tissue engineering techniques could be used to grow new organs, including bladders for children with congenital bladder dysfunction.
• Anticancer drugs encapsulated in "flexible delivery vehicles" known as liposomes, could provide highly targeted new approaches to cancer treatment.
Some of these proposed applications may sound like science fiction, and all are in their infancy. However, they point to some of the ways in which nanotechnology could be used to address the unique health challenges of children within the foreseeable future. We would hope that, a decade from now, this field will have grown so as to fill a thick volume with accomplishments in the discipline of nanopediatrics.
About Pediatric Research
Pediatric Research ( presents the work of leading authorities in pediatric pulmonology, neonatology, cardiology, hematology, neurology, developmental biology, fetal physiology, endocrinology and metabolism, gastroenterology, and nutrition. Directed to research-oriented pediatricians and faculty, the journal publishes the results of significant clinical and laboratory studies. The Journal includes original peer-reviewed articles, abstracts of society meetings, state-of-the-art reviews, as well as supplements on pediatric health issues. It is the official publication of the American Pediatric Society, the European Society for Paediatric Research, and the Society for Pediatric Research.
About Lippincott Williams & Wilkins
Lippincott Williams & Wilkins
Lippincott Williams & Wilkins (LWW) is a leading international publisher for healthcare professionals and students with nearly 300 periodicals and 1,500 books in more than 100 disciplines publishing under the 
LWW brand, as well as content-based sites and online corporate and customer services.
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Seamounts Support Rich Diversity of Life, Study Reverses Previously Held Beliefs

Scientists from NOAA and Texas A&M University–Corpus Christi were astounded to find that seamounts, mountains that rise from the seafloor, rank as some of the most common ocean habitats in the world. Their findings are published in a new study and reverse previous beliefs about the prevalence of seamounts, which are treasure troves of marine biodiversity.

Estimates of the number of seamounts occurring worldwide are high and increasing, largely because of improved remote-sensing capabilities, high estimates put the number of seamounts in the hundreds of thousands from a former estimate in the tens of thousands.

 Image credit: Peter Etnoyer, Ph.D

"Unlike beaches or even coral reefs, most people will never see a seamount, but this study shows that they are clearly one of the predominant ecosystems on the planet," said Peter Etnoyer, Ph.D., principal investigator of the study and marine biologist at NOAA's Center for Coastal Environmental Health and Biomolecular Research. "We can only hope that through this study, people begin to realize what a vast unknown the ocean represents, and what a vital role it plays on Earth."

Although researchers have thoroughly explored some 200 seamounts and mapped and sampled a hundred others, this study is the first to estimate that more than 45,000 seamounts dot the ocean floor worldwide — a total of roughly 28.8 million square kilometers or an area larger than the continent of South America. The discovery was made possible using satellite altimetry data that measured incredibly slight changes in the sea surface height that, along with statistical analysis models, indicated the presence of these submerged mountains.

"Seamounts are biodiversity 'hotspots', with higher abundance and variety of life forms than the surrounding seafloor," said Tom Shirley, Ph.D., contributing author of the study and a conservation scientist with the Harte Research Institute at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. "In fact, new species are observed or collected on nearly every submersible dive." Two dozen new species of corals and sponges, for example, have been collected from seamounts in the Gulf of Alaska since 2002.

Seamounts not only make up the largest area of ocean habitat, they are also highly productive environments that can serve as habitats for important commercial fish species like orange roughy and sablefish.

Table 1. Global area of aquatic and terrestrial biomes. Oceanic basins, terrestrial landmasses, and marine and terrestrial biomes are listed in order of descending size. Marine biome area estimates are derived from recent peer-reviewed literature, except for seamounts and beaches, estimated as part of this study. All units are square kilometers. A biome is a major life zone characterized by similar biotic and physical characteristics. 
(a) Earle and Glover (2008). (b) World Almanac, 2006. (c) Udvardy (1975). (d) Burke et al. (2001). (e) This study. (f) Darras et al. (1998). (g) Groombridge and Jenkins (2002). (h) Spalding and Grenfell (1977). (i) This study, using a global coastline of 356,000 km (from CIA, 2008) and 0.1-km average beach width. (j) Total basal area of 33,000 hypothetical seamounts 10001500 m in relief with height/radius = 0.088 (derived from Wessel, 2001). (k) Total basal area of 11,880 unique seamounts (> 1.5 km in relief) assuming radial symmetry of seamount features. Basal radius estimates were derived from a vertical gravity gradient (Wessel and Lyons, 1997), and used to estimate basal area using the formula for circular area = πr2.
Source: Peter Etnoyer, Ph.D

Contacts and sources:
Keeley Belva
NOAA Headquarters 

This research, which is the first-ever comparison of the size of oceanic and land habitats, is featured in the journal Oceanography:

NOAA understands and predicts changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and conserves and manages our coastal and marine resources. 
Visit NOAA at 

Figures and Tables related to this story
Media page with more high resolution photos and articles at Oceanography

Online fly-through of Pacific Seamounts in Google Earth 5.0:

Making Personalized Lung Cancer Therapy A Reality In Europe

The recent approval of Europe's first personalized treatment for lung cancer heralds the arrival of a new era for lung cancer treatment that will demand significant changes to the way cancer specialists and other hospital doctors work, a leading expert said today at the 2nd European Lung Cancer Conference in Geneva, Switzerland.

Prof Robert Pirker of the Medical University of Vienna said that personalized therapy, in which treatment is based on the characteristics of an individual patient's tumor, promised to improve outcomes for patients, as well as being more cost-effective and less toxic than existing treatments.

"Recently, oral treatment with the targeted drug gefitinib was shown to be superior with regard to progression-free survival compared to treatment with up to six cycles of first-line chemotherapy in patients with advanced non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) who have mutations in their tumors that activate a cell-surface molecule called epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR)," Prof Pirker said.

This finding led to the approval of this drug in Europe in 2009 --but only for treating patients whose tumors carry these mutations.

"Before we can offer patients gefitinib, the presence of these mutations in tumor cells has to be clearly demonstrated," he explained.

In order to achieve this, doctors must perform a molecular analysis of tumor material from biopsies. "This will benefit patients, but it changes the whole diagnostic workup and requires some change in the thinking of oncologists, including closer co-operation between the various disciplines: interventional pulmonologists, pathologists, biologists, oncologists," he said.

Scientists around the globe are currently probing the genetics of cancers with the aim of identifying new targets for personalized treatment. These projects, such as the International Cancer Genome Consortium, mean that testing for mutations in tumors will become routine.
Eventually, tissue sampling to allow this kind of mutation testing will become standard in Europe, Prof Pirker said. But currently, there are obstacles preventing it from becoming more widespread.

"The obstacles include the fact that too few doctors trained in invasive tumor sampling, that mutation analysis not yet readily available, and that there are reimbursement issues which might vary from country to country," he said.

If these obstacles can be overcome, and more doctors are trained in taking lung cancer biopsies, more patients will be able to be treated with oral gefitinib, and the discovery of other new therapeutic targets will be accelerated," he said.

U.S. Falling in Global Adult Mortality Survey: Ranks 49th for Women and 45th for Men: Behind All of Western Europe

The most comprehensive assessment to date of global adult mortality appears today, April 30, in The Lancet . The study, "Worldwide mortality in men and women aged 15-59 years from 1970 to 2010: a systematic analysis", shows that across countries, inequality in adult mortality has grown to the point where adult men in Swaziland -- the country with the worst mortality rate -- now have a probability of premature death that is nine times the mortality rate of the best country, Cyprus. The rates of mortality in southern Africa are now higher than mortality rates were in Sweden in 1751.

The research also shows that the United States has fallen significantly behind other countries in reducing deaths. In 1990, the United States ranked 34th in the world in female mortality and 41st in male mortality, but by 2010, it had dropped in the rankings to 49th for women and 45th for men. This puts it behind all of Western Europe and lower-income countries such as Chile, Tunisia, and Albania.

"With adult mortality, we are seeing this massive spread between the best and the worst off , unlike what we have seen with maternal mortality and what we are seeing with children, both of which have seen major progress since 1970," said Dr. Christopher Murray, University of Washington (UW) professor of global health and director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the UW.

Using new methods developed by IHME, researchers generated estimates for 187 countries of the probability that an individual who has just turned 15 will die a premature death before reaching age 60 (termed 45q15).

The researchers point to a range of factors for the widening disparities. AIDS sharply reversed positive trends in mortality in the 1990s in Africa. Increased incomes in some countries appear to be increasing the prevalence of risk factors for disease, such as high blood pressure and obesity. Smoking also continues to play a large role throughout the world.

Women overall have seen their health improve more than men have. In the 40 years between 1970 and 2010, adult mortality fell by 34 percent in women and 19 percent in men globally. The gap between adult male and female mortality widened by 27 percent in that period.

"We have had these estimates for child mortality for two decades now that have been enormously influential in informing debates about priorities for child survival. But we have been remarkably ignorant around adult mortality," said Dr. Alan Lopez, head of the School of Population Health at the University of Queensland and one of the paper's co-authors. "We need to apply the same passion that surrounds keeping children alive to keeping young adults alive."

Other key findings include:

The lowest risk of death in adults was recorded in Iceland (men) and Cyprus (women).

Mortality rates for men and women in 37 countries are higher in 2010 than they were in 1990.

Eastern Europe has seen one of the largest public health reversals of modern times. Russia has fallen from a rank of 43rd place for female mortality in 1970 to 121st.

Since 2005, sub-Saharan Africa has seen strong mortality declines, a possible result of efforts to prevent new HIV infections and to treat AIDS patients with antiretroviral drugs.

South Asia, and India in particular, had among the highest female mortality in the world in 1970. Both the region and the country have seen major declines. In 2010, it is better to be a woman in India than it was to be a man in the United States in 1997.

The list of countries with the lowest adult mortality has changed greatly. Only three -- Sweden, the Netherlands, and Norway -- remained in the top 10 for male mortality between 1970 and 2010.

Until now, adult mortality research has focused on a subset of the global population and has often relied on estimates derived from child mortality numbers. IHME calculated mortality rates using vital registration data, censuses, surveys on household deaths, and sibling survival histories.

Contacts and sources: 
Jill Oviatt 

SunEdison Expands in Italy with 12 New Solar Parks; Completes $62 Million Financing Deal

SunEdison, a division of MEMC Electronic Materials, Inc.has announced plans to complete 12 one-megawatt (MW) solar energy plants in the province of Lecce, Apulia in Italy, and announced a $62.4 million (47-million-euro) financing deal with Norddeutsche Landesbank Girozentale in Germany.

"The announcement of these projects, which follows another major project announced recently by SunEdison in Italy -- demonstrates our deep expertise as developers of a wide range of solar energy plants, from rooftop retail facilities to large, ground-mount utility-scale operations," said Carlos Domenech, president, SunEdison. "Given our financing capabilities and project skills, SunEdison plans to continue to expand rapidly in Italy and in our other targeted growth areas in the United States, Canada and other European countries."

SunEdison earlier announced a 72 MW photovoltaic solar plant to be built in northeastern Italy near the town of Rovigo as the largest solar energy plant in Europe.

To develop the Apulia projects, SunEdison signed a 47 million euro financing deal with NORD LB - Norddeutsche Landesbank -- a leading bank in Germany. Vinod Mukani, Head of Americas Solar Origination for NORD/LB, said "We are pleased to partner with SunEdison to provide financing for these projects and to support SunEdison in their development plans across the globe. This financing further highlights NORD LB's client focused strategy, advisory capabilities and its commitment towards renewable energy sector." Heiko Ludwig, Head of Energy Origination Europe for NORD/LB added, "Considering the intricate nature of the financing for the portfolio, NORD LB advised SunEdison on an efficient and financeable cross border structure for its Italian portfolio. The financing of renewable energies is one of the NORD LB Group's key areas of business growth and the partnership with SunEdison allows us to demonstrate again our leading position in project financing in the solar sector across the world."

"Our goal is to continue to increase our presence and our solar electric power interconnections in Italy over the course of the year," said Pancho Perez, General Manager of Europe and MENA Region for SunEdison. "We have very strong project finance and development capabilities and are continuing to expand our relationships with solar channel partners throughout Italy."

The SunEdison Lecce solar parks will generate power for more than 3,300 homes during their first year of operation while reducing carbon dioxide emissions that are equivalent to taking 2,000 cars off the road. Besides the dramatic environmental advantages, the new solar plants will also create construction and plant operating jobs in the region.

Seven of the Lecce plants are already fully operational and were grid connected and sold in the first quarter of 2010. The other five plants are under construction and expected to be completed and operational by the third quarter. The 47-million-euro financing deal with Nord LB covers the majority of the one-megawatt plants.

"Solar energy has a very bright future in Italy, and we are glad that SunEdison can be a partner in providing clean-energy solar solutions for the region by financing and completing these important projects," said Liborio Nanni, General Manager, SunEdison Italy

About SunEdison
SunEdison is a global provider of solar-energy services. The company finances, installs and operates distributed power plants using proven photovoltaic technologies, delivering fully managed, predictably priced solar energy services for its commercial, government and utility customers. In 2009, SunEdison delivered more kilowatt hours (kWh) of energy than any other solar services provider in North America. For more information about SunEdison, please visit

About MEMC
MEMC is a global leader in the manufacture and sale of wafers and related intermediate products to the semiconductor and solar industries. MEMC has been a pioneer in the design and development of silicon wafer technologies for 50 years. With R&D and manufacturing facilities in the U.S., Europe, and Asia, MEMC enables the next generation of high-performance semiconductor devices and solar cells. Through its SunEdison division, MEMC is also a developer of solar power projects and North America's largest solar energy services provider.

MEMC's common stock is listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol "WFR" and is included in the S&P 500 Index. For more information about MEMC, please visit

About NORD/LB (Norddeutsche Landesbank Girozentale)
Based in Hannover, Germany, Norddeutsche Landesbank Girozentale (Nord/LB) has grown to be Germany's tenth largest financial institution with roots going back to 1765. The Bank offers a range of financial services including Project Finance, Real Estate Lending, Asset Backed Finance, Treasury and Capital Markets functions. The financing of renewable energies is one of the Nord/LB Group's key areas of business growth. With a volume of around 3.5 billion Euros, the Group is already one of the leading finance providers in this sector. Nord/LB has an excellent track record in the solar sector that spans the entire globe, from rooftop & ground mount solar projects in Germany, Canada and US, to larger ground mount solar farms as well as panel & glass manufacturing facilities. More information can be found at

Water-Related Conflicts Set To Escalate Predict Finnish Scientists

Population growth, urbanization, increasing pollution, soil erosion and climate variations are all reflected in the management and adequacy of the world's waters. The situation is particularly difficult in many developing countries, where there are growing concerns over escalating water crises and even outright water conflicts between countries and regions.

"The current rate of population growth and urbanization are already impacting food production. We need to improve the efficiency of agricultural output, as it's unlikely that the acreage under cultivation can be much increased. Improved efficiency requires the efficient use of water resources," says Professor Olli Varis from the Water and Development Research Group at Aalto University. The Group's main research interests include integrated approaches to the management and planning of water resources as well as international water issues.

Professor Varis points out that the utility of existing water resources is adversely affected by increasing industrial pollution and the breakdown of natural material circulation. The utilisation of water resources, and groundwater in particular, already exceeds the renewal capacity. "Up to 60% per cent of the world's population live in countries that suffer from water shortages, and that figure will rise sharply in the future."

Water for energy production

Water-related conflicts are particularly clearly visible in the Mekong River Basin in Southeast Asia. At an estimated length of almost 5,000 kilometers, the Mekong is one of the world's largest free-flowing river systems. However, China, Laos and other countries in the region are now driving to harness these water resources, particularly for hydropower production. The Academy of Finland has contributed to finance the studies undertaken by the Water and Development Research Group on the water use situation in the Mekong River Basin.

Plans are in place to develop over 100 hydroelectric power plants along the Mekong and its tributaries. The dams would bring the riparian countries much needed income, but at the same time jeopardize many traditional water-related livelihoods. One particular concern is the loss of local fish stocks, which are a major source of income and food for millions of people, many of whom live below the poverty line.

"The economic value of fisheries in the Mekong is roughly the same as that of hydroelectric power generation. The annual value of the fish catch is estimated at up to three billion US dollars," says Marko Keskinen, whose recent doctoral thesis deals with the management of the Mekong River's water resources. "The current plans tie in with wider issues about development and power relations. Centralized dam projects will fundamentally change the distribution of benefits derived from the river."

According to Keskinen the development of water resources has evolved into a highly complex political issue both within and between states, with clashing interests over the different uses of water. "At the same time, water management has become increasingly integrated, which as such is a positive trend. However, the reality out in the field is extremely complex, and measures aimed at integrated water management rarely achieve their expected outcomes."

"Many integrated approaches neglect to take into account broader philosophical and conceptual dimensions. As water management involves a number of interacting actors, it's also always about political and personal processes. For this reason, it is also important to look at how different groups cooperate and interact, both with each other and internally."

Contacts and sources:
 Professor Olli Varis
Academy of Finland

Water & Development Research Group

Defect Road Map May Lead to New Quantum Computing Materials

A team of scientists at UC Santa Barbara that helped pioneer research into the quantum properties of a small defect found in diamonds has now used cutting-edge computational techniques to produce a road map for studying defects in alternative materials.

Their new research is published in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), and will soon be published in the print edition of the journal. The findings may enable new applications for semiconductors ––materials that are the foundation of today's information technology. In particular, they may help identify alternative materials to use for building a potential quantum computer.

"Our results are likely to have an impact on experimental and theoretical research in diverse areas of science and technology, including semiconductor physics, materials science, magnetism, and quantum device engineering," said David D. Awschalom, UCSB physics professor and one of two lead investigators on this project. "Ironically, while much of semiconductor technology is devoted to eliminating the defects that interfere with how today's devices operate, these defects may actually be useful for future quantum technologies."

According to PNAS, the researchers have developed a set of screening criteria to find specific atomic defects in solids that could act as quantum bits (qubits) in a potential quantum computer. As a point of reference, they use a system whose quantum properties they themselves have recently helped to discern, the NV or nitrogen-vacancy center defect in diamond. This defect, which the team has shown can act as a very fast and stable qubit at room temperature, consists of a stray nitrogen atom alongside a vacancy in the otherwise perfect stacking of carbon atoms in a diamond.

Electrons trapped at the defect's center interact with light and microwaves in a predictable way, allowing information to be stored in and read out from the orientation of their quantum-mechanical spins.

The drawback to using diamond, however, is that the material is expensive and difficult to grow and process into chips. This raises the question of whether there may be defects in other materials that have similar properties and could perform equally well.

In this week's publication, the researchers enumerate specific screening criteria to identify appropriate defects in materials that could be useful for building a quantum computer. Experimental testing of all the potential candidates might take decades of painstaking research, explained Awschalom. To address this problem, the UCSB group employed advanced computational methods to theoretically examine the characteristics of potential defect centers in many different materials, providing a sort of road map for future experiments.

UCSB's Chris G. Van de Walle, professor of materials and one of the senior investigators on the project, remarked: "We tap into the expertise that we have accumulated over the years while examining 'bad' defects, and channel it productively into designing 'good' defects; i.e., those that have the necessary characteristics to equal or even outperform the NV center in diamond." This expertise is backed up by advanced theoretical and computational models that enable the reliable prediction of the properties of defects, a number of which are proposed and examined in the paper.

Awschalom added: "We anticipate this work will stimulate additional collaborative activities among theoretical physicists and materials engineers to accelerate progress towards quantum computing based on semiconductors."

Current computers are based on binary logic: each bit can be either "one" or "zero." In contrast, each qubit in a quantum computer is continuously variable between these two states and hence offers infinitely more possibilities to be manipulated and combined with other qubits to produce a desired computational result. "It has been well established that, in theory, quantum computers can tackle some tasks that are completely beyond the capabilities of binary computers," said Awschalom. "The challenge has been to identify real physical systems that can serve as qubits for future machines."

Contacts and sources:

Fusion Power and Gamma Ray Lasers May Be Possible with Purified Positronium Atoms Say UCR Physicists

Physicists at the University of California, Riverside have succeeded in isolating for the first time a sample of spin polarized positronium atoms, needed to make the Bose-Einstein condensate. The researchers say they have effectively purified the positronium sample, which could lead to the development of a gamma ray laser and fusion power production. The research also could help scientists understand why the universe is made up of matter and not antimatter or just pure energy.

Positronium is a short-lived system in which an electron and its anti-particle are bound together. In 2007, physicists at the University of California, Riverside created molecular positronium, a brand-new substance, in the laboratory. Now they have succeeded in isolating for the first time a sample of spin polarized positronium atoms. The study results appear this week in the journal Physical Review Letters.

Image shows the ultra-high vacuum target chamber used in the experiment.
Credit: David Cassidy, UC Riverside.

Spin is a fundamental and intrinsic property of an electron, and refers to the electron's angular momentum. Spin polarized atoms are atoms that are all in the same spin state. A collection of spin polarized positronium atoms is needed to make a special form of matter, called the Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC). The BEC, predicted in 1924 and created in 1995, allows scientists to study atoms in a unique manner.

"We achieved our result by increasing the density of the positronium atoms in our lab experiment," said David Cassidy, the lead author of the research paper and an assistant researcher working in the laboratory of Allen Mills, a professor of physics. "At such a high density, positronium atoms get annihilated simply by interacting with each other. But it turns out that not all the positronium atoms get annihilated under these conditions."

Cassidy explained that positronium atoms come in two types – say, an up type and a down type. The positronium atoms are only annihilated when an up type meets a down type. Two atoms of the same type do not affect each other.

"So if you have 50 percent ups and 50 percent downs and you squeeze them all together they will totally annihilate and turn into gamma rays," he said. "But if you have, for example, about 66 percent ups and 33 percent downs, then only half of the ups will be destroyed. You will get a load of gamma rays – but in the end you will be left with only one type of atom – in this case, up atoms.

"This is an important development for making the BEC," Cassidy said, "because you have effectively purified your sample of positronium. And you need a pure collection of spin aligned atoms to make the BEC."

When atoms are in the BEC state, they are essentially stopped (or they move extremely slowly), facilitating their study. Non-BEC atoms on the other hand whiz around at very high speeds, making them harder to study.

"There are fundamental processes that can be looked at in new ways when you have matter in the BEC state," Mills said. "Having Bose-condensed atoms makes it easier to probe the way they interact under certain conditions. Moreover, to have motionless positronium atoms is an important aspect for making something called a gamma ray laser, which could have military and numerous scientific applications."

According to Mills and Cassidy, the new research could lead also to the production of fusion power, which is power generated by nuclear fusion reactions.

"The eventual production of a positronium condensate could help us understand why the universe is made of matter and not antimatter or just pure energy," Cassidy said. "It could also one day help us measure the gravitational interaction of antimatter with matter. At present, nobody knows for sure if antimatter falls up or down."

The National Science Foundation and the U.S. Air Force supported the research.

Cassidy and Mills were joined in the study by Vincent Meligne, a graduate student in Mills's lab.

The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment of about 18,000 is expected to grow to 21,000 students by 2020. The campus is planning a medical school and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Graduate Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

Contacts and sources:
 National Science Foundation, US Air Force

Snowball Earth Provides Clues to What Can Happen When Carbon Cycle Is Altered Say Geologists

For insight into what can happen when the Earth's carbon cycle is altered -- a cause and consequence of climate change -- scientists can look to an event that occurred some 720 million years ago.

New data from a Princeton University-led team of geologists suggest that an episode called "snowball Earth," which may have covered the continents and oceans in a thick sheet of ice, produced a dramatic change in the carbon cycle. This change in the carbon cycle, in turn, may have triggered future ice ages.

Princeton graduate students Catherine Rose and Nicholas Swanson-Hysell stand at the boundary of the Cryogenian and Ediacaran periods, distinguishable by the different colors of the glacial rocks below and the carbonate rock above.
 Credit: Adam Maloof.

Pinpointing the causes and effects of the extreme shift in the way carbon moved through the oceans, the biosphere and the atmosphere -- the magnitude of which has not been observed at any other time in Earth history -- is important for understanding just how much Earth's climate can change and how the planet responds to such disturbances.

Publishing their findings in the April 30 issue of the journal Science, the researchers also put forth a hypothesis to explain how changes to Earth's surface wrought by the glaciers of the Neoproterozoic Era could have created the anomaly in carbon cycling.

"The Neoproterozoic Era was the time in Earth history when the amount of oxygen rose to levels that allowed for the evolution of animals, so understanding changes to the carbon cycle and the dynamics of the Earth surface at the time is an important pursuit," said Princeton graduate student Nicholas Swanson-Hysell, the first author on the paper.

These layered structures called stromatolites from the Cryogenian Trezona Formation were created by biofilms of microbes that formed in a shallow-water tropical environment in South Australia's Adelaide Rift Complex about 650 million years ago.
 Credit: Nicholas Swanson-Hysell

The Neoproterozoic era, which lasted from 1,000 million years ago to 542 million years ago, is divided into three distinct periods, beginning with the Tonian, extending through the Cryogenian and ending with the Ediacaran. The Cryogenian period is notable in Earth history for the extensive and repeated ice ages that took place, beginning with the massive Sturtian glaciation at the start of the period. This marked the first ice age on Earth in roughly 1.5 billion years, which is an unusually long time span between glaciations. Since the Cryogenian, Earth has endured an ice age about once every 100 to 200 million years.

The "snowball Earth" theory suggests that the Sturtian glaciation was global in scope, literally encasing the planet in ice, which could have wreaked havoc on the normal functioning of the carbon cycle. While the theory is controversial and the extent of the deep freeze is under investigation, research team member Adam Maloof co-wrote a March 2010 Science paper demonstrating that glaciers reached the equator some 716.5 million years ago, providing further evidence to support the existence of a Cryogenian "snowball Earth."

In the latest research, Swanson-Hysell, Maloof and their collaborators collected samples of limestone from Central and South Australia dating back to the Tonian and Cryogenian periods. Using a technique known as isotope analysis to learn how the carbon cycle worked in ancient times, the team pieced together clues that are hidden in the atomic composition of the carbon found in inorganic limestone sediment and ancient organic material. In addition, the geologists recorded where the samples were found in the rock layers to determine crucial information about the relative age of the samples and the environmental conditions under which they formed.

A Princeton-led team of geologists analyzed samples of inorganic and organic carbon from the hills of the Trezona Formation in South Australia to document one of the largest perturbations to the carbon cycle in all of Earth history.
 Credit: Adam Maloof

Their results documented a peculiar and large shift in the carbon cycle based on analyses of samples obtained from tropical limestone sediments known as the Trezona Formation, which dates to the end of the Cryogenian period approximately 650 million years ago and was deposited between "snowball Earth" events.

"The disturbance we're seeing in the Neoproterozoic carbon cycle is larger by several orders of magnitude than anything we could cause today, even if we were to burn all the fossil fuels on the planet at once," said Adam Maloof, a research team member and assistant professor of geosciences at Princeton.

Previous data from the Ediacaran period at the end of the Neoproterozoic era have shown a similar perturbation to the carbon cycle, and in 2003 Massachusetts Institute of Technology geophysicist Daniel Rothman suggested that a buildup of a huge pool of organic carbon in the ocean could have led to the observed disturbance.

The perturbation studied by the Princeton researchers shows this same behavior during an event that was roughly 25 percent larger and 100 million years older than the previously recognized disturbance. The team also documented that the carbon cycle was not operating in this bizarre fashion 800 million years ago prior to the first Neoproterozoic glaciations, constraining in time the onset of such behavior and linking it to the proposed "snowball Earth" event.

"The new carbon isotopic data shows a whopping … downshift in the isotopic composition of carbonate, possibly the largest single isotopic change in Earth history, while the isotopic composition of organic carbon is invariant," said Rothman, who was not part of the research team. "The co-occurrence of such signals is enigmatic, suggesting that the carbon cycle during this period behaved fundamentally differently than it does today."

Building on Rothman's framework, the Princeton-led geologists set out to explain how an ice-covered globe in the early Cryogenian period could have prompted the accumulation of massive amounts of organic carbon in the ocean, leading to the observed disturbance to the carbon cycle later in the period.

According to their proposed hypothesis, the passage of the Sturtian glaciers across continental surfaces would have removed the weathered material and debris, which had accumulated in the 1.5 billion years since the preceding ice age. When the glaciers receded, this would have exposed vast amounts of bedrock to the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere for weathering, freeing up nutrients in the rock for delivery into the oceans.

This process would have generated a relatively large influx of iron into the oceans, which could have interrupted biomechanisms used by marine bacteria during the Tonian to process, or eat, the organic carbon in the water and convert it into carbon dioxide and other dissolved inorganic carbon compounds. If the organic carbon was not eaten by bacteria, it would have accumulated into a massive oceanic reservoir and resulted in the strange carbon cycle of the Cryogenian and early Ediacaran.

The interaction of carbon dioxide with the continental surfaces during the weathering process also would have removed some of the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, lowering the global temperatures and creating conditions conducive to the series of glacial events that were observed throughout the Cryogenian.

According to Rothman's hypothesis, over millions of years the levels of oceanic and atmospheric oxygen would have grown as a consequence of the altered carbon cycle, ultimately leading to the oxidation of the large reservoir of organic carbon, removing the extra organic carbon from the oceans and returning the carbon cycle to a steady state more similar to how it functions today. Increased levels of oxygen in the atmosphere also would have provided the conditions that were necessary for the explosive diversification of animal life at the end of the Neoproterozoic and into the Cambrian Period.

In field work this summer, the Princeton team will continue to investigate the disturbances to the Cryogenian and Ediacaran carbon cycles, and conduct research on the Tonian-Cryogenian-Ediacaran geologic, isotopic and paleogeographic history of northern Ethiopia and southern Australia. The geologists will explore some of the many questions that remain, such as what enabled the Cryogenian growth of ice sheets after a 1.5 billion year hiatus.

In addition to Swanson-Hysell and Maloof, the Princeton researchers on the team were graduate student Catherine Rose and former postdoctoral fellow Claire Calmet. The team also included Galen Halverson of the University of Adelaide, now at McGill University, and Matthew Hurtgen of Northwestern University.

Contact: Kitta MacPherson
Princeton University
National Science Foundation

Iranian Surgeons Grow Artificial Trachea in Human Using Nanocapsules to Release Growth Factors

Iranian surgeons implanted an artificial trachea in human body by injecting matrix cells in the throat of a 29-year-old woman in a Tehran hospital, the first such operation in the world.

Dr. Jalaloddin Ghanavy, the artificial trachea project executive, said that in this implant performed with no surgery, the fabricated trachea framework together with nanocapsules for release of growth and cellular differentiation factors were injected to damaged trachea.

He made the remarks in a news conference held for the announcement of Iranian scientists' success in artificial trachea implant by single-phase operation in human which was performed on a 29-year-old woman for the first time in the world.

"After injection of synthesized material, stem cells migrated to the framework by blood circulation and transformed to cartilaginous cells by growth factors", he added.

He reiterated that three days after the first step, a second injection containing matrix and other growth factors was given for epithelial cells which eventually resulted in repairing trachea organ on the injected framework.

According to the researchers, the next surgery plan is to transplant artificial trachea to people with such damaged trachea for whom there is no chance of repair by any kind of surgery. It is remarkable that this achievement is obtained as a result of 12 years research effort.

Also, Aliakbar Velayati, Masih Denshvari Hospital Chief, reiterated that the mentioned implant is performed for the first time in the world, saying, "This implant was performed with no need to surgery at two steps. It was performed to a sheep on 2008 which is alive now."

"It is a common practice to transplant trachea from brain dead people to patients in foreign countries. It causes immune system's reaction to the transplanted trachea and to reject it. To overcome this problem, immune system suppressing drugs with many side effects are used", he added.

The woman had traveled to foreign countries 10 years ago to mend the problem and had undergone two surgeries but unfortunately neither operation had worked for her, Velayati said.

Source: Iran Nanotechnology Initiative Council

Nano-Titanium Dioxide Photocatalyst Provides Low Cost Method to Remove Agricultural Pesticides from Water

A new low-cost method for the removal of agricultural pesticides from water by titanium dioxide photocatalyst was introduced by Iranian researchers at University of Tabriz.

"We synthesized titanium dioxide nanoparticles of 6 to 11 nanometers by controlled hydrolysis of TiCl4 solution in both anatase and rutile phases. We studied the removal of Bentazon herbicide in the presence of TiO2 nanoparticles as photocatalyst and under UV-C irradiation and analyzed a number of determining factors in this process," Dr. Alireza Khataee, one of the researchers, said in an interview with the news service of Iran Nanotechnology Initiative Council.

"We also elaborated the kinetics of Bentazon herbicide removal by Langmuir-Hinshelwood model", Khataee added.

Noting that in the controlled hydrolysis method, it is possible to synthesize TiO2 nanoparticles in anatase, rutile, or amorphous form by controlling the conditions, he reiterated that the Anatase form of TiO2 has better photocatalytic properties than rutile one and calcinating its nanoparticles enhances photocatalytic properties through improving crystals quality.

"The results imply that using synthesized nanocatalysts shows better performance than their commercial type in removing Bentazon herbicide from contaminated waters," Khataee said.

He also mentioned that the organic derivatives of titanium have been used for the synthesis of TiO2 nanoparticles in most of the previous works whereas in the present study "we used TiCl4 as raw material".

Considering the high price of titanium organic derivatives and the fact that TiCl4 is one of the intermediate components in industrial production of TiO2 by chloride method, it seems promising to industrialize the present method with no problem.

The details of this research are published at Desalination, volume 249, pages 301-307, 2009.

EARTH Consortium Seeks to Slash Energy Consumption by 50% for 4G Wireless Networks

The EU is committing more than $12.6 million (EUR 9.5M) to a research-business consortium's drive to reduce the energy consumption of 4th Generation (4G) mobile wireless communication networks. The EARTH ('Energy aware radio and network technologies') project is funded under the 'Information and communication technologies' (ICT) Theme of the EU's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7). The total cost of the project is $19.7 million (€14.8M)

The EARTH consortium, which is made up of top academic institutions, telecommunications service providers and component and infrastructure vendors, hopes to slash energy consumption by 50% between now and 2012. The project aims to cut carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the ICT sector and facilitate the implementation of environmentally sustainable broadband wireless services.

The team will also play a key role in making European and international broadband infrastructures widely available in both existing and emerging markets.

The project partners say they will tackle the challenge by focusing on the energy efficiency of mobile networks at a comprehensive system level instead of assessing discrete network elements. They say that their approach will enable them to clinch energy savings in wireless network areas, as well as in the networks' components and radio interfaces.

Their work will result in the development of a new generation of energy-efficient network equipment and components. The EARTH partners will also shape deployment strategies that target better efficiency, and determine optimal energy-aware network management solutions.

The EARTH project is part of the EU's 'Network of the Future' initiative, which seeks to break down the structural limitations of the existing internet architecture - currently the infrastructure struggles to support so many applications and services for which it was simply not designed.

Ultimately, the Network of the Future will make the new generation of telecom infrastructure, network and internet technologies a reality, which in turn will lead to greater support for governments and various sectors including environment, transport, health and education.

'What makes EARTH so compelling is that it has the potential to deliver tangible benefits to society on a number of levels; reducing energy consumption of networks and their impact on environment, while making broadband wireless service available to a greater number of people in Europe,' said Dr Rainer Fechner, head of Bell Labs in Germany and a member of the management board of Alcatel-Lucent Deutschland, coordinator of EARTH. 'The value of our contribution derives from deep experience and innovations in both green technology and advanced wireless systems.'

The EARTH project brings together experts from Ericsson (Sweden), Ericsson Kommunikacios Rendszerek Kft (Hungary), Budapest University of Technology and Economics (Hungary), the University of Oulu (Finland), NXP Semiconductors (France), DOCOMO Communications Laboratories Europe GmbH (Germany), Telecom Italia S.p.A., the University of Surrey (UK), Dresden University of Technology (Germany), Interuniversitair micro-electronica centrum vzw (IMEC - Belgium), the Technical University of Lisbon (Portugal), TTI Norte SL (Spain), the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) and the French Atomic Energy Commission (CEA).

For more information, please visit:
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Berkeley Lab Researchers Discover Inexpensive Metal Catalyst to Generate Hydrogen from Water

Berkeley Lab researchers have discovered an inexpensive metal that can generate hydrogen from neutral water, even if it is dirty, and can operate in sea water. Experts agree that hydrogen can play a key role in future renewable energy technologies if a relatively cheap, efficient and carbon-neutral means of producing it can be developed.

From left, Jeffrey Long, Christopher Chang and Hemamala Karunadasa have discovered an inexpensive metal that can generate hydrogen from neutral water, even if it is dirty, and can operate in sea water.

Image credit: Photo by Roy Kaltschmidt, Berkeley Lab Public Affairs

Hydrogen would command a key role in future renewable energy technologies, experts agree, if a relatively cheap, efficient and carbon-neutral means of producing it can be developed. An important step towards this elusive goal has been taken by a team of researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the University of California, Berkeley. The team has discovered an inexpensive metal catalyst that can effectively generate hydrogen gas from water.

“Our new proton reduction catalyst is based on a molybdenum-oxo metal complex that is about 70 times cheaper than platinum, today’s most widely used metal catalyst for splitting the water molecule,” said Hemamala Karunadasa, one of the co-discoverers of this complex. “In addition, our catalyst does not require organic additives, and can operate in neutral water, even if it is dirty, and can operate in sea water, the most abundant source of hydrogen on earth and a natural electrolyte. These qualities make our catalyst ideal for renewable energy and sustainable chemistry.”

Karunadasa holds joint appointments with Berkeley Lab’s Chemical Sciences Division and UC Berkeley’s Chemistry Department. She is the lead author of a paper describing this work that appears in the April 29, 2010 issue of the journal Nature, titled “A molecular molybdenum-oxo catalyst for generating hydrogen from water.” Co-authors of this paper were Christopher Chang and Jeffrey Long, who also hold joint appointments with Berkeley Lab and UC Berkeley. Chang, in addition, is also an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI).

Hydrogen gas, whether combusted or used in fuel cells to generate electricity, emits only water vapor as an exhaust product, which is why this nation would already be rolling towards a hydrogen economy if only there were hydrogen wells to tap. However, hydrogen gas does not occur naturally and has to be produced. Most of the hydrogen gas in the United States today comes from natural gas, a fossil fuel. While inexpensive, this technique adds huge volumes of carbon emissions to the atmosphere. Hydrogen can also be produced through the electrolysis of water – using electricity to split molecules of water into molecules of hydrogen and oxygen. This is an environmentally clean and sustainable method of production – especially if the electricity is generated via a renewable technology such as solar or wind – but requires a water-splitting catalyst.

Nature has developed extremely efficient water-splitting enzymes – called hydrogenases – for use by plants during photosynthesis, however, these enzymes are highly unstable and easily deactivated when removed from their native environment. Human activities demand a stable metal catalyst that can operate under non-biological settings.

Metal catalysts are commercially available, but they are low valence precious metals whose high costs make their widespread use prohibitive. For example, platinum, the best of them, costs some $2,000 an ounce.

“The basic scientific challenge has been to create earth-abundant molecular systems that produce hydrogen from water with high catalytic activity and stability,” Chang says. “We believe our discovery of a molecular molybdenum-oxo catalyst for generating hydrogen from water without the use of additional acids or organic co-solvents establishes a new chemical paradigm for creating reduction catalysts that are highly active and robust in aqueous media.”

The molybdenum-oxo complex that Karunadasa, Chang and Long discovered is a high valence metal with the chemical name of (PY5Me2)Mo-oxo. In their studies, the research team found that this complex catalyzes the generation of hydrogen from neutral buffered water or even sea water with a turnover frequency of 2.4 moles of hydrogen per mole of catalyst per second.

Long says, “This metal-oxo complex represents a distinct molecular motif for reduction catalysis that has high activity and stability in water. We are now focused on modifying the PY5Me ligand portion of the complex and investigating other metal complexes based on similar ligand platforms to further facilitate electrical charge-driven as well as light-driven catalytic processes. Our particular emphasis is on chemistry relevant to sustainable energy cycles.”

This research was supported in part by the DOE Office of Science through Berkeley Lab’s Helios Solar Energy Research Center, and in part by a grant from the National science Foundation.

Berkeley Lab is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory located in Berkeley, California. It conducts unclassified scientific research and is managed by the University of California. Visit our website at

Additional Information
For more about the research of Christopher Chang, visit the Website at
For more about the research of Jeffrey Long, visit the Website at
US Department of Energy, National Science Foundation