Thursday, May 07, 2009

The workshop experience

I just finished attending a three-day workshop near Washington, DC sponsored by the National Nanotechnology Initiative (and other "participating agencies", since technically the US Department of Defense is not strictly part of the NNI, for reasons which escape me), focused on "nanotechnology-enabled sensing". Since I've only backed into anything sensing related in the last couple of years, this was very educational for me. The workshop was put together, in part, by Roger van Zee from NIST and Gernot Pomrenke from AFOSR, and was tasked with producing a report on the topic. The report is actually supposed to be useful to diverse a diverse audience, from technical contacts at the various agencies to Congressional staffers and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. I learned a lot, and met many interesting people from other universities, national labs, industry, and federal agencies.

As you might imagine, producing the report is quite a task. You have to corral 30-40 PhD researchers (who all have their own areas of expertise and writing styles), and build up a consensus document that is comprehensive, readable, brief but with some technical depth, and covers an extremely broad topic. Sensing is particularly tricky, since there are many many transduction mechanisms, many many things that people want to detect (including small molecule chemicals, biomolecules, cells, physical variables, EM radiation), and lots of ancillary requirements (biocompatibility? specificity? portability? low power?). It's like herding cats, but in the end I think this report should do a good job of highlighting what nano can do for sensing. (Here's the five-word executive summary: Sensors good, nanosensors much better. See? Who says that it's tough to write for non-scientists....)

5 comments:

Uncle Al said...

Take a lump, radiation surface graft a sub-micron of poly(1-vinyl pyrrolidinone). The device is now biocompatible. Only the surface matters. Silicone rubber is not amenable because its surface roils.

Polymerize in solution to get extended chains. Plasma begets mostly crud. Reactive siloxane NVP oligomer for ceramic surfaces. There are two secrets to making solution PVP grafting work (low viscosity reacted medium with dense device surface grafting: 19 degree saline contact angles' average). Theory of Experimentation cannot discover one of them.

fubarator said...

Interesting--plenty of good speakers. Does anyone know whether these reports ever become available to the public? I'm not finding out much about this on the NNI website. There are some older reports up from 2003-06, but little recent.

Doug Natelson said...

Fubarator - Great handle. Yes, the report should eventually be available publicly. I don't know why the NNI report site is not more up-to-date. There is a report written in 2007, for example, on molecular electronics that doesn't show up on that page (though it is available here (pdf)).

Doug Natelson said...

Never mind - that molecular electronics report is a NSF document rather than a NNI document....

fubarator said...

Thank you. I hope the momentum to put these reports online is not being lost somewhere along the way. Maybe it seems like nobody is going to read it--but that's not true!