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What is Next Nature?

With our attempts to cultivate nature, humankind causes the rising of a next nature, which is wild and unpredictable as ever. Wild systems, genetic surprises, autonomous machinery and splendidly beautiful black flowers. Nature changes along with us.

Posts Tagged ‘Nanotechnology’

  • energy belt_1500

    Nano Product: Energy Belt

    With Energy Belt, stop treating your excess fat like a liability, and instead embrace its untapped potential. Artificial protocells in the belt mimic natural  brown fat, taking the energy from white fat and converting it into ATP. This chemical energy can be used to power everything from cell phones to pacemakers. Eat what you want at dinner, and give up that gym membership for good. Energy Belt cuts down on electricity costs while you cut down on size.

    From the NANO Supermarket product collection. Designer: Emmy van Roosmalen. Enabling technology: Nano transporters, metabolic engineering. Feasibility: Medium.

  • nanocrystalline cellulose sample

    Using Nanoscale Wood Pulp to Replace Metal and Plastics

    Nanocrystalline cellulose (NCC) sounds almost too good to be true. The same microscopic particles that help trees to stand up straight are also lightweight, non-toxic, stronger than steel and just happen to be the most abundant organic compound on Earth. First studied in earnest in the early 1990s, manufacturers can now produce pure NCC from wood pulp.

    Some early boosters are predicting that NCC will replace metals, conventional glass, and petroleum-based plastics in everything from helicopters to office towers. The material is cheap, and doesn’t even require felling entire trees: It can be recovered from twigs, sawdust and presumably any plant with woody components. Though NCC is cheap, is potential profitability is anything but. The USDA anticipates that the nanocrystalline cellulose market will hit $600 billion by 2020. NCC might wean us off mining for nonrenewable resources, might lead to a second rush on the world’s forests, or may simply blow away in a puff of nanoscale hype.

    Via Atlantic Cities.

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  • Synapse Structure

    Replacing Synapses with a Single Switch

    Neural synapses in the human brain are extraordinarily complex structures. Responsible for relaying information between neurons, chemical synapses govern the release of over 100 different kinds of neurotransmitters, while electrical synapses deliver information via electricity for rapid-fire reflexes.

    Now, researchers in Japan have invented a simplified synapse in the form of a ”solid-state electrochemical nanodevice” that functions as a switch. The gap between these two synthetic synapses is bridged by a tiny copper wire, which changes in conductivity over time. Though at first it may seem a bit esoteric, this new device actually mimics what goes on in the construction of sensory memory, short-term memory, and long-term memory. The scientists behind this synapse are hopeful that it will lead to more life-like artificial minds, as well as treatments for the human brain.

    It’s interesting that this nanodevice may in some ways have improved upon a biological synapse. Evolution tends to lead to local maxima – it reaches the best design given existing structures, but it can’t invent entirely new solutions out of nothing. The “blind spot” is a classic example: Because the optic nerve connects through the retina, there is a blank region in our field of vision where the nerve cells have crowded out the sensory cells. The brain has evolved very clever ways to deal with this deficit, but evolution hasn’t actually been able to completely solve the problem.* Maybe science may soon find more “intelligent designs” that cut some of the evolutionary clutter. As always, we welcome our hyper-efficient cyborg overlords.

    *Except in squid and octopi.

    Via Io9. Image via Systemic Kids.

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  • Spray On Liquid Glass

    Spray On Liquid Glass

    Now here is a product that should soon find its way into the NANO Supermarket soon. At least, if supermarkets are willing to put it on their shelves, as they currently make huge profits from cleaning products and spray-on liquid glass would make virtually all of them obsolete.

    According to its creators “Spray-on liquid glass is transparent, non-toxic, and used to protect virtually any surface against almost any damage from hazards such as water, UV radiation, dirt, heat, and bacterial infections. The coating is also flexible and breathable, which makes it suitable for use on an enormous array of products.”

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  • Nanowine_bottle_530

    A Winery in your Microwave

    A delicious Montepulciano in only 6 seconds? This is now possible with the universal Nano wine. All you need is a microwave oven.

    In 5,64 seconds at 1000 watt you have a sublime Romanée-Conti. Or create a surprisingly young Mouton-Rothschild 1945 in only 2,34 seconds at 650 watt. The possibilities are endless. The wine contains millions of nano capsules which depending on your mood and taste preferences can be activated by microwaves. Inactivated nano capsules move unnoticed through the body, while the opened capsules alter the taste, smell and color of the wine. Sweet!

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  • electricity generating viruses

    To Generate Electricity, Just Tap on this Virus

    Is your friend impatiently tapping on her phone, or is she just charging the battery? Researchers at the Berkeley Lab have produced the first virus-powered generator that runs off taps. The device takes advantage of a special characteristic of certain viruses, piezoelectricity, that converts movement into electrical energy. By tapping on a small electrode coated in harmless viruses, the scientists were able to produce enough energy to power a liquid-crystal display. The viruses, which self-assemble into a thin, organized film, may also pave the way for simplified electronics manufacturing.

    This technology could potentially generate electricity from any object that’s subject to motion or vibration: Doors in apartment buildings, busy sidewalks and roads, even the soles of shoes. There’s stranger, next natural applications to consider as well. What about tiny surveillance devices that run on pigeons’ flapping wings? Or streetlights powered by leaves as they shake in the wind? Whatever the outcome, this piezoelectric generator represents a step away from mechanistic thought, and towards a more ecological approach to design.

    Via Berkeley Lab.

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  • hard drive close-up

    Bacteria Inspire New Magnetic Hard Drive

    Certain types of bacteria can navigate using magnetic nanoparticles as tiny compasses. Researchers at the University of Leeds have extracted the protein that controls this process and applied it to computing. Typical hard drives use use “granular computing”, while this new method relies on bit-pattern media, where each miniscule magnetic square on a surface can store one bit.

    The team is close to recreating the data density of modern hard drives, and hope eventually to be able to store one terabyte of date per square inch – more advanced than any existing hard drive. According to Sarah Stanilan, who lead the research, “We’re using and abusing nature because it’s had billions of years to do all of its experiments through evolution, so there is almost no point in us starting from scratch.”

    Photo via Downhilldom. Story via New Scientist.

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  • silkworm cocoons

    Regrowing Bones with Silk

    Time to add another superpower to insect silk, which already includes bulletproof skin and implantable microelectronicsRecent research indicates that silk may be an ideal candidate for creating strong, flexible scaffolding for re-growing bones. Scientists used a chemical process to break silk strands down into nano-scale fibers that were used to reinforce a silk protein scaffold. By mimicking the natural roughness and stiffness of bone, this biodegradable structure helps to encourage vigorous bone growth. While certain biomaterials are at the center of research into bone regeneration, few of these existing materials can match silk’s toughness, especially in load-bearing grafts.

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  • carrots

    First “Farm”aceuticals Grown in Carrots

    The United States Food and Drug Administration recently approved Elelyso, the first drug to be grown in genetically modified plant cells. Produced in carrot cells, this drug helps to treat the symptoms of Gaucher disease, a genetic disorder that causes bruising, anemia and low blood platelets.

    Israeli scientists were able to insert a gene that codes for a human enzyme into carrot cells, causing the cells to produce the same protein that Gaucher patients lack. This new method should help prevent drug shortages that have affected Gaucher sufferers in the past, as well as being cheaper and less prone to infection than animal cells. Soon mothers may be telling their children to eat carrots, not just for better eyesight, but for better health across the board.

    Story via Nature. Photo via Flickr user Loose Ends

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  • nano milan

    Natura Prossimo a Milano

    Calling our Italian readers! This week our NANO Supermarket will be visiting Milan as part of the Salone Internazionale del Mobile, a show devoted to product and interior design. While the show is only open to invitees, the NANO Supermarket is open to everyone. Come learn, discuss, and sample some pharmaceutical sushi.

    NANO Supermarket Exhibition 18-22 April 2012
    Studio Zeta, Via Friuli 26, 20135 Milan, Italy (map)

    Opening hours:
    Wed 4/18: 11 AM – 7 PM
    Thu 4/19: 9 AM – 7 PM
    Fri 4/20: 9 AM – 7 PM
    Sat 4/21: 9 AM – 7 PM
    Sun 4/22: 11 AM – 5 PM

    * Pre-opening at Dutch Consulate on 17th of April 18:00

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  • box front

    ‘Alp’ Turns Containers into Refrigerators

    Transporting and displaying cold food is an incredibly wasteful and inefficient process. Current display refrigerators, like those that display meats or cheeses in supermarkets, create cold air that is quickly lost to the open environment. The volume that is cooled is inevitably greater than the volume. Alp, by Ethan Frier, is a transportation and refrigeration concept for the supermarket of 2021. It consists of standardized, reusable boxes in which food items are packed, shipped and displayed.

    The boxes are constructed of highly thermally conductive nanomaterials. They cool food via contact with a refrigerated “wall” that is permanently installed in the supermarket for display purposes, or in the wheeled containers used for transport. This system replaces the cardboard boxes typically used to ship food, the refrigerated infrastructure used to transport cold food (refrigerated trucks, large industrial holding refrigerators) and replaces the refrigerated shelving systems used to display cold food for sale.  Alp is completely modular and scalable, and can be configured to replace almost any type of refrigerator, from mini fridge to industrial size. Alp challenges us to critically think about how we refrigerate and transport our food.

    For additional documentation, visit the project page.

    Want to design your own speculative nanotech? Check out the Call for Products in the second edition of the NANO Supermarket

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  • Poster1 Part 2

    Nanotech Bracelet Detects Allergies

    Designed by Luc de Smet, Awear is a speculative bracelet that can detect and record the sources of allergies for children in uncontrolled environments, such as schools and playgrounds. While the child wears the bracelet, parents or teachers can check the results on a computer or smartphone. It can be removed at any time when it is deemed no longer necessary or in the way.

    Awear works by using an array of nanosize Raman spectroscopes that can scan any surface where light pierces. These miniature spectroscopes would look inside the wearer’s skin to see if an allergic reaction is occurring, and then analyze the surrounding air to detect what allergens are in range. GPS or another similar technology would record the location. The bracelet could be linked with others to share information, and could be modified to give warnings when certain known allergens are in range.

    Want to design your own speculative nanotech? Check out the Call for Products in the second edition of the NANO Supermarket

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  • scale of the universe

    The Relative Size of Old Nature

    Created by Cary Huang, this interactive scale of the universe shows the relative sizes of everything from quarks to the Hoover Dam. Be prepared for some cosmic gee-whiz moments when you get out to the nebulas. The objects are complimented with cheeky facts such as “If you were to stretch your skin over Vatican City, the coating would be 200 nanometers thick.” Just a reminder that there’s still an incomprehensibly huge amount of ‘old nature’ out there left to explore.

    The Scale of the Universe

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  • NANO_call_header_

    Nano Supermarket 2nd Edition: Call for Products

    The NANO Supermarket is evolving! After two successful years touring the globe, the supermarket is now entering its second edition. We are calling upon designers, technologists and artists to submit their speculative nanotech products for the next round of the NANO supermarket. A selection of the most innovative products will be exhibited in the physical space, and featured in the accompanying catalogue. The best product overall will win a € 2500 prize.

    Nanotechnology is an important emerging technology  – it radically intervenes with our sense of what is natural – yet most people are still relatively unaware of its consequences. The Next Nature NANO Supermarket is a physical “supermarket” that features debate-provoking visions on nanotech products that could be expected to hit the shelves between today and 2020.

    Just what is a nano product? Click through for some examples of our past entries:

    Read more »

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  • MIT artificial leaf

    Fake Leaf is Twice as Efficient as the Real Thing

    Improving on photosynthesis has long been a dream for scientists. The so-called artificial leaf – which wouldn’t necessarily look like one – would run on only solar energy and CO2, just like a normal leaf. But unlike a real leaf, an artificial leaf could be made far more efficient at collecting solar energy, and would turn that energy into electricity.

    With their new ‘bionanodevice’, researchers at the University of Michigan have moved one step closer to that goal. Splicing together proteins from cynobacteria, Synechococcus, and Clostridium with nano-scale wire, they have created a frankenstein device that is more efficient at photosynthesis than any of the bacteria on their own. Their research joins recent efforts at MIT, where scientists have developed a ‘leaf’ that produces hydrogen from water and sunlight.

    Fake leaves producing real energy are still a way off, since producing nanodevices cheap and tough enough for mass production will prove difficult. Even though these devices are double the efficiency of natural leaves, they still only convert 4 to 5% of solar energy into useable electricity. Artificial photosynthesis may have to triple the efficiency of actual plants in order to compete with more conventional means of producing electricity.

    Image of MIT artificial leaf via Geek.com

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  • jetsons pill

    Humane Technology #1: Feels Natural

    All too often, technology frustrates us. It forces our behavior into constrained pathways. Even more insidious, technology can knock us out of alignment with our values, goals or health. While conventional tech creates new problems even as it solves old ones, ‘humane technology’ has the opposite effect. It is a partner, not a passive tool. It works with our bodies and instincts, not against them. This post is the first in a series that attempts to make a field guide or mini-manifesto for humane technology.  To kick it off, here’s the first principle of the six: Humane technology should feel natural, rather than estranging.

    Medicine can be hard to swallow, and vaccine needles makes even the bravest patients squirm. Is there a friendlier way to what’s good for us? Humane technology recognizes that humans are not one-size-fits-all. What works like a charm for you might feel like a curse to me. Humane technology should strive to replicate the walking leaf: so well adapted to the local conditions that you might not even notice, or mind, that it’s there. Just don’t be surprised if your doctor prescribes medical-grade sushi made from GM fish, or uses a painless needle based on a mosquito’s proboscis. The technology behind our advances might be mind-boggling, but the results should feel as natural as our own skin.

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  • nanoworld1_530

    Nano World Map

    The NanoWorld Map is an imaginative map of the emerging world of nanotechnology. It presents an overview of the state of the art of nanotechnology: its application domains, its enabling technologies and products.

    When traveling through the landscape of the Nano World one comes across its opportunities, fears, risks and desires. Established applications are presented as cities, whereas speculative applications are rendered as villages.

    Map out your route or travel along the given routes on the map. Imagine how the products on your journey will have impact on your life and the life of others. Would you use the products? How can this change your life and what will be the impact on your environment?

    Launch the: Online Version of the Nano World Map.


    The Nano World Map was designed by Niko Vegt, advised by Hendrik-Jan Grievink, Koert van Mensvoort and Bart Walhout in collaboration with the Rathenau Institute. Created for the Nano Supermarket. Sponsored by Nanopodium.

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  • manco_7

    Manko & Soup [#6]

    When Nada returned as promised with a small bowl of soup in her hands, Manko was sitting upright with a grumbling stomach. Even now that Manko could see normal again, Nada’s hair was still a red blur. Her green eyes looked at him curiously from under the short bob haircut.

    Nada: ‘Ha, you’re staring at my kinetic hairdo.’

    She shook her head, which made her hair flash up into a bright red light, as if she was a big matchstick and her head was about to burst into flames.

    Nada:
    ‘Here, this tomato soup will make you feel better. It’s slightly enhanced with nano-tech, as is everything in this place.’

    Manko put the bowl to his mouth and eagerly slurped the soup. It did not burn his mouth, so he took a big gulp and a warm stream made its way down his throat and into his rejoicing belly. This must have been the best soup he’d ever had. The warmth did not stop in his belly though, but continued to spread thoughout his body. A mellow warmth that soon reached his arms and leg. As he swallowed the last bit of soup, he could feel it already reaching his fingertips. It was as if he was being filled up like a radiator, hollow on the inside, with hot water filling him up entirely. It was a marvelous feeling.

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