Crain’, October 5, 2010, by Tom Henderson  —  With a projected market for regenerative medicine of $500 billion by 2020 in the U.S. alone, states are right to fund economic programs targeting stem cell research and biotechnology, but politicians can’t be short-sighted by demanding short-term payoffs.

That was the message delivered Tuesday afternoon at the sixth annual World Stem Cell Summit in downtown Detroit by Dan Gincel, director of the Maryland Stem Cell Research Fund, which was created in 2006 and has awarded $68.4 million in 180 research grants in its first four years.

“You look at that number ($500 billion), and it makes sense that this is the way you want to grow you economy,” he said. “But when you talk to legislators and politicians, they want to see results in four years. They don’t want to look at results in 10 years. Ten years is too late for them.”

So Gincel looked at short-term benefits for his program.

He said that after just two years, investments by his fund had directly led to the creation of 500 jobs and had an indirect economic impact to recipients of $71 million. They also led directly to $2.7 million in increased tax revenue.

Also speaking at the panel on stem cells and regenerative medicine as an engine for economic growth, Allen Goodman, an economist at Wayne State University, told the audience about an economic impact study he put together in 2008 on the potential benefits if Proposal 2 was passed by voters in Michigan to allow stem cell research.

He said that if stem cell research had just a 1 percent impact on the 50,000 biotech jobs in the state before the proposal’s passage, that would translate into 797 jobs and $51 million in increased payroll.

He said those numbers were conservative and didn’t include numbers for lost jobs or decreased payroll had the proposal not passed and researchers left for jobs in other states.

Goodman said he couldn’t quantify any numbers since the proposal passed, but there has been substantial benefit in federal grants, if nothing else.

In October 2009, the University of Michigan got $6.8 million in stimulus money for 13 stem cell projects, and in May, a TechTown tenant, MitoStem Inc., got a $200,000 grant to improve the process by which adult stem cells are tricked into becoming what are known as pluripotent stem cells, which are very similar to embryonic stem cells.

Chris Mason, director of the London Regenerative Medicine Network in the U.K., said that while regenerative medicine is relatively new to the marketplace — 323,000 patients worldwide have received cell-based therapies and there are a handful of products on the market, including a synthetic skin — he predicted that one day the market for stem cell and other regenerative therapies will rival that of medical devices and drugs from large pharmaceutical companies.

Sketch of bone marrow and its cells



Hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) are multipotent stem cells that give rise to all the blood cell types including myeloid (monocytes and macrophages, neutrophils, basophils, eosinophils, erythrocytes, megakaryocytes/platelets, dendritic cells), and lymphoid lineages (T-cells, B-cells, NK-cells). The definition of hematopoietic stem cells has undergone considerable revision in the last two decades. The hematopoietic tissue contains cells with long-term and short-term regeneration capacities and committed multipotent, oligopotent, and unipotent progenitors. HSCs constitute 1:10.000 of cells in myeloid tissue.

Intriguingly, HSC do not form a uniform population. Rather, it was shown in a series of landmark experiments between 2002 and 2004 that HSC fall into 16 classes with distinct repopulation kinetics, and 3 categories of lineage bias distinguished by their ratio of lymphoid to myeloid progeny (L/M) in blood. Myeloid-biased (My-bi) HSC have low L/M ratio (>0, <3), while lymphoid-biased (Ly-bi) HSC show a large ratio (>10). The third category consists of the balanced (Bala) HSC for which 3 ≤ L/M ≤ 10. Stem cells in all three classes are true HSC, their behavior is epigenetically fixed and, together, they make up the complete hematopoietic stem cell compartment. The finding of diversity among HSC contradicts older models, which postulated a single type of HSC that can be continuously molded into different subtypes of HSCs.

HSCs are found in the bone marrow of adults, which includes femurs, hip, ribs, sternum, and other bones. Cells can be obtained directly by removal from the hip using a needle and syringe, or from the blood following pre-treatment with cytokines, such as G-CSF (granulocyte colony-stimulating factors), that induce cells to be released from the bone marrow compartment. Other sources for clinical and scientific use include umbilical cord blood, placenta, mobilized peripheral blood. For experimental purposes, fetal liver, fetal spleen, and AGM (Aorta-gonad-mesonephros) of animals are also useful sources of HSCs.

Solar photovoltaic panels

President Barack Obama’s administration said Tuesday it will install solar panels on the White House in a bid to encourage Americans in lesser known residences to embrace renewable energy.

Former president Jimmy Carter put solar panels on the executive mansion in 1979, but Ronald Reagan took them down. The Obama White House last month politely rebuffed an activist who showed up with a Carter-era panel.

But Energy Secretary Steven Chu, addressing a conference on greening the federal government, said that two new solar panels would go up on the White House to show Americans that the technology is ready and reliable.

“This project reflects President Obama’s strong commitment to US leadership in solar energy and the jobs it will create here at home,” Chu said.

“Deploying solar energy technologies across the country will help America lead the global economy for years to come,” he said.

The Energy Department will open up competitive bidding to choose a company to install the panels, said Chu, who earlier ordered temperature-cooling white paint on the roofs of his own agency’s buildings.

It is the latest green project for the Obama White House. First Lady Michelle Obama launched a garden on the lawn in a bid to persuade Americans to eat fresher, healthier food.

The Obama administration tapped into last year’s stimulus package to encourage solar and other renewable energies, hoping they will spur a new green economy and reduce carbon emissions which scientists say is causing dangerous climate change.

The US Senate has balked at mandating cuts in carbon emissions, with critics saying the plan would hurt a fragile economy.

Obama, however, pledged in January that the federal government would do its share by cutting carbon emissions by 28 percent by 2020 compared with levels in recent years.

Bill McKibben, the founder of the climate advocacy group, last month brought to the White House one of the original Carter panels — now stored at Unity College in Maine — but did not receive a commitment.

McKibben on Tuesday praised the Obama administration, saying it was listening to some 40,000 people who signed a petition for the solar panels.

“If it has anything like the effect of the White House garden, it could be a trigger for a wave of solar installations across the country and around the world,” he said.

For more interesting photos go to: by Jack Mahoney

October 7, 2010  —  The Empire State Building is a 102-story Art Deco skyscraper in New York City, New York at the intersection of Fifth Avenue and West 34th Street. Its name is derived from the nickname for the state of New York. It stood as the world’s tallest building for more than forty years, from its completion in 1931 until construction of the World Trade Center’s North Tower was completed in 1972. Following the destruction of the World Trade Center in 2001, the Empire State Building became for the second time, the tallest building in New York City.

The Empire State Building has been named by the American Society of Civil Engineers as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. The building and its street floor interior are designated landmarks of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, and confirmed by the New York City Board of Estimate.[5] It was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1986.[3][6][7] In 2007, it was ranked number one on the List of America’s Favorite Architecture according to the AIA. The building is owned by Harold Helmsley’s company and managed by its management/leasing division Helmsley-Spear.

History of the building
The present site of the Empire State Building was first developed as the John Thomson Farm in the late 18th century. The block was occupied by the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in the late 19th century, and was frequented by The Four Hundred, the social elite of New York.

Design and Construction
The Empire State Building was designed by Gregory Johnson and his architectural firm Shreve, Lamb and Harmon, which produced the building drawings in just two weeks, possibly using its earlier design for the R.J. Reynolds Tower in Winston-Salem, North Carolina as a basis.[8] The building was actually designed from the top down.[9] The general contractors were Starrett Brothers and Eken, and the project was financed by John J. Raskob. The construction company was chaired by Alfred E. Smith, a former Governor of New York.[2]

Excavation of the site began on January 22, 1930, and construction on the building itself started symbolically on March 17—St.Patrick’s Day—per Al Smith’s influence as Empire State, Inc. president. The project involved 3,400 workers, mostly immigrants from Europe, along with hundreds of Mohawk iron workers. According to official accounts, five workers died during the construction.[10] Governor Smith’s grandchildren cut the ribbon on March 1st, 1931.

The construction was part of an intense competition in New York for the title of the world’s tallest building. Two other projects fighting for the title, 40 Wall Street and the Chrysler Building, were still under construction when work began on the Empire State Building. Both would hold the title for less than a year, as the Empire State Building had surpassed them upon its completion, just 410 days after construction commenced. The building was officially opened on May 1, 1931 in dramatic fashion, when United States President Herbert Hoover turned on the building’s lights with the push of a button from Washington, D.C. Ironically, the first use of tower lights atop the Empire State Building, the following year, was for the purpose of signalling the victory of Franklin D. Roosevelt over Hoover in the presidential election of November 1932.[11]

Empty State Building
The building’s opening coincided with the Great Depression in the United States, and as a result much of its office space went unrented. In its first year of operation, the observation deck took in over a million dollars, as much money as its owners made in rent that year. The lack of renters led New Yorkers to deride the building as the “Empty State Building”.[12] The building would not become profitable until 1950. The famous 1951 sale of The Empire State Building to Roger L. Stevens and his business partners was brokered by the prominent lower Manhattan real estate firm Charles F. Noyes & Company for a record $51 million. At the time, that was the highest price ever paid for a single structure in real estate history.[13]

Dirigible Terminal
The building’s distinctive art deco spire was originally designed to be a mooring mast and depot for dirigibles. The 102nd floor was originally a landing platform with a dirigible gangplank. A particular elevator, traveling between the 86th and 102nd floors, was supposed to transport passengers after they checked in at the observation deck on the 86th floor.[2] However, the idea proved to be impractical and dangerous after a few attempts with airships, due to the powerful updrafts caused by the size of the building itself. The T-shaped mooring devices remain in place. A large broadcast antenna was added to the top of the spire in 1952.

1945 Plane Crash

At 9:40 a.m. on Saturday July 28, 1945, a B-25 Mitchell bomber, piloted by Lieutenant Colonel William F. Smith, Jr., who was flying in a thick fog, accidentally crashed into the north side of the Empire State Building between the 79th and 80th floors, where the offices of the National Catholic Welfare Council were located. One engine shot through the side opposite the impact and another plummeted down an elevator shaft. The fire was extinguished in 40 minutes. Fourteen people were killed in the incident.[14][15] Elevator operator Betty Lou Oliver survived a plunge of 75 stories inside an elevator, which still stands as the Guinness World Record for the longest survived elevator fall recorded.[16] Despite the damage and loss of life, the building was open for business on many floors the following Monday.

Tallest Skyscraper for 41 years
The Empire State Building remained the tallest skyscraper in the world for a record 41 years, and stood as the world’s tallest man-made structure for 23 years. It was surpassed by the North Tower of the World Trade Center in 1972, and the Sears Tower shortly afterwards. With the destruction of the World Trade Center in the September 11, 2001 attacks, the Empire State Building again became the tallest building in New York City, and the second-tallest building in the United States.

In all, the Empire State Building contains more than 6,500 windows, almost all of which have a radiator unit installed directly underneath. Most of the double-pane glass was well more than a decade old, and all that carved exterior “stonework” beneath each window is actually aluminum installed to reduce the cost of expensive masonry when the building was constructed in 1931. That’s right: the radiator units are separated from wintry outdoor conditions by conductive aluminum.

Every night, 100 windows are pulled from their frames somewhere in the Empire State Building and brought to a rehab shop on the fifth floor. They are replaced by the 100 windows pulled down the night before and rehabbed earlier that day. Each window is completely stripped from its framing, producing two panes of dirty, aging glass.

Don’t call it greenwashing. Each pane goes through a rigorous three-step cleaning process, including a trip through a car-wash-like machine that restores it to a like-new state. Some of the glass has accumulated defects and must be discarded – much of it is between 15 and 17 years old – but overall the Empire State Building is recovering roughly 90 percent of its old glass.

Each two-pane set is fitted with a spacer that creates ample space between them. After they are sealed up, krypton and argon gasses are pumped into the space in between. The heavy molecules don’t create the same kind of heat exchange between panes that regular ambient air would, drastically improving each window’s insulation value.

Each two-pane set is fitted with a spacer that creates ample space between them. After they are sealed up, krypton and argon gasses are pumped into the space in between. The heavy molecules don’t create the same kind of heat exchange between panes that regular ambient air would, drastically improving each window’s insulation value.

Each window also gets coated with a thin Mylar film that and is then baked in an oven that stretches the UV-retarding material tightly against the glass, removing any visible imperfections. The film goes on with a purple hue but after the heat treatment appears clear.

After a one-day turnaround, the rehabbed windows are installed in the place of the next batch of old glass due for a 21st-century update. For their part, the radiators underneath are getting a new layer of insulation as well. The end result: windows that keep heat out in summer and heat in during the cold months, and radiators that pump heat to the building’s interior without bleeding so much of it into the outside air. These technologies reduce the load on the building’s current infrastructure, which is also receiving efficiency upgrades. The result is an investment in green tech that will reduce the energy consumption of the Empire State Building by nearly 40 percent and pay for itself in just three years.

Prize winner: The Nobel Prize in physics this year went to U.K. researchers who pioneered the study of graphene. This scanning-electron microscope image shows a crumpled  graphene sheet of the single-atom-thick material. Credit: University of Manchester

A pair of U.K. physicists are awarded the prize for demonstrating the material’s unusual properties

MIT Technology Review, October 7, 2010, by Katherine BourzacThe 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded to the two researchers who performed the first experiments on graphene, a two-dimensional sheet of carbon atoms. The award, given to University of Manchester physicists Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, recognizes work that began less than a decade ago on a material that’s since been used to make record-breaking transistors and stretchy electrodes.

Graphene is a material of many superlatives: it’s the best conductor of electricity at room temperature and the strongest material ever tested. It’s also an excellent heat conductor, and is transparent and flexible. Before Geim and Novoselov’s work, researchers had theorized the material’s existence, and had predicted that it could be used to make transistors more than 100 times faster than those in today’s silicon-based chips. But until the U.K. researchers made and tested graphene in 2004, many physicists guessed that materials one-atom thick would be unstable.

In 2004, Geim and Novoselov made graphene in the lab by using adhesive tape to peel a chunk of graphite into ever-thinner sheets, as in this video. A graphene sheet is a single layer of carbon atoms enmeshed in a honeycomb-like, repeating hexagon pattern.

Graphene is a naturally occurring material. Layers of graphene make up the graphite found in pencil lead. When you trace a pencil on a piece of paper, these layers are cleaved, leaving thin layers of these carbon sheets. By crushing graphite and peeling it with tape into ever-thinner flakes and eventually into pieces just one atom thick, Geim and Novoselov were able to make usuable quantities of graphene that could be studied and to lay to rest doubts about graphene’s stability.

In their initial work, in 2004, they not only demonstrated that they had made graphene, but also elucidated its electrical properties by patterning it and connecting it to electrodes. “They were not the first ones ever to see graphene, but certainly it was Geim and Novoselov who really opened the door to be able to study it,” says James Tour, professor of chemistry at Rice University.

Once they developed this experimental system for studying the material, Geim and Novoselov, and other researchers who followed, found some remarkable things. First, electrons in graphene behave as if they have no mass, careening forward at speeds of one million meters per second. (Compare that to the speed of light in a vacuum, 300 million meters per second.) And while electrons usually bounce off obstacles inside a conductive material, electrons traveling through the perfect honeycomb lattice of graphene have smooth sailing.

Graphene’s perfect structure gives rise to exotic quantum effects that are being studied by physicists. However, the material’s electrical properties, its transparency, and its strength have been seized on by engineers working to make everything from touch screens to solar cells to lightweight structural materials. Researchers at IBM are developing arrays of graphene transistors that leave conventional silicon in the dust, and a group at Samsung is developing printed graphene electrodes for use in transparent, flexible touch screens.

In recognition of the promise of the material, TR featured work at Georgia Tech on graphene transistors as one of the most promising emerging technologies in 2008; in the same year we recognized Novoselov with our young innovator award, the TR35.

Geim and Novoselov’s technique can be used to make graphene in relatively small quantities, enough to study it in the lab and make test devices, but nowhere near enough for manufacturing. In the intervening years, researchers have developed methods for making larger quantities of the material, and now they’re learning how to use it to make devices.

“Now we have to find ways of synthesizing graphene reliably on a large scale, and making these technologies reproducibly in a way that makes economic sense,” says Phaedon Avouris, a researcher developing graphene transistors and photodetectors at IBM’s Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, New York.

Speedy switches: These arrays of graphene transistors, printed on a silicon carbide wafer, operate at speeds of 100 gigahertz.
Credit: Science/AAAS

Hot wire: An AFM tip heated to over 150 °C can etch an insulating graphene oxide surface to create thin conductive nanoscale wires.  Credit: Debin Wang, Georgia Tech

A heated AFM tip can draw nanometers-wide conductive lines on graphene oxide

MIT Technology Review, by Prachi Patel  —  Using a heated atomic force microscope tip, researchers have drawn nanoscale conductive patterns on insulating graphene oxide. This simple trick to control graphene oxide’s conductivity could pave the way for etching electronic circuits into the carbon material, an important advance toward high-speed, low-power, and potentially cheaper computer processors.

Graphene, an atom-thick carbon sheet, is a promising replacement for silicon in electronic circuits, since it transports electrons much faster. IBM researchers have already made transistors, the building blocks of electronic circuits, with graphene that work 10 times faster than their silicon counterparts. But to make these transistors, researchers first have to alter the graphene’s electronic properties by cutting it into thin ribbons, which are then incorporated into devices. Researchers have made these nanoribbons with lithography, with chemical solution-based processes, or by unzipping carbon nanotubes.

In the new Science paper, researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology and the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory instead “write” such nanoribbons on a surface rather than cutting graphene. The researchers start with a graphene oxide sheet, which doesn’t conduct electric current. When they pull an AFM tip heated to between 150 °C and 1060 °C across the sheet, oxygen atoms are shed at the spots that the tip touches. This leaves behind lines of almost-pure graphene that are 10,000 times more conductive than the surrounding graphene oxide.

“It’s a fast, reproducible technique, it’s one-step, it’s simple,” says Paul Sheehan, who led the work at the Naval Research Laboratory. “Instead of putting down resist and trying to cut graphene in different ways, you can use local heat and write the lines exactly where you want them.” Sheehan says that an array of thousands of AFM tips could sketch circuits on graphene oxide at the same time.

Lithographic methods to make nanoribbons are cumbersome and expensive, says Jing Guo, an electrical and computer engineering professor at the University of Florida in Gainesville. These methods can also create ribbons with rough edges, which affect graphene’s electronic properties and result in low-quality transistors. “This is a new way to [make nanoribbons] that’s very simple and reliable and potentially scalable to large scale,” he says. “You basically have a paper and take a pencil to scratch it, and you have a very narrow line.”

The researchers wrote lines as narrow as 12 nanometers across and at speeds of up to 0.1 millimeters per second. The writing speed increased with temperature. “It is exciting to see that this conversion can be done and controlled at the nanoscale,” says Yu-Ming Lin, a nanoscale science and technology group researcher at IBM’s Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, NY. “This is an important step for graphene-based [electronics].”

Starting with graphene oxide sheets rather than graphene is easier and cheaper, says Elisa Riedo, a physics professor at Georgia Tech who led the work with Sheehan. Pristine graphene sheets are typically obtained by mechanically separating flakes from graphite or by growing graphene on two-inch silicon carbide wafers. “Graphene oxide was cheaper to produce in large areas compared to graphene,” Riedo says. “It’s a different path to arrive to graphene.”

The researchers plan to make transistors using their technique, but they might need additional processing first, says Yanwu Zhu, a graphene researcher at the University of Texas at Austin. For one thing, they will have to find a way to remove graphene oxide remnants from the conductive ribbons