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CleanTech Partners, Inc., wins $1.5 million U.S. Department of Energy Grant for the Development of Cellulosic Ethanol

MADISON, Wis. (November 28, 2006) – CleanTech Partners received notification from the U.S. Department of Energy that its proposal for producing cellulosic ethanol at paper mills by extracting the sugars from wood chips before they are pulped for paper making has been funded. The total project cost is nearly $2.7 million, of which the Department of Energy will contribute just over $1.5 million.

Masood Akhtar, CleanTech Partners’ President and principal investigator on this project, led the consortium that applied for the grant. Other participants included a major pulp and paper company with numerous locations in Wisconsin, the USDA Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, Wisconsin as well a number of other non-Wisconsin paper companies, universities and enzyme companies.

The research project has two major focuses:

• Use of enzymes, acids and other additives to aid extraction of hemicellulose sugars from wood chips prior to pulping for paper fiber, while maintaining the value and quality of the pulp and paper products.

• High-yield conversion of the complex mixture of sugars and their fermentation to ethanol, with recovery of marketable acetic acid as a co-product.

The resulting chips should be more easily pulped since diffusion of the pulping chemicals should be enhanced, and the energy needed to break the chips down into paper fibers should be reduced. If successful, a typical Kraft-process paper mill could produce 10-15 million gallons of ethanol each year using the new technology, without adversely affecting paper production or quality. Additional environmental and commercial benefits would come from the use of wood resources that have a well-developed and sustainable production and harvesting infrastructure.

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Nanotechnology hits a patent roadblock

By Jon Van
Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO - Just as it's getting traction spawning new companies and products, the hot nanotechnology sector is running into a roadblock at the U.S. Patent Office.

As the time it takes to process patent applications now averages almost four years, double the time it took in 2004, nanotech entrepreneurs are beginning to worry that their ability to raise money to develop products may be stifled.

``Clearly there's a danger,'' Stephen Maebius, a partner in the Foley & Lardner law firm, said of the patent application backlog. ``If you cross a threshold and it's taking too long, potential financial backers wonder if what you have is patentable or not.''

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Nanotechnology impacts under UW staffs' microscopes

Nanotechnology impacts under UW staffs' microscopes
By Bill Novak
Federal regulators are clamping down on the use of microscopic particles of silver in consumer products because of potential harmful effects on the environment, but scientists are working on testing standards as the new nanotechnology industries develop, according to a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor.

The Environmental Protection Agency announced new regulations this week on the use of nanosilver, tiny particles of silver a few ten-thousandths the diameter of a human hair thick, that have been infused into products such as food containers, shoe liners and bandages to kill bacteria.

The EPA decided that since germ-fighting nanosilver could also possibly be killing beneficial bacteria and aquatic organisms if particles wash down the drain into the water system, it now falls under the guidelines of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act, according to an article this week in the Washington Post.

This could be bad news for companies that make products using nanosilver as a germ-fighting feature, but it is a problem the emerging nanotechnology sciences pose for government agencies empowered to regulate them and to safeguard the public from potential health hazards.

UW-Madison has about 80 nanotechnology researchers in various departments on campus.

One of the scientists working on the evolving technology is David C. Schwartz, professor of chemistry and genetics.

Full story.

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Genetic breakthrough that reveals the differences between humans

Scientists hail genetic discovery that will change human understanding
By Steve Connor, Science Editor
Published: 23 November 2006

Scientists have discovered a dramatic variation in the genetic make-up of humans that could lead to a fundamental reappraisal of what causes incurable diseases and could provide a greater understanding of mankind.

The discovery has astonished scientists studying the human genome - the genetic recipe of man. Until now it was believed the variation between people was due largely to differences in the sequences of the individual " letters" of the genome.

It now appears much of the variation is explained instead by people having multiple copies of some key genes that make up the human genome.

Until now it was assumed that the human genome, or "book of life", is largely the same for everyone, save for a few spelling differences in some of the words. Instead, the findings suggest that the book contains entire sentences, paragraphs or even whole pages that are repeated any number of times.

The findings mean that instead of humanity being 99.9 per cent identical, as previously believed, we are at least 10 times more different between one another than once thought - which could explain why some people are prone to serious diseases.

The studies published today have found that instead of having just two copies of each gene - one from each parent - people can carry many copies, but just how many can vary between one person and the next.

The studies suggest variations in the number of copies of genes is normal and healthy. But the scientists also believe many diseases may be triggered by an abnormal loss or gain in the copies of some key genes.

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World's largest superconducting magnet switches on

Geneva, 20 November 2006. The largest superconducting magnet ever built has successfully been powered up to its nominal operating conditions at the first attempt. Called the Barrel Toroid because of its shape, this magnet provides a powerful magnetic field for ATLAS, one of the major particle detectors being prepared to take data at CERN1's Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the new particle accelerator scheduled to turn on in November 2007.

The ATLAS Barrel Toroid consists of eight superconducting coils, each in the shape of a round-cornered rectangle, 5m wide, 25m long and weighing 100 tonnes, all aligned to millimetre precision. It will work together with other magnets in ATLAS to bend the paths of charged particles produced in collisions at the LHC, enabling important properties to be measured. Unlike most particle detectors, the ATLAS detector does not need large quantities of metal to contain the field because the field is contained within a doughnut shape defined by the coils. This increases the precision of the measurements it can make.

At 46m long, 25m wide and 25m high, ATLAS is the largest volume detector ever constructed for particle physics. Among the questions ATLAS will focus on are why particles have mass, what the unknown 96% of the Universe is made of, and why Nature prefers matter to antimatter. Some 1800 scientists from 165 universities and laboratories representing 35 countries are building the ATLAS detector and preparing to take data next year.

The ATLAS Barrel Toroid was first cooled down over a six-week period in July-August to reach –269°C . It was then powered up step-by-step to higher and higher currents, reaching 21 thousand amps for the first time during the night of 9 November. This is 500 amps above the current needed to produce the nominal magnetic field. Afterwards, the current was switched off and the stored magnetic energy of 1.1 GigaJoules, the equivalent of about 10 000 cars travelling at 70km/h, has now been safely dissipated, raising the cold mass of the magnet to –218°C.

"We can now say that the ATLAS Barrel Toroid is ready for physics," said Herman ten Kate, ATLAS magnet system project leader.

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UW technology transfer extends reach

UW technology transfer extends reach
Marshfield Clinic will be first non-university client
Posted: Nov. 21, 2006

Marshfield Clinic said Monday that it will become the first organization outside of the state's public university system to use the system's technology transfer expertise to commercialize the work of researchers.

Marshfield has signed a contract with WiSys Technology Foundation Inc. that will give the clinic instant patenting and licensing expertise and encourage collaboration between Marshfield and state public research institutions.

"It literally just fast-forwards our development cycle for the technology transfer office overnight," said Robert A. Carlson, director of Marshfield Clinic Applied Sciences, which will oversee the agreement.

WiSys is a subsidiary of the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, one of the oldest and most successful university technology transfer organizations in the country. It is an arm of the University of Wisconsin system.

WARF, armed with a $1.6 billion endowment, does patenting and commercialization work for the University of Wisconsin-Madison, one of the biggest academic research institutions in the country with more than $750 million of annual research spending.

Marshfield has a much smaller effort with about $25 million of annual spending, about the size of that of UW-Milwaukee. The clinic has more than 700 physicians and is one of the largest private group medical practices in the U.S. - and it has specializations in important areas such as human genetics, agricultural health and safety and bioinformatics.

Full story.

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Heads win at Viasys NeuroCare

Heads win at Viasys NeuroCare
Viasys NeuroCare is a Fitchburg company that wants to keep an eye on your brain.

The company received federal approval this week to start selling a product in the United States that will help accomplish that.

Sonara is a noninvasive, transcranial, digital Doppler system. That means it measures the speed of blood flowing through arteries in your brain by sending high-frequency sound waves coursing through your head, providing 250 views inside the brain.

Not only can Sonara find blood clots that may be causing a stroke, it may also help break up those clots, said Lori Cross, group president of Viasys NeuroCare.

Clinical trials indicate that used with a clot-busting drug, Sonara can expand the window of opportunity to minimize stroke damage to six hours after a stroke occurs, from the current three hours, Cross said.

"It's a very exciting opportunity for stroke patients," she said.

For now, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved Sonara's use to diagnose and monitor blood clots. Tests are still under way on its use as a treatment, said Viasys product engineer Mike Keller.

Full story.

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U-M researchers use nanoparticles to target brain cancer

U-M researchers use nanoparticles to target brain cancer

Nanoparticles can carry drugs designed to image, treat tumors, study finds

ANN ARBOR, MI – Tiny particles one-billionth of a meter in size can be loaded with high concentrations of drugs designed to kill brain cancer. What’s more, these nanoparticles can be used to image and track tumors as well as destroy them, according to researchers at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Researchers incorporated a drug called Photofrin along with iron oxide into nanoparticles that would target cancerous brain tumors. Photofrin is a type of photodynamic therapy, in which the drug is drawn through the blood stream to tumor cells; a special type of laser light activates the drug to attack the tumor. Iron oxide is a contrast agent used to enhance magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI.

“Photofrin goes into tumor blood vessels and collapses the vasculature, which then starves the tumor of the blood flow needed to survive. The problem with free photofrin therapy is that it can cause damage to healthy tissue. In our study, the nanoparticle becomes a vehicle to deliver the drug directly to the tumor,” says study author Brian Ross, Ph.D., professor of radiology at the U-M Medical School and co-director of Molecular Imaging at the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center.

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Silver bullet: UGA researchers use laser, nanotechnology to rapidly detect viruses

Silver bullet: UGA researchers use laser, nanotechnology to rapidly detect viruses
Writer: Sam Fahmy, 706/542-5361,
Contact: Ralph Tripp, 706/542-1557,; Richard Dluhy, 706/542-1950,
Nov 15, 2006, 09:37

Athens, Ga. – Waiting a day or more to get lab results back from the doctor’s office soon could become a thing of a past. Using nanotechnology, a team of University of Georgia researchers has developed a diagnostic test that can detect viruses as diverse as influenza, HIV and RSV in 60 seconds or less.

In addition to saving time, the technique – which is detailed in the November issue of the journal Nano Letters – could save lives by rapidly detecting a naturally occurring disease outbreak or bioterrorism attack.

“It saves days to weeks,” said lead author Ralph Tripp, Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar in Vaccine Development at the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine. “You could actually apply it to a person walking off a plane and know if they’re infected.”

The technique, called surface enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS), works by measuring the change in frequency of a near-infrared laser as it scatters off viral DNA or RNA. This change in frequency, named the Raman shift for the scientist who discovered it in 1928, is as distinct as a fingerprint.

This phenomenon is well known, but Tripp explained that previous attempts to use Raman spectroscopy to diagnose viruses failed because the signal produced is inherently weak.

Full story.

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Gadget recharging goes wireless

Gadget recharging goes wireless
14 November 2006

You could soon charge your mobile phone by simply leaving it on a desk or tabletop, thanks to physicists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who have proposed a new way to power electronic gadgets without an electrical cable. Marin Soljacic and colleagues have used computers to simulate a wireless technique that uses an electromagnetic field to transfer energy from a power source to a device several metres away ( 0611063).

While electromagnetic radiation can be used to power a remote device, current technologies are often inefficient and sometimes dangerous. This is because the electromagnetic waves radiate in all directions from the power source and most of the energy is lost to the environment. These problems can be partially overcome by using highly-directional radiation such as laser light -- or electromagnetic induction, which operates at very short range. However, these techniques require the gadget to be in a specific location and therefore are not really convenient for charging a mobile phone left casually on a tabletop.

Soljacic and colleagues used theoretical calculations and computer simulations to propose a method that uses an electromagnetic field to couple the power source to the gadget to be charged. Energy is transferred to the gadget because its antenna resonates at the same frequency as the transmitter, while other objects in the room do not absorb energy because they do not resonate at this frequency. The researchers call this process non-radiative energy transfer. In addition, much of the energy that is not absorbed by the gadget would be reabsorbed by the transmitter.

Full story.

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