Archive by category | Conference reports

DNA nanotechnology workshop: Unnatural assemblies

I’m just back from Shanghai, where I attended the 2nd DNA nanotechnology workshop, a very exciting meeting at which we also celebrated the prestigious Albert Einstein professorship of the Chinese Academy of Sciences being awarded to Ned Seeman, often called ‘the father of DNA nanotechnology’. The story goes that as a young crystallographer, worried about getting tenure, he went to the campus bar to have a few beers and mull things over. Seeman found inspiration in the Escher woodcut Depth to make crystals using DNA, so as to avoid the guessing game (and potentially praying)­ that everyone who ever tried to crystallize anything is only too familiar with. The rest, as they say, is DNA nanotechnology.  Read more

2011 Fall MRS: Stiff storage

Posted on behalf of Rosamund Daw (Senior Editor, Nature) What technological innovations will form the car of the future? Carbon fibre composites are increasingly a viable option for the structural components of next-generation cars for improved energy efficiency, particularly as their use in the aerospace industry will undoubtedly bring manufacturing costs down. Energy storage devices such as capacitors and batteries will also be the order of the day. Milo Shaffer and colleagues at Imperial College have recognised this as an opportunity for further energy savings. Both structural re-inforcement composites and electrochemical devices rely on the use of layered architectures. So  … Read more

2011 Fall MRS: A plug for stem cells

Posted on behalf of Rosamund Daw (Senior Editor, Nature) In the field of materials science as applied to regenerative medicine, a common theme is the design of novel scaffold materials as supports for stem cell growth and differentiation. However not all stem cell therapies use scaffolds. In some biomedical research efforts, cells are injected directly into the site of need. Such a strategy has been applied to a variety of different injuries and diseases, for example Parkinson’s disease, stroke, heart attack and spinal-cord injuries. Though the approach has had some successes, a major stumbling block has been simply the ability  … Read more

Fall MRS Meeting 2011: Analogies, highlights and trivia

I’ve spent the last week in, as Ros Daw described on Wednesday, a relatively balmy Boston, mooching around the halls of the Hynes Convention Center and the Sheraton diving in to whichever session of the Materials Research Society meeting took my fancy. Unfortunately, there’s now a very cold bite to the air in New England but thankfully I’m on my way home to the Old England.  Read more

Fall MRS Meeting 2011: Bioinspired energy efficiency

Posted on behalf of Rosamund Daw (Senior Editor, Nature) At the Fall MRS meeting this year we are enjoying unusually mild weather. I can remember Christmassy snow at MRS’s past where woolly hats were a must. This year, many of the attendees are wandering around without coats and I have even spotted one or two brave individuals wearing T-shirts. Two major themes at this year’s meeting are energy and the interface of materials with biology and medicine. An intriguing presentation from Philseok Kim on Monday combined these themes in a talk describing a bio-inspired approach to improve the energy efficiency  … Read more

ICBIC15: Feeling jaded?

Greetings from Vancouver, where I am attending ICBIC15 – the international conference on bio-inorganic chemistry. As the name suggests, this is the 15th instalment of this series of conferences…or is it? There have been quite a few mentions of a mysterious ‘ICBIC zero’, which happened 35 years ago, also here at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. Chris Orvig, the chair, showed us the programme from that meeting during his welcome address – as organizer, he was interested to see that there were no times for any of the talks, just ‘morning’ or ‘afternoon’! The only speaker at that conference who is also speaking this year is (no prizes for guessing) Harry Gray, who is quite a godfather of this field.  Read more

ICCOSS XX: Growing crystals in all shapes -and sizes

All good things come to an end… Among the many, and varied, aspects discussed at ICCOSS over the past few days, I wanted to bring your attention to halogen–halogen bonding, which seems to be becoming quite popular. When a halogen atom engages in such a bond, its charge distribution changes a little, leading to a ‘polar flattening’ of the atom. The more electronegative side of one atom naturally engages in a halogen–halogen bond with what has become the more electropositive side of the other. Can these interactions be relied on to assemble building blocks? Can they be tuned in a controllable manner by judicious choice of the halogen?  Read more

ICCOSS XX: What’s in a name

In one of the sessions on ‘crystal engineering’, Guy Orpen told us about his hesitation to use this term: is it really engineering? The problem is reproducibility. If an engineer sets out to make a bicycle, and ends up with a submarine, he won’t be happy. Now if a scientist sets out to make a bicycle and finds that he made a submarine, he’ll be delighted. Yes, yes, it’s not quite a bicycle, but hey it is a means of transportation, only in water, right? And now having discovered this one by serendipity, we’ll make better submarines! In fact, the role of serendipity has been widely acknowledged throughout the conference.  Read more

ICCOSS XX: A colourful start

Hello from Bangalore! I  have to say I’m pretty excited to be here, both because of the conference programme and the location. This is my first time in India, and  although, admittedly, I have only been here 2 days, it is easy to see why Bangalore is called the ‘Garden City’ – magnificent trees and luxuriant vegetation everywhere . This is even more true when it comes to our conference venue, the Indian Institute of Science, which has enormous charm. Our Convener, Guru Row, told us yesterday in the opening remarks that the Institute is now becoming a College, and will be welcoming undergraduate students in just three weeks – now, this is a place I wouldn’t mind going to university!  Read more

Pacifichem 2010: Dispersion corrections and gelation

This morning I went to some physical chemistry sessions on computational quantum chemistry. I won’t attempt to summarize the various interesting points raised by the speakers as well as the members of the audience, but I’d like to highlight one conclusion from Stefan Grimme’s presentation: he showed that dispersion corrections should really be used routinely – rather than occasionally – in density functional theory (DFT) methods. Pavel Hobza, who next took the stage, wholeheartedly agreed, saying in particular that these corrections play an extremely important role when it comes to biomolecules.  Read more