E Bulli: Creative appoaches to Nano

Kristin: So what does Ferran Adria and his restaurant E Bulli have to do with nanotech? Several presentations at COMS08 highlighted innovative applications and approaches for nanotechnology. This blog looks at the following:

  • A Bio Micro Convergence Technology: A Laboratory on a Foil to Reduce Real State Cost- Jesus M Ruano-Lopez
  • Continuous monitoring of Biomarkers fro Environmental Applications – Charles Call
  • Micro and Nano Innovation and Education in Scandinavia – Mogens Poulsen

A Bio Micro Convergence Technology: A Laboratory on a Foil to Reduce Real State Cost- Jesus M Ruano-Lopez

According to Jesus M Ruano-Lopez, Adria’s creations at E Bulli demonstrate the innovation that happens when we mix cooking and science. He asked whether the same principles might be applied to mixing nanotechnology with the life sciences and suggested that one outcome would be the development of ‘lab-on-a-chip’ applications. He explained how the ‘LabonFoil’ technology works to address four key commercialisation requirements:

1. Disposable – Silicon wafers are too expensive to be disposables, but the “LabonFoil’ approach uses a MEMS base with dry film lamination to produce a low-cost chip.
2. Prepares Samples – Real samples are 1.5ml compared with micro channels in the test system. Jesus Lopez asked ‘how can you fit the Eiffel tower into a car?’ The solution is to mix the sample with magnetic beads to trap the relevant sample in the testing device.
3. Easy to Handle – These films are so thin that they can be embedded into a card (like a credit card) or into skin patches.
4. Market Driven – The approach has been to increase added value through added functionalities, but also with an eye on the price and how to produce at quantity.

Continuous monitoring of Biomarkers fro Environmental Applications – Charles (Chuck) Call

Chuck showed how serum protein concentration could fluctuate wildly in the first 24 hours after an injury. Currently point samples are taken to estimate the path, but the reality is more complicated. Getting real-time measurements would allow for more targeted treatments and may save lives. Chuck spoke about how a nanobiosensor called Vista comprises multiple probes of nanowires suspended in electrical circuit to provide large functional arrays. These could provide for real-time monitoring in such circumstances.

The nanowire technology can also be used for security systems monitoring eg for smoke, aerosols and bio-threats. The commercialisation timeframe is within the next five years for clinical applications, but some applications may be available within the next year. Chuck also mentioned that the development tracks back to a meeting at COMS2001, which provide connections to make these initiatives work.

Micro and Nano Innovation and Education in Scandinavia – Mogens Poulsen

Mogens spoke about the innovation system in Scandinavia. Traditionally, research, education and innovation have been organised nationally, but more recent facilitating initiatives have embraced regional and bilateral networks. For example, Nano Øresund is a region encompassing Denmark and southern Sweden. The region has a cluster of internationally competitive competencies around medical and ICT technologies.

The other interesting aspect of Scandinavian innovation was their industrial PhD stream. The student is employed by the company, with time split 50/50 between the company and university. The project has company specific content, and all IP belongs to the company. The company ensures the applicability of the work and the university ensures scientific and educational merits. The Danish government reimburses up to 50% of the salary.

So three different presentations that highlight how creativity, connection and innovation are working in nanotechnology.


  1. In reviewing my notes, I also came across a presentation by Goran Matijasevic. Goran looked at how workforce development is being enabled through an unofficial virtual micro-nano incubator at the University of California – Irvine. The integrated nanosystems research facility focuses on areas including bio-MEMS, working in close collaboration with medical users. The facility is shared by industrial researchers and commercialisation is though licensing and spin-offs. it’s also aided by the UC Discovery Grant program http://www.ucdiscoverygrant.org – a matching program for Californian companies who are interested in funding research at UC. It has a rapid turn-around of 100 days for approval and programs range from 1-4 years for investments of $50 k – $5 million. Areas are biotech, communications, electronic manufacturing, IT for health sciences, and digital media. Another useful approach to innovation.

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