Tuesday, 15 December 2015

"Holograms" on your Desk! Nanotech-Enhanced "Holodeck"

This is something I have been working on on and off for a while now and finally managed to get the casings 3D printed and experiment with some of the graphics. This kind of optical illusion, called "Pepper's Ghost" after John Henry Pepper who who popularized the effect in a famed demonstration in 1862. However this optical illusion was actually invented much earlier, by the Italian polymath and original Renaissance man Giambattista della Porta in 1584, and is undergoing a bit of a revival in our own screen-dominated culture, with many people making it themselves often out of ordinary clear plastic!

Although "hologram" is often found in the title of these kinds of display systems - they technically have no holographic qualities. A hologram refers to a specific medium that stores image data through a laser, a holographic substrate, (such as a photographic film or plate), and an interference pattern. Pepper's Ghost uses a much simpler technique that merely reflects an image off of a surface to create an illusion of a 3D object floating in physical space.

In my version, I have decided to spray the pyramid with some SiO2 nanoparticles in solution to reduce fogging on the plastic. What makes it work however is the 4-way images on the phone or digital picture frame screen that have had brightness and contrast enhanced to counter the fact that during the reflection of light off of each side of the frame you are reducing the light intensity by 50% - hence the light intensity and contrast have to be increased by up to 50% to enhance the effect and make the effect look more than a mere reflection and appear as if the object is indeed inside the pyramid, floating in mid air. 

GIF images with 4-faces of an object can give a better ability to broaden the range of holographic art. Commercial digital photo frames can then be turned into holographic photo frames with this simple add-on modular device. A sample of animated GIF images for use in holography are available here - the logo is used to help the user position the tip of the pyramid for the optimum effect.

Another concept I have been working on is to create phone applications, written in Android Studio, which use the Pepper's Ghost effect to create interactive holograms such as rotating logos and, at least for the moment, some simple applications such as a "holographic dice" which uses a random number generator to display the value of a die roll in a 4-face pyramid display as shown in the following short video:

Below are links to access the zip files containing the .apk files (for both upward and downward pyramid displays) on 4Shared.

HoloDice App Upside Version

HoloDice App Downside Version

These Pepper's Ghost "Holograms" are an open design concept at the moment and its uncertain what new concepts may be created in the future so any other ideas and developments based on this are more than welcome. in other words, try it for yourself!

Here is a small sample of my growing collection (for holographic videos check out my channel and stay tuned for more additions!)

Monday, 7 December 2015

Nanotechnology Made Easy and Cheap! Hydrophobic Carbon Nanoparticle film from Candle Soot

Around this time of year, with the holidays of Christmas, Hanukkah, Yuletide and end of the year celebrations in general there just seems to be tons of candles everywhere! Wax candles are just cylinders made up of hydrocarbons, which is the fuel that makes them burn and they can burn for a surprisingly long amount of time! When it comes to storing chemical energy you can't do much better than hydrocarbons. Hydrocarbons, in case you don't know, consist of molecules made up of carbon and hydrogen (The name is a dead giveaway!). When a candle burns, oxygen in the air reacts with the hydrogen to form water and with the carbon to form carbon-dioxide. This chemical reaction breaks the chemical bonds hydrogen has with the carbon and releases energy which in turn powers a complex plasma that we know as a flame.

A candle burns hydrocarbons made up of hydrogen and carbon with oxygen to form water and carbon-dioxide

The hydrogen of the hydrocarbon molecule tends to react slightly quicker so there is a region of the flame with small particles of pure carbon. So when you put something cold in this region these will condense on the surface forming black soot. (Moreover, putting something in the the way of the flame this will "starve" the flame of oxygen and unbalance the reaction towards producing more soot by La Chatelier's Principle - see further in the article)

The hydrogen buns more quickly than the carbon, so there is an area of the candle which is carbon-rich. So if you put something cold in the way, that also "starves" the flame of Oxygen, the carbon will condense as soot.

If you look at this soot on a microscopic scale it is extremely rough. This is because the soot is made up of lots of different sizes of carbon nanoparticles.The carbon particles themselves are quite dark already but the roughness makes it even darker as any light that reflects from one particle will often hit another and get absorbed.

Soot is dark not only because the nanoparticles are dark, but also because the soot is made up of lots of different sizes of carbon particles. This makes the surface rough so that most of the light that is reflected will hit another particle and be absorbed.

The carbon nanoparticles by themselves only repel water slightly. However, the different kinds of soot nanoparticles close together make the layer quite hydrophobic, so the water will only barely touch the very highest bits of the soot. The surface tension of the water can then support the water in between these peaks and you get a layer of air trapped between the water and the soot.

The soot particles repel water slightly and because it is so rough, surface tension will hold the water away from the surface. This traps a layer of air between the soot and the water.

Now we can test for the overall hydrophobicity. How? Well, the surface of the water will now reflect light very well due to an effect called total internal reflection. This happens because light travels more slowly in water than in air and whenever light changes it's speed it will be refracted due to conservation of momentum. When it moves from a travelling in a slow material (like water) to a faster one (like air) it is bent towards the surface. This is positive refraction. So, in effect, the black hydrophobic soot will become a silvery mirror in the water! 

The light is totally internally reflected at small angles, so the surface looks silvery and behaves like a mirror.

Here is a video I produced demonstrating all of this, where I grow a nanoparticulate carbon soot film on a coin from my wallet! -

So we have tested our candle soot layer is hydrophobic!

There are ways to improve the efficiency of this simple technique. For example, by "starving" the fire of oxygen, i.e. by having the candle within a tall candle holder, we can produce more soot than if it was out in the open. This happens because of a thing  in chemistry called "Le Chatelier's Principle"

So if we want more soot, C on the balance, we have to increase the amount of hydrocarbon fuel we have to burn relative to the amount of oxygen we have to consume. The key point here is "hydrocarbon fuel relative to oxygen" - we could always have a bigger candle of course but if we use the same candle and instead decrease the amount of oxygen, the balance will tilt down on the side of the reactants (think less O2, less relative weight on the balance) and this will tip the products side upwards. If we used half the oxygen as in the balanced equation above, what would happen on the reactants side? Well, we have half the amount of water produced but the carbon dioxide would remain the same. What would have to increase then to restore the relative weights is the carbon, C. In other words the hydrogen, which is very reactive remember, would more readily than before combine with the deprived oxygen and leave the carbon atoms behind- hence we get more soot!

Candle soot can then be utilised in a budget approach to self-cleaning surfaces that are both water and oil repellent.(a property collectively known as omniphobicity). There are many areas where such self-cleaning surfaces are needed. Examples include everything from windows, screens, optical devices such as fiber-optics and the glasses people wear. 

Soot is not very stable however, so if we were to grow the carbon soot on glass for example it would need to be coated with a silica shell. This could also be done with SiO2 nanoparticles of course which are commercially available. Glass can also be calcined, turning the sooty black coating into a transparent film on the surface which is more stable still. 

The simplicity of the approach is what particularly appeals to scientists - as it lies in the true vein of what it is all about; looking at something anew that was right under your nose all along. 

The positive fact of this is that non-specialists can make materials of this type and then investigate their properties is clearly something that's going to further advance this interesting area of research into new frontiers.

More Info for the Biotechnology Inclined...

Carbon nanoparticles (CNPs) have have great potential in health and environmental applications. They also could form the building blocks for future biomedical nanodevices because of their fascinating photoluminescent properties, not to mention having the potential to serve as nontoxic replacements for traditional heavy-metal-based quantum dots. (Ref1)

Flame and fluorescence: Water-soluble, multicolor fluorescent carbon nanoparticles can be prepared by refluxing candle soot with nitric acid (picture credit Wiley Online Library).

CNPs are nano-crystalline with predominantly graphitic structure and shows green, yellow, and red fluorescence under UV exposure. CNP-based fluorescence bioimaging probes are of key interest in cell imaging applications. CNPs can enter into a cell with no further functionalization and the fluorescence property of these particles is simple to study for calibration.

CNPs, prepared from candle soot, can then be further treated by a simple reflux rection with a strong oxidizing agent, such as HNO3 (Nitric Acid) or H2SO4 (Sulfuric Acid). (Ref2) As far as one can tell from the literature online, CNPs They can also be treated in the same way as Commercial Multi-Walled Carbon Nanotubes, MWCNTs, namely with either concentrated sulfuric acid and nitric acid mixture with ratio 3:1 or with a 0.1 M KMnO4 (potassium permanganate) via reflux, stirring and ultrasonication and subsequently separated by a single centrifugation. Apparently treatment in a acidic KMnO4 solution in reflux is the best for the reflux reaction kinds of treatment, and is the most attractive and safe method overall. However, the most precise treatments have in fact shown to be with superacids, such as HF/BF3, however the danger involved in using such solutions is what makes it less attractive. (Ref3)

The CNPs produced from candle soot typically have a size of 20–100 nm, height of 3.0 nm, a flourescence lifetime of 7.31 ns ± 0.06 ns and quantum yield of ∼1.7%. 

Further studies demonstrate that: 

(1) CNPs exhibit excellent stability in biological media and their luminescence intensity does not change with ionic strength or pH in the physiological and pathological range of pH 4.5–8.8.

(2) CNPs can act as electron donors and transporters and porphyrin can assemble onto the surfaces of CNPs through electrostatic and π-stacking interactions to form porphyrin-CNPs supramolecular composites. One of the most important porphyrins is heme, the pigment in red blood cells, a cofactor of the protein hemoglobin.

(3) CNPs have strong intrinsic peroxidase enzyme-like activity, which is very important. Peroxidase is an organic enzyme that transfers oxygen from hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) to other readily oxidisable substances.This gives it an amazing set of applications.

It is important,for example, for producing instant color-based glucose tests. Standard glucose color tests that use peroxidase working in sequence with Glucose Oxidase enzyme, GOx. GOx converts Glucose into H2O2 and Gluconic Acid. Then, the H2O2 product is reduced in catalysis by horseradish peroxidase, HRP, in conjunction with an ABTS colorimetric assay which, when it recieves a donor electron from the H2O2 reduction (i.e. becomes oxidised), changes color. There are already ways to assist this reaction, for example gold nanoparticles, AuNPs,  have been used to carry the HRP enzyme in solution to assist the catalysis of H2O2, in the vein that nanoparticles can help assist the spatial coupling between enzymes and thus increase the speed of catalysis. 

However, if we imagine that the nanoparticles used are in fact the catalyst itself, in effect using our CNPs to replace the HRP-AuNPs, not only is the spatial coupling increased but the surface area of the active sites is also increased, unlike in standard nanoparticle-enzyme bonding where the surface area of the active sites is in fact decreased due to the enzyme having to be bonded to the nanoparticle surface. It also saves the step of having to bind the nanoparticle and enzymes together in the first place, not to mention saving the expense of creating AuNPs and HRPs separately.

In any case, the colormetric tests will work more or less the same, simply needed different calibrations as the concentration of the glucose can be related to the intensity of color change of the ABTS. The more the intensity of the change, the higher the concentration of glucose. A simple color chart can be used to "read" the concentration of the glucose.

Based on the intrinsic peroxidase activity of CNPs, simple, cheap, and highly selective and sensitive colorimetric and quantitative assays can be developed for the detection of glucose levels for biosensing applications, in blood or food for example.

Standard peroxidase enzyme is also used to catalyse the oxidation of luminol to 3-aminophthalate via several intermediates. The reaction is accompanied by emission of low-intensity light at 428 nm. However, in the presence of certain chemicals, the light emitted is enhanced up to 1000-fold, making the light easier to detect and increasing the sensitivity of the reaction. The enhancement of light emission is called enhanced chemiluminescence (ECL).

For example, horseradish peroxidase enzyme (HRP) can be tethered to an antibody that specifically recognizes the molecule of interest. This enzyme complex then catalyzes the conversion of the enhanced chemiluminescent substrate into a sensitized reagent in the vicinity of the molecule of interest, which on further oxidation by hydrogen peroxide, produces a triplet (excited) carbonyl, which emits light when it decays to the singlet carbonyl. Enhanced chemiluminescence of this kind allows detection of minute quantities of a biomolecule. Proteins can be detected down to femtomole quantities, well below the detection limit for most assay systems.

In recent years the technique of marking neurons with the enzyme horseradish peroxidase has become a major tool in the detection of the smallest quantities of proteins - this is of particular importance in Alzheimer's research and Motor Neuron disease in which faster detection of even the smallest imbalances offer the greatest probability of successful treatments being developed and implemented and in the same vein of cancer research and treatment. 

Bioelectric cathodes can also be created based on co-immobilization of glucose oxidase enzyme (GOx) and horseradish peroxidase (HRP) onto a carbon nanotube modified electrode. In the presence of O2, GOx converts Glucose into H2O2 and Gluconic Acid. Then, during the reduction of H2O2 catalyzed by horseradish peroxidase, HRP, a direct electron transfer occurs between the carbon nanotube electrode and the peroxidase heme group. Hence it might be possible to fix carbon nanotubes onto carbon nanoparticles which, when "dipped with a GOx/HRP, will generate a voltage in the presence of glucose and oxygen. This could create nanoscale devices powered by glucose in the presence of oxygen wich would be very important in the field of biomedical implants. (Ref4)

In addition to biomedical applications, peroxidase is one of the enzymes with important environmental applications. This enzyme is suitable for the removal of hydroxylated aromatic compounds (HACs) that are considered to be primary pollutants in a wide variety of industrial wastewater

For example, phenols, which are important pollutants, can be removed by enzyme-catalyzed polymerization using horseradish peroxidase (HRP). Thus phenols are oxidized to phenoxy radicals, which participate in reactions where polymers and oligomers are produced that are less toxic than phenols. It also can be used to convert a variety of toxic materials into more harmless substances. 

There are also many investigations about the use of peroxidase in many manufacturing processes like adhesives, computer chips, car parts, and linings of drums and cans. Other studies have shown that peroxidases may be used successfully to polymerize anilines and phenols in organic solvent matrices.

All of this taken into account, discovering a way to cheaply produce nanoparticles and impliemnted them into controlled structures, such as in a "Lab-on-a-chip", to prevent any harmful externalities such as uncontrolled runoffs or contamination, we can make devices that perform similar functions to enzymes such as peroxidase, can radically enhance the development of solutions to many of the problems facing the world today which can be solved by combining the fields of biotech and nanotech.


(Ref1) Fluorescent Carbon Nanoparticle:
Synthesis, Characterization and Bio-imaging Application
S.C. Ray(a),*
, Arindam Saha, Nikhil R. Jana*
and Rupa Sarkar
Centre for Advanced Materials, Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science, Kolkata-700032 (India) 

(Ref2)- Bioengineering Applications of Carbon Nanostructures 

(Ref3)-Springer Handbook of Nanomaterials edited by Robert Vajtai

(Ref4) - Glucose Oxidase/Horseradish Peroxidase Co-immobilized at a CNT-Modified Graphite Electrode: Towards Potentially Implantable Biocathodes
Dr. Wenzhi Jia,
Dr. Chen Jin,
Dr. Wei Xia,
Prof. Dr. Martin Muhler,
Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Schuhmann,
Dr. Leonard Stoica
First published: 1 February 2012

Gold nanoparticles-based nanoconjugates for enhanced enzyme cascade and glucose sensing
Dongdong Zeng,ab   Weijie Luo,b   Jiang Li,*b   Huajie Liu,b   Hongwei Ma,a   Qing Huangb and    Chunhai Fan*b  

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Spooky Quantum Strategies in Game Theory

In 1964, the Irish physicist John Stewart Bell came up with a test to try to establish, once and for all, that the counter-intuitive principles of quantum physics are truly inherent properties of the universe — that the decades-long effort of Albert Einstein and other physicists to develop a more intuitive physics could never bear fruit.

Einstein was deeply disturbed by the randomness at the core of quantum physics — "God does not play dice,” as he famously wrote to the physicist Max Born in 1926.

In 1935, Einstein, together with his colleagues Boris Podolsky and Nathan Rosen, described a strange consequence of this randomness, now called the Einstein, Podolsky, Rosen (EPR) Paradox. 

According to the laws of quantum physics, it is possible for two particles to interact briefly in such a way that their states become “entangled” as “EPR pairs.” Even if the particles then travel many light years away from each other, one particle somehow instantly seems to “know” the outcome of a measurement on the other particle: When asked the same question, it will give the same answer, even though quantum physics says that the first particle chose its answer randomly. Since the theory of special relativity forbids information from traveling faster than the speed of light, how does the second particle know the answer?

To Einstein, this “spooky action at a distance” implied that quantum physics was an incomplete theory. “Quantum mechanics is certainly imposing,” he wrote to Born. “But an inner voice tells me that it is not yet the real thing.”

Over the remaining decades of his life, Einstein searched for a way that the two particles could use classical physics to come up with their answers — hidden variables that could explain the behavior of the particles without a need for randomness or spooky actions.

But in 1964, Bell realized that the EPR paradox itself could be used to devise an experiment that determines whether quantum physics or a local hidden-variables theory correctly explains the real world. 

The Bell Test experiment, is one which can be adapated into a diverse range of algorithms and strategies which can be implemented with experimental equipment.

Let us examine one such strategy with a game. Let us say this takes place in a universe where everyone is a physicist, even thieves and police detectives! But this is the 1930's and their is prohibition against using quantum mechanics! :) 

In this we have 2 thieves, Bonnie and Clyde, who are separately questioned by a detective in separate rooms after they were captured following a robbery of a physics lab and car chase. 

Their joint goal is to give either identical answers or different answers, depending on what questions the detective asks them. Neither player knows what question the detective is asking the other player. 

The questions given to the two of them are either a A or B, chosen randomly. 

Bonnie and Clyde each answer by giving the detective an answer X or Y. 
If either player (or both) received a A, they must hand in matching X's or Y's to win. 
But if both players got a B, they must hand in X+Y or Y+X to win.

Classically, this is represented by the familiar "prisoner's dilemma" from game theory where, under questioning:

Answer X = remain silent 
Answer Y = confess

Bonnie and Clyde were questioned in separate rooms, and each was offered the same deal by the detective. The deal went as follows (since both are the same, we need only describe the version presented to Bonnie):

``Bonnie, here's the offer that we are making to both you and Clyde. If you both hold out on us, and don't confess to bank robbery, then we admit that we don't have enough proof to convict you. However, we will be able to jail you both for 1 year, on the count of reckless driving. 
If you turn state's witness and help us convict Clyde (assuming he doesn't confess), then you will go free, and Clyde will get 20 years in prison. On the other hand, if you don't confess and Clyde does, then he will go free and you will get 20 years.''

``What happens if both Clyde and I confess?'' asked Bonnie.

``Then you both get 5 years,'' said the detective.

The possible strategies can be seen, in the graphical payoff table

Using the game table, we see right away that the worst strategy is for them both to give different answers to each other. Hence the only viable strategy is for Bonnie and Clyde to decide, in a contingency plan before they were captured, that under such interrogation they will simply remain silent, i.e. both give the same answer X,  no matter what random question, A or B, the detective asks them. 

Since the detective is asking them questions as a part of a random basis, A or B, Bonnie and Clyde have shared random outcomes, X or Y. Hence we can forget that the detective even exists and instead construct A and B can as basis elements of a random 0 or 1 outcome, which Clyde and Bonnie share between them.

Using this we can construct the following truth table

This is the same logic table for an AND gate.

Which shows us that, employing this strategy, this will give them 

75% chance of winning. 

If Bonnie and Clyde have only classical physics at their disposal, it turns out that this is the best they can do. 

But Bonnie and Clyde can significantly increase their chance of winning if they had stolen an EPR quantum entangled pair of particles. This is exactly what they did before they were captured! The players can now agree ahead of time that after the detective hands them their questions, they will measure their particles in carefully chosen ways to gain an advantage over classical probability rules. 

In the quantum version of the game, the bit is replaced by the qubit, which is a quantum superposition of two base states

The most general possible state of the system is a superposition of amplitudes α and β


so that the state has unit probability.

 two entangled qubits in the Bell state
\frac{1}{\sqrt{2}} (|00\rangle + |11\rangle).

In this state, called an equal superposition, there are equal probabilities of measuring either |00\rangle or |11\rangle, as

 |1/\sqrt{2}|^2 = 1/2.

In the case of a two-strategy game this can be physically implemented by the use of an entity like the electron which has a superposed spin state, with the base states being +1/2 (plus half) and −1/2 (minus half). The two basis states in this system denote the amplitudes for the object to have the component of its spin in the z-axis of the complex plane to be equal to  + ħ/2 and - ħ/2 respectively.

The possible states for a single qubit can be visualised using a Bloch sphere. 

Represented on such a sphere, a classical bit could only be at the "North Pole" or the "South Pole", in the locations where |0 \rangle  and |1 \rangle are respectively. 
The rest of the surface of the sphere is inaccessible to a classical bit, but a pure qubit state can be represented by any point on the surface. For example, the pure qubit state{|0 \rangle +i|1 \rangle}\over{\sqrt{2}}    would lie on the equator of the sphere, on the positive y axis.

A singlet made from two spin-1/2 objects has a wave function which is a superposition of the form

This is an entangled state; a measurement of the component of the spin in any direction for the first object will give either up or down with probability 1/2 each and will automatically imply that a measurement of the spin in the same direction for the second object will give the opposite value

(down or up)

More generally, if Bonnie measures the component of the spin in a particular direction and finds some value, and Clyde measures the spin in some other direction which is at an angle θ with respect to the first direction, then Clyde will find the opposite value of the spin with a computable probability to generate an optimum payoff.

To compute the probability, Clyde uses a direction in the polar coordinatess (θ, φ) (θ is the angle between this direction and the z-axis), where the wave function of a spin-1/2 object whose spin component in that direction is given by ħ/2 is

given by the amplitudes      

                                                             \alpha = \cos\left(\frac{\theta}{2}\right)  and  \beta = e^{i \phi}  \sin\left(\frac{\theta}{2}\right) .

where \theta\, is the angle from the z-axis and \phi\, is the azimuthal angle on the Bloch Sphere. The Bloch vector precesses about the z-axis.

|\psi\big\rangle = cos(\theta/2)|0\big\rangle+sin (\theta/2)e^{i\phi}|1\big\rangle

From this one can show that if one of the two objects in a singlet has its spin pointing along the
z-axis, the probability (the amplitudes squared) that the spin of the other object will point in the same direction as (or opposite to) (θ, φ) is given by

The above facts motivate the following quantum strategy map for Bonnie and Clyde to work with:

Where α, β, γ are quantum amplitudes. The four directions are taken to lie in a plane with relative amplitudes between them as shown

Going back to the game model and using our new quantum strategy map, if Bonnie is asked question A/B at random, she measures the spin of her spin-1/2 object in the direction indicated by amplitudes β and γ

Meanwhile, if Clyde is asked the question A/B at random, he measures the spin of his
spin-1/2 object in the direction indicated by amplitudes α and β

In all cases, Bonnie and Clyde both answer X (remain silent) if they find the component of their spin to be + ħ/2and Y (confess) if the spin component is - ħ/2.

Each of the spin states can be used to represent each of the two strategies available to the players. When a measurement is made on the electron, it collapses to one of the base states, thus conveying the strategy used by the player.

The measurements are designed to produce a high chance of identical results when at least one of the players receives an A, and a high chance of opposite results when the players both get Bs. If they follow this strategy, their expected pay-off in the long run is given by

Note: The factor of 1/is because Bonnie and Clyde are asked questions randomly, i.e. with probability 1/2 between each of them.

Maximising this expression with respect to quantum amplitudes α, β, γ gives


Winning pairs
are at angle π/8
Losing pairs are at angle 3π/8

and the expected optimum pay-off is that they can win with probability 

P = cos^2(π/8) = 0.8536 = 85.36% 

if they follow the quantum strategy, compared to the 75% chance by the classical strategy.

This ultra-secure way of sending messages, that goes beyond classical probability rules, is based on the fundamental postulate that measuring a quantum state will, in general, alter it. Thus, if we encode messages in individual quantum states, such as the spin states of electrons or atoms, or the polarization or phase of photons, an eavesdropper who tries to intercept the message cannot avoid changing it without decaying it back down to classical rules. 

We can therefore test if the message has been read before it reaches the intended recipient - something that is impossible using classical signals. This in a sense  can gives us security in the same way that it gave Bonnie and Clyde the ability to trick the detective in the example above. 

By "breaking the law" within the classical probabilistic strategy of investigation, Bonnie and Clyde have a 10.36% advantage over their classical investigator proving once again that quantum physics does pay!