The Nanotechnology Island Project

NPL Project Director: Dave Taylor / SL: Davee Commerce
NPL Project Manager: Ani Simon-Hart / SL: Minna Runo
Island Ownership (alt): Innovation Projects
Science Advisors: Neil Harrison, Joanna Lee, Richard Gilham (NPL)

Developers: To be appointed. Proposals are invited using the following specification. We will also consider proposals from suitably qualified scientists and engineers with SL experience who would be interested in building specific scientific features, and we also welcome their suggestions for additional features suitable for the Island.

All enquiries and proposals should be addressed to Davee Commerce in SL (use the email address in his SL profile).
Further clarification, modifications and answers to questions will be posted to this blog so developers should refer back here before submitting their proposals.

Development schedule: Proposals to be submitted by February 6th 2007. Developers to be chosen by mid February. Initial build (alpha) to be completed by mid March. Consultation with stakeholders and feedback to developers by end March and final version completed by end April.



To provide visitors with insight into the scientific realities of nanotechnology today, the importance of nanoscale measurements, the impact nanotechnology has on the real world (today and in the future) and to provide new intuitions into the properties of matter at the nanoscale

Island Appearance
Name is Nanotechnology Island. May be truncated to Nano Island.
Glassy open plan buildings (see Building style).
Dominated by tropical features.
Large clear signage and walkways. (give consideration to a nano themed naming scheme for routes and features)
Outdoor gathering spaces (similar to NMC) – friendly and welcoming rather than a ‘corporate’ look.
Visitor Centre at TP point (See TP point).
Island sandbox and competition for builders to have their exhibits placed in several of the island features.
Exhibits/Features as described below.
Freebies are envisaged and dispensers should be located at strategic points around the island. For example: Science posters, sculptures and models of lab equipment, molecules such as C60 and nanotubes, lab coat and goggles for the laboratory exhibits.
Developers are encouraged to suggest other fun to explore features around the landscape that can be used by those new to SL to familiarise themselves with how it works.

One of the features (Particle Trail) could be used to give the visitor a tour of the island, although other proposals are most welcome (e.g. a ‘fantastic voyage’ type ride).

Building style
Use the NPL corporate curve (note roof swoosh used as branding). eg. Module 16 (reception building). Interior of Module 16 is open plan. Perhaps use a floating roof with large doors and transparent walls (would prefer fly through panels rather than an opening door for access). NPL Building – Model

Front view of Module 16NPL Building Plan

Arrival point
The main Telehub point includes welcoming message and orientation map with TP points around Nanotechnology island. Within view should be the Reception building/Visitor Centre in NPL style (see Building style). Also a SciLands sign ‘This island is part of the SL SciLands (Science and Technology region)’ – and space for a map and TP points when available.

The Reception building/Visitor Centre will also be used for general NPL business and as a gateway to other NPL properties (will include NPL map and TP points around SL). There are several laboratories and groups around NPL who work on Nanotechnology so these areas on the NPL map should be picked out. Clicking on one of the highlighted labs will deliver a brief written and/or spoken description of the lab and its function, supplemented perhaps by a notecard or image. A prominent sign should also acknowledge the source of funding for the island and the style of this and other signs around the island should conform to branding guidelines that will be supplied when the contract is awarded.

Comprises two levels plus sky rooms.
Ground level is the Visitor Centre. Back wall features a movie.
Upper level includes an auditorium and could lead into further NPL building modules (these could be built as an extension in mid air to be used for other small or temporary NPL builds). Further upward extensions in the form of sky rooms (e.g. see IBM islands) are also a possibility. We are open to suggestions as to best approach but we do not want the whole NPL module structure to be reproduced as a physical building on this Island. The minimalist approach is Module 16 plus a few specific laboratories mentioned below. It may be possible to house other modules on other NPL Islands in the future, or simply to reproduce Module 16 on each of the NPL properties but this might ultimately be confusing. Although we may attach other NPL Islands to Nano Island, we should not plan for all NPL properties to be in a single region, so given a potential distribution of Islands around SL we are open to creative solutions to a virtual joining-up!

Visitor centre/Ground floor incorporates:
Reception area of module 16
Avatar/eMail/IM/Chat-based contact point (either staffed or with a means to summons help during clearly displayed office hours)
An ’emerging technology’ news stand, possibly fed by an RSS feed should show the latest information (and will be updated monthly). A prominent and straightforward mechanism to sign up for notifications of the latest news about research projects and related events should be included. The news feature should also provide space for several partner organisations to supply their latest information (again, possibly fed by RSS).
Publications (NPL documents in PDF form)
Posters (NPL take-away copies on various scientific topics)
Science based art exhibit (Centre piece – competitively chosen)
Corporate Video
TP or Links to other NPL Science sites or exhibits (TP when available in SL) – around curved wall and facing inwards(transparent on the outer face)
Corporate video on back wall
Visitor Centre Upper floor incorporates:
Lecture theatre seating up to 100
Meeting room with table, chairs, whiteboard
Chill out/coffee room with outdoor patio area (also useable for meetings)
Corridor into Laboratory modules – initially including the nanoscale characterisation laboratory, a single molecule imaging laboratory, a bionanotechnology laboratory, a nanomaterials laboratory, a quantum laboratory and several further unallocated laboratories. Only the first laboratory will be furnished with exhibits, the others will be unfurnished (for the purposes of this RFP).

Features around island:

The Tower of Ten
Airborne nanoparticles
Nanoscale Characterisation Laboratory
Exhibition space for partners
Impact assessment feature
Optionally: Nano guessing game

A second island could be attached in the future: including e.g. Nano fabrication and materials, MEMs devices such as Lab-on-a-chip, further exhibition space, deeded plots for partners and meeting rooms. Preferred directions for attached Islands are East and West.

The Tower of Ten
4 level – just platforms without walls and with a hole in the middle of each level for direct access to each floor (other access methods will be considered): from bottom to top: m, mm, (um) micro-meter, nm
Each level contains models of suitable objects at the appropriate scale

Objective: A fun interactive way to introduce nanoscience to a general audience
Tower of Ten

Situated on a small hill in centre of island
Each platform split into several themes (eg. Materials and engineering, Human Body, Bio-Pharmaceuticals)
Simple models and descriptions
Interactivity via simple animations or 3D manipulation
Click here to download slides with examples, however intention is to permit anyone to build in the island sandbox and enter a competition to have their exhibits placed in the Tower of Ten.

Airborne nanoparticles
This comprises two separate features to illustrate how and why we measure particles in the air and (separately) some of their sources. These are inter-related but described separately below. There is an obvious link (to be explored further by the Project Manager) between the analytical instrumentation approach taken here and remote observation of the atmosphere from space using Earth Observation satellites and their data. The latter will be the subject of further NPL exhibitions (e.g. TRUTHS) – the detective game described below could therefore be extended to further trails on another island in the future. Nano Island will be located to the North of a Space Technology region that houses TRUTHS so the Southern end of the Island may be preferred for these features.

1. How and why we measure

  • Put the presence of nanoparticles in the atmosphere in context
  • Illustrate NPL’s airborne measurement capabilities
  • Show the link between measurements and high impact outcomes (policy, legislation, source apportionment, etc.)

Provide space for expansion to include:

  • Interactive instruments
  • Further features on environmental measurements

The Flowchart in this linked presentation illustrates how air quality data relates to impact on our lives. The challenge for this exhibit is to capture the imagination with an impact story and see how this relates back to the fundamental data capture process!

One suggestion is to capture a visitor’s attention with a high impact news headline or story (or a diorama or machinima movie) – and invite further exploration to discover where the information came from. The story or Machinima could be changed from time to time (perhaps in conjunction with NMC and a competition held in the Machinima complex).
The data flow exhibit needs to be expandable to introduce different instruments on a progressive basis in further discrete development phases. There are 3 stages in the data flow to illustrate: Instrumentation, Database, Interpretation. In addition the consequences (impact) of fluctuations in the measurands need to be explained.

Instrumentation: The instruments can be shown in a mock up of a typical air quality monitoring station such as the mobile unit on NPL’s site. Perhaps capture the interior in quicktime and produce a virtual reality version. Each instrument should have a small model and explanation of the data captured, its significance, some information on NPL’s work with the instrument and in suitable cases a live data feed. NPL will provide photography to the developers’ specification if required.

Database: Live data map showing air quality data from the web (if possible). The following UK networks are available: Particle Counting, Heavy Metals, Black Smoke. There is a case for collaborating with NPL’s partners to get network data from other Countries. This will be explored by the NPL Project Manager.

Interpretation: This will consist of interactive examples to show correlations between nanoparticulate measurements and human activity or atmospheric conditions. Examples could include: Correlation between sunlight and nucleation mode particles (generally below 30 nm particle size, predominantly condensed volatile material; e.g. sulphate and heavy hydrocarbons); emission episodes due to rush hour traffic; July 4th or Nov 5th firework displays; seasonal variation.

Consequences: For example effects on health, climate.

2. Particle source trail

Objective: To explain the different types of nanoparticle in the air and where they originate. Also to engage the visitor in a detective type process to identify sources of pollution. The particle trail could also be used to give the visitor a tour of the island, although other proposals are most welcome (e.g. a ‘fantastic voyage’ type ride). Because of the links with remote observation of the atmosphere (earth observation satellites) and the measurement of other forms of atmospheric pollution (ie. gases, by LIDAR and other techniques) which will be the subject of further NPL exhibits (at other SL locations) – this exhibit could well lead to and from those islands and other related ones of our partners.

Description: Potentially we could use particle effects, but we are open to creative suggestions especially for the detective element of this exhibit. The different particle source/type scenarios to be illustrated are: Marine, Combustion, Industrial, Mineral, Secondary and Industrial. There are potentially two ways to navigate the particle trail (dependent on the scenario): from source to the analytical instrumentation in the 1st feature (the air quality monitoring station); by detective work from a clue (or impact statement) to the source of the pollution. In the latter case clues can be picked up at the air quality monitoring station exhibit or at the entrance point where the diorama or machinima is being shown.

Marine aerosol (ocean spray) – the Project Manager will explore links here with NPL’s UK partners and with NOAA in the US (e.g. clues may lead to and from NOAA’s island)
Mineral aerosol (e.g. sahara dust) – Desert dust feeds tropical rainforest
Secondary aerosols (formed in the atmosphere) – a platform in the sky for this one
Combustion aerosols (mostly carbon particles, from vehicles) – needs a busy road environment (this may be implemented as a virtual reality room hidden inside a false hill)
Industrial aerosols (volatile organic compounds, heavy metals, etc) – a factory stack (perhaps hidden in the hill)

A central feature entitled ‘what is a nanoparticle?’ could be used to draw the various types of particle together. Space needs to be left for a future addition ‘other forms of atmospheric pollution’ that explains which gases are present and potentially leads off to further islands.

Nano Guessing Game
Objective: For scientists and general public to demonstrate their knowledge (the public can try this after touring the exhibits). NPL and partners will supply a number of images (some in 3D) taken at the nanoscale and the objective is simply to guess what the object is.

This award winning image’s subject matter is virtually unguessable.
Prize winning AFM image by NPL scientists Click here for the answer

Nanoscale Characterisation Laboratory

Objectives: To involve the visitor in a real laboratory setting that illustrates how scientists actually work at the nanoscale and how this work affects even everyday products (such as hair conditioner). The initial choice of applications will necessarily be limited but we expect to grow this substantially so sufficient space will be required for growth. In addition the initial choice of instrumentation and techniques will likewise be small and expanded later. This might be accomplished by adding further laboratories following a natural segregation of laboratory types: surface analysis, materials research, analytical chemistry, bionanotechnology, single molecule imaging, etc.

Nano Island will be located to the SouthWest of Chemistry and Biotechnology regions so the NorthEastern part of the Island may be preferred for these features.

The first laboratory is ‘surface analysis’. The initial techniques to be explored are: Atomic Force Microscopes (AFM) of various types and Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry (SIMS). The feature will be expanded in the future to other techniques (e.g. single molecule fluorescence and imaging).

Nanoscale Lab with AFM
The exhibit is in two parts – located within the same laboratory space: an avatar scale model of each type of instrument to illustrate how it works (e.g. for AFM it could be an AFM cantilever showing how it works and the different modes of operations); and a benchtop exhibit enabling an avatar to use the instrument in different modes and with different samples and to view the results.

The laboratory can also include videos or dioramas to explain use of each instrument. Possibly a machinima video of an avatar using a machine.

Benchtop exhibit
Using the benchtop exhibit the visitor should be able to select different modes of operation and samples and then observe the machine’s output on a computer screen model. See illustrations in this slide set. Modes of operation include constant force and tapping mode, both of which are used to reveal the topography of a surface and lateral force mode which measures friction and reveals the surface chemistry. The model can later be extended to cover nano indentation (measures modulus/springiness) and force/distance curves that reveal molecular pickup or the folded nature of a protein molecule.

AFM Cantilever exhibit
Illustrate the cantilever at atomic scale. Modes of operation to be covered include: constant height, constant force, force modulus, tapping mode
See these slides that illustrate the principle.

How SIMS works exhibit
Illustrate ion bombardment on a surface (and see how it blasts out secondary ions). Two types of beam (Bi or C60).

Further scientific details of any of these exhibits will be worked out by the developer in dialogue with NPL scientists who will be available in Second Life as required.

Impact Assessment Feature
We wish to understand and quantify the learning that results from a visit to the Island and its exhibits. We therefore wish to record visits to the island, including metrics such as time spent on island, exhibits visited, and time at each. We would also like to observe any changes in behaviour (or skill level) as a result of an Island visit – and we need to do this in a completely unobtrusive manner. The following should be taken as an illustrative example of how this feature might work, but we welcome proposals for doing it differently: At the arrival point there could be a fun exhibit titled ‘test your nano skills’ that visitors are somehow encouraged to try. The tests should relate to specific exhibits and each test could have a mystery element that visitors are not permitted to use until they have visited the relevant exhibit. As they later visit exhibits we should tell them that the mystery feature has been unlocked and encourage them to consider returning to the test centre before they leave the island. So – returning visitors will see the new tests – and these should somehow be even more fun to do provided they learned something in the relevant exhibit. If this is too difficult or cumbersome to achieve for the entire Island visit, then consideration should be given to building a test into The Nanoscale characterisation laboratory’s bench exhibits only.

Further Information for Developers

We invite bids for the entire project and expect to appoint a main contractor for the build. However we will give special consideration to proposals from suitably qualified scientists and engineers with SL experience who would be interested in building specific scientific features, and we also welcome their suggestions for additional features suitable for the Island. Please specify which components you are bidding for in detail, and what assumptions you are making about the environment or other components with which yours may interact.

The components we would consider independent bids for are as follows:

  • Tower of Ten
  • Individual exhibits for Tower of Ten
  • Particle Trail
  • AFM and SIM principals as interactive exhibits
  • AFM and SIM benches (interactive models with instruments, samples and results)
  • Lab scenario machinima may be included in either of the above if appropriate
  • Nano guessing game realisation
  • Air quality map
  • Air quality monitoring station in virtual reality
  • The air quality impact concepts including attention grabbing headlines/machinima
  • Flowchart realisation from measurement data through to consequences for
  • Particle counting, Metals and Black Smoke instruments
  • Realisation of particle trail for each scenario (marine, mineral, combustion, industrial)
  • ‘What is a nanoparticle?’ feature
  • Impact assessment feature

Budget Guidelines
Your proposal should include a budget with a breakdown of the costs and as much detail as possible of the build and resources to be used. Please state your assumptions concerning the availability of our scientists for further detail or comment.

Attribution, Ownership and Promotional Considerations
All Island assets (including scripts and external code) should be deeded to the NPL UK Group (making them group owned) so that they may be copied or modified by NPL or its developers in the future. If you intend to make use of assets (including scripts and external code) that you do not own, or cannot transfer to NPL then please make this clear in your proposal.

The Island will be visited by real-life educators, research scientists, industrial organisations, government agencies, museum curators, educational technologists, distance educators, and knowledge transfer experts – many of whom will be looking to see what to see what is possible in SL. As such, you or your firm would receive excellent exposure to potential future clients. NPL may also choose to pursue additional projects in SL; this project would be an excellent way for NPL to learn about you.

Proposal Review Criteria
The developer will be chosen based on the following criteria:
● The degree to which the proposal meets the objectives
● The clarity of the proposed exposition
● The quality of the proposal
● Experience with similar projects in Second Life
● Scientific fidelity
● The proposed budget
● The proposed timeline (from proposed start to completion date)
● The availability of the developer to support/troubleshoot the Island after completion of the build

Tender notes

Bidders should take note of the following when responding to this tender:

1. Bidders must treat all correspondence and discussions between NPL as commercially in confidence information and not disclosed to any third party other than an insurance company, bank or broker requiring such information in connection with the tender.

2. The tender submitted must be held valid for a period of 90 days from the tender closing date.

3. The bidder will bear all costs associated with the preparation and submission of their tender and to bear any further costs incurred prior to contract award.

4. The bidder must state where any part of the work will be subcontracted to other companies and provide details separately as part of their tender.

5. NPL may offer to purchase, in full or in part, the goods services or works that represents the best value, but reserves the right to cancel all or part of the bidding process and/or not to award a contract.

6. Bidders who do not comply with the tender conditions will be deemed to have submitted a non-compliant bid and may be disqualified from the tender.

7. Any contract awarded as a result of this Invitation to tender will be subject to NPL General Conditions of Purchase and Special Terms for Services Issue 1 April 2003. To view these please go to http://www.npl.co.uk/general_conditions_of_purchase.html (Copy also available upon request)

Commercial Information

Please complete this NPL Supplier Questionnaire and return with your bid

Submission Guidelines
Please provide a proposal that responds to the above requirements and also addresses how you propose to provide post-development support and requests for changes or to permit NPL to undertake further development with or without reference to yourselves. All enquiries and proposals should be addressed to Davee Commerce in SL (use the email address in his SL profile).
Further clarification, modifications and answers to questions will be posted to this blog so developers should refer back here before submitting their proposals.

If required, access and building rights can be granted to Nanotechnology Island for proposers to experiment or prepare prototypes to illustrate their proposal. If necessary the Island will be divided into parcels to facilitate several proposers.

To be considered proposals must be submitted by 6pm GMT on February 6th, 2007. Developers planning to submit a proposal are encouraged to ask questions.

About the National Physical Laboratory

NPL is the United Kingdom’s national standards laboratory, an internationally respected and independent centre of excellence in research, development and knowledge transfer in measurement and materials science. For more than a century we have developed and maintained the nation’s primary measurement standards – the heart of an infrastructure designed to ensure accuracy, consistency and innovation in physical measurement.

For more information on Nanotechnology at NPL, visit these NPL directories: Nanotechnology, Nanomaterials, Surface and Nano-analysis
For more information about NPL, visit the NPL website at http://www.npl.co.uk/about/

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