|Foresight Update 34 - Table of Contents|
The Web sites in this column describe progress in, or offer resources for, several of the enabling technologies leading to molecular nanotechnology.
The American Chemical Society Web site has posted an illustrated article from the June 8, 1998, issue of Chemical & Engineering News that reports on a symposium, "Materials for the 21st Century & Beyond," held on April 29 at Hunter College of the City University of New York. The symposium gave a superb bird's eye view of progress in chemistry as an enabling technology for nanotechnology: from Nobel Laureate Jean-Marie Lehn's work with self-assembling supramolecular systems, including his latest work with a macrocyclic "wreath" in which four organic strands are held together by metal ion coordination bonds, to the smallest, recently discovered fullerene, a ball of just 36 carbon atoms. The conference sponsors also maintain a Web site that includes the speakers' abstracts at http://sonhouse.hunter.cuny.edu/conferences/symposium98.html.
One proposed path toward nanotechnology is the design of polymers that fold into useful structures. The working example that we have for this approach is the folding of natural proteins. The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) Web site http://www.faseb.org/ has a section on "Breakthroughs in Bioscience" that includes the illustrated essay "Unraveling the Mystery of Protein Folding," written for a general audience, which provides a quick layman's introduction to protein structure. The emphasis is on how mistakes in biological protein folding can lead to disease, but the sections that explain how some proteins need help from "chaperone" proteins to fold correctly, and how misfolded proteins are not amorphous blobs, but rather highly structured molecules, provide clues that it might be possible for nanotechnologists to manipulate polymer folding in multiple ways.
For additional information on protein folding, visit the Web site of the Serrano group at the EMBL lab in Heidelberg, Germany. Their recent success in designing a beta sheet peptide is reported in this issue's "Recent Progress" column. In addition to information about their work on designed alpha helical and beta turn structures, they provide a free online service that predicts the percent helical structure in solution of a peptide sequence submitted by the user.
DARPA's Ultra Electronics program "offers a platform for advanced microelectronics research in support of nanoelectronic technologies." The Web site for the program provides a wealth of brief technical reports on past accomplishments (http://web-ext2.darpa.mil/eto/ultra/Weeklies.htm) and current research programs (http://web-ext2.darpa.mil/eto/ultra/98Overview/index.html).
The company Web site of Scanning Technology offers for sale a personal scanning tunneling microscope for about $5000, "based on leading-edge technology in the simplification of Scanning Probe Microscopes." The site also includes an overview of the basic principles of the STM http://members.aol.com/ntinc/basics.html.
Computational chemistry forms the framework for computational nanotechnology. This site lists links for five Electronic Computational Chemistry Conferences (ECCC) that have been held since 1994, with the fifth one to be held this November. These Conferences are held over the Internet and there are no registration fees. Links to the archives of ECCC-2, -3, and -4, and to detailed information on participating in the upcoming ECCC-5:
The above links also provide information about where to get the various plugins needed to view the animations, virtual reality, and other "hyperactive molecule" features used in some of the conference papers.
The Edinburgh Engineering Virtual Library (EEVL) advertises itself as "The UK gateway to quality engineering information on the Internet." Included are searchable databases covering "Reviews of 3,400 quality engineering Web sites" and "Over 100 engineering e-journal Web sites."
Those who like to explore what is known looking for unexpected connections might want to play with a tool made available on the Web to help in making such connections. As explained on the ARROWSMITH Web site:
"ARROWSMITH is an interactive software package that extends the power of a MEDLINE search. It operates on the output of a conventional search in a way that helps the user see new relationships and form and assess novel scientific hypotheses. It is based on the premise that information developed in one area of research can be of value in another without anyone being aware of the fact.
ARROWSMITH is intended primarily for those who already conduct extensive searching in large biomedical bibliographic databases such as MEDLINE, BIOSIS, EMBASE, OR SCISEARCH, and who are interested in discovering novel cross-specialty connections. Whereas conventional searches find only information that is explicitly stated, ARROWSMITH can help users to perceive implicit relationships and connections that may never have been made explicit in published form." u
From Foresight Update 34, originally published 30 August 1998.
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