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New Report: Nano-solutions for the 21st century

Posted by Stephanie C on December 20th, 2013

A recently released technology report titled Nano-solutions for the 21st century outlines nanotech-based solutions to global challenges. Several years in the making, the report was co-authored by Dennis Pamlin, Research Fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences Research Center for Sustainable Development (RCSD web site currently in Chinese only), and Eric Drexler, Academic Visitor with the Oxford Martin School’s Programme on the Impacts of Future Technology and author of Radical Abundance. The report has a strongly international perspective, and the Abstract is presented in both English and Chinese.

The core technological emphasis of the report is atomically precise manufacturing, and even those most familiar with the topic will find the breadth of this report compelling and informative. The report discusses — in reader-friendly presentations – a number of broader issues, such as:

  • shifts in thinking about the roles of new technologies (from creating specific technological capabilities to creating enabling technologies intended to support further technological advancements),
  • the surprising value of atomically imprecise technologies,
  • the leverage gained by applying defined criteria and metrics to the evaluation of research results and progress,
  • how funding and policy shape incentives and carry unintended consequences (some desirable, some not), and
  • simple actions that can be taken today to effect positive change.

A number of concrete examples are presented to illustrate concepts and conclusions.
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Open Access journals for nanotechnology and other topics

Posted by Jim Lewis on December 19th, 2013

One of the frustrating aspects of covering an emerging interdisciplinary technology like nanotechnology on a low budget is that some of the most interesting research is sequestered behind a pay wall. Press releases and abstracts usually do not provide enough depth to really appreciate what was done. Some authors make their papers available on their own web sites, and in many cases emailing a request to the corresponding author will result in receipt of a complementary PDF. Another great help in keeping abreast is the growing list of Open Access journals. How to find them? This recently from Sally Roy:

I’m a researcher with an academic resource site for college students. I recently visited your site — — while working on a guide to open access journals, and thought you might be interested in checking it out. The guide includes a curated list of free, peer reviewed journals and journal databases from a number of disciplines.

We put this together knowing that people like the convenience of online research even though it can return questionable results. Our hope is to let students and professionals know that there’s actually a lot of good information out there, it’s just a matter of knowing where to find it. …

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Molecular Folding Science: the Future of Architectural Biomimicry at the Atomic Scale by Ronald Zuckermann at the 2014 Technical Conference: Integration

Posted by candice on December 17th, 2013

2014 Foresight Technical Conference: Integration —February 7-9, 2014

Early registration rates and reduced hotel rates are available for a limited time.
Use promo code NANOBLOG for $100 off registration

Molecular Folding Science:
The Future of Architectural Biomimicry at the Atomic Scale

Precisely folded proteins are Nature’s machinery: 3D molecular architectures, that are responsible for essential functions like molecular recognition and catalysis.  In order to utilize these molecules under ever-more demanding conditions for urgent medical, environmental and energy-related problems, attempts are being made to synthesize robust and completely artificial protein-like structures.  In this talk Ron will discuss interdisciplinary efforts to use robotic synthesis and computer simulation to design and synthesize information-rich synthetic peptoid polymers that can be programmed to fold into precise 3D nanostructures. Recent efforts have produced a family of peptoid nanosheets that are decorated with a high density of surface loops, to create an antibody-like material capable of velcro-like recognition of molecular targets.

Ronald Zuckermann, Biological Nanostructures Facility, The Molecular Foundry Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, received his B.S. in Chemistry in 1984 from Harvey Mudd College where he did undergraduate research in synthetic organic chemistry.  He then went on to UC Berkeley to study Bioorganic Chemistry with Dr. Peter Schultz.  His thesis work was on the synthesis of semi-synthetic nucleases capable of the sequence-specific cleavage of RNA.  After receiving the first Schultz group Ph.D. in 1989, he became one of the founding chemists at Protos Corp., a combinatorial drug discovery start-up in Emeryville, CA.  There he helped develop several key drug discovery technologies such as robotic combinatorial library synthesizers, affinity selection methods and a novel class of heteropolymers called “Peptoids”.  Chiron Corp. acquired Protos in 1991 where this work continued and was applied to small molecule drug discovery, new biomaterials and DNA delivery.  Dr. Zuckermann was promoted to Research Fellow in 2003. In early 2006, he left Chiron to join the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, where he is currently Facility Director of the Biological Nanostructures Facility at The Molecular Foundry. He was promoted to Senior Scientist in 2011. He has published over 90 papers and is co-inventor on 27 patents.

Use Promo Code NANOBLOG for $100 off registration!

Advanced technologies by design

Posted by Stephanie C on December 16th, 2013

Crystal structure of the new superconductor iron tetraboride © APS. credit: Chemistry World

Design and prediction are integral to Atomically Precise Manufacturing and its development. This is in part because fully functional APM can be readily explored computationally today, to levels of precision that cannot be experimentally developed today. In such a context, design is not just a resource but an approach.

With rapidly expanding computational power, examples of new technological advancements centered on design/prediction are becoming more prevalent (such as projected nanomedicine advances as noted by Jim Lewis here). Such emerging cases are refreshing contrasts to the familiar historical example of graphene, which was fairly well understood computationally for decades even as efforts at fabrication remained intermittent.

Continuing the trend towards more design-oriented development approaches, a new superconductor has now been predicted and fabricated with intent.

The article, titled “New superconductor is first predicted then created” was recently featured on the Royal Society of Chemistry’s online media site Chemistry World. The article explains:

In 2010 and 2011 Aleksey Kolmogorov and colleagues at the University of Oxford, UK, and Ruhr-University Bochum in Germany predicted that, at very high pressures, iron and boron would form the previously unobserved compound FeB4 and that, when cooled to cryogenic temperatures, this compound would superconduct. Kolmogorov, now at Binghamtom University, US, has now collaborated with European experimentalists to prove this.

The researchers suggest that the combination of hardness and superconductivity could prove useful in superconducting nanoelectromechanical systems. However, team member Natalia Dubrovinskaia, of the University of Bayreuth in Germany, stresses that ‘the main result is not prospective applications of this particular material, but the change in vision regarding the possibility to design superconductors from scratch’.

Computation and design are tremendous assets in shaping and developing future technological systems, such as APM. Currently these assets are being utilized more for developing isolated components rather than systems, but these proof-of-concept successes bring much-deserved mainstream attention to the importance and value of the design/prediction approach.
-Posted by Stephanie C

Ultra fast, ultra low energy transistors in Electronic and Optical Nanosystems, 2014 Foresight Technical Conference: Integration

Posted by candice on December 8th, 2013

Ultra fast, ultra low energy transistors in Electronic and Optical Nanosystems

Dr. Reza Arghavani is the Managing Director of Technology for LAM Research Corporation. He will be speaking on the realization of nanotechnology approaching the atomic scale that underpins the ultra fast, ultra low energy transistors of the 22nm node devices on sale today and the challenges for creating the even more demanding, smaller, faster and lower power devices of the future as we approach the limits of design.

Prior to Lam Research, Dr. Arghavani was the CTO and Co-Founder of Universal Phase, Inc., and was responsible for the realization of a transistor based apparatus to deliver focused microwave energy into a cavity for Energy and SEMI industrial applications. As a Fellow at Applied Materials [one of only three at AMAT], Dr. Arghavani led a team to create a series of stress inducing dielectrics, which are currently in use in high volume manufacturing for both Logic and Non-Volatile Memory applications. This program led to over $800 million revenue in a period of two years.

At Intel Corporation Logic Technology Development, Dr. Arghavani was responsible for three generations of high performance microprocessor gate stack technology. Dr. Arghavani introduced the first High K Atomic Layer Deposition (ALD) into Intel development FABs. This work eventually led to the introduction of High-K / Metal Gates into 45nm INTEL Microprocessors [débuted by Gordon Moore as the biggest change in transistor technology since the late 1960s]. He was also part of the original Intel development team that invented and patented the 3-D Tri-Gate transistor, now in high volume manufacturing for the 22nm node.

2014 Foresight Technical Conference: Integration —February 7-9, 2014

Early registration rates and reduced hotel rates are available for a limited time.
Use Promo Code NANOBLOG for $100 off registration.

Rolith wins 2013 Best Manufacturing Technology Award for Printed Electronics Industry. Boris Kobrin to speak at 2014 Technical Conference: Integration

Posted by candice on December 4th, 2013

Registration is open for the 2014 Foresight Technical Conference: Integration —February 7-9, 2014

Reduced hotel rates are available for a limited time.
Use Promo Code NANOBLOG for $100 off registration

Rolith, Inc. Wins the 2013 Best Manufacturing Technology Award from the Printed Electronics Industry

Rolith, Inc., a leader in advanced nanostructured devices, is pleased to announce that Printed Electronics Industry selected Rolith for the Best Manufacturing Technology award based on its production of transparent metal mesh conductors for large touch screen displays, OLED lighting and photovoltaics.

Boris Kobrin, the founder of Rolith, will be joining us at the 2014 Foresight Technical Conference to speak on the topic of Commercially Implemented Nanotechnology.  Boris brings over 25 years of experience in semiconductors and optics, micro and nano fabrication processes and equipment technologies. In addition he has also had success in building eight cutting-edge technology companies in the US, Israel and Canada.

Remember to use Promo Code NANOBLOG when you register for $100 off the registration fee.

2013 conference video: Mechanical Atom Manipulation

Posted by Jim Lewis on December 2nd, 2013

Credit: Philip Moriarty

A select set of videos from the 2013 Foresight Technical Conference: Illuminating Atomic Precision, held January 11-13, 2013 in Palo Alto, have been made available on vimeo. Videos have been posted of those presentations for which the speakers have consented. Other presentations contained confidential information and will not be posted.

The 4th speaker in the Atomic Scale Devices session was Philip Moriarty. His talk was titled “Mechanical Atom Manipulation: Towards a Matter Compiler?biography and abstract, video – video length 31:14.

Prof. Moriarty presented his work with the qPlus technique of non-contact AFM of semiconductors, using chemical forces to mechanically move atoms around to structure matter, focusing on the tip of the probe—specifically how to optimize the tip structure, and how to return the tip to a previously known state. He begins with a brief review of how non-contact AFM uses a damped, driven oscillator to measure and manipulate what is happening at the level of single chemical bonds. The tip at the end of the oscillating cantilever measures the frequency shift of the cantilever as it approaches and interacts with the surface, and it maintains a constant amplitude of oscillation by pumping energy into the system. The frequency shift provides information about conservative forces acting on the tip, and the amount of energy pumped in gives a handle on non-conservative, or dissipative, forces. Before diving into the experimental details of his own work, Prof. Moriarty noted that various experimental accomplishments have vindicated Eric Drexler’s assertion that single atom chemistry could be done using purely mechanical force.

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Nanotrain uses molecular motors and DNA nanotechnology controls

Posted by Jim Lewis on December 2nd, 2013

Nanotrain network created by scientists at Oxford University: green dye-carrying shuttles after 'refuelling' with ATP travel towards the center of the network with their cargoes of green dye. Credit: Adam Wollman/Oxford University

The goal of the modular molecular composite nanosystems (MMCNs) path to atomically precise manufacturing is to exploit million-atom-scale DNA frameworks to assemble and coordinate molecular components to build complex functional nanostructures. Last year we cited work in which molecular motor proteins were used to transport synthetic DNA cargos along a 25-nm-diameter protein track composed of microtubules, the networks used to transport molecular cargo in human and other eukaryotic cells. Demonstrating another way in which to use these molecular components for similar purposes, other researchers have now used DNA nanotechnology to organize and control networks for transporting molecular cargo by incorporating molecular motors into different types of functional nanostructures. A hat tip to ScienceDaily for reprinting this Oxford University press release “All aboard the nanotrain network“:

Tiny self-assembling transport networks, powered by nano-scale motors and controlled by DNA, have been developed by scientists at Oxford University and Warwick University.

The system can construct its own network of tracks spanning tens of micrometres in length, transport cargo across the network and even dismantle the tracks.

The work is published in Nature Nanotechnology [abstract] ….

Researchers were inspired by the melanophore, used by fish cells to control their colour. Tracks in the network all come from a central point, like the spokes of a bicycle wheel. Motor proteins transport pigment around the network, either concentrating it in the centre or spreading it throughout the network. Concentrating pigment in the centre makes the cells lighter, as the surrounding space is left empty and transparent.

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Carbon Nanotube Devices: H-S Philip Wong

Posted by candice on November 23rd, 2013

H-S Philip Wong discusses Carbon Nanotube Devices at 2014 Foresight Technical Conference: Integration

Early Registration ends 11/25 – Use promo code NANOBLOG for $100 off registration.

In October, Professor Wong along with colleagues at Stanford University published the development of a digital computer which uses carbon nanotubes as transistors. The team was able to integrate 142 carbon nanotube transistors into a multitasking computer programmable through a 20 instruction set. Professor Wong will relate the trials and triumphs in the integration strategy, as well as insight into other strategies for ultra small, high speed low power switching.

To put these accomplishments into perspective we need only look back to 2008 at which time the integration of five carbon nanotubes was cutting edge technology.

You can follow the Carbon Nanotube Device Timeline: through the links below and join us at the 2014 Foresight Technical Conference: Integration to hear more from Professor Wong:

2003- carbon nanotube mats integrated as organic vapor sensor(Nano Letters)

2008- Five carbon nanotubes integrated to form an AM Radio (PNAS)

2013- One hundred forty two carbon nanotubes integrated to form a multitasking computer (Nature)

Upcoming Book Explores Nanomedical Device and Systems Design

Posted by Jim Lewis on November 21st, 2013

Nanomedical Device and Systems Design: Challenges, Possibilities, Visions Published: November 18, 2013 by CRC Press Content:787 Pages | 223 Illustrations Editor(s):Frank Boehm

Aubrey de Grey (Chairman and Chief Science Officer of the Methuselah Foundation and Editor-in-Chief of the high-impact journal Rejuvenation Research) offers some affirmative comments below, subsequent to a review of the upcoming book: Nanomedical Device and Systems Design: Challenges, Possibilities, Visions (CRC Press/Taylor & Francis)
edited by Frank J. Boehm, which is slated for release on November 25, 2013.

“This book is extraordinarily detailed and comprehensive, and succeeds splendidly as an update to a field previously defined by Freitas’s similarly encyclopedic works. A particularly strong element is the thorough dissection of methods of nanodevice delivery covered in the first section. I am most impressed by the book’s structure. One particularly nice decision was to open up the central section to invited authors, giving the book a level of variety that is otherwise challenging to deliver. The level of detail presented is the main thing I am looking for in such highly speculative engineering design surveys, and it is fantastic here.”

“Robert Freitas defined the field of nanomedicine with his encyclopedic analysis published at the turn of the century. After 15 years, the time is right to provide an updated view, but can Freitas’s comprehensiveness ever be matched? Boehm has shown that it can. As Freitas did, he has risen to the formidable challenge of tackling a hugely speculative area of pioneering technology with a level of thoroughness that should give even the cautious reader a substantial level of confidence that, once the most basic nuts and bolts of molecular manufacturing are available (and progress towards them is already encouraging), their application to some of our greatest needs may rapidly follow.”

Upon his review of the book, Ted Kucklick, author of The Medical Device R&D Handbook, notes that “Nanomedical Device and Systems Design: Challenges, Possibilities, Visions speculates where nanotechnology for medicine might develop in the next 10-20 years, and postulates a number of possibilities for therapeutic applications including artificial blood and neuroprosthetics and posthuman augmentation. Medical futurists may find this book useful in anticipating where these technologies may lead.”

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Dr. Banning Garrett discusses the importance of Nanotechnology in world markets.

Posted by candice on November 20th, 2013

Dr. Garrett gives 2014 Foresight Technical Conference: Integration a picture of the global socio-political piece of the nanotechnology puzzle.  He can provide insight into why nanotechnology is important strategically as part of the new industrial revolution and the accelerating pace of technologically-induced disruptive change throughout society and geopolitics.

Dr. Banning Garrett is Strategic Foresight Senior Fellow for Innovation and Global Trends and founding director of the Strategic Foresight Initiative at the Atlantic Council of the United States. He also established and has directed since 2006, the Council’s collaboration with the  National Intelligence Council in preparation of their quadrennial long-term assessments of global trends, most recently Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds, released in 2012.  For 22 years Dr. Garrett worked as a consultant to the Department of Defense and US government agencies conducting an unofficial strategic dialogue with China beginning in 1981. Dr. Garrett was also a senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a founding board member of the US Committee for Security Cooperation in the Asia Pacific.

You can hear more from Dr. Garrett at the 2014 Foresight Technical Conference: Integration

Early Registration ends 11/25 for the 2014 Foresight Technical Conference: Integration —February 7-9, 2014

Use discount code NANOBLOG for $100 off during Early Registration

Early registration rates and reduced hotel rates are available for a limited time.

Graphene nanoribbon senses passage of individual bases of DNA

Posted by Jim Lewis on November 19th, 2013

Caption: Many efforts over last decade have been directed towards development of single molecule sequencing based on solid state nanopores. Aleksandra Radenovic and co-workers have made a device composed of a graphene nanoribbon transistor built on top of a solid state nanopore. Direct electrical readout from the graphene transistors is used to detect DNA translocation events. Nanopore, DNA and the graphene nanoribbon are shown in this schematic (which is not to scale). Credit: EPFL

A major contribution of current and near-term nanotechnology to medical advance will be improving DNA sequencing technology to enable fully individualized medical treatment. In an important step toward very rapid DNA sequencing, researchers have used a graphene nanoribbon transistor to sense the movement of a DNA molecule through a nanopore. A hat tip to ScienceDaily for reprinting this public release from the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland: “Graphene nanoribbons for ‘reading’ DNA“.

… The DNA molecules are diluted in a solution containing ions and are driven by an electric field through a membrane with a nanopore. When the molecule goes through the orifice, it provokes a slight perturbation to the field, detectable not only by the modulations in ionic current but also by concomitant modulation in the graphene transistor current. Based on this information, it is possible to determine whether a DNA molecule has passed through the membrane or not.

This system is based on a method that has been known for over a dozen years. The original technique was not as reliable since it presented a number of shortcomings such as clogging pores and lack of precision, among others. “We thought that we would be able to solve these problems by creating a membrane as thin as possible while maintaining the orifice’s strength”, said Aleksandra Radenovic from the Laboratory of Nanoscale Biology at EPFL. Together with Floriano Traversi, postdoctoral student, and colleagues from the Laboratory of Nanoscale Electronics and Structures, she came across the material that turned out to be both the strongest and most resilient: graphene, which consists of a single layer of carbon molecules. The strips of graphene or nanoribbons used in the experiment were produced at EPFL, thanks to the work carried out at the Center for Micro Nanotechnology (CMI) and the Center for Electron Microscopy (CIME).

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Nanoparticle therapy for incurable brain cancer effective in mice

Posted by Jim Lewis on November 15th, 2013

Researchers combined gold nanoparticles (in yellow) with small interfering RNAs (in green) to knock down an oncogene that is overexpressed in glioblastoma. Credit: Northwestern University

Back in 2009 we cited promising work from Chad Mirkin (winner of the 2002 Foresight Institute Feynman Prize in Nanotechnology in the Experimental category) that covering 13-nanometer gold nanoparticles with siRNA molecules enable the usually unstable and fragile molecules to enter tumor cells in culture and silence the tumor cell gene against which the siRNA molecules were targeted. We now learn that these spherical nucleic acid nanoparticle conjugates show activity in cell culture and in mouse models against an incurable brain cancer called glioblastoma multiforme (GBM). A hat tip to ScienceDaily for reprinting this Northwestern University news release by Megan Fellman “Incurable Brain Cancer Gene Is Silenced: Gene regulation technology increases survival rates in mice with glioblastoma“:

Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), the brain cancer that killed Sen. Edward Kennedy and kills approximately 13,000 Americans a year, is aggressive and incurable. Now a Northwestern University research team is the first to demonstrate delivery of a drug that turns off a critical gene in this complex cancer, increasing survival rates significantly in animals with the deadly disease.

The novel therapeutic, which is based on nanotechnology, is small and nimble enough to cross the blood-brain barrier and get to where it is needed — the brain tumor. Designed to target a specific cancer-causing gene in cells, the drug simply flips the switch of the troublesome oncogene to “off,” silencing the gene. This knocks out the proteins that keep cancer cells immortal.

In a study of mice, the nontoxic drug was delivered by intravenous injection. In animals with GBM, the survival rate increased nearly 20 percent, and tumor size was reduced three to four fold, as compared to the control group. The results are published today (Oct. 30) in Science Translational Medicine [abstract].

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2014 Foresight Technical Conference: Integration

Posted by candice on November 14th, 2013

2014 Foresight Technical Conference: Integration
February 7 – 9, 2014
Crowne Plaza Hotel, Palo Alto, California, USA

DEADLINE for early registration: Nov. 20
For $100 discount, use code NANOBLOG

Paolo Gargini, ITRS Chairman, former Intel VP of Technology Strategy

Conference Co-Chairs:
Robert P. Meagley, CEO/CTO, One Nanotechnologies
William A. Goddard III, Director, Materials and Process Simulation Center, Caltech

•  Strategy, Analysis and Simulation
•  Bionano Systems
•  Commercially Implemented Nanotechnology
•  Electronic and Optical Nanosystems
•  Self-Organizing & Adaptive Systems

To be successful, today’s groundbreaking atomic- and molecular-scale science and engineering must be integrated into more complex micro- and macro-systems. Nanoengineered devices and materials are being targeted at a wide range of uses throughout biotechnology, medicine, electronics, defense, energy conversion and storage, coatings, textiles, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and food & food security.

Increasing momentum in this process will drive further progress toward advanced nanotechnologies.  Therefore, this year’s Foresight Conference focuses on Integration, and co-chairs Robert Meagley and William Goddard have been curating an exceptional line-up of speakers.

We are especially excited that Dr. Paolo Gargini has agreed to be our Keynote speaker. Dr. Gargini is the former VP of Technology Strategy at Intel and is currently the Chairman of ITRS, the International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors. He will share with us his unique perspective of applied and emerging nanotech, especially on how the semiconductor industry has been driving to atomic precision and spinning off materials and technologies discovered along the way.
Additional speakers include:
  • Cliff Henderson, Functional Organic Materials, Georgia Tech
  • Philip Wong, Stanford Nanoelectronics Lab
  • Steven Roscoe, 3M Central Research
  • Ron Zuckermann, Molecular Foundry, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab
  • Reza Arghavani, LAM Research
  • Banning Garrett, Atlantic Council
  • Boris Kobrin, Rolith Inc.
  • Mark Akeson, Biomolecular Engineering, UC Santa Cruz
The conference will include the Feynman Prize Luncheon on Saturday. In addition there will be offsite no-host, topic-based discussion groups for Sunday lunch.

We have reserved a special $100 discount for those who register early. This discount applies during early registration ending November 20, which is coming up fast. To take advantage of this discount when you register for the conference, use promotional code NANOBLOG.

We look forward to discussion the integration of Nanotechnology with you in February!

Best Regards,

Paul Melnyk, President

Christine Peterson, Co-Founder

Adding more chemical interactions to DNA nanotechnology

Posted by Jim Lewis on October 24th, 2013

A DNA cage (at left), with lipid-like molecules (in blue). The lipids come together in a 'handshake' within the cage (center image) to encapsulate small-molecule drugs (purple). The molecules are released (at right) in response to the presence of a specific nucleic acid. Credit: Thomas Edwardson, McGill University

Many different types of nanoparticles have been proposed as improved drug delivery vehicles for nanomedical use, ranging from nanoscale lipid vesicles to atomically precise nucleic acid nanostructures. Together they provide various approaches to solving the many challenges involved in efficiently transporting a drug to the right target. Researchers at McGill University have now modified DNA strands with lipid-like molecules to better hold a cargo of drug molecules. A hat tip to Newswise for reprinting this McGill University news release “DNA ‘cages’ may aid drug delivery“:

Nanoscale “cages” made from strands of DNA can encapsulate small-molecule drugs and release them in response to a specific stimulus, McGill University researchers report in a new study.

The research, published online Sept. 1 in Nature Chemistry [abstract], marks a step toward the use of biological nanostructures to deliver drugs to diseased cells in patients. The findings could also open up new possibilities for designing DNA-based nanomaterials.

“This research is important for drug delivery, but also for fundamental structural biology and nanotechnology,” says McGill Chemistry professor Hanadi Sleiman, who led the research team. …

In their experiments, the McGill researchers first created DNA cubes using short DNA strands, and modified them with lipid-like molecules. The lipids can act like sticky patches that come together and engage in a “handshake” inside the DNA cube, creating a core that can hold cargo such as drug molecules.

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Biology is capable of evolving functional mechanical gears

Posted by Jim Lewis on October 16th, 2013

Credit: University of Cambridge

It has long been noted in discussions of atomically precise manufacturing that biological molecular machinery provides an existence proof for manufacturing complex molecular machinery. However, proposals for mature atomically precise manufacturing systems resemble scaled down conventional manufacturing systems, with gears and other rigid components familiar at the macroscale. In contrast biological molecular machine systems comprise floppy molecules interacting via controlled Brownian motion. Is it possible for evolution to develop machines with gears, etc.? Apparently evolution is capable of inventing mechanical gears, albeit at much larger than molecular scale. A hat tip to ScienceDaily for reprinting this news release from the University of Cambridge “Functioning ‘mechanical gears’ seen in nature for the first time“:

Previously believed to be only man-made, a natural example of a functioning gear mechanism has been discovered in a common insect – showing that evolution developed interlocking cogs long before we did.

The juvenile Issus – a plant-hopping insect found in gardens across Europe – has hind-leg joints with curved cog-like strips of opposing ‘teeth’ that intermesh, rotating like mechanical gears to synchronise the animal’s legs when it launches into a jump.

The finding demonstrates that gear mechanisms previously thought to be solely man-made have an evolutionary precedent. Scientists say this is the “first observation of mechanical gearing in a biological structure”.

Through a combination of anatomical analysis and high-speed video capture of normal Issus movements, scientists from the University of Cambridge have been able to reveal these functioning natural gears for the first time. The findings are reported in the latest issue of the journal Science [abstract].

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TEDx talk: "Transforming the Material Basis of Civilization"

Posted by Stephanie C on October 14th, 2013

Eric Drexler speaks at TEDx Lisbon

Eric Drexler’s TEDx talk entitled “A Future of Radical Abundance: Transforming the Material Basis of Civilization” is available for viewing on Youtube as well as on Drexler’s blog site.

As described by the Oxford Martin School, where Drexler is a scholar with the Programme on the Impacts of Future Technology:

Dr. Eric Drexler’s talk from TEDx IST Alameda (18 June 2013)

‘A Future of Radical Abundance: Transforming the Material Basis of Civilization’

What if an advanced production technology could enable us to transition to a global economy with zero carbon emissions, and then enable us to undertake the vast task of removing excess carbon from Earth’s atmosphere? What if we could learn to make a broad spectrum of products cleanly, at low cost, and on a global scale? If so, then prospects for the 21st century would be different from today’s expectations.

Eric Drexler’s recent TEDx talk in Lisbon describes the physical basis and historical context of a prospective revolution in the material basis of our civilization: high-throughput atomically precise manufacturing. The level of technology required is visible in the distance today—not close, yet accessible through a series of advances in nanotechnology and the molecular sciences. As global problems intensify, understanding this technological potential has become increasingly urgent. Eric’s TEDx talk surveys this topic and provides a framework for further discussion.

-Posted by Stephanie C

Carbyne: the strongest, stiffest carbon chain

Posted by Stephanie C on October 11th, 2013

Carbyne ropes and rods. Credit: Vasilii Artyukhov/Rice University

Carbyne – a straight line of carbon atoms linked by double bonds or by alternating single and triple bonds — is the next stiff, carbon-based structure with unusual and desirable properties. It has been observed under limited natural and experimental conditions, is expected to be difficult to synthesize and store, and now has been theoretically characterized.

Researchers at Rice University recently published DFT characterizations of carbyne ropes and rods, and overviews of the findings and prospects are reprinted at

According to the portrait drawn from calculations by Yakobson and his group:

  • Carbyne’s tensile strength – the ability to withstand stretching – surpasses “that of any other known material” and is double that of graphene. (Scientists had already calculated it would take an elephant on a pencil to break through a sheet of graphene.)
  • It has twice the tensile stiffness of graphene and carbon nanotubes and nearly three times that of diamond.
  • Stretching carbyne as little as 10 percent alters its electronic band gap significantly.
  • If outfitted with molecular handles at the ends, it can also be twisted to alter its band gap. With a 90-degree end-to-end rotation, it becomes a magnetic semiconductor.
  • Carbyne chains can take on side molecules that may make the chains suitable for energy storage.
  • The material is stable at room temperature, largely resisting crosslinks with nearby chains.

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Nanotubes aren't stiff if they aren't straight

Posted by Stephanie C on October 3rd, 2013

"This montage includes images of carbon nanotube forests. New research explains why the CNT forests have less stiffness than expected. (Credit: Images courtesy of Justin Chow)"

Materials scientists have pursued the question of why vertically aligned carbon nanotube forests show much lower modulus values than expected. Now researchers from Georgia Tech have found that the nanotubes they fabricate contain kinks that dramatically diminish modulus value. In other words, the nanotubes are not straight; therefore, they are not stiff.

The government-funded research was recently published in Carbon, and the first sentence of the Abstract reads, “Waviness is invariably present in vertically-aligned Carbon Nanotubes (CNTs) regardless of how controlled the fabrication process is.”  As described in the journal article, and in a reprinted news article at, the inescapably wavy nanotube forests afford possible heat management applications:

Carbon nanotubes provide many attractive properties, including high electrical and thermal conductivity, and high strength. Individual carbon nanotubes have a modulus ranging from 100 gigapascals to 1.5 terapascals. Arrays of vertically-aligned carbon nanotubes with a low density would be expected to a have an effective modulus of at least five to 150 gigapascals, Sitaraman said, but scientists have typically measured values that are four orders or magnitude less — between one and 10 megapascals.

To look for potential explanations, the researchers examined the carbon nanotubes using scanning electron microscopes located in Georgia Tech’s Institute for Electronics and Nanotechnology facilities. At magnification of 10,000 times, they saw the waviness in sections of the nanotubes.

“We found very tiny kinks in the carbon nanotubes,” said Sitaraman. “Although they appeared to be perfectly straight, there was waviness in them. The more waviness we saw, the lower their stiffness was.”
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Foresight Invitational Workshop: Nanotechnology for Developing Countries

Posted by Jim Lewis on September 30th, 2013

Nanotechnology for Developing Countries: the 2014 Foresight Invitational Workshop
February 7-9, 2014
Crowne Plaza Cabana Hotel, Palo Alto
Silicon Valley, California, USA


Nanoscale technologies have the potential to bring immense benefits to developing countries, in areas ranging from water and energy to health and environmental restoration. But the challenges are correspondingly large; required steps include:

• Identify nanotechnologies that can make a difference near-term
• Design and build products that will actually be useful
• Bring these to market at affordable price points
• Balance intellectual property interests
• Speed enterprises past the “Valley of Death”
• Solve support and maintenance issues
• Avoid solving problems that local economies are already handling well

It’s time to gather the major players to tackle these in an invitational workshop, held in the center of high-tech entrepreneurship: Silicon Valley. Researchers, product developers, IP specialists, funders, and those with experience tackling real-world problems in developing countries will come together to find ways to “fast track” nanotechnologies to make a positive difference.

Once candidate research advances, technologies, or products are identified, vigorous efforts will be made to connect innovators with funders having experience in nano-based products. Additionally, it is understood that developing country markets have special requirements and new companies will need targeted advice to succeed.

This meeting is being held in parallel with Foresight’s “Integration Conference” to enable us to take advantage of the technical expertise gathered there.

The goal is to keep this initial workshop relatively small to enable intense interaction. Those requesting an invitation should send an email to by October 16 with name and contact info.

We look forward to hearing from you soon!

John Allen
President, i-Nano LLC
Co-Chairman, Nanotechnology for Developing Countries

Paul Melnyk
Co-Chairman, Nanotechnology for Developing Countries
President, Foresight Institute

Christine Peterson
Co-Founder, Foresight Institute