Foresight Nanotech Institute Weekly News Digest: December 13, 2006
Nanotechnology that's Good For People
Foresight note: This is an example of nanotechnology being used for very early diagnostics.
Headline: Spelling out cancer on the nanoscale
Tumors start small and stay quiet, yet their intentions are clearly spelled out internally, if we could only read them. No matter how small, every tumor reveals its identity in tiny amounts of abnormally expressed proteins called oncoproteins. Being able to read trace oncoprotein levels from early-stage tumors would speak volumes to physicians and cancer researchers. Enter nano-fluidics and the art of reading a lot from very little.
Researchers led by Dean Felsher at Stanford University School of Medicine, and bioengineers at Cell Biosciences in Palo Alto, collaborated to develop an automated, high-throughput, nano-fluidic system that was able to measure the levels of three oncoproteins: MYC, BCL2, and AKT, in tiny samples drawn as very fine needle aspirates from hematopoetic tumor cells in preclinical transgenic mouse models. The nano-fluidic system physically separates the proteins in very small capillary tubes and then uses antibodies for protein detection. It was also tested on human lymphoma samples.
Nanotechnology that's Good For the Planet
Foresight note: Nature once again is a prototype for nanoscale research. This instance applies to creating structures for nano-electronics.
Headline: Butterfly wings are templates for photonic structures
By replicating the complex micron- and nanometer-scale photonic structures that help give butterfly wings their color, researchers have demonstrated a new technique that uses biotemplates for fabricating nanoscale structures that could serve as optical waveguides, optical splitters and other building blocks of photonic integrated circuits.
Using a low-temperature atomic layer deposition (ALD) process, materials scientists at the Georgia Institute of Technology produced aluminum oxide (alumina) replicas of wing scales from a Morpho peleides butterfly, a bright blue insect native to the rain forests of Central and South America. The artificial wing scales faithfully replicated the physical features and optical properties of the natural wing scales that served as templates.
[S]aid Zhong Lin Wang, Regents' Professor in the Georgia Tech School of Materials Science and Engineering. "We want to utilize biology as a template for making new material and new structures. This process gives us a new way to fabricate photonic structures such as waveguides."
Foresight note: Samsung Electronics' president and CEO gives a clear presentation on the obstacles facing nanotech and semiconductors.
Headline: Stand by for the fusion era
According to Dr Chang-Gyu Hwang, president and CEO of Samsung Electronics' semiconductor business, we are at the doorstep of 'the largest shift in the semiconductor industry ever, one that will dwarf the pc and even the consumer electronics eras'.
In his keynote speech to IEDM in San Francisco, Dr Hwang said: "The approaching era of electronics technology advancement - the Fusion Era - will be massive in scope, encompassing the fields of information technology, biotechnology and nano technology, and will create boundless opportunities for new growth to the semiconductor industry."
But the Fusion Era depends on the successful development of high density, ultra small, multifeatured semiconductors and multifaceted, cross industry solutions. To enter the new era, Dr Hwang said, it is essential to first overcome today's limits in nanotechnology.
Dr Hwang claimed: "This historic new frontier will change the way we develop and harness semiconductor technologies in substantially improving the level of day to day convenience for consumers."
But he noted that multiple hurdles need to be overcome, such as silicon patterning limitations, ensuring controllability of limited sums of electrons, and minimizing inter cell noise.
These problems may be solved using 3d structures and 3d stacking. However, further innovations in the design of architecture for electronics components and more efficient use of raw materials are critical, he added.
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Headline: Self-assembling nano-ice discovered; Structure resembles DNA
News source: Physorg.com
Working at the frontier between chemistry and physics, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Xiao Cheng Zeng usually finds his reward in discovering the unexpected through computer modeling.
Zeng and his colleagues regularly find new and often unanticipated behaviors of matter in extreme environments, and those discoveries have been published several times in major international scientific journals. Their findings, though, have been so far ahead of existing technology that their immediate practical impact was essentially nil -- until now.
Chemistry professor Zeng and two members of his UNL team recently found double helixes of ice molecules that resemble the structure of DNA and self-assemble under high pressure inside carbon nanotubes. This discovery could have major implications for scientists in other fields who study the protein structures that cause diseases such as Alzheimer's and bovine spongiform ecephalitis (mad cow disease). It could also help guide those searching for ways to target or direct self-assembly in nanomaterials and predict the kind of ice future astronauts will find on Mars and moons in the solar system.
News source: NanoWerk
A large portion of nanoscience and nanomaterial engineering is about trying to copy what has evolved in Nature. Take diatoms; a major group of hard-shelled algae and one of the most common types of phytoplankton. A characteristic feature of diatom cells is that they are encased within a unique cell wall made of silica. Silicate materials are very important in nature and they are closely related to the evolution of living organisms. Diatom walls show a wide diversity in form, some quite beautiful and ornate, but usually consist of two symmetrical sides with a split between them, hence the group name. Diatomaceous earth consists of fossilized remains of diatoms and, as an environmentally friendly material, finds wide use especially in filter applications. It is also used as a mild abrasive, as a mechanical insecticide, as an absorbent for liquids, as an activator in blood clotting studies, and as a component of dynamite. As it is also heat-resistant, it can be used as a thermal insulator. Artificial synthesis of hollow cell walls of diatoms, as generally re-creating the silicate chemistry of Nature by chemical methods, is a key target of nanomaterial science. Researchers in Japan have now reported a method to produce artificial diatomaceous earth-like materials.
Headline: Berkeley first city in nation to regulate nanotechnology
News source: San Jose Mercury News
The Berkeley City Council has approved the nation's first nanotechnology regulations, another first for this city already famous for taking the lead in banning Styrofoam containers, desegregating its public schools and divesting public funds from South Africa.
The council on Tuesday decided to include the monitoring of nanotechnology regulations in its hazardous materials law. It takes effect Friday.
The City Council's unanimous action compels researchers and manufacturers to report what nanotechnology materials they are working with and how they are handling the tiny particles.
The aim of nanotechnology, in the commercial world, is to develop new products and materials by changing or creating materials at the atomic and molecular level. But much of the impact from those developments remains unknown, particularly with regard to possible environmental and health problems.
The amendment has been two years in the works and was prompted by Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory's plans to launch a nanotechnology department called the Molecular Foundry.
News source: NanoWerk
China is currently in the process of constructing centers for the exploitation of nanotechnology in Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, and elsewhere. This report introduces some of the influential scientists who are involved in heading these centers, and their views on nanotechnology in China are briefly presented in an interview format. With the completion of these new centers, which is scheduled to be in the near future, China will have the infrastructure in place to begin challenging the West's lead in the field of nanotechnology.
The Asian Technology Information Program (ATIP) just released a follow-up report on its two previous reports on nanotechnology in China (Update of Nanotechnology in China and Nanotechnology Organizations and Programs in China).
The latest report (Nanotechnology Infrastructure in China (pdf download 4.2 MB)) examines the primary issues for the proliferation of nanotechnology in China, based on information gathered through conversations with senior members of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) as well as other key players in China's nanotechnology initiatives.
Headline: 'Nanorobotic' arm created by NYU chemists to operate within DNA sequence
News source: MedicalNews Today
New York University chemistry professor Nadrian C. Seeman and his graduate student Baoquan Ding have developed a DNA cassette through which a nanomechanical device can be inserted and function within a DNA array, allowing for the motion of a nanorobotic arm. The results, reported in the latest issue of the journal Science, mark the first time scientists have been able to employ a functional nanotechnology device within a DNA array.
Nadrian Seeman is the winner of the 1995 Foresight Institute Feynman Prize.
2007 Small Tech Business Directory - Listing Deadline - January 17, 2007
The Small Times 2007 Small Tech Business Directory will be published in February 2007. The directory is distributed to over 25,000 buyers and referenced throughout the year and is a comprehensive listing of microsystems & nanotechnologies companies, tool, and equipment and service providers.
This directory, offered in both a hardcopy directory and online, includes 3,500 listings, organizations from over 45 countries, and hundreds of small tech service providers.
Dear readers – When reviewing news for this digest, I often read about something that I think is cool, but it doesn't fit within the usual editorial categories of the News Digest. This section highlights a nanotech advance, event or idea that I think is especially cool.
This article discussed a nanotechnology solution that will enable us to detect bombs rapidly and quickly. This is a nanotech application that could be useful in today's difficult world.
Headline: Portable, cheap and fast explosives detector built with nanotechnology
News source: NanoWerk
Due to the increased use of modern bombs in terrorist attacks worldwide, where the amount of metal used is becoming very small, the development of a new approach capable of rapidly and cost-efficiently detecting volatile chemical emission from explosives is highly desirable and urgently necessary nowadays.
Headline: Rising nanotechnology star: Berkeley's Matthew FrancisNews source: Nanodot
At every meeting of the Technology Roadmap for Productive Nanosystems, we find at least one new rising star in nanotechnology. At the recent meeting held at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, it was Prof. Matthew Francis of UC Berkeley. Access to these folks is one of the main attractions for organizations participating in the Roadmap process. (One new attendee, asked for a reaction to the meeting, said simply "Awesome.")
Francis's work was profiled recently by Foresight Communication Prize winner David Pescovitz, writing for the online publication ScienceMatters. Excerpts:
"It's tough to build things that are 100,000 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair. Biology has had a few billion years to perfect the craft of building from the bottom up. That's why UC Berkeley nanoscientist Matthew Francis collaborates closely with Mother Nature. Francis and his research group use organic chemistry to assemble nanoscale devices with unprecedented capabilities that could revolutionize cancer treatment or lead to the development of highly efficient solar cells.
"Our goal is to address a big challenge in nanoscience, which is how to position objects with exquisite resolution so that the exciting components people are developing can be combined into functional devices," Francis says...
"Biology has an enormous number of proteins that self-assemble into structures with feature sizes that are at exactly the right length scales," Francis says. "So we can use proteins as positioning scaffolds to place these interesting components into functional arrays"...
"For me, the real excitement of nanoscience is that it allows you to build devices with functions that simply don't exist now and can only occur at the nanoscale," he adds.
The research group's website explains their goals in more detail.
To meet this caliber of nanotech researcher, have your organization sponsor the Technology Roadmap for Productive Nanosystems. You've just missed the last meeting for 2006, but there's always 2007!
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