Foresight Nanotech Institute Weekly News Digest: April 18, 2007
Headline: Environmental groups dispute about nanotechnology
We mentioned earlier a request for comment on a proposed Nano Risk Framework for approaching nanotechnology materials safety organized by Environmental Defense and DuPont. Now a different group of organizations has come out against that framework…An excerpt:
"We reject outright the proposed voluntary framework as fundamentally flawed…voluntary regulations have often been used to delay or weaken rigorous regulation and should be seen as a tactic to delay needed regulation and forestall public involvement."
It may be true that "voluntary regulations have often been used to delay or weaken rigorous regulation," but I would want to see more data on that. It seems to me that voluntary regulations may also often be the first step toward enforced safety standards. I'd want to see a study of this question before dismissing the ED-DuPont effort. It's easy to put out a press release ridiculing other people's work, but it would be more helpful for the ETC Group to present a substantive proposal of their own.
— see Nanodot for the full post by Christine Peterson, and response from ETC
Health: Gelatin-based nanoparticle effective in gene therapy
Headline: New research shows gelatin-based nanoparticle effective in gene therapy for breast cancer
Northeastern University professor Mansoor Amiji and graduate student Sushma Kommareddy have published a new paper that examines the potential of engineered gelatin-based nanoparticles to deliver therapeutic genes to human breast cancer tumors implanted in mice. Their research shows that these nanoparticles — or nanovectors — can serve as a safe and effective gene delivery vehicle to inhibit solid tumor growth. The paper is published in the most recent issue of Cancer Gene Therapy.
In the experiment, the nanoparticles were injected into the blood stream, and 15% of the dose found its way into the tumor, where it produced a protein…that cut off blood supply to the tumor.
"Essentially, what this treatment does," says Amiji, "is make the tumor a factory for its own destruction. The treatment shuts off the blood supply to a tumor — thereby effectively closing down the 'road' for oxygen and nutrients to travel to the tumor and for cancerous cells to escape from the tumor and spread throughout the rest of the body."
Cancer Gene Therapy abstract
Headline: Hollow success
Trapping C60 Buckyballs in lipid globes could deliver improved cancer treatments, say Japanese researchers.
Atsushi Ikeda and colleagues from the Nara Institute of Science and Technology in Ikoma showed that … C60 could be delivered into human cancer cells by hollow lipid spheres and used to induce cell death under visible light irradiation. Combining a light source with a light-sensitive drug — a photosensitiser — to destroy cancer cells in this way is the principle behind photodynamic therapy (PDT).
Organic & Biomolecular Chemistry abstract
Headline: Cornell researchers develop virus-size 'nanolamps' that could aid use of flexible electronic devices as sensors
In a collaboration of experts in organic materials and nanofabrication, researchers have created one of the smallest organic light-emitting devices to date, made up of synthetic fibers just 200 nanometers wide (1 nanometer is one-billionth of a meter). The potential applications are in flexible electronic products, which are being made increasingly smaller.
The fibers, made of a compound based on the metallic element ruthenium, are so small that they are less than the wavelength of the light they emit. Such a localized light source could prove beneficial in applications ranging from sensing to microscopy to flat-panel displays.
Headline: 3D solar cells boost efficiency, reduce size
Unique three-dimensional solar cells that capture nearly all of the light that strikes them could boost the efficiency of photovoltaic (PV) systems while reducing their size, weight and mechanical complexity.
The new 3D solar cells capture photons from sunlight using an array of miniature "tower" structures that resemble high-rise buildings in a city street grid. The cells could find near-term applications for powering spacecraft, and by enabling efficiency improvements in photovoltaic coating materials, could also change the way solar cells are designed for a broad range of applications.
"Our goal is to harvest every last photon that is available to our cells," said Jud Ready, a senior research engineer in the Electro-Optical Systems Laboratory at the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI). "By capturing more of the light in our 3D structures, we can use much smaller photovoltaic arrays. On a satellite or other spacecraft, that would mean less weight and less space taken up with the PV system."
Do you believe that nanotechnology will give society the ability tackle the hard challenges facing humanity? What's your priority for nanotechnology: cancer treatments and longevity therapies, sustainable energy, clean water, a restored environment, space development, or "zero waste" manufacturing? Or perhaps there are potential nanotech scenarios you would like to prevent.
If you would like to help influence the direction of this powerful technology, please consider becoming a member of Foresight Nanotech Institute. With your support, Foresight will continue to educate the general public on beneficial nanotechnology and what it will mean to our society.
Members receive the Foresight Nanotech Update newsletter. For a sample from the archives, see the interview of Mansoor M. Amiji, Professor and Associate Department Chair, Bouvé College of Health Sciences / Northeastern University. Says Amiji: "I hope that nanotechnology provides an opportunity for prevention, early disease diagnosis, and patient-specific therapeutic approaches. In the end, not only should we emphasize longevity, but also improve the quality of life." Join Foresight and help steer nanotech in the directions you personally support most!
Amiji interview on page 3 of Update 57 (2.1 MB PDF)
10th Annual NSTI Nanotech Conference and Trade Show
The Nanotech Conference and Trade Show is co-located with 2007 TechConnect Summit and Cleantech 2007.
See the poster presentation at 2-4 PM Wednesday afternoon by Foresight's Director of Education Miguel Aznar: "How do we, as a society, guide the development of nanotechnology?"
Please come by the Foresight booth, staffed by Alicia Isaac and Miguel Aznar, at the Nanotech Showcase on Wednesday evening.
Members are encouraged to stop by and say hello at both the poster and booth.
Foresight members now engaged in nanomanufacturing, or working at companies which plan to enter that field, are invited to participate in an online nanomanufacturing survey sponsored by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers. With a focus on your technical information interests and needs and current use of nanotechnologies, the results will be shared with Foresight and used to develop publications and ongoing programs. Please take a moment to let SME know what you need at:
Headline: Shape control of colloidal nanoparticles
Self assembled structures from colloidal particles have many applications in biology, as chemical sensors and as photonic crystals. The control of shape and valency of the colloidal particle is very important since it will determine the 3D lattices of the assembled structure…Researchers at MIT have now presented a new facile and high-yield route for the fabrication of highly nonspherical complex multivalent nanoparticles. This technique exploits the ability of holographic interference lithography to control network topology. These research results could lay the groundwork for establishing and demonstrating control over particle shape in colloidal nanoparticles.
"Compared to the previous techniques, such as microfilmed lithography and assembling and sintering spherical particles in a lithographically defined well (cavity), our approach gives us access to more complex and precisely controlled shapes with much higher through-put since we have a 3-dimensional yield" Dr. Edwin L. Thomas explains to Nanowerk.
Headline: Building up nanotechnology research
An article in Chemical & Engineering News looks at the National Nanotechnology Initiative's (NNI) funding of more than 60 facilities, centers, and networks linking existing facilities and activities across university campuses.
"When on the campus of any major U.S. research university with a nanotechnology agenda, look up, look around. Don't think small. One of the most tangible results of the billions of dollars being invested in nanotech research is likely to be a building looming in front of you.
"'The infrastructure will be a legacy of NNI,' says Celia I. Merzbacher, assistant director for technology R&D in the Office of Science & Technology Policy (OSTP)."
The article looks at the various nanotechnology centers built around the U.S.
Chemical & Engineering News cover article
Christine Peterson will be the Science Guest of Honor at this open source conference, speaking on numerous technology topics, including open source security for nanotechnology. (see Nanodot post)
Technological Enhancement of Humans?
As new science, technology, engineering, and mathematics opportunities emerge, they bring with them an opportunity to shape their planning, practice, and outcomes in novel ways. This opportunity now exists with the potential for human performance enhancement through research in nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology, and cognitive science.
We continue our tradition of citing a special story that strikes the Editor as especially cool, but which doesn't fit within the usual editorial categories of the News Digest.
Here nanotechnology was used to make a nanoscale tool that in turn produced new insights about the behavior of matter at the nanoscale. The authors point out that their work might lead to better computer models of climate. Even more interesting, perhaps, is the demonstration that working with new nanoscale tools can yield unexpected results, with unanticipated applications.
Headline: Researchers use smallest pipette to reveal freezing 'dance' of nanoscale drops
Using what is thought to be the world's smallest pipette, two researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory have shown that tiny droplets of liquid metal freeze much differently than their larger counterparts. This study, focused on droplets just a billionth of a trillionth of a liter in size, is published in the April 15, 2007, online edition of Nature Materials.
"In our experiments, solid-like properties first develop in a thin skin at the surface, while the interior remains liquid," Eli Sutter [a scientist at Brookhaven's Center for Functional Nanomaterials (CFN) and the lead author of the study] said.
This finding counters the traditional idea that all crystallization originates in the interior of a liquid droplet, instead showing that the process may differ based on the size of the sample. This work lays the foundation for a better understanding of freezing processes in the environment as well as in nanotechnology. For example, the balance of solid and liquid water in upper-atmosphere clouds — an important factor in climate models — greatly depends on the exact way water droplets freeze. Such parameters might be predicted more accurately with a better picture of the freezing mechanism.
Oregon State researchers led by Pui Shing Ho, professor and chair of the OSU Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, have "re-discovered" and are now exploring the uses of the halogen bond for nanotechnology…It's explained for the layperson by the newspaper Bend Weekly News:
"It's now understood that this arcane type of chemical bond, which is based on bromine, iodine or chlorine instead of hydrogen, may have characteristics that could be tapped for a new approach to biological engineering.
"'Natural biological molecules have some powerful capabilities that we might like to take advantage of, such as the ability to convert biological energy to mechanical energy with incredible efficiency,' Ho said. 'But to do that, we need ways to carefully control their behavior, movement and function. The halogen bonds might allow us to do this.'
"Among the possibilities could be computers that operate at the size of biological molecules, a molecular "walker" that could control the movement of molecules at the nano-scale, or molecular scissors that provide a way to cut molecules. Such systems done with biological materials would act like extraordinarily small machines, and might also be more environmentally friendly."
Extraordinarily small machines which could be more environmentally friendly — sounds good to us.
— See Nanodot for the full post by Christine Peterson
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