Foresight Nanotech Institute Weekly News Digest: April 25, 2007
Headline: New report explores nanotechnology's future
Controlling the properties and behavior of matter at the smallest scale—in effect, "domesticating atoms"—can help to overcome some of the world's biggest challenges, concludes a new report on how diverse experts view the future of nanotechnology. Released today, "NanoFrontiers: Visions for the Future of Nanotechnology", summarizes discussions among over 50 scientists, engineers, ethicists, policymakers, and other experts, as well as information gathered in follow-up interviews and from specially prepared background papers, about the long-term potential of nanotechnology.
Written by freelance science writer Karen F. Schmidt, the report examines several compelling opportunities for significant, widespread benefit, focusing on nanotechnology's ability to address the "energy crisis, the need for better medical treatments, and the demand for clean water." Synthesizing perspectives offered at a two-day NanoFrontiers Workshop held in February 2006, the report aims to "provide a glimpse into a vast new world of technological possibilities and to stimulate broader discussion of the goals and vision for nanotechnology in both scientific and public realms."
The report—along with the first in a series of related podcasts—is available online at http://www.nanotechproject.org/114
Download the report (1.9 MB PDF)
Health: 'Nanospice'—a novel strategy for cancer therapy
Headline: 'Nanospice' as a novel nanotechnology strategy for human cancer therapy
Curcumin, a yellow polyphenol extracted from the rhizome of turmeric (Curcuma longa), has potent anti-cancer properties as demonstrated in a plethora of human cancer cell line and animal carcinogenesis models. Nevertheless, widespread clinical application of this relatively efficacious agent in cancer and other diseases has been limited due to poor aqueous solubility, and consequently, minimal systemic bioavailability.
Nanocurcumin [a polymeric nanoparticle encapsulated formulation of curcumin], unlike free curcumin, is readily dispersed in aqueous media. Nanocurcumin demonstrates comparable in vitro therapeutic efficacy to free curcumin against a panel of human pancreatic cancer cell lines…
An open access article in Journal of Nanobiotechnology
Headline: Nanotechnology offers hope for treating spinal cord injuries, diabetes and Parkinson's disease
Imagine a world where damaged organs in your body—kidneys, liver, heart—can be stimulated to heal themselves. Envision people tragically paralyzed whose injured spinal cords can be repaired. Think about individuals suffering from the debilitating effects of Parkinson's or Alzheimer's relieved of their symptoms—completely and permanently.
Dr. Samuel I. Stupp, director of the Institute of BioNanotechnology in Medicine at Northwestern University, is one of a new breed of scientists combining nanotechnology and biology to enable the body to heal itself—and who are achieving amazing early results. Dr. Stupp's work suggests that nanotechnology can be used to mobilize the body's own healing abilities to repair or regenerate damaged cells.
In a dramatic demonstration of what nanotechnology might achieve in regenerative medicine, paralyzed lab mice with spinal cord injuries have regained the ability to walk using their hind limbs six weeks after a simple injection of a purpose-designed nanomaterial.
Headline: Plastic solar cell efficiency breaks record at WFU nanotechnology center
The global search for a sustainable energy supply is making significant strides at Wake Forest University as researchers at the university's Center for Nanotechnology and Molecular Materials have announced that they have pushed the efficiency of plastic solar cells to more than 6 percent.
In a paper to be published in an upcoming issue of the journal Applied Physics Letters, Wake Forest researchers describe how they have achieved record efficiency for organic or flexible, plastic solar cells by creating "nano-filaments" within light absorbing plastic, similar to the veins in tree leaves. This allows for the use of thicker absorbing layers in the devices, which capture more of the sun's light.
"Within only two years we have more than doubled the 3 percent mark," [David Carroll, director of the Wake Forest nanotechnology center] said. "I fully expect to see higher numbers within the next two years, which may make plastic devices the photovoltaic of choice."
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 Donald A. Tomalia, President and Chief Technical Officer, Dendritic Nanotechnologies, Inc. "Perhaps the greatest reason for being excited about nanotechnology research is that it provides society an opportunity to examine new options for solving old problems." Join Foresight and help steer nanotech in the directions you personally support most!
Tomalia interview starts on page 4 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:
Foresight note: The enzyme that is the focus of this study is one of a class of enzymes that catalyze a wide variety of reactions. Increasing fundamental knowledge about how biological catalysts work could aid the design of catalysts for use in productive nanosystems.
Headline: FREEZE! Scientists film proteins at work by freezing them in different states
Most of the research done on proteins is based on their study in a resting state and their study in movement is extremely limited due to technological limitations. Today, a French team has made a movie of an enzyme (a protein that catalyses chemical reactions) found in bacteria. "The achievement of this research is two-fold: on one hand there is the technological success of filming an enzyme in action and on the other hand there are the results that contribute to the knowledge of how this enzyme works", explains Dominique Bourgeois, corresponding author for the paper.
Headline: Proceedings from the nanotechnology and security workshop
Nanoforum in collaboration with the "Nano- Converging Sciences and Technologies" Unit of DG Research, and APRE (Agenzia per la Promozione della Ricerca Europea) organized a workshop in Rome on the 23rd February 2007 to exchange views about the current state of the art and explore the potential of novel applications of nanotechnology for civil security…
As far as research and technology development (RTD) was concerned, no new research needs, specific to nanotechnology and security, were identified. Instead, improvements in sensor technologies were highlighted (with applications in areas such as security, environment and health), and the desire to have better access to existing materials and improved networking and integration of expertise and knowledge amongst EU organizations. In terms of societal issues, there was a clear need to involve social scientists in the design of new projects to ensure that potential ethical issues are taken into consideration from the outset.
Free registration required to download Proceedings
Headline: Nanoparticles can damage DNA, increase cancer risk
Tissue studies indicate that nanoparticles, engineered materials about a billionth of a meter in size, could damage DNA and lead to cancer, according to research presented at the 2007 Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research.
"Unfortunately, only a very small portion of research on nanoparticles is focused on health and safety risks, or on threats to the environment," [Sara Pacheco, an undergraduate researcher at the University of Massachusetts] said. "I am concerned because so many new nanoparticles are being developed and there is little regulation on their manufacture, use and disposal."
Nanotech Outreach Workshop
Communicating nanotech to the public
Foresight note: Detailed understanding of atomic structures will be necessary at all stages of the development of productive nanosystems. This initial demonstration of the feasibility of MRFM for imaging structures in the nanoscale range could lead eventually to atomically precise 3D imaging of complex structures.
Headline: IBM milestone brings MRI technology to the nanoscale
IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced that researchers at its Almaden Research Center have demonstrated magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques to visualize nanoscale objects. This technique brings MRI capability to the nanoscale level for the first time and represents a major milestone in the quest to build a microscope that could "see" individual atoms in three dimensions.
Using Magnetic Resonance Force Microscopy (MRFM), IBM researchers have demonstrated two-dimensional imaging of objects as small as 90 nanometers, a key advancement on the path of 3D imaging at the atomic scale. Such imaging could ultimately provide a better understanding of how proteins function, which in turn may lead to more efficient drug discovery and development.
"Our ultimate goal is to perform three-dimensional imaging of complex structures such as molecules with atomic resolution," said Dan Rugar, manager, Nanoscale Studies, IBM Research. "This would allow scientists to study the atomic structures of molecules—such as proteins—which would represent a huge breakthrough in structural molecular biology."
Nature Nanotechnology abstract
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.
Recognition between molecules is fundamental for all processes in living systems, and it will also be fundamental for the artificial molecular machine systems that will enable advanced nanotechnology. These researchers used a scanning tunneling microscope to make movies of the first steps in a simple molecular recognition process.
Headline: Everything starts with recognition
A human body has more than 10 to the power of 27 molecules with about one hundred thousand different shapes and functions. Interactions between molecules determine our structure and keep us alive. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research in Stuttgart in collaboration with scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute in Freiburg and the King's College London have followed the interaction of only two individual molecules to show the basic mechanism underlying recognition of dipeptides. By means of scanning tunnelling microscopy movies and theoretical simulations they have shown how dynamic interactions induce the molecular fit needed for the transfer of structural information to higher levels of complexity. This dynamic picture illustrates how recognition works at the very first steps, tracking back the path in the evolution of complex matter.
Molecular handshake (film)
Next time you're heading out to climb Mount Everest, take advantage of today's early nanotechnology and be sure to bring your nanomaterials-based ice axe:
"C.A.M.P. proposes an innovative, lightweight ice axe which combines a 7075 aluminium head and shaft with a point riveted to the pick, made out of innovative Sandvik Nanoflex® stainless steel. This makes the head of the axe more resistant to corrosion and gives enormous weight-saving benefits. The point of the pick is more durable due to Sandvik Nanoflex® steel having 60% more tensile strength than normal steel and so the life of the axe is extended."
Also available for your boots as crampons. AzoNano explains that the nanomaterial involved is quite impressive:
"Sandvik Materials Technology has developed a new stainless steel with exceptional properties. Called Sandvik Nanoflex, the new steel allows ultra-high strength to be combined with good formability, corrosion resistance and a good surface finish. …
"The strength and surface properties of Sandvik Nanoflex also offer opportunities for items for the automotive industry, replacing hard-chromed low alloy steels. Thus, the environmentally unfriendly hard-chromizing process can be eliminated."
Being non-mountaineers here at the Foresight office, the ice axe leaves us cold (sorry!). But the environmental benefits of getting away from one of the damaging processes used in making today's cars—now that warms us up. We can expect increasingly impressive "cleantech" results as nano moves from materials to devices to atomically-precise systems. And, yes, highly impressive sports equipment as well.
— Nanodot post by Christine Peterson
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