Foresight Nanotech Institute Weekly News Digest: July 11, 2007
Foresight note: Our News Digest of April 11—just three months ago—highlighted the development of a nanogenerator that could be used to power nanodevices. This week's top news article describes the most recent advance by the same team of scientists.
Headline: Nanoscale power plants
In the most recent development, the Georgia Tech scientists now have made their nanogenerator work in biofluid and the performance has improved 30-fold compared to what they reported in the [April] paper … By generating electricity in liquid, this new report ("Integrated Nanogenerators in Biofluid") sets a platform for developing self-powering nanosystems with important applications in implantable in vivo biosensing. …
Maybe it's time to read Isaac Asimov's Fantastic Voyage again…
Nano Letters abstract
Health: Nanotechnology noses to 'smell' cancer
Headline: Developing nanotechnology noses to 'smell' cancer
[A] limitation of current proteomic diagnostics is the limitation of arrays to one or a few markers only; in other words, you can only test for the specific markers that you are looking for and not generally measure levels of proteins in your blood in order to detect anomalies. A novel nanotechnology based protein detector array could change that.
"To my knowledge, this is the first use of the use of nanoparticles in array-based sensing," says [Dr. Vincent M.] Rotello. "We were motivated by the need for a general method for sensing and identifying proteins. While array-based sensing of proteins has been done before, our system is much more sensitive, and much more effective, i.e. we use fewer receptors to identify more proteins."
Nature Nanotechnology abstract
Headline: Nanotechnology coming to a brain near you
Thanks to the application of recent advances in nanotechnology to the nervous system, a novel generation of neuro-implantable devices is on the horizon, capable of restoring function loss as a result of neuronal damage or altered circuit function. The field will very soon be mature enough to explore in vivo neural implants in animal models.
"For the first time, we show how electrical stimulation delivered through carbon nanotubes activates neuronal electrical signaling and network synaptic interactions" says Dr. Michele Giugliano, a researcher at the Brain Mind Institute at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in Switzerland.
Journal of Neuroscience abstract
Foresight note: This survey explores the ways in which nanotechnology could enable a new generation of cheaper and more efficient solar cells.
Nanotechnology could transform solar cells from niche products to devices that provide a significant fraction of the world's energy…
[American scientists George Crabtree and Nathan Lewis] estimate that the widespread use of photovoltaic cells could happen as soon as 2015 if physicists can perfect a new generation of more advanced devices built using nanotechnology.
Headline: Tomorrow's green nanofactories
A new podcast explores how nanotechnology researcher Angela Belcher, from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), is working with viruses to make them do good things. By exploiting a virus's ability to replicate rapidly and combine with semiconductor and electronic materials, she is coaxing them to grow and self-assemble nanomaterials into a functional electronic device. Through this marriage of nanotechnology with green chemistry, Belcher and her team are working toward building faster, better, cheaper and environmentally-friendly transistors, batteries, solar cells, diagnostic materials for detecting cancer, and semiconductors for use in modern electrical devices—everything from computers to cell phones.
Headline: New look for transparent nanowires
As indium becomes more rare and expensive, researchers are looking for new metals out of which they can make optically transparent nanowires for applications in flat-panel displays, solar cells and light-emitting diodes. Now, a team from the University of Michigan has shown that it can make such nanowires from tin oxide doped with antimony, using an inexpensive, easily scalable technique.
"Our method is very simple and we envisage the production of kilograms of nanowires each time with a scaled up version of the current set up," explained [team leader Wei] Lu.
Applied Physics Letters abstract
Headline: A simple magnet can control the color of a liquid, making new technologies possible
University of California, Riverside nanotechnologists have succeeded in controlling the color of very small particles of iron oxide suspended in water simply by applying an external magnetic field to the solution. The discovery has potential to greatly improve the quality and size of electronic display screens and to enable the manufacture of products such as erasable and rewritable electronic paper and ink that can change color electromagnetically.
In their experiments, the researchers found that by changing the strength of the magnetic field they were able to change the color of the iron oxide solution—similar to adjusting the color of a television screen image.
Christine Peterson will serve on the Clean Water panel at the IEEE Sustainable Energy and Clean Water Symposium sponsored by IEEE San Francisco Bay Area Nanotechnology Council.
Nanotech: From Promise to Reality
Productive Nanosystems: Launching the Technology Roadmap
Now, for the first time, the Technology Roadmap for Productive Nanosystems will describe the R&D pathways and products resulting from this ultimate technological revolution. Join us as we explore the power of advanced "bottom-up" nanotechnology in this 14th Foresight Conference on Advanced Nanotechnology.
Feynman Prize luncheon on October 9, 2007
Do you believe that nanotechnology will give society the ability to 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)
SPIE NanoScience & Engineering
Plan to attend NanoScience + Engineering, one of the largest and most important technical conferences covering developing technologies at the nanoscale, current and future applications, and the environmental, health, and safety issues that must be addressed.
Headline: Tough tubes—Carbon nanotubes endure heavy wear and tear
The ability of carbon nanotubes to withstand repeated stress yet retain their structural and mechanical integrity is similar to the behavior of soft tissue, according to a new study from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
When paired with the strong electrical conductivity of carbon nanotubes, this ability to endure wear and tear, or fatigue, suggests the materials could be used to create structures that mimic artificial muscles or interesting electro-mechanical systems, researchers said.
… Despite extensive research over the past decade into the mechanical properties of carbon nanotube structures, this study is the first to explore and document their fatigue …
Nature Nanotechnology abstract
Headline: Remotely controlled nanomachines
Physicists at the University of California at Berkeley have produced images that show how light can control some of the smallest possible machines.
By shining ultraviolet laser light on tiny molecules of azobenzene adhered on a layer of gold, they could force the molecules to change shape at will. Potentially, the molecules could be incorporated into nanomachines in the form of remotely controlled switches, pistons or other movable components.
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.
This new knowledge about the action of electrons on metal surfaces and in interactions with nanostructures could aid the design and fabrication of some nanodevices.
Headline: UNH researchers prove existence of new type of electron wave
New research led by University of New Hampshire physicists has proved the existence of a new type of electron wave on metal surfaces: the acoustic surface plasmon, which will have implications for developments in nano-optics, high-temperature superconductors, and the fundamental understanding of chemical reactions on surfaces…
Research on metal surfaces is important for the development of new industrial catalysts and for the cleaning the exhaust of factories and cars. As the new plasmons are very likely to play a role in chemical reactions on metal surfaces, theoretical and experimental research will have to take them into account as a new phenomenon in the future.
It will be a while before nanotechnology can make artificial molecular machine systems as amazing as nature's, but we can be inspired and get great ideas from what biological nanotech already does. On the Strangepaths.com blog we can see a very cool video animation of DNA replication, complete with sound effects (not realistic sounds of course, but possibly helpful in parsing the action):
"This animation shows the 'assembly line' of biochemical machines which pull apart the DNA double helix and output a copy of each strand. The DNA to be copied enters the whirling blue molecular machine, called helicase, which spins it as fast as a jet engine as it unwinds the double helix into two strands. One strand is copied continuously, and can be seen spooling off on the other side. Things are not so simple for the other strand, because it must be copied backwards, so it is drawn out repeatedly in loops and copied one section at a time. The end result is two new DNA molecules."
I could not tell who should get the credit for this fascinating work, but will update this entry if someone can send this info.—UPDATE from the post's author: "The credit is available at footnote 1 of the blog post."
—Nanodot post by Christine Peterson
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