Foresight Nanotech Institute Weekly News Digest: October 31, 2007
Editor's note: There will be no News Digest next week because your editor will be attending the Foresight Vision Weekend 2007: The Unconference, Nov. 3-4. The News Digest will return Nov. 14.
Foresight note: This research represents a major step forward in using nanoparticles to address fundamental questions in biology and human health, but it also demonstrates that some nanomaterials can cause lethal harm to the environment and normal embryonic development above specific concentrations, and it provides an approach to studying the potential hazards of each type of nanomaterial.
Headline: First of a kind real-time study of nanosilver in fish embryos raises hopes and concerns
…zebrafish embryos offer a unique opportunity to investigate the effects of nanoparticles upon intact cellular systems that communicate with each other to orchestrate the events of early embryonic development. In a new study, researchers explore the potential of nanoparticles as in vivo imaging and therapeutic agents and develop an effective and inexpensive in vivo zebrafish model system to screen biocompatibility and toxicity of nanomaterials.
… [The new] study also represents the first rigorous study and characterization of nanotoxicity and nanobiocompatibility ever performed by investigating the effect of highly purified nanoparticles in vivo in real time and by considering the effect of possible trace chemicals from nanoparticle synthesis.
"One can now use the tools (e.g., nanoparticle probes and imaging systems) developed in our study for in vivo imaging and for real-time monitoring the biocompatibility of nanoparticles in vivo," says [Dr. Xiaohong Nancy] Xu.
ACS Nano (free access) paper
Health: Functionalized nanotubes monitor viruses
Headline: Functionalized nanotubes monitor viruses
Carbon nanotubes have taken another step towards becoming fast-acting biosensors thanks to the work of 11 scientists based in the US. The team has come up with the first evidence of straightforward, ambient covalent immobilization of a viral ligand-receptor-protein system onto individual and bundled, single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs).
The result allows researchers to biofunctionalize SWNTs so that specific viruses will bind to the structure. Furthermore, the covalent nature of the functionalization means that the receptor proteins are able to resist extended washing and remain immobilized on the surface of the carbon nanotube.
"Robustness and cyclability are key issues," Stanislaus Wong of the State University of New York at Stony Brook told nanotechweb.org. "Maintaining biological activity over long periods of time is one of the major challenges in this area."
Nano Letters abstract
Headline: Polymer nanocomposite delivers drugs
A new way of releasing drugs using polymer nanocomposites has been developed by scientists in China. Xuemei Wang of Southeast University in Nanjing and colleagues found that the anticancer drug daunorubicin is able to self-assemble on polylactic acid-based nanocomposites, which could help the drug permeate and target leukaemia cells.
… Wang and colleagues made a nanocomposite polymer by combining PLA with titanium dioxide nanoparticles. "This novel composite could readily induce the anticancer drug daunorubicin to accumulate on leukaemia K562 cells," Wang told nanotechweb.org. "The nanocomposites could thus be used as promising carriers for drug delivery."
Biomedical Materials abstract
Headline: Platinum-rich shell, platinum-poor core
Hydrogen fuel cells will power the automobiles of the future; however, they have so far suffered from being insufficiently competitive. At the University of Houston, Texas, USA, a team led by Peter Strasser has now developed a new class of electrocatalyst that could help to improve the capacity of fuel cells. The active phase of the catalyst consists of nanoparticles with a platinum-rich shell and a core made of an alloy of copper, cobalt, and platinum. This catalyst demonstrates the highest activity yet observed for the reduction of oxygen. …
"The oxygen-reducing activity of our new electrocatalytic material is unsurpassed—it is four to five times higher than that of pure platinum. In addition, we have demonstrated how to incorporate and activate this material in situ in a fuel cell," says Strasser.
Angewandte Chemie International Edition abstract
Headline: NIST demos industrial-grade nanowire device fabrication
In the growing catalog of nanoscale technologies, nanowires—tiny rows of conductor or semiconductor atoms—have attracted a great deal of interest for their potential to build unique atomic-scale electronics. But before you can buy some at your local Nano Depot, manufacturers will need efficient, reliable methods to build them in quantity. Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) believe they have one solution—a technique that allows them to selectively grow nanowires on sapphire wafers in specific positions and orientations accurately enough to attach contacts and layer other circuit elements, all with conventional lithography techniques.
Chemistry of Materials abstract
Headline: Terabyte thumb drives made possible by nanotech memory
Researchers have developed a low-cost, low-power computer memory that could put terabyte-sized thumb drives in consumers' pockets within a few years.
Thanks to a new technique for manipulating charged copper particles at the molecular scale, researchers at Arizona State University say their memory is, bit-for-bit, one-tenth the cost of—and 1,000 times as energy-efficient as—flash memory, the predominant memory technology in iPhones and other mobile devices.
"A thumb drive using our memory could store a terabyte of information," says Michael Kozicki, director of ASU's Center for Applied Nanoionics, which developed the technology. "All the current limitations in portable electronic storage could go away. You could record video of every event in your life and store it."
IEEE Transactions on Electron Devices abstract
Foresight note: The toolkit for building productive nanosystems has been augmented by this demonstration that a viral molecular motor that packages DNA is much more powerful than previously known, and can be geared to work at different rates.
Headline: Powerful molecular motor permits speedy assembly of viruses
A team of physicists at the University of California, San Diego and biologists at Catholic University of America, Washington D.C. has shown that a tiny viral motor generates twice as much power, relative to its size, as an automobile engine. The finding explains why even very large viruses can self-assemble so rapidly.
… the researchers used laser tweezers to measure the forces generated by a nanoscale motor that packs DNA into a virus during the assembly of an infectious virus particle. They discovered that the motor is considerably stronger than any known molecular motors, including those responsible for muscle contraction. The researchers say this power allows the virus to reel in its long genome with remarkable speed.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences abstract
November 3-4, 2007
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Headline: Harvard University engineers demonstrate quantum cascade laser nanoantenna
In a major feat of nanotechnology engineering researchers from Harvard University have demonstrated a laser with a wide-range of potential applications in chemistry, biology and medicine. Called a quantum cascade (QC) laser nanoantenna, the device is capable of resolving the chemical composition of samples, such as the interior of a cell, with unprecedented detail.
…The laser's design consists of two gold rods separated by a nanometer gap (a device known as an optical antenna) built on the facet of a quantum cascade laser, which emits invisible light in the region of the spectrum where most molecules have their tell tale absorption fingerprints. The nanoantenna creates a light spot of nanometric size about fifty to hundred times smaller than the laser wavelength; the spot can be scanned across a specimen to provide chemical images of the surface with superior spatial resolution.
Applied Physics Letters 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.
Gold nanoparticles exemplify nanostructures that are immensely useful in current and near-future nanotechnology, but fall short of being atomically precise. Now we see that atomically precise gold nanoparticles can be prepared and characterized, and thus might perhaps eventually be incorporated into atomically precise systems.
Headline: A golden close-up
By solving the structure of a gold-thiolate nanocrystal, scientists at Stanford University have gleaned new insights into how gold interacts with thiol ligands, as well as how gold clusters form.
Roger D. Kornberg and coworkers used X-ray crystallography to determine the structure of a nanoparticle composed of exactly 102 gold atoms surrounded by 44 p-mercaptobenzoic acid groups. Scientists have solved the X-ray structures of other metal clusters and nanoparticles in the past. Few of those materials, however, have as many potential applications as thiol-protected gold nanoparticles, which could find their way into molecular electronics, sensors, and biomedical diagnostics.
Alternate source: Nanoparticle reveals sulfur's Midas touch
Perhaps our headline is a bit overstated…or perhaps not. Jim Lewis brings to our attention an article in Chemistry World on the Royal Society of Chemistry website announcing that, as anticipated, the UK has officially funded a set of projects aimed at developing a nanofactory able to build with atomic precision…
A draft version of the Productive Nanosystems Roadmap was distributed to attendees at the similarly-named conference (PDF) in DC on Oct. 9-10. Now participants at the Foresight Vision Weekend will be critiquing and planning expansions of this first roadmap for atomically-precise manufacturing…
Getting experimental results in nanotechnology can be a long, hard slog — those doing this work need and deserve inspiration. Beautiful nanoscale images — both of current results and future designs — can help. Damian Allis shows us some of his own images in his post about a new nanoscale art/gallery site called Nanohedron. From the post by Damian…
—Nanodot posts by Christine Peterson
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