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Foresight Nanotech Institute Weekly News Digest: November 21, 2007

Top Nano News of the Week

Foresight note: This demonstration by 2006 Feynman Prize co-winner Erik Winfree's group at CalTech of an amplification mechanism builds on their previous work of developing the building blocks for a DNA-based circuit, and brings DNA circuits closer to practical use in controlling nanoscale devices.

Headline: Molecular 'amplifier' boosts DNA computing
News source: NewScientist.com news service, written by Anil Ananthaswamy

DNA-based computing just got a big boost. A method of amplifying weak chemical signals in a way that can be tailored to specific molecules has brought DNA-based circuits closer to practical applications.

… Amplification is essential if DNA-based computing is to have practical applications. If, say, a circuit has to detect the presence of a tiny amount of DNA in its environment, the DNA would have to be "amplified" before the circuits could work.

Science abstract

In this issue:

Health: Tracking targeted siRNA nanoparticles with in vivo imaging
Health: Remote magnetic field triggers nanoparticle drug release
Clean energy: Improving fuel cells for cars
Clean energy: Hybrid WLEDs get brighter
Information technology: Industrial-grade nanowire device fabrication demoed
Information technology: Nanotechnology circuit boards
Toward Productive Nanosystems: Nanotechnology fabrication techniques move towards multifunctional architectures
Advancing Beneficial Nanotechnology - Join Foresight
Foresight Challenge Grant
Research: Pioneering research to assist in creation of nanomachines
Research: First direct images of carbon nanotubes entering cells
Editor's Pick: On beating cancer (with nanotechnology)
Nanodot: Russia: Turning oil into nanotechnology
Nanodot: Russian nanotechnology "weapons": defensive or offensive?
Nanodot: Nanotechnology at Google tonight, thanks to MIT
Nanodot: Nanotechnology in Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
Nanodot: Nanotechnology to reduce testing on animals?
Contact Foresight

Nanotechnology that's Good For People

Foresight Challenge: Improving health and longevity

Headline: Tracking targeted siRNA nanoparticles with in vivo imaging
News source: National Cancer Institute's Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer

Using nanoparticles tagged with both a fluorescent label and a radioactive isotope of the element copper, a team of investigators at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) has shown that targeting siRNA-containing nanoparticles to tumors increases tumor uptake rather than tumor localization. The methods that these investigators developed should be broadly applicable to studying nanoparticle biodistribution as part of the preclinical development process.

… a team led by Mark E. Davis, Ph.D., an investigator in the Nanosystems Biology Cancer Center at Caltech, described the multimodal imaging methods it used to measure biodistribution parameters for siRNA-loaded cyclodextrin-based nanoparticles. Davis' collaborators at Calando Pharmaceuticals, Inc., are preparing to begin a Phase I clinical trial with this siRNA-loaded nanoparticle. Small interfering RNA (siRNA) triggers a naturally occurring mechanism within cells that can silence and regulate targeted genes.

"This work reveals that the primary advantage of targeted nanoparticles for tumor-specific delivery of siRNA is the enhanced uptake in tumor cells rather than altered biodistribution," said Davis. "The conclusions should be applicable to nanoparticle delivery systems in general, and they emphasize why targeted particles should show greater efficacy than nontargeted particles."

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences abstract

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Foresight Challenge: Improving health and longevity

Headline: Remote magnetic field triggers nanoparticle drug release
News source: National Cancer Institute's Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer

Magnetic nanoparticles heated by a remote magnetic field have the potential to release multiple anticancer drugs on demand at the site of a tumor, according to a study published in the journal Advanced Materials. Moreover, say the investigators who conducted this research, these same nanoparticles can do double duty as tumor imaging agents… When stimulated by an oscillating magnetic field, these nanoparticles absorb energy and become warm, a property that the researchers capitalized on to create triggered drug release.

Advanced Materials abstract

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Nanotechnology that's Good For the Planet

Foresight Challenge: Providing renewable clean energy

Headline: Improving fuel cells for cars
A new method for making ultrathin materials could lead to better fuel cells.
News source: Technology Review, written by Kevin Bullis

A new method for making materials just a few atoms thick could pave the way to automotive fuel cells that use readily available fuels instead of hydrogen, which is difficult to produce and store. The new fuel cells would be smaller, lower-temperature versions of solid-oxide fuel cells (SOFCs), which were originally developed for use in stationary applications such as power plants…The lower temperatures could lead to lower costs and make it much easier to package the fuel cells for use in vehicles and portable generators.

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Foresight Challenge: Providing renewable clean energy

Headline: Hybrid WLEDs get brighter
News source: nanotechweb.org, written by Belle Dumé (requires free registration)

High-quality, bright white LEDs for the solid-state lighting market might soon become a reality thanks to new devices made by researchers in Turkey and Germany. The hybrid LEDs, which are made from highly luminescent nanocrystals and highly fluorescent polymers, are the first to allow controlled white light generation with a high colour rendering index (CRI) of greater than 80. The LEDs could be used in any of the situations where light bulbs and fluorescent strips are used today, offering significant savings in electricity consumption. In the future, such devices may even help provide low-cost, safe lighting in areas that have no access to electricity.

New Journal of Physics open access article

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Foresight Challenge: Making information technology available to all

Headline: NIST demos industrial-grade nanowire device fabrication
News source: National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

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

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Foresight Challenge: Making information technology available to all

Headline: Nanotechnology circuit boards
News source: Nanowerk Spotlight, written by Cathy Garber

[The challenge continuing electronic miniaturization] has stimulated a great deal of research into how to use carbon nanotubes in electronic devices, efficiently and inexpensively. One of the hottest areas of research involves the creation of large networks where carbon nanotubes can be aligned in preset patterns, allowing scientists to select a specific location and chirality for each carbon nanotube, and the ability to then integrate this network into an integrated circuit-compatible environment.

A team of researchers at Tel Aviv University under the direction of Dr. Yael Hanein, say they have come up with an inexpensive way of making complex networks of carbon nanotubes that can be stamped onto circuit boards.

Nano Letters abstract

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Toward Productive Nanosystems

Foresight note: This report highlights some of the many practical difficulties encountered pursuing bottom-up fabrication via self-assembly.

Headline: Nanotechnology fabrication techniques move towards multifunctional architectures
News source: Nanowerk Spotlight, written by Michael Berger

Moving from a planar geometry of self-assembled nanoscale building blocks such as nanocrystals or nanotubes to a free-standing, three-dimensional multifunctional architecture is not a trivial undertaking. Researchers are just about to make the first steps to such multifunctional (still nanoscale) hierarchical architectures that both retain the properties of the nanocrystals and offer multifunctionality.

"The extension of nanocrystal assemblies to arbitrary geometries requires the development of programmed interparticle interactions or the development of a robust template- assisted self-assembly strategy" Dr. Geoffrey Ozin explains to Nanowerk. "In our recent work, we address this problem by demonstrating with one-dimensional and three-dimensional templates how evaporation-induced self-assembly and nanocrystal plasma polymerization allow one to overcome the limitations of all previous methods and obtain free-standing, mechanically stable, multifunctional architectures entirely composed of nanocrystals of choice."

Nano Letters abstract

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Advancing Beneficial Nanotechnology

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 article "Healing and preserving the environment". Progress in nanotechnology already promises near term environmental benefits, but has also raised fears that nanomaterials themselves might harm human health or the environment. Join Foresight and help steer nanotech in the directions you personally support most!

"Healing and preserving the environment" in Update 58

To join:
https://www.foresight.org/forms/php/donate.php

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Foresight Challenge Grant

Help us meet our $40,000 Challenge — your donation is doubled!

Will we reach our goal in time? Watch our progress at:
http://foresight.org/challenge

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Nanotech Research

Foresight note: The extent to which the Casimir force will be an issue for properly designed diamondoid nanomachines has been a matter of discussion. Perhaps this systematic investigation will clarify the importance of this quantum mechanical force.

Headline: Pioneering research to assist in creation of nanomachines
News source: PhysOrg.com

A pioneering team from the University of Leicester is seeking to harness a force of nature — only measured accurately a decade ago — to help develop the technology of tomorrow…

The research group is believed to be the only group in the UK carrying out Casimir force measurements of smooth and patterned surfaces and assessing the utility of the force for nanotechnology.

The research arises from the quantum fluctuations of vacuum, part of quantum field theory, which at present is the universal theory describing the behaviour of all quantum particles.

The Casimir force is a subtle consequence of the vacuum fluctuations, which can be directly measured using the tools of nanotechnology, specifically atomic force microscopes.

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Nanotech Research

Foresight note: These images are a significant contribution to answering the still unresolved question of how hazardous nanomaterials will be for human health and for the environment.

Headline: First direct images of carbon nanotubes entering cells
News source: PhysOrg.com, written by Laura Mgrdichian

For the first time, scientists have directly imaged carbon nanotubes entering and migrating within human cells, determining as a result that whether the nanotubes cause cell death depends on the dose and exposure time…

This study is the first to show definitively that carbon nanotubes have the ability to cross into the cytoplasm and nucleus of a cell.

Many studies have explored the toxicity of carbon nanotubes, some concluding that the nanotubes are acutely toxic and some not. But the uptake of carbon nanotubes by cells has never before been directly observed, casting doubt on the accuracy of those studies.

Nature Nanotechnology abstract

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Editor's Pick

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 overview summarizes the wide array of nanotechnology applications currently being developed to fight cancer, and describes how different nanotechnologies could provide solutions to the complex problems of detecting and treating metastatic, resistant, and relapsing cancers.

— Jim

Headline: On beating cancer (with nanotechnology)
News source: Nanowerk Spotlight, written by Mark J. Schulz, YeoHeung Yun, Zhongyun Dong, Vesselin N. Shanov, and Michael Berger

…Fighting cancer involves three phases: (i) detection, (ii) treatment, and (iii) monitoring. Success depends on matching science to the actual practical needs. We'll take a look at—in particular nanotechnology—efforts underway in the direction of these three phases and comment on some of the practical problems encountered fighting cancer. We also speculate about some unconventional research that might be successful fighting cancer in the future.

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Nanodot: A sample from Foresight's blog

Headline: Russia: Turning oil into nanotechnology

Alexander Zaitchik writes at Wired.com a piece titled Russia Pours Billions in Oil Profits Into Nanotech Race. I'm quoted…

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Headline: Russian nanotechnology "weapons": defensive or offensive?

Although it is distressing to read the headline from ITAR-TASS "Russia to design nanotechnology weapons — commander", when one reads the text, at first these "weapons" sound more like defensive protection than offensive weapons…

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Headline: Nanotechnology at Google tonight, thanks to MIT

As mentioned previously, tonight MIT alums geek out on nanotechnology in 15 cities around the US…

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Headline: Nanotechnology in Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

In their current issue, the folks who usually focus on nuclear war take a look ahead to nanotech war, via a book review by CRN's Mike Treder of the book Military Nanotechnology: Potential Applications and Preventive Arms Control by Jürgen Altmann…

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Headline: Nanotechnology to reduce testing on animals?

Most of us avoid thinking much about the testing of human products on animals to check for safety. It's distressing and we wish there were another, better way.

Nanotech should eventually make such testing entirely obsolete, and the early stages of this process have begun. You can hear the latest in London this May at Nanotechnology: Towards Reducing Animal Testing…

—Nanodot posts by Christine Peterson

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Contact Foresight

The Foresight Nanotech Institute Weekly News Digest is emailed every week to 15,000 individuals in more than 125 countries. Foresight Nanotech Institute is a member-supported organization. We offer membership levels appropriate to meet the needs and interests of individuals and companies. To find out more about membership, follow this link:
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Dr. James Lewis, Research Analyst at Foresight Nanotech Institute, is the editor of the Foresight Nanotech Institute Weekly News Digest. If you would like to submit a news item or contact him with comments about the News Digest, please send an email to editor@foresight.org

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