Foresight Nanotech Institute Weekly News Digest: December 19, 2007
Welcome to the last issue of the News Digest for 2007. We will return Jan. 3, 2008. Our best wishes to you for a wonderful holiday and a New Year made better by nanotechnology and other emerging technologies.
Headline: Enzyme-powered delivery vehicles
Dutch scientists have made nanotubes move using enzyme-powered motors.
Ben Feringa and co-workers from the University of Groningen, The Netherlands, have designed engines for nanomachines that could potentially be used in the body.
Hydrogen peroxide has proven useful as a chemical fuel for powering microscopic motors but its practicality is somewhat limited by its inherent reactivity, said Feringa. To get around this problem the team have used two enzymes in tandem as the engine for their nanomachine. They explained that by coupling glucose oxidase with catalase, relatively stable glucose can be used as the primary fuel instead.
Chemical Communications abstract
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Clean Water: Researchers develop better membranes for water treatment
Headline: Researchers develop better membranes for water treatment, drug delivery
Researchers at the University of Illinois have developed a new generation of biomimetic membranes for water treatment and drug delivery…
The experimental membranes, currently in the form of vesicles, show significantly higher water transport than existing reverse-osmosis membranes used in water purification and desalination.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences abstract
Headline: Radio waves fire up nanotubes embedded in tumors, destroying liver cancer
Cancer cells treated with carbon nanotubes can be destroyed by noninvasive radio waves that heat up the nanotubes while sparing untreated tissue, a research team led by scientists at The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and Rice University has shown in preclinical experiments. …the researchers demonstrated that the technique completely destroyed liver cancer tumors in rabbits. There were no side effects noted. However, some healthy liver tissue within 2 to 5 millimeters of the tumors sustained heat damage due to nanotube leakage from the tumor.
"These are promising, even exciting, preclinical results in this liver cancer model," said lead investigator Steven Curley, M.D., of M.D. Anderson. "Our next step is to look at ways to more precisely target the nanotubes so they attach to, and are taken up by, cancer cells while avoiding normal tissue."
Headline: Using carbon nanotubes to seek and destroy anthrax toxin and other harmful proteins
Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have developed a new way to seek out specific proteins, including dangerous proteins such as anthrax toxin, and render them harmless using nothing but light. The technique lends itself to the creation of new antibacterial and antimicrobial films to help curb the spread of germs, and also holds promise for new methods of seeking out and killing tumors in the human body.
Scientists have long been interested in wrapping proteins around carbon nanotubes, and the process is used for various applications in imaging, biosensing, and cellular delivery. But this new study at Rensselaer is the first to remotely control the activity of these conjugated nanotubes.
Nature Nanotechnology abstract
Headline: Experiments reveal unexpected activity of fuel cell catalysts
Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory have unveiled important details about a class of catalysts that could help improve the performance of fuel cells. With the goal of producing "clean" hydrogen for fuel cell reactions in mind, the researchers determined why two next-generation catalysts including gold, cerium, titanium, and oxygen nanomaterials exhibit very high activity.
Headline: Nitride nanocrystals for fuel cell catalysts
A new type of nanocrystal electrocatalyst for fuel cells has been developed by scientists in China and the US. The non-noble chromium nitride material might be a real alternative to expensive platinum in years to come.
Polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs) have a high energy-conversion efficiency, which makes them promising for applications in transport. They are thought to be the best type of fuel cell to eventually replace the gasoline and diesel internal combustion engine. Although platinum is widely used as the catalyst in PEMFCs, because it is very active, this noble metal is expensive — something that is holding back the wider use of PEMFCs today.
Applied Physics Letters abstract
Headline: Nanolasers boost data storage
Researchers in the US have succeeded in making a nanolaser that can focus light with a power of over 200 nW into a spot just 35 nm across. The result means that data storage beyond 10 Tbit (10 × 1012 bit) per square inch could now be possible at last.
"Furthermore, our nanolaser technology could be scaled down to a spot size as small as 10 nm," team leader Sakhrat Khizroev of the University of California at Riverside told nanotechweb.org. "This experiment could have a great impact on the magnetic data storage industry and especially enable so-called heat-assisted magnetic recording (HAMR) — one of the most promising data storage technologies of the future."
Khizroev says that the technology could be on the market in as little as two years depending on how the collaboration with optical companies goes.
Applied Physics Letters abstract
Headline: Plastic computer memory's secret is gold nanoparticles
Taiwanese researchers say they have developed a simple, durable, and potentially inexpensive nonvolatile memory array made from a mix of plastic and gold nanoparticles. The array is a 16-byte device called an organic nonvolatile bistable memory…. The Taiwanese team plans to integrate the memory into smart cards.
Foresight note: These researchers report nanopositioning "repeatability of 0.5 nm over a moving range of 5 mm."
Headline: Nanopositioning breaks new record
One of the main obstacles facing nanotechnology today is the lack of effective devices for building and characterizing nanoscale structures. For the field to progress, scientists need to be able to control the position of a mechanical system with sub-nanometric accuracy over a moving range of several millimetres. A French team has now taken an important step forward in this direction with the development of a 2D nano-positioning system that can do just this. What's more, the new instrument, based on an interferometric sensor and an optoelectronics board, can be used in a standard atomic force microscope or lithography set-up.
Measurement Science and Technology abstract
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 "Rolling and carrying molecules across surfaces". Two research teams get molecules on surfaces to do machine-like things. Join Foresight and help steer nanotech in the directions you personally support most!
"Rolling and carrying molecules across surfaces" in Update 58
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This conference will highlight the current, near-term, and future applications of nanotechnology and how they are transforming the way we manufacture products. Peer networking, information sharing, and technology exchange among the world's nanomanufacturing leaders will be a key feature of the event.
Headline: New technique could dramatically lower costs of DNA sequencing
Using computer simulations, researchers at the University of Illinois have demonstrated a strategy for sequencing DNA by driving the molecule back and forth through a nanopore capacitor in a semiconductor chip. The technique could lead to a device that would read human genomes quickly and affordably.
…"Despite the tremendous interest in using nanopores for sequencing DNA, it was unclear how, exactly, nanopores could be used to read the DNA sequence," said U. of I. physics professor Aleksei Aksimentiev. "We now describe one such method."
Nano 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.
Nanotechnologists have been amazed by the properties of single-atomic-layer-graphene (see Nanodot), and now it appears that two-atomic-layer graphene could provide a whole new class of semiconductors.
Headline: Graphene bilayer acquires variable gap
An international team of physicists has created the first semiconductor material in which the width of the energy gap between the valence and conduction bands can be changed by simply applying an external voltage. The team claims that the semiconductor could be used to make lasers, transistors and other devices with properties that could be much more easily tuned than devices based on traditional semiconductors such as silicon.
Physical Review Letters abstract
CRN has been working on eight scenarios for advanced nanotechtechnology, and they are now available. You can get a quick feel for them by their titles…
Headline: Lloyds of London takes on nanotechnology
The reinsurance firm Swiss Re is rather farther along on nanotechnology, but Lloyd's of London is starting to step up to the question of how to insure nanotech. They had a recent conference to launch their new report Nanotechnology: Recent Developments, Risks and Opportunities (PDF). As one would expect, it mainly focuses on nanoparticles, but more advanced prospects are mentioned…
Nanowerk brings our attention to a story at Forbes.com looking at anticipated developments in sensing and monitoring…
Did you miss the 4th European Futurists Conference in Lucerne in October? So did I. But now we can spend the holidays enjoying Quicktime videos and hear some forecasts that may surprise those who think Europeans are less future-oriented than those in Asia and the U.S. Nanotechnology is addressed along with many other technologies and trends…
… practically every week there's new positive results to report on nanotechnology for drug delivery, especially for cancer. A summary of where to read about these advances appears in Gregor Wolbring's column of Dec. 15. At the end, he asks regarding nanoscale drug delivery systems…
—Nanodot posts by Christine Peterson
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