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Foresight Nanotech Institute Weekly News Digest: January 23, 2008

Top Nano News of the Week

Foresight note: This major advance in DNA nanotechnology is also a major advance towards productive nanosystems.

Headline: DNA 'fabricator' constructs walking DNA
News source: NewScientist.com news service, written by Robert Adler

The goal of being able to program biochemical reactions as precisely and easily as computers crunch numbers and process words has moved a giant step closer.

A group at the California Institute of Technology, led by biomolecular engineer Niles Pierce, has created a DNA-based fabricator.

This is a system that allows the team to specify a piece of DNA with a desired shape and function, and then execute a molecular program to assemble it in a test tube. As an example, they used their system to construct a piece of DNA that walks along another strip of DNA.

…"It's great work," says computer scientist Erik Winfree, who is also at based Caltech, but was not involved with the work. "What's remarkable is that it develops a general way of creating a very diverse set of chemical reaction pathways. It opens a lot of doors."

Nature abstract

In this issue:

Health: Nanorod-aptamer combo targets tumors
Health: Tumor-associated enzyme triggers drug release from nanoparticles
Clean energy: Brighter LED lights could replace household light bulbs
Clean energy: 'Darkest ever' material created
Clean energy: New carbon nanotube hydrogen storage results
Information technology: Graphene quantum dot may solve some quantum computing problems
Advancing Beneficial Nanotechnology - Join Foresight
Conference – NanoManufacturing Conference & Exhibits
Research: New method of observing interactions in nanoscale systems
Research: New technology sharpens X-ray vision
Editor's Pick: Anti-pollen nanotechnology coats hit the stores in Japan
Nanodot: Human enhancement with or without nanotechnology
Nanodot: Surprise: silicon nanotechnology turns heat into electricity
Nanodot: Industry, NGOs call for nanotechnology environmental plan
Nanodot: DNA in the lead for nanotechnology construction
Nanodot: Nanotechnology-based surveillance predicted
Foresight Lectures
Contact Foresight

Nanotechnology that's Good For People

Foresight Challenge: Improving health and longevity

Headline: Nanorod-aptamer combo targets tumors
News source: National Cancer Institute's Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer

Aptamers, short stretches of DNA or RNA that can act much like antibodies, have shown promise as targeting agents for selective nanoparticle trafficking to tumors. Their ability to recognize and bind to tumor-specific molecules is undisputed, but the strength with which aptamers bind to their molecular targets is often insufficient to act as an effective targeting agent under clinically relevant conditions.

Now, a research team headed by Weihong Tan, Ph.D., at the University of Florida has shown that adding up to 80 aptamers on a single gold/silver nanorod increases the binding ability of this construct by at least 26-fold compared with that of an individual aptamer.

Analytical Chemistry abstract

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Foresight Challenge: Improving health and longevity

Headline: Tumor-associated enzyme triggers drug release from nanoparticles
News source: National Cancer Institute's Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer

Cancer cells display a variety of proteins on their outer membranes that are not present on the surface of normal cells. Although these proteins are likely to be critical to the survival or metastatic spread of cancer, investigators at North Dakota State University have turned one of these proteins against the malignant cell, using it to trigger the release of dye molecules entrapped in a nanoparticle. The results make possible the development of nanoparticles that will release antitumor drugs only when encountering malignant cells, not healthy cells.

Bioconjugate Chemistry abstract

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Nanotechnology that's Good For the Planet

Foresight Challenge: Providing renewable clean energy

Headline: Brighter LED lights could replace household light bulbs within three years
News source: ScienceDaily

Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs), already used in electrical equipment such as computers and mobile phones, are several times more energy efficient than standard light-bulbs. However, because of their structure and material, much of the light in standard LEDs becomes trapped, reducing the brightness of the light and making them unsuitable as the main lighting source in the home.

Now researchers believe they have found a way of introducing a new generation of LEDs into households that are brighter and use even less power than standard energy efficient light-bulbs.

The team of researchers use a technique called nano-imprint lithography to directly imprint the holes, imperceptible to the human eye, onto the LEDs allowing more of the light to escape.

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Foresight Challenge: Providing renewable clean energy

Headline: 'Darkest ever' material created
News source: BBC News, written by Helen Briggs

The "darkest ever" substance known to science has been made in a US laboratory.

The material was created from carbon nanotubes — sheets of carbon just one atom thick rolled up into cylinders.

Researchers say it is the closest thing yet to the ideal black material, which absorbs light perfectly at all angles and over all wavelengths.

The discovery is expected to have applications in the fields of electronics and solar energy.

Nano Letters abstract

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Foresight Challenge: Providing renewable clean energy

Headline: New carbon nanotube hydrogen storage results surpass Freedom Car requirements
News source: Nanowerk Spotlight, written by Anton Nikitin

…Considerable research efforts are going into the evaluation of various nanostructures, such as carbon nanotubes, to find the most suitable hydrogen storage materials.

Safe, efficient and compact hydrogen storage is a major challenge in order to realize hydrogen powered transport. According to the DOE Freedom CAR program roadmap the on-board hydrogen storage system should provide 6 weight % (wt%) of hydrogen capacity to be considered for the technological implementation.

…The present results indicate that for certain types of SWCNT the hydrogen chemisorption can provide more than 7 wt% of hydrogen storage capacity…

Nano Letters abstract

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Foresight Challenge: Making information technology available to all

Headline: Graphene quantum dot may solve some quantum computing problems
News source: PhysOrg.com, written by Miranda Marquit

Around the world, many scientists are working on various models of a quantum computer. One of the proposed models is a quantum computer that makes use of electron spins. And while quantum dots in gallium arsenide have been used to accomplish the first steps in this direction, there are certain problems that come with a spin-based quantum computer that uses gallium arsenide. Klaus Ensslin, a scientist at the Solid State Physics Laboratory in Zurich, believes that he and his colleagues may have found a new approach.

Ensslin, along with fellows at the Solid State Physics Laboratory, Stampfer, Güttinger, Molitor, Graf and Ihn, believe that they can use electron spins from a tunable graphene quantum dot to create qubits, the building blocks of a quantum computer. These graphene-based qubit could rectify some of the problems found with gallium arsenide. As a first step they present a graphene single electron transistor…

Applied Physics Letters abstract

arXiv.org e-print

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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 "Software control of matter". In the U.K. an "ideas factory" produces three projects aimed at arranging atoms or molecules according to an arbitrary, user-defined blueprint. Join Foresight and help steer nanotech in the directions you personally support most!

"Software control of matter" in Update 58

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

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Foresight Partners

NanoManufacturing Conference & Exhibits
Sponsored by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME)
April 22 - 23, 2008
Hynes Convention Center, Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Looking to understand what nanotechnology means for you? Need to understand how and why nanotechnology can improve your products, process, and may even cut costs? Interested in learning about the latest applications and trends in top-down fabrication and bottom-up assembly techniques? Then this event is for you!

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.

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Nanotech Research

Foresight note: A "News and Views" commentary accompanying the Nature article notes that the effect reported in this research will be useful to detect and eliminate the kind of interactions with the surroundings that are undesirable in applications involving quantum dots.

Headline: Scientists discover new method of observing interactions in nanoscale systems
News source: Ohio University, via AAAS EurekAlert

Scientists have used new optical technologies to observe interactions in nanoscale systems that Heisenberg's uncertainty principle usually would prohibit…

Researchers conducted experiments with high-powered lasers and quantum dots—artificial atoms that could be the building blocks of nanoscale devices for quantum communication and computing—to learn more about physics at the nanoscale.

Nature abstract

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Headline: New technology sharpens X-ray vision
News source: Nanowerk News

Researchers at the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) and the EPFL in Switzerland have developed a novel method for producing dark-field x-ray images at wavelengths used in typical medical and industrial imaging equipment.

Dark-field images provide more detail than ordinary x-ray radiographs and could be used to diagnose the onset of osteoporosis, breast cancer or Alzheimer's disease, to identify explosives in hand luggage, or to pinpoint hairline cracks or corrosion in functional structures.

Up until this point, dark-field x-ray imaging required sophisticated optics and could only be produced at facilities like the PSI's 300m-diameter, $200 million synchrotron. With the new nanostructured gratings described in this research … dark-field images could soon be produced using ordinary x-ray equipment already in place in hospitals and airports around the world.

Nature Materials 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.

There seem to be few limits to the use that technical and commercial ingenuity can make of even the limited capabilities of near-term nanotechnology.

— Jim

Headline: Anti-pollen nanotechnology coats hit the stores in Japan
News source: Nanowerk News

[As] anybody with allergies knows, the problem can continue even indoors. That's because pollen settles on hair and clothing and can easily be transported indoors.

But this year, thanks to some innovative work by a couple of Japanese companies, things may not be as bad for some people.

Apparel manufacturer Sanyo Shokai has released the first in a series of men's coats which are pollen-resistant. They're made from a fabric developed by Toray that's produced in a nanotechnology process that repels water and pollen.

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Nanodot: A sample from Foresight's blog

Headline: Human enhancement with or without nanotechnology

The first issue of the journal Studies in Ethics, Law, and Technology (free reg req'd) is devoted to the topic of Human Enhancement and includes essays by familiar names (de Grey, Freitas, Wolbring, Cameron) and a number of newer ones…

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Headline: Surprise: silicon nanotechnology turns heat into electricity

Chemistry World over at RSC.org tells of a happy new research result in the area of nanotechnology for energy…

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Headline: Industry, NGOs call for nanotechnology environmental plan

Regular Nanodot readers know that we at Foresight focus more on longer-term nanotechnology, especially atomically-precise manufacturing. Yet, we joined with other nonprofits and industry to call for a better plan to address near-term nanomaterial environmental, health, and safety issues. From today's joint press release by Environmental Defense and Dupont…

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Headline: DNA in the lead for nanotechnology construction

DNA-based construction is one of the major contenders on the pathway to atomically-precise manufacturing, and Caltech has made an important advance in that direction. From New Scientist…

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Headline: Nanotechnology-based surveillance predicted

For many years, Foresight has been pointing out that nanotechnology will be used for surveillance. Now Kevin Mitnick makes a long-term prediction on nanosurveillance. An excerpt…

—Nanodot posts by Christine Peterson

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Foresight Lectures

January 28, 2008
Paul Saffo's Stanford class "Forecasting the Future of Engineering"
Palo Alto, California
Christine Peterson will speak to engineering students on the challenges of the next thirty years.

February 13, 2008
Stanford Law, Science and Technology Colloquium
Palo Alto, California
Christine Peterson will speak to LLM students on legal, ethical and public policy issues in nanotechnology.

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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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