Foresight Nanotech Institute Weekly News Digest: June 14, 2006
In this issue:
Nanotechnology That's Good For People
Foresight note: Most of the water on Earth is saltwater. This research promises to reduce the cost of desalination.
Headline: Cheap drinking water from the Ocean – Carbon nanotube-based membranes will dramatically cut the cost of desalination
A water desalination system using carbon nanotube-based membranes could significantly reduce the cost of purifying water from the ocean. The technology could potentially provide a solution to water shortages both in the United States, where populations are expected to soar in areas with few freshwater sources, and worldwide, where a lack of clean water is a major cause of disease.
The new membranes, developed by researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), could reduce the cost of desalination by 75 percent, compared to reverse osmosis methods used today, the researchers say. The membranes, which sort molecules by size and with electrostatic forces, could also separate various gases, perhaps leading to economical ways to capture carbon dioxide emitted from power plants, to prevent it from entering the atmosphere.
The carbon nanotubes used by the researchers are sheets of carbon atoms rolled so tightly that only seven water molecules can fit across their diameter. Their small size makes them good candidates for separating molecules. And, despite their diminutive dimensions, these nanopores allow water to flow at the same rate as pores considerably larger, reducing the amount of pressure needed to force water through, and potentially saving energy and costs compared to reverse osmosis using conventional membranes.
Foresight note: Nanoparticles are used to recreate this natural method of absorbing water from fog and mist.
Headline: Surface snares water like beetle back
A film surface that mimics a desert beetle's back to both attract and repel water could greatly improve efforts to harvest drinking water from the air in dry regions.
The surface, developed by scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, does what nature already figured out for the Stenocara beetle of the Namib Desert in southern Africa.
Foresight note: This promising research should improve the effectiveness of anticancer drugs by minimizing cancer cell resistance to treatment.
Headline: Nanoparticles overcome anticancer drug resistance
Too often, chemotherapy fails to cure cancer because some tumor cells develop resistance to multiple anticancer drugs. In most cases, resistance develops when cancer cells begin expressing a protein, known as p-glycoprotein, that is capable of pumping anticancer drugs out of a cell as quickly as they cross through the cell's outer membrane. New research from the University of Kentucky shows that nanoparticles may be able to get anticancer drugs into cells without triggering the p-glycoprotein pump.
Foresight Challenge: Increasing the health and longevity of human life
Foresight note: Flexibility and portability will be a benefit when nanotech is applied to medical treatments. This article reviews a practical example of this.
Headline: Welsh scientists creating portable lung
Scientists at a Welsh university are working on a "next generation" artificial lung using futuristic nanotechnology.
The "portable lung" being developed at Swansea University has the potential to save millions of lives across the world. It also promises to save the NHS hundreds of millions of pounds. The project involves Swansea University, Swansea NHS Trust and Swansea-based Haemair Ltd.
The development partners are also using expertise from the nanotechnology (science of the ultra-small) centre at Swansea University to pioneer the development of the world's most up-to-date artificial lung. The device, a blood/air mass exchanger, integrates with the body's respiratory system and is designed to breathe for conscious, mobile patients whose lungs are damaged or diseased.
As a portable device, it will allow patients to recover outside intensive care units, offering them a better quality of life and saving the NHS money.
Foresight Challenge: Increasing the health and longevity of human life
Foresight note: Medical imaging is going to become more and more sophisticated by employing nanotechnology. This research is yet another breakthrough in using nanoparticles to enhance imaging.
Headline: Researchers decorate virus particles
Researchers at New York University have made chemical modifications to nanometer sized virus particles — a process that has the potential to improve magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques. Their results are reported in the latest issue of Nano Letters.
The study was conducted jointly by NYU's Department of Chemistry and the Department of Radiology at the NYU School of Medicine. The study is part of a collaborative discussion group between these departments called Molecular Imaging and Contrast Agents (MICA). Contrast agents are chemical compounds that enhance the ability of medical imaging techniques, such as MRI, to discriminate between different tissue types. MICA includes Chemistry Professor James Canary, radiologist Dr. Edwin Wang, and assistant chemistry professor Kent Kirshenbaum. Assistance for the study was provided by the University of New Mexico's Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology at its Health Sciences Center.
Nanotechnology That's Good For the Planet
Foresight note: An obstacle for using an energy source is how efficiently and cost effectively that energy can be produced. This research promises to reduce the cost of extracting oil.
Headline: World first technology to revolutionize oil production
Nanotechnology to help extract more petrol from oil fields has been developed by researchers from The University of Queensland's Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN).
With oil companies forced to leave behind as much as two barrels for every barrel of oil they produce, this revolutionary technology could help reduce the cost of supplying petrol to the market.
Known as Pepfactants®, the peptide technology can control the emulsions and foams used in a wide range of industry processes and could impact a range of products from petroleum to specialty chemicals and therapeutic drugs.
Developed by Professor Anton Middelberg and Dr Annette Dexter, details of the technology were published recently in the prestigious Nature Materials journal. According to Professor Middelberg, Pepfactants® is a disruptive technology with the potential to be used in ways we cannot yet foresee.
Foresight Challenge: Meeting global energy needs with clean solutions
Foresight note: Improved battery storage and delivery is a promising near-term application of nanotechnology. An industry expert addresses the U.S. Senate about what his company is doing in this field.
Headline: Nanotechnology holds a key to U.S. alternative energy goals
Altair Nanotechnologies, Inc. CEO and President Alan J. Gotcher, PhD, will brief the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday, June 14 on the important role Altairnano could play in the deployment of alternative energy sources, including those that could be used to power electric automobiles, critical facilities and installations, and a diverse range of military applications.
Although Altairnano is operating on a variety of promising fronts, Dr. Gotcher said the company's work on nano lithium ion battery materials appears to embody the greatest near-term potential for significant real world applications.
"We are developing an advanced lithium ion battery: affordable, environmentally clean, with a range of operational capabilities applicable to high power uses that no conventional battery can match," Dr. Gotcher will tell Congress. The end result could set a new baseline standard in energy storage and power delivery.
Foresight note: The demand for data storage is rapidly increasing. This research is leading the way to data storage with less heat and more capacity.
Headline: Nano-tip could play integral part in heat-assisted data storage devices
Using a tip with a nano heat source that never touches the surface, scientists have shown how to heat a localized surface with no contact. The discovery could open the doors to heat-assisted data storage devices and nano thermometers.
Every year, the world's data storage needs more than double. Understanding heat transfer on the nanoscale is imperative for fabricating technology that will affect nearly everyone living in first-world countries. All over the world, scientists are rushing to develop an alternative data storage system in an effort to increase the space that our information-overloaded society is running out of.
Foresight Challenge: Making powerful information technology available everywhere
Foresight note: Intel's new three-dimensional design may be a building block for high volume, low energy transistors at the nanoscale.
Headline: Intel researchers improve tri-gate transistor
Intel Corporation researchers disclosed they have developed new technology designed to enable next era in energy-efficient performance. Intel's research and development involving new types of transistors has resulted in further development of a tri-gate (3-D) transistor for high-volume manufacturing. Since these transistors greatly improve performance and energy efficiency Intel expects tri-gate technology could become the basic building block for future microprocessors sometime beyond the 45nm process technology node.
Planar (or flat) transistors were conceived in the late 1950s and have been the basic building block of chips since the dawn of the semiconductor industry. As semiconductor technology moves deeper into the realm of nanotechnology (dimensions smaller than 100nm), where some transistor features may consist of only a few layers of atoms, what was previously thought of as "flat" is now being designed in three dimensions for improved performance and power characteristics. Intel, leading the industry in producing high volumes of ever smaller chip geometries, has created a way to use these three-dimensional, or tri-gate, transistors in concert with other key semiconductor technologies to enable a new era of energy-efficient performance.
INTEROP RUSSIA 2006
Christine Peterson, Founder and Vice President of Public Policy for Foresight Nanotech Institute, will give a keynote on advanced technologies, including nanosensing, and also speak at the open source session.
Foresight Corporate Member News
Headline: Zyvex and Arkema Strengthen Strategic Partnership in Nanomaterials
Zyvex and Arkema announced their intention to strengthen their strategic partnership by jointly developing commercial nanomaterials applications. Through a new licensing arrangement, Arkema will use Zyvex's patented Kentera dispersion technology, in conjunction with its own Multi Wall Carbon Nanotubes (MWNTs). Arkema will also be the exclusive distributor in Europe of Zyvex's NanoSolve supply range.
Become a Member
If you are interested in advancing beneficial nanotechnology, please consider becoming a member. With your support, Foresight will continue to be a leading public interest voice for nanotechnology that will focus on using this powerful technology to improve the health and well being of people and the planet.
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Headline: Nanomechanical simulation of atomically-precise universal joint
Mark Sims of Nanorex, a Foresight participating member, reports that he has completed the first nanomechanical simulation of the Merkle/Drexler universal joint. He used the nanoENGINEER-1 software on a Dell laptop, taking about 24 hours to complete the simulation of a 3,846-atom structure.
Mark explains: "A universal joint is a joint in a rigid rod that allows the rod to bend' in any direction. It consists of a pair of ordinary hinges located close together, but oriented at 90 relative to each other."
The rotary motors connected to the shafts are simulated running at 100 GHz.
September 27-28, 2006 – nanoTX '06 – Conference & Expo
nanoTX'06 has an extensive track on Energy – Chemical – Environment featuring speakers from several prestigious organizations including the following:
The 2006 Foresight Institute Feynman Prizes will also be presented at nanoTX' 06 on September 27, 2006 at their Exhibitors Reception.
Headline: Research goes online in Birck Nanotechnology Center 'Cleanroom'
The Birck Nanotechnology Center at Purdue University opened its $10 million Scifres Nanofabrication Laboratory to researchers this week. The 25,000- square-foot cleanroom provides Purdue scientists with nanofabrication labs to advance research at the nanoscale level and design the next generation of electronic devices similar to the transistors and circuits in computer chips. "Several leading U.S. universities have large labs for nanotech research, but those facilities were designed primarily for semiconductor electronics," said George Adams, Birck's research development manager. "At Birck, the cleanroom and labs are the nation's first designed specifically for the breadth of nanotechnology research, making them better suited for this emerging science."
Initially, 44 faculty members and nearly 200 researchers and graduate students will use the $58 million Birck Nanotechnology Center, many working in the cleanroom and related laboratories. The Discovery Park cleanroom provides two types of research space:
Headline: Opportunities increasing in field of nanotechnology
Nanotechnology is a big word describing processes that are too small for the unaided human eye to see. But predictions are that by 2015, nanotechnology will be a $3 trillion-a-year global industry.
"It is being used in products right now,'' said Robert K. Ehrmann, director of the Penn State University Education and Outreach Services Center for Nanotechnology Education and Utilization.
Ehrmann and Bill Mahoney, project engineer/outreach associate at the center, were featured speakers Friday at a program on competitive modern manufacturing through nanotechnology at Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus. Fay-Penn Economic Development Council and Penn State Fayette co-hosted the event.
Ehrmann said global investment in nanotechnology is growing: from $430 million in 1997 to more than $9 billion in 2004 and accelerating.
"Money is going there because there is something to it. There are currently about 800 products in the marketplace that have been developed using nanotechnology,'' he said.
Dear readers – When reviewing news for this digest, I often read about something that I think is cool, but it doesn't fit within the usual editorial categories of the News Digest. This section highlights a nanotech advance, event or idea that I think is especially cool.
This nanotech research is particularly cool because it could create a piece of clothing that could monitor a wearer's sweat for blood sugar levels or other medical conditions.
Headline: Wilkes University to Design and Market Nano-Particle Machine
We want our clothes to make us look good, but can they make us smell good, too?
Maybe so, according to professors at Wilkes University who are hoping to design a process that turns an ordinary piece of clothing into a bacteria-killing blouse that senses body odor or an infectious disease-sensing uniform that detects the presence of a biological agent.
How? It's all part of the brave new world of nanotechnology, a growing industry that many U.S. companies are hoping will revive their manufacturing capabilities and lead to job creation.
The ability to coat fabrics with nano-particles (or powders) allows for the creation of bio-functional coatings for applications such as anti-bacterial fabrics and bio-sensors that can do everything from warn you when you are in the presence of a biological attack to greatly improving fire retardant properties in all kinds of fabrics, to monitoring blood sugar in sweat, according to Wilkes engineering professor Ali Razavi.
Join the discussion – visit our blog Nanodot led by Christine Peterson.
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