Foresight Nanotech Institute Weekly News Digest: November 29, 2006
Nanotechnology that's Good For People
Foresight note: Here is an instance where the body's response to a nanoparticle has led to a possible anti-cancer vaccine.
Headline: Lipid nanoparticles enhance anti-tumor vaccine activity
Positively charged lipid-based nanoparticles are known to trigger strong immune responses when injected into the body, which can be problematic when attempting to use this type of nanoparticle as a drug delivery vehicle. Now, researchers at Colorado State University, led by Steve Dow, Ph.D., D.V.M., have taken advantage of this effect to boost the activity of a DNA-based anticancer vaccine. This work appears in the journal Cancer Gene Therapy.
Cancer vaccines have the promise to harness the body's immune system to kill cancer and to prevent tumors from metastasizing, but the results of human clinical trials for a variety of cancer vaccines have produced mixed results. And while DNA-based vaccines work well in animal models, they have done poorly in humans, particularly at preventing the spread of cancer to the lungs. Some studies suggest that humans, unlike mice, do not produce a strong immune response to DNA-based cancer vaccines.
Foresight note: This research promises to help us better understand the side effects from using carbon nanotubes for medical purposes.
Headline: Pure carbon nanotubes pass first in vivo test
In the first experiments of their kind, researchers at Rice University and The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center have determined that carbon nanotubes injected directly into the bloodstream of research lab animals cause no immediate adverse health effects and circulate for more than one hour before they are removed by the liver.
The findings are from the first in vivo animal study of chemically unmodified carbon nanotubes, a revolutionary nanomaterial that many researchers hope will prove useful in diagnosing and treating disease. The research will appear in this week's online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Nanotechnology that's Good For the Planet
Foresight note: Here is a method of making nanowires from silicon without employing gold as a catalyst.
Headline: Brilliant growth without gold: New methods for manufacturing nanowires from silicon
Silicon nanowires can help to further reduce the size of microchips. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Microstructure Physics in Halle have for the first time developed single crystal silicon nanowires that fulfill the key criteria to this end. The researchers used aluminum as a catalyst to grow the nanowires.
To date, scientists have usually deployed gold for this purpose. However, even traces of the precious metal have a drastically detrimental effect on the function of semiconductor components. This is not the case with other metals, which catalyze the process, but only at temperatures that would not enable economically viable processes. On the other hand, aluminum is an effective catalyst even at relatively low temperatures and does not impair the quality of electronic components (Nature Nanotechnology, online: November 26, 2006).
Foresight note: This research may move us closer to quantum computers and improve laser photonics.
Headline: Tiniest modified opals ready to manipulate light flow as photonic crystals
One of the most rapidly advancing areas of applied nanotechnology involves photonic crystals. With their ability to control light propagation, photonic crystals are predicted to replace other methods for devices such as display lasers, circuits and quantum computers. Although complex manufacturing has stunted their fabrication, scientists have recently found a new technique to control the size, shape and chemical flexibility of opals, a type of photonic crystal, to the smallest degree yet.
"The essence of our work is that we are able to control the shape of individually addressed nanoparticles inside artificial opals," Leon Woldering, coauthor of the study, told PhysOrg.com. "We fabricate nanocavities in individual colloidal particles, and can change the position of these cavities and tune the diameter with nanometer precision. We thus realize a kind of nano-donut, or nano-bead."
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Nanotech Investing Forum
Nanotech Investing Forum
The IBF Nanotech Investing Forum — where VCs, corporate investors and nanotech CEOs unite. This conference provides investors with leading-edge information to profit from nanotech innovation.
This conference will address:
Headline: No secret in a future with nano sensors, Christine Peterson looks ahead to a more transparent world
News source: Earth & Sky
"Our existing chemical sensing devices are limited — things like airport sensors that detect drugs or explosives. But nanotechnology will ultimately let scientists develop invisibly small devices for sensing just about any chemical substance imaginable, according to Christine Peterson, Foresight Nanotech Institute Vice President for Public Policy. "It would be a very different world if these sensors were deployed and if that information was being used," she said.
"What would that mean for people's daily lives?" Peterson said, "What we're looking at is a future where much, much more is known about individuals on a chemical basis." Earth & Sky's Eleanor Imster talked to her about how nano sensors may shape our future.
Headline: Agilent includes undergrad curriculum materials with new AFM
News source: Agilent Technologies
...To increase its appeal as a teaching instrument, Agilent is including undergraduate curriculum materials with each system. "I was impressed with the Agilent 5400's performance and versatility, combined with its ease-of-use," said Jayne C. Garno, assistant professor of chemistry at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, La., where the system underwent beta testing. "It proved to be a serious scientific instrument with outstanding resolution, yet has an intuitive and user-friendly software interface. We even have seven undergraduates using it this semester."
News source: Physorg.com
It might sound like an oxymoron, but long nanotubes are critical to manufacturers and practitioners in such fields as transportation, defense, safety and medicine. Because of their increased surface area, large nanotube arrays offer improvements in sensors. Larger nanotubes can be "spun" — or suspended in an epoxy-like substrate — and used to strengthen materials used in airplanes, for example.
Like your great-grandmother's yarn, the longer a continuous thread, the better. In conjunction with First Nano (FN), a division of CVD Equipment Corporation, UC has grown an array on FN's EasyTube Carbon Nanotube system that is longer than 7 mm.
Headline: Have yourself a merry 'nano' christmas!
News source: Press Release, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
"Tell a friend you are buying them a nanotechnology gift for the holidays, and visions of Star Trek collectables or geeky electronic toys start to dance in their heads. But nanotechnology gifts can include everything from fleece jackets and gloves from the Lands' End™ catalogue -- with Nano-Tex® Resists Static treatment -- to an Apollo Diamond® engagement ring...
"According to recent polls, the majority of Americans have heard little or nothing about nanotechnology. But last year, according to Lux Research, nanotechnology was incorporated into more than $30 billion in manufactured goods. By 2014, an estimated $2.6 trillion in global manufactured goods will incorporate nanotechnology.
"To learn more about nanotechnology and about the more than 350 manufacturer-identified nanotechnology consumer products currently being sold in department and hardware stores, pharmacies, and catalogues, check out the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies free online inventory."
News source: Physorg.com
Nanotechnologies pose real threats to health and the environment and need prompt testing and oversight, but government and industry are moving slowly on the issue, scientists and environmentalists said.
Speaking after the US Environmental Protection Agency took its first step to regulate a nanomaterial — near atomic-sized particles of silver being used as pesticide in products from shoes to a washing machine — experts told AFP that nanotechnology is already producing materials that can harm the environment and human health.
Headline: Night of the living enzyme, Nano-chambers mimic living cells to squeeze new activity from stale, defunct proteins
News source: EurekAlert
Inactive enzymes entombed in tiny honeycomb-shaped holes in silica can spring to life, scientists at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have found.
The discovery came after salvaging enzymes that had been in a refrigerator long past their expiration date. Enzymes are proteins that are not actually alive but come from living cells and perform chemical conversions.
To the research team's surprise, enzymes that should have fizzled months before perked right up when entrapped in a nanomaterial called functionalized mesoporous silica, or FMS. The result points the way for exploiting these enzyme traps in food processing, decontamination, biosensor design and any other pursuit that requires controlling catalysts and sustaining their activity.
"There's a school of thought that the reason enzymes work better in cells than in solution is because the concentration of enzymes surrounded by other biomolecules in cells is about 1,000 to 10,000 time more than in standard biochemistry lab conditions," said Eric Ackerman, PNNL chief scientist and senior author of a related study that appears today in the journal Nanotechnology...
Ackerman said that this new understanding combined with new cell-free techniques — making hundreds of designer enzymes a day with components derived from cells — will speed the development of task-specific enzymes. This could lead to "enzyme-based molecular machines in nanomaterials that carry out complex biological reactions to produce energy or remediate toxic pollutants."
December 5, 2006
Concerns about global warming requires either a "greener" way to use existing fossil resources or to develop sources of energy that is carbon-neutral or does not depend on carbon. There are, of course, different paths toward the same goal. At this event, panelists will discuss four such paths, some nearer and some more distant in the horizon. Clean coal and carbon capture, is a major industry initiative that will allow our country to leverage its impressive reservoir of coal. Biomass energy is becoming a commercial reality — Progress Energy in Florida has placed a 130 MW baseload purchase agreement with Biomass Investment Group (of which Mr. Sharp is the CEO). Developments in photocatalysis may allow the production of hydrogen from water and the conversion of CO2, which has no fuel value, to CO, which does, using free and "green" sunlight.
Peter Chou of Electric Power Research Institute, will moderate a panel of experts including:
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.
There is a lot of information in this news digest on the concerns about nanomaterials and their impact on our environment. Nanotechnology education is becoming more critical. This exhibit is a good step in introducing nanotechnology to the general public at a young age.
Headline: Cornell-developed exhibit at Disney's Epcot offers youngsters a window into too-small-to-see nanoworld
News source: Cornell University by Susan Lang
A world that is too small to see is going to seem a bit bigger when visitors get a chance to interact with, build, play and watch molecules in an interactive exhibit, "Too Small to See," which opened November 18, 2006 at Epcot's Innoventions at Walt Disney World, Lake Buena Vista, Florida. The exhibit will remain at Epcot until May 2007.
The exhibit, developed by Carl Batt and team at Cornell University, is aimed at 8- to 13-year-olds. It will help visitors view the world at the atomic scale and to better understand just how small a nanometer — one billionth of a meter — is (it is to a meter what 2.5 centimeters are to about two-thirds of the way around the Earth.)
Headline: Helping poor countries with nanotechnology
News source: Nanodot
Foresight members and others would like to find ways to use nanotechnology to help those who need help the most. It's a challenge, as described more generally by Nancy Birdsall, Dani Rodrik, and Arvind Subramanian, writing in Foreign Affairs. They suggest a solution, which ought to work for nanotech as well as medical technologies:
"Wealthy countries can also spur technological advances that serve the specific interests of developing countries. Because poor countries lack wealthy markets, private companies in the developed world currently have little incentive to devise technologies for them...
"The international community needs to learn from [the "green revolution"] example, so that the resources of wealthy firms can be harnessed to develop important technologies for the world's poorest countries. One simple yet powerful improvement would be for rich-country governments to commit contractually to rewarding the creation of such new technologies — for example, with guaranteed purchase agreements. In effect, the international community would ensure a minimum financial return on private research undertaken for the benefit of developing countries. The Center for Global Development has devised a plan for this kind of advance-market-commitment mechanism to spark research on a malaria vaccine, at an estimated cost of $3 billion. Imagine the benefits of a $50 billion global technology-creation fund, with actual disbursement of the funds taking place over ten years or more. That $50 billion would represent only about five percent of all the financial aid that donors have promised to spend on the poor in the next decade."
Note that in this approach, one would specify a goal to be achieved, not the method used to achieve it. If nanotech is the best method, fine — if not, that's okay too. The point is to meet the goal. Traditional foreign aid to developing nations has had limited success. It's time to focus more heavily on new approaches, such as microfinance and the above.
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