Friday, June 26, 2009

This week in nanotechnology June 20-26, 2009

Another advance with nanodiamonds in medical applications has been reported: A new study shows a way in which nanodiamonds can be applied towards enhancing water dispersion of otherwise poorly watersoluble therapeutics. This could open the door to broad application of a wide range of important drugs for cancer or regenerative medicine. One more report on cancer-related nanomedicine came out of the University of Massachusetts where Vincent Rotello an his team have developed a a 'chemical nose' array of nanoparticles and polymers that differentiates not only between healthy and cancerous cells but also between metastatic and non-metastatic cancer cells.
Roasted chicken à la nanotech: Scientists in Delaware say they have developed a new hydrogen storage method – carbonized chicken feather fibers – that can hold vast amounts of hydrogen. Chicken feather fibers are mostly composed of keratin, a natural protein that forms strong, hollow tubes. When heated, this protein creates crosslinks, which strengthen its structure, and becomes more porous, increasing its surface area. The net result is carbonized chicken feather fibers, which can absorb as much or perhaps more hydrogen than carbon nanotubes or metal hydrides, two other materials being studied for their hydrogen storage potential. Plus, they are cheap.
A problem with existing gas nanosensors is the cross-interference of other gas analytes such as for instance water vapor (humidity). A team at Duke University has now shown how to manufacture gas nanosensors that can eliminate cross-interference from other gases.
For a long time it has been thought that if the accelerating voltage of electrons could be reduced to 80 kV in an electron microscope, then the electrons would not possess sufficient energy to cause knock-on damage in carbon nanomaterials. A team in Europe shows that this belief is wrong and that under certain circumstances nanotubes can be damaged even at this threshold level.
On the regulators' side, the The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (OSHA) has published "Literature Review - Workplace exposure to nanoparticles" which reviews the most recent publications on nanoparticles and focuses on the possible adverse health effects of workplace exposure. The report presents the regulatory background and activities taken to manage this emerging risk.
Speaking about risks, a new survey shows that in the U.S., scientists and public differ on need for nanotechnology regulation. While the public tends to focus on the benefits – rather than potential environmental and health risks – when making decisions about nanotechnology regulation, scientists mainly focus on potential risks and economic values.
Singularity University – the new academic institution with the goal of preparing the next generation of leaders to address "humanity's grand challenges" – has announced the selection of 40 students to represent the inaugural class for the Graduate Summer Program. One of the 10 tracks offered of course deals with nanotechnologies.
The Journal of Consumer Policy is planning a special issue on "Nanotechnologies and the Consumer" and is looking for papers. The objective of this special issue will be to discuss the impact of nanotechnologies on consumer behavior, policy and law. Papers can be submitted until August 15, 2009.
And finally to the fun part: we've posted some amazing images from the nanoworld in one of our posts last week, like these nano teddy bears (they are actually zinc oxide nanostructures):

Friday, June 19, 2009

This week in nanotechnology June 13-19, 2009

Bring out the glue guns! In a further advance of nanofabrication techniques, researchers at New York University have created a method to precisely bind nano- and micrometer-sized particles together into larger-scale structures with useful materials properties. Their work overcomes the problem of uncontrollable sticking, which had been a barrier to the successful creation of stable microscopic and macroscopic structures with a sophisticated architecture.
Scientists in Singapore have scored a breakthrough in nanotechnology by becoming the first in the world to invent a controllable molecular gear of only 1.2 nanometers in size whose rotation can be deliberately controlled.
Nanotechnology structuring of materials with atomic precision takes another step forward by tailoring the properties of nanotubes through deliberately and controllably creating defects in the tubes' carbon atom lattice.
A possible advance in nanoelectronics is the discovery of a "magnetic superatom" – a stable cluster of atoms that can mimic different elements of the periodic table – that one day may be used to create molecular electronic devices for the next generation of faster computers with larger memory storage. The newly discovered cluster, consisting of one vanadium and eight cesium atoms, acts like a tiny magnet.
We saw several interesting reports in the nanomedicine field this past week. One is the discovery of a biological marker for neovascular age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of blindness in older adults, which, attached to quantum dots, shows strong potential as a means for both the early detection of the disease and for preventive treatment. Another is a report on specially engineered nanoparticles for cancer therapy, which could someday lead to the end of chemotherapy.
Is nanotechnology going underground? At a conference in Brussels last week it was reported that more and more consumer products drop the "nano" label – while still using nanotechnology – for fear of raising controversy with activist groups. In related news, the highest-ranked health official in the EU executive has hit out at lobby groups who stoke fear of nanotechnology. Robert Madelin, director-general at the European Commission's health and consumer affairs directorate, said it was "irresponsible" to use panic in order to attract attention. Madelin said conflicting messages emanating from NGOs, industry and academia are fueling confusion among the public about nanotechnology.
India sees the launch of its first nanotechnology magazine "Nano Digest", an English language monthly publication.
And finally, gooooooal! Nanosoccer robots are ready to compete in the second annual RoboCup games in Graz, Austria, from June 29 to July 5, 2009.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

This week in nanotechnology June 6-12, 2009

Exciting new developments on the nanomotor front this week: University of Florida chemists have designed a light-driven single-molecule DNA nanomotor. It is the first fully reversible single-molecule DNA nanomachine driven by photons (i.e. light) without any additional DNA strands as fuel. DNA nanomotor pioneer Ned Seeman at NYU introduced the novel concept for a nanoscale piston – such a reciprocating motion device hadn't been available at the nanoscale yet.
Another nanoelectronics breakthrough from the IBM labs, where scientists have shown they can now measure the charge state of individual atoms. Measuring with the precision of a single electron charge, the researchers succeeded in distinguishing neutral atoms from positively or negatively charged ones.
A company called SolarBotanic has come up with the concept of artificial trees that can harvest the power of the sun and wind. These artificial trees and plant structures are designed to utilize three major types of nano-technologies: photovoltaics, thermovoltaics and piezovoltaic, the result is a commercially viable alternative and/or supplement to other energy generating technologies.
In the nanorisk arena, there was a report that showed how nanoparticles could cause lung damage and how that can be prevented. Another study added to concerns that nanotechnology actually is not "green": the production of nanoparticles and nanomaterials is not only quite inefficient, it also creates potentially toxic waste products.
For you students out there, potentially interested in studying nanosciences, the UAlbany NanoCollege (the first college in the world dedicated to education, research, development, and deployment in the emerging disciplines of nanoscience, nanoengineering, nanobioscience, and nanoeconomics) launches a comprehensive undergraduate degree program in nanoscience.
In nanomedicine, an interesting study demonstrates a nanoparticle that can attack plaque, which is a major cause of cardiovascular disease. The treatment is promising for the eventual development of therapies for cardiovascular disease, which is blamed for one third of the deaths in the United States each year.
And finally, researchers from Universiti Sains Malaysia have developed the world’s first endodontic or root canal treatment sealer using nanotechnology. Just don't expect it yet at your next visit to the dentist.