Friday, July 3, 2009

This week in nanotechnology June 27 - July 3, 2009

An international team of researchers has modified chlorophyll from an alga so that it resembles the extremely efficient light antennae of bacteria. The team was then able to determine the structure of these light antennae. This is the first step to converting sunlight into energy using an artificial leaf.

Scientists have been trying for some time to find ways to produce integrated circuits that operate on the basis of photons instead of electrons. The reason is that photons do not only generate much less heat than electrons, but they also enable considerably higher data transfer rates. Researchers in Switzerland have now made a big step in this direction by successfully creating an optical transistor with a single molecule.

A tiny grid pattern has led materials scientists to an unexpected finding – the surprisingly strong and long-range effects of certain electromagnetic nanostructures used in data storage. This may add new scientific challenges to the design and manufacture of future ultra-high density data storage devices.

Finding a way to observe and record the behavior of matter at the molecular level has long been one of the holy grails among physicists. That ability could open the door to a wide range of applications in ultrafast electron microscopy used in a large array of scientific, medical and technological fields. Now, a team at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has figured out a possible way to do that.

It's not just the material and devices that advances nanotechnologies. A new statistical analysis technique that identifies and removes systematic bias, noise and equipment-based artifacts from experimental data could lead to more precise and reliable measurement of nanomaterials and nanostructures likely to have future industrial applications.

In nanomedicine, researchers have demonstrated a novel ROS-sensitive gold nanoprobe. Environmental and behavioral factors such as excessive alcohol consumption, exposure to toxins and drugs, smoking and lack of sleep, may lead the body to produce superoxide radicals known as reactive oxygen species (ROS) that could cause cell damage through oxidation. Oxidative stress from ROS is implicated in aging and most diseases including cancer, heart disease, liver fibrosis, neurodegenerative diseases, autoimmune disorders.

More nanomedicine applications: Imagine being able to spray a compound fracture with tiny capsules that deliver a drug to bolster the immune system, stopping infection before it starts. This technology might be around the corner. A research team has developed a drug-delivery technology involving microcapsules – and a second technique, nanocoating – that have been shown to work in animal studies.

Hate your silver tooth fillings but are not happy with shorter-lived white ceramic ones? One researcher hopes a new nanotechnology technique will extend the white fillings' longevity.

How can you weigh a single atom? European researchers have built an exquisite new device with carbon nanotubes that can do just that. It may ultimately allow scientists to study the progress of chemical reactions, molecule by molecule.

Finally, not really nanotechnology but still pretty cool: A team led by Yale University researchers has created the first rudimentary solid-state quantum processor, taking another step toward the ultimate dream of building a quantum computer.