Friday, August 21, 2009

Lots of news in the area of nanoelectronics this week. Current lasers can't be made small enough to integrate them into electronic chips. Now researchers have overcome this obstacle, harnessing clouds of electrons called "surface plasmons," instead of the photons that make up light, to create tiny "spasers". This is the first of its kind to emit visible light, representing a critical component for possible future technologies based on nanophotonic circuitry.

Nanochemists have developed nanoscale electric contacts out of organic and inorganic nanowires. In the contact they have crossed the wires like Mikado sticks and coupled several contacts together in an electric circuit. In this way they have produced prototype computer electronics on the nanoscale. This nanowire transistors could become an alternative to silicon for computer chips.

In order to further improve current lithographic chip production technology, researchers are adapting the same methods used in fusion-energy research to create extremely thin plasma beams for a new class of nanolithography required to make future computer chips. The new plasma-based lithography under development generates "extreme ultraviolet" light having a wavelength of 13.5 nanometers, less than one-tenth the size of current lithography.

DNA origami, tiny shapes and patterns self-assembled from DNA, have been heralded as a potential breakthrough for the creation of nanoscale circuits and devices. One roadblock to their use has been that they are made in solution, and they stick randomly to surfaces – like a deck of playing cards thrown onto a floor. Researchers have now demonstrated a way to put DNA origami exactly where they want it on a surface, to line them up like little ducks in a row.

It appears that bacteria can squeeze through practically anything. In extremely small nanoslits they take on a completely new flat shape. Even in this squashed form they continue to grow and divide at normal speeds.

Nanoscale devices capable of measuring the mass of a single biological molecule and the heavier elements have already been developed. Yet, significant advances are still required to reach the ultimate goal of weighing the lightest elements such as hydrogen. By studying gold nanoparticles of highly uniform size and shape, scientists now understand how they lose energy, a key step towards producing nanoscale detectors for weighing any single atom.

In nanomedicine, researchers have used magnetic nanoparticles to guide stem cells to sites of cardiovascular injury in a new method designed to increase the capacity of cells to repair damaged tissue. Following magnetic targeting, there was a five-fold increase in cell localization at a site of vascular injury in rats.

Scary news coming out of China: A study has for the first time claimed a concrete link between exposure to nanoparticles in adhesive paint and development of severe pulmonary fibrosis in a group of young female workers; two of whom went on to suffer fatal lung failure.

And finally, at Nanowerk there is a new series called "Ten things you should know about nanotechnology" – a brief overview of some important aspects and issues, and answers to some of the basic questions on nanotechnologies. Remember how it all started with Feynman's speech?