Friday, September 4, 2009

Manipulating tiny objects like single cells or nanosized beads often requires relatively large, unwieldy equipment, but now a system that uses sound as a tiny tweezers can be small enough to place on a chip, according to Penn State engineers. Current methods for moving individual cells or tiny beads include such devices as optical tweezers, which require a lot of energy and could damage or even kill live cells. In contrast, the new manipulators - acoustic tweezers - are much smaller than optical tweezers and use 500,000 times less energy.

Acoustic tweezers enable flexible on-chip manipulation and patterning of cells

"Acoustic tweezers" enable flexible on-chip manipulation and patterning of cells using standing surface acoustic waves.

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, have reached a new milestone in laser physics by creating the world's smallest semiconductor laser, capable of generating visible light in a space smaller than a single protein molecule. These plasmon lasers represent an exciting class of coherent light sources capable of extremely small confinement. This work can bridge the worlds of electronics and optics at truly molecular length scales.

Small, smaller, nano data storage! Interest is growing in the use of metallofullerenes – carbon cages with embedded metallic compounds – as materials for miniature data storage devices. Researchers in Switzerland have discovered that metallofullerenes are capable of forming ordered supramolecular structures with different orientations. By specifically manipulating these orientations it might be possible to store and subsequently read out information.


Metallofullerenes – when deposited on a surface – form ordered islands of identically orientated molecules. This scanning tunnelling microscopy image has been reproduced in colour in order to improve visual analysis – a different colour has been used for each individual orientation of the molecules.

Another advance in nanoelectronics was reported by an international team of researchers that has designed a new graphite-based, magnetic nanomaterial that acts as a semiconductor and could help material scientists create the next generation of electronic devices like microchips. Using theoretical computer modeling, they designed the new material they called graphone, which is derived from graphene.

Recently, metamaterials, by means of which electromagnetic waves, including light, can be manipulated, have fired the researchers’ imagination. These artificial structures possess properties that cannot be found in nature. Perfect lenses without aberrations and even invisibility cloaks à la Harry Potter can be made of metamaterials, at least theoretically. Now, scientists from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) describe, for the first time, three-dimensional metamaterials that could really be applied in spectroscopic measurement instruments.

lung cancer is the leading cancer-related cause of death, accounting for 18 percent of cancer deaths and killing about 1.3 million people worldwide every year. A research team has now demonstrated a "lung cancer breathalyzer" - highly sensitive, stable, relatively inexpensive, and fast-response nine-sensor array that consists of gold nanoparticles functionalized with different organic groups that respond to various volatile organic compounds that are relevant to lung cancer.

And finally, if you need something to read for the weekend, the Human Enhancement Ethics Group released a new, NSF-funded report that addresses questions and issues surrounding human enhancement, an area that will become more prominent as advances in nanotechnology, nanomedicine, bionics, synthetic biology and related fields move from the lab to real-world applications.