Friday, October 2, 2009

This week in nanotechnology Sept. 25 - Oct. 2, 2009

Imagine this: Chip-based credit cards and other smart cards on paper; intelligent sensors and electronics on doctors' surgical gloves; health monitors printed on T-shirts; diagnostic devices embedded in your baby's diapers; human machine interfaces on workers' leather gloves. These are just some of the nanoelectronic systems that researchers envision today and that will become reality tomorrow thanks to research teams like John Rogers' group at the University of Illinois.

University of Toronto researchers have used nanomaterials to develop a microchip sensitive enough to quickly determine the type and severity of a patient's cancer so that the disease can be detected earlier for more effective treatment.

Although graphene has become one of the most promising materials for future electronics, one stumbling block has been the lack of a ‘gap’ in its energy spectrum. This gap is characteristic of silicon and other materials currently used by the semiconductor industry. However, researchers have now found that simply stretching graphene can turn it into a good semiconductor.

Making progress with another carbon nanomaterial, researchers have overcome a major obstacle in efforts to use carbon nanotubes to create a new class of electronics that would be faster and smaller than conventional silicon-based transistors. They have learned how to control the formation of carbon nanotubes so that they have either metallic or semiconducting properties.

Using an RNA-powered nanomotor, biomedical engineering researchers have successfully developed an artificial pore able to transmit nanoscale material through a membrane. The engineered channel could have applications in nano-sensing, gene delivery, drug loading and DNA sequencing.

Brain implants coated with conducting polymer nanotubes that can more clearly record signals from surrounding neurons in rats have been created at the University of Michigan. The findings could eventually lead to more effective treatment of neurological disorders such as Parkinson's disease and paralysis.

neurons firing (green structures in the foreground) and communicating with nanotubes in the background

This illustration depicts neurons firing (green structures in the foreground) and communicating with nanotubes in the background.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has outlined a new research strategy to better understand how manufactured nanomaterials may harm human health and the environment. The strategy outlines what research EPA will support over the next several years to generate information about the safe use of nanotechnology and products that contain nano-scale materials. The strategy also includes research into ways nanotechnology can be used to clean up toxic chemicals in the environment.

If you want to try out your artistic talents, now is your chance with the 2009 NanoArt competition.

And finally, here is the book you all have been waiting for: Nano-Society - Pushing the boundaries of technology. Written by Nanowerk's Michael Berger, this book puts a spotlight on some of the scientists who are pushing the boundaries of technology and it gives examples of their work and how they are advancing knowledge one little step at a time.