Friday, December 18, 2009

This week in nanotechnology, Dec 18, 2009

A team led by Yale University researchers has used nanosensors to measure cancer biomarkers in whole blood for the first time. Their findings could dramatically simplify the way physicians test for biomarkers of cancer and other diseases. The team demonstrated nanowire sensors to detect and measure concentrations of two specific biomarkers: one for prostate cancer and the other for breast cancer.

In another nanomedicine development, researchers have created a single nanoparticle that can be tracked in real time with MRI as it homes in on cancer cells, tags them with a fluorescent dye and kills them with heat. The all-in-one particle is one of the first examples from a growing field called "theranostics" that develops technologies physicians can use to diagnose and treat diseases in a single procedure.

A new microscopic system could provide a novel method for moving tiny objects inside a microchip, and could also provide new insights into how cells and other objects are transported around within the body. Inside organs such as the trachea and the intestines, tiny hair-like filaments called cilia are constantly in motion, beating in unison to create currents that sweep along cells, nutrients, or other tiny particles. The new research uses a self-assembling system to mimic that kind of motion, providing a simple way to move particles around in a precisely controlled way.

Scientists at Georgia Tech have developed a nanolithographic technique that can produce high-resolution patterns of at least three different chemicals on a single chip at writing speeds of up to one millimeter per second. The chemical nanopatterns can be tailor-designed with any desired shape and have been shown to be sufficiently stable so that they can be stored for weeks and then used elsewhere.

Not quite nanotechnology but still amazing: scientists use bacteria to power simple machines. ave discovered that common bacteria can turn microgears when suspended in a solution, providing insights for design of bio-inspired dynamically adaptive materials for energy. The gears are a million times more massive than the bacteria. The ability to harness and control the power of bacterial motions is an important requirement for further development of hybrid biomechanical systems driven by microorganisms.

Scientists film photons with electrons. Techniques recently invented by researchers at the California Institute of Technology – which allow the real-time, real-space visualization of fleeting changes in the structure of nanoscale matter – have been used to image the evanescent electrical fields produced by the interaction of electrons and photons, and to track changes in atomic-scale structures.