Friday, December 4, 2009

This week in nanotechnology, Dec 4, 2009

Researchers in Europe and Australia have succeeded in building a working single-atom transistor, whose active region composes only of a single phosphorus atom in silicon. The working principles of the device are based on sequential tunneling of single electrons between the phosphorus atom and the source and drain leads of the transistor. The tunneling can be suppressed or allowed by controlling the voltage on a nearby metal electrode with a width of a few tens of nanometers.

Single-walled nanotubes – cylinders of carbon about a nanometer in diameter – have been highly touted for potential applications such as ultrastrong fibers, electrical wires in molecular devices, or hydrogen storage components for fuel cells. Thanks to a new development , you can add one more application to the list: detection and destruction of an aggressive form of breast cancer.

An important new study raises the curtain on the hidden lives of proteins at the atomic level. The study reports that for the first time, researchers used x-ray crystallography and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) techniques to directly visualize protein structures essential for catalysis at the rare high-energy state. The study also showed how the motions of these rare, or hidden, structures collectively, directly contribute to enzyme catalysis.

Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have discovered a new, more precise method for measuring how much – or how little – nanoscale interfaces love water. This new method for measuring hydrophobicity at the nanoscale could have important applications for the future of drug discovery.

molecular dynamics simulation of a protein embedded in water

The above snapshot from a molecular dynamics simulation shows a protein (center) embedded in water.

A new understanding about nanoparticle behavior in sewage treatment plants could improve the environmental management of nanoparticle wastes from foods, cosmetics, medicines, cleaning and personal care products. Scientists have now studied how certain nanoparticles behave in wastewater and have now identified a way to potentially help remove them during primary sewage treatment.

Nanotechnology catalytical techniques are having a profound impact on clean energy research and development, ranging from hydrogen and liquid fuel production to clean combustion technologies. In this area, catalyst stability is paramount for technical application, and remains a major challenge, even for many conventional catalysts. Researchers have now overcame a major hurdle in developing more efficient nanoparticle catalysts by demonstrating high-temperature stability in metallic nanoparticles.