Friday, February 26, 2010

This week in nanotechnology - Feb 26, 2010

Montana State University scientists are researching the use of nanomaterials to develop a new way of fighting influenza and other respiratory infections caused by viruses. If it works in humans the way it does in mice, people will prepare for a respiratory viral assault by inhaling an aerosol spray containing tiny protein cages that will activate an immune response in their lungs. This activated immune state will be good against any respiratory virus and last more than a month.

By dipping ordinary paper or fabric in a special ink infused with nanoparticles, a Stanford engineer has found a way to cheaply and efficiently manufacture lightweight paper batteries and supercapacitors (which, like batteries, store energy, but by electrostatic rather than chemical means), as well as stretchable, conductive textiles known as "eTextiles" - capable of storing energy while retaining the mechanical properties of ordinary paper or fabric.

Study examines how nanoparticles affect marine organisms. Manufactured nanomaterials can be found in such diverse applications as electronics, cosmetics, paints, and even medicines, but their effects on the environment remain largely unknown. In a new laboratory study, scientists have found that saltwater oysters and mussels take up and retain significant amounts of manufactured nanoparticles from seawater in clumps of so-called “marine snow.”

Chemists at the University of Helsinki have managed to manufacture new polymer-stabilised silver nanoparticles. The result is significant because the antimicrobial characteristics of silver are used in textiles, floor coatings and paints even though the impact on health of silver nanoparticles are not entirely known. Finnish researchers now think that exposure to silver can be reduced by chemically binding the nanoparticles to polymers.

Exerting delicate control over a pair of atoms within a mere seven-millionths-of-a-second window of opportunity, physicists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison created an atomic circuit that may help quantum computing become a reality. The researchers successfully used neutral atoms to create what is known as a controlled-NOT (CNOT) gate, a basic type of circuit that will be an essential element of any quantum computer. The work is the first demonstration of a quantum gate between two uncharged atoms. The use of neutral atoms rather than charged ions or other materials distinguishes the achievement from previous work.

How to study for a career in nanotechnology. Eric Drexler attempts to answer the question on how students should prepare for a career in nanotechnology. His advice centers on fundamentals, outlining areas of knowledge are are universally important, and offering suggestions for how to approach both specialized choices and learning in general. It includes observations about the future of nanotechnology, the context for future careers. However, as you might imagine, providing a good answer is challenging.

Friday, February 19, 2010

This wek in nanotechnology - Feb 19, 2010

In research that gives literal meaning to the term 'power suit', University of California, Berkeley, engineers have created energy-scavenging nanofibers that could one day be woven into clothing and textiles. These nano-sized generators have piezoelectric properties that allow them to convert into electricity the energy created through mechanical stress, stretches and twists.

By creating diamond-based nanowire devices, a team at Harvard has taken another step towards making applications based on quantum science and technology possible. The new device offers a bright, stable source of single photons at room temperature, an essential element in making fast and secure computing with light practical. The finding could lead to a new class of nanostructured diamond devices suitable for quantum communication and computing, as well as advance areas ranging from biological and chemical sensing to scientific imaging.

Welding uses heat to join pieces of metal in everything from circuits to skyscrapers. But Rice University researchers have found a way to beat the heat on the nanoscale. They have discovered that gold wires between 3 and 10 nanometer wide weld themselves together quite nicely - without heat.

One of the difficulties of fighting cancer is that drugs often hit other non-cancerous cells, causing patients to get sick. But what if researchers could sneak cancer-fighting particles into just the cancer cells? Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology and the Ovarian Cancer Institute are working on doing just that. They developed a method that uses hydrogels - less than 100 nanometers in size - to sneak a particular type of small interfering RNA (siRNA) into cancer cells.

Life would sometimes be so much easier if we were quantum particles. For example, if we were trying to find our way out of a strange town allowing chance telling us which way to go at every intersection. As objects of classical physics, this would mean becoming more and more lost in the centre of the road network. If we were particles that obeyed the laws of quantum mechanics, we would sooner or later find our way to the edge of town on the randomly-chosen route. An international team has now proven this experimentally. They have used polarized light - light waves which oscillate in a particular plane - to design a simple model for a quantum physical random walk. Their experiments could provide new insights into statistical processes such as photosynthesis, and help to accelerate search algorithms.

Friday, February 12, 2010

This week in nanotechnology - February 12, 2010

Chemists report creating a synthetic 'gene' – a DNA-like crystal – that could capture heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions, which contribute to global warming, rising sea levels and the increased acidity of oceans.

Researchers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have developed a way to make some notoriously brittle materials ductile – yet stronger than ever – simply by reducing their size down to the nanoscale. This work could eventually lead to the development of innovative, superstrong, yet light and damage-tolerant materials.

Just as the heartbeats of today's electronic devices depend on the ability to switch the flow of electricity in semiconductors on and off with lightning speed, the viability of the "spintronic" devices of the future -- technologies that manipulate both the flow and magnetic "spin" of electrons – will require similarly precise control over semiconductor magnetism. Scientists have now observed electrons in a semiconductor on the brink of the metal-insulator transition for the first time.

electrons on the brink of the metal-insulator transition

On the brink of the metal-insulator transition, the electrons in a manganese-doped gallium arsenide semiconductor are distributed across the surface of the material in complex, fractal-like patterns. These shapes are visible in this electron map, where the colors red, orange and yellow indicate areas on the surface of the semiconductor where electrons are most likely to be found at a given point in time. In this image, the fractal-like probability map of electrons is superimposed on the atomic crystal structure of the material, imaged at the same time.

University of Florida scientists have developed a new nanoparticle that could improve cancer detection and drug delivery. The particle, called a 'micelle' and made up of a cluster of molecules called aptamers, easily recognizes tumors and binds strongly to them. It also has properties that allow it to easily get inside cells for intracellular studies and drug delivery.

Physicists have for the first time observed chemical reactions near absolute zero, demonstrating that chemistry is possible at ultralow temperatures and that reaction rates can be controlled using quantum mechanics, the peculiar rules of submicroscopic physics.

Researchers in China are making carbon nanotube sponges consisting of a large amount of interconnected nanotubes, thus showing a combination of useful properties such as high porosity, super elasticity, robustness, and little weight. The CNT sponges are capable of absorbing a wide range of solvents and oils with excellent selectivity, recyclability, and absorption capacities up to 180 times their own weight, two orders of magnitude higher than activated carbon.

Friday, February 5, 2010

This week in nanotechnology - February 5, 2010

Lots of news in nanomedicine this week. Northwestern University researchers are the first to design a bioactive nanomaterial that promotes the growth of new cartilage in vivo and without the use of expensive growth factors. Minimally invasive, the therapy activates the bone marrow stem cells and produces natural cartilage. No conventional therapy can do this.

A new testing method is being developed to detect cancer soon after the tumor has formed. It will identify characteristic substances in the blood which accompany a certain type of tumor. The first steps in the development have already been completed. Biofunctionalized nanoparticles are the key element in the new sensor.

Another nanomedical approach to batling cancer was reported by scientists at the University of California, Berkeley. They have created smart nanoprobes that may one day be used in the battle against cancer to selectively seek out and destroy tumor cells, as well as report back on the mission's status.

smart nanoprobes to battle cancer

UC Berkeley scientists are designing smart nanoprobes, called nanocorals, to selectively attach to cancer cells, deliver therapeutic drugs and report on the local molecular environment. One side of the nanocorals is designed to selectively target the cell, while the other has a roughened surface to sense tell-tale chemical particles in the environment.

A 'smart' coating helps surgical implants bond more closely with bone and ward off infection. The coating creates a crystalline layer next to the implant, and a mostly amorphous outer layer that touches the surrounding bone. The amorphous layer dissolves over time, releasing calcium and phosphate, which encourages bone growth.

A team of University of Toronto chemists have made a major contribution to the emerging field of quantum biology, observing quantum mechanics at work in photosynthesis in marine algae. The experiments show that normally functioning biological systems have the capacity to use quantum mechanics in order to optimize a process as essential to their survival as photosynthesis.

Parts of a car’s bodywork could one day double up as its battery. Researchers from Imperial College London and their European partners, including Volvo Car Corporation, are developing a prototype material which can store and discharge electrical energy and which is also strong and lightweight enough to be used for car parts.

Another step to our bright energy future could come form electricity-generating silicone implants. Researchers have now demonstrated that high performance piezoelectric ceramics can be transferred in a scalable process onto rubber or plastic, rendering them flexible without any sacrifice in energy conversion efficiency.