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.