Friday, May 7, 2010

This week in nanotechnology - May 7, 2010

A team of scientists at UC Santa Barbara that helped pioneer research into the quantum properties of a small defect found in diamonds has now used cutting-edge computational techniques to produce a road map for studying defects in alternative materials. Their new research may enable new applications for semiconductors – materials that are the foundation of today's information technology. In particular, they may help identify alternative materials to use for building a potential quantum computer.

UCLA researchers report that they have imaged a virus structure at a resolution high enough to effectively "see" atoms, the first published instance of imaging biological complexes at such a resolution. The research team used cryo-electron microscopy to image the structure at 3.3 angstroms. An angstrom is the smallest recognized division of a chemical element and is about the distance between the two hydrogen atoms in a water molecule.

Depiction and manipulation the spin direction of individual atoms. An international team of researchers has built a chain of cobalt atoms and analysed its magnetic properties. Surprisingly, the spin sensitive measurements (”Spins“ = magnetic moments of electrons) show that the observed form of atoms depends on its magnetic orientation.

Lateral manipulation of a chain of six cobalt atoms

Lateral manipulation of a chain of six cobalt atoms.

Electrical currents are invisible to the naked eye – at least they are when they flow through metal cables. In nerve cells, however, scientists are able to make electrical signals visible. Scientists have successfully used a specialized fluorescent protein to visualize electrical activity in neurons of living mice. They are now able to apply the method to watch activity in nerve cells during animal behavior.

Quantum dots may be small. But they usually don’t let anyone push them around. Now, however, researchers have devised a self-adjusting remote-control system that can place a dot 6 nanometers long to within 45 nm of any desired location. That’s the equivalent of picking up golf balls around a living room and putting them on a coffee table – automatically, from 100 miles away.

New metamaterial device may lead to see-through cameras and scanners. Devices that can mimic Superman's X-ray vision and see through clothing, walls or human flesh are the stuff of comic book fantasy, but a group of scientists at Boston University has taken a step toward making such futuristic devices a reality. The team has developed a new way to detect and control terahertz (THz) radiation using optics and materials science. This type of radiation is made up of electromagnetic waves that can pass through materials safely. Their work may pave the way for safer medical and security scanners, new communication devices, and more sensitive chemical detectors.

Nanotechnology probe taps into algae cell and saps electrical energy. An intriguing novel approach to extract the energy from the photosynthetic conversion process has been demonstrated by researchers at Stanford and Yonsei Universities. They have inserted ultrasharp gold nanoelectrodes into living algae cells and extracted electrons, thereby harnessing an – albeit very tiny – electrical current. This is electricity production that doesn't release carbon into the atmosphere.