Friday, June 25, 2010

This week in nanotechnology - June 25, 2010

Batteries might gain a boost in power capacity as a result of a new finding from researchers at MIT. They found that using carbon nanotubes for one of the battery's electrodes produced a significant increase — up to tenfold — in the amount of power it could deliver from a given weight of material, compared to a conventional lithium-ion battery. Such electrodes might find applications in small portable devices, and with further research might also lead to improved batteries for larger, more power-hungry applications.

For the first time, physicists at Harvard University have tracked individual atoms in a gas cooled to extreme temperatures as the particles reorganized into a crystal, a process driven by quantum mechanics. The research opens new possibilities for particle-by-particle study and engineering of artificial quantum materials.

a quantum gas microscope hones in on individual atoms in the gas

This sketch shows how a quantum gas microscope hones in on individual atoms in the gas.

Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have developed a simple new method for producing large quantities of the promising nanomaterial graphene. The new technique works at room temperature, needs little processing, and paves the way for cost-effective mass production of graphene.

By emulating nature's design principles, a research team has created nanodevices made of DNA that self-assemble and can be programmed to move and change shape on demand. In contrast to existing nanotechnologies, these programmable nanodevices are highly suitable for medical applications because DNA is both biocompatible and biodegradable.

Scientists can detect the movements of single molecules by using fluorescent tags or by pulling them in delicate force measurements, but only for a few minutes. A new technique by Rice University researchers will allow them to track single molecules without modifying them -- and it works over longer timescales. The team has shown that the plasmonic properties of nanoparticles can "light up" molecular interactions at the single-molecule limit in ways that will be useful to scientists.

Organic semiconductors are very promising candidates as starting materials for the manufacture of cheap, large area and flexible electronic components such as transistors, diodes and sensors on a scale ranging from micro to nano. A condition for success in achieving this goal is the ability to join components together with electrically conducting links – in other words, to create an electronic circuit. Empa scientists have developed a new method which allows them to create simple networks of organic nanowires.

Under the transmission electron microscope (TEM), several cobalt phthalocyanine nanowires grow out of an iron phthalocyanine nanowire which is decorated with silver particles

Under the transmission electron microscope (TEM), several cobalt phthalocyanine nanowires grow out of an iron phthalocyanine nanowire which is decorated with silver particles.

Silicon breakthrough brings quantum computer one step closer. The remarkable ability of an electron to exist in two places at once has been controlled in the most common electronic material – silicon - for the first time. The research findings marks a significant step towards the making of an affordable quantum computer. The scientists have created a simple version of Schrodinger's cat – which is paradoxically simultaneously both dead and alive - in the cheap and simple material out of which ordinary computer chips are made.

Friday, June 18, 2010

This week in nanotechnology - June 18, 2010

Researchers at the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) in Singapore have now successfully demonstrated, for the first time, a lithography-free, direct-write technique for fabricating discrete field-effect transistors, as well as digital logic gates on a single nanowire. In this novel direct-write fabrication process, a focused electron beam or ion-beam is scanned over the sample in the presence of a precursor gas, causing the metals or insulators to be deposited directly onto the sample and with nanometer resolution. This is another step of bringing nanofabrication processes closer to mass production.

Researchers at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center have found a way to use a radical new type of gene therapy to prevent blindness caused by retinitis pigmentosa, giving hope to the estimated 100,000 Americans who suffer from this debilitating disease. Using nanoparticles, discovered a way to deliver known gene therapies directly to the light-sensitive cells affected by this disease.

In order to not only observe, but also really understand a chemical reaction, scientists have to know how electrons move within molecules. Until now it was technically impossible to observe how electrons move within a molecule, because they move so incredibly fast. However, a group of European researchers has now achieved this goal with the help of attosecond laser pulses.

Electron dynamics in molecular hydrogen

Electron dynamics in molecular hydrogen following photoionization by an attosecond XUV light pulse. The localization of the remaining electron in the molecule (depicted in green) is measured experimentally and shown as a mountain landscape. Hills and valleys correspond to a higher probability of finding the electron on the left and right side of the molecule respectively. Following photoionization the bond length in hydrogen increases with time.

At the very heart of some of the most brilliant colors on the wings of butterflies lie bizarre crystal nanostructures, a multidisciplinary team of Yale researchers has found. These structures are intriguing the team's scientists and engineers, who want to use them to harness the power of light.

Organic nanoelectronics move a step closer. Although they could revolutionize a wide range of high-tech products such as computer displays or solar cells, organic materials do not have the same ordered chemical composition as inorganic materials, preventing scientists from using them to their full potential. But an international team of researchers have published research that shows how to solve this decades-old conundrum. The team has effectively discovered a way to order the molecules in the PEDOT, the single most industrially important conducting polymer.

Friday, June 11, 2010

This week in nanotechnology - June 11, 2010

In response to the massive oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico, a University of Pittsburgh engineering professor has developed a technique for separating oil from water via a cotton filter coated in a chemical polymer that blocks oil while allowing water to pass through. The researcher reports that the filter was successfully tested off the coast of Louisiana and shown to simultaneously clean water and preserve the oil.

New research describes how nanoparticles formed by very small numbers of silver atoms can protect against the cell damage caused by ethanol. Alcohol has particularly harmful effects on nerve cells. Following application of the silver nanoparticles to ethanol-exposed cells, the actin cytoskeleton shows marked improvements and cell-death does not occur.

In the quest for faster and cheaper computers, scientists have imaged pore structures in insulation materials at sub-nanometer scale for the first time. Understanding these structures could substantially enhance computer performance and power usage of integrated circuits.

A research team has produced the first material made of two-dimensional fullerene layers that acts like a metal. All previous fullerene-containing crystals with metallic properties have been one- or three-dimensional structures and contained metal elements. This new class of compounds could open a route toward novel superconducting materials.

Scientists have discovered a new way to apply nanostructure coatings to make heat transfer far more efficient, with important potential applications to high tech devices as well as the conventional heating and cooling industry. These coatings can remove heat four times faster than the same materials before they are coated, using inexpensive materials and application procedures. The discovery has the potential to revolutionize cooling technology, experts say.

A team has developed methods for synthesizing protein-sized polymer particles with a binding affinity and selectivity comparable to those of natural antibodies by combining molecular imprinting nanoparticle synthesis with a functional monomer optimization strategy. In effect, they have created a plastic antibody, an artificial version of the real thing. They have also demonstrated that it works in the bloodstream of a living animal.

Friday, June 4, 2010

This week in nanotechnology - June 4, 2010

In nano-optics breakthrough, researchers develop plasmonic amplifier. Under normal circumstances, optical energy travels over very short distances in plasmonic waveguides, before it is absorbed due to Ohmic loss in the metal. Although clever design can somewhat increase the useful length of plasmonic waveguides, it is widely accepted that the only way to completely overcome this problem is to add a mechanism that continuously amplifies the light as it travels along the plasmonic waveguide. However, integrating such plasmonic amplification has turned out to be a challenging task. developed a structure that provides sufficient amplification to overcome the intrinsic absorption of a plasmonic waveguide. In fact, the optical amplification is sufficient to provide a net gain of the plasmon-bound light as it travels along the waveguide.

When loaded with an anticancer drug, a delivery system based on a novel material called nanosponge is three to five times more effective at reducing tumor growth than direct injection. Imagine making tiny sponges that are about the size of a virus, filling them with a drug and attaching special chemical "linkers" that bond preferentially to a feature found only on the surface of tumor cells and then injecting them into the body. The tiny sponges circulate around the body until they encounter the surface of a tumor cell where they stick on the surface (or are sucked into the cell) and begin releasing their potent cargo in a controllable and predictable fashion.

nanosponges for drug delivery

The illustration shows a nanosponge particle attaching to human breast cancer cells. The particle holds an anticancer drug that it releases gradually as it decomposes. Peptide linkers are shown with the ball and stick representation. Although only two are shown in the illustration, about three dozen are attached to the surface of actual particles. The linkers are specially configured to bind to the surface of irradiated cancer cells.

Scientists have developed a new massively-parallel approach for manipulating single DNA and protein molecules and studying their interactions under force. The team of researchers claim that their technique, which they call "single molecule centrifugation", offers dramatic improvements in throughput and cost compared with more established techniques.

Chinese researchers have successfully built an electromagnetic absorbing device for microwave frequencies. The device, made of a thin cylinder comprising 60 concentric rings of metamaterials, is capable of absorbing microwave radiation, and has been compared to an astrophysical black hole (which, in space, soaks up matter and light).

Biorefinery concept shows a way out of a world dominated by petrochemicals. Advances in bio-based materials research show prospects that not only fuel but many other petrochemical derived products can be replaced with industrial materials processed from renewable resources. Researchers continue to make progress in research and development of new technologies that bring down the cost of processing plant matter into value-added products.

Self-propelled motion of synthetic materials can be useful in applications such as bottom-up assembly of structures, pattern formation, drug delivery at specific locations, etc. Researchers have now presented a novel and versatile light-driven catalytic micromotor system, which is the cleanest and simplest of its kind. In it, titanium dioxide is used to convert optical energy to mechanical energy via photocatalysis.

'Microfireworks': This video shows the photoactivity of a large titania particle in methanol. The surrounding tracer particles are silica