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.