Friday, July 2, 2010

This week in nanotechnology - July 2, 2010

When it comes to metal catalysts, the platinum standard is, well, platinum! However, at about $2,000 an ounce, platinum is more expensive than gold. The high cost of the raw material presents major challenges for the future wide scale use of platinum in fuel cells. Research at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)'s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) suggests that one possible way to meet these challenges is to think small – really small.

Molecules typically found in blue jean and ink dyes may lead to more efficient solar cells: Cornell University researchers have discovered a simple process for building an organic framework that could lead to economical, flexible and versatile solar cells.

Scientific results from the world's most powerful hard X-ray laser show its unique ability to control the behaviors of individual electrons within simple atoms and molecules by stripping them away, one by one—in some cases creating hollow atoms. These results describe in great detail how the Linac Coherent Light Source's intense pulses of X-ray light change the very atoms and molecules they are designed to image. Controlling those changes will be critical to achieving the atomic-scale images of biological molecules and movies of chemical processes that the LCLS is designed to produce.

Using a unique hybrid nanostructure, University of Maryland researchers have shown a new type of light-matter interaction and also demonstrated the first full quantum control of qubit spin within very tiny colloidal nanostructures (a few nanometers), thus taking a key step forward in efforts to create a quantum computer.

Irregular pores, low flow rates: The plastic membrane filters used in sterile filtration do not always ensure that conditions are really sterile. Filter membranes of aluminum oxide are more reliable – the size of the nanopores can be determined with precision. Even the smallest viruses cannot pass through the membrane.

Since its discovery, graphene—an unusual and versatile substance composed of a single-layer crystal lattice of carbon atoms—has caused much excitement in the scientific community. Now, Nongjian Tao, a researcher at the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University has hit on a new way of making graphene.

Carbon nanotubes turn glass fibers into multifunctional sensors. Researchers in Germany have now demonstrated a simple approach to deposit multiwalled carbon nanotube (MWCNT) networks onto glass fiber surfaces, thereby achieving semiconductive MWCNT–glass fibers.

And finally something fun for the weekend: Here is another installment of our collection of amazing images from nanotechnology labs from all over the world.

Nano PacMan

Nano PacMan made of copper oxide Scanning electron microscope image of a copper oxide cluster, 3.5 microns in diameter, prepared by evaporation and condensation over an alumina substrate. The smiley nose and eye are present in the original SEM image, which has only been color-enhanced. (Image: Elisabetta Comini, University of Brescia, Italy)