Friday, August 13, 2010

This wek in nanotechnology - August 13, 2010

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.

Chemists and engineers at Harvard University have fashioned nanowires into a new type of V-shaped transistor small enough to be used for sensitive probing of the interior of cells. The new device is smaller than many viruses and about one-hundredth the width of the probes now used to take cellular measurements, which can be nearly as large as the cells themselves. Its slenderness is a marked improvement over these bulkier probes, which can damage cells upon insertion, reducing the accuracy or reliability of any data gained.

Under the microscope, the bacteria start dividing normally, two cells become four and then eight and so on. But then individual cells begin "popping," like circus balloons being struck by darts. This phenomenon, which surprised the Duke University bioengineers who captured it on video, turns out to be an example of a more generalized occurrence that must be considered by scientists creating living, synthetic circuits out of bacteria. Even when given the same orders, no two cells will behave the same. The researchers believe this accidental finding of a circuit they call "ePop" can help increase the efficiency and power of future synthetic biology circuits.

A new test for oral cancer, which a dentist could perform by simply using a brush to collect cells from a patient´s mouth, is set to be developed by researchers at the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. The nano-bio-chips are disposable and slotted like a credit card into a battery-powered analyser.

Researchers at Ohio State University have demonstrated the first plastic computer memory device that utilizes the spin of electrons to read and write data. An alternative to traditional microelectronics, so-called "spintronics" could store more data in less space, process data faster, and consume less power.

Researchers have taken one more step toward understanding the unique and often unexpected properties of graphene, a two-dimensional carbon material that has attracted interest because of its potential applications in future generations of electronic devices. They describe for the first time how the orbits of electrons are distributed spatially by magnetic fields applied to layers of epitaxial graphene.

It turns out that watching paint dry might not be as boring as the old adage claims. A team led by Yale University researchers has come up with a new technique to study the mechanics of coatings as they dry and peel, and has discovered that the process is far from mundane. They present a new way to image and analyze the mechanical stress that causes colloidal coatings – those in which microscopic particles of one substance are dispersed throughout another – to peel off of surfaces.

A "smart" nanomaterial recently developed at the University of Dayton Research Institute for multi-purpose use in aircraft coatings, wind turbines and other large-scale commercial applications may also lead to a significant breakthrough in glaucoma treatment. Nicknamed "fuzzy fiber", the tailored carbon material is expected to improve the lives of glaucoma sufferers by reducing the number of medical procedures needed to treat the disease.