Friday, September 24, 2010

This week in nanotechnology - September 24, 2010

Is this the end of microplates? Novel nanoelectronic biosensing technology could facilitate new era of personalized medicine. The multi-welled microplate, long a standard tool in biomedical research and diagnostic laboratories, could become a thing of the past thanks to new electronic biosensing technology developed by a team of microelectronics engineers and biomedical scientists at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

The new electronic microplate is shown in front of the technology it aims to replace, the conventional microplate
The new electronic microplate is shown in front of the technology it aims to replace, the conventional microplate.

A nanoparticle-based catalyst developed at Rice University may give that tiger in your tank a little more roar. A new paper details a process that should help oil refineries make the process of manufacturing gasoline more efficient and better for the environment. The researchers found that sub-nanometer clusters of tungsten oxide lying on top of zirconium oxide are a highly efficient catalyst that turns straight-line molecules of n-pentane, one of many hydrocarbons in gasoline, into better-burning branched n-pentane.

A team of Yale physicists has used lasers to cool molecules down to temperatures near what's known as absolute zero, about -460 degrees Fahrenheit. Their new method for laser cooling is a significant step toward the ultimate goal of using individual molecules as information bits in quantum computing.

plasmons in a pair of gold nanotips concentrate light from a laser, amplifying it by a factor of 1,000
This artist's rendering shows how plasmons in a pair of gold nanotips concentrate light from a laser, amplifying it by a factor of 1,000.

Condensed matter physicists have found a way to make an optical antenna from two gold tips separated by a gap less than a nanometer wide, that gathers light from a laser. The tips grab the light and concentrate it down into a tiny space, leading to a thousand-fold increase in light intensity in the gap. Putting the nanotips so close together allows charge to flow via quantum tunneling as the electrons are pushed from one side to the other.

A novel nano-tomography method opens the door to computed tomography examinations of minute structures at nanometer resolutions. Three-dimensional detailed imaging of fragile bone structures becomes possible. This new technique will facilitate advances in both life sciences and materials sciences.
Schematic of the new nano-CT method. The sample is scanned with an X-ray beam while the detector records a diffraction pattern for every beam position. The sample is then turned around its axis and scanned again, until a complete set of data is gathered for every angle. A high-resolution three-dimensional image of the sample is then computed from the hundreds of thousands of diffraction patterns by means of specially developed image reconstruction algorithms.

Researchers have come up with an intriguing new class of molecular probes for biomedical research called nanoLAMPs. Unlike most probes used in biomedicine or other types of research they don't require dyes or fluorescence but, like an ordinary house lamp, they do need a light switch in order to illuminate the molecular world. These nanoLAMPs, which stands for Nano-Layered Metal-dielectric Particles, can solve a problem in biomedical research: the inability to measure multiple molecules simultaneously with a high degree of accuracy and reliability.

Computers, light bulbs, and even people generate heat—energy that ends up being wasted. With a thermoelectric device, which converts heat to electricity and vice versa, you can harness that otherwise wasted energy. Researchers at Caltech have developed a new type of material - made out of silicon, the second most abundant element in Earth's crust - that could lead to more efficient thermoelectric devices.