Friday, October 29, 2010

This week in nanotechnology - October 29, 2010

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have developed a new electronic method for detecting microRNA isolated from living cells. MicroRNAs are a class of small biomolecules that control gene expression into proteins, the "workers" of the cell. MicroRNAs act by binding to specific messenger RNAs that code for proteins, and, by doing so, inhibit protein synthesis.

Bone consists of fibers of collagen in which calcium phosphate is deposited in the form of nanocrystals. Researchers at Eindhoven University of Technology have for the first time succeeded in mimicking the process of bone formation in the laboratory, and in visualizing the process in great detail.

EU research initiative called 'Steeper'aims to increase electronic device efficiency by 10x and eliminate power consumption of devices in standby mode. Scientists collaborating on the project will apply their expertise and research to tunnel field effect transistors (TFETs) and semiconducting nanowires to improve the efficient use of energy in electronics. To explain the challenge, consider a leaky water faucet -- even after closing the valve as far as possible water continues to drip -- this is similar to today's transistor, in that energy is constantly "leaking" or being lost or wasted in the off-state. In Steeper, scientists not only hope to contain the leak by using a new method to close the valve or gate of the transistor more tightly, but also open and close the gate for maximum current flow with less turns, i.e. less voltage for maximum efficiency.

Researchers from North Carolina State University have found a way to optimize the development of DNA self-assembling materials, which hold promise for technologies ranging from drug delivery to molecular sensors.

buckyballs in space

And some fun fact at the end: Astronomers have discovered bucket loads of buckyballs in space. They used NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope to find the little carbon spheres throughout our Milky Way galaxy – in the space between stars and around three dying stars. What's more, Spitzer detected buckyballs around a fourth dying star in a nearby galaxy in staggering quantities – the equivalent in mass to about 15 of our moons.