Friday, November 19, 2010

This week in nanotechnology - November 19, 2010

Engineers from Harvard University have designed and demonstrated ice-free nanostructured materials that literally repel water droplets before they even have the chance to freeze. The finding could lead to a new way to keep airplane wings, buildings, powerlines, and even entire highways free of ice during the worst winter weather. Moreover, integrating anti-ice technology right into a material is more efficient and sustainable than conventional solutions like chemical sprays, salt, and heating.

Sunlight represents the cleanest, greenest and far and away most abundant of all energy sources, and yet its potential remains woefully under-utilized. High costs have been a major deterrant to the large-scale applications of silicon-based solar cells. Nanopillars – densely packed nanoscale arrays of optically active semiconductors – have shown potential for providing a next generation of relatively cheap and scalable solar cells, but have been hampered by efficiency issues. The nanopillar story, however, has taken a new twist and the future for these materials now looks brighter than ever.

Nanotech teabag filter cleans water: Instead of being filled with black or green tea, the bag contains active carbon granules and is made from nanofibers treated with biocide, which kills bacteria rather than simply filtering them from the water.
teabag water filter

Each disposable filter can purify one liter of water.

Gene therapy holds the promise for curing a variety of diseases, including cancer, and nanoparticles have been recognized as promising vehicles for effective and safe delivery of genes into specific type of cells or tissues. However, the existing process available for producing and examining nanoparticles for this purpose is limited due to the use of conventional synthetic approaches that are cumbersome and time-consuming. UCLA researchers have now found a faster way to produce efficient nano-vehicles for gene delivery.

As electronics become smaller and smaller the need to understand nanoscale phenomena becomes greater and greater. Because materials exhibit different properties at the nanoscale than they do at larger scales, new techniques are required to understand and to exploit these new phenomena. A team of researchers led by Paul Weiss, UCLA's Fred Kavli Chair in NanoSystems Sciences, has developed a tool to study nanoscale interactions. Their device is a dual scanning tunneling and microwave-frequency probe that is capable of measuring the interactions between single molecules and the surfaces to which the molecules are attached.

Cancer scientists believe nanoparticles could accurately target tumors, avoiding side effects. Several nanoparticle drugs are now in clinical trials, and many more are being developed in research labs. These particles hold great potential to improve the performance of existing cancer drugs.