Friday, December 17, 2010

This week in nanotechnology - December 17, 2010

University of Utah physicists stored information for 112 seconds in what may become the world's tiniest computer memory: magnetic "spins" in the centers or nuclei of atoms. Then the physicists retrieved and read the data electronically – a big step toward using the new kind of memory for both faster conventional and superfast "quantum" computers.

Researchers open the door to biological computers. Genetically modified cells can be made to communicate with each other as if they were electronic circuits. Using yeast cells, a group of researchers at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, has taken a groundbreaking step towards being able to build complex systems in the future where the body's own cells help to keep us healthy.
Genetically modified cells can be made to communicate with each other as if they were electronic circuits
Genetically modified cells can be made to communicate with each other as if they were electronic circuits.

You can touch a functioning light bulb and know right away that it's hot. Ouch! But you can't touch a single molecule and get the same feedback. Rice University researchers say they have the next best thing -- a way to determine the temperature of a molecule or flowing electrons by using Raman spectroscopy combined with an optical antenna.

Artificial fluidic nanochannels that mimic the capabilities of transmembrane proteins are highly prized for a number of advanced technologies. However, it has been difficult to make individual artificial channels of this size – until now. Researchers with the Berkeley Lab have been able to fabricate nanochannels that are only two nanometers in size, using standard semiconductor manufacturing processes.

Engineers at Duke and Harvard universities have developed a "magnetic sponge" that after implantation into a patient can "squeeze" out drugs, cells, or other agents when passed over by a magnet. The researchers demonstrate that the new material — called a macroporous ferrogel — can be compressed as much as 70 percent by an applied magnetic field. The reversible compression quickly forces out the drugs, cells, or proteins embedded in the ferrogel.

Microchips that 'harvest' the energy they need from their own surroundings, without depending on batteries or mains electricity. That will be possible now that researchers from the University of Twente's MESA+ Institute for Nanotechnology have for the first time succeeded in manufacturing a microchip with an efficient solar cell placed on top of the microelectronics.

A nano endoscope for living cells. Researchers have now developed a multifunctional endoscope-like device, using individual carbon nanotubes for prolonged intracellular probing at the single-organelle level, without any recordable disturbance to the metabolism of the cell. These endoscopes can transport attoliter volumes of fluid, record picoampere signals from cells, and can be manipulated magnetically. Furthermore, the tip deflects with submicrometer resolution, and the attachment of gold nanoparticles allows intracellular fingerprinting using surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS).