Friday, February 11, 2011

This week in nanotechnology - February 11, 2011

Engineers and scientists collaborating at Harvard University and the MITRE Corporation have developed and demonstrated the world's first programmable nanoprocessor. The groundbreaking prototype computer system represents a significant step forward in the complexity of computer circuits that can be assembled from synthesized nanometer-scale components.

In a complex feat of nanoengineering, a team of scientists at Kyoto University and the University of Oxford have succeeded in creating a programable molecular transport system, the workings of which can be observed in real time. The results open the door to the development of advanced drug delivery methods and molecular manufacturing systems.

Engineers at the University of California, Berkeley, have found a way to grow nanolasers directly onto a silicon surface, an achievement that could lead to a new class of faster, more efficient microprocessors, as well as to powerful biochemical sensors that use optoelectronic chips. Ultimately, this technique may provide a powerful and new avenue for engineering on-chip nanophotonic devices such as lasers, photodetectors, modulators and solar cells.

It has been a dream of researchers for over a decade: image biological materials at high resolution using incredibly intense X-ray laser pulses. Calculations had long predicted that these blasts of X-rays would allow exquisite measurements of the molecular structure of biological objects, from samples too small to be studied by conventional methods. Now, an international collaboration has proven this principle at the Linac Coherent Light Source (at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in California, USA) by forming images of the Photosystem I protein complex and particles of the Mimivirus. The results open a way for obtaining the molecular structures of proteins and viruses without the requirement of high-quality crystals.
Three-dimensional rendering of X-ray diffraction data obtained from over 15 000 single nanocrystal diffraction snapshots
Three-dimensional rendering of X-ray diffraction data obtained from over 15 000 single nanocrystal diffraction snapshots.

Researchers from from Nagoya University in Japan and Aalto University in Finland along with their colleagues have developed a simple and fast process to manufacture high quality carbon nanotube-based thin film transistors on a plastic substrate. They used this technology to manufacture the world's first sequential logic circuits using carbon nanotubes. Using this technology, we can expect the development of high-speed roll-to-roll manufacturing processes to manufacture low cost flexible devices such as electronic paper in the future.

A new combination of nanoparticles and graphene results in a more durable catalytic material for fuel cells. The catalytic material is not only hardier but more chemically active as well. The researchers are confident the results will help improve fuel cell design. The unique structure of this material provides much needed stability, good electrical conductivity and other desired properties.