Friday, February 25, 2011

This week in nanotechnology - February 25, 2011

For the first time, scientists have managed to measure the atomic structure of individual nanoparticles. The experimental data could help better understand the properties of nanoparticles in future. The exact 3D morphology, atomic structure and especially the surface composition of nanoparticles govern their chemical and physical properties. In a study, the three-dimensional structure of individual nanoparticles has now successfully been determined on the atomic level.

New nanomaterials research from the University at Buffalo could lead to new solutions for an age-old public health problem: how to separate bacteria from drinking water. Working with a special kind of polymer called a block copolymer, a research team has synthesized a new kind of nanomembrane containing pores about 55 nanometers in diameter -- large enough for water to slip through easily, but too small for bacteria.

For the first time, a team of scientists have succeeded in combining the concepts of spin electronics and molecular electronics in a single component consisting of a single molecule. Components based on this principle have a special potential, as they allow for the production of very small and highly efficient magnetic field sensors for read heads in hard disks or for non-volatile memories in order to further increase reading speed and data density.
Scanning tunneling microscopy  of organic molecules
Scanning tunneling microscopy (50 x 50 nm2) of organic molecules. Coloring indicates variable spin orientation.

MIT engineers have designed a new type of nanoparticle that could safely and effectively deliver vaccines for diseases such as HIV and malaria. The new particles consist of concentric fatty spheres that can carry synthetic versions of proteins normally produced by viruses. These synthetic particles elicit a strong immune response — comparable to that produced by live virus vaccines — but should be much safer.

Researchers have developed a simple method of making short protein chains with spiral structures that can also dissolve in water, two desirable traits not often found together. Such structures could have applications as building blocks for self-assembling nanostructures and as agents for drug and gene delivery.

Vaccine scientists say their "Holy Grail" is to stimulate immunity that lasts for a lifetime. Live viral vaccines such as the smallpox or yellow fever vaccines provide immune protection that lasts several decades, but despite their success, scientists have remained in the dark as to how they induce such long lasting immunity. Scientists now have designed nanoparticles that resemble viruses in size and immunological composition and that induce lifelong immunity in mice. They designed the particles to mimic the immune-stimulating effects of one of the most successful vaccines ever developed – the yellow fever vaccine. The particles, made of biodegradable polymers, have components that activate two different parts of the innate immune system and can be used interchangeablywith material from many different bacteria or viruses.