Friday, April 29, 2011

This week in nanotechnology - April 29, 2011

Scientists have created a single-electron transistor that provides a building block for new, more powerful computer memories, advanced electronic materials, and the basic components of quantum computers. The transistor's central component – an island only 1.5 nanometers in diameter – operates with the addition of only one or two electrons. That capability would make the transistor important to a range of computational applications, from ultradense memories to quantum processors, powerful devices that promise to solve problems so complex that all of the world's computers working together for billions of years could not crack them.

Nanotechnology paper is stronger than steel: Graphene paper is a material that can be processed, reshaped and reformed from its original raw material state - graphite. Compared to steel, the prepared graphene paper is six times lighter, five to six times lower density, two times harder with 10 times higher tensile strength and 13 times higher bending rigidity.

Researchers inject nanofiber spheres carrying cells into wounds to grow tissue: for the first time, scientists have made star-shaped, biodegradable polymers that can self-assemble into hollow, nanofiber spheres, and when the spheres are injected with cells into wounds, these spheres biodegrade, but the cells live on to form new tissue.
Nanofibrous hollow microspheres
Nanofibrous hollow microspheres

With its promise of superfast computers and ultrapowerful optical microscopes among the many possibilities, plasmonics has become one of the hottest fields in high-technology. However, to date plasmonic properties have been limited to nanostructures that feature interfaces between noble metals and dielectrics. Now, researchers with the Berkeley Lab have shown that plasmonic properties can also be achieved in the semiconductor nanocrystals known as quantum dots. This discovery should make the field of plasmonics even hotter.

Boosting medicine with nanotechnology strengthens drug cocktail many times over. Researchers describe silica nanoparticles about 150 nanometers in diameter as honeycombed with cavities that can store large amounts and varieties of drugs. The enormous capacity of the nanoporous core, with its high surface area, combined with the improved targeting of an encapsulating lipid bilayer, permit a single 'protocell' loaded with a drug cocktail to kill a drug-resistant cancer cell.

Researchers at MIT have found a way to make significant improvements to the power-conversion efficiency of solar cells by enlisting the services of tiny viruses to perform detailed assembly work at the microscopic level. Researchers found that a genetically engineered version of a virus called M13, which normally infects bacteria, can be used to control the arrangement of carbon nanotubes on a surface, keeping the tubes separate so they can't short out the circuits, and keeping the tubes apart so they don't clump.