Friday, May 13, 2011

This week in nanotechnology - May 13, 2011

Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, have demonstrated a new technology for graphene that could break the current speed limits in digital communications. The team built a tiny optical device that uses graphene, a one-atom-thick layer of crystallized carbon, to switch light on and off. This switching ability is the fundamental characteristic of a network modulator, which controls the speed at which data packets are transmitted.

What limits the behaviour of a carbon nanotube? This is a question that many scientists are trying to answer. Physicists at University of Gothenburg, Sweden, have now shown that electromechanical principles are valid also at the nanoscale. In this way, the unique properties of carbon nanotubes can be combined with classical physics – and this may prove useful in the quantum computers of the future.

MIT researchers have created a new detector so sensitive it can pick up a single molecule of an explosive such as TNT. To create the sensors, chemical engineers coated carbon nanotubes with protein fragments normally found in bee venom. This is the first time those proteins have been shown to react to explosives, specifically a class known as nitro-aromatic compounds that includes TNT.
Coated carbon nanotube sensors can detect single molecule of an explosive
The sensor uses carbon nanotubes covered in protein fragments to detect even a single molecule of an explosive, such as the TNT molecule shown here.

In a step toward engineering ever-smaller electronic devices, scientists at the Brookhaven National Laboratory have assembled nanoscale pairings of particles that show promise as miniaturized power sources. Composed of light-absorbing, colloidal quantum dots linked to carbon-based fullerene nanoparticles, these tiny two-particle systems can convert light to electricity in a precisely controlled way.