Friday, June 10, 2011

This week in nanotechnology - June 10, 2011

A radically new approach to the design of batteries, developed by researchers at MIT, could provide a lightweight and inexpensive alternative to existing batteries for electric vehicles and the power grid. The technology could even make "refueling" such batteries as quick and easy as pumping gas into a conventional car. The new battery relies on an innovative architecture called a semi-solid flow cell, in which solid particles are suspended in a carrier liquid and pumped through the system.

Microscopy with a quantum tip: The heart of a scanning probe microscope is a moveable, suspended tip, which, like the needle on a record player, reacts to small height variations on the surface, and turns these into signals that can be displayed on a computer. Researchers have now been able to create this tip, not out of solid material, but out of an ultra-cold, dilute gas of atoms. This "quantum tip" can be precisely positioned and enables the probing of nanostructured surfaces. With this method, more accurate measurements of the interactions between atoms and surfaces are possible and further cooling of the probe tip gives rise to a so-called Bose-Einstein condensate, which allows a significant increase in the resolution of the microscope.

IBM researchers announced the first integrated circuit fabricated from wafer-size graphene, and demonstrated a broadband frequency mixer operating at frequencies up to 10 gigahertz (10 billion cycles/second). This result opens up possibilities of achieving practical graphene technology with more high-performance, radio-frequency communication devices and is also a major milestone for the Carbon Electronics for RF Applications (CERA) program, funded by DARPA.
Optical image of a completed graphene integrated circuit
Optical image of a completed graphene integrated circuit (IC) including contact pads. The probes for testing the circuit (P1-P4) are also shown. The scale bar is 100 ┬Ám.

You can run but you can't hide - Nanotechnology is key to recovering usable fingerprints from old evidence. Researchers have made an important step towards recovering usable fingerprints from old evidence and surfaces long considered too difficult by crime scene investigators. The new method uses antibodies designed to target amino acids and can detect aged, dry and weak fingerprints that can't be captured using traditional fingerprinting methods.

Electrical engineers have long been toying with the idea of designing biological molecules that can be directly integrated into electronic circuits. University of Pennsylvania researchers have developed a way to form these structures so they can operate in open-air environments, and, more important, have developed a new microscope technique that can measure the electrical properties of these and similar devices.