Friday, June 24, 2011

This week in nanotechnology - June 24, 2011

For decades, researchers have been working to develop nanoparticles that deliver cancer drugs directly to tumors, minimizing the toxic side effects of chemotherapy. However, even with the best of these nanoparticles, only about 1 percent of the drug typically reaches its intended target. Researchers have now designed a new type of delivery system in which a first wave of nanoparticles homes in on the tumor, then calls in a much larger second wave that dispenses the cancer drug.

Scientists have established a biomimetic nanopore that provides a unique test and measurement platform for the way that proteins move into a cell's nucleus. This artificial nanopore is functionalized with key proteins which mimicks the natural nuclear pore and also shows the same selectivity that is found in natural pores.

The eye of the peacock mantis shrimp has led to a two-part waveplate that could improve CD, DVD, blu-ray and holographic technology, creating even higher definition and larger storage density. A team of engineers developed a method to produce periodically multilayered materials, similar to the lens in the peacock mantis shrimp, that are suitable for waveplates in the visual light spectrum and cannot delaminate because they are manufactured as one piece. This waveplate is made of two layers of nanorods that are structurally similar to those in the eye of the peacock mantis shrimp.
peacock mantis shrimp
Peacock mantis shrimp.

Turning carbon dioxide directly into graphene? Yup! Researchers report a new method that converts carbon dioxide directly into few-layer graphene (less than 10 atoms in thickness) by burning pure magnesium metal in dry ice. This synthetic process can be used to potentially produce few-layer graphene in large quantities.

Research into the use of nanotechnology in treating stroke has produced evidence of significant motor function recovery. The use of carbon nanotubes to deliver short strands of RNA – called siRNA – and induce gene silencing of specific target areas in the brain responsible for motor functions has allowed scientists to 'switch off' proteins that contribute to neuronal tissue loss. This collaborative and highly multidisciplinary project offers the possibility of a new treatment for stroke.

Improving concrete performance with nanotechnology: Every day, concrete structures crack and erode prematurely due to Alkali Silica Reactivity (ASR), a chemical reaction that causes fissures in the material as it sets. Research into the optimal use of nano-silica will create a new concrete mixture that will result in longer-lasting buildings, roadways, sidewalks, stairs, sewers, and dams.
Nanocoated 'super sand' for better purification of drinking water: Scientists have developed a way to transform ordinary sand — a mainstay filter material used to purify drinking water throughout the world — into a 'super sand' with five times the filtering capacity of regular sand by coating it with graphite oxide nanosheets.