Friday, June 3, 2011

This week in nanotechnology - June 3, 2011

Graphene is a two-dimensional honeycomb of carbon, just one atom thick, whose intriguing electronic properties include very high electron mobility and very low resistivity. Graphene is so sensitive to its environment, however, that these remarkable attributes can be wrecked by interference from nearby materials. Finding the best substrate on which to mount graphene is critical if graphene devices are ever to become practical. Researchers have joined forces to examine the best substrate candidates for preserving graphene's intrinsic properties.

The creation of a new quasiparticle called the "hybrid plasmon polariton" may throw open the doors to integrated photonic circuits and optical computing for the 21st century. Researchers with the Berkeley Lab have demonstrated the first true nanoscale waveguides for next generation on-chip optical communication systems.

In many ways, life is like a computer. An organism's genome is the software that tells the cellular and molecular machinery—the hardware—what to do. But instead of electronic circuitry, life relies on biochemical circuitry—complex networks of reactions and pathways that enable organisms to function. Now, researchers at Caltech have built the most complex biochemical circuit ever created from scratch, made with DNA-based devices in a test tube that are analogous to the electronic transistors on a computer chip.
A wiring diagram specifying a system of 74 DNA molecules
A wiring diagram specifying a system of 74 DNA molecules that constitute the largest synthetic circuit of its type ever made. The circuit computes the square root of a number up to 15 and rounds down to the nearest integer (the discrete square root of a four-bit integer).

A simple technique for stamping patterns invisible to the human eye onto a special class of nanomaterials provides a new, cost-effective way to produce novel devices in areas ranging from drug delivery to solar cells. The new method works with materials that are riddled with tiny voids that give them unique optical, electrical, chemical and mechanical properties. Imagine a stiff, sponge-like material filled with holes that are too small to see without a special microscope.

University of Houston researchers have developed a method for creating single-crystal arrays of graphene, an advance that opens the possibility of a replacement for silicon in high-performance computers and electronics.