David Kirkpatrick

July 2, 2010

Nanotechnology and dentistry

Filed under: Science — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:08 am

Okay, for many, many years I’ve been reading about all sorts of breakthroughs, innovations and miraculous-sounding dental treatments that never really seem to pan out (remember that cavity removing painless gel anyone?), but I couldn’t resist throwing this bit of nanotech out there.

The release:

Nano-sized advance toward next big treatment era in dentistry

IMAGE: Dentists may use a special nano-sized film in the future to bring diseased teeth back to life rather than remove them.

Click here for more information.

Scientists are reporting an advance toward the next big treatment revolution in dentistry — the era in which root canal therapy brings diseased teeth back to life, rather than leaving a “non-vital” or dead tooth in the mouth. In a report in the monthly journal ACS Nano, they describe a first-of-its-kind, nano-sized dental film that shows early promise for achieving this long-sought goal.

Nadia Benkirane-Jessel and colleagues note that root canal procedures help prevent tooth loss in millions of people each year. During the procedure, a dentist removes the painful, inflamed pulp, the soft tissue inside the diseased or injured tooth that contains nerves and blood vessels. Regenerative endodontics, the development and delivery of tissues to replace diseased or damaged dental pulp, has the potential to provide a revolutionary alternative to pulp removal.

The scientists are reporting development of a multilayered, nano-sized film — only 1/50,000th the thickness of a human hair — containing a substance that could help regenerate dental pulp. Previous studies show that the substance, called alpha melanocyte stimulating hormone, or alpha-MSH, has anti-inflammatory properties. The scientists showed in laboratory tests alpha-MSH combined with a widely-used polymer produced a material that fights inflammation in dental pulp fibroblasts. Fibroblasts are the main type of cell found in dental pulp. Nano-films containing alpha-MSH also increased the number of these cells. This could help revitalize damaged teeth and reduce the need for a root canal procedure, the scientists suggest.


“Nanostructured Assemblies for Dental Application”


June 16, 2010

Hard disk storage and nanotechnology

Filed under: Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:50 am

Hard disks made of a nanosphere magnetic recording medium may offer simply stunning amounts of storage space.

From the link:

A new magnetic recording medium made up of tiny nanospheres has been devised by European researchers. The technology may lead to hard disks able to store more than a thousand billion bits of information in a square inch.

With consumer PCs now being sold with hard disks of a  or more – enough to record more than two years of music –  seems to be expanding without limit. But the limits are there and industry insiders know that they are approaching fast.


A spacing of 25 nanometres between spheres is equivalent to a storage density of one terabit (1000 gigabits) per square inch. Using the same approach with smaller spheres researchers should be able to attain densities up to six times higher.

March 13, 2010

Cancer and nanotechnology

Filed under: Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:43 pm

I’ve been using HubPages as an outlet for print work that I retain the rights to after selling FNASR to a publication that doesn’t archive its content online. Last week I decided to create a hub offering a clearinghouse of all my blogging on cancer and nanotechnology to date in an effort to get a lot of basic information in one place for people interested in the topic. HubPages doesn’t allow more than three links back to one source and blocked that hub after a couple of days. Sadly they’ve not returned a request to waive the rule in this case because the hub’s purpose was purely informational, not link building for my blog. So here is the hub’s contents to get it back out there, and I’ve been forced to amend the original hub with nothing more than a link back to this post. Sorry for the confusion, but do enjoy the material. And a large raspberry to HubPages for zero communication on a hub that probably deserved an exception to an otherwise sensible rule.

The original hub:

At my personal blog I cover a wide range of topics, but four areas get a lot of attention — business (particularly small business), politics, the energy sector (particularly solar energy) and nanotechnology. One place nanotech is really shining in terms of regular breakthroughs and practical applications is in cancer research and treatment. Following is a recap of two years of nanotech/cancer blogging with dates of, links to the original posts and a summary of the key information. If you are interested in the intersection of nanotechnology and cancer research, this hub is a great place to get started.

April 2, 2008 — Researchers at UCLA developed a “nanoimpeller” nanomachine that stores cancer fighting drugs for release inside cancer cells in response to light.

April 3, 2008 — Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine used drug-coated nanoparticles to deliver fumigillin to cancerous tumors at a 1000-times reduced dose while remaining effective. Fumigillin has neurotoxic side effects at standard dosage.

May 8, 2008 — Researcher at UC San Diego, UC Santa Barbara and MIT developed “nanoworms” that can travel through the bloodstream and target tumors — even tumors too small for conventional detection.

July 17, 2008 — Researchers at Georgia Tech developed a treatment that attaches magnetic nanoparticles to free-floating cancer cells allowing those cells to be removed from the body.

July 28, 2008 — More on the Georgia Tech treatment with image.

September 8, 2008 — Nanoscale gold rods are a key component in heat-based cancer treatment. The gold nanoparticles are designed to bind only with cancer cells.

September 29, 2008 — A hybrid technology from researchers headed by the National Cancer Institute’s Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer combining a magnetic nanoparticle, a fluorescent quantum dot and an anticancer drug helps to both image and treat cancerous tumors.

February 2, 2009 — Researchers at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center find hollow gold nanospheres containing a targeting peptide track down melanoma cells and penetrate them allowing for treatment with near-infrared light.

November 29. 2009 — A Nature Materials report finds “nanodiscs” made of a nickel-iron alloy can be subjected to a magnetic field to disrupt the membranes of cancer cells and destroy them. Tests found ten minutes of a low magnetic field killed 90% of cancer cells.

January 14, 2010 — Researchers at the National Cancer Institute’s Centers of Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence found two nanoparticles that work in concert to find, bind with and destroy cancer cells. One particle locates and adheres to the tumor and sensitizes the cancer cells for the second nanoparticle that kills the tumor.

February 11, 2010 — This link goes a press release on gold and nanotech. The release mentions gold nanoparticles efficacy in cancer detection and treatment.

February 17, 2010 — Researchers at the University of Missouri created a sensor based on N/MEMS (micro/nanoelectromechanical systems) known as an acoustic resonant sensor that can test for diseases including breast and prostate cancer. The device could lead to a home cancer detection kit.

March 8, 2010 — Researchers at Cornell found nanoparticles made of a dumbbell-shaped two iron oxide particles sandwiching a gold particle can be loaded with an antibody to specifically target cancer cells then become heated by a near infrared laser killing the cells. This treatment is capable of killing cancer cells while leaving nearby healthy cells unharmed.

Keep in mind this hub only covers nanotech/cancer news that caught my eye over the last couple of years. There are breakthroughs happening every day at labs and universities around the world. The field is still in something of its infancy, but nanotechnology in many forms looks like it might be at least one magic bullet in the fight against cancer.

Update: hit this link for all my blog posts on cancer and nanotech.

March 11, 2010

Cancer and nanotechnology

Filed under: Media, Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:19 am

I’ve done a lot of blogging over the last two years on the convergence of cancer research/treatment and nanotechnology. Here’s a HubPages hub that serves as a clearinghouse of those posts to date.

Hit this link if you’d prefer to plow though all the posts here on this blog.

Update 3/13/10 — HubPages doesn’t allow multiple links back to one source, so it pulled my original hub and did not respond to a request to waive the otherwise sensible rule in this case as the hub was not a link-building page for this blog, but simply a method to get a lot of information covering a long time period in one place. Hit this link to find the text of the original hub in its entirety.

February 11, 2010

Gold and nanotechnology

Filed under: Business, Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:02 am

A release from the World Gold Council and Cientifica Ltd., smoking hot from the inbox this morning (the crazy formatting is from the original and I didn’t feel like fixing it, so apologies for reading difficulties):

Gold at Forefront of ‘Nanotechnology Revolution’

LONDON, February 11/PRNewswire/ —

– World Gold Council Research Paper Demonstrates Important Applications
in Development Using Gold Nanoparticles

World Gold Council (WGC) has today published ‘Gold for Good: Gold and
nanotechnology in the age of innovation’, a research paper detailing new
scientific and technological innovations using gold. The report, which was
produced in conjunction with Cientifica Ltd, the world’s leading source of
global business and investor intelligence about nanotechnologies,
demonstrates how gold nanoparticles offer the potential to overcome many of
the serious issues facing mankind over the coming decades.

Gold nanoparticles exhibit a variety of unique properties which, when
harnessed and manipulated effectively, lead to materials whose uses are both
far-ranging in their potential and cost effective. This report explores the
many different applications that are being developed across the fields of
health, environment and technology.

Trevor Keel, Nanotechnology Project Manager at World Gold Council said:

“The opportunities and possibilities identified in this report are just a
subset of the amazing scope to use gold in the era of nanotechnology. As a
readily available and well understood material, gold nanoparticles are ideal
for use in a vast array of applications that improve our lives. WGC is
looking to promote and invest in the development of gold-based innovations
through Innovations Partnerships, so that the full benefits of gold
nanotechnology can be realized.”

Tim Harper, founder of Cientifica Ltd, said:

“Over the last decade, almost $50 billion of government funding has been
invested into nanotechnologies, and this investment is now starting to bear
fruit with a steady stream of commercially viable nanotechnologies which are
positively impacting human health, the environment and technology. This paper
demonstrates the many varied applications in which gold nanotechnology can
improve society’s standard of living.”

Health: Gold has a long history in the biomedical field stretching back
almost five thousand years. However the dawn of the ‘nano-age’ has really
broadened the potential of gold in biomedical applications and today, gold
nanoparticles are being employed in entirely novel ways to achieve
therapeutic effects.

Tumor targeting technologies which exploit gold’s inherent
bio-compatibility are being developed to deliver drugs directly into
cancerous tumours. Additionally, simple, cost effective and sensitive
diagnostic tests are being developed for the early detection of prostate and
other cancers.

Environment: Environmental concerns have never been more prominent –
energy and clean water scarcity, global warming and pollution are all major
issues that need to be addressed. Gold nano-particle based technologies are
showing great promise in providing solutions to a number of environmentally
important issues from greener production methods of the chemical feedstocks,
to pollution control and water purification.

Gold-based catalysts are being developed that can effectively prevent the
release of highly toxic forms of mercury into the atmosphere, the reduction
of chemicals from green feedstock, and also for water purification and
contaminant detection. In addition, gold is being used in meeting the
challenge of constructing cost effective and efficient fuel cells, a key
‘clean-energy’ technology of the future.

Advanced technology: Gold is already a well established
material in the electronics industry and the use of gold can only increase as
the worlds of electronics and nanotechnology interact further in the future.
Gold is being developed for conductive nanoparticle inks for plastic
electronics because of its material compatibility, inherent durability and
proven track record of reliability. Gold nanotechnologies have also been
shown to offer functional benefits for visual display technologies like touch
sensitive screens and potentially for use in advanced data storage
technologies including advanced flash memory devices.

The full paper can be downloaded from:


(Due to the length of this URL, it may be necessary to copy and paste
this hyperlink into your Internet browser’s URL address field. Remove the
space if one exists.)



Innovation Partnerships

World Gold Council works directly with partner companies via Innovation
Partnerships. These support research and development of new practical
applications for the metal, drawing on a genuine commercial market
requirement for innovation. Partner organisations include (but are not
limited to) precious metal, chemical, electronics, materials and biomedical
companies, ranging from small enterprises through to established
international businesses. Interested companies are invited to contact World
Gold Council for further details.

During 2009-2010 World Gold Council is particularly interested in
receiving proposals relating to the following areas:

Industrial catalysts (including catalysts for pollution control and
chemical processing)

Biomedical applications (including medical diagnostics, therapeutics and

Advanced electronics (including any technology or component likely to be
used in next-generation devices)

Fuel cell systems (including applications both within the fuel cell
structure and hydrogen processing infrastructure)

Optical materials (including nanotechnology, chemicals and coatings)

Companies interested in collaborating with World Gold Council
are invited to make contact.

Notes to Editors:

World Gold Council

World Gold Council’s mission is to stimulate and sustain the demand for
gold and to create enduring value for its stakeholders. It is funded by the
world’s leading gold mining companies. For further information please visit


Cientifica Ltd, based in London, is one of the world’s best-respected
consultancy companies in the field of emerging technologies and technology
commercialization. It provides global business intelligence and strategic
consulting services to industry, governments and investors worldwide.


October 2, 2009

Nanotechnology + 35 years = immortality?

Filed under: Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:40 pm

Maybe so according to futurist Ray Kurzweil. I’m a fan of the futurist and often blog on bits from the KurzweilAI.net daily newsletter. His take on these topics is almost always very interesting, and you know a large amount of thought and knowledge have been brought to bear on the subject.

From the link:

In 30 or 40 years, we’ll have microscopic machines traveling through our bodies, repairing damaged cells and organs, effectively wiping out diseases. The nanotechnology will also be used to back up our memories and personalities.

In an interview with Computerworld , author and futurist Ray Kurzweil said that anyone alive come 2040 or 2050 could be close to immortal. The quickening advance of nanotechnology means that the human condition will shift into more of acollaboration of man and machine , as nanobots flow through human blood streams and eventually even replace biological blood, he added.

That may sound like something out of a sci-fi movie, but Kurzweil, a member of the Inventor’s Hall of Fame and a recipient of the National Medal of Technology, says that research well underway today is leading to a time when a combination of nanotechnology and biotechnology will wipe out cancer, Alzheimer’s disease , obesity and diabetes .

It’ll also be a time when humans will augment their natural cognitive powers and add years to their lives, Kurzweil said.

“It’s radical life extension,” Kurzweil said . “The full realization of nanobots will basically eliminate biological disease and aging. I think we’ll see widespread use in 20 years of [nanotech] devices that perform certain functions for us. In 30 or 40 years, we will overcome disease and aging. The nanobots will scout out organs and cells that need repairs and simply fix them. It will lead to profound extensions of our health and longevity.”

December 8, 2008

Nanotechnology needs a PR campaign

I’m doing my part. I’ve been fighting fear and ignorance about the subject and even bringing up some potential drawbacks.

And then I read this. Actually this release is on the same topic as the second link up there in graf one.

The release from today:

Nanotech: To know it is not necessarily to love it

Research shows cultural biases most impact opinion on nanotech

Washington, DC – Public opinion surveys report that the small fraction of people who know about nanotechnology have a favorable view of it. This finding has led many to assume that the public at large will respond favorably to nanotechnology applications as popular awareness grows, education expands and commercialization increases.

But the results of an experiment, conducted by the Cultural Cognition Project at Yale Law School in collaboration with the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies (PEN) and published Dec. 7 on the Nature Nanotechnology Web site, do not support this “familiarity hypothesis.”

The experiment found that how people react to information about nanotechnology depends on cultural predispositions. Exposed to balanced information, people with pro-commerce values tend to see the benefits of nanotechnology as outweighing any risks. However, people with egalitarian or communitarian values who are predisposed to blame commerce and industry for social inequities and environmental harm tend to see nanotechnology risks as outweighing benefits.

The study also found that people who have pro-commerce cultural values are more likely to know about nanotechnology than others. “Not surprisingly, people who are enthused by technology and believe it can be safe and beneficial tend to learn about new technologies before other people do,” said Dan Kahan, Professor at Yale Law School and lead author of the Nature Nanotechnology article. “So while various opinion polls suggest that familiarity with nanotechnology leads people to believe it is safe, they have been confusing cause with effect.”

The findings of the experiment highlight the need for any nanotechnology information and risk communication strategy to focus on message framing and to take an informed, multi-audience approach, according to PEN experts.

“The message matters. How information about nanotechnology is presented to the vast majority of the public who still know little about it can either make or break this technology,” says David Rejeski, the director of PEN. “Scientists, the government and industry generally take a simplistic, ‘just the facts’ approach to communicating with the public about a new technology. But this research shows that diverse audiences and groups react to the same information very differently.”

Because perfecting the science of nanotechnology risk communication is essential to society’s realization of the full benefits of nanotechnology itself, PEN experts believe that every major funding initiative directed at the development of nanotechnology and the study of nanotechnology risks should include a risk-communication component.

“Without investment in understanding how to explain the potential risks, as well as the potential benefits, to the public, significant innovation could be stifled,” Rejeski adds.




The study was conducted as part of a series of public opinion analyses being conducted jointly by the Cultural Cognition Project and the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies. Previous experiments, which also examined the influence of emotion and the identity of information providers on public attitudes, can be found at www.nanotechproject.org/yale.

About Nanotechnology

Nanotechnology is the ability to measure, see, manipulate and manufacture things usually between 1 and 100 nanometers. A nanometer is one billionth of a meter; a human hair is roughly 100,000 nanometers wide. In 2007, the global market for goods incorporating nanotechnology totaled $147 billion. Lux Research projects that figure will grow to $3.1 trillion by 2015.

The Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies is an initiative launched by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and The Pew Charitable Trusts in 2005. It is dedicated to helping business, government and the public anticipate and manage possible health and environmental implications of nanotechnology. For more information about the project, log on to www.nanotechproject.org.

September 30, 2008

Nanotechnology does have drawbacks

As wonderful as all the various nanotechnology applications in medicine, science, technology and other industries are, there are drawbacks. Such as the well-known “gray goo” scenario.

Here’s another potential health issue with nanoparticles.

The release:

When particles are so small that they seep right through skin

Scientists are finding that particles that are barely there – tiny objects known as nanoparticles that have found a home in electronics, food containers, sunscreens, and a variety of applications – can breech our most personal protective barrier: The skin.

The particles under scrutiny by Lisa DeLouise, Ph.D., are almost unfathomably tiny. The particles are less than one five-thousandth the width of a human hair. If the width of that strand of hair were equivalent to the length of a football field, a typical nanoparticle wouldn’t even belly up to the one-inch line.

In the September issue of the journal Nano Letters, a team led by DeLouise at the University of Rochester Medical Center published a paper showing that nanoparticles pass through the skin of a living organism, a type of mouse commonly used as a model to study the damaging effects of sunlight.

It’s the strongest evidence yet indicating that some nanoparticles are so small that they can actually seep through skin, especially when the skin has been damaged.

The health implications of nanoparticles in the body are uncertain, said DeLouise, an assistant professor of Dermatology and Biomedical Engineering and an expert on the properties of nanoparticles. Other scientists have found that the particles can accumulate in the lymph system, the liver, the nervous system, and in other areas of the body. In her study, she found that the particles accumulate around the hair follicles and in tiny skin folds.

DeLouise, a chemist, points out that her study did not directly address the safety of nanoparticles in any way. “We simply wanted to see if nanoparticles could pass through the skin, and we found that they can under certain conditions,” she said.

DeLouise’s work is part of a broad field known as nanomedicine that is a strategic area at the University of Rochester Medical Center. The area includes research, like hers, looking at the properties of nanoparticles, as well as possibilities like new forms of drug delivery and nano-sensors that can immediately identify microbes and other threats to our health.

While nanoparticles are becoming widely used in the manufacture of consumer products, they are also under a great deal of study in research labs, and there are some processes – including ordinary candle flames – that produce them naturally. Some of the particles are so small, less than 10 nanometers wide (a nanometer is one-millionth of a millimeter), that they are nearly as small as the natural gaps between some skin cells.

In its paper in Nano Letters, the team studied the penetration of nanoparticles known as quantum dots that fluoresce under some conditions, making them easier to see and track compared to other nanoparticles. The scientists looked at the distribution of quantum dots in mice whose skin had been exposed to about the same amount of ultraviolet light as might cause a slight sunburn on a person. The team showed that while the nanoparticles were able to breech the skin of all the mice, the particles passed more quickly through skin that had been damaged by ultraviolet light.

Part of the explanation likely lies with the complex reaction of skin when it’s assaulted by the Sun’s rays. In response to ultraviolet light, cells proliferate, and molecules in the skin known as tight-junction proteins loosen so that new cells can migrate to where they’re needed. Those proteins normally act as gatekeepers that determine which molecules to allow through the skin and into the body, and which molecules to block. When the proteins loosen up, they become less selective than usual, possibly giving nanoparticles an opportunity to pass through the barrier.

In the future, DeLouise plans to study titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, two materials that are widely used in sunscreens and other cosmetic products to help block the damaging effects of ultraviolet light. In recent years the size of the metal oxide particles used in many consumer products has become smaller and smaller, so that many now are nanoparticles. The effects of the smaller particle size are visible to anyone who takes a walk on the beach or stops by the cosmetics counter at a department store: The materials are often completely transparent when applied to skin. A transparent lip gloss that protects against UV light, for example, or a see-through sunscreen may contain nanoparticles, DeLouise says.

“A few years ago, a lifeguard at the swimming pool wearing sunscreen might have had his nose completely covered in white. Older sunscreens have larger particles that reflect visible light. But many newer sunscreens contain nanoparticles that are one thousand times smaller, that do not reflect visible light,” said DeLouise, who noted that many people apply sunscreens after their skin has been damaged by sunlight.


Initial funding from two sources allowed the team to gather the evidence necessary to expand the project dramatically. DeLouise’s project was first funded by the University’s Environmental Health Sciences Center, which supported graduate student Luke Mortensen during his research. The University’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute has also awarded $100,000 to the team, and DeLouise has just received $394,000 from the National Science Foundation to expand the project for the next three years. She will be working with dermatologist Lisa Beck, M.D., who is an expert in allergic skin disorders.

In addition to DeLouise and Mortensen, authors of the paper include Günter Oberdörster, Ph.D., professor of Environmental Medicine and a widely recognized authority on the bio-effects of nanoparticles. Oberdörster is director of the Particulate Matter Center, funded by the Environmental Protection Agency, where scientists study the link between tiny air particles we breathe every day and our cardiovascular health. Dermatologist Alice Pentland, M.D., professor and chair of the Department of Dermatology and an expert on how sunlight brings about skin cancer, was also an author.

PhysOrg covered this story here.

July 16, 2008

The Casimir force and nanotechnology

Filed under: Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:54 am

I first blogged on the Casimir force, stiction and nanotech a couple of weeks ago (find that post here and check out the first item) Here’s some updated news out of the University of Florida. Physicists there have found a way to reduce quantum stickiness.

From the second link:

What seems like magic is known as the Casimir force, and it has been well-documented in experiments. The cause goes to the heart of quantum physics: Seemingly empty space is not actually empty but contains virtual particles associated with fluctuating electromagnetic fields. These particles push the plates from both the inside and the outside. However, only virtual particles of shorter wavelengths — in the quantum world, particles exist simultaneously as waves — can fit into the space between the plates, so that the outward pressure is slightly smaller than the inward pressure. The result is the plates are forced together.

Now, University of Florida physicistshave found they can reduce the Casimir force by altering the surface of the plates. The discovery could prove useful as tiny “microelectromechanical” systems — so-called MEMS devices that are already used in a wide array of consumer products — become so small they are affected by quantum forces.

July 11, 2008

A whole slew of nanotechnology news

In a departure from the usual format, here’s a roundup of nanotech news from the last two days of KurzweilAI.net’s e-newsletter. There’s so much here these bits are taken straight from the email.

Controlling the Size of
Nanoclusters: First Step in Making
New Catalysts
KurzweilAI.net July 10, 2008
Researchers from the U.S.
Department of Energy’s (DOE)
Brookhaven National Laboratory and
Stony Brook University have
developed a new instrument that
allows them to control the size of
nanoclusters — groups of 10 to 100
atoms — with atomic precision. The
device could allow for making
nanoclusters with predetermined
size, structure and…

Nanotubes Hold Promise for
Next-Generation Computing
Wired July 9, 2008
Two groups of researchers have
recently published papers
demonstrating advances in creating,
sorting and organizing carbon
nanotubes so they can be used in
electronics. Stanford electrical
engineers addressed the problem of
getting nanotubes straightened out
so they could be put to work in
chips, by growing the nanotubes on
crystalline quartz,…

Assembling Nanotubes
Technology Review July 10, 2008
Stanford University and Samsung
Advanced Institute of Technology
researchers have developed a new
method for sorting single-walled
carbon nanotubes by electronic type
and arranging them over a large
area; it could be useful for
manufacturing high-performance
displays and other electronic
devices. (Melburne LeMieux /
Stanford University)…

Nanotubes bring artificial
photosynthesis a step nearer
New Scientist news service July 11, 2008
Carbon nanotubes are the crucial
chemical ingredient that could make
artificial photosynthesis possible,
say Chinese researchers. Artificial
photosynthesis could efficiently
produce hydrogen that could be used
as a clean fuel and also mop up
carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
By covalently bonding a large number
of phthalocyanine molecules…

February 27, 2008

Nanotechnology advances in quantum computing

Filed under: Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:52 pm

More cool nanotech. This time from the KurzweilAI.net newsletter. For reference, a qubit is a unit of quantum information.

Physicists Demonstrate Qubit-Qutrit Entanglement
PhysOrg.com, Feb. 26, 2008An international team of physicists entangled a qubit with its 3D equivalent, the “qutrit,” demonstrating a new way to handle higher-dimensional quantum information carriers.

Qubit-qutrit entanglement could lead to advantages in quantum computing, such as increased security and more efficient quantum gates, and enable novel tests of quantum mechanics. A qutrit is the quantum informationanalogue of the classical trit and carries more information: it exists in superpositions of its three basics states, while a qubit can exist in superpositions of its two states.
Read Original Article>>

February 22, 2008

Nanotechnology fiber optic boost

Filed under: Science, Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:01 am

Cool news from the KurzweilAI.net newsletter. Nanotech that amplifies and sharpens fiber-op lines.

Replacing bulk with nanotechnology, researchers find new way to keep fiber-optic signal sharp
Nanowerk News, Feb. 20, 2008

Cornell researchers have demonstrated that a single photonic microchip–using four-wave mixing to amplify an optical signal by “pumping” with another beam of light–can replace the bulky bundles of fiber or electronic amplifiers now needed to clean up and sharpen fiber optic signals distorted by distance.

See also Researchers create a broadband light amplifier on a chip
Read Original Article>>


November 4, 2010

Transparent solar panels?

A very real possibility. This sounds like very promising technology.

The release:

Transparent Conductive Material Could Lead to Power-Generating Windows

Combines elements for light harvesting and electric charge transport over large, transparent areas

November 3, 2010

conjugated polymer honeycombClick on the image to download a high-resolution version.Top: Scanning electron microscopy image and zoom of conjugated polymer (PPV) honeycomb. Bottom (left-to-right): Confocal fluorescence lifetime images of conjugated honeycomb, of polymer/fullerene honeycomb double layer and of polymer/fullerene honeycomb blend. Efficient charge transfer within the whole framework is observed in the case of polymer/fullerene honeycomb blend as a dramatic reduction in the fluorescence lifetime.

UPTON, NY — Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory and Los Alamos National Laboratory have fabricated transparent thin films capable of absorbing light and generating electric charge over a relatively large area. The material, described in the journal Chemistry of Materials, could be used to develop transparent solar panels or even windows that absorb solar energy to generate electricity.

The material consists of a semiconducting polymer doped with carbon-rich fullerenes. Under carefully controlled conditions, the material self-assembles to form a reproducible pattern of micron-size hexagon-shaped cells over a relatively large area (up to several millimeters).

“Though such honeycomb-patterned thin films have previously been made using conventional polymers like polystyrene, this is the first report of such a material that blends semiconductors and fullerenes to absorb light and efficiently generate charge and charge separation,” said lead scientist Mircea Cotlet, a physical chemist at Brookhaven’s Center for Functional Nanomaterials (CFN).

Furthermore, the material remains largely transparent because the polymer chains pack densely only at the edges of the hexagons, while remaining loosely packed and spread very thin across the centers. “The densely packed edges strongly absorb light and may also facilitate conducting electricity,” Cotlet explained, “while the centers do not absorb much light and are relatively transparent.”

Mircea CotletClick on the image to download a high-resolution version.Mircea Cotlet, Ranjith Krishna Pai, and Zhihua Xu (seated at the microscope).

“Combining these traits and achieving large-scale patterning could enable a wide range of practical applications, such as energy-generating solar windows, transparent solar panels, and new kinds of optical displays,” said co-author Zhihua Xu, a materials scientist at the CFN.

“Imagine a house with windows made of this kind of material, which, combined with a solar roof, would cut its electricity costs significantly. This is pretty exciting,” Cotlet said.

The scientists fabricated the honeycomb thin films by creating a flow of micrometer-size water droplets across a thin layer of the polymer/fullerene blend solution. These water droplets self-assembled into large arrays within the polymer solution. As the solvent completely evaporates, the polymer forms a hexagonal honeycomb pattern over a large area.

“This is a cost-effective method, with potential to be scaled up from the laboratory to industrial-scale production,” Xu said.

The scientists verified the uniformity of the honeycomb structure with various scanning probe and electron microscopy techniques, and tested the optical properties and charge generation at various parts of the honeycomb structure (edges, centers, and nodes where individual cells connect) using time-resolved confocal fluorescence microscopy.

The scientists also found that the degree of polymer packing was determined by the rate of solvent evaporation, which in turn determines the rate of charge transport through the material.

“The slower the solvent evaporates, the more tightly packed the polymer, and the better the charge transport,” Cotlet said.

“Our work provides a deeper understanding of the optical properties of the honeycomb structure. The next step will be to use these honeycomb thin films to fabricate transparent and flexible organic solar cells and other devices,” he said.

The research was supported at Los Alamos by the DOE Office of Science. The work was also carried out in part at the CFN and the Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies Gateway to Los Alamos facility. The Brookhaven team included Mircea Cotlet, Zhihua Xu, and Ranjith Krishna Pai. Collaborators from Los Alamos include Hsing-Lin Wang and Hsinhan Tsai, who are both users of the CFN facilities at Brookhaven, Andrew Dattelbaum from the Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies Gateway to Los Alamos facility, and project leader Andrew Shreve of the Materials Physics and Applications Division.

The Center for Functional Nanomaterials at Brookhaven National Laboratory and the Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies Gateway to Los Alamos facility are two of the five DOE Nanoscale Science Research Centers (NSRCs), premier national user facilities for interdisciplinary research at the nanoscale. Together the NSRCs comprise a suite of complementary facilities that provide researchers with state-of-the-art capabilities to fabricate, process, characterize and model nanoscale materials, and constitute the largest infrastructure investment of the National Nanotechnology Initiative. The NSRCs are located at DOE’s Argonne, Brookhaven, Lawrence Berkeley, Oak Ridge and Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories.


November 2, 2010

Cool nanotech image — growing nanowires

Cool image and interesting process

nanotechnology image
In the growth of sapphire nanowires using the vapor-liquid-solid method, scientists have observed that a facet at the liquid-solid interface alternately grows and shrinks, which promotes nanowire growth. These images are from the video below. Image credit: Sang Ho Oh, et al.

From the link:

Nanowires can be grown in many ways, but one of the lesser-understood growth processes is vapor-liquid-solid (VLS) growth. In VLS, a vapor adsorbs onto a liquid droplet, and the droplet transports the vapor and deposits it as a crystal at a liquid-solid interface. As the process repeats, a nanowire is built one crystal at a time. One advantage of the VLS process is that it allows scientists to control the nanowire’s growth in terms of size, shape, orientation, and composition, although this requires understanding the growth mechanisms on the atomic scale. In a new study, scientists have investigated the steps involved in VLS growth, and have observed a new oscillatory behavior that could lead to better controlled nanowire growth.

Hit the link for a video of the process.

September 9, 2010

The public is a bit wary of synthetic biology

I’m a boundary-pusher in scientific research — I love nanotechnology, stem cell research, genetic research, robotics applications, and of course, I love the promise of synthetic biology. This poll finds only one-third of of surveyed adults want to see the field banned until it’s better understood, but a majority do want to see more government oversight.

The release:

The Public Looks At Synthetic Biology — Cautiously

WASHINGTON, DC: Synthetic biology—defined as the design and construction of new biological parts, devices, and systems or re-design of existing natural biological systems for useful purposes—holds enormous potential to improve everything from energy production to medicine, with the global market projected to reach $4.5 billion by 2015. But what does the public know about this emerging field, and what are their hopes and concerns? A new poll of 1,000 U.S. adults conducted by Hart Research Associates and the Synthetic Biology Project at the Woodrow Wilson Center finds that two-thirds of Americans think that synthetic biology should move forward, but with more research to study its possible effects on humans and the environment, while one-third support a ban until we better understand its implications and risks. More than half of Americans believe the federal government should be involved in regulating synthetic biology.

“The survey clearly shows that much more attention needs to be paid to addressing biosafety and biosecurity risks,” said David Rejeski, Director of the Synthetic Biology Project. “In addition, government and industry need to engage the public about the science and its applications, benefits, and risks.”

The poll findings reveal that the proportion of adults who say they have heard a lot or some about synthetic biology has almost tripled in three years, (from 9 percent to 26 percent). By comparison, self-reported awareness of nanotechnology increased from 24 percent to 34 percent during the same three-year period.

Although the public supports continued research in the area of synthetic biology, it also harbors concerns, including 27 percent who have security concerns (concerns that the science will be used to make harmful things), 25 percent who have moral concerns, and a similar proportion who worry about negative health consequences for humans. A smaller portion, 13 percent, worries about possible damage to the environment.

“The survey shows that attitudes about synthetic biology are not clear-cut and that its application is an important factor in shaping public attitudes towards it,” said Geoff Garin, President of Hart Research. Six in 10 respondents support the use of synthetic biology to produce a flu vaccine. In contrast, three-fourths of those surveyed have concerns about its use to accelerate the growth of livestock to increase food production. Among those for whom moral issues are the top concern, the majority views both applications in a negative light.

The findings come from a nationwide telephone survey of 1,000 adults and has a margin of error of ± 3.1 percentage points. This is the fifth year that Hart Research Associates has conducted a survey to gauge public opinion about nanotechnology and/or synthetic biology for the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.


The report can be found at: www.synbioproject.org

The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars of the Smithsonian Institution was established by Congress in 1968 and is headquartered in Washington, D.C. It is a nonpartisan institution, supported by public and private funds and engaged in the study of national and world affairs.

September 7, 2010

Low cost desalination for potable water

Via KurzweilAI.net — A theoretical device from the recently concluded Singularity University. This sounds like a fresh water solution with real promise.

From the first link:

Our approach leverages advances in 3 exponentially growing fields: synthetic biology, nanotechnology, and solar energy.  Synthetic biology is a factor because synthetic molecules are currently being developed that can create ionic bonds with sodium and chloride molecules, enabling fresh water to pass through a nanofilter using only the pressure of the water above the pipe.

Nanotechnology is relevant for reverse osmosis, because using thinner filter further reduces the amount of pressure required to separate fresh water from salt water. A filtration cube measuring 165mm (6.5 inches) per side could produce 100,000 gallons of purified water per day at 1 psi. Finally, as advances in solar energy improve the efficiency of  photovoltaics, the throughput of solar pumps will increase significantly, enabling more efficient movement and storage of fresh water.

Although the individual components described above have not advanced to a point where the solution is possible at present, we were able to speak with leading experts in each of these areas as to the timeline for these capabilities to be realized.

Synthetic molecules capable of bonding with sodium and chloride molecules have already been created, but have not yet been converted to an appropriate form for storage, such as a cartridge. This is expected to occur in the next 2-3 years. Filters are currently in the 10-15nm range, and are expected to reach 1nm over the next 3-5 years. As with the synthetic molecules, 1nm tubes have been built; just not assembled into a filter at this point. Photovoltaics are currently approximately 12% efficient, but it is anticipated that 20% efficiency is achievable in the next 5 years.

A possible implementation of our Naishio solution. The pressure from the water volume is sufficient to propel fresh water across the membrane (A), and photovoltaics (D) generate all the energy needed to pump water from the repository (C) to the water tank and circulator (E). Sensors (B) communicate between the solar pump and membrane to regulate the water level and ensure it doesn’t become contaminated. (Image: Sarah Jane Pell).

August 27, 2010

Oil spill news

Filed under: Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:18 pm

Came across two interesting news items on oil spills. One is on a technology developed by MIT researchers on cleaning up surface oil after a spill and the second involves the BP Deepwater Horizon spill and how microbes may be cleaning at least the oil in deep water plumes.

From the second link:

Microbes may become the heroes of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill by gobbling up oil more rapidly than anyone expected. Now some experts suggest we ought to artificially stimulate such microbes in stricken marshland areas to aid their cleanup.

Evidence published this week shows that deep-water microbes in the Gulf may be rapidly chewing up BP’s spilled crude. This could sway federal authorities to use petroleum-digesting microbes or fertilizer additives that can stimulate naturally occurring bacteria for future spills. Such measures were originally rejected for the BP spill.

From the first link, the story on MIT’s oil spill clean-up tech comes from KurzweilAI.net:

MIT researchers unveil autonomous oil-absorbing robot

August 27, 2010 by Editor

Researchers at MIT have created a robotic prototype that could autonomously navigate the surface of the ocean to collect surface oil and process it on site.

The system, called Seaswarm, is a fleet of vehicles that may make cleaning up future oil spills both less expensive and more efficient than current skimming methods.

The Seaswarm robot uses a conveyor belt covered with a thin nanowire mesh to absorb oil. The fabric, previously featured in a paper published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, can absorb up to twenty times its own weight in oil while repelling water. By heating up the material, the oil can be removed and burnt locally and the nanofabric can be reused.

The Seaswarm robot, which is 16 feet long and seven feet wide, uses two square meters of solar panels for self-propulsion. With just 100 watts, the equivalent of one household light bulb, it could potentially clean continuously for weeks.

Using swarm behavior, the units will use wireless communication and GPS and manage their coordinates and ensure an even distribution over a spill site. By detecting the edge of a spill and moving inward, a single vehicle could clean an entire site autonomously or engage other vehicles for faster cleaning.

MIT researchers estimate that a fleet of 5,000 Seaswarm robots would be able to clean a spill the size of the gulf in one month. The team has future plans to enter their design into the X-Prize’s $1 million oil-cleanup competition. The award is given to the team that can most efficiently collect surface oil with the highest recovery rate.

By autonomously navigating the water’s surface, Seaswarm proposes a new system for ocean-skimming and oil removal. Video: Senseable City Lab

More info: MIT news

August 20, 2010

Is the US in danger of losing its nanotech hegemony?

Via KurzweilAI.net — Not just yet, but there are a number of countries putting money and other resources into nanotechnology. One place the United States could stand to see a lot of improvement is commercializing the nanotech developments going on right now.

From the link:

U.S. Risks Losing Global Leadership in Nanotech

August 20, 2010 by Editor

The U.S. dominated the rest of the world in nanotech funding and new patents last year, as U.S. government funding, corporate spending, and VC investment in nanotech collectively reached $6.4 billion in 2009. But according to a new report from Lux Research, countries such as China and Russia launched new challenges to U.S. dominance in 2009, while smaller players such as Japan, Germany and South Korea surpassed the United States in terms of commercializing nanotechnology and products.

The report, titled “Ranking the Nations on Nanotech: Hidden Havens and False Threats,” compares nanotech innovation and technology development in 19 countries in order to provide government policymakers, corporate leaders and investors a detailed map of the nanotech’s international development landscape. Overall, the report found global investment in nanotech held steady through the recent financial crisis, drawing $17.6 billion from governments, corporations and investors in 2009, a 1% increase over 2008’s $17.5 billion. Only venture capitalists dialed back their support, cutting investments by 43% relative to 2008.

“Part of what motivated our research was the emerging possibility that ambitious new government funding in Russia and China represented a threat to U.S. dominance in nanotech innovation,” said David Hwang, an Analyst at Lux Research, and the report’s lead author. “But while the field certainly gained momentum in both countries as a result of the increased funding, both countries have economic and intellectual property protection issues that prevent them from being real threats just yet.”

To uncover the most fertile environments for technology developers, buyers, and investors, Lux Research mapped the nanotech ecosystems of select nations, building on earlier reports published from 2005 through 2008. In addition to tracking fundamentals, such as the number of nanotech publications and patents issued, the report also inventoried direct and indirect spending on nanotech from government, corporate and venture sources. Among its key observations:

  • The U.S. continues to dominate in nanotech development… for now. Last year saw the U.S. lead all other countries in terms of government funding, corporate spending, VC investment, and patent issuances. But its capacity to commercialize those technologies and leverage them to grow the economy is comparatively mediocre. U.S. competitiveness in long-term innovation is also at risk, as the relative number of science and engineering graduates in its population is significantly lower than it is in other countries.
  • Other countries stand to get more bang for their nanotech buck. Japan, Germany, and South Korea continued their impressive trajectories from 2008, earning top spots in publications, patents, government funding, and corporate spending. Compared to the U.S., all three also remain more focused on nanotech and appear more adept at commercializing new technology. The relative magnitude of the technology manufacturing sectors in these three countries are the world’s highest, meaning their economies stand to benefit the most from nanotech commercialization.
  • Russian and Chinese investment in nanotech yields slow progress. While both governments launched generous nanotech investment programs last year, the technology hasn’t gained momentum in either country’s private sector, both of which have a history of skimping on R&D. The relative lack of momentum was further underscored by the abysmal number of new nanotech patents for either country last year.

“Ranking the Nations on Nanotech: Hidden Havens and False Threats,” is part of the Lux Nanomaterials Intelligence service. Clients subscribing to this service receive ongoing research on market and technology trends, continuous technology scouting reports and proprietary data points in the weekly Lux Research Nanomaterials Journal, and on-demand inquiry with Lux Research analysts.

More info: Lux Research

August 17, 2010

Nanotech and solar efficiency

Nanotechnology and solar energy get a lot of virtual ink around here, and I always enjoy getting the chance to blog about both topics in the same post. This study finds that incorporating quantum dots in photovoltaic solar cells through nanoscience should both increase the efficiency of the cells and reduce their cost. A win-win all the way around.

From the link:

As the fastest growing energy technology in the world, solar energy continues to account for more and more of the world’s energy supply. Currently, most commercial photovoltaic power comes from bulk semiconductor materials. But in the past few years, scientists have been investigating how semiconductor nanostructures can increase the efficiency of solar cells and the newer field of solar fuels.

Although there has been some controversy about just how much nanoscience can improve solar cells, a recent overview of this research by Arthur Nozik, a researcher at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and professor at the University of Colorado, shows that semiconductor nanostructures have significant potential for converting solar energy into electricity

August 11, 2010

Advancing substrate-independent minds

Filed under: et.al., Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 10:24 am

Via KurzweilAI.net — if you are into futurism at all this blog post at KurzweilAI is worth the time for a full read.

Here’s a taste from the link:

What might brains and minds look like in the future? It can be difficult to manage and organize ideas from many highly specialized fields of expertise that must necessarily converge to answer this intriguing question. Not only must one consider the areas of brain imaging, neuroscience, and cognitive psychology, but also artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, biotechnology, computational hardware architectures, and philosophy.

In the past, the transferal of minds into computer-based systems has been rather vaguely referred to as “uploading.” However, those hoping to advance this multidisciplinary field of research prefer to use the  term Advancing Substrate Independent Minds (ASIM), to emphasize a more scientific, and less science-fiction approach to creating emulations of human brains in non-biological substrates. The term ASIM captures the fact that there are several ways in which hardware and software may be used to run algorithms that mimic the human brain, and that there are many different approaches that can be used to realize this end goal.

August 4, 2010

Invisibility cloak update

It’s been several months since I’ve come across any news on invisibility cloak technology, something of a pet subject around here, but here’s the very latest — findings on transformation optics.

From the second link, the release:

New findings promising for ‘transformation optics,’ cloaking

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Researchers have overcome a fundamental obstacle in using new “metamaterials” for radical advances in optical technologies, including ultra-powerful microscopes and computers and a possible invisibility cloak.

The metamaterials have been plagued by a major limitation: too much light is “lost,” or absorbed by metals such as silver and gold contained in the metamaterials, making them impractical for optical devices.

However, a Purdue University team has solved this hurdle, culminating three years of research based at the Birck Nanotechnology Center at the university’s Discovery Park.

“This finding is fundamental to the whole field of metamaterials,” said Vladimir M. Shalaev, Purdue’s Robert and Anne Burnett Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “We showed that, in principle, it’s feasible to conquer losses and develop these materials for many applications.”

Research findings are detailed in a paper appearing on Aug. 5 in the journal Nature.

The material developed by Purdue researchers is made of a fishnet-like film containing holes about 100 nanometers in diameter and repeating layers of silver and aluminum oxide. The researchers etched away a portion of the aluminum oxide between silver layers and replaced it with a “gain medium” formed by a colored dye that can amplify light.

Other researchers have applied various gain media to the top of the fishnet film, but that approach does not produce sufficient amplification to overcome losses, Shalaev said.

Instead, the Purdue team found a way to place the dye between the two fishnet layers of silver, where the “local field” of light is far stronger than on the surface of the film, causing the gain medium to work 50 times more efficiently.

The approach was first developed by former Purdue doctoral student Hsiao-Kuan Yuan, now at Intel Corp., and it was further developed and applied by doctoral student Shumin Xiao.

Unlike natural materials, metamaterials are able to reduce the “index of refraction” to less than one or less than zero. Refraction occurs as electromagnetic waves, including light, bend when passing from one material into another. It causes the bent-stick-in-water effect, which occurs when a stick placed in a glass of water appears bent when viewed from the outside.

Being able to create materials with an index of refraction that’s negative or between one and zero promises a range of potential breakthroughs in a new field called transformation optics. Possible applications include a “planar hyperlens” that could make optical microscopes 10 times more powerful and able to see objects as small as DNA; advanced sensors; new types of “light concentrators” for more efficient solar collectors; computers and consumer electronics that use light instead of electronic signals to process information; and a cloak of invisibility.

Excitement about metamaterials has been tempered by the fact that too much light is absorbed by the materials. However, the new approach can dramatically reduce the “absorption coefficient,” or how much light and energy is lost, and might amplify the incident light so that the metamaterial becomes “active,” Shalaev said.

“What’s really important is that the absorption coefficient can be as small as only one-millionth of what it was before using our approach,” Shalaev said. “We can even have amplification of light instead of its absorption. Here, for the first time, we showed that metamaterials can have a negative refractive index and amplify light.”

The Nature paper was written by Xiao, senior research scientist Vladimir P. Drachev, principal research scientist Alexander V. Kildishev, doctoral student Xingjie Ni, postdoctoral fellow Uday K. Chettiar, Yuan, and Shalaev.

Fabricating the material was a major challenge, Shalaev said.

First, the researchers had to learn how to precisely remove as much as possible of the aluminum oxide layer in order to vacate space for dye without causing a collapse of the structure.

“You remove it almost completely but leave a little bit to act as pillars to support the structure, and then you spin coat the dye-doped polymer inside the structure,” he said.

The researchers also had to devise a way to deposit just the right amount of dye mixed with an epoxy between the silver layers of the perforated film.

“You can’t deposit too much dye and epoxy, which have a positive refractive index, but only a thin layer about 50 nanometers thick, or you lose the negative refraction,” Shalaev said.

Future work may involve creating a technology that uses an electrical source instead of a light source, like semiconductor lasers now in use, which would make them more practical for computer and electronics applications.


The work was funded by the U.S. Army Research Office and the National Science Foundation.

Hit this link for the related image (it’s just too big for this blog and I didn’t feel like doing any resizing), and here’s the accompanying caption for the image:

This illustration shows the structure of a new device created by Purdue researchers to overcome a fundamental obstacle in using new “metamaterials” for radical advances in optical technologies, including ultrapowerful microscopes and computers and a possible invisibility cloak. The material developed by the researchers is a perforated, fishnet-like film made of repeating layers of silver and aluminum oxide. The researchers etched away a portion of the aluminum oxide between silver layers and replaced it with a “gain medium” to amplify light. (Birck Nanotechnology Center, Purdue University)

August 2, 2010

Making nanofabrication better

This sounds very promising. Lower costs mean more freedom to tinker and more practical utilization. Totally different field here, but on-site 3D printing  is within reach of the small- to mid-sized business now with some of Objet‘s smaller models.

From the first link:

A Northwestern University research team has done just that — drawing 15,000 identical skylines with tiny beams of  using an innovative nanofabrication technology called beam-pen lithography (BPL).

Details of the new method, which could do for nanofabrication what the desktop printer has done for printing and information transfer, will be published Aug. 1 by the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

The Northwestern technology offers a means to rapidly and inexpensively make and prototype circuits, optoelectronics and medical diagnostics and promises many other applications in the electronics, photonics and life sciences industries.

“It’s all about miniaturization,” said Chad A. Mirkin, George B. Rathmann Professor of Chemistry in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and director of Northwestern’s International Institute for Nanotechnology. “Rapid and large-scale transfer of information drives the world. But conventional micro- and nanofabrication tools for making structures are very expensive. We are trying to change that with this new approach to photolithography and nanopatterning.”


Beam-pen lithography could lead to the development of a desktop printer of sorts for , giving individual researchers a great deal of control of their work.

“Such an instrument would allow researchers at universities and in the electronics industry around the world to rapidly prototype — and possibly produce — high-resolution electronic devices and systems right in the lab,” Mirkin said. “They want to test their patterns immediately, not have to wait for a third-party to produce prototypes, which is what happens now.”

July 30, 2010

High tech contact lenses and NASA

News from NASA hot from today’s inbox. And a bit of a departure from the expected space news out of NASA.

The release:

NASA Talk is High Tech Prescription for Contact Lenses

HAMPTON, Va., July 30 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Imagine your contact lenses being able to improve your vision and tell your temperature.

(Logo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20081007/38461LOGO)
(Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20081007/38461LOGO)

On Tuesday, Aug. 3, at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Professor Babak Parviz, from the University of Washington presents, “What If Your Contact Lens Could Show You Images” at 2 p.m. in the Reid Conference Center. Parviz will provide an overview of the process it took to build contact lenses to display and monitor information about a person’s health.

On Tuesday evening, Parviz will present a similar talk for the general public at 7:30 p.m. at the Virginia Air & Space Center in downtown Hampton. The evening presentation is free and no reservations are required.

Through advancements in nanotechnology, Parviz will explain the how contact lenses have been converted into systems that can complete extraordinary tasks.

Researchers at the University of Washington are working on integrating small optical, electronic and biosensing devices into contact lenses. The lenses are designed to display information to the user and to continuously monitor the person’s health through the biochemistry of the eye surface.

Parviz’ research at the University of Washington includes nanotechnology, bionanotechnolgy and microsystems. His work was chosen by Time magazine as one of the top inventions of the year in 2008 and is on display at the London Museum of Science.

Parviz attended the University of Michigan, earning graduate degrees in physics and electrical engineering and studied chemistry and chemical biology at Harvard University. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology Review selected Parviz as one of the top innovators under the age of 35 in 2007. He is also the recipient of the National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Award for his exceptional integration of education and research.

For more information about NASA Langley’s Colloquium and Sigma Series Lectures:


Photo:  http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20081007/38461LOGO
PRN Photo Desk photodesk@prnewswire.com
Source: NASA

Web Site:  http://www.nasa.gov/

July 16, 2010

Solar plus nanotech equals lower cost cells

I always love covering news that combines solar and nanotechnology, particularly when the combo leads to lower costs for solar power. I’ve previously blogged about nanopillars leading increased solar efficiency.

From the first link:

A material with a novel nanostructure developed by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley could lead to lower-cost solar cells and light detectors. It absorbs light just as well as commercial thin-film solar cells but uses much less semiconductor material.

The new material consists of an array of nanopillars that are narrow at the top and thicker at the bottom. The narrow tops allow light to penetrate the array without reflecting off. The thicker bottom absorbs light so that it can be converted into electricity. The design absorbs 99 percent of visible light, compared to the 85 percent absorbed by an earlier design in which the nanopillars were the same thickness along their entire length. An ordinary flat film of the material would absorb only 15 percent of the light.

Thick and thin: A scanning electron microscope image shows dual-diameter light-trapping germanium nanopillars.

Credit: Ali Javey, UC Berkeley

Nanotech and breast cancer

Nanotechnology is proving to be a key component in the fight against cancer and I’ve done a lot of blogging about the topic. Here’s another breakthrough on that front, this time targeting breast cancer with an arsenic nanoparticle.

From the second link, the release:

New Arsenic Nanoparticle Blocks Aggressive Breast Cancer

New technology targets cancer prevalent in young women

By Marla Paul

CHICAGO — You can teach an old drug new chemotherapy tricks. Northwestern University researchers took a drug therapy proven for blood cancers but ineffective against solid tumors, packaged it with nanotechnology and got it to combat an aggressive type of breast cancer prevalent in young women, particularly young African-American women.

That drug is arsenic trioxide, long part of the arsenal of ancient Chinese medicine and recently adopted by Western oncologists for a type of leukemia. The cancer is triple negative breast cancer, which often doesn’t respond well to traditional chemotherapy and can’t be treated by potentially life-saving targeted therapies. Women with triple negative breast cancer have a high risk of the cancer metastasizing and poor survival rates.

Prior to the new research, arsenic hadn’t been effective in solid tumors. After the drug was injected into the bloodstream, it was excreted too rapidly to work. The concentration of arsenic couldn’t be increased, because it was then too toxic.

A new arsenic nanoparticle — designed to slip undetected through the bloodstream until it arrives at the tumor and delivers its poisonous cargo — solved all that. The nanoparticle, called a nanobin, was injected into mice with triple negative breast tumors. Nanobins loaded with arsenic reduced tumor growth in mice, while the non-encapsulated arsenic had no effect on tumor growth. The arsenic nanobins blocked tumor growth by causing the cancer cells to die by a process known as apoptosis.

The nanobin consists of nanoparticulate arsenic trioxide encapsulated in a tiny fat vessel (a liposome) and coated with a second layer of a cloaking chemical that prolongs the life of the nanobin and prevents scavenger cells from seeing it. The nanobin technology limits the exposure of normal tissue to the toxic drug as it passes through the bloodstream. When the nanobin gets absorbed by the abnormal, leaky blood vessels of the tumor, the nanoparticles of arsenic are released and trapped inside the tumor cells.

“The anti-tumor effects of the arsenic nanobins against clinically aggressive triple negative breast tumors in mice are extremely encouraging,” said Vince Cryns, associate professor of medicine and an endocrinologist at Northwestern Medicine and a member of the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University. “There’s an urgent need to develop new therapies for poor prognosis triple negative breast cancer.”

Cryns and Tom O’Halloran, director of the Chemistry of Life Processes Institute at Northwestern, are senior authors of a paper on the research, which will be published July 15 in Clinical Cancer Research and featured on the journal cover. Richard Ahn, a student in the medical scientists training program at Northwestern, is lead author.

“Everyone said you can’t use arsenic for solid tumors,” said O’Halloran, also associate director of basic sciences at the Lurie Cancer Center. “That’s because they didn’t deliver it the right way. This new technology delivered the drug directly to the tumor, maintained its stability and shielded normal cells from the toxicity. That’s huge.”

The nanoparticle technology has great potential for other existing cancer drugs that have been shelved because they are too toxic or excreted too rapidly, Cryns noted. “We can potentially make those drugs more effective against solid tumors by increasing their delivery to the tumor and by shielding normal cells from their toxicity,” he said. “This nanotechnology platform has the potential to expand our arsenal of chemotherapy drugs to treat cancer.”

“Working with both professors O’Halloran and Cryns has enabled us to develop the nanobins and hopefully create a new platform for the effective treatment of triple negative breast cancer,” Ahn said. “Having both a basic science mentor and breast cancer mentor is ideal training for me as a future physician-scientist.”

Looking ahead, the challenge now is to refine and improve the technology. “How do we make it more toxic to cancer cells and less toxic to healthy cells?” asked Cryns, also the director of SUCCEED, a Northwestern Medicine program to improve the quality of life for breast cancer survivors.

Northwestern scientists are working on decorating the nanobins with antibodies that recognize markers on tumor cells to increase the drug’s uptake by the tumor.  They also want to put two or more drugs into the same nanobin and deliver them together to the tumor.

“Once you fine-tune this, you could use what would otherwise be a lethal or highly toxic dose of the drug, because a good deal of it will be directly released in the tumor,” O’Halloran said.

The research was supported by the National Cancer Institute-funded Northwestern University Center of Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence. Northwestern has one of seven such centers in the United States.

(Northwestern Medicine is comprised of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and Northwestern Memorial Hospital.)

Marla Paul is the health sciences editor

Here’s PhysOrg’s coverage of this story.

July 12, 2010

Latest advance in nanoscience research

News like this is important because a lot of the science of nanotechnology is so new it’s essentially a high-wire act without a net. Working to set some baselines in nanoscience help to improve the entire field.

The release:

University of Toronto chemists make breakthrough in nanoscience research

TORONTO, ON – A team of scientists led by Eugenia Kumacheva of the Department of Chemistry at the University of Toronto has discovered a way to predict the organization of nanoparticles in larger forms by treating them much the same as ensembles of molecules formed from standard chemical reactions.

“Currently, no model exists describing the organization of nanoparticles,” says Kumacheva. “Our work paves the way for the prediction of the properties of nanoparticle ensembles and for the development of new design rules for such structures.”

The focus of nanoscience is gradually shifting from the synthesis of individual nanoparticles to their organization in larger structures. In order to use nanoparticle ensembles in functional devices such as memory storage devices or optical waveguides, it is important to achieve control of their structure.

According to the researchers’ observations, the self-organization of nanoparticles is an efficient strategy for producing nanostructures with complex, hierarchical architectures. “The past decade has witnessed great progress in nanoscience – particularly nanoparticle self-assembly – yet the quantitative prediction of the architecture of nanoparticle ensembles and of the kinetics of their formation remains a challenge,” she continues. “We report on the remarkable similarity between the self-assembly of metal nanoparticles and chemical reactions leading to the formation of polymer molecules. The nanoparticles act as multifunctional single units, which form reversible, noncovalent bonds at specific bond angles and organize themselves into a highly ordered polymer.”

“We developed a new approach that enables a quantitative prediction of the architecture of linear, branched, and cyclic self-assembled nanostructures, their aggregation numbers and size distribution, and the formation of structural isomers.”

Kumacheva was joined in the research by postdoctoral fellows Kun Liu, Nana Zhao and Wei Li, and former doctoral student Zhihong Nie, along with Professor Michael Rubinstein of the University of North Carolina. As polymer chemists, the team took an unconventional look at nanoparticle organization.

“We treated them as molecules, not particles, which in a process resembling a polymerization reaction, organize themselves into polymer-like assemblies,” says Kumacheva. “Using this analogy, we used the theory of polymerization and predicted the architecture of the so-called ‘molecules’ and also found other, unexpected features that can find interesting applications.”


The findings were published in a report titled “Step-Growth Polymerization of Inorganic Nanoparticles” in the July 9 issue of Science. The research was funded with support from an NSERC Discovery Grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and Canada Research Chair funding.

July 8, 2010

Drug delivery system, electromagnetic fields and nanotech

Medical news about nanotechnology.

The release:

Researchers develop drug delivery system using nanoparticles triggered by electromagnetic field

KINGSTON, R.I. July 8, 2010 – A new system for the controlled delivery of pharmaceutical drugs has been developed by a team of University of Rhode Island chemical engineers using nanoparticles embedded in a liposome that can be triggered by non-invasive electromagnetic fields.

The discovery by URI professors Geoffrey Bothun and Arijit Bose and graduate student Yanjing Chen was published in the June issue of ACS Nano.

According to Bothun, liposomes are tiny nanoscale spherical structures made of lipids that can trap different drug molecules inside them for use in delivering those drugs to targeted locations in the body. The superparamagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles the researchers embed in the shell of the liposome release the drug by making the shell leaky when heat-activated in an alternating current electromagnetic field operating at radio frequencies.

“We’ve shown that we can control the rate and extent of the release of a model drug molecule by varying the nanoparticle loading and the magnetic field strength,” explained Bothun. “We get a quick release of the drug with magnetic field heating in a matter of 30 to 40 minutes, and without heating there is minimal spontaneous leakage of the drug from the liposome.”

Bothun said that the liposomes self-assemble because portions of the lipids are hydrophilic – they have a strong affinity for water – and others are hydrophobic – they avoid water. When he mixes lipids and nanoparticles in a solvent, adds water and evaporates off the solvent, the materials automatically assemble themselves into liposomes. The hydrophobic nanoparticles and lipids join together to form the shell of the liposome, while the water-loving drug molecules are captured inside the spherical shell.

“The concept of loading nanoparticles within the hydrophobic shell to focus the activation is brand new,” Bothun said. “It works because the leakiness of the shell is ultimately what controls the release of the drugs.”

The next step in the research is to design and optimize liposome/nanoparticle assemblies that can target cancer cells or other disease-causing cells. In vitro cancer cell studies are already underway in collaboration with URI pharmacy professor Matthew Stoner.

“We are functionalizing the liposomes by putting in different lipids to help stabilize and target them so they can seek out particular cancer cell types,” he said. “We are building liposomes that will attach to particular cells or tumor regions.”

Bothun said that research on nanomedicine shows great promise, but there are still many challenges to overcome, and the targeting of appropriate cells may be the greatest challenge.

“Any ability to target the drug is better than a drug that goes everywhere in your system and generates off-target effects,” he said, noting that the hair loss and nausea from anti-cancer drugs are the result of the high drug concentrations needed for treatment and the drug’s affect on non-target cells. “If you can get an assembly to a targeted site without losing its contents in the process, that’s the holy grail.”


July 3, 2010

Toward quantum computing

This news comes from the University of Maryland offering another advancement toward a quantum computer — something that is ways off yet — that involves nanotechnology.

The release:

UM Scientists Advance Quantum Computing & Energy Conversion Tech

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Using a unique hybrid nanostructure, University of Maryland researchers have shown a new type of light-matter interaction and also demonstrated the first full quantum control of qubit spin within very tiny colloidal nanostructures (a few nanometers), thus taking a key step forward in efforts to create a quantum computer.

Published in the July 1 issue of Nature, their research builds on work by the same Maryland research team published in March in the journal Science (3-26-10). According to the authors and outside experts, the new findings further advance the promise these new nanostructures hold for quantum computing and for new, more efficient, energy generation technologies (such as photovoltaic cells), as well as for other technologies that are based on light-matter interactions like biomarkers.

“The real breakthrough is that we use a new technology from materials science to ‘shed light’ on light-matter interactions and related quantum science in ways that we believe will have important applications in many areas, particularly energy conversion and storage and quantum computing,” said lead researcher Min Ouyang, an assistant professor in the department of physics and in the university’s Maryland NanoCenter. “In fact, our team already is applying our new understanding of nanoscale light-matter interactions and advancement of precise control of nanostructures to the development of a new type of photovoltaic cell that we expect to be significantly more efficient at converting light to electricity than are current cells.”

Ouyang and the other members of the University of Maryland team — research scientist Jiatao Zhang, and students Kwan Lee and Yun Tang — have created a patent-pending process that uses chemical thermodynamics to produce, in solution, a broad range of different combination materials, each with a shell of structurally perfect mono-crystal semiconductor around a metal core. In the research published in this week’s Nature, the researchers used hybrid metal/semiconductor nanostructures developed through this process to experimentally demonstrate “tunable resonant coupling” between a plasmon (from metal core) and an exciton (from semiconductor shell), with a resulting enhancement of the Optical Stark Effect. This effect was discovered some 60 years ago in studies of the interaction between light and atoms that showed light can be applied to modify atomic quantum states.

Nanostructures, Large Advances
“Metal-semiconductor heteronanostructures have been investigated intensely in the last few years with the metallic components used as nanoscale antennas to couple light much more effectively into and out of semiconductor nanoscale, light-emitters,” said Garnett W. Bryant, leader of the Quantum Processes and Metrology Group in the Atomic Physics Division of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). “The research led Min Ouyang shows that a novel heteronanostructure with the semiconductor surrounding the metallic nanoantenna can achieve the same goals. Such structures are very simple and much easier to make than previously attempted, greatly opening up possibilities for application. Most importantly, they have demonstrated that the light/matter coupling can be manipulated to achieve coherent quantum control of the semiconductor nanoemitters, a key requirement for quantum information processing,” said Bryant, who is not involved with this research. Bryant also is a scientist in the Joint Quantum Institute, a leading center of quantum science research that is a partnership between NIST and the University of Maryland.

Ouyang and his colleagues agree that their new findings were made possible by their crystal-metal hybrid nanostructures, which offer a number of benefits over the epitaxial structures used for previous work. Epitaxy has been the principle way to create single crystal semiconductors and related devices. The new research highlights the new capabilities of these UM nanostructures, made with a process that avoids two key constraints of epitaxy — a limit on deposition semiconductor layer thickness and a rigid requirement for “lattice matching.”

The Maryland scientists note that, in addition to the enhanced capabilities of their hybrid nanostructures, the method for producing them doesn’t require a clean room facility and the materials don’t have to be formed in a vacuum, the way those made by conventional epitaxy do. “Thus it also would be much simpler and cheaper for companies to mass produce products based on our hybrid nanostructures,” Ouyang said.

UM: Addressing Big Issues, Exploring Big Ideas
Every day University of Maryland faculty and student researchers are making a deep impact on the scientific, technological, political, social, security and environmental challenges facing our nation and world. Working in partnership with federal agencies, and international and industry collaborators, they are advancing knowledge and solutions in a areas such as climate change, global security, energy, public health, information technology, food safety and security, and space exploration.


Schematic of hybrid core-shell growth process

“Tailoring light-matter-spin interactions in colloidal hetero-nanostructures” Jiatao Zhang, Yun Tang, Kwan Lee, Min Ouyang, Nature, July 1, 2010.

This work was supported by the Office of Naval Research, the National Science Foundation (NSF), and Beckman Foundation. Facility support was from Maryland Nanocenter and its Nanoscale Imaging, Spectroscopy, and Properties Laboratory, which is supported in part by the NSF as a Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers shared experiment facility.

May 31, 2010

Singularity Summit 2010

Via KurzweilAI.net — just the news …

Singularity Summit 2010 returns to San Francisco, explores intelligence augmentation
KurzweilAI.net, May 31, 2010

The Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence (SIAI) plans to announce its Singularity Summit 2010 conference tomorrow, scheduled for August 14-15 at the Hyatt Regency San Francisco.

“This year, the conference shifts to a focus on neuroscience, bioscience, cognitive enhancement, and other explorations of what Vernor Vinge called ‘intelligence amplification‘ (IA) — the other route to the Singularity,” said Michael Vassar, president of SIAI.

Irene Pepperberg, author of “Alex & Me,” who has pushed the frontier of animal intelligence with her research on African Gray Parrots, will explore the ethical and practical implications of non-human intelligence enhancement and of the creation of new intelligent life less powerful than ourselves. Futuristinventor Ray Kurzweil will discuss reverse-engineering the brain and his forthcoming book, How the Mind Works and How to Build One. Allan Synder, Director, Centre for the Mind at the University of Sydney, will explore the use of transcranial magnetic stimulation for the enhancement of narrow cognitive abilities. Joe Tsien will talk about the smarter rats and mice that he created by tuning the molecular substrate of the brain‘s learningmechanism. Steve Mann, “the world’s first cyborg,” will demonstrate his latest geek-chic inventions: wearablecomputers now used by almost 100,000 people.

Other speakers will include magician-skeptic and MacArthur Genius Award winner James Randi; Gregory Stock (Redesigning Humans), Director of the Program on MedicineTechnology, and Society at UCLA’s School of Public Health; Terry Sejnowski, Professor and Laboratory Head, Salk Institute Computational NeurobiologyLaboratory, who believes we are just ten years away from being able to upload ourselves; Ellen Heber-Katz, Professor, Molecular and Cellular Oncogenesis Program at The Wistar Institute, who is investigating the molecular basis of wound regeneration in mutant mice, which can regenerate limbs, hearts, and spinal cords; Anita Goel, MD, physicist, and CEO of nanotechnology company Nanobiosym; and David Hanson, Founder & CEO, HansonRobotics, who is creating the world’s most realistichumanoid robots.

Registration is $385 until June 7.

Full disclosure: KurzweilAI.net is a media partner inSingularity Summit 2010.

May 27, 2010

Killing tumors with gold nanoparticles

Via KurzweilAI.net — The latest in fighting cancer with nanotechnology.

Self-Assembling Gold Nanoparticles Use Light to Kill Tumor Cells
PhysOrg.com, May 26, 2010

Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, have developed a method for creating supramolecular assemblies of gold nanoparticles that function as highly efficient photothermal agents for delivery to tumors, using a laser beam to heat the nanoparticles above 374 degreesC, the temperature at which explosive microbubbles form.
Read Original Article>>

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