Foresight Nanotech Institute Weekly News Digest: January 12, 2007
Nanotechnology that's Good For People
Foresight note: This research illustrates how nanotechnology may be able to monitor the effectiveness of some cancer therapies.
Headline: Detecting cell death with quantum dots
By combining a quantum dot with a novel carrier of the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) agent gadolinium, a team of investigators at the University of Maastricht, in The Netherlands, has developed a nanoparticle that can spot apoptosis, or programmed cell death, using both MRI and fluorescence imaging. Tests in animals showed that this nanoparticle can provide anatomical information using MRI and cellular level information using fluorescence imaging. Imaging programmed cell death in the body could provide an early indication that an antitumor therapy is indeed killing cancer cells.
Reporting its work in the journal Nano Letters, a research team headed by Dick Slaaf, Ph.D., Marc van Zandvoort, Ph.D., and Chris Reutelingsperger, Ph.D., first developed a biocompatible molecular structure capable of binding strongly to eight gadolinium atoms, and then linked multiple carriers to each fluorescent quantum dot. The investigators also attached one molecule of annexin A5, a molecule that binds to the surface of cells undergoing apoptosis. The resulting nanoparticle contained enough gadolinium atoms to produce a strong MRI signal that would be detectable even if only a few of the nanoparticles were able to bind to an apoptotic cell.
Foresight note: Targeted therapeutics are one of the many promising areas in medical nanotechnology research.
Headline: Carbon nanotubes target tumors
In the first experiment of its kind, investigators at the Center for Cancer Nanotechnology Exellence Focused on Response (CCNE-TR), based at Stanford University, have shown that single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs) wrapped in poly(ethylene glycol), or PEG, can successfully target tumors in living animals. The results of this work, which was conducted by Hongjie Dai, Ph.D., and colleagues, appear in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.
Foresight note: Nanoparticles delivering "smart drugs" in lieu of surgery.
Headline: Nanotechnology could offer an alternative to brain surgery
If you had brain tumor, would you rather receive your medicine through an injection in the arm or have a hole drilled in your skull? Even if you opted for the 'hole-in-the-skull' method, brain cancers are often inoperable due to their location within critical brain regions or because they are too small to detect. Nanotechnology offers a vision for a 'smart' drug approach to fighting tumors: the ability of nanoparticles to locate cancer cells and destroy them with single-cell precision. One of the most important applications for such nanoparticulate drug delivery could be the delivery of the drug payload into the brain. However, crossing the brains protective shield, the blood-brain barrier, is a considerable challenge. Novel targeted nanoparticulate drug delivery systems that are able to cross this barrier bring us closer to this vision of brain cancer destroying drugs.
Nanotechnology that's Good For the Planet
Foresight note: This nanoscale research will increase the efficiency of fuel cells in electric cars.
Headline: Gold clusters stabilize platinum electrocatalysts for use in fuel cells
Platinum is the most efficient electrocatalyst for accelerating chemical reactions in fuel cells for electric vehicles. In reactions during the stop-and-go driving of an electric car, however, the platinum dissolves, which reduces its efficiency as a catalyst. This is a major impediment for vehicle-application of fuel cells.
Now, scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory have overcome this problem. Under lab conditions that imitate the environment of a fuel cell, the researchers added gold clusters to the platinum electrocatalyst, which kept it intact during an accelerated stability test. This test is conducted under conditions similar to those encountered in stop-and-go driving in an electric car. The research is reported in the January 12, 2007, edition of the journal Science.
Brookhaven's Chemistry Department researchers Junliang Zhang, Kotaro Sasaki, and Radoslav Adzic, along with Eli Sutter from Brookhaven's Center for Functional Nanomaterials, authored the research paper. "Fuel cells are expected to become a major source of clean energy, with particularly important applications in transportation," said coauthor Radoslav Adzic.
"Despite many advances, however, existing fuel-cell technology still has drawbacks, including loss of platinum cathode electrocatalysts, which can be as much as 45 percent over five days, as shown in our accelerated stability test under potential cycling conditions. Using a new technique that we developed to deposit gold atoms on platinum, our team was able to show promise in helping to resolve this problem. The next step is to duplicate results in real fuel cells."
Foresight note: This hybrid nanostructure may help future incorporation of carbon nanotubes in electronic components.
Headline: Hybrid structures combine strengths of carbon nanotubes and nanowires
A team of researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has created hybrid structures that combine the best properties of carbon nanotubes and metal nanowires. The new structures, which are described in a recent issue of Applied Physics Letters, could help overcome some of the key hurdles to using carbon nanotubes in computer chips, displays, sensors, and many other electronic devices.
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Headline: Chemists make molecular rings in the shape of King Solomon's knot
UCLA chemists have made, at the nanoscale, a molecular compound of interlocked rings that has the shape of the ancient King Solomon's knot, a symbol of wisdom that is thousands of years old and is widely used in architecture and works of art. The Bible portrays Solomon as great in wisdom, wealth and power.
King Solomon, according to Italian legend, was on a hill and was charged by God with protecting a village from large boulders that were going to roll down and destroy the village," said UCLA chemistry graduate student Cari Pentecost, lead author of the Solomon's knot research, which was published in this year's first issue of the German chemistry journal Angewandte Chemie. "King Solomon was holding three large boulders and took a rope and devised this knot to support the boulders and protect the town."
"Our research is a marriage of nanoscience, mathematics and art," Pentecost added.
Headline: Nature's frugal glues provide insight for optimized adhesives
In trying to create a "glue" that would hold right up to the breaking point of the material being glued, scientists have found that such an ideal adhesive already exists — in bone, abalone shells, and spider silk, to name a few areas. What these three natural materials have in common, scientists Paul Hansma, Patricia Turner and Rodney Ruoff found, is an optimized adhesive based on sacrificial bonds and the hidden length mechanism. The scientists foresee that these characteristics may help researchers design and fabricate optimized adhesives for nanocomposite materials, such as carbon nanotubes and graphene sheets.
"It's important to make a composite material without compromising the material's properties of the strong components, such as the nanotube or graphene sheet," Hansma explained to PhysOrg.com. Optimal glue would enable these materials to retain their intrinsic properties — especially strength.
NanoTech Insight 2007 – Registration Deadline is January 12, 2007.
March 10-17, 2007
NanoTech Insight Team invites you to join us in Egypt in 2007 as we meet to discuss the latest trends and discoveries in nanoscience. An excellent conference is more than just good content: it is a mixture of good science, meaningful social networking, in a relaxing and comfortable environment. NanoTech Insight is all three.
Cleantech 2007 – Abstracts and Proposals Due February 2, 2007
Conference Dates: May 23-24, 2007
Cleantech 2007 is a multi-disciplinary and multi-sector conference on global sustainability addressing advancements in traditional technologies, emerging technologies and clean business practices. Cleantech is the growing set of knowledge-based technologies, products or services designed to improve operational performance, productivity or efficiency while reducing costs, inputs, energy consumption, waste or pollution.
Cleantech 2007 is co-located with the 10th annual Nanotech 2007 Conference, the largest nanotechnology and associated ventures and investment event in the US. The co-location of Cleantech 2007 and Nanotech 2007 is an ideal match due to many overlapping technologies and industries represented by both communities.
NanotechBrief's Nano50 – Nominations Due March 16, 2007
Nanotech Briefs announces the Third annual Nano 50, the ultimate list of the top 50 technologies, products, and innovators that have significantly impacted — or will impact — key nanotechnology commercial markets, from automotive and electronics, to biomedical and materials.
The Nano 50 are the best of the best — the most innovative people and design ideas that will revolutionize nanotechnology in the near-term and beyond. Using the online entry form, nominate the person, technology, or product you believe has had the greatest impact on advancing the state of the art in nanotechnology, and on moving nanotech to mainstream markets.
Nominations opened December 1, 2006 and all nominations must be received by March 16, 2007.
Dear readers – When reviewing news for this digest, I often read about something that I think is cool, but it doesn't fit within the usual editorial categories of the News Digest. This section highlights a nanotech advance, event or idea that I think is especially cool.
This is an excellent column by Kevin Bullis at MIT Technology Review. It details two nanotechnology experiments and then explains in clear language why these experiments matter and where they are in the research to application transfer process.
Headline: From the Labs: Nanotechnology
Highlighted research: Morphing Materials – New shape-memory polymers can take on three successive shape..
Why it matters: Existing shape-memory polymers can assume only two shapes each. The addition of a third shape could enable, say, an arterial stent that could be inserted into an artery in a collapsed form, induced to open once in place, and later shrunk for removal...
Highlighted research: Invisible Transistors – A novel method could lead to see-through displays for windshields...
Why it matters: The new TFTs could replace the opaque transistors used to control pixels in digital displays. Because the low-temperature method can deposit transistors on flexible plastics, it could lead to see-through displays affixed to curved surfaces such as windshields and helmet visors.
Headline: Nanotechnology: European nanotechnology team builds molecular rack-and-pinion
Christian Joachim, winner of Feynman Prizes in Nanotechnology for both experiment and theory, continues his exciting molecular machine systems work with a recent publication authored by a German/French team in Nature Materials titled "A rack-and-pinion device at the molecular scale". From the summary and conclusion:
"In this work, we present a molecular rack-and-pinion device for which an STM tip drives a single pinion molecule at low temperature. The pinion is a 1.8-nm-diameter molecule functioning as a six-toothed wheel interlocked at the edge of a self-assembled molecular island acting as a rack. We monitor the rotation of the pinion molecule tooth by tooth along the rack by a chemical tag attached to one of its cogs...
"In conclusion, we have observed a molecular 'rack-and-pinion' mechanism at work with an atomic-scale precision. We obtained this by a full sequence of steps comprising the careful design and synthesis of the molecule, the surface preparation and the assembly of the molecular pinion on its molecular rack. Combined with the atomic-scale understanding of the physics of its movement, the piece-by-piece assembly of such a device opens a new way of exploring the functioning of a molecular machine."
The work was funded by the Volkswagen Foundation Project 'Single molecule synthesis' and the European Projects NANOMAN and AMMIST. For the Volkswagen Foundation Project, see the last grant on this page. So: if you've ever purchased a Volkswagen, you may have helped support this work!
Although Nature Materials, like the other Nature journals, is very good, I can't help but wish that nanotech work like this would instead be published in a PLoS journal, so we could all see the full text. PLoS currently focuses on biology and medicine, but we can hope they will expand.
Also, is it just me, or are we seeing more visionary experimental work on artificial molecular machine systems in Europe than in the U.S.? No wonder the September 2006 National Academies report on the U.S. NNI called for improved coordination in this area.
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