Foresight Nanotech Institute Weekly News Digest: March 7, 2007
Headline: One-atom thick carbon gauze via nanotechnology
The ever-vigilant Physorg.com brings us news of a one-atom thick freestanding (i.e., unattached) graphene carbon film:
"Physicists pioneer new super-thin technology
"Physicists at The University of Manchester and The Max-Planck Institute in Germany have created a new kind of a membrane that is only one atom thick.
"It's believed this super-small structure can be used to sieve gases, make ultra-fast electronic switches and image individual molecules with unprecedented accuracy …
"These one-atom-thick materials and in particular graphene — a gauze of carbon atoms resembling chicken wire — have rapidly become one of the hottest topics in physics.
"However, it has remained doubtful whether such materials can exist in the free state, without being placed on top of other materials.
"Now an international research team, led by Dr Jannik Meyer of The Max-Planck Institute in Germany and Professor Andre Geim of The University of Manchester has managed to make free-hanging graphene."
— See Nanodot for the full post by Christine Peterson
Health: Light-sensitive nanoparticle films electrically stimulate neurons
Headline: Researchers make first direct electric link between nerve cells and light-sensitive nanoparticle films
The world's first direct electrical link between nerve cells and photovoltaic nanoparticle films has been achieved by researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB) and the University of Michigan. The development opens the door to applying the unique properties of nanoparticles to a wide variety of light-stimulated nerve-signaling devices — including the possible development of a nanoparticle-based artificial retina.
Although light signals have previously been transmitted to nerve cells using silicon (whose ability to turn light into electricity is employed in solar cells and in the imaging sensors of video cameras), nanoengineered materials promise far greater efficiency and versatility.
"It should be possible for us to tune the electrical characteristics of these nanoparticle films to get properties like color sensitivity and differential stimulation, the sort of things you want if you're trying to make an artificial retina, which is one of the ultimate goals of this project," [one of the researchers] said. "You can't do that with silicon. Plus, silicon is a bulk material - silicon devices are much less size-compatible with cells."
Nano Letters abstract
Headline: UC Davis researchers use heated nanoprobes to destroy breast cancer cells in mice
In experiments with laboratory mice that bear aggressive human breast cancers, UC Davis researchers have used hot nanoprobes to slow the growth of tumors — without damage to surrounding healthy tissue. The researchers describe their work in the March issue of the Journal of Nuclear Medicine.
"We have demonstrated that the system is feasible in laboratory mice. The next step will be clinical testing in patients," said Sally DeNardo, a professor of internal medicine and radiology at UC Davis and lead author of the study.
"Using heat to kill cancer cells isn't a new concept," DeNardo said. "The biggest problems have been how to apply it to the tumor alone, how to predict the amount needed and how to determine its effectiveness. By combining nanotechnology, focused AMF [alternating magnetic field] therapy and quantitative molecular imaging techniques, we have developed a safer technique that could join other modalities as a treatment for breast and other cancers."
Headline: New nanoscale engineering breakthrough points to hydrogen-powered vehicles
Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory have developed an advanced concept in nanoscale catalyst engineering — a combination of experiments and simulations that will bring polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells for hydrogen-powered vehicles closer to massive commercialization.
The Argonne researchers, Nenad Markovic and Vojislav Stamenkovic, published related results last month in Science and this month in Nature Materials on the behavior of single crystal and polycrystalline platinum alloy surfaces. The researchers discovered that the nanosegregated platinum-nickel alloy surface has unique catalytic properties, opening up important new directions for the development of active and stable practical cathode catalysts in fuel cells.
"In the past, theoretical connections have been suggested between electronic behavior and catalytic activity," explained Markovic. "Our work represents the first time that the connections have been identified experimentally. For us, this development constitutes the beginning of more breakthrough advances in nanocatalysts."
Headline: Rensselaer researchers create world's first ideal anti-reflection coating
A team of Rensselaer researchers has created the world's first material that reflects virtually no light. Reporting in the March issue of Nature Photonics, they describe an optical coating made from the material that enables vastly improved control over the basic properties of light. The research could open the door to much brighter LEDs, more efficient solar cells, and a new class of "smart" light sources that adjust to specific environments, among many other potential applications.
[E. Fred Schubert, the Wellfleet Senior Constellation Professor of the Future Chips Constellation at Rensselaer and senior author of the paper] and his coworkers have created a material with a refractive index of 1.05, which is extremely close to the refractive index of air and the lowest ever reported …
Scientists have attempted for years to create materials that can eliminate unwanted reflections, which can degrade the performance of various optical components and devices. "We started thinking, there is no viable material available in the refractive index range 1.0-1.4," Schubert said. "If we had such a material, we could do incredible new things in optics and photonics."
Nature Photonics abstract
Foresight note: This application to transistors is one use of the one-atom thick graphene film of this week's "Top Nano News".
Headline: New graphene transistor promises life after death of silicon chip
Researchers have used the world's thinnest material to create the world's smallest transistor — a breakthrough that could spark the development of a new type of super-fast computer chip.
Professor Andre Geim and Dr Kostya Novoselov from The School of Physics and Astronomy at The University of Manchester, reveal details of transistors that are only one atom thick and less than 50 atoms wide, in the March issue of Nature Materials.
Professor Geim — who is Director of The Manchester Centre for Mesoscience & Nanotechnology — and his colleagues have shown for the first time that graphene remains highly stable and conductive even when it is cut into strips of only a few nanometres wide.
Headline: New electronic devices created from bent nanowires
Researchers have taken advantage of the unique coupled semiconducting and piezoelectric properties of zinc oxide nanowires to create a new class of electronic components and devices that could provide the foundation for a broad range of new applications.
So far, the researchers have demonstrated field-effect transistors, diodes, sensors — and current-producing nanogenerators — that operate by bending zinc oxide nanowires and nanobelts. The new components take advantage of the relationship between the mechanical and electronic coupled behavior of piezoelectric nanomaterials, a mechanism the researchers call "nano-piezotronics™."
"Nano-piezotronics utilizes the coupling of piezoelectric and semiconducting properties to fabricate novel electronic components," said Zhong Lin Wang, a Regents Professor in the School of Materials Science and Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. "These devices could provide the fundamental building blocks that would allow us to create a new area of electronics."
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Headline: Nanotube formation captured on video
A Cambridge University-led team of scientists have successfully produced live video footage that shows how carbon nanotubes, more than 10,000 times smaller in diameter than a human hair, form.
The video sequences show nanofibres and nanotubes nucleating around miniscule particles of nickel and are already offering greater insight into how these microscopic structures self-assemble. The films can be viewed on the Cambridge University website at: http://www.admin.cam.ac.uk/news/special/20070301/
Headline: Individual atoms' chemical ID revealed
Researchers have demonstrated for the first time that atomic force microscopy can be used to reveal the chemical identity of individual atoms on a surface at room temperature. The finding could pave the way for the technique to be used routinely as a tool of chemical identification at the atomic scale, as it can pick out specific atoms from a complex mixture of elements.
… The researchers used AFM to probe the surface of an alloy of silicon, lead and tin, with known concentrations of each element. By making repeated and highly accurate measurements they showed that the forces between the tip and each element were subtly different …
See also Nanodot post by Christine Peterson
Environmental Defense and DuPont are pleased to announce the public release of a DRAFT version of the Nano Risk Framework — a framework for the responsible development, production, use and disposal of nanoscale materials. They'd appreciate your feedback so that they can make this framework as effective, practical, and useful for as wide an audience as possible. Please provide your comments by Friday, March 30th, 2007.
2007 Annual Nanoprobes Workshop
Includes molecular motors, nanoelectromechanical systems
2nd Annual Nanomedicine Conference
Basic research in nanotechnology and nanomedicine is rapidly producing commercially viable products. Governments and industries across the globe are staking their claims by investing billions of dollars, euros and yen for research.
Nanotech researchers, executives, policy-makers, patent practitioners, and investors from the medical, business, patent and life sciences community will gather in Washington, DC in November for the 2nd Annual Nanomedicine Conference to discuss the most important applications of nanotechnology in drug delivery, diagnostics and medical devices.
Includes Michael Heller on combining "top-down" and "bottom up" technologies for hierarchical assembly of 3D structures.
Foresight note: The hierarchical approach to building nanostructures from DNA presented here should have not only applications in biotechnology and computer systems, but also great utility as a path to productive nanosystems. At the end of their Nanotechnology abstract, the authors conclude: "… it is feasible to scale this method beyond our demonstration of a fully programmable … 8 x 8 DNA grid for potential application to complex nanoscale system fabrication."
Headline: For low-cost DNA nanostructures, recycle sticky ends
Scientists from Duke University have recently demonstrated a new method for assembling large, low-cost DNA nanostructures, in part by reusing the "sticky-ends," the broken DNA strands used to connect the nanostructures. In their hierarchical self-assembly method, the scientists have demonstrated one of the largest programmable synthetic nanostructures ever synthesized.
In their recent paper in Nanotechnology, Constantin Pistol and Chris Dwyer explain DNA's advantages over silicon in terms of its easy synthesis, control and asymmetrical complexity. While recent advances in the field of fabricating DNA nanostructures have produced rigid sequences, Pistol and Dwyer focused on developing a self-assembly method that enables simple and inexpensive scaling of the DNA structures. In addition, their grid-like structures consist of components that can be independently modified to create arbitrary patterns for different purposes.
We continue our tradition of citing a special story that strikes the Editor as especially cool, but which doesn't fit within the usual editorial categories of the News Digest.
This approach may not be applicable to simulating proposed designs of artificial molecular machine systems since it is a method derived from experimental data, but it is nonetheless encouraging to see atomistic simulations extended from nanoseconds to minutes.
Headline: MIT model simulates atomic processes in nanomaterials
Researchers from MIT, Georgia Institute of Technology and Ohio State University have developed a new computer modeling approach to study how materials behave under stress at the atomic level, offering insights that could help engineers design materials with an ideal balance between strength and resistance to failure.
Recent advances in nanotechnology have allowed researchers to manipulate a material's nanostructure to make it both strong and ductile. Now, the MIT-related team has figured out why some nano-designed metals behave with that desirable compromise between strength and ductility.
The team, led by Subra Suresh, the Ford Professor of Engineering in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, developed a simulation method derived from experimental data that allows them to visualize the deformation of materials on a timescale of minutes. Previous methods allowed for only a nanosecond-scale glimpse at the atomic-level processes.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Science abstract
Headline: What's next for nanotechnology
A recent issue of the useful journal Nanotechnology Law & Business includes a review (pdf) by Daniel Moore of J. Storrs Hall's book Nanofuture: What's Next for Nanotechnology. The conclusion:
"Nanofuture: What's Next for Nanotechnology will be of interest to those looking for an introduction to the concepts of nanotechnology and molecular manufacturing. It is comprehensive and broad in its consideration of nanotechnology's potential impact to society. Although it is not a book on nanotechnology related law, it has many descriptions and ideas that may be of interest to journal readers. However, as a discussion of nanotechnology and how it will impact society (what will be 'next for nanotechnology'), it is best used as a jumping-off point rather than a comprehensive text on the subject."
Fair enough. It's hard to imagine what a comprehensive text on the subject would look like at this point …
Foresight awarded our most recent Foresight Institute Prize in Communications to Hall, so it's clear we agree with Moore that "The breadth of Dr. Hall's vision of nanotechnology is staggering."
— See Nanodot for the full post by Christine Peterson
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