Foresight Nanotech Institute Weekly News Digest: July 5, 2007
Headline: Virus 'hybrids' can act as nanoscale memory devices
A new type of memory device has been made by researchers in the US and Italy by attaching individual viruses to tiny specks of semiconducting material called quantum dots. The "hybrid" material could be used to develop biocompatible electronics and offer a cheap and simple way to make high-density memory chips, the researchers say.
…More exotically, such a system could eventually perhaps be used to record its journey through sites of interest in the human body—for example, diseased tissue or arteries. "In Star Trek terms, the hybrids could act like nanomachines or nanorobots built for treating disease," quips [team leader Mihri] Ozkan.
Applied Physics Letters abstract
Health: Nanoparticles carry chemotherapy drug deeper into solid tumors
Headline: Nanoparticles carry chemotherapy drug deeper into solid tumors
A new drug delivery method using nano-sized molecules to carry the chemotherapy drug doxorubicin to tumors improves the effectiveness of the drug in mice and increases their survival time…
In the past, similar drug carriers have improved targeted delivery of the drugs and reduced toxicity, but they sometimes decreased the drugs' ability to kill the tumor cells. Using a new drug carrier, Ning Tang of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing and colleagues compared tumor growth and survival in mice that were given doxorubicin in the nanocarriers or on its own.
"The study by Tang [and colleagues] is a simple but effective demonstration of the benefits of integration of a drug with an appropriate carrier to yield a striking gain in efficacy," [an accompanying editorial writes]. "May the days of pharmacological missiles that miss their target and friendly fire that kills patients soon be over!"
Journal of the National Cancer Institute open access article
Headline: Nanotech hitchhikers in blood
Researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara have discovered that attaching polymeric nanoparticles to the surface of red blood cells dramatically increases the in vivo lifetime of the nanoparticles. The research, published July 7 in Experimental Biology and Medicine, could offer applications for the delivery of drugs and circulating bioreactors.
Polymeric nanoparticles are excellent carriers for delivering drugs. They protect drugs from degradation until they reach their target and provide sustained release of drugs. Polymeric nanoparticles, however, suffer from one major limitation: they are quickly removed from the blood, sometimes in minutes, rendering them ineffective in delivering drugs.
The research team … found that nanoparticles can be forced to remain in circulation when attached to red blood cells.
Headline: Pairing nanoparticles with proteins
In groundbreaking research, scientists have demonstrated the ability to strategically attach gold nanoparticles … to proteins so as to form sheets of protein-gold arrays. The nanoparticles and methods to create nanoparticle-protein complexes can be used to help decipher protein structures, to identify functional parts of proteins, and to "glue" together new protein complexes. Applications envisioned by the researchers include catalysts for converting biomass to energy and precision "vehicles" for targeted drug delivery.
"Our study demonstrates that nanoparticles are appealing templates for assembling functional biomolecules with extensive potential impact across the fields of energy conversion, structural biology, drug delivery, and medical imaging," said lead author Minghui Hu …
Headline: Iowa State chemist hopes startup company can revolutionize biodiesel production
Line up 250 billion of Victor Lin's nanospheres and you've traveled a meter. But those particles—and just the right chemistry filling the channels that run through them—could make a big difference in biodiesel production.
They could make production cheaper, faster and less toxic. They could produce a cleaner fuel and a cleaner glycerol co-product. And they could be used in existing biodiesel plants.
"This technology could change how biodiesel is produced," said Victor Lin, an Iowa State University professor of chemistry, a program director for the U.S. Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory and the inventor of a nanosphere-based catalyst that reacts vegetable oils and animal fats with methanol to produce biodiesel. "This could make production more economical and more environmentally friendly."
Headline: Nanotechnology in space
Advanced nanomaterials such as the newly developed, isotopically enriched boron nanotubes could pave the path to future spacecraft with nanosensor-integrated hulls that provide effective radiation shielding as well as energy storage.
…One of the shielding materials under study is boron 10. Scientists have known about the ability of boron 10 to capture neutrons since the 1930s and use it as a radiation shield in geiger counters as well as a shielding layer in nuclear reactors.
"Boron nanotubes have many of the excellent properties of the well-known carbon nanotubes (CNTs) because they share the same structure," Dr. Ying Chen explains to Nanowerk. "Compared to CNTs, boron nanotubes have some better properties such as high chemical stability, high resistance to oxidation at high temperatures and are a stable wide band-gap semiconductor.
Christine Peterson will serve as Session Chair for the Clean Water panel at the IEEE Sustainable Energy and Clean Water Symposium sponsored by IEEE San Francisco Bay Area Nanotechnology Council. Register by July 6 to obtain the early discounted rate.
Nanotech: From Promise to Reality
Productive Nanosystems: Launching the Technology Roadmap
Now, for the first time, the Technology Roadmap for Productive Nanosystems will describe the R&D pathways and products resulting from this ultimate technological revolution. Join us as we explore the power of advanced "bottom-up" nanotechnology in this 14th Foresight Conference on Advanced Nanotechnology.
Feynman Prize luncheon on October 9, 2007
Do you believe that nanotechnology will give society the ability to tackle the hard challenges facing humanity? What's your priority for nanotechnology: cancer treatments and longevity therapies, sustainable energy, clean water, a restored environment, space development, or "zero waste" manufacturing? Or perhaps there are potential nanotech scenarios you would like to prevent.
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Foresight note: DNA is one of the most versatile tools that have emerged in the effort to develop productive nanosystems. Aiding the uncoiling and manipulation of DNA will increase the ways in which it can be used.
Headline: New, invisible nano-fibers conduct electricity, repel dirt
Tiny plastic fibers could be the key to some diverse technologies in the future—including self-cleaning surfaces, transparent electronics, and biomedical tools that manipulate strands of DNA.
The patent-pending technology involves a method for growing a bed of fibers of a specific length, and using chemical treatments to tailor the fibers' properties, explained Arthur J. Epstein …
Epstein said scientists could use the fibers as a platform to study how DNA interacts with other molecules. They could also use the spread-out DNA to build new nanostructures.
"We're very excited about where this kind of development can take us," he added.
Nature Nanotechnology abstract
Foresight note: Using a scanning tunneling microscope (STM) to make and break individual bonds is a very direct way to build nanostructures. This result is an exciting first, but it is not yet clear if it can be extended to enough molecules to be useful in the development of productive nanosystems.
Headline: 'Molecular surgery' snips off a single atom
A single hydrogen atom has been snipped off a molecule and then added back on again, marking the first time a single chemical bond has been broken and reforged in a controlled, reversible way.
The researchers used a scanning tunnelling microscope (STM) for their cutting tool, which works by manoeuvring a sharp metal tip close to an object, applying a small voltage, and measuring the trickle of electrons that flow between the two.
…But it is not yet clear how to extend this result to other systems.
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.
A clever and useful new tool that is likely to bring new fundamental knowledge is a development to be celebrated, even when the eventual applications are not clear.
Headline: Bright future for nano-sized light source
A bio-friendly nano-sized light source capable of emitting coherent light across the visible spectrum, has been invented by a team of researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and the University of California at Berkeley. Among the many potential applications of this nano-sized light source, once the technology is refined, are single cell endoscopy and other forms of subwavelength bio-imaging, integrated circuitry for nanophotonic technology, and new advanced methods of cyber cryptography.
At one of the Accelerating Change conferences I saw Prof. Beth Noveck introduce for the first time her ideas on improving patents via peer review. Now, the nanotechnology field will be envious to hear that another field has been chosen to carry out the first pilot project—software, as reported in IEEE Spectrum:
"The patent examination process has been a closed process without public participation except to the most limited extents.
"It's a new idea to open up the process and create a structured program on the Web that would allow people to provide input on the basis of expertise…
"The advantages to participate if you're an inventor are that the USPTO will allow your invention to get a better examination because the public is participating and to have the application reviewed faster. All applications that go through the pilot will be reviewed out of turn—in other words they'll be taken first—and if you think about the fact that there's now over a four-year backlog in this area of patents to get examined, being examined out of turn and having one's invention reviewed in the course of less than a year, which is what the commitment is, I think is a tremendous incentive to participate."
That is indeed a strong incentive. The nanotechnology patent area has similar delays, I've heard. So when can we give this a shot too? Molecule geeks can benefit from open source-style processes just as much as data geeks. If this catches on, perhaps we can then start to ask the bigger, harder questions, such as: should all fundamental, tax-funded research be patented? Might the public benefit more from sharing than from monopolies, at least in some cases? Just asking!
—Nanodot post by Christine Peterson
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