Foresight Nanotech Institute Weekly News Digest: July 26, 2006
Foresight Note: This article cites research that could lead to quick diagnosis without a painful biopsy.
Headline: Nano World: Acid sensors for cells
Scientists have devised the first sensors only nanometers or billionths of a meter long that can detect how acidic the environment around them is, experts told UPI's Nano World.
These sensors give biologists the first means of accurately measuring acidity, or pH, over a wide range in real time inside living cells and tissues. This could help determine, for instance, whether or not some cancers are malignant.
Current methods would evaluate a piece of tumor removed via biopsy, a painful and invasive procedure. These new sensors could be used in the future get used to measure the pH levels inside the cancer with nothing more invasive than an injection.
"Every time I talk with biologists or bioengineers, they're all very excited about what they can measure or discover with these," said lead researcher Naomi Halas, director of Rice University's nanophotonics laboratory in Houston.
Foresight Challenge: Increasing the health and longevity of human life
Foresight Note: These researchers created a nanoscale probe that can record the biochemical makeup of cells or a group of cells.
Headline: Georgia Tech scientists invent nanoprobe
U.S. scientists say they've created a nanoscale probe that can capture both the biochemical makeup and topography of complex biological objects.
The Georgia Tech researchers say the nanoprobe can record in the biological objects' normal environment, which might lead to better disease diagnosis and drug design on the cellular level.
To create drugs capable of targeting some of the most devastating human diseases, scientists must first decode exactly how a cell or a group of cells communicates with other cells and reacts to a broad spectrum of complex biomolecules surrounding it.
But even the most sophisticated tools currently used for studying cell communications suffer from significant deficiencies and typically can only detect a narrowly selected group of small molecules or, for a more sophisticated analysis, the cells must be destroyed for sample preparation.
Georgia Tech researchers have created a nanoscale probe, the Scanning Mass Spectrometry probe, to solve the problem, said Engineering Professor Andrei Fedorov, lead researcher on the project.
Foresight Note: This research brings an advanced semiconductor computer chip using spintronics closer to reality.
Headline: Scientists image 'magnetic semiconductors' on the nanoscale
In a first-of-its-kind achievement, scientists at the University of Iowa, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Princeton University have directly imaged the magnetic interactions between two magnetic atoms less than one nanometer apart (one billionth of a meter) and embedded in a semiconductor chip.
The findings, scheduled for publication as the cover story of the July 27 issue of the journal Nature, bring scientists one step closer to realizing the goal of building a very advanced semiconductor computer chip. The chip would be based upon a property of the electron called "spin" and the related technology of "spintronics," according to Michael Flatte, professor in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Department of Physics and Astronomy and leader of the UI research group.
"With spintronics, data manipulation and long-term storage can be conducted in one computer chip, rather than separately in a CPU and a hard drive as currently practiced. The data manipulation could also be done quicker and require less power. Such a computer would be much smaller in size and use less energy," Flatte says.
Foresight Note: This space shuttle experiment uses nanostructures whose formation are directed by yeast that are low-maintenance.
Headline: Sandia work reported in Science and launched on space shuttle shows live cells influence growth of nanostructure
Far above the heads of Earthlings, arrays of single-cell creatures are circling Earth in nanostructures.
The sample devices are riding on the International Space Station (courtesy of Sandia National Laboratories and the University of New Mexico, NASA and US Air Force) to test whether nanostructures whose formations were directed by yeast and other single cells can create more secure homes for their occupants — even in the vacuum and radiation of outer space — than those created by more standard chemical procedures.
"Cheap, tiny, and very lightweight sensors of chemical or biological agents could be made from long-lived cells that require no upkeep, yet sense and then communicate effectively with each other and their external environment," says former UNM graduate student and Sandia consultant Helen Baca, lead author on the paper. Baca was advised by Sandia Fellow and UNM professor of chemical engineering, molecular genetics & microbiology Jeff Brinker.
NaturalNano, Inc., a company whose primary business is refining, processing, and marketing naturally occurring nanomaterials, announced today the appointment of Cathy A. Fleischer, Ph.D., as chief technology officer. Dr. Fleischer's role at NaturalNano will focus on the commercialization of NaturalNano's technology and the expansion of its intellectual property portfolio.
Dr. Fleischer is a highly recognized scientist and manager with extensive experience leading diverse technical organizations and teams to deliver in research, business and manufacturing. During the last five years, Fleischer led organizations that delivered highly innovative and successful products and were responsible for over 200 patent applications. Dr. Fleischer holds eleven patents individually and has numerous publications in the fields of polymer materials science, composites, adhesion and surface science.
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September 20-22, 2006
Small Times NanoCon International 2006 brings together more than 700 leading nanotech executives for three days of information exchange, fast-track networking, and new business development.
Conference session highlights, including presentations by:
Wilbur Ross, Chairman & CEO, WL Ross & Co
Headline: Scientists design simpler, more accurate nanothermometer
As technology shrinks into the nanoscale range, the accessories of nanotechnology must also shrink — among these extra tools is a way to measure temperatures of the spaces surrounding nanoscale devices. Conventional (i.e. mercury) thermometers can only measure temperatures at the macroscopic scale (in the range of millimeters). Devices called thermocouples can measure temperatures at the microscale, but taking measurements at the nanoscale requires an all-together different tool.
A team of scientists from Australia and Japan, Zongwen Liu, et al., has recently improved upon a method for nano temperature measurement using nanothermometers consisting of carbon nanotubes filled with liquid gallium to develop a one-step measuring procedure. The nanotubes, which have diameters as small as 20 nanometers, can effectively measure temperatures of 175-660 degrees Fahrenheit.
"Due to the continuing miniaturization of existing technologies, it is becoming ever more important to know the temperature of current microelectronics and future nano-electronic and optoelectronic devices," Liu told PhysOrg.com. "Each of these devices has its own optimal working temperature limit. Below this limit each device works efficiently. However, if the temperature exceeds the limit, not only are efficiency and proper operation impaired, but the device can be damaged. In fact, close to three quarters of all failures is due to thermal overload."
Headline: Ordering by Motion
Scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces in Potsdam, Germany, have now proposed a simple biomimetic model system for the opposite effect, i.e., for the creation of spatial order by increased molecular motion. This system consists of molecular motors anchored to a substrate surface in contact with an isotropic liquid of cytoskeletal filaments.
As one increases the density of the molecular motors, this liquid is predicted to undergo a phase transition towards a nematic liquid crystal with long-range orientational order. This ordering effect arises from the interplay of motor activity and steric filament interactions, a mechanism that should also be effective for the pattern formation processes in the living cell (Physical Review Letters 96, 258103, 30 June 2006).
The cytoskeleton is responsible for the mechanical stability of biological cells and plays an important role in intracellular transport and dynamics. Motor proteins perform directed walks on cytoskeletal filaments and enable fast transport over large intracellular distances along the filament-like 'rails' provided by the cytoskeleton. In addition to their function as nano-tractors, motor proteins are also actively involved in the constant re-organization of the cytoskeleton itself, which is necessary for cell motility and mitosis. During these processes, cytoskeletal filaments are constantly in motion, yet highly ordered structures such as the mitotic spindle are assembled in this dynamic state. In order to understand the principles governing the motor-driven dynamics and dynamic pattern formation by cytoskeletal filaments, researchers have to study biomimetic model systems such as motility assays, which contain only a few ingredients.
Headline: Nanotechnology's Future
Over the next two decades, this new field for controlling the properties of matter will rise to prominence through four evolutionary stages...
After 2015-2020, the field will expand to include molecular nanosystems — heterogeneous networks in which molecules and supramolecular structures serve as distinct devices. The proteins inside cells work together this way, but whereas biological systems are water-based and markedly temperature-sensitive, these molecular nanosystems will be able to operate in a far wider range of environments and should be much faster. Computers and robots could be reduced to extraordinarily small sizes. Medical applications might be as ambitious as new types of genetic therapies and antiaging treatments. New interfaces linking people directly to electronics could change telecommunications.
Headline: Nanotech patent picture is mixed, report finds
The U.S. issued 4,996 nanotechnology patents in 2005, but a report found that the rate of nanotech patents increased only 4 percent last year after previously exceeding 20 percent. Still, the number of patent applications for nanotechnology continued to increase in 2005, growing by 52 percent to 2,714 applications.
Bottlenecks at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office center on crowded patent domains with overlapping claims. Pendency rates—the time from the submission of a nanotech patent application to issuance—grew to nearly four years on average, up from two and half years in 1993.
The report by Lux Research and Foley & Lardner LLP, entitled "Nanotech IP Battles Worth Fighting," warns that "when the dust settles from this influx of inventions, many patent holders will be wondering just how valuable their innovations are in densely crowded and overlapping areas."
The report reviewed 2,738 patents covering 52,148 relevant claims crossing seven application categories. It identified applications worth fighting over and those with relatively low payoff.
September 27-28, 2006
nanoTX'06 will draw the top minds in four vital and interrelated nanotech areas of commerce:
There will also be an intense study of Trends/Finance/Investing by leading experts of industry. The speaker line-up is being updated continually.
The 2006 Foresight Institute Feynman Prizes will be presented at nanoTX' 06 on September 27, 2006 at the Exhibitors Reception.
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 article is about using a component from nature to create a nanoscale sensor system that is adaptive and sustainable.
Headline: Not Just for Eatin': Blue Crab Nano-Sensor Detects Dangers
A substance found in crab shells is the key component in a nanoscale sensor system developed by researchers at the University of Maryland's A. James Clark School of Engineering. The sensor can detect minute quantities of explosives, bioagents, chemicals, and other dangerous materials in air and water, potentially leading to security and safety innovations for airports, hospitals, and other public locations.
Clark School engineers are using a substance called chitosan (pronounced "kite- o-san"), found in the shells of the Chesapeake Bay's famous blue crab, to coat components of the microscopic sensor system.
Crab lovers can hold on to their mallets — crabs do not need to be harvested specifically for this purpose. The material is extracted from the crab shell waste.
Join the discussion: Nanodot led by Christine Peterson.
Headline: Carnegie Mellon pursues top-down path to nanorobots
At a NASA nanotech meeting in August 2004, Prof. Sitti gave his timing projections: 5-10 yrs: nanoassembly, nanomanufacturing, hybrid biotic/abiotic robots. After 10 years: atomic and molecular scale manufacturing. He explained that complexity will be a challenge: controlling and programming. He looks forward to "tremendous benefits for humanity." Sitti is Chair of the IEEE Nanotechnology Council's Technical Committee on Nanorobotics and Nanomanufacturing.
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