Foresight Nanotech Institute Weekly News Digest: December 20, 2006
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Nanotechnology that's Good For People
Foresight note: Here is a nanotech solution that is promising to be more efficient and affordable.
Headline: Nanotech filter delivers drinking water
Turn on the tap, and out comes clean, fresh water for drinking, cooking and bathing. But not everyone is so lucky.
Fresh water is an increasingly limited resource, so finding a way to purify polluted and saline waters is gaining interest.
A new technology from the University of California, Los Angeles could offer an efficient and comparatively inexpensive means for accomplishing just that.
The technique augments a 50-year-old method known as reverse osmosis but it uses a membrane made with nanotechnology. In early laboratory tests, the method has performed as effectively as current technology for desalinating water, but it's more energy efficient and potentially much less expensive. If the new membrane indeed proves effective and affordable, it could help address a problem that is only expected to grow.
According to a United Nations' World Water Development Report, more than 50 percent of the world will face water stress or shortage by 2025. In California alone, demand for water could increase by 40 percent in that same timeframe.
Foresight note: Nanotechnology is often referred to as an enabling technology that cuts across numerous fields. This research is an example of many fields working together to recreate a new discipline.
Headline: A new medical nanotechnology discipline is emerging
A novel discipline is emerging in medicine: nanoscopic medicine. Based on the premise that diseases manifest themselves as defects of cellular proteins, these proteins have been recently shown to form specific complexes exerting their functions as if they were nanoscopic machines. Nanoscopic medicine refers to the direct visualization, analysis (diagnosis) and modification (therapy) of nanoscopic protein machines in life cells and tissues with the aim to improve human health.
The term nanoscopic medicine was coined by a group of researchers in Germany whose mission is to extend live cell nanoscopy into a comprehensive diagnostic and therapeutic scheme. This includes both the creation of a set of novel instruments and the analysis of nanoscopic protein machine networks in health and disease. In addition, they seek to construct artificial devices mimicking cellular nanomachines.
Professor Reiner Peters and his team at the University of Munster (they also formed a separate spin-off company called Nascomed) in Germany told Nanowerk: "We are striving to rapidly develop medical nanoscopy. However, the future implementation into medical praxis will depend on whether we succeed in unifying all the parts of this new field, which are currently dissipated among disciplines such as genomics, proteomics, structural biology, systems biology, physical optics, photochemistry and medicine."
Foresight note: This nanotechnology application is proving to be effective in helping difficult sores heal faster. The product has moved into clinical trials in South America.
Headline: Nanotechnology bandage speeds up healing
The first clinical trials of a medical bandage that heals wounds faster concludes this month, bringing two University of Akron researchers closer to commercializing a product years in the making.
The nanofiber bandage is particularly helpful for diabetics because the dressing releases nitric oxide gas, a natural chemical diabetics don't produce enough of, but one that is crucial for body repair.
As a bonus, the electrospun fibers are inexpensive, lightweight and elastic, and conform to any wound without sticking, he said.
The first human trials are winding up in Colombia. The South American country was chosen because it was easier to find people suffering parasitic lesions, a challenging wound that will highlight the bandage's strengths.
Smith and Reneker hope the results of those trials will win them FDA approval for clinical trials in the United States.
Foresight note: This a good example of how nanotechnology could not only deliver drugs but also absorb them from the body when needed.
Headline: Countering the effects of drug overdose with nanotechnology
Drug intoxication, developed as a result of accidental overdosing, is a serious health problem. Drug overdoses are sometimes also caused intentionally to commit suicide, but many drug overdoses are usually the result of either irresponsible behavior, or the misreading of product labels. Other causes of overdose (especially heroin) include multiple drug use with counter indications (cocaine/amphetamines/alcohol) or use after a period of abstinence. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, in the U.S. alone almost 20,000 people a year die due to drug overdoses and accidental poisoning.
While there has been a tremendous effort to develop drug delivery methods using nanotechnology, a new report shows that this could work the other way around as well, and that porous nanoparticles can soak up drug molecules in the body like a sponge. This could help to reduce fatalities from overdoses, according to tests showing that tiny spheres of poly(acrylic acid) can absorb substantial amounts of an antidepressant and an anesthetic in just a few minutes. In short, nanoparticles can act as potent antidotes!
Nanotechnology that's Good For the Planet
Foresight note: This application will extend the use of nanolithography beyond integrated circuits.
Headline: Taking nanolithography beyond semiconductor
A new process for chemical patterning combines molecular self-assembly with traditional lithography to create multifunctional surfaces in precise patterns at the molecular level. The process allows scientists to create surfaces with varied chemical functionalities and promises to extend lithography to applications beyond traditional semiconductors.
The new technique, which could have a number of practical chemical and biochemical applications, will be described in the 22 December 2006 issue of the journal Advanced Materials by a team led by Paul S. Weiss, distinguished professor of chemistry and physics at Penn State and Mark Horn, associate professor of engineering science and mechanics at Penn State.
The technique uses self-assembled monolayers (SAM) — chemical films that are one molecule thick — to build a layer on a surface, followed by the addition of a photolithographic resist that protects the covered parts of the film during subsequent processing. The resist acts as a shield during processing, allowing the cleaning and then self-assembly of different chemical functions on the unprotected parts of the surface.
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Nanotech Investing Forum
Nanotech Investing Forum
The IBF Nanotech Investing Forum — where VCs, corporate investors and nanotech CEOs unite. This conference provides investors with leading-edge information to profit from nanotech innovation.
This conference will address:
Headline: Nanomaterials vulnerable to dispersal in natural environmentNews source: Physorg.com
Laboratory experiments with a type of nanomaterial that has great promise for industrial use show significant potential for dispersal in aquatic environments — especially when natural organic materials are present.
When mixed with natural organic matter in water from the Suwannee River — a relatively unpolluted waterway that originates in southern Georgia — multiwalled carbon nanotubes (MWNTs) remain suspended for more than a month, making them more likely to be transported in the environment, according to research led by the Georgia Institute of Technology.
Carbon nanotubes, which can be single- or multiwalled, are cylindrical carbon structures with novel properties that make them potentially useful in a wide variety of applications including electronics, composites, optics and pharmaceuticals.
"We found that natural organic matter, or NOM as we call it, was efficient at suspending the nanotubes in water," said Jaehong Kim, an assistant professor in the Georgia Tech School of Civil and Environmental Engineering.
News source: Physorg.com
[Editor's note: this news item implies that "nanoparticles" could be living forms. Normally, that term is not used to refer to living things, and such usage should probably be discouraged to avoid confusion.]
Researchers at Mayo Clinic have successfully isolated nanoparticles from human kidney stones in cell cultures and have isolated proteins, RNA and DNA that appear to be associated with nanoparticles. The findings, which appear in the December issue of the Journal of Investigative Medicine, are significant because it is one step closer in solving the mystery of whether nanoparticles are viable living forms that can lead to disease — in this case, kidney stones.
Kidney stones are associated with pathologic calcification, the process in which organs and blood vessels become clogged with calcium deposits that can damage major organs like the heart and kidneys. What causes calcium deposits to build up is not entirely known. Medical scientists at Mayo Clinic are studying calcification at the molecular level in an effort to determine how this phenomenon occurs.
There is a growing body of scientific evidence that links calcification to the presence of nanosized particles, particles so small that some scientists question whether a nanoparticle can live and if so, play a viable role in the development of kidney stones.
Headline: Nanotechnology holds key to the future
Nanotechnology is the new frontier of scientific research. President APJ Abdul Kalam is advocating new initiative on the research in the field of nanotechnology. As Prof. CNR Rao, chairman of the Scientific Advisory Committee to the Prime Minister, said recently: 'We missed the semiconductor revolution in the early 1950s. We had just gained independence. But with nanoscience and technology, we can certainly be on an equal footing with the rest of the world.'
Headline: Teaching the notion of nanotechnology: science of manipulating super-small objects inches its way into classroom
News source: Washington Post by Valerie Strauss
Scientist Robert P.H. Chang of Northwestern University had no trouble persuading education officials in Mexico to introduce the burgeoning field of nanotechnology to schools there, but it's been a far tougher sell in the United States.
In Mexico, Chang said he had only to speak about the subject to top government officials, who then simply ordered school officials to teach it.
For better or worse, things work differently here at home [the United States].
Sponsored by Pira Intertech
Nanotechnology has the power to alter nearly every industry in the US today. The potential for improvement of products, coupled with the advancement of material knowledge, could breathe new life into manufacturing, product life-cycles and applications. Currently over 400 products are in the global market that utilize nanotechnology, and by 2014 this is projected to create a 2.6 trillion dollar industry in the US alone.
This is good news for investors — but is industry moving too fast? Some believe regulations need to be altered; others feel a new law is in order. Would this help to make the rules clear, or stifle innovation? The future of nanotechnology is at stake, and attendees to this event will be educated about this critical area.
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.
Please note that the news digest will not be published next week. I am taking a much-needed vacation. Look for the next news digest on January 3, 2007. Until then thanks for reading.
This is an excellent Q&A interview with David Leigh about his love of chemistry. I particularly like the quote below but the entire interview is worth reading.
Headline: Interview with David Leigh: The magic of chemistry
News source: Chemical Science
"When mankind learns how to control molecular motion, and use it to drive systems away from equilibrium in the way nature does, I am convinced that it will change completely how we design functional molecules and materials."
Headline: Nanotechnology torque detected with exquisite sensitivity
News source: Nanodot
The useful website Nanowerk describes a new technique invented by researchers in Spain which should be useful in analyzing nanotechnology devices:
"Many protein molecules, such as those that process DNA, execute twisting motions, but researchers have only managed to measure the torques in a few cases. Often the random thermal jiggling of water molecules makes rotation hard to detect. A new analysis technique reported in the 24 November Physical Review Letters ('Torque Detection using Brownian Fluctuations') cuts through this noisy mess to reveal a hidden torque. Compared to other measurements, this method achieves ten times higher torque sensitivity. It could be applied to proteins, DNA, or even synthetic nanomotors developed for futuristic devices...
"David Leigh of the University of Edinburgh has developed a molecule-sized motor whose light-induced rotation could power future nanomachines. He says more precise torque measurements like those of Petrov and Volpe are 'crucial for improving our understanding of how biomolecular machines work and for assessing how well the current early generations of synthetic molecular machines work.'"
The researchers involved do photonics. Amazing to see the variety of backgrounds being brought to bear on the challenge of synthetic molecular machines.
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