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Foresight Nanotech Institute Weekly News Digest: January 24, 2007

In this issue:

Nanotechnology that's Good For People

Foresight Challenge: Increasing health and longevity

Foresight note: In this report investigators at the University of Michigan have continued to develop a type of biocompatible polymeric dendrimer nanoparticle system that they have already used to image and treat tumors to now serve as a nanoscale sensor of cell death. They are developing a multifunctional nanoscale anticancer agent that can detect cancer, treat it, and then report on the success or failure of that treatment.

Headline: Sensing Cancer Cell Death with Dendrimers
News source: NCI Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer

"Reporting their work in the journal Biomacromolecules, James Baker, Jr., M.D., and his colleagues described a novel approach for using dendrimers to detect apoptosis, programmed cell death triggered by anticancer agents."

"Most approaches to detect apoptosis rely on the human protein annexin V, which binds to a hidden cell membrane component revealed in the initial stages of apoptosis. Baker's group took a different approach, looking for the appearance of a protein called caspase-3, an enzyme activated early in the apoptosis process."

Biomacromolecules abstract of the research publication "Dendrimer-based targeted delivery of an apoptotic sensor in cancer cells"

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Foresight Challenge: Increasing health and longevity

Foresight note: A nanoparticle with a porous outer shell covering a core that delivers platinum, a potent anticancer agent, kills cancer cells much more effectively than does the standard platinum-based anticancer drug, opening new possibilities for anticancer nanomedicine.

Headline: Nanoscale "Egg" Kills Tumor Cells with Platinum
News source: NCI Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer

"Researchers at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology have developed a nanoscale "egg" that could safely deliver platinum, a known anticancer agent, to tumor cells. Tests with this nanoscale egg, which has a hard cobalt shell surrounding a "yolk" of platinum and iron, show that it is seven times more toxic than the anticancer agent cisplatin to cancer cells."

Journal of the American Chemical Society abstract of "FePt@CoS2 yolk-shell nanocrystals as a potent agent to kill HeLa cells"

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Nanotechnology that's Good For the Planet

Foresight Challenge: Making information technology available to all

Foresight note: This article spotlights recent research combining top-down and bottom-up techniques to place nanowires on a silicon surface, which will make possible smaller and more complex circuits for nanoelectronics and nanooptics.

Headline: Nanowire growth through ion beams
News source: Nanowerk article by Michael Berger

[To make nanowires to reduce the size of complex integrated circuits] "cobalt disilicide (CoSi2) is a very promising contact material due to its extremely useful properties such as low resistance, its metallic behavior ... and its compatibility with modern silicon technology. Many efforts have been made to fabricate silicide nanowires employing the bottom-up approach without elaborate microlithography. Researchers in Germany now have demonstrated a promising technique that allows the defect-induced formation and placing of cobalt disilicide nanowires by focused ion beam synthesis in silicon directly where it is needed."

"The researchers in Germany used a combination of a high resolution FIB [focused ion beam](top-down approach) and self organization processes during ion beam synthesis (bottom-up approach) to fabricate CoSi2 nanowires in silicon. The obtained nanowires are 10-20 nm in diameter and several micrometers long."

Institute of Ion Beam Physics and Materials Research

Applied Physics Letters abstract of "Defect induced formation of CoSi2 nanowires by focused ion beam synthesis"

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Foresight Challenge: Making information technology available to all

Foresight note: Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and their collaborators have improved magnetic nanodot arrays so that they may be applicable to commercially viable disk drives.

Headline: Nanodot Arrays
News source: Technology News Daily

The massive global challenge of storing digital data — storage needs reportedly double every yea — may be met with a tiny yet powerful solution: magnetic particles just a few billionths of a meter across. This idea is looking better than ever now that researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and collaborators have made nanodot arrays that respond to magnetic fields with record levels of uniformity. The work enhances prospects for commercially viable nanodot drives with at least 100 times the capacity of today's hard disk drives.

Alternate source: "Improved Nanodots Could Be Key to Future Data Storage" at PhysOrg.com


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Advancing Beneficial Nanotechnology

Do you believe that nanotechnology will give society the ability 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?

If you would like to help influence the direction of this powerful technology, please consider becoming a member of Foresight Nanotech Institute. With your support, Foresight will continue to educate the general public on beneficial nanotechnology and what it will mean to our society.

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Nanotech Research

Headline: Walking molecule now carries packages

News source: Nanodot, posted by Christine Peterson on January 22, 2007

Alert reader Ron Zilm brings our attention to a nanotechnology research achievement at UC Riverside in California by Ludwig Bartels, originally a physicist in Germany but now in the UCR chemistry department:

"Walking Molecule Now Carries Packages
Molecule walks in a straight line and carries a tiny shopping bag in each hand

"A research team, led by UC Riverside's Ludwig Bartels, was the first to design a molecule that can move in a straight line on a flat surface. Now this team has found a way to attach cargo: two CO2 molecules, making the nano-walker a molecule carrier.

"'This is an unprecedented step forward towards the realization of molecular-scale machinery,' said Bartels, associate professor of chemistry and a member of UCR's Center for Nanoscale Science and Engineering. 'Our experiments show a means to transport molecules reliably. This will become as important to the molecular machinery of the future as trucks and conveyor belts are for factories of today.'"

University of California Riverside Press release

Research group homepage

Published Online January 18, 2007
Science DOI: 10.1126/science.1135302 "A Molecule Carrier" Abstract and movie

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Headline: Turning an axel mounted molecular wheel

News source: Physorg.com

Foresight note: This team includes Christian Joachim, winner of two Foresight Institute Feynman Prizes.

"Researchers at the Centre for Material Development and Structural Studies in Toulouse (CEMES-CNRS) and their colleagues at the Free University of Berlin have, for the first time, managed to control the rotation of a wheel in a molecule. This nano-mechanical experiment concerned an 0.7 nm diameter wheel attached to a 0.6 nm-long axle. This success opens the way to creating the first molecular machines. The study was published on-line on January 21, 2007, in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

"Step by step, they have studied this field in depth in collaboration with their colleagues at IBM in Zurich and then at the Free University of Berlin. After observing the random rotation of a flat molecular wheel in 1998, designing and synthesizing a mono-molecular wheelbarrow in 2003 and then synthesizing a molecular motor in 2005, they last year managed to operate the first molecular rack with a pinion of 1.2 nm in diameter. [Foresight note: the rack and pinion work was the subject of a Nanodot post just a few weeks ago: European nanotechnology team builds molecular rack-and-pinion]

"Today, these researchers have shown that a molecular wheel mounted on an axle (as short as possible) could rotate."

CNRS press release


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Nanotech Events

2nd Annual Nanomedicine: Commercializing Drug Delivery, Diagnostics and Medical Devices

March 26 to 27, 2007
Hyatt Regency Crystal City
Arlington, VA

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.

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Toward Productive Nanosystems

Foresight note: A previous Nanodot post on this very exciting UK project was cited in last week's Weekly News Digest.

Headline: U.K. nanotechnology project causing U.S. nanoenvy
News Source: Nanodot
Posted by Christine Peterson on January 17, 2007

In addition to the experimental project described here yesterday, there are now two more posted on the U.K. Software Control of Matter Ideas Factory blog which are very likely to be funded — the first experimental, the second theoretical:

"Directed Reconfigurable Nanomachines
We propose a scheme to revolutionise the synthesis of nanodevices, nanomachines, and, ultimately, functional materials via the positional assembly of molecules and nanoscale building blocks. Computer-directed actuators will be used to drive (with sub-nanometre to sub-Angstrom precision) the elements of a nanosystem along pre-defined and entirely deterministic trajectories, thereby achieving structures not accessible by mimicing natural assembly strategies alone. Linkages and bonding between the building blocks will also be initiated, modulated, and — in some cases — terminated by direct computer control ...

"The Matter Compiler
An ambition to assemble molecules and materials under atomically precise control demands a big leap forward in control engineering and computer science. Is it possible to anticipate the properties and needs of a 'nano-assembler'? If so, there is a need for a high level instruction language and a computer compiler that translates commands in this language into instructions for the 'nano-assembler'. This development will require a breakthrough in understanding of chemical synthesis that must embrace the radically new 'pick and place' assembly method which is now possible in scanning probe microscopy (SPM). The Matter Compiler project is thus both an exercise in foresight, to anticipate developments in this area, and a prototype implementation for the engineering control and computer science aspects of directed molecular assembly ..."

So the votes are in: the entire U.S. community interested in manufacturing with atomic precision has submitted requests to emigrate to the U.K.

Kidding! But not by much. We are suffering a serious case of nanoenvy over here. — Christine

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Editor's Pick

Dear readers – I have greatly enjoyed being the first Editor of the Foresight Weekly News Digest, but am now moving on to new challenges in the Bay Area. I hereby turn over the Digest to the capable hands of Dr. James Lewis, and look forward to seeing Digest readers at future Foresight events!

— Judy Conner

From James Lewis:

Thanks, Judy. We will continue your 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.

The article below reports progress toward solving a problem that might affect many of the numerous efforts to use a variety of nanoparticles of quite diverse chemical compositions for delivery of many different types of drugs.

— Jim

Headline: Coated nanoparticles slip through mucus

News source: NewScientist.com news service

Nanoparticles with the right coating can quickly slip through human mucus, a new study shows. The results raise hopes for more efficient delivery of a variety of drugs.

Mucus helps protect the lungs, intestines, vaginal tract, and other tissues. The thick mesh of proteins contained in mucus can capture bacteria and dirt, and then flush these invaders out. Previous research also found that mucus acts as a formidable barrier to nanoscopic particles.

Now researchers have cracked the problem, with a cheap and easy way to make larger nanoparticles slip through mucus. The secret, say Justin Hanes and colleagues at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, US, is to coat them with the molecule polyethylene glycol (PEG) — a simple, biodegradable polymer.

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Headline: Help write open source nanotechnology textbook

News source: Nanodot
Posted by Christine Peterson on January 18, 2007

Given our interests in both nanotechnology and open source, we are happy to see that Wikibooks has an open-content textbook called The Opensource Handbook of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology. It includes not just text, but also demonstration experiments and media files. This online book was voted Wikibook of the Month for December 2006. Excerpt on molecular nanotechnology:

"Molecular nanotechnology (MNT) is the engineering of functional systems at the molecular scale[1]. An equivalent definition would be 'machines at the molecular scale designed and built atom-by-atom'. This is distinct from nanoscale materials. Based on Richard Feynman's vision of miniature factories using nanomachines to build complex products (including additional nanomachines), this advanced form of nanotechnology (or molecular manufacturing) will make use of positionally-controlled mechanosynthesis guided by molecular machine systems. MNT would involve combining physical principles demonstrated by chemistry, other nanotechnologies, and the molecular machinery of life with the systems engineering principles found in modern macroscale factories. Its most well-known exposition is in the books of K. Eric Drexler.

"Formulating a roadmap for the development of MNT is now an objective of a broadly based technology roadmap project led by Battelle (the manager of several U.S. National Laboratories) and the Foresight Institute."

Don't just read it — if you can, help make it better.

Christine Peterson

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Contact Foresight

The Foresight Nanotech Institute Weekly News Digest is emailed every week to 15,000 individuals in more than 125 countries. Foresight Nanotech Institute is a member-supported organization. We offer membership levels appropriate to meet the needs and interests of individuals and companies.

Dr. James Lewis, Research Analyst at Foresight Nanotech Institute, is the new editor of the Foresight Nanotech Institute Weekly News Digest. If you would like to submit a news item or contact him with comments about the News Digest, please send an email to editor@foresight.org

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