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Foresight Nanotech Institute Weekly News Digest: March 14, 2007

Top Nano News of the Week

Headline: Defense view of nanotechnology's potential
News source: Nanodot

Nanowerk covers a February 2007 report from the U.S. Defense Science Board titled 21st Century Strategic Technology Vectors (pdf). Excerpts:

"DOD must also keep abreast of the most rapidly changing and emerging technologies as a necessary complement to the mission-driven perspective that is the focus of this report. Today these include bio-, info-, and nano-technologies. Synergistic combinations of these could produce truly revolutionary capabilities in human performance enhancement, medical treatment and prophylaxis, miniaturization, life extension, robotics, and machine intelligence, to name few of the more promising areas for research…

"Nanotechnology, in particular, offers potential for devices that can endure for very long periods of time in close proximity to targets of interest and that can be delivered by clandestine means… A combination of nanotechnology, biology, and chemistry promises to provide significant increases in capability to conduct pervasive surveillance on a global basis — with minimized personnel exposure and minimized probability that deployed assets will be compromised."


— Nanodot post by Christine Peterson

In this issue:

Health: Targeted nanoparticles image early tumors
Clean energy: Nanotechnology and energy interview
Environment: Designing nanomaterials with reduced toxicity
Advancing Beneficial Nanotechnology - Join Foresight
Conference –10th Annual NSTI Nanotech Conference and Trade Show
Research: Rings made of little rods
Events – Nanotech Outreach Workshop
Editor's Pick – Metal forging techniques reach the nanoscale
Nanodot – Nanotechnology for health: 10-year EU-US perspective
Contact Foresight

Nanotechnology that's Good For People

Foresight Challenge: Improving health and longevity

Headline: Targeted nanoparticles image early tumors
News source: National Cancer Institute's Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer

A well-established fact in cancer therapy is that early tumor detection improves the odds that a patient will survive the disease. Now, using nanoparticles targeted to the tiny blood vessels that surround even the smallest tumors, researchers at the Siteman Center for Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence (CCNE) have developed a radioactive imaging agent that was able to identify human tumors in rabbits. This work appears in the International Journal of Cancer.

Gregory Lanza, M.D., and Samuel Wickline, M.D., both at Washington University in St. Louis, led the group of investigators that created perfluorocarbon nanoparticles, each containing an average of 10 atoms of the radioactive element indium-111, an agent used in a variety of biomedical imaging applications. To target tumors, the researchers added a molecule that recognizes and binds to … a complex molecule found on the surface of new blood vessels.

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Nanotechnology that's Good For the Planet

Foresight Challenge: Providing renewable clean energy

Headline: Holister on nanotechnology and energy
News source: Nanodot

Paul Holister, winner of the 2003 Foresight Prize in Communication, has an upcoming book on nanotechnology and energy to be published by John Wiley. While we wait for that, we can read this interview at InvestorIdeas.com. Excerpt:

"At the other extreme of nanotech impact, you have solar energy. We are children in this area, and the playground is built on the nanoscale. Almost any development is going to involve nanotech — an intriguing recent exception being the use of lenses to focus light on old-fashioned silicon photovoltaics, thus demanding less of this expensive material. This is one of the areas where nanotech-enabled technology could well be revolutionary.

"But what makes for a revolution in energy generation? Two things: availability and economics. The fact that solar energy is so bountiful — enough hits the Earth in a minute to meet our global requirements for at least a week — makes it potentially revolutionary; it's just the cost of capturing that energy that has been standing in the way. Reduce that enough, or increase the cost of the alternatives, and you have a revolution."

Bring it on!

— See Nanodot for the post by Christine Peterson

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Foresight Challenge: Healing and preserving the environment

Foresight note: While nanotechnology offers much to clean and preserve the environment, it is still essential to make sure that current and near-term work with nanomaterials does not add to environmental and health problems. This article reports an important advance in simulation that will improve the design of safe nanomaterials.

Headline: The challenge of designing nanomaterials with reduced toxicity
News source: Nanowerk Spotlight, written by Michael Berger

It has been known for a while that surface functionalization could modify the toxicity of nanomaterials. However, the mechanisms behind these observations are not well understood. This situation has motivated researchers to find a mechanistic explanation by taking a common nanomaterial — a fullerene — and study its interaction with a common biological entity — a cell…

"Studies of these atomistic processes have only received recent attention and the effects of surface functionalization have yet to be addressed," Dr. Rui Qiao tells Nanowerk. "Now we have conducted what could be the first comparative atomistic study of effects of surface functionalization on toxicity of nanomaterials. Our simulations indicate that surface functionalization can significantly modify the interactions between fullerenes and cell membranes. The result is a very different translocation behavior and impact on membrane structure."…

These observations offer a mechanistic explanation on the reduced toxicity of functionalized fullerenes. Furthermore, the findings reported in this paper show that numerical simulations can be a useful tool in studying nanotoxicity and complement experimental investigations. Ultimately, these insights could facilitate the design of nanomaterials with reduced toxicity.

Nano Letters abstract

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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.

To join:

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Foresight Partners

10th Annual NSTI Nanotech Conference and Trade Show
Nano Science and Technology Institute (NSTI)
May 20-25, 2007
Santa Clara Convention Center
Santa Clara, California

The Nanotech Conference and Trade Show is co-located with 2007 TechConnect Summit (corporate partnering) and Cleantech 2007.

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Nanotech Research

Headline: Rings made of little rods
News source: Angewandte Chemie International press release

Rod-shaped nanocrystals normally arrange themselves parallel to each other. Researchers at Rice University in Houston, Texas now report in the journal Angewandte Chemie completely unexpected behavior of nano-objects: the spontaneous self-assembly of polymer-coated metallic nanorods into ring-shaped structures. These rings, made of tiny gold rods, form within seconds when water droplets condense onto the surface of a solution of the rods in a nonpolar solvent.

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Nanotech Events

Nanotech Outreach Workshop
This workshop is being organized by IMEC (Belgium), RVO-Society, U.S. Department of State, U.S. National Science & Technology Council, The U.S. National Nanotechnology Initiative, The Flanders NanoBusiness Alliance
May 7-8, 2007
Leuven, Belgium

Communicating nanotech to the public

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Editor's Pick

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 nanofabrication method is certainly not atomically precise so it seems unlikely to lead to molecular manufacturing. Nevertheless, the capability to forge 100-nm metallic components for possible assembly to make micrometer-scale systems is a major advance over previous microfabrication capabilities, and it demonstrates the wide range of approaches that nanoscience provides.

— Jim

Headline: From Bronze Age shack to nanotechnology lab — metal forging techniques reach the bottom

News source: Nanowerk Spotlight, written by Michael Berger

The earliest forgings, appearing around 1600 BC, were crudely hammered ornaments from naturally occurring free metals. The latest, most state-of-the-art forging techniques use micron-sized hammers to forge nanometer-sized metal shapes to be used as components in nanotechnology and microtechnology systems. New research demonstrates the possibilities of nanoforging — applying conventional metal shaping techniques to nano objects. In recent years, nanoscale fabrication has developed considerably, but the fabrication of free-standing nanosize components is still a great challenge. The ability to produce high-strength metallic components with characteristic dimensions of nanometers by nanoforging opens up new possibilities to eventually produce complex microsystems by assembling free-standing nanoscopic components. At these sizes they are of the same dimensions as micro-organisms and therefore sufficiently small even to travel through the human body.

Nanotechnology abstract

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Headline: Nanotechnology for health: 10-year EU-US perspective

News source: Nanodot
Posted by Christine Peterson on

A while back I offered to write more about "Health and Nanotechnology: Economic, Societal, and Institutional Impact," a report from a conference convened with the cooperation of the U.S. Dept. of State and the European Commission, part of a series called Perspectives on the Future of Science and Technology, which has a ten-year time horizon. Here are some additional excerpts. From the Introduction:

"…participants gathered in Varenna to consider how health-related nanoproducts and applications might impact society and the economy, and how institutions might seek proactively to maximize the benefits of nanotechnology while minimizing risk."

There's that 'maximize, minimize' language again, of which we at Foresight are so fond…

From chemist Paul Alivisatos of UC Berkeley:

"Further, we are learning to assemble these building blocks into artificial nonliving systems that mimic features and behaviors of living ones.

"For instance, we can imagine making a system that will move toward pollutants or toxins and neutralize them. How? By combining cell motility and chemotaxis units within an artificial abiotic system that delivers catalysts for breaking down specific molecules. And once we learn how to emulate natural nanoscale systems, we will soon develop our own abilities to improve on them. Just as the earliest airplanes contained many features derived from close observation of birds, today's airplanes — which bear little relationship to birds — fly much faster and farther. By copying nature's nanotechnologies, we can learn how to greatly improve our own."

This airplane-bird analogy will be familiar to many Foresight members. It's a shame that this interesting report is not on the web.

— See Nanodot for the full post by Christine Peterson

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Contact Foresight

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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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