Home > Resources > Publications > Foresight Publications > Weekly News Digest

Foresight Nanotech Institute Weekly News Digest: March 28, 2007

Top Nano News of the Week

Headline: Nanotechnology video: Forcing reactions mechanically
News source: Nanodot

Foresight members have long been interested in physical/mechanical control of the positions and reactivity of molecules, as a pathway to advanced molecular nanotechnology and atomically-precise construction of large products. This connection is described on Wikipedia in the mechanochemistry entry. Now at team at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign led by chemistry prof Jeffrey Moore has taken the next step:

"The inventors of self-healing plastic have come up with another invention: a new way of doing chemistry.

"Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have found a novel way to manipulate matter and drive chemical reactions along a desired direction. The new technique utilizes mechanical force to alter the course of chemical reactions and yield products not obtainable through conventional conditions.

"'This is a fundamentally new way of doing chemistry,' said Jeffrey Moore, a William H. and Janet Lycan Professor of Chemistry at Illinois and corresponding author of a paper that describes the technique in the March 22 issue of the journal Nature…"

[Editor's summary, first paragraph, and three videos]

— See Nanodot for the full post by Christine Peterson

In this issue:

Health: Ultrathin films deliver DNA as possible gene therapy tool
Health: Nanotechnology could lead to improved implant devices
Information technology: Transparent electronics and thin film solar cells
Information technology: Nanotube arrays for high-performance electronics
Space: Nanotechnology propulsion technology
Advancing Beneficial Nanotechnology - Join Foresight
Conference –10th Annual NSTI Nanotech Conference and Trade Show
Research: Nanoparticles don't harm soil ecology
News: Life cycle assessment for nanotech products
Events - World Nano-Economic Congress South Africa
Editor's Pick - Microscopic alphabet could lead to tiny devices
Nanodot - Nature's nanotechnology motors to inspire future machines
Contact Foresight

Nanotechnology that's Good For People

Foresight Challenge: Improving health and longevity

Headline: Ultrathin films deliver DNA as possible gene therapy tool
News source: University of Wisconsin-Madison, written by Jill Sakai

Gene therapy — the idea of using genetic instructions rather than drugs to treat disease — has tickled scientists' imaginations for decades, but is not yet a viable therapeutic method. One sizeable hurdle is getting the right genes into the right place at the right time.

Engineers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison are now developing a tool to tackle this problem.

David M. Lynn and his colleagues have created ultrathin, nanoscale films composed of DNA and water-soluble polymers that allow controlled release of DNA from surfaces. When used to coat implantable medical devices, the films offer a novel way to route useful genes to exactly where they could do the most good.

Jump to the top

Foresight Challenge: Improving health and longevity

Headline: Nanotechnology could lead to improved implant devices
News source: Nanowerk Spotlight, written by Michael Berger

There seems to be growing consensus among scientists that nanostructured implant materials may have many potential advantages over existing, conventional ones.

"We continuously are finding more and more positive attributes of using nanomaterials as improved orthopedic implants," Dr. Thomas J. Webster tells Nanowerk. "Our results point to the idea that no matter what material chemistry one is interested in (metals, ceramics, polymers, composites), increased bone formation can be achieved by nanostructuring these materials. This can be done by using a number of manufacturing techniques including by using nanoparticles themselves, e-beam evaporation, chemical etching, or lithography. In some cases, we see a three to five times faster regeneration of bone on materials of the same chemistry but with nano compared to micron grain sizes."

…Webster is optimistic: "Significant evidence now exists elucidating that nanophase materials represent an important growing area of research that may improve bonding between an implant and surrounding bone. It has proven to be a versatile approach that can increase bone cell functions on a wide range of orthopedic implant chemistries."

Jump to the top

Nanotechnology that's Good For the Planet

Foresight Challenge: Making information technology available to all

Headline: En route to inkjet-printing transparent electronics and thin film solar cells
News source: Nanowerk Spotlight, written by Michael Berger

"We have developed a general method for fabricating transparent semiconducting oxides that is suitable for digital fabrication such as inkjet printing," Dr. Chih-Hung Chan explains to Nanowerk. "This technique is capable of printing large-area films using low-cost environmental friendly precursors. Transparent semiconductor oxides are important for many thin film electronics like thin film transistors (TFT), solar cells, and displays."

Jump to the top

Foresight Challenge: Making information technology available to all

Headline: Linear arrays of nanotubes offer path to high-performance electronics
News source: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, written by James E. Kloeppel

Despite the attractive electrical properties and physical features of single-walled carbon nanotubes, incorporating them into scalable integrated circuits has proven to be a challenge because of difficulties in manipulating and positioning these molecular scale objects and in achieving sufficient current outputs.

Now, researchers at the University of Illinois, Lehigh University and Purdue University have developed an approach that uses dense arrays of aligned and linear nanotubes as a thin-film semiconductor material suitable for integration into electronic devices.

"The aligned arrays represent an important step toward large-scale integrated nanotube electronics," said John A. Rogers, a Founder Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Illinois, and corresponding author of a paper accepted for publication in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, and posted on its Web site.

Nature Nanotechnology abstract

Jump to the top

Foresight Challenge: Enabling space development

Headline: Nanotechnology propulsion technology for space exploration
News source: Nanowerk Spotlight, written by Michael Berger

Electric propulsion (EP) systems significantly reduce the required propellant mass compared to conventional chemical rockets, allowing to increase the payload capacity or decrease the launch mass…A new EP concept proposes to utilize electrostatically charged and accelerated nanoparticles as propellant. Millions of micron-sized nanoparticle thrusters would fit on one square centimeter, allowing the fabrication of highly scaleable thruster arrays.

A new electrostatic thruster technology is under development at the University of Michigan's Plasmadynamics and Electric Propulsion Laboratory, using nanoparticles as propellant with micro- and nano-electromechanical systems (MEMS/NEMS). Termed the nanoparticle field extraction thruster — nanoFET — this highly integrated propulsion concept is a high efficiency, variable specific impulse engine type that can be readily scalable for a large range of future space science and exploration missions.

Jump to the top

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? Or perhaps there are potential nanotech scenarios you would like to prevent.

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:

Jump to the top

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 and Cleantech 2007.

See the poster presentation by Foresight's Director of Education Miguel Aznar: "How do we, as a society, guide the development of nanotechnology?"

Jump to the top

Nanotech Research

Headline: Test finds manufactured nanoparticles don't harm soil ecology
News source: Purdue University, written by Susan A. Steeves

The first published study on the environmental impact of manufactured nanoparticles on ordinary soil showed no negative effects, which is contrary to concerns voiced by some that the microscopic particles could be harmful to organisms.

Scientists added both dry and water-based forms of manufactured fullerenes — nanosized particles also known as buckyballs — to soil. The nanoparticles didn't change how the soil and its microorganisms functioned, said Ron Turco, a Purdue University soil and environmental microbiologist.

Jump to the top

Nanotech News

Headline: Life cycle assessment essential to nanotech commercial development
Current methods adequate but toxicity data lacking
News source: EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS

Life cycle assessment (LCA) — a cradle-to-grave look at the health and environmental impact of a material, chemical, or product — is an essential tool for ensuring the safe, responsible, and sustainable commercialization of nanotechnology, U.S. and European experts conclude in a new report issued today.

With the number of nanotechnology-enabled products entering the market expected to grow dramatically — from $30 billion in 2005 to $2.6 trillion in global manufactured goods using nanotechnology by 2014 — "numerous uncertainties exist regarding possible impacts on the environment and human health," the international authors observe in Nanotechnology and Life Cycle Assessment: A Systems Approach to Nanotechnology and the Environment.

Jump to the top

Nanotech Events

World Nano-Economic Congress South Africa
Presented by the Department of Science and Technology of the Republic of South Africa and Cientifica
April 23-24, 2007
CSIR International Convention Center
Pretoria, South Africa

As with previous WNEC events, the WNEC South Africa aims at informing both international and local audiences of the impact of nanotechnologies on industries with an emphasis on the local industries where it is being held.

Jump to the top

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.

These scientists report a powerful and versatile approach to fabricating and manipulating microscale parts that they think they can extend into the nanoscale. There is no obvious way this could extend to making atomically precise parts, but it appears quite promising for assembling microscopic machine systems. Working with microscopic machine systems may inspire and facilitate progress toward molecular machine systems.

— Jim

Headline: UCLA scientists create microscopic alphabet, research could lead to tiny devices
News source: EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS

UCLA scientists have designed and mass-produced billions of fluorescent microscale particles in the shapes of all 26 letters of the alphabet in an "alphabet soup" displaying "exquisite fidelity of the shapes."

The letters are made of solid polymeric materials dispersed in a liquid solution. The research will be published March 29 in the Journal of Physical Chemistry C, where it will be illustrated on the cover. The scientists anticipate that their "LithoParticles" will have significant technological and scientific uses.

"We have made fluorescent lithographic particles, we have made complex three-dimensional shapes and, as shown by UCLA postdoctoral fellow Kun Zhao, we can assemble these particles, for example, in a lock-and-key relationship," said [co-author Thomas G. Mason, a UCLA associate professor of chemistry], whose research is at the intersection of chemistry, physics, engineering and biology. "We can mass-produce complex parts having different controlled shapes at a scale much smaller than scientists have been able to produce previously. We have a high degree of control over the parts that we make and are on the verge of making functional devices in solution. We may later be able to configure the parts into more complex and useful assemblies.

"How can we control and direct the assembly of tiny components to make a machine that works?" Mason asked. "Can we cause the components to fit together in a controlled way that may be useful to us? Can we create useful complex structures out of fundamental parts, in solution, where we can mass-produce a small-scale engine, for example? We will pursue these research questions."

Jump to the top


Headline: Nature's nanotechnology motors to inspire future machines

Work at Purdue and The Catholic University of America has clarified how a natural nanotechnology motor works to "pump" DNA into the head of a virus. From Small Times:

"The virus consists of a head and tail portion. The DNA-packaging motor is located in the same place where the tail eventually connects to the head. The motor falls off after the packaging step is completed, allowing the tail to attach to the capsid.

"DNA is made of four different kinds of "nucleotides" identified by a specific 'base.' The bases are paired together to form the rungs of a ladderlike, double-stranded helical structure. Because there is a negative charge associated with each nucleotide, they repel each other when compressed together, creating a pressure inside the confining space of the capsid. A motor is needed to counteract this pressure, in effect pumping the DNA into the head…

"The authors proposed that the motor uses a similar inchworm mechanism to package the DNA into the virus…

"Because herpes and other viruses contain similar DNA packaging motors, the findings could help scientists to design drugs that would interfere in the function of these motors and hence mitigate the result of some viral infections. The findings also could have other applications, such as development of tiny 'nanomotors' in future machines, [Purdue biology prof Michael] Rossmann said."

Nature's nanotech: a great inspiration for today's nanotechnologists.

— Nanodot post by Christine Peterson

Jump to the top

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. To find out more about membership, follow this link:

To join:

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

If you would like to browse past issues of the News Digest, follow this link:

Foresight Nanotech Institute
PO Box 61058
Palo Alto, CA 94306 USA
tel +1 650 289.0860
fax +1 650.289.0863

If you were forwarded this email from a friend and would like to subscribe yourself, please follow this link and sign up for our free electronic membership.

Thank you!