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Foresight Nanotech Institute Weekly News Digest: April 4, 2007

Top Nano News of the Week

Headline: Visionary Congressional report on nanotechnology
News source: Nanodot

Nanowerk brings our attention to a new report by the Joint Economic Committee of the U.S. Congress titled "Nanotechnology: The Future is Coming Sooner Than You Think" (pdf), apparently authored by Senior Economist Joseph V. Kennedy and sponsored by Rep. Jim Saxton (R-NJ). On molecular nanosystems:

"At this stage a single product will integrate a wide variety of capacities including independent power generation, information processing and communication, and mechanical operation. Its manufacture implies the ability to rearrange the basic building blocks of matter and life to accomplish specific purposes. Nanoproducts regularly applied to a field might search out and transform hazardous materials and mix a specified amount of oxygen into the soil. Nanodevices could roam the body, fixing the DNA of damaged cells, monitoring vital conditions and displaying data in a readable form on skin cells in a form similar to a tattoo. [Link added. –CP] Computers might operate by reading the brain waves of the operator."

— See Nanodot for the full post by Christine Peterson

In this issue:

Health: Better drug delivery with filament-shaped nanoparticles
Health: Caution on safety of iron nanoparticles
Environment: Nanoporous materials to 'breathe' in carbon dioxide
Information technology: Flexible electronics from thin ribbons of silicon
Advancing Beneficial Nanotechnology - Join Foresight
Conference –10th Annual NSTI Nanotech Conference and Trade Show
Research: Cells selectively absorb short nanotubes
News: Government 'failing' nanoscience [UK]
Events - ChinaNANO 2007
Toward Productive Nanosystems: Controlling nanotechnology scissors with light
Editor's Pick - 'Nanobuds' combine fullerenes and nanotubes
Nanodot - "Faster please" on nanotechnology
Contact Foresight

Nanotechnology that's Good For People

Foresight Challenge: Improving health and longevity

Headline: Shape affects how nanoparticles flow
News source: Nanotechweb.org, written by Belle Dumé

Nanoparticles shaped like filaments can circulate in the blood about 10 times longer than their spherical counterparts, according to work by researchers in the US. The result could be important for designing better drug-delivery systems for treating cancer. Indeed, preliminary findings show that the nanosized "filomicelles" can effectively deliver the anti-cancer drug paclitaxel and shrink human-derived tumours in mice.

Although scientists have extensively studied the way spherical particles interact with biological cells and in animals, they have not paid much attention to how non-spherical particles (with the exception of carbon nanotubes) behave.

Nature Nanotechnology abstract

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Foresight Challenge: Improving health and longevity

Foresight note: While nanoparticles of many different types have demonstrated great medical potential, this report underscores the need for thorough testing of each type of nanostructure to ensure its safety. For a similar caution, see the story below "Cells selectively absorb short nanotubes".

Headline: Widely used iron nanoparticles exhibit toxic effects on neuronal cells
Unexpected effects on cells noted while investigating a possible way to manipulate them remotely with a magnetic force
News source: EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS

Researchers at UC San Diego have discovered that iron-containing nanoparticles being tested for use in several biomedical applications can be toxic to nerve cells and interfere with the formation of their signal-transmitting extensions…

Many researchers throughout the world are also studying the use of iron-containing nanoparticles in gene therapy, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and other medically important applications. While studies have focused primarily on the many potential uses of nanoparticles, [Sungho Jin, a professor of materials science at UCSD] said more attention should be paid to their safety. "Our experience leads us to conclude that any analysis of the biocompatibility of nanoparticles should include not just a toxicological study of the component parts," said [Thomas R Pisanic, II, a Ph.D. student], "but also an examination of the total structure as a whole."

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Nanotechnology that's Good For the Planet

Foresight Challenge: Healing and preserving the environment

Headline: Scientists track remarkable 'breathing' in nanoporous materials
News source: European Synchrotron Radiation Facility

Scientists all over the world are participating in the quest for new materials with properties suitable for the environmentally friendly and economically feasible separation, recovery, and reuse of vapours and greenhouse gases. A team of scientists from France, UK and the ESRF have recently discovered an unprecedented giant and reversible swelling of nanoporous materials with exceptional properties: huge flexibility and profound selectivity. They publish their results in Science this week.

The next step for the team is to investigate how hydrogen or green-house gases can be stored in these kinds of materials. This may open a door to ecological applications such as hydrogen-fuelled cars or the capture of carbon dioxide in the near future.

Science abstract

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Foresight Challenge: Making information technology available to all

Foresight note: Flexible electronics may facilitate embedding information technology where it can not yet easily be placed, and thus help to create a pervasive computing environment.

Headline: Flexible electronics could find applications as sensors, artificial muscles
News source: Argonne National Laboratory

Flexible electronic structures with the potential to bend, expand and manipulate electronic devices are being developed by researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. These flexible structures could find useful applications as sensors and as electronic devices that can be integrated into artificial muscles or biological tissues.

The team of researchers has been successful in fabricating thin ribbons of silicon and designing them to bend, stretch and compress like an accordion without losing their ability to function. The detailed results of these findings were published in the Journal of Materials Chemistry paper, "Structural forms of single crystal semiconductor nanoribbons for high-performance stretchable electronics," which is available online.

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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? 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:

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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 and Cleantech 2007.

See the poster presentation at 2-4 PM Wednesday afternoon by Foresight's Director of Education Miguel Aznar: "How do we, as a society, guide the development of nanotechnology?"

Please come by the Foresight booth, staffed by Alicia Isaac and Miguel Aznar, at the Nanotech Showcase on Wednesday evening.

Members are encouraged to stop by and say hello at both the poster and booth.

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Nanotech Research

Headline: Study: Cells selectively absorb short nanotubes
News source: National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

DNA-wrapped single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs) shorter than about 200 nanometers readily enter into human lung cells and so may pose an increased risk to health, according to scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The results of their laboratory studies appear in an upcoming issue of Advanced Materials.

[The researchers] found that tubes longer than about 200 nanometers were excluded from the cells and remained in solution. Cells exposed to the longer nanotube solutions did not undergo a decrease in metabolic activity, but cells exposed to nanotubes below that threshold absorbed them and, depending on the concentration level, died or showed other signs of toxicity. "Our results demonstrate that cellular uptake in these lung cells depends significantly on the length of the nanotubes," [NIST scientist Matthew Becker] explains. "This is the first of many steps in the critical goal of reducing health risk by de novo engineering of the nanotubes themselves."

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Nanotech News

Headline: Government 'failing' nanoscience
News source: BBC NEWS, written by Jonathan Fildes

The UK government has failed to fund adequate research into potential risks posed by developing nanotechnology, a report by leading advisors has warned.

As well as not spotting possible harmful effects, the UK risked losing its world lead in nanoscience, it said.

The Council for Science and Technology (CST) review examined progress on government commitments made in 2005.

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Nanotech Events

ChinaNANO 2007
June 4-6, 2007
Beijing International Convention Center
Beijing, China

ChinaNANO2007 is intended to stimulate the discussions on the forefront research in nanoscience and technology. The conference will focus on nanoscale materials and structures, self-assembly and growth on surfaces, nano-optics and nanophotonics, nanoelectronics and NEMS, nanobiology and nanomedicine, computation and modeling, nanometrology.

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Toward Productive Nanosystems

Foresight note: Although the emphasis here is on medical uses, the development of a "molecular machine capable of mechanically manipulating molecules by using light" is also a significant step towards systems of molecular machines capable of producing molecular devices and molecular machine systems.

Headline: Controlling nanotechnology scissors for medical uses
News source: Nanodot

For many years we'*ve been asked, "How will molecular machines be controlled inside the body?" In a nanotechnology advance that is getting wide attention, University of Tokyo researchers have found a way to build molecular-scale scissors — only 3 nanometers long — and control them with light. As explained at Physorg.com:

"Researchers in Japan have developed a pair of molecular-scale scissors that open and close in response to light. The tiny scissors are the first example of a molecular machine capable of mechanically manipulating molecules by using light, the scientists say.

"The scissors measure just three nanometers in length, small enough to deliver drugs into cells or manipulate genes and other biological molecules, says principal investigator Takuzo Aida, Ph.D., professor of chemistry and biotechnology at the University of Tokyo…

"In a recent study, the scientists demonstrated how the light-driven scissors could be used to grasp and twist molecules. The group is now working to develop a larger scissors system that can be manipulated remotely. Practical applications still remain five to 10 years away, the scientists say."

— See Nanodot for the full post by Christine Peterson

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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 work is a clear step toward making more complex nanostructures, which are shown to have interesting properties. For example the researchers note that the greater chemical reactivity of fullerenes compared to nanotubes opens new ways to chemically functionalize nanotubes.

— Jim

Headline: New nanomaterial, 'nanobuds,' combines fullerenes and nanotubes
News source: PhysOrg.com

Researchers have created a hybrid carbon nanomaterial that merges single-walled carbon nanotubes and spherical carbon-atom cages called fullerenes. The new structures, dubbed NanoBuds because they resemble buds sprouting on branches, may possess properties that are superior to fullerenes and nanotubes alone. They are described in the March 2007 edition of Nature Nanotechnology.

"Both fullerenes and single-walled carbon nanotubes exhibit many advantageous properties, but despite their similarities there have been very few attempts to physically merge them. The novel hybrid material we discovered merges the two into a single structure, in which the fullerenes are covalently bonded to the nanotubes," said Esko Kauppinen, a scientist involved in the work, to PhysOrg.com.

Nature Nanotechnology abstract

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Headline: "Faster please" on nanotechnology

In The Examiner, An Army of Davids author Prof. Glenn Reynolds makes nanotechnology one of his four technologies that deserve speeding up:

"Nanotechnology — a technology for making and engineering things on the molecular scale — is already a force in many areas, but at the moment it's mostly a source of high strength materials, sensors, filtration devices, and the like.

"It's even beginning to find its way into cancer treatments and other medical applications. But the real payoff from nanotechnology will come when it matures enough to allow what's called "molecular manufacturing:" making things by putting the individual atoms and molecules where you want them. …

"There are a number of technical steps needed to get us to this stage, as outlined in a "road map" document being prepared by Battelle Labs and the Foresight Institute, but none of them require actual breakthroughs in science, just refinements of engineering.

"Both the federal government and private industry are working on these things, but I'd like to see more effort along these lines. As they say, faster please."

As regular readers know, nanotech is expected to bring challenges as well as benefits. But the environmental and medical benefits are quite compelling.

— 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 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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