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Foresight Nanotech Institute Weekly News Digest: April 25, 2007

Top Nano News of the Week

Headline: New report explores nanotechnology's future
From advanced healthcare to clean energy, nanotech promises long-term benefits
News source: Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies, via AAAS EurekAlert

Controlling the properties and behavior of matter at the smallest scale—in effect, "domesticating atoms"—can help to overcome some of the world's biggest challenges, concludes a new report on how diverse experts view the future of nanotechnology. Released today, "NanoFrontiers: Visions for the Future of Nanotechnology", summarizes discussions among over 50 scientists, engineers, ethicists, policymakers, and other experts, as well as information gathered in follow-up interviews and from specially prepared background papers, about the long-term potential of nanotechnology.

Written by freelance science writer Karen F. Schmidt, the report examines several compelling opportunities for significant, widespread benefit, focusing on nanotechnology's ability to address the "energy crisis, the need for better medical treatments, and the demand for clean water." Synthesizing perspectives offered at a two-day NanoFrontiers Workshop held in February 2006, the report aims to "provide a glimpse into a vast new world of technological possibilities and to stimulate broader discussion of the goals and vision for nanotechnology in both scientific and public realms."

The report—along with the first in a series of related podcasts—is available online at http://www.nanotechproject.org/114

Download the report (1.9 MB PDF)

In this issue:

Health: 'Nanospice'—a novel strategy for cancer therapy
Health: Hope for spinal cord injuries, diabetes and Parkinson's disease
Clean energy: Plastic solar cell efficiency breaks record
Advancing Beneficial Nanotechnology - Join Foresight
Conference –10th Annual NSTI Nanotech Conference and Trade Show
Nanomanufacturing professionals survey
Research: Filming proteins at work
News: Proceedings of nanotechnology and security workshop
News: Nanoparticles can damage DNA, increase cancer risk
Events: Nanotech Outreach Workshop
Toward Productive Nanosystems: Milestone brings MRI technology to the nanoscale
Editor's Pick: Everything starts with recognition – movie
Nanodot: Nanotechnology steel climbs mountains, beats titanium
Contact Foresight

Nanotechnology that's Good For People

Foresight Challenge: Improving health and longevity

Headline: 'Nanospice' as a novel nanotechnology strategy for human cancer therapy
News source: Nanowerk News

Curcumin, a yellow polyphenol extracted from the rhizome of turmeric (Curcuma longa), has potent anti-cancer properties as demonstrated in a plethora of human cancer cell line and animal carcinogenesis models. Nevertheless, widespread clinical application of this relatively efficacious agent in cancer and other diseases has been limited due to poor aqueous solubility, and consequently, minimal systemic bioavailability.

Nanocurcumin [a polymeric nanoparticle encapsulated formulation of curcumin], unlike free curcumin, is readily dispersed in aqueous media. Nanocurcumin demonstrates comparable in vitro therapeutic efficacy to free curcumin against a panel of human pancreatic cancer cell lines…

An open access article in Journal of Nanobiotechnology

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Foresight Challenge: Improving health and longevity

Headline: Nanotechnology offers hope for treating spinal cord injuries, diabetes and Parkinson's disease
Science of tomorrow promises to alleviate suffering from intractable ailments of today
News source: Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies, via AAAS EurekAlert

Imagine a world where damaged organs in your body—kidneys, liver, heart—can be stimulated to heal themselves. Envision people tragically paralyzed whose injured spinal cords can be repaired. Think about individuals suffering from the debilitating effects of Parkinson's or Alzheimer's relieved of their symptoms—completely and permanently.

Dr. Samuel I. Stupp, director of the Institute of BioNanotechnology in Medicine at Northwestern University, is one of a new breed of scientists combining nanotechnology and biology to enable the body to heal itself—and who are achieving amazing early results. Dr. Stupp's work suggests that nanotechnology can be used to mobilize the body's own healing abilities to repair or regenerate damaged cells.

In a dramatic demonstration of what nanotechnology might achieve in regenerative medicine, paralyzed lab mice with spinal cord injuries have regained the ability to walk using their hind limbs six weeks after a simple injection of a purpose-designed nanomaterial.

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Nanotechnology that's Good For the Planet

Foresight Challenge: Providing renewable clean energy

Headline: Plastic solar cell efficiency breaks record at WFU nanotechnology center
News source: Wake Forest University

The global search for a sustainable energy supply is making significant strides at Wake Forest University as researchers at the university's Center for Nanotechnology and Molecular Materials have announced that they have pushed the efficiency of plastic solar cells to more than 6 percent.

In a paper to be published in an upcoming issue of the journal Applied Physics Letters, Wake Forest researchers describe how they have achieved record efficiency for organic or flexible, plastic solar cells by creating "nano-filaments" within light absorbing plastic, similar to the veins in tree leaves. This allows for the use of thicker absorbing layers in the devices, which capture more of the sun's light.

"Within only two years we have more than doubled the 3 percent mark," [David Carroll, director of the Wake Forest nanotechnology center] said. "I fully expect to see higher numbers within the next two years, which may make plastic devices the photovoltaic of choice."

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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.

Members receive the Foresight Nanotech Update newsletter. For a sample from the archives, see the interview of Donald A. Tomalia, President and Chief Technical Officer, Dendritic Nanotechnologies, Inc. "Perhaps the greatest reason for being excited about nanotechnology research is that it provides society an opportunity to examine new options for solving old problems." Join Foresight and help steer nanotech in the directions you personally support most!

Tomalia interview starts on page 4 of Update 57 (2.1 MB PDF)

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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Nanomanufacturing Professionals Survey from SME

Foresight members now engaged in nanomanufacturing, or working at companies which plan to enter that field, are invited to participate in an online nanomanufacturing survey sponsored by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers. With a focus on your technical information interests and needs and current use of nanotechnologies, the results will be shared with Foresight and used to develop publications and ongoing programs. Please take a moment to let SME know what you need at:

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Nanotech Research

Foresight note: The enzyme that is the focus of this study is one of a class of enzymes that catalyze a wide variety of reactions. Increasing fundamental knowledge about how biological catalysts work could aid the design of catalysts for use in productive nanosystems.

Headline: FREEZE! Scientists film proteins at work by freezing them in different states
News source: European Synchrotron Radiation Facility

Most of the research done on proteins is based on their study in a resting state and their study in movement is extremely limited due to technological limitations. Today, a French team has made a movie of an enzyme (a protein that catalyses chemical reactions) found in bacteria. "The achievement of this research is two-fold: on one hand there is the technological success of filming an enzyme in action and on the other hand there are the results that contribute to the knowledge of how this enzyme works", explains Dominique Bourgeois, corresponding author for the paper.

Science abstract

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Nanotech News

Headline: Proceedings from the nanotechnology and security workshop
News source: Nanoforum.org

Nanoforum in collaboration with the "Nano- Converging Sciences and Technologies" Unit of DG Research, and APRE (Agenzia per la Promozione della Ricerca Europea) organized a workshop in Rome on the 23rd February 2007 to exchange views about the current state of the art and explore the potential of novel applications of nanotechnology for civil security…

As far as research and technology development (RTD) was concerned, no new research needs, specific to nanotechnology and security, were identified. Instead, improvements in sensor technologies were highlighted (with applications in areas such as security, environment and health), and the desire to have better access to existing materials and improved networking and integration of expertise and knowledge amongst EU organizations. In terms of societal issues, there was a clear need to involve social scientists in the design of new projects to ensure that potential ethical issues are taken into consideration from the outset.

Free registration required to download Proceedings

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Headline: Nanoparticles can damage DNA, increase cancer risk
News source: PhysOrg.com

Tissue studies indicate that nanoparticles, engineered materials about a billionth of a meter in size, could damage DNA and lead to cancer, according to research presented at the 2007 Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research.

"Unfortunately, only a very small portion of research on nanoparticles is focused on health and safety risks, or on threats to the environment," [Sara Pacheco, an undergraduate researcher at the University of Massachusetts] said. "I am concerned because so many new nanoparticles are being developed and there is little regulation on their manufacture, use and disposal."

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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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Toward Productive Nanosystems

Foresight note: Detailed understanding of atomic structures will be necessary at all stages of the development of productive nanosystems. This initial demonstration of the feasibility of MRFM for imaging structures in the nanoscale range could lead eventually to atomically precise 3D imaging of complex structures.

Headline: IBM milestone brings MRI technology to the nanoscale
Achievement marks significant advance toward the imaging of molecular structures
News source: IBM

IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced that researchers at its Almaden Research Center have demonstrated magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques to visualize nanoscale objects. This technique brings MRI capability to the nanoscale level for the first time and represents a major milestone in the quest to build a microscope that could "see" individual atoms in three dimensions.

Using Magnetic Resonance Force Microscopy (MRFM), IBM researchers have demonstrated two-dimensional imaging of objects as small as 90 nanometers, a key advancement on the path of 3D imaging at the atomic scale. Such imaging could ultimately provide a better understanding of how proteins function, which in turn may lead to more efficient drug discovery and development.

"Our ultimate goal is to perform three-dimensional imaging of complex structures such as molecules with atomic resolution," said Dan Rugar, manager, Nanoscale Studies, IBM Research. "This would allow scientists to study the atomic structures of molecules—such as proteins—which would represent a huge breakthrough in structural molecular biology."

Nature Nanotechnology abstract

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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.

Recognition between molecules is fundamental for all processes in living systems, and it will also be fundamental for the artificial molecular machine systems that will enable advanced nanotechnology. These researchers used a scanning tunneling microscope to make movies of the first steps in a simple molecular recognition process.

— Jim

Headline: Everything starts with recognition
Scientists track at the atomic scale how individual molecules recognise each other
News source: Max Planck Society, via AAAS EurekAlert

A human body has more than 10 to the power of 27 molecules with about one hundred thousand different shapes and functions. Interactions between molecules determine our structure and keep us alive. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research in Stuttgart in collaboration with scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute in Freiburg and the King's College London have followed the interaction of only two individual molecules to show the basic mechanism underlying recognition of dipeptides. By means of scanning tunnelling microscopy movies and theoretical simulations they have shown how dynamic interactions induce the molecular fit needed for the transfer of structural information to higher levels of complexity. This dynamic picture illustrates how recognition works at the very first steps, tracking back the path in the evolution of complex matter.

Molecular handshake (film)

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Nanodot: A Sample from Foresight's Blog

Headline: Nanotechnology steel climbs mountains, beats titanium

Next time you're heading out to climb Mount Everest, take advantage of today's early nanotechnology and be sure to bring your nanomaterials-based ice axe:

"C.A.M.P. proposes an innovative, lightweight ice axe which combines a 7075 aluminium head and shaft with a point riveted to the pick, made out of innovative Sandvik Nanoflex® stainless steel. This makes the head of the axe more resistant to corrosion and gives enormous weight-saving benefits. The point of the pick is more durable due to Sandvik Nanoflex® steel having 60% more tensile strength than normal steel and so the life of the axe is extended."

Also available for your boots as crampons. AzoNano explains that the nanomaterial involved is quite impressive:

"Sandvik Materials Technology has developed a new stainless steel with exceptional properties. Called Sandvik Nanoflex, the new steel allows ultra-high strength to be combined with good formability, corrosion resistance and a good surface finish. …

"The strength and surface properties of Sandvik Nanoflex also offer opportunities for items for the automotive industry, replacing hard-chromed low alloy steels. Thus, the environmentally unfriendly hard-chromizing process can be eliminated."

Being non-mountaineers here at the Foresight office, the ice axe leaves us cold (sorry!). But the environmental benefits of getting away from one of the damaging processes used in making today's cars—now that warms us up. We can expect increasingly impressive "cleantech" results as nano moves from materials to devices to atomically-precise systems. And, yes, highly impressive sports equipment as well.

— Nanodot post by 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. To find out more about membership, follow this link:

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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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