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Foresight Nanotech Institute Weekly News Digest: May 2, 2007

Top Nano News of the Week

Headline: Nanotechnology provides 'green' path to environmentally sustainable economy
News source: Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies, via AAAS EurekAlert

As products made with nanometer-scale materials and devices spread to more industries and markets, there is a growing opportunity and responsibility to leverage nanotechnology to reduce pollution, conserve resources and, ultimately, build a "clean" economy, advises a new report from the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies.

A "strong marriage" between nanotechnology and the principles and practices of green chemistry and green engineering "holds the key to building an environmentally sustainable society in the 21st century," concludes "Green Nanotechnology: It's Easier Than You Think." Summarizing proceedings at a national American Chemical Society symposium and four workshops held in 2006, the new report was authored by science writer Karen Schmidt for the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies, an initiative of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and The Pew Charitable Trusts.

"We are on an unsustainable path," said Paul Anastas, director of the American Chemical Society's Green Chemistry Institute. "It is not as though nanotechnology will be an option; it is going to be essential for coming up with sustainable technologies."

Download the report (1.6 MB PDF)

For further discussion, see Nanodot post

In this issue:

Health: Nanocomposites may mean more durable tooth fillings
Health: Carbon nanohorns shape up for delivery
Clean energy: Nanocomposite creates more powerful capacitors
Environment: Gold nanoparticles help detect a toxic metal—mercury
Information technology: New materials for making "spintronic" devices
Advancing Beneficial Nanotechnology - Join Foresight
Conference –10th Annual NSTI Nanotech Conference and Trade Show
Research: Nanoparticle penetration of human skin
Events: SPIE NanoScience & Engineering
Editor's Pick: Moldable nanoparticles shape metals from the bottom up
Nanodot: 7th graders to clean ocean with nanotechnology
Contact Foresight

Nanotechnology that's Good For People

Foresight Challenge: Improving health and longevity

Headline: New nanocomposites may mean more durable tooth fillings
News source: National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), via AAAS EurekAlert

The mouth is a tough environment—which is why dentists do not give lifetime guarantees. Despite their best efforts, a filling may eventually crack under the stress of biting, chewing and teeth grinding, or secondary decay may develop where the filling binds to the tooth. Fully 70 percent of all dental procedures involve replacements to existing repairs, at a cost of $5 billion per year in the United States alone.

Now, however, scientists at the American Dental Association's Paffenbarger Research Center, a joint research program at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), have shown that nanotechnology has the potential to lessen that toll by producing tooth restorations that are both stronger than any decay-fighting fillings available today, and more effective at preventing secondary decay. They report their findings in a recent issue of The Journal of Dental Research.

Journal of Dental Research abstract

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Foresight Challenge: Improving health and longevity

Headline: Carbon nanohorns shape up for delivery
News source: Nanotechweb.org, written by James Tyrrell (free registration required)

Carbon nanohorns (CNHs) could be a promising vehicle for intracellular delivery, say scientists in China. Researchers from Tianjin and Nankai Universities have come up with a simple way of isolating the nano-assemblies that overcomes the material's insolubility in water and could help to prevent unwanted microscale agglomeration.

An individual CNH can be thought of as a "pudgy" version of a single-walled carbon nanotube with one end closed to give a cone- or horn-shaped cap. Strong van der Waals forces cause CNHs to assemble into desirable, spherical dahlia-flowerlike arrangements less than 100 nm in diameter.

"This distinctive structure gives CNHs a potential advantage over nanoparticles, nanorods and nanotubes for intracellular delivery," Fengboa Zhang of Tianjin's school of chemical engineering and technology told nanotechweb.org. "CNHs have huge surface areas and abundant cavities for absorbing and holding therapeutic drugs, genes or proteins."

Nanotechnology abstract

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Nanotechnology that's Good For the Planet

Foresight Challenge: Providing renewable clean energy

Headline: New nanocomposite processing technique creates more powerful capacitors
News source: Georgia Institute of Technology, via AAAS EurekAlert

A new technique for creating films of barium titanate (BaTiO3) nanoparticles in a polymer matrix could allow fabrication of improved capacitors able to store twice as much energy as existing devices. The improved capacitors could be used in consumer devices such as cellular telephones—and in defense applications requiring both high energy storage and rapid current discharge.

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Foresight Challenge: Healing and preserving the environment

Headline: Gold nanoparticles help detect a toxic metal—mercury
News source: Northwestern University, via AAAS EurekAlert

With gold nanoparticles, DNA and some smart chemistry as their tools, scientists at Northwestern University have developed a simple "litmus test" for mercury that eventually could be used for on-the-spot environmental monitoring of bodies of water, such as rivers, streams, lakes and oceans, to evaluate their safety as food and drinking water sources.

"It is critical to detect mercury quickly, accurately and at its source," said Chad A. Mirkin, George B. Rathmann Professor of Chemistry, professor of medicine and professor of materials science and engineering, who led the study. "Most existing detection methods require expensive complicated equipment forcing tests to take place in a lab. Our method is simpler, faster and more convenient than conventional methods, and results can be read with the naked eye at the point of use."

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Foresight Challenge: Making information technology available to all

Headline: New materials for making "spintronic" devices
Pushing the development of electronics beyond the limits of electric charge
News source: Brookhaven National Laboratory

An interdisciplinary group of scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory has devised methods to make a new class of electronic devices based on a property of electrons known as "spin," rather than merely their electric charge. This approach, dubbed spintronics, could open the way to increasing dramatically the productivity of electronic devices operating at the nanoscale—on the order of billionths of a meter. The Brookhaven scientists have filed a U.S. provisional patent application for their invention, which is now available for licensing.

The Brookhaven group uses magnetism to manipulate spin in graphene, a material consisting of flat sheets of carbon atoms arranged in a hexagonal pattern. They've proposed ways to make materials consisting of layers of graphene mated to magnetic and nonmagnetic layers.

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Advancing Beneficial Nanotechnology

Do you believe that nanotechnology will give society the ability to 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 Robert Freitas, Senior Research Fellow, Institute for Molecular Manufacturing (IMM) "The key practical issue with medical nanorobotics is: what will it take to build these devices? The answer is that it will take an efficient molecular manufacturing system." Join Foresight and help steer nanotech in the directions you personally support most!

Freitas interview starts on page 7 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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Nanotech Research

Headline: Nanoparticle penetration of human skin—a double-edged sword
News source: Nanowerk Spotlight, written by Michael Berger

Engineered nanoparticles are at the forefront of the rapidly developing field of nanomedicine. Their unique size-dependent properties… makes them suitable for a wide range of biomedical applications… Many of these applications can also be tailored to target skin to help in the early diagnosis of a skin disease, which then could also be treated via nanocarriers…Unfortunately, if nanoparticles are able to penetrate layers of skin for therapeutic purposes, they might equally be able to penetrate skin unintentionally. This raises the question if people who are exposed to such nanomaterials could accidentally be contaminated and thus exposed to a potential local and/or systemic health risk. Researchers in Italy now have begun to systematically evaluate both risks and applications of nanoparticle skin absorption.

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Nanotech Events

SPIE NanoScience & Engineering
Research & Development on the Nanoscale
August 26-30, 2007
San Diego, California

Where leaders gather to advance the interdisciplinary field of nanotechnology.

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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 research presents a clever solution to the problem of how to assemble metallic nanoparticles into larger structures that are not rigid crystals, but instead are flexible enough to be shaped.

— Jim

Headline: From nano to macro—moldable metals shape things from the bottom up
News source: Nanowerk Spotlight, written by Michael Berger

Assembling nanoscopic components into macroscopic materials has been an appealing goal but one of the enormous difficulties lies in bridging approximately six orders of magnitude that separate the nanoscale from the macroscopic world. New research at Northwestern University in the U.S. helps to overcome this difficulty by dividing the assembly process into two manageable sub-steps. First, nanoparticles are assembled into larger, 100 nm-size, spherical building blocks, which are both deformable and "sticky" towards one another. Once assembled, these components "glue" together like pieces of clay to give millimeter or even centimeter-sized structures. The novelty of this technique is both the hierarchical assembly approach (i.e., atoms to nanoparticles to supraspheres to macroscopic materials) and the resulting "soft" structures, which contrast with previously reported hard and brittle nanoparticles assemblies/crystals. This research takes a further step in making nanoscale discoveries relevant to our everyday—macroscopic—world.

Science abstract

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Nanodot: A sample from Foresight's blog

Headline: 7th graders to clean ocean with nanotechnology

The winners of this year's Lego engineering contest were inspired by nanotechnology concepts to design a robot to clean plastic from the ocean:

"For the competition, the students had to prepare a presentation on this year's theme—nanotechnology, or molecular-size machines.

"They looked for a nanotech application that could clean up small, degraded plastic particles rampant in ocean waters.

"They found a device invented by professor Ramin Golestanian, an Iranian now working at the University of Sheffield in England, that could self-propel in water. They married that machine with nanoprobes to capture the plastic pollution, built a Lego model of it and presented it to a panel of engineers.

"'The judges were blown away,' said Kasi Fuller, a Lewis & Clark College education professor (and Nathan's mom), who, along with builder Greg Banks, coaches the team."

Great to see kids thinking big about nanotech for the environment!

— Nanodot post by Christine Peterson

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Contact Foresight

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