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Foresight Nanotech Institute Weekly News Digest: May 16, 2007

Top Nano News of the Week

Headline: The longest carbon nanotubes you've ever seen
Crafted with breakthrough manufacturing technique, centimeter-long fibers are visible to the naked eye
News source: National Science Foundation, via AAAS EurekAlert

Using techniques that could revolutionize manufacturing for certain materials, researchers have grown carbon nanotubes that are the longest in the world. While still slightly less than 2 centimeters long, each nanotube is 900,000 times longer than its diameter.

The fibers—which have the potential to be longer, stronger and better conductors of electricity than copper and many other materials—could ultimately find use in smart fabrics, sensors and a host of other applications.

"This process is revolutionary because it allows us to keep the catalyst 'alive' for a long period of time thus, providing fast and continuous transport of the carbon 'building blocks' to the carbon nanotube growth zone," said [University of Cincinnati professor Vesselin] Shanov.

In this issue:

Health: Nanotechnology offers chemotherapy relief
Information technology: Electron microscope makes tiny devices
Foresight Events: Productive Nanosystems Conference
Advancing Beneficial Nanotechnology - Join Foresight
Conference –10th Annual NSTI Nanotech Conference and Trade Show
Research: Magnetic sensors to study biomolecules – video
Research: DNA sieve – Nanoscale pores can be tiny analysis labs
News: Legal implications of the nanotechnology patent land rush
Editor's Pick: Secrets of carbon nanotube formation revealed – video
Nanodot: Meet the Nubot: DNA nanotechnology robots
Contact Foresight

Nanotechnology that's Good For People

Foresight Challenge: Improving health and longevity

Headline: Nanotechnology offers chemotherapy relief
News source: Cosmos magazine

A cancer treatment has been developed which delivers lethal doses of drugs to tumours without the usual harmful side-effects such as nausea and hair loss.

Australian scientists say that the cutting-edge technique uses nanotechnology to create particles that directly strike at cancer cells with a "lethal payload" of drugs, without flooding the body with toxic chemicals.

Researchers there have used bacterial cells stripped of reproductive powers to develop receptacles capable of carrying any chemotherapy drug.

"There is no other system where you can get so much drug concentrated into a little parcel," [one researcher] said.

Cancer Cell abstract

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Nanotechnology that's Good For the Planet

Foresight Challenge: Making information technology available to all

Headline: Electron microscope makes tiny devices
(free registration required)
News source: Nanotechweb.org, written by Belle Dumé

A new, highly efficient technique to make intricate nanoscale structures has been invented by physicists at the University of Pennsylvania in the US. Michael Fischbein and Marija Drndic have used a transmission electron microscope (TEM) to produce metallic nanodevices with a variety of shapes. The technique, which yields higher resolution than most existing nanodevice fabrication methods, could find applications in nanoelectronics, nanofluidics, plasmonics and particle manipulation on a chip.

Fischbein and Drndic have shown that a transmission electron beam can be used to produce high-precision sub-10 nm nanoscale metal devices…

"We see applications in nanoelectronics, nanofluids, plasmonics and particle manipulation on a chip," Fischbein told nanotechweb.org. "One particularly exciting possibility, described in our paper, is to make nanogap-nanopore devices for DNA nanopore sequencing."

Nano Lett. abstract

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Foresight Events

Productive Nanosystems Conference: 14th Foresight Conference on Advanced Nanotechnology
Sponsored by Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) and Foresight Nanotech Institute with support from Battelle
October 9-10, 2007
DoubleTree Crystal City in Arlington, VA

To unveil the Technology Roadmap for Productive Nanosystems.

Feynman Prize luncheon on October 9, 2007

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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 review of the book Nanotechnology Applications and Markets by Lawrence Gasman, in which Gasman says: "I am going to take the position that the vast majority of what is today being characterized as nanotech really falls into three areas: nanoelectronics, nanobiotechnology, and nanoenergy." Join Foresight and help steer nanotech in the directions you personally support most!

Book review begins on page 13 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: Magnetic computer sensors may help study biomolecules
News source: National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), via AAAS EurekAlert

Magnetic switches like those in computers also might be used to manipulate individual strands of DNA for high-speed applications such as gene sequencing, experiments at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) suggest.

NIST researchers found that arrays of switches called "spin valves"—commonly used as magnetic sensors in the read heads of high-density disk drives—also show promise as tools for controlled trapping of single biomolecules. The arrays might be used in chip-scale, low-power microfluidic devices for stretching and uncoiling, or capturing and sorting, large numbers of individual biomolecules simultaneously for massively parallel medical and forensic studies—a sort of magnetic random access memory (MRAM) for biosciences.

A short video clip of the device in use

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Headline: DNA sieve – Nanoscale pores can be tiny analysis labs
News source: National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), via AAAS EurekAlert

Imagine being able to rapidly identify tiny biological molecules such as DNA and toxins using less than a drop of salt water in a system that can fit on a microchip. It's closer than you might believe, say a team of researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Brazil's Universidade Federal de Pernambuco, and Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio.

[The team showed] for the first time that a single nanometer-scale pore in a thin membrane can be used to accurately detect and sort different-sized polymer chains (a model for biomolecules) that pass through or block the channel.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences abstract (open access article)

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Nanotech News

Headline: Legal implications of the nanotechnology patent land rush
News source: Nanowerk Spotlight, written by Michael Berger

"As scientists sort out and document the results of their research, corporate entities continue to seek and carve out far-reaching patent rights in what is now a full scale patent 'land grab,' " Dr. Raj Bawa tells Nanowerk. "As this trend unfolds, uncertainty is growing amongst researchers, developers, policy-makers and investors regarding who really owns what particular swath of technology in the rapidly-expanding body of nanotechnology intellectual property. Some fear that the far-reaching patent rights provided by early nanotechnology patents clearly overlap."

Bawa is a registered patent agent and holds a faculty position at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York where he also serves as advisor to the Office of Technology Commercialization. Together with several colleagues from the legal field he co-authored a recent article titled "Broad Claiming in Nanotechnology Patents: Is Litigation Inevitable?"…

"Patent applicants must resist the urge to claim overly broadly in the hope of getting a windfall of nanotechnology IP rights," says Bawa. "Such attempts may be responsible in part for creating uncertainty as to who owns what across the nanotechnology landscape."

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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.

Carbon nanotubes (CNT) have been the center of intense interest for more than a few years. Impeding their near-term use in various commercial applications is the fact that CNT cannot be efficiently prepared in structurally pure forms, and the characteristics of CNT depend critically on the structure. This week brings news of progress by two different groups in unraveling the mechanisms by which CNT are formed, perhaps eventually leading to efficient preparation of pure species.

— Jim

Headline: Watching the birth of carbon nanotubes
News source: Nanowerk Spotlight, written by Michael Berger

…if one knew exactly how to grow nanotubes of different characteristics, one could control their electronic properties… An international group of researchers has demonstrated a novel approach to use nanotubes as reaction cells, enabling them to monitor the birth and growth of carbon nanotubes, and taking some spectacular image[s] of this process.

"We are now able to see, at the atomic level, how nanotubes grow," says [Dr. Mauricio] Terrones. "If we understand clearly the CNT growth, we could then make nanotubes according to predetermined dimensions. This will be a breakthrough, and I do not doubt that chirality control of CNTs will be achieved in the near future."

Nature Nanotechnology abstract

Headline: Watch amazing footage of how nanotubes form
News source: PhysOrg.com

A team of scientists…[has] successfully produced live video footage that shows how carbon nanotubes…form.

The video sequences…show nanofibres and nanotubes nucleating around miniscule particles of nickel and are already offering greater insight into how these microscopic structures self-assemble.

Nanotube movie 1

Nanotube movie 2

Dr Stephan Hofmann, who led the research, said: "We cannot yet solve the problem of not being able to self-assemble carbon nanotubes with well-defined characteristics, but we have discovered that if we are to do so, we need to be mindful not just of the carbon dynamics but the changing shape of the catalyst as well."

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Nanodot: A sample from Foresight's blog

Headline: Meet the Nubot: DNA nanotechnology robots

Aharia Nair brings to our attention the new term Nubot, for Nucleic Acid Robots. Wikipedia explains:

"Nubot is an abbreviation for 'Nucleic Acid Robots.' Nubots are synthetic robotics devices at the nanoscale. Representative nubots include the several DNA walkers reported by Ned Seeman's group at NYU, Niles Pierce's group at Caltech, John Reif's group at Duke University, Chengde Mao's group at Purdue, and Andrew Turberfield's group at the University of Oxford."

This is a subcategory of "DNA machine", the Wikipedia entry for which is requesting assistance. Why not give them a hand, and help promote nanotech?

We can expect increased rates of advance in this area now that the Nanorex modeling and design software is going to put special focus on structural DNA technology.

—Nanodot 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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