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Foresight Nanotech Institute Weekly News Digest: July 25, 2007

Top Nano News of the Week

Headline: Nanotechnology treatment for pancreatic cancer
News source: About.com, written by Theresa Phillips

Pancreatic cancer is an aggressive disease with high mortality rates and few treatment options. Liposomes armed with a combination of molecular tools for killing tumor cells have been presented as a new nanomedical approach to treating pancreatic tumors. The therapy involves intravenous injections of liposomes carrying a gene known to kill cancer cells, a promoter, and other molecules involved in gene expression. The treatment effectively destroyed pancreatic tumors in mice, in pre-clinical tests, while leaving healthy tissues intact.

… The next step in development of this treatment is FDA approval for a full clinical trial.

Longer article in Science Daily

Cancer Cell abstract

In this issue:

Health: Self-assembling nanoparticles image tumor cells
Clean energy: Inexpensive, easy process to produce solar panels
Information technology: Graphene nanoelectronics
Foresight Events: Productive Nanosystems Conference
Advancing Beneficial Nanotechnology - Join Foresight
Conference – SPIE NanoScience & Engineering
Research: New way to fabricate striped nanorods
Toward Productive Nanosystems: Natural 'workbench' for nanoscale construction
Editor's Pick: Synthetic adhesive mimics sticking powers of gecko and mussel
Nanodot: Nanotechnology views wanted by EC, including on enhancement
Contact Foresight

Nanotechnology that's Good For People

Foresight Challenge: Improving health and longevity

Foresight note: Not only does this work establish a general method for building complex nanoparticles for cancer therapy, but several functions (two imaging and one targeting) are incorporated into one nanoparticle.

Headline: Self-assembling nanoparticles image tumor cells
News source: National Cancer Institute's Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer

By taking advantage of the full range of ways in which molecules can interact with and bind to one another, a team of investigators at the Carolina Center of Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence has created nanoparticles that assemble themselves layer by layer. These nanoparticles, which contain two different types of imaging agents, also contain a peptide coating that targets tumor cells.

…the nanoparticles were capable of distinguishing between human colon cancer cells and normal cells… The investigators were able to monitor nanoparticle uptake by both fluorescent imaging and MRI.

Journal of the American Chemical Society abstract

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Nanotechnology that's Good For the Planet

Foresight Challenge: Providing renewable clean energy

Headline: NJIT researchers develop inexpensive, easy process to produce solar panels
News source: New Jersey Institute of Technology, via AAAS EurekAlert

Researchers at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) have developed an inexpensive solar cell that can be painted or printed on flexible plastic sheets. "The process is simple," said lead researcher and author Somenath Mitra, PhD, professor and acting chair of NJIT's Department of Chemistry and Environmental Sciences. "Someday homeowners will even be able to print sheets of these solar cells with inexpensive home-based inkjet printers. Consumers can then slap the finished product on a wall, roof or billboard to create their own power stations."

Journal of Materials Chemistry abstract

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Foresight Challenge: Making information technology available to all

Foresight note: These extensive computer simulations point toward the eventual use of graphene instead of copper interconnects, and possibly also instead of silicon semiconductors, in future nanoelectronics.

Headline: Graphene nanoelectronics: Making tomorrow's computers from a pencil trace
New discovery at Rensselaer could lead to faster, cooler interconnects
News source: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, via AAAS EurekAlert

A key discovery at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute could help advance the role of graphene as a possible heir to copper and silicon in nanoelectronics.

Saroj Nayak, an associate professor in Rensselaer's Department of Physics, Applied Physics and Astronomy, has worked with graduate student Philip Shemella and others for two years to determine how graphene's extremely efficient conductive properties can be exploited for use in nanoelectronics. After running dozens of robust computer simulations, the group has demonstrated for the first time that the length, as well as the width, of graphene directly impacts the material's conduction properties.

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Foresight Events

Productive Nanosystems: Launching the Technology Roadmap
Conference sponsored by Foresight Nanotech Institute and Society of Manufacturing Engineers with support from Battelle
October 9-10, 2007
DoubleTree Crystal City in Arlington, VA

Now, for the first time, the Technology Roadmap for Productive Nanosystems will describe the R&D pathways and products resulting from this ultimate technological revolution. Join us as we explore the power of advanced "bottom-up" nanotechnology in this 14th Foresight Conference on Advanced Nanotechnology.

Feynman Prize luncheon on October 9, 2007

The full conference program (October 9, October 10) and brochure (PDF 949 KB) are now available.

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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

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

Plan to attend NanoScience + Engineering, one of the largest and most important technical conferences covering developing technologies at the nanoscale, current and future applications, and the environmental, health, and safety issues that must be addressed.

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Nanotech Research

Foresight note: This research may lead to less expensive ways to make nanostructures called superlattices that could find use in various nanodevices because of their unique optical and electronic properties.

Headline: Researchers find new way to fabricate striped nanorods
News source: PhysOrg.com

Superlatticed or "striped" nanorods—crystalline materials only a few molecules in thickness and made up of two or more semiconductors—are highly valued for their potential to serve in a variety of nanodevices, including transistors, biochemical sensors and light-emitting diodes (LEDs). Until now the potential of superlatticed nanorods has been limited by the relatively expensive and exacting process required to make them. That paradigm may be shifting.

A team of researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California at Berkeley, has found a way to make striped nanorods in a colloid—a suspension of particles in solution. Previously, striped nanorods were made through epitaxial processes, in which the rods were attached to or embedded within a solid medium.

Science abstract

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Toward Productive Nanosystems

Headline: University of Pennsylvania engineers discover natural 'workbench' for nanoscale construction
News source: University of Pennsylvania, via AAAS EurekAlert

Engineers at the University of Pennsylvania have taken a step toward simplifying the creation of nanostructures by identifying the first inorganic material to phase separate with near-perfect order at the nanometer scale. The finding provides an atomically tuneable nanocomposite "workbench" that is cheap and easy to produce and provides a super-lattice foundation potentially suitable for building nanostructures.

…By varying the amount of lithium and neodymium, two ingredients in the ceramic powder, engineers controlled the length and spacing of the alternating phases, thereby tuning the workbench upon which nanodevices could be built.

"This study represents great potential for the use of standard ceramic processing methods for nanotechnology," said Peter K. Davies, chair of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Penn. "The phase separation occurs spontaneously, providing two phases whose dimensions both extend into the nanometer scale. This unique feature could lead to its application as a template for the assembly of nanostructures or molecular monolayers."

Nature Materials 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.

I found it especially cool that these engineers were able to mimic two very different biological adaptations and combine them into one novel nanostructured material that can do what neither of the originals can.

— Jim

Headline: Synthetic adhesive mimics sticking powers of gecko and mussel
News source: Northwestern University

Geckos are remarkable in their ability to scurry up vertical surfaces and even move along upside down… But put those feet underwater, and their ability to stick is dramatically reduced.

Water is an enemy of adhesives, which typically do not work well in wet environments—think of how long a bandage on your finger lasts. Now two Northwestern University biomedical engineers have successfully married the gecko's adhesive ability with that of an animal well known for its sticking power underwater: the mussel.

Combining the important elements of gecko and mussel adhesion, the new adhesive material, called "geckel," functions like a sticky note and exhibits strong yet reversible adhesion in both air and water. The findings… could lead to applications in medical, industrial, consumer and military settings…

Nature abstract

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Nanodot: A sample from Foresight's blog

Headline: Nanotechnology views wanted by EC, including on enhancement

In the process of preparing a nanotechnology Code of Conduct, the European Commission is requesting public input on a consultation paper. It sounds as though everyone is welcome to contribute.

Being from Europe, the paper cites the precautionary principle, but goes further by listing some areas which may be too risky or unethical or rights-violating for even the precautionary principle to do the job. Specifically these are:

"E.g.: Free release of solid insoluble nanoparticles into the environment (without the knowledge of the impacts); Remote control of human behaviour; Physical alteration or enhancement of the human brain or of the heritable genetic code for non therapeutic purposes; Human enhancement with the sole purpose to increase achievements in competitive sports; Non-therapeutic enhancement of human capabilities that create a risk of dependence, or are irreversible or are beyond the range of normal human capabilities."

It seems to me that building a campfire violates the first point, drinking coffee violates the third, and LASIK eye surgery violates the last one. My point here is that perhaps we don't want to try to define what are "normal human capabilities" and make anything better be illegal. Certainly it's appalling to imagine the U.S. Congress or U.S. Supreme Court trying to do this.

Of course, it is up to Europeans to decide what to do inside the EU. But their Code of Conduct is likely to be proposed as a model elsewhere.

This is not to say that Codes of Conduct are not needed; they are—the Foresight Guidelines are one example. And we do need to protect weaker members of society from abuse, including technological abuse.

Thanks to Winter Casey, staff writer at the National Journal's Technology Daily, for bringing this to our attention.

—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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