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Foresight Nanotech Institute Weekly News Digest: August 1, 2007

Top Nano News of the Week

Foresight note: Once again the recently discovered nanostructured material graphene has been shown to have unexpected and useful properties, in this case pushing a capability to the limits of the physically possible.

Headline: Graphene sniffs out dangerous molecules
News source: University of Manchester, via AAAS EurekAlert

Researchers at the University of Manchester have used the world's thinnest material to create sensors that can detect just a single molecule of a toxic gas.

"This level of sensitivity is typically millions of times higher than for any other gas detector demonstrated before," says [Dr Kostya] Novoselov. "Graphene sensors are as sensitive as sensors can be in principle."

Nature Materials abstract

In this issue:

Clean Water: Nanotech takes on water pollution
Health: Gold nanorods identify metastatic tumor cells
Clean energy: Graphene oxide paper could spawn a new class of materials
Clean energy: Unique quantum effect found in silicon nanocrystals
Information technology: Antique engines inspire nano chip
Information technology: Hidden order found in a quantum spin liquid
Toward Productive Nanosystems: Proteins get ordered on the nanoscale
Foresight Events: Productive Nanosystems Conference
Advancing Beneficial Nanotechnology - Join Foresight
Conference – SPIE NanoScience & Engineering
Research: Developing nanotechnology to test food quality
News: FDA sees nanotech challenges
Editor's Pick: New way to study nanostructures
Nanodot: Russia's nanotechnology "corporation"
Foresight Lectures
Contact Foresight

Nanotechnology that's Good For People

Foresight Challenge: Supplying clean water globally

Headline: Nanotech takes on water pollution
Cleaning up contaminated water is big business, which explains all the companies coming up with tiny solutions.
News source: Business 2.0 Magazine, written by Melanie Haiken

Cleaning up contaminated water is big business. World demand for treatment is forecast to increase 6 percent per year through 2009 to more than $35 billion…

A new generation of nanotechnology companies is focused squarely on this market, using nanoparticles that form chemical bonds with contaminants and don't let go. …

Says Richard Sustich, development manager of the WaterCAMPWS research institute at the University of Illinois, "Within five years there's going to be an explosion of new materials that will change the way we do everything."

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Foresight Challenge: Improving health and longevity

Headline: Who are you? Gold nanorods identify metastatic tumor cells
News source: National Cancer Institute's Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer

Using a series of gold nanorods, each with its own characteristic optical signature, researchers at Purdue University have developed a method for rapidly assaying the cellular composition of breast tumors. This assay technique could provide oncologists with a more accurate assessment of the metastatic potential of an individual's cancer.

Nano Letters abstract

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Nanotechnology that's Good For the Planet

Foresight Challenge: Providing renewable clean energy

Headline: Graphene oxide paper could spawn a new class of materials
News source: Northwestern University, via AAAS EurekAlert

… researchers led by Rod Ruoff … report on the development of graphene oxide paper…

"The mechanical, thermal, optical and electrical properties of graphene are exceptional," says Ruoff. "For example, the stiffness and strength of these graphene-like sheets should be superior to all other materials, with the possible exception of diamond."

… Ruoff sees a wide variety of applications for graphene oxide paper, including membranes with controlled permeability, and for batteries or supercapacitors for energy applications.

Nature abstract

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Foresight Challenge: Providing renewable clean energy

Headline: Unique quantum effect found in silicon nanocrystals
News source: PhysOrg.com

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory, collaborating with Innovalight, Inc., have shown that a new and important effect called Multiple Exciton Generation (MEG) occurs efficiently in silicon nanocrystals. MEG results in the formation of more than one electron per absorbed photon.

Until this discovery, MEG had been reported over the past two years to occur only in nanocrystals (also called quantum dots) of semiconductor materials that are not presently used in commercial solar cells, and which contained environmentally harmful materials (such as lead).

The new result opens the door to the potential application of MEG for greatly enhancing the conversion efficiency of solar cells based on silicon because more of the sun's energy is converted to electricity. This is a key step toward making solar energy more cost-competitive with conventional power sources.

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Foresight Challenge: Making information technology available to all

Headline: Antique engines inspire nano chip
News source: BBC News, written by Jonathan Fildes

The blueprint for a tiny, ultra-robust mechanical computer has been outlined by US researchers.

The energy-efficient nano computer is inspired by ideas about computing first put forward nearly 200 years ago.

… the scientists say the machine would be built from nanometre-sized components, just billionths of a metre across.

Chips based on the design could be used in places, such as car engines, where silicon can be too delicate, they said.

"What we are proposing is a new type of computing architecture that is only based on nano-mechanical elements," said Professor Robert Blick of the University of Wisconsin-Madison…

New Journal of Physics abstract (an open-access journal)

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Foresight Challenge: Making information technology available to all

Headline: Hidden order found in a quantum spin liquid
News source: University College London, via AAAS EurekAlert

An international team, including scientists from the London Center for Nanotechnology, has detected a hidden magnetic "quantum order" that extends over chains of 100 atoms in a ceramic without classical magnetism. The findings… have implications for the design of devices and materials for quantum information processing.

[The researchers] note that their work was initially not intended to have direct applications, but that they later realized that what they are learning could be applied in a range of fields from nanotechnology to quantum computing.

Science abstract

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Toward Productive Nanosystems

Headline: Proteins get ordered on the nanoscale
News source: Nanotechweb.org, written by Belle Dumé

Researchers in the UK have discovered a way to engineer nanoscale order into protein fibres for the first time. Derek Woolfson of the University of Bristol and colleagues adapted a system consisting of two peptides, which normally co-assemble into thick protein fibres in water, so that they showed a level of order on the nanoscale that mimics certain natural fibrous assemblies. The technique could be a way of building nanostructured biomaterials from the bottom up, for applications in synthetic biology and nanobiotechnology.

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

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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.

Special thanks to The Waitt Family Foundation and Sun Microsystems for financial support of the Roadmap project.

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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 Teri Odom, Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry, Northwestern University. Says Odom: "We should care about nanotechnology because it can excite even the most jaded student of science. We have creative license to think about how new discoveries in science and engineering can be combined in ways to address hard problems." Join Foresight and help steer nanotech in the directions you personally support most!

Odom interview on page 11 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

Headline: Developing nanotechnology to test food quality
News source: Science Daily

Researchers have created two tiny instruments capable of detecting a range of contaminants, from molecules to whole bacteria, in food and water, according to an article in the August issue of Microbiology Today.

Cantilevers are miniature diving boards that measure 200 micrometers long and 40 micrometers wide, about half the width of a human hair. Two cantilevers are placed in a sensor and liquid is passed through them. When the molecule or microbe that is being looked for binds to its surface, the board bends and its electrical resistance is altered. Detection is achieved by measuring the change in resistance.

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Nanotech News

Headline: FDA sees nanotech challenges in every product category it regulates
FDA nanotechnology task force takes a step forward
News source: Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies, via AAAS EurekAlert

According to Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies Director David Rejeski, "Today, FDA took a step forward in fulfilling its responsibilities for nanotechnology oversight. If nanotechnology regulation was a baseball game, FDA has scored the first run in the first inning. But the agency must act rapidly to adopt and fully implement the Nanotechnology Task Force's recommendations. Without moving quickly and building on the recommendations in the Task Force report, FDA will not be able to keep pace with today's rapidly developing nanotechnology market or engender consumer and investor confidence in emerging products."

FDA News Release: FDA Nanotechnology Report Outlines Scientific, Regulatory Challenges
Nanotechnology Task Force Report (259 KB PDF)

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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.

These researchers, including Uzi Landman, winner of the 2000 Foresight Feynman Prize for Theory, discovered a surprising way to use a very sensitive effect of current flow between superconductors to study mechanical motion in nanoparticles, revealing a novel way to characterize the mechanical properties of nanoparticles.

— Jim

Headline: Scientists discover new way to study nanostructures
News source: Georgia Tech

Scientists at the Georgia Institute of Technology have discovered a phenomenon which allows measurement of the mechanical motion of nanostructures by using the AC Josephson effect. The findings… may be used to identify and characterize structural and mechanical properties of nanoparticles, including materials of biological interest…

Nature Nanotechnology abstract

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Nanodot: A sample from Foresight's blog

Headline: Russia's nanotechnology "corporation"

Here in the U.S. we set up nanotechnology corporations all the time. There's some paperwork involved, and some legal fees. The founders, angel investors, and VCs might sit on the board.

In Russia, they still do things differently:

"Putin Inked Bill on Nanotechnology Corp

"Russia's President Vladimir Putin has inked the Bill on Russia's Nanotechnology Corp., Rosnanotekh, RIA Novosti reported with reference to the president's site. The bill spells out procedures how to create the corporation and how to wind it up.

"Under the president's bill, Rosnanotekh will be controlled by its Supervisory Board, Management Board, General Director, Audit Commission and Research Board. The Supervisory Board will include five representatives of the president, two spokesmen of the State Duma, two envoys of the Federation Council and five representatives of the government. One more member will be the president-appointed general director of Rosnanotekh."

Whew! Glad I don't work there. But do they give stock options?

—Nanodot post by Christine Peterson

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Foresight Lectures

August 10, 2007
American Bar Association Annual Meeting
San Francisco, California
Christine Peterson will serve on a panel addressing the role of the legal profession in responsible development of nanotechnology.
Click here for conference details

September 8-9, 2007
Singularity Summit 2007
Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence
San Francisco, California
Christine Peterson will speak on preparing for highly advanced coming technologies such as machine intelligence and nanotechnology.
Click here for conference details

October 6-7, 2007
7th Alcor Conference on Life Extension
Alcor Life Extension Foundation
Scottsdale, Arizona
Christine Peterson will speak on life extension.
Click here for conference details

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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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