Foresight Nanotech Institute Weekly News Digest: October 25, 2007
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Headline: Toward world's smallest radio: nano-sized detector turns radio waves into music
Researchers in California … report development of the world's first working radio system that receives radio waves wirelessly and converts them to sound signals through a nano-sized detector made of carbon nanotubes. The "carbon nanotube radio" device is thousands of times smaller than the diameter of a human hair. The development marks an important step in the evolution of nano-electronics and could lead to the production of the world's smallest radio, the scientists say.
…The study demonstrates the feasibility of making other radio components at the nanoscale in the future and may eventually lead to a "truly integrated nanoscale wireless communications system," [the researchers] say. Such a device could have numerous industrial, commercial, medical and other applications.
Nano Letters abstract
Health: Dendrimers: The unpublished story
Foresight note: We've reported here many encouraging developments in the use of engineered nanostructures as vehicles for treating cancer and other diseases. How smooth is the road from nanostructure discovery to helping patients? Howard Lovy, 2004 winner of the Foresight Institute Prize in Communication, describes in depth the convoluted history of a promising class of nanostructures called dendrimers, and the issues now dividing former collaborators each trying to move the technology forward in different ways.
Headline: Dendrimers: The unpublished story
The tiny dendrimer, nanotechnology's tendriled, tattered and almost forgotten starlet, is at last emerging from nearly 30 years of patent-filing and science-paper purgatory and into the light of real-world products and partnerships. In 2007 alone, dendrimers have attracted about a million dollars in DARPA funds for research into a device that would automatically keep wounded soldiers free from pain on the battlefield; they have come to the apparent rescue of a company that had been having trouble getting its soft-tissue cancer treatment device to stop leaking radiation; and after success as MRI contrast agents, dendrimers are now being taken seriously as a candidate for a long-sought delivery agent for siRNA (gene silencing) therapy.
And by the time the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gives its anticipated 2009 or 2010 approval to the first dendrimer-based pharmaceutical, the former Dow Chemical Co. scientist who invented his pet molecule will have counted 30 years since he first synthesized this "beautiful" (his word) molecule in his Midland, Mich., lab. But Donald Tomalia says he doesn't mind the nearly three decades in the cold. In fact, he says, the pattern for any "disruptive" technology is to first pay its dues for about 20 years before general acceptance. "We're kind of on schedule there when you think about it," Tomalia says.
Headline: Nanotechnology to revolutionize point-of-care cardiac testing
University of Ulster researchers have teamed up with scientists at the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay on a project to develop low-volume whole-blood sensors that could revolutionise point-of-care cardiac testing.
Fast, accurate blood analysis is vital in the treatment of people suffering heart attacks or other life-threatening cardiac events, said Professor Jim McLaughlin, Director of UU's Nanotechnology & Advanced Materials Research Institute, who leads the project team.
…The sensor system under development will use carbon nanotubes to filter out blood cells—preventing them from adhering to the sensor, or distorting the result.
Foresight note: These researchers discovered a way to treat carbon nanotubes used to make composites with organic films to, in the words of the authors' abstract of their research paper "…greatly advance the prospects of utilizing MWCNTs in organic solar cells and electroluminescent devices to improve performance."
Headline: Enhancement of Polymer luminescence by excitation-energy transfer from Multi-Walled Carbon Nanotubes
Organic based solution processable devices are promising to revolutionise the lighting and photovoltaic industries of the future…
Researchers at the Advanced Technology Institute of the University of Surrey, in collaboration with researchers from China and the USA, have recently demonstrated … a 100-fold increase in the light emission from a nylon polymer sample, by incorporating multi-walled carbon nanotubes (MWCNT).
[One researcher commented that this work] "will now allow us to investigate ways to modify the active material used for solar cells in order to harvest more of the solar spectrum using hybrid mixtures."
Headline: Drive advance fuels terabyte era
A single hard drive with four terabytes of storage (4TB) could be a reality by 2011, thanks to a nanotechnology breakthrough by Japanese firm Hitachi. The company has successfully managed to shrink the read-write head of a hard drive to two thousand times smaller than the width of a human hair. The smaller head can read greater densities of data stored on the disk.
Headline: Nanowires hold promise for future CMOS
The semiconductor industry will continue to see performance improvements after CMOS gate scaling runs up against physical limits, said Hiroshi Iwai, a professor at the Tokyo Institute of Technology. Researchers can achieve higher transistor densities by pursuing reduced operating voltages, and nanowire or nanotube-based field-effect transistors (FETs) will eventually play key roles as well, he said.
In a keyote address at the recent Fourth International Symposium on Advanced Gate Stack Technology, Iwai described an interim period coming after the end of CMOS scaling and prior to the introduction of exotic devices based on quantum spin, molecular or other revolutionary forms of logic.
Foresight note: This Royal Society of Chemistry article announces the promised funding of the three UK projects produced by the software control of matter "ideas factory" described in Update 58.
Headline: Building tomorrow's nanofactory
UK scientists have been granted £2.5 million to invent a nanomachine that can build materials molecule by molecule.
Such a robot doesn't—and may never—exist, though it has been imagined for over half a century. But this autumn, researchers across the UK are starting work towards it, following the funding of three research projects by the Engineering and physical sciences research council.
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"Software control of matter" in Update 58
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Headline: Push-button nanotechnology
…nanoparticle synthesis is normally quite a tricky process that requires a lot of skill and expertise on the part of the chemist to obtain good quality particles of well controlled size and shape. Researchers in the UK tried to see if they could automate the whole procedure by preparing the nanoparticles in automated chemical reactors under the direct control of a computer.
…The system devised by the Imperial College scientists uses a microfluidic reactor to carry out the synthesis and an in-line spectrometer to monitor the emission spectra of the emergent particles. …the acquired data is fed into a control algorithm which reduces each spectrum to a scalar 'dissatisfaction coefficient' and then intelligently updates the reaction conditions in an effort to minimize this coefficient and so drive the system towards a desired goal.
Free access paper in Lab on a Chip
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.
The challenges of art restoration furnish another example of the variety of useful and unique applications for even simple nanostructures—in this case magnetic nanoparticles in a polymer network.
Headline: Fine art gets a nano sponge bath
To remove the ravages of time and grime from works of fine art, restoration experts have an entire palette of tools to choose from. Piero Baglioni would like to offer them another option: a sponge.
It's no ordinary sponge though. By enlisting magnetic nanoparticles, Baglioni, a chemistry professor at Italy's University of Florence, has created a material that can soak up cleaning solutions or microemulsions; squeeze them out onto the surface of a painting, fresco, or sculpture; and then reabsorb them without a human hand ever coming into contact with the delicate artwork.
Alternative news source: Nanowerk Spotlight, written by Cathy Garber
MSNBC brings news of a new nanotechnology achievement at University of Michigan:
There's an arms race between government patent offices and patent filers assisted by private law firms. The folks who work for the former get paid a lot less than the those who work for the latter. This leads to a continual drain away from government review of patent applications toward private generation of patent applications. A San Jose Mercury News blog entry explains more of the problem, which will affect all areas of technology but especially new, complex, multidisciplinary ones such as nanotechnology…
—Nanodot posts by Christine Peterson
October 26, 2007
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