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Foresight Nanotech Institute Weekly News Digest: October 31, 2007

Editor's note: There will be no News Digest next week because your editor will be attending the Foresight Vision Weekend 2007: The Unconference, Nov. 3-4. The News Digest will return Nov. 14.

Top Nano News of the Week

Foresight note: This research represents a major step forward in using nanoparticles to address fundamental questions in biology and human health, but it also demonstrates that some nanomaterials can cause lethal harm to the environment and normal embryonic development above specific concentrations, and it provides an approach to studying the potential hazards of each type of nanomaterial.

Headline: First of a kind real-time study of nanosilver in fish embryos raises hopes and concerns
News source: Nanowerk Spotlight, written by Michael Berger

…zebrafish embryos offer a unique opportunity to investigate the effects of nanoparticles upon intact cellular systems that communicate with each other to orchestrate the events of early embryonic development. In a new study, researchers explore the potential of nanoparticles as in vivo imaging and therapeutic agents and develop an effective and inexpensive in vivo zebrafish model system to screen biocompatibility and toxicity of nanomaterials.

… [The new] study also represents the first rigorous study and characterization of nanotoxicity and nanobiocompatibility ever performed by investigating the effect of highly purified nanoparticles in vivo in real time and by considering the effect of possible trace chemicals from nanoparticle synthesis.

"One can now use the tools (e.g., nanoparticle probes and imaging systems) developed in our study for in vivo imaging and for real-time monitoring the biocompatibility of nanoparticles in vivo," says [Dr. Xiaohong Nancy] Xu.

ACS Nano (free access) paper

In this issue:

Health: Functionalized nanotubes monitor viruses
Health: Polymer nanocomposite delivers drugs
Clean energy: Platinum-rich shell, platinum-poor core
Information technology: NIST demos industrial-grade nanowire device fabrication
Information technology: Terabyte thumb drives made possible by nanotech memory
Toward Productive Nanosystems: Powerful molecular motor permits speedy assembly of viruses
Foresight Events: Vision Weekend 2007: The Unconference
Advancing Beneficial Nanotechnology - Join Foresight
Conference – Small Times NanoCon International
Research: Engineers demonstrate quantum cascade laser nanoantenna
Editor's Pick: A golden close-up
Nanodot: UK takes lead in the nanotechnology that matters
Nanodot: Nanotechnology Roadmap to be critiqued, expanded
Nanodot: Inspirational nanotechnology images on new site
Contact Foresight

Nanotechnology that's Good For People

Foresight Challenge: Improving health and longevity

Headline: Functionalized nanotubes monitor viruses
News source: nanotechweb.org, written by James Tyrrell (requires free registration)

Carbon nanotubes have taken another step towards becoming fast-acting biosensors thanks to the work of 11 scientists based in the US. The team has come up with the first evidence of straightforward, ambient covalent immobilization of a viral ligand-receptor-protein system onto individual and bundled, single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs).

The result allows researchers to biofunctionalize SWNTs so that specific viruses will bind to the structure. Furthermore, the covalent nature of the functionalization means that the receptor proteins are able to resist extended washing and remain immobilized on the surface of the carbon nanotube.

"Robustness and cyclability are key issues," Stanislaus Wong of the State University of New York at Stony Brook told nanotechweb.org. "Maintaining biological activity over long periods of time is one of the major challenges in this area."

Nano Letters abstract

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Foresight Challenge: Improving health and longevity

Headline: Polymer nanocomposite delivers drugs
News source: nanotechweb.org, written by Belle Dumé (requires free registration)

A new way of releasing drugs using polymer nanocomposites has been developed by scientists in China. Xuemei Wang of Southeast University in Nanjing and colleagues found that the anticancer drug daunorubicin is able to self-assemble on polylactic acid-based nanocomposites, which could help the drug permeate and target leukaemia cells.

… Wang and colleagues made a nanocomposite polymer by combining PLA with titanium dioxide nanoparticles. "This novel composite could readily induce the anticancer drug daunorubicin to accumulate on leukaemia K562 cells," Wang told nanotechweb.org. "The nanocomposites could thus be used as promising carriers for drug delivery."

Biomedical Materials abstract

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Nanotechnology that's Good For the Planet

Foresight Challenge: Providing renewable clean energy

Headline: Platinum-rich shell, platinum-poor core
New class of catalyst for fuel cells beats pure platinum by a mile
News source: Angewandte Chemie International Edition, via AAAS EurekAlert

Hydrogen fuel cells will power the automobiles of the future; however, they have so far suffered from being insufficiently competitive. At the University of Houston, Texas, USA, a team led by Peter Strasser has now developed a new class of electrocatalyst that could help to improve the capacity of fuel cells. The active phase of the catalyst consists of nanoparticles with a platinum-rich shell and a core made of an alloy of copper, cobalt, and platinum. This catalyst demonstrates the highest activity yet observed for the reduction of oxygen. …

"The oxygen-reducing activity of our new electrocatalytic material is unsurpassed—it is four to five times higher than that of pure platinum. In addition, we have demonstrated how to incorporate and activate this material in situ in a fuel cell," says Strasser.

Angewandte Chemie International Edition abstract

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Foresight Challenge: Making information technology available to all

Headline: NIST demos industrial-grade nanowire device fabrication
News source: National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), via AAAS EurekAlert

In the growing catalog of nanoscale technologies, nanowires—tiny rows of conductor or semiconductor atoms—have attracted a great deal of interest for their potential to build unique atomic-scale electronics. But before you can buy some at your local Nano Depot, manufacturers will need efficient, reliable methods to build them in quantity. Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) believe they have one solution—a technique that allows them to selectively grow nanowires on sapphire wafers in specific positions and orientations accurately enough to attach contacts and layer other circuit elements, all with conventional lithography techniques.

Chemistry of Materials abstract

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Foresight Challenge: Making information technology available to all

Headline: Terabyte thumb drives made possible by nanotech memory
News source: Wired, written by Alexis Madrigal

Researchers have developed a low-cost, low-power computer memory that could put terabyte-sized thumb drives in consumers' pockets within a few years.

Thanks to a new technique for manipulating charged copper particles at the molecular scale, researchers at Arizona State University say their memory is, bit-for-bit, one-tenth the cost of—and 1,000 times as energy-efficient as—flash memory, the predominant memory technology in iPhones and other mobile devices.

"A thumb drive using our memory could store a terabyte of information," says Michael Kozicki, director of ASU's Center for Applied Nanoionics, which developed the technology. "All the current limitations in portable electronic storage could go away. You could record video of every event in your life and store it."

IEEE Transactions on Electron Devices abstract

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Toward Productive Nanosystems

Foresight note: The toolkit for building productive nanosystems has been augmented by this demonstration that a viral molecular motor that packages DNA is much more powerful than previously known, and can be geared to work at different rates.

Headline: Powerful molecular motor permits speedy assembly of viruses
News source: PhysOrg.com

A team of physicists at the University of California, San Diego and biologists at Catholic University of America, Washington D.C. has shown that a tiny viral motor generates twice as much power, relative to its size, as an automobile engine. The finding explains why even very large viruses can self-assemble so rapidly.

… the researchers used laser tweezers to measure the forces generated by a nanoscale motor that packs DNA into a virus during the assembly of an infectious virus particle. They discovered that the motor is considerably stronger than any known molecular motors, including those responsible for muscle contraction. The researchers say this power allows the virus to reel in its long genome with remarkable speed.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences abstract

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Foresight Events

Foresight Vision Weekend 2007: The Unconference

November 3-4, 2007
Yahoo! HQ in Silicon Valley, CA

After this, please call +1 650 289 0860 ext 254 to see if seats are available.

Join us for fifteen intense hours of mind-blowing creativity: from the biggest picture of tomorrow's Web to the tiniest picture of nanotechnology, from the nearest view of what's important right now, to the longest view of where we're inexorably going in a few decades—and how to steer and benefit from rapid change instead of being run over by it.

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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 article "Rolling and carrying molecules across surfaces." Two research teams get molecules on surfaces to do machine-like things. Join Foresight and help steer nanotech in the directions you personally support most!

"Rolling and carrying molecules across surfaces" in Update 58

To join:

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Foresight Partners

SmallTimes NanoCon International
The Leading Nanotechnology and MEMS Networking Event
November 14-16, 2007
Santa Clara, CA

Attracting hundreds of decision makers from around the world, Small Times NanoCon International is your premier source for business alliances, information exchange and commercial strategy.

Event Highlights:

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Nanotech Research

Headline: Harvard University engineers demonstrate quantum cascade laser nanoantenna
New laser could lead to ultrahigh resolution microscopes for chemical imaging in biology and medicine
News source: Harvard University, via AAAS EurekAlert

In a major feat of nanotechnology engineering researchers from Harvard University have demonstrated a laser with a wide-range of potential applications in chemistry, biology and medicine. Called a quantum cascade (QC) laser nanoantenna, the device is capable of resolving the chemical composition of samples, such as the interior of a cell, with unprecedented detail.

…The laser's design consists of two gold rods separated by a nanometer gap (a device known as an optical antenna) built on the facet of a quantum cascade laser, which emits invisible light in the region of the spectrum where most molecules have their tell tale absorption fingerprints. The nanoantenna creates a light spot of nanometric size about fifty to hundred times smaller than the laser wavelength; the spot can be scanned across a specimen to provide chemical images of the surface with superior spatial resolution.

Applied Physics Letters 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.

Gold nanoparticles exemplify nanostructures that are immensely useful in current and near-future nanotechnology, but fall short of being atomically precise. Now we see that atomically precise gold nanoparticles can be prepared and characterized, and thus might perhaps eventually be incorporated into atomically precise systems.

— Jim

Headline: A golden close-up
Crystal structure of a gold-thiolate cluster reveals surprising surface chemistry
News source: Chemical & Engineering News, written by Bethany Halford

By solving the structure of a gold-thiolate nanocrystal, scientists at Stanford University have gleaned new insights into how gold interacts with thiol ligands, as well as how gold clusters form.

Roger D. Kornberg and coworkers used X-ray crystallography to determine the structure of a nanoparticle composed of exactly 102 gold atoms surrounded by 44 p-mercaptobenzoic acid groups. Scientists have solved the X-ray structures of other metal clusters and nanoparticles in the past. Few of those materials, however, have as many potential applications as thiol-protected gold nanoparticles, which could find their way into molecular electronics, sensors, and biomedical diagnostics.

Alternate source: Nanoparticle reveals sulfur's Midas touch
News source: Chemistry World, written by Simon Hadlington

Science abstract

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Nanodot: A sample from Foresight's blog

Headline: UK takes lead in the nanotechnology that matters

Perhaps our headline is a bit overstated…or perhaps not. Jim Lewis brings to our attention an article in Chemistry World on the Royal Society of Chemistry website announcing that, as anticipated, the UK has officially funded a set of projects aimed at developing a nanofactory able to build with atomic precision…

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Headline: Nanotechnology Roadmap to be critiqued, expanded — Deadline Oct. 31

A draft version of the Productive Nanosystems Roadmap was distributed to attendees at the similarly-named conference (PDF) in DC on Oct. 9-10. Now participants at the Foresight Vision Weekend will be critiquing and planning expansions of this first roadmap for atomically-precise manufacturing…

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Headline: Inspirational nanotechnology images on new site

Getting experimental results in nanotechnology can be a long, hard slog — those doing this work need and deserve inspiration. Beautiful nanoscale images — both of current results and future designs — can help. Damian Allis shows us some of his own images in his post about a new nanoscale art/gallery site called Nanohedron. From the post by Damian…

—Nanodot posts 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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