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Foresight Nanotech Institute Weekly News Digest: January 16, 2008

Top Nano News of the Week

Foresight note: This innovation is perhaps the first practical application of the 'scaffolded DNA origami' method developed by 2006 Foresight Feynman Prize co-winner Paul Rothemund.

Headline: Nanotechnology innovation may revolutionize gene detection in a single cell
News source: Arizona State University, via AAAS EurekAlert

Scientists at Arizona State University's Biodesign Institute have developed the world's first gene detection platform made up entirely from self-assembled DNA nanostructures. The results … could have broad implications for gene chip technology and may also revolutionize the way in which gene expression is analyzed in a single cell.

"We are starting with the most well-known structure in biology, DNA, and applying it as a nano-scale building material," said Hao Yan, a member of the institute's Center for Single Molecule Biophysics and an assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry in the College of Liberal and Sciences.

Yan is a researcher in the fast-moving field known as structural DNA nanotechnology — that assembles the molecule of life into a variety of nanostructures with a broad range of applications from human health to nanoelectronics.

Science abstract

In this issue:

Toward Productive Nanosystems: Single-atom manipulation and chemistry of mechanosynthesis
Health: Researchers use magnetism to target cells to animal arteries
Clean energy: Nanostructured thin film shows promise for efficient solar energy conversion
Clean energy: Researchers make thermoelectric breakthrough in silicon nanowires
Environment: University, 2 industries, team to clean up mercury emissions
Information technology: Electromechanical nanotechnology switches as alternatives to transistors
Information technology: Insulated nanowires bring molecular machines one step closer
Advancing Beneficial Nanotechnology - Join Foresight
Conference – NanoManufacturing Conference & Exhibits
Research: Plumbing carbon nanotubes
Editor's Pick: An "attractive" man-machine interface
Nanodot: New strategic plan for U.S. Nanotechnology Initiative
Nanodot: Which presidential candidate for nanotechnology?
Nanodot: Nanomachines to fight cancer at California NanoSystems Institute
Nanodot: Future City Competition saves cities with nanotechnology
Foresight Lectures
Contact Foresight

Toward Productive Nanosystems

Foresight note: Damian Allis, winner of the 2004 Foresight Institute Distinguished Student Award, has made available a slidecast based on his presentation at the "Productive Nanosystems: Launching the Technology Roadmap" conference.

Headline: Single-atom manipulation and chemistry of mechanosynthesis
News source: NanoScienceWorks.org, a slidecast presented by Damian G. Allis

One revolutionary, and controversial, prediction of early nanotechnology research was the mechanical manipulation of atomic and molecular feedstocks, or mechanosynthesis. With laboratories now demonstrating atomic manipulation within covalent frameworks, computational chemistry is being employed for its predictive power in proposing and analyzing organic molecular frameworks capable of single-atom control and transfer. This slidecast on single atom manipulation and the chemistry of mechanosynthesis is presented by Dr. Damian Allis, Syracuse University and Nanorex Inc.

Dr. Allis has also made available a version with a transcript.

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Nanotechnology that's Good For People

Foresight Challenge: Improving health and longevity

Foresight note: This work builds on earlier research by these workers in which they used magnetic fields and nanoparticles to deliver DNA to arterial muscle cells in culture. See Weekly News Digest: September 19, 2007

Headline: Researchers use magnetism to target cells to animal arteries
Magnetically guided nanoparticles may deliver treatments to human organs
News source: Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, via AAAS EurekAlert

Scientists have used magnetic fields and tiny iron-bearing particles to drive healthy cells to targeted sites in blood vessels. The research, done in animals, may lead to a new method of delivering cells and genes to repair injured or diseased organs in people.

The study team, led by Robert J. Levy, M.D., the William J. Rashkind Chair of Pediatric Cardiology at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, loaded endothelial cells, flat cells that line the inside of blood vessels, with nanoparticles, tiny spheres nanometers in diameter. The nanoparticles contained iron oxide.

Using an external, uniform magnetic field, Levy's team directed the cells into steel stents, small metal scaffolds that had been inserted into the carotid arteries of rats.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences abstract

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Nanotechnology that's Good For the Planet

Foresight Challenge: Providing renewable clean energy

Headline: New nanostructured thin film shows promise for efficient solar energy conversion
News source: University of California - Santa Cruz, via AAAS EurekAlert

Two nanotech methods for engineering solar cell materials have shown particular promise. One uses thin films of metal oxide nanoparticles, such as titanium dioxide, doped with other elements, such as nitrogen. Another strategy employs quantum dots—nanosize crystals—that strongly absorb visible light.

Combining these two approaches appears to yield better solar cell materials than either one alone does, according to Jin Zhang, professor of chemistry at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Zhang led a team of researchers from California, Mexico, and China that created a thin film doped with nitrogen and sensitized with quantum dots. When tested, the new nanocomposite material performed better than predicted—as if the functioning of the whole material was greater than the sum of its two individual components.

Journal of Physical Chemistry C abstract

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Foresight Challenge: Providing renewable clean energy

Foresight note: In a "News & Views" article accompanying this and a related paper, Cronin B. Vining wrote "Using silicon as a 'thermoelectric' material to convert heat into electricity would be a technological leap forward. But silicon conducts heat so well that nobody thought that could work — until now."

Headline: Feeling the heat: Berkeley researchers make thermoelectric breakthrough in silicon nanowires
News source: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, via AAAS EurekAlert

Energy now lost as heat during the production of electricity [approximately 15 trillion Watts] could be harnessed through the use of silicon nanowires synthesized via a technique developed by researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the University of California (UC) at Berkeley. The far-ranging potential applications of this technology include DOE's hydrogen fuel cell-powered "Freedom CAR," and personal power-jackets that could use heat from the human body to recharge cell-phones and other electronic devices.

Nature abstract

Related Nature abstract

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Foresight Challenge: Healing and preserving the environment

Headline: University, 2 industries, team to clean up mercury emissions
News source: Washington University in St. Louis, via AAAS EurekAlert

Washington University in St. Louis is partnering with Chrysler LLC and a major Midwest utility company in a project to determine if paint solid residues from automobile manufacturing can reduce emissions of mercury from electric power plants.

The project is based upon the technical expertise of Pratim Biswas, Ph.D., Stifel & Quinette Jens Professor of Environmental Engineering Science, who has demonstrated the effectiveness of [nanostructured] titanium dioxide in controlling mercury in lab and recent field studies. He heads the project that will test a mercury removal process in a full-scale power plant.

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Foresight Challenge: Making information technology available to all

Headline: Electromechanical nanotechnology switches as alternatives to transistors
News source: Nanowerk Spotlight, written by Michael Berger

Researchers have been trying to develop electromechanically driven switches that can be made small enough to be an alternative to transistor-switched silicon-based memory. … Researchers now have reported a novel nanoelectromechanical (NEM) switched capacitor structure based on vertically aligned multiwalled carbon nanotubes (CNTs) in which the mechanical movement of a nanotube relative to a carbon nanotube based capacitor defines ON and OFF states.

While nanoelectromechanical devices based on CNTs have been reported previously, so far it has not been possible to control the number and spatial location of nanotubes over large areas with the precision needed for the production of integrated circuits.

"We have demonstrated a viable structure and fabrication process for a NEM memory cell for ultra-large-scale integrated memory applications," Dr. Gehan Amaratunga tells Nanowerk.

Nature Nanotechnology abstract

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Foresight Challenge: Making information technology available to all

Headline: Insulated nanowires bring molecular machines one step closer
News source: Nanowerk News

In a development that brings superdense memory devices and molecule-sized machines a step closer to reality, scientists at Japan's Institute of Physical and Chemical Research (RIKEN) have succeeded in creating 1-nanometer-thick electric wires with a layer of insulation. … the researchers grew the insulated nanowire crystals through a process involving a mixture of conductive and non-conductive organic molecules that organized themselves into the desired configuration.

ACS Nano free access article

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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 book review "Anticipating advanced nanotechnology". J. Storrs Hall's book Nanofuture: What's Next for Nanotechnology describes what advanced nanotechnology will be like and how it will transform our lives. Join Foresight and help steer nanotech in the directions you personally support most!

"Anticipating advanced nanotechnology" in Update 58

To join:

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Foresight Partners

NanoManufacturing Conference & Exhibits
Sponsored by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME)
April 22 - 23, 2008
Hynes Convention Center, Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Looking to understand what nanotechnology means for you? Need to understand how and why nanotechnology can improve your products, process, and may even cut costs? Interested in learning about the latest applications and trends in top-down fabrication and bottom-up assembly techniques? Then this event is for you!

This conference will highlight the current, near-term, and future applications of nanotechnology and how they are transforming the way we manufacture products. Peer networking, information sharing, and technology exchange among the world's nanomanufacturing leaders will be a key feature of the event.

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Nanotech Research

Headline: Plumbing carbon nanotubes
News source: PhysOrg.com, written by Laura Mgrdichian

Scientists have determined how to connect carbon nanotubes together like water pipes, a feat that may lead to a whole new group of bottom-up-engineered nanostructures and devices.

The researchers, from Japan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, were able to "plumb" together nanotubes with similar or equal diameters using a technique they developed. They expect that their method could be used in the future to seamlessly join carbon nanotubes regardless of their diameters.

"Our method could allow longer carbon nanotubes to be created, and even nanotubes with multiple branches," the study's corresponding scientist, Chuanhong Jin, said to PhysOrg.com. "Such structures could have many applications, such as field-effect transistors or current lead-wires."

Nature Nanotechnology abstract

More detailed coverage of this research, including links to two movies of the joining process, is available here:

Headline: Nanotechnology pipe dreams
News source: Nanowerk Spotlight, written by Michael Berger

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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 have used nanoparticles to exert unprecedented control over cell functions in a very clever way that foreshadows visions for future manipulation of cells by nanomechanical medical robots. This press release includes a video clip of one of the researchers explaining what they have accomplished.

— Jim

Headline: An "attractive" man-machine interface
Researchers use magnetic fields, rather than drugs, to control cellular signaling
News source: Children's Hospital Boston, via AAAS EurekAlert

Researchers at Children's Hospital Boston have developed a new "nanobiotechnology" that enables magnetic control of events at the cellular level [that] could lead to finely-tuned but noninvasive treatments for disease…

Don Ingber, MD, PhD, and Robert Mannix, PhD, of Children's program in Vascular Biology, in collaboration with Mara Prentiss, PhD, a physicist at Harvard University, devised a way to get tiny beads—30 nanometers (billionths of a meter) in diameter—to bind to receptor molecules on the cell surface. When exposed to a magnetic field, the beads themselves become magnets, and pull together through magnetic attraction. This pull drags the cell's receptors into large clusters, mimicking what happens when drugs or other molecules bind to them. This clustering, in turn, activates the receptors, triggering a cascade of biochemical signals that influence different cell functions.

Nature Nanotechnology abstract

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Nanodot: A sample from Foresight's blog

Headline: New strategic plan for U.S. Nanotechnology Initiative

On January 2 a press release was issued announcing an updated Strategic Plan (PDF) for the U.S. National Nanotechnology Initiative.

For those of us interested in molecular nanosystems and atomically-precise manufacturing, it's disappointing…

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Headline: Which presidential candidate for nanotechnology?

Nanodot readers in the U.S. may be asking, who should I vote for to promote nanotechnology? Good question! Your suggestions are welcome in the comments section.

Meanwhile, see this post by Prof. Robin Hanson (inventor of prediction markets, formerly called idea futures) about a tool that could be used to find out more clearly what is the consensus on such a question…

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Headline: Nanomachines to fight cancer at California NanoSystems Institute

In the postal mail today is the annual research report (PDF) of the CNSI, California NanoSystems Institute. Last month on Dec. 14 was the dedication ceremony (includes video) for their beautiful new nanotechnology building at UCLA…

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Headline: Future City Competition saves cities with nanotechnology

Nanowerk brings to our attention the Future City Competition, using SimCity software and sponsored by National Engineers Week, which this year is focused on nanotechnology and how to use it to prevent tomorrow's urban disasters…

—Nanodot posts by Christine Peterson

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Foresight Lectures

January 28, 2008
Stanford Law, Science and Technology Colloquium
Palo Alto, California
Christine Peterson will speak to LLM students on legal, ethical and public policy issues in nanotechnology.

February 13, 2008
Paul Saffo's Stanford class "Forecasting the Future of Engineering"
Palo Alto, California
Christine Peterson will speak to engineering students on the challenges of the next thirty years.

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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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