Foresight Nanotech Institute Weekly News Digest: January 16, 2008
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
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.
Toward Productive Nanosystems: Single-atom manipulation and chemistry of mechanosynthesis
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
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.
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
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
Headline: New nanostructured thin film shows promise for efficient solar energy conversion
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
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
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.
Related Nature abstract
Headline: University, 2 industries, team to clean up mercury emissions
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.
Headline: Electromechanical nanotechnology switches as alternatives to transistors
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
Headline: Insulated nanowires bring molecular machines one step closer
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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Headline: Plumbing carbon nanotubes
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
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.
Headline: An "attractive" man-machine interface
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
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…
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…
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…
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
January 28, 2008
February 13, 2008
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