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Broadening the synthetic biology path to molecular nanotechnology

Foresight Update 27.08—December 11, 2014
ISSN 1078-9731

Nanotech News

Discuss these news stories at

In this issue:

Large, open protein cages designed and built

While some protein scientists make impressive progress designing novel protein folds, others combine natural protein oligomers in novel ways to make unexpected extreme structures not seen in nature. …

Broadening the synthetic biology path to molecular nanotechnology

The first journal article to call for the development of molecular manufacturing … identified the task of designing more stable proteins as a path toward more general capabilities for molecular manipulation. Proof of principle for this goal was already apparent by 1988, and we have followed progress since then … . A brief comment in a recent issue of Science introduces two papers that took two different routes to use rational and computational design to make new protein structures based on alpha-helical coiled coils. …

Nearly perfect carbon nanotubes key to energy-saving lights

Foresight’s recent Workshop on Directed/Programmable Matter for Energy focused on the potential of atomically precise materials for energy production, transport, and efficient use. A hat tip to Kurzweil Accelerating Intelligence for describing how scientists from Tohoku University in Japan had combined carbon nanotube field emitters with a solution of indium oxide and tin oxide to produce a very efficient planar light source. …

Micrometer-scale structures built from DNA bricks

The saga of using DNA bricks to build complex 3D nanostructures continues to evolve. A hat tip to ScienceDirect for reprinting this news release from Harvard’s Wyss Institute “Crystallizing the DNA nanotechnology dream“ …

Notes for 400 hours of Richard Feynman's Hughes Lectures

John Neer writes to announce that he has made available “to the public for non-commercial use” an extensive collection of notes for lectures that Richard Feynman delivered to employees of Hughes Aircraft Company from 1966 through 1971, for two hours on Monday evenings, 9 to 10 months per year. No attempt was made to record or capture Feynman’s board work for these lectures. Mr. Neer, accomplishing what would seem to have been a Herculean task, took notes as extensively as possible during Feynman’s two-hour lectures, and then spent four to six hours transcribing each lecture as soon as possible afterward. …

Using DNA nanotechnology to cast arbitrarily shaped nanoparticles

… Over the years we have cited other work in which addressable DNA scaffolds have been used to organize functional components. Such achievements have been used to precisely spatially organize small numbers of larger, atomically complex, nanoscale objects. Recently researchers have asked whether atomically precise DNA molds can be used to cast large numbers of inorganic atoms into predetermined complex (but not atomically precise) 3D nanoparticles that can be arranged in space to form larger, more complex nanoscale objects. …

Grant program to support nanotechnology and other infrastructure

Gayle Pergamit writes with news of a US National Science Foundation initiative that “addresses one of the big problems that we talked about at the [Foresight Directed/Programmable Matter for Energy Workshop]: not having enough processor power. This will be a huge boost to getting true nanotech done.” The new initiative builds upon a June 2012 Executive Order to make broadband construction faster and cheaper. …

—Nanodot posts by James Lewis

Foresight Events and News

Foresight Institute's 2014 Workshop on Directed/Programmable Matter for Energy – Video available

Sept. 5-7, 2014, in Palo Alto, California

A small, highly interactive 2-1/2 day invitational meeting focused on long-term prospects for revolutionary advances in energy storage, transmission, and generation based on improved precision in our control of matter.

Wide-ranging thinkers, firmly grounded in a deep and broad understanding of current science will facilitate future research directions, encourage the formation of new multidisciplinary teams, and speed nanoscale advances in the energy field.

Video and list of Workshop participants:

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