Cheap Batteries For Hydrogen Electric Car

Electrochemical devices are crucial to a green energy revolution in which clean alternatives replace carbon-based fuels. This revolution requires conversion systems that produce hydrogen from water or rechargeable batteries that can store clean energy in cars. Now, Singapore-based researchers have developed improved catalysts as electrodes for efficient and more durable green energy devices.

Electrochemical devices such as batteries use chemical reactions to create and store energy. One of the cleanest reactions is the conversion from water into oxygen and hydrogen. Using energy from the sun, water can be converted into those two elements, which then store this solar energy in gaseous form. Burning hydrogen leads to a chemical explosion that produces water.

For technical applications, the conversion from hydrogen and oxygen into water is done in fuel cells, while some rechargeable batteries use chemical reactions based on oxygen to store and release energy. A crucial element for both types of devices is the cathode, which is the electrical contact where these reactions take place. The research team, which included Zhaolin Liu and colleagues from the A*STAR Institute of Materials Research and Engineering with colleagues from Nanyang Technological University and the National University of Singapore, combined nanometer-sized crystals of this material with sheets of carbon or carbon nanotubes.

oxyde-carbon compositesOxide/carbon composites could power green metal-air batteries

The cost is estimated to be tens of times cheaper than the platinum/carbon composites used at present,” says Liu. Because platinum is expensive, intensive efforts are being made to find alternative materials for batteries.


Smart Bandage

Engineers at UC Berkeley are developing a new type of bandage that does far more than stanch the bleeding from a paper cut or scraped knee.

Associate professor Michel Maharbiz explains how the smart bandage works to detect bedsores. (UC Berkeley video by Roxanne Makasdjian and Phil Ebiner)
Thanks to advances in flexible electronics, the researchers, in collaboration with colleagues at UC San Francisco, have created a new “smart bandage” that uses electrical currents to detect early tissue damage from pressure ulcers, or bedsores, before they can be seen by human eyes – and while recovery is still possible.
The researchers exploited the electrical changes that occur when a healthy cell starts dying. They tested the thin, non-invasive bandage on the skin of rats and found that the device was able to detect varying degrees of tissue damage consistently across multiple animals.

smartbandage The smart bandage is fabricated by printing gold electrodes onto a thin piece of plastic. This flexible sensor uses impedance spectroscopy to detect bedsores that are invisible to the naked eye
We set out to create a type of bandage that could detect bedsores as they are forming, before the damage reaches the surface of the skin,” said Michel Maharbiz, a UC Berkeley associate professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences and head of the smart-bandage project. “We can imagine this being carried by a nurse for spot-checking target areas on a patient, or it could be incorporated into a wound dressing to regularly monitor how it’s healing.
The findings, published in the journal Nature Communications, could provide a major boost to efforts to stem a health problem that affects an estimated 2.5 million U.S. residents at an annual cost of $11 billion.


How To process Graphene To Produce Solar Cells

A new technique invented at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) to produce graphene — a material made up of an atom-thick layer of carbon, at room temperature, could help pave the way for commercially feasible graphene-based solar cells and light-emitting diodes, large-panel displays, and flexible electronics.

With this new technique, we can grow large sheets of electronic-grade graphene in much less time and at much lower temperatures,” says Caltech staff scientist David Boyd, who developed the method. Boyd is the first author of a new study, published in the journal Nature Communications, detailing the new manufacturing process and the novel properties of the graphene it produces.

Graphene revolutionizes a variety of engineering and scientific fields due to its unique properties, which include a tensile strength 200 times stronger than steel and an electrical mobility that is two to three orders of magnitude better than silicon. The electrical mobility of a material is a measure of how easily electrons can travel across its surface. However, achieving these properties on an industrially relevant scale has proven to be complicated. Existing techniques require temperatures that are much too hot — 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit, or 1,000 degrees Celsius — for incorporating graphene fabrication with current electronic manufacturing. Additionally, high-temperature growth of graphene tends to induce large, uncontrollably distributed strain—deformation—in the material, which severely compromises its intrinsic properties.

Previously, people were only able to grow a few square millimeters of high-mobility graphene at a time, and it required very high temperatures, long periods of time, and many steps,” says Caltech physics professor Nai-Chang Yeh, the Fletcher Jones Foundation Co-Director of the Kavli Nanoscience Institute and the corresponding author of the new study. “Our new method can consistently produce high-mobility and nearly strain-free graphene in a single step in just a few minutes without high temperature. We have created sample sizes of a few square centimeters, and since we think that our method is scalable, we believe that we can grow sheets that are up to several square inches or larger, paving the way to realistic large-scale applications.”


Nanoparticles Destroy Acne

Acne, a scourge of adolescence, may be about to meet its ultra high-tech match. By using a combination of ultrasound, gold-covered particles and lasers, researchers from UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) and the private medical device company Sebacia have developed a targeted therapy that could potentially lessen the frequency and intensity of breakouts, relieving acne sufferers the discomfort and stress of dealing with severe and recurring pimples.

“Through this unique collaboration, we have essentially established the foundation of a novel therapy,” said Samir Mitragotri, professor of chemical engineering at UCSB.

The new technology builds on Mitragotri’s specialties in targeted therapy and transdermal drug delivery. Using low-frequency ultrasound, the therapy pushes gold-coated silica particles through the follicle into the sebaceous glands. Postdoctoral research associate Byeong Hee Hwang, now an assistant professor at Incheon National University, conducted research at UCSB.

Acne nanoparticleThe particles are delivered into the sebaceous gland by the ultrasound, and are heated by the laser. The heat deactivates the gland

The unique thing about these particles is that when you shine a laser on them, they efficiently convert light into heat via a process called surface plasmon resonance,” said Mitragotri. This also marks the first time ultrasound, which has been proved for years to deliver drugs through the skin, has been used to deliver the particles into humans.

How To Split Water At Low Cost To Produce Hydrogen

UNSW (Australia) scientists have developed a highly efficient oxygen-producing electrode for splitting water that has the potential to be scaled up for industrial production of clean energy fuel, hydrogen. This breaktrough is important for the future development of hydrogen electric cars (H mobil). The new technology is based on an inexpensive, specially coated foam material that lets the bubbles of oxygen escape quickly. Inefficient and costly oxygen-producing electrodes are one of the major barriers to the widespread commercial production of hydrogen by electrolysis, where the water is split into hydrogen and oxygen using an electrical current.

watersplitting Electrode

Our electrode is the most efficient oxygen-producing electrode in alkaline electrolytes reported to date, to the best of our knowledge,” says Associate Professor Chuan Zhao, of the UNSW School of Chemistry. “It is inexpensive, sturdy and simple to make, and can potentially be scaled up for industrial application of water splitting.”

The research, by Associate Professor Zhao and Dr Xunyu Lu, is published in the journal Nature Communications.


Electric Car Race: The Rise Of Formula E

Downtown Miami has been converted into a race track. Cement blocks, fencing and grandstands are all in place for the first electric car race ever held on U.S. soil. Miami is the fifth of ten cities around the world to host during the inaugural year of the Formula E Championship, a fully electric race car series. Teams of mechanics are preparing their electric cars for Saturday’s race. Mark Schneider from Team Audi ABT says Formula E is in many ways similar to Formula 1. The cars are fast, the suspense on race day is high, but instead of the roar of a gasoline powered engines, these electric cars let out a high pitched hum as they barrel down the track. Schneider says pits stop are a bit different as well.
We do a pit stops like other racing series but when formula 1 changes tires we change cars. So we have two cars for each driver and after roughly half an hour the driver gets into the pits, jumps out of the car, jumps into another car and goes out again“, says Mark Schneider. Each car is powered by a massive lithium ion battery that makes up a third of the cars overall weight. Formula E CEO Alejandro Agag says with time those batteries will become more efficient and smaller allowing them to power a single car for an entire race. He says the concept behind formula E is to drive research and development in the electric automotive space to new heights.

Formula 1, Indy Car, NASCAR are places where new technologies have been developed that then have been used on road cars and we want Formula E to be the place that happens for the electric car,” he noticed. Along with innovations on the track, Agag says he wants to attract young fans to Formula E by utilizing technology off the track as well. He says plans are in the works to develop an interactive virtual track that will allow people to compete on race day from their homes. He concludes: “So if you are a kid at home you can play with the virtual car, a shadow car, against the real racers in real time.

How To Print Solar Cells Massively

Flexible optoelectronic devices that can be produced roll-to-roll – much like newspapers are printed – are a highly promising path to cheaper devices such as solar cells and LED lighting panels. Scientists from “TREASORES” European project present prototype flexible solar cell modules as well as novel silver-based transparent electrodes that outperform currently used materials.

printes solar cells
A flexible organic solar cell from TREASORES project undergoing mechanical testing: the cell is repeatedly flexed to a 25 mm radius whilst monitoring its performance. Such cells have shown lifetimes in excess of 4000 hours

In order to make solar energy widely affordable scientists and engineers all over the world are looking for low-cost production technologies. Flexible organic solar cells have a huge potential in this regard because they require only a minimum amount of (rather cheap) materials and can be manufactured in large quantities by roll-to-roll (R2R) processing. This requires, however, that the transparent electrodes, the barrier layers and even the entire devices be flexible. With these «ultra-flat» electrodes record efficiencies of up to 7% were obtained for organic solar cells using commercially available materials for light harvesting.

Electric Car: How To Increase the Batteries Life-Span

Drexel University (Philadephia) researchers, along with colleagues at Aix-Marseille University in France, have discovered a high performance cathode material with great promise for use in next generation lithium-sulfur batteries that could one day be used to power mobile devices and electric cars.

Lithium-sulfur batteries have recently become one of the hottest topics in the field of energy storage devices due to their high energy density — which is about four times higher than that of lithium-ion batteries currently used in mobile devices. One of the major challenges for the practical application of lithium-sulfur batteries is to find cathode materials that demonstrate long-term stability.

An international research collaboration led by Drexel’s Yury Gogotsi, PhD, professor in the College of Engineering and director of its Nanomaterials Research Group, has created a two-dimensional carbon/sulfur nanolaminate that could be a viable candidate for use as a lithium-sulfur cathode.
Tesla-Model-S One of the major challenges for the practical application of lithium-sulfur batteries is to find cathode materials that demonstrate long-term stability.

The carbon/sulfur nanolaminates synthesized by Gogotsi’s group demonstrate the same uniformity as the infiltrated carbon nanomaterials, but the sulfur in the nanolaminates is uniformly deposited in the carbon matrix as atomically thin layers and a strong covalent bonding between carbon and sulfur is observed. This may have a significant impact on increasing the life-span of next generation batteries.

In a paper they recently published in the chemistry journal Angewandte Chemie, Gogotsi, along with his colleagues at Aix-Marseille University explain their process for extracting the nanolaminate from a three-dimensional material called a Ti2SC MAX phase.

“Indolent” Or Deadly Prostate Cancer ?

A Northwestern University-led study in the emerging field of nanocytology could one day help men make better decisions about whether or not to undergo aggressive prostate cancer treatments.

Technology developed by Northwestern University researchers may help solve that quandary by allowing physicians to identify which nascent cancers are likely to escalate into potentially life-threatening malignancies and which ones will remainindolent,” or non-aggressive.

The prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test was once the recommended screening tool for detecting prostate cancer, but there is now disagreement over the use of this test because it can’t predict which men with elevated PSA levels will actually develop an aggressive form of the disease.
prostate cancer
If we can predict a prognosis with our technology, then men will know if their cancer is dangerous and if they should seek treatment,” said Vadim Backman, senior author of the study. “Right now there is no perfect tool to predict a prognosis for prostate cancer. Our research is preliminary, but it is promising and proves that the concept works.”

Backman is a professor of biomedical engineering at Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science.

The study, which includes researchers from Northwestern, NorthShore University HealthSystem (NorthShore) and Boston Medical Center, was published online in PLOS ONE.

Graphene Fights Cavities and Gum Disease

Dental diseases, which are caused by the overgrowth of certain bacteria in the mouth, are among the most common health problems in the world. Now scientists have discovered that a material called graphene oxide is effective at eliminating these bacteria, some of which have developed antibiotic resistance. They report the findings in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.
Zisheng Tang and colleagues at Shanghai Jiao Tong University point out that dentists often prescribe traditional antibiotics to get rid of bacteria that cause tooth decay or gum disease. But with the rise in antibiotic resistance, new approaches are needed to address these problems, which can lead to tooth loss. Previous studies have demonstrated that graphene oxide — carbon nanosheets studded with oxygen groups — is a promising material in biomedical applications. It can inhibit the growth of some bacterial strains with minimal harm to mammalian cells. Tang’s team wanted to see if the nanosheets would also stop the specific bacteria that cause dental diseases.

In the lab, the researchers tested the material against three different species of bacteria that are linked to tooth decay and gum disease. By destroying the bacterial cell walls and membranes, graphene oxide effectively slowed the growth of the pathogens. The researchers conclude that the nanosheets could have potential uses in dental care.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), oral health is essential to general health and quality of life.


Cell Reprogramming

In 1953 Watson and Crick first published the discovery of the double helix structure of the DNA. They were able to visualize the DNA structure by means of X-Ray diffraction. Techniques, such as electron microscopy, allowed scientists to identify nucleosomes, the first and most basic level of chromosome organisation. Until now it was known that our DNA is packaged by regular repeating units of those nucleosomes throughout the genome giving rise to chromatin. However, due to the lack of suitable techniques and instruments, the chromatin organisation inside a cell nucleus could not be observed in a non-invasive way with the sufficient resolution. Now, for the first time, a group of scientists at the Center for Genomic Regulation CRG and ICFO in Barcelona (Spain), have been able to visualise and even count the smallest units which, packaged together, form our genome. This study was possible thanks to the use of super-resolution microscopy, a new cutting-edge optical techniquethat received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2014. In combination with innovative quantitative approaches and numerical simulations, they were also able to define the genome architecture at the nano-scale. Most importantly, they found that the nucleosomes are assembled in irregular groups across the chromatin and nucleosome-free-DNA regions separate these groups.
Genome Sequencing

By using the STORM technique, a new super-resolution microscopy method, we have been able to view and even count nucleosomes across the chromatin fibers and determine their organisation. STORM overcomes the diffraction limit that normally restricts the spatial resolution of conventional microscopes and enables us to precisely define the chromatin fibre structure”, states Prof. Melike Lakadamyali, group leader at ICFO.This enabling technique allowed the researchers to go deeper and, by comparing stem cells to Differentiated cells (specialised cells that have already acquired their role), they observed key differences in the chromatin fibre architectures of both cells.

We found that stem cells have a different chromatin structure than somatic (specialised) cells. At the same time, this difference correlates with the level of pluripotency. The more pluripotent a cell is, the less dense is its packaging. It gives us new clues to understand the stem cells functioning and their genomic structure, which will be helpful for example, in studying cell reprogramming”, explains Pia Cosma, group leader and ICREA research professor at the CRG.

Boosted Lithium Sulfur Batteries For Electric Car

Lithium-sulfur batteries have been a hot topic in battery research because of their ability to produce up to 10 times more energy than conventional batteries, which means they hold great promise for applications in energy-demanding electric vehicles.
However, there have been fundamental road blocks to commercializing these sulfur batteries. One of the main problems is the tendency for lithium and sulfur reaction products, called lithium polysulfides, to dissolve in the battery’s electrolyte and travel to the opposite electrode permanently. This causes the battery’s capacity to decrease over its lifetime.
Researchers in the Bourns College of Engineering at the University of California, Riverside have investigated a strategy to prevent this “polysulfide shuttling” phenomenon by creating nano-sized sulfur particles, and coating them in silica (SiO2), otherwise known as glass.
Bourns College
Ph.D. students in Cengiz Ozkan’s and Mihri Ozkan ‘s research groups have been working on designing a cathode material in which silica cages “trap” polysulfides having a very thin shell of silica, and the particles’ polysulfide products now face a trapping barrier – a glass cage. The team used an organic precursor to construct the trapping barrier.

Our biggest challenge was to optimize the process to deposit SiO2 – not too thick, not too thin, about the thickness of a virus”, Mihri Ozkan said.
The work is outlined in the journal Nanoscale.

Cloth That Produces Electricity

Fully flexible, foldable nanopatterned wearable triboelectric nanogenerator (WTNG) with high power-generating performance and mechanical robustness have been designed by researchers from the SKKU Advanced Institute of Nanotechnology (SAINT) (Korea). Triboelectric is an electrical charge produced by friction between two objects that are nonconductive. Very high voltage and current outputs with an average value of 170 V were obtained from a four-layer-stacked WTNG. The researchers created a novel tribo electric nano generator fabric out of a silvery textile coated with nanorods and a silicon-based organic material.
When they stacked four pieces of the cloth together and pushed down on the material, it captured the energy generated from the pressure. The material immediately pumped out that energy, which was used to power light-emitting diodes, a liquid crystal display and a vehicle’s keyless entry remote. The cloth worked for more than 12,000 cycles.


Quantum Radar Can See The Invisible

A prototype quantum radar that has the potential to detect objects which are invisible to conventional systems has been developed by an international research team led by a quantum information scientist at the University of York (U.K.). The new breed of radar is a hybrid system that uses quantum correlation between microwave and optical beams to detect objects of low reflectivity such as cancer cells or aircraft with a stealth capability. Because the quantum radar operates at much lower energies than conventional systems, it has the long-term potential for a range of applications in biomedicine including non-invasive NMR scans.

radarA conventional radar antenna emits a microwave to scan a region of space. Any target object would reflect the signal to the source but objects of low reflectivity immersed in regions with high background noise are difficult to spot using classical radar systems. In contrast, quantum radars operate more effectively and exploit quantum entanglement to enhance their sensitivity to detect small signal reflections from very noisy regions.
Dr Stefano Pirandola, leader of the research team at the University’s Department of Computer Science said that while quantum radars were some way off, they would have superior performance especially at the low-photon regime.
Such a non-invasive property is particularly important for short-range biomedical applications. In the long-term, the scheme could be operated at short distances to detect the presence of defects in biological samples or human tissues in a completely non-invasive fashion, thanks to the use of a low number of quantum-correlated photons“.
“Our method could be used to develop non-invasive NMR spectroscopy of fragile proteins and nucleic acids. In medicine, these techniques could potentially be applied to magnetic resonance imaging, with the aim of reducing the radiation dose absorbed by patients.


Hybrid Patch Instead Of A Heart Transplant

Because heart cells cannot multiply and cardiac muscles contain few stem cells, heart tissue is unable to repair itself after a heart attack. Now Tel Aviv University (TAU) researchers are literally setting a new gold standard in cardiac tissue engineering.

Dr. Tal Dvir and his graduate student Michal Shevach of TAU‘s Department of Biotechnology, Department of Materials Science, and Center for Nanoscience , have been developing sophisticated micro- and nanotechnological tools — ranging in size from one millionth to one billionth of a meter — to develop functional substitutes for damaged heart tissues. Searching for innovative methods to restore heart function, especially cardiac “patches” that could be transplanted into the body to replace damaged heart tissue, Dr. Dvir literally struck gold. He and his team discovered that gold particles are able to increase the conductivity of biomaterials. In a study published by Nano Letters, Dr. Dvir’s team presented their model for a superior hybrid cardiac patch, which incorporates biomaterial harvested from patients and gold nanoparticles.

Our goal was twofold,” said Dr. Dvir. “To engineer tissue that would not trigger an immune response in the patient, and to fabricate a functional patch not beset by signalling or conductivity problems.”
We now have to prove that these autologous hybrid cardiac patches improve heart function after heart attacks with minimal immune response,” said Dr. Dvir. “Then we plan to move it to large animals and after that, to clinical trials.

The First Nanomaterials Assembly Line

Researchers from ETH – Switzerland – have realised a long-held dream: inspired by an industrial assembly line, they have developed a nanoscale production line for the assembly of biological molecules. Cars, planes and many electronic products are now built with the help of sophisticated assembly lines. Mobile assembly carriers, on to which the objects are fixed, are an important part of these assembly lines. In the case of a car body, the assembly components are attached in various work stages arranged in a precise spatial and chronological sequence, resulting in a complete vehicle at the end of the line.

nano machine shop
On the nano assembly line, tiny biological tubes called microtubules serve as transporters for the assembly of several molecular objects
It would enable us to assemble new complex substances or materials for specific applications,” says Professor Viola Vogel, head of the Laboratory of Applied Mechanobiology at ETH Zurich. Vogel has been working on this ambitious project together with her team and has recently made an important step. In a paper published in the latest issue of the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Lab on a Chip journal, the ETH researchers presented a molecular assembly line featuring all the elements of a conventional production line: a mobile assembly carrier, an assembly object, assembly components attached at various assembly stations and a motor (including fuel) for the assembly carrier to transport the object from one assembly station to the next.

Flexible Nanogenerator

Nanogenerators are innovative self-powered energy harvesters that convert kinetic energy created from vibrational and mechanical sources into electrical power, removing the need of external circuits or batteries for electronic devices. This innovation is vital in realizing sustainable energy generation in isolated, inaccessible, or indoor environments and even in the human body. Nanogenerators, a flexible and lightweight energy harvester on a plastic substrate, can scavenge energy from the extremely tiny movements of natural resources and human body such as wind, water flow, heartbeats, and diaphragm and respiration activities to generate electrical signals. The generators are not only self-powered, flexible devices but also can provide permanent power sources to implantable biomedical devices, including cardiac pacemakers and deep brain stimulators.

However, poor energy efficiency and a complex fabrication process have posed challenges to the commercialization of nanogenerators. Keon Jae Lee, Associate Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at KAIST – Korea -, and his colleagues have recently proposed a solution by developing a robust technique to transfer a high-quality piezoelectric thin film from bulk sapphire substrates to plastic substrates using laser lift-off (LLO). Applying the inorganic-based laser lift-off (LLO) process, the research team produced a large-area PZT thin film nanogenerators on flexible substrates (2cm x 2cm).

Flexible PZT thin film nanogenerator using inorganic-based laser lift-off process

We were able to convert a high-output performance of ~250 V from the slight mechanical deformation of a single thin plastic substrate. Such output power is just enough to turn on 100 LED lights,” Keon Jae Lee explained.


How To Measure Cancer In Living Cells

Purdue University researchers have developed a way to detect and measure cancer levels in a living cell by using tiny gold particles with tails of synthetic DNA. A team led by Joseph Irudayaraj, professor of agricultural and biological engineering, used gold nanoparticles to target and bind to fragments of genetic material known as BRCA1 messenger RNA splice variants, which can indicate the presence and stage of breast cancer. The number of these mRNA splice variants in a cell can be determined by examining the specific signal that light produces when it interacts with the gold nanoparticles.

A single gold nanoparticle, or monomer, appears green when illuminated (top left), while a pair of gold nanoparticles bound to an mRNA splice variant, or dimer, appears reddish (top right). Monomers and dimers also scatter light differently, as shown in the graph above

This is a simple yet sophisticated technique that can be used to detect cancer in a single cell and determine how aggressive it is,” said Irudayaraj, who is also the deputy director of the Bindley Bioscience Center. “Being able to quantify these genetic molecules could ultimately help clinicians provide better and more individualized treatment to cancer patients.”

The technique also could increase our understanding of cell biology and paves the way for genetic profiling and diagnosis based on a single cell, Irudayaraj said.

Flexible, Paper-Thin Television

Next to the transistors, wiring is one of the most important parts of an integrated circuit. Although today’s integrated circuits (chips) are the size of a thumbnail, they contain more than 20 miles of copper wiring. Junhao Lin, a Vanderbilt University Ph.D. student and visiting scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), has found a way to use a finely focused beam of electrons to create some of the smallest wires ever made. The flexible metallic wires are only three atoms wide: One thousandth the width of the microscopic wires used to connect the transistors in today’s integrated circuits. The discovery gives a boost to efforts aimed at creating electrical circuits on mono-layered materials, raising the possibility of flexible, paper-thin tablets and television displays.

This will likely stimulate a huge research interest in monolayer circuit design,” Lin said. “Because this technique uses electron irradiation, it can in principle be applicable to any kind of electron-based instrument, such as electron-beam lithography.”

One of the intriguing properties of monolayer circuitry is its toughness and flexibility. It is too early to predict what kinds of applications it will produce, but “If you let your imagination go, you can envision tablets and television displays that are as thin as a sheet of paper that you can roll up and stuff in your pocket or purse,” commented Sokrates Pandelides, Professor at Vanderbilt University and Lin’s Advisor.
Lin’s achievement is described in an article published online by the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

DNA Nanoparticles To Kill Brain Cancer Cells

Working together, Johns Hopkins biomedical engineers and neurosurgeons report that they have created tiny, biodegradablenanoparticles” able to carry DNA to brain cancer cells in mice. The team says the results of their proof of principle experiment suggest that such particles loaded with “death genes” might one day be given to brain cancer patients during neurosurgery to selectively kill off any remaining tumor cells without damaging normal brain tissue.

Biodegradable plastic molecules (orange) self-assemble with DNA molecules (intertwined, black circles) to form tiny nanoparticles that can carry genes to cancer cells
“In our experiments, our nanoparticles successfully delivered a test gene to brain cancer cells in mice, where it was then turned on,” says Jordan Green, Ph.D., an assistant professor of biomedical engineering and neurosurgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “We now have evidence that these tiny Trojan horses will also be able to carry genes that selectively induce death in cancer cells, while leaving healthy cells healthy.”

A summary of the research results appeared online in the journal ACS Nano.

New High Capacity Flexible Battery

A Rice University laboratory has flexible, portable and wearable electronics in its sights with the creation of a thin film for energy storage. Rice chemist James Tour and his colleagues have developed a flexible material with nanoporous nickel-fluoride electrodes layered around a solid electrolyte to deliver battery-like supercapacitor performance that combines the best qualities of a high-energy battery and a high-powered supercapacitor without the lithium found in commercial batteries today.
Their electrochemical capacitor is about a hundredth of an inch thick but can be scaled up for devices either by increasing the size or adding layers, said Rice postdoctoral researcher Yang Yang, co-lead author of the paper with graduate student Gedeng Ruan. They expect that standard manufacturing techniques may allow the battery to be even thinner. In tests, the students found their square-inch device held 76 percent of its capacity over 10,000 charge-discharge cycles and 1,000 bending cycles. Tour said the team set out to find a material that has the flexible qualities of graphene, carbon nanotubes and conducting polymers while possessing much higher electrical storage capacity typically found in inorganic metal compounds. Inorganic compounds have, until recently, lacked flexibility, he said.

This is not easy to do, because materials with such high capacity are usually brittle,” he said. “And we’ve had really good, flexible carbon storage systems in the past, but carbon as a material has never hit the theoretical value that can be found in inorganic systems, and nickel fluoride in particular.”

Compared with a lithium-ion device, the structure is quite simple and safe,” Yang said. “It behaves like a battery but the structure is that of a supercapacitor. If we use it as a supercapacitor, we can charge quickly at a high current rate and discharge it in a very short time. But for other applications, we find we can set it up to charge more slowly and to discharge slowly like a battery.
The new work by the Rice lab of chemist James Tour is detailed in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.


Tiny Magnetic DNA Used As Invisible Label

The worldwide need for anti-counterfeiting labels for food is substantial. In a joint operation in December 2013 and January 2014, Interpol and Europol confiscated more than 1,200 tonnes of counterfeit or substandard food and almost 430,000 litres of counterfeit beverages. The illegal trade is run by organised criminal groups that generate millions in profits, say the authorities. The confiscated goods also included more than 131,000 litres of oil and vinegar. A forgery-proof label should not only be invisible but also safe, robust, cheap and easy to detect. To fulfil these criteria ETH researchers – Switzerland – used nanotechnology and nature’s information storehouse, DNA. A piece of artificial genetic material is the heart of the mini-label.
Just a few grams of the new substance are enough to tag the entire olive oil production of Italy. If counterfeiting were suspected, the particles added at the place of origin could be extracted from the oil and analysed, enabling a definitive identification of the producer.

Using magnetic DNA particles, olive oil can be tagged to prevent counterfeiting
The method is equivalent to a label that cannot be removed,” says Robert Grass, lecturer in the Department of Chemistry and Applied Biosciences at ETH Zurich.
However, DNA also has some disadvantages. If the material is used as an information carrier outside a living organism, it cannot repair itself and is susceptible to light, temperature fluctuations and chemicals. Thus, the researchers used a silica coating to protect the DNA, creating a kind of synthetic fossil. The casing represents a physical barrier that protects the DNA against chemical attacks and completely isolates it from the external environment – a situation that mimics that of natural fossils, write the researchers in their paper, which has been published in the journal ACS Nano.

Smartphones Printed On T-shirts

A new version of “spaser” technology being investigated could mean that mobile phones become so small, efficient, and flexible they could be printed on clothing.
A team of researchers from Monash University – Australia – Department of Electrical and Computer Systems Engineering (ECSE) has modelled the world’s first spaser (surface plasmon amplification by stimulated emission of radiation) to be made completely of carbon.
A spaser is effectively a nanoscale laser or nanolaser. It emits a beam of light through the vibration of free electrons, rather than the space-consuming electromagnetic wave emission process of a traditional laser.
PhD student and lead researcher Chanaka Rupasinghe said the modelled spaser design using carbon would offer many advantages.

Other spasers designed to date are made of gold or silver nanoparticles and semiconductor quantum dots while our device would be comprised of a graphene resonator and a carbon nanotube gain element,” Chanaka said.
The use of carbon means our spaser would be more robust and flexible, would operate at high temperatures, and be eco-friendly.
Because of these properties, there is the possibility that in the future an extremely thin mobile phone could be printed on clothing.”


How To Heat Your House At Night With Sun’s Energy

It’s an obvious truism, but one that may soon be outdated: The problem with solar power is that sometimes the sun doesn’t shine. Now a team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology ( MIT) and Harvard University has come up with an ingenious workaround — a material that can absorb the sun’s heat and store that energy in chemical form, ready to be released again on demand. This solution is no solar-energy panacea: While it could produce electricity, it would be inefficient at doing so. But for applications where heat is the desired output — whether for heating buildings, cooking, or powering heat-based industrial processes — this could provide an opportunity for the expansion of solar power into new realms.

It could change the game, since it makes the sun’s energy, in the form of heat, storable and distributable,” says Jeffrey Grossman, the Carl Richard Soderberg Associate Professor of Power Engineering at MIT, who is a co-author of a paper describing the new process in the journal Nature Chemistry. Timothy Kucharski, a postdoc at MIT and Harvard, is the paper’s lead author.

Very Cheap, Powerful Solar Cells

Working on dye-sensitized solar cells – researchers from University Malaya (UM) – Indonesia – and National Tsing Hua University (NTHU) – Taiwan – have achieved an efficiency of 1.12 %, at a fraction of the cost compared to those used by platinum devices.
The study carried out in Taiwan took on the challenge of making the technology behind dye-sensitized solar cells more affordable by replacing the costly platinum counter-electrodes with bismuth telluride (Bi2Te3) nanosheet arrays.
Using a novel electrolysis process, the group managed to closely manipulate the spacing between individual nanosheets and hence control the thermal and electrical conductivity parameters to achieve the high efficiency of 1.12%, which is comparable to platinum devices, but at only at a fraction of the cost.
The research was led by Prof. Yu-Lun Chueh of the Nanoscience & Nanodevices Laboratory, NTHU, and Alireza Yaghoubi, UM HIR Young Scientist.

In light of the recent report by the United Nations about the irreversible effects of fossil fuels on climate change and as we gradually run out of economically recoverable oil reserves, we think it is necessary to look for a sustainable, yet practical source of energy” Yaghoubi stated.
Meanwhile at University Malaya, Dr. Wee Siong Chiu and colleagues were working on controlling the secondary nucleation and self-assembly in zinc oxide (ZnO), a material which is currently being scrutinized for its potential applications in dye-sensitized solar cells as well as photocatalytic reactions to generate clean electricity by splitting water under sunlight.
This work has been accepted for publication in the journal, Nanoscale published by the Royal Society of Chemistry and has been selected for the front cover of the issue.

Measuring DNA Repairs To Predict Cancer

Test analyzing cells’ ability to fix different kinds of broken DNA could help doctors predict cancer risk. Now a research team, led by professor Leona Samson from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) used this approach to measure DNA repair in a type of immortalized human blood cells called lymphoblastoid cells, taken from 24 healthy people. They found a huge range of variability, especially in one repair system where some people’s cells were more than 10 times more efficient than others.
Our DNA is under constant attack from many sources, including environmental pollutants, ultraviolet light, and radiation. Fortunately, cells have several major DNA repair systems that can fix this damage, which may lead to cancer and other diseases if not mended.
The effectiveness of these repair systems varies greatly from person to person; scientists believe that this variability may explain why some people get cancer while others exposed to similar DNA-damaging agents do not. The team of MIT researchers has now developed a test that can rapidly assess several of these repair systems, which could help determine individuals’ risk of developing cancer and help doctors predict how a given patient will respond to chemotherapy drugs.

All of the repair pathways work differently, and the existing technology to measure each of those pathways is very different for each one. It takes expertise, it’s time-consuming, and it’s labor-intensive,” says Zachary Nagel, an MIT postdoc and lead author of the PNAS paper. “What we wanted to do was come up with one way of measuring all DNA repair pathways at the same time so you have a single readout that’s easy to measure.

None of the cells came out looking the same. They each have their own spectrum of what they can repair well and what they don’t repair well. It’s like a fingerprint for each person,” says Samson, who is the Uncas and Helen Whitaker Professor, an American Cancer Society Professor, and a member of MIT’s departments of biological engineering and of biology, Center for Environmental Health Sciences, and Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research.

The new test, described in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences the week of April 21, can analyze four types of DNA repair capacity simultaneously, in less than 24 hours.

How To Close Deep Wounds In A Few Seconds

A significant breakthrough could revolutionize surgical practice and regenerative medicine. A team led by Ludwik Leibler from the Laboratoire Matière Molle et Chimie (CNRS/ESPCI Paris Tech) and Didier Letourneur from the Laboratoire Recherche Vasculaire Translationnelle (INSERM/Université Paris Diderot and Université Paris 13) – France -, has just demonstrated that the principle of adhesion by aqueous solutions of nanoparticles can be used in vivo to repair soft-tissue organs and tissues.

This easy-to-use gluing method has been tested on rats. When applied to skin, it closes deep wounds in a few seconds and provides aesthetic, high quality healing. It has also been shown to successfully repair organs that are difficult to suture, such as the liver. Finally, this solution has made it possible to attach a medical device to a beating heart, demonstrating the method’s potential for delivering drugs and strengthening tissues.
This work has been published on the website of the journal Angewandte Chemie.

Nanorobots Injected Inside Cockroaches

A team of scientists from the the Institute of Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials at Israel’s Bar-Ilan University has constructed minute robots that can function inside a living animal entity. The nanobots act upon chemical stimuli inside the body; that is, upon receiving a chemical signal, they react, displaying appropriate responses. The robots were made by using DNA. The DNA was packed together into strands, and this is what make up the robots. Upon stimulated by chemicals, the robots would then unravel into the two strands of DNA. The DNA binds and unbinds in different circumstances, and this is the basis of the way the robots operate to be stimulated and to react.

They work at the cellular level, and that is where their extremely small size helps enormously. They might be tiny, but their tininess is what confers on them their herculean potential to tackle tumors and repairing broken tissues. Moreover, the nanobots can act as real computers inside the body. Therefore, they can be programmed to do a certain list of jobs which their makers choose for them.
The cobaye used to test the nanorobots were cockroaches. They – those terribly annoying creatures – could at least be rendered useful, right?! The cockroach species Blaberus discoidalis was used for the insertion of the nanorobots. The robots were crammed with chemicals, which, upon recognising hemolymph cells found in the cockroach, would bind to them. Hemolymph cells are, in fact, the equivalent of white blood cells in the cockroach. Different kinds of robots were made to enter the body of the unsuspecting cockroach.
The next step now would be to use other animals as cobayes before actually marketing these nanorobots in medical institutions for humans.

Super Powerful Batteries To Extend Electric Car Range

Electric vehicles could travel farther and more renewable energy could be stored with lithium-sulfur batteries that use a unique powdery nanomaterial.
Researchers from The Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory added the powder, a kind of nanomaterial called a metal organic framework, to the battery’s cathode to capture problematic polysulfides that usually cause lithium-sulfur batteries to fail after a few charges.

Lithium-sulfur batteries have the potential to power tomorrow’s electric vehicles, but they need to last longer after each charge and be able to be repeatedly recharged,” said materials chemist Jie Xiao of the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. “Our metal organic framework may offer a new way to make that happen.
Today’s electric vehicles are typically powered by lithium-ion batteries. But the chemistry of lithium-ion batteries limits how much energy they can store. As a result, electric vehicle drivers are often anxious about how far they can go before needing to charge. One promising solution is the lithium-sulfur battery, which can hold as much as four times more energy per mass than lithium-ion batteries. This would enable electric vehicles to drive farther on a single charge, as well as help store more renewable energy. The down side of lithium-sulfur batteries, however, is they have a much shorter lifespan because they can’t currently be charged as many times as lithium-ion batteries.

A paper describing the material and its performance was published online April 4 in the American Chemical Society journal Nano Letters.

How To Deliver 3 Cancer Drugs At A Time.

Chemists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have devised a way to build new nanoparticles, making it much easier to include three or more different drugs. The researchers, under the supervision of Jeremiah Johnson, an assistant professor of chemistry at MIT showed that they could load their particles with three drugs commonly used to treat ovarian cancer.
Such particles could be designed to carry even more drugs, allowing researchers to develop new treatment regimens that could better kill cancer cells while avoiding the side effects of traditional chemotherapy. Johnson set out to create a new type of particle that would enable the loading of any number of different drugs.

We think it’s the first example of a nanoparticle that carries a precise ratio of three drugs and can release those drugs in response to three distinct triggering mechanisms,”.
This is a new way to build the particles from the beginning,” Johnson says.
If I want a particle with five drugs, I just take the five building blocks I want and have those assemble into a particle. In principle, there’s no limitation on how many drugs you can add, and the ratio of drugs carried by the particles just depends on how they are mixed together in the beginning.
Longyan Liao, a postdoc in Johnson’s lab, is the paper’s lead author ot the paper, published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.


Anyone Can Buy Google Glass April 15

Starting at 9 a.m. ET on April 15 anyone in the US will be able to buy Google Glass for one day. This is the first time the device has been available to the general public. So far, the face-mounted nanocomputers have been sold only to Google “Explorers,” the company’s name for early adopters. At first only developers could buy Glass, but Google slowly expanded the program to include regular people. Some were hand-picked, others applied to be Explorers through Google contests by sharing what cool projects they would do if they had Glass.

Google Glass is a wearable nanocomputer with an optical head-mounted display (OHMD). It was developed by Google with the mission of producing a mass-market ubiquitous nanocomputer.Google Glass displays information in a smartphone-like hands-free format. Wearers communicate with the Internet via natural language voice commands.


Bacterial FM Radio

A team of biologists and engineers at the University of California San Diego (UC San Diego) develop a bacterial “FM Radio”. Objective: Programming living cells to offer the prospect of harnessing sophisticated biological machinery for transformative applications in energy, agriculture, water remediation and medicine. Inspired by engineering, researchers in the emerging field of synthetic biology have designed a tool box of small genetic components that act as intracellular switches, logic gates, counters and oscillators.

Independent genetic circuits are linked within single cells, illustrated under the magnifying glass, then coupled via quorum sensing at the colony level. But scientists have found it difficult to wire the components together to form larger circuits that can function as “genetic programs.” One of the biggest obstacles? Dealing with a small number of available wires.
The team’s breakthrough involves a form of “frequency multiplexing” inspired by FM radio.
This circuit lets us encode multiple independent environmental inputs into a single time series,” said Arthur Prindle, a bioengineering graduate student at UC San Diego and the first author of the study. “Multiple pieces of information are transferred using the same part. It works by using distinct frequencies to transmit different signals on a common channel.”
The findings have been published in this week’s advance online publication of the journal Nature.


You Will Wear Clothes Made From Sugar

In the future, the clothes you wear could be made from sugar. Researchers at the A*STAR Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) – Singapore – have discovered a new chemical process that can convert adipic acid directly from sugar. Adipic acid is an important chemical used to produce nylon for apparel and other everyday products like carpets, ropes and toothbrush bristles. Commercially, adipic acid is produced from petroleum-based chemicals through the nitric acid oxidation process, which emits large amounts of nitrous oxides, a major greenhouse gas that causes global warming.

In the face of growing environmental concerns over the use of fossil fuels and diminishing natural resources, there is an increasing need for a renewable source for energy and chemicals. We have designed a sustainable and environmentally friendly solution to convert sugar into adipic acid via our patented catalytic process technology,”said IBN Executive Director Professor Jackie Y. Ying

Bio-based adipic acid can be synthesized from mucic acid, which is oxidized from sugar; and the mucic acid can be obtained from fruit peels. Current processes are either performed using multiple steps with low product efficiency and yield, or under harsh reaction conditions using high-pressure hydrogen gas and strong acids, which are costly and unsafe.

This work shows the tremendous potential of developing bio-based adipic acid. We are excited that our new protocol can efficiently convert adipic acid from sugar, bringing us one step closer toward industrialization. To complete this green technology, we are now working on using raw biomass as the feedstock” said Dr Yugen Zhang, IBN Group Leader in green chemistry and energy.

This finding was published recently in the Chemistry journal Angewandte Chemie International Edition.


Light-activated Neurons Restore Paralysed Muscles

A new way to artificially control muscles using light, with the potential to restore function to muscles paralysed by conditions such as motor neuron disease and spinal cord injury, has been developed by scientists at UCL and King’s College London.

The technique involves transplanting specially-designed motor neurons created from stem cells into injured nerve branches. These motor neurons are designed to react to pulses of blue light, allowing scientists to fine-tune muscle control by adjusting the intensity, duration and frequency of the light pulses.

In the study, published this week in Science, the team demonstrated the method in mice in which the nerves that supply muscles in the hind legs were injured. They showed that the transplanted stem cell-derived motor neurons grew along the injured nerves to connect successfully with the paralyzed muscles, which could then be controlled by pulses of blue light.

Following the new procedure, we saw previously paralysed leg muscles start to function,” says Professor Linda Greensmith of the MRC Centre for Neuromuscular Diseases at UCL’s Institute of Neurology, who co-led the study. “This strategy has significant advantages over existing techniques that use electricity to stimulate nerves, which can be painful and often results in rapid muscle fatigue. Moreover, if the existing motor neurons are lost due to injury or disease, electrical stimulation of nerves is rendered useless as these too are lost.”.


How To Force Cancer Cells To Self-Destruct

Using magnetically controlled nanoparticles to force tumour cells to ‘self-destruct’ sounds like science fiction, but could be a future part of cancer treatment, according to research from Lund University in Sweden. The point of the new technique is that it is much more targeted than trying to kill cancer cells with techniques such as chemotherapy.

The clever thing about the technique is that we can target selected cells without harming surrounding tissue. There are many ways to kill cells, but this method is contained and remote-controlled”, said Professor Erik Renström.
Chemotherapy can also affect healthy cells in the body, and it therefore has serious side-effects. Radiotherapy can also affect healthy tissue around the tumour”. Our technique, on the other hand, is able to attack only the tumour cells”, added Enming Zhang, one of the first authors of the study.
The research group at Lund University is not the first to try and treat cancer using supermagnetic nanoparticles. However, previous attempts have focused on using the magnetic field to create heat that kills the cancer cells. The problem with this is that the heat can cause inflammation that risks harming surrounding, healthy tissue. The new method, on the other hand, in which the rotation of the magnetic nanoparticles can be controlled, only affects the tumour cells that the nanoparticles have entered.


Nano Paper-Filters Remove Virus

Researchers at the Division of Nanotechnology and Functional Materials, Uppsala University – Sweden – have developed a paper filter, which can remove virus particles with an efficiency matching that of the best industrial virus filters. The paper filter consists of 100 percent high purity cellulose nanofibers, directly derived from nature.

Virus particles are very peculiar objects- tiny (about thousand times thinner than a human hair) yet mighty. Viruses can only replicate in living cells but once the cells become infected the viruses can turn out to be extremely pathogenic. Viruses can actively cause diseases on their own or even transform healthy cells to malignant tumors.

The illustration shows the nanofibers in white and the virus in green
Viral contamination of biotechnological products is a serious challenge for production of therapeutic proteins and vaccines. Because of the small size, virus removal is a non-trivial task, and, therefore, inexpensive and robust virus removal filters are highly demanded’, says Albert Mihranyan, Associate Professor at the Division of Nanotechnology and Functional Materials, Uppsala University, who heads the study.

The research was carried out in collaboration with virologists from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences/Swedish National Veterinary Institute and is published in the Advanced Healthcare Materials journal.

Solar Cells Used As Lasers

A relatively new type of solar cell based on a perovskite material – named for scientist Lev Perovski, who first discovered materials with this structure in the Ural Mountains in the 19th century – was recently pioneered by an Oxford research team led by Professor Henry Snaith. Commercial silicon-based solar cells – such as those seen on the roofs of houses across the country – operate at about 20% efficiency for converting the Sun’s rays into electrical energy. It’s taken over 20 years to achieve that rate of efficiency. Latest research finds that the trailblazing ‘perovskite’ material used in solar cells can double up as a laser, strongly suggesting the astonishing efficiency levels already achieved in these cells is only part of the journey. Scientists have demonstrated potential uses for this material in telecommunications and for light emitting devices.

Perovskite solar cells, the source of huge excitement in the research community, already lie just a fraction behind commercial silicon, having reached a remarkable 17% efficiency after a mere two years of research – transforming prospects for cheap large-area solar energy generation.
Now, researchers from Professor Sir Richard Friend’s group at Cambridge’s Cavendish Laboratory – working with Snaith’s Oxford group – have demonstrated that perovskite cells excel not just at absorbing light but also at emitting it. The new findings, recently published online in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, show that these ‘wonder cells’ can also produce cheap lasers. By sandwiching a thin layer of the lead halide perovskite between two mirrors, the team produced an optically driven laser which proves these cells “show very efficient luminescence” – with up to 70% of absorbed light re-emitted.


A Step Towards Invisibility

Controlling and bending light around an object so it appears invisible to the naked eye is the theory behind fictional invisibility cloaks. It may seem easy in Hollywood movies, but is hard to create in real life because no material in nature has the properties necessary to bend light in such a way. Scientists have managed to create artificial nanostructures that can do the job, called metamaterials. But the challenge has been making enough of the material to turn science fiction into a practical reality. The work of Debashis Chanda at the University of Central Florida (UCF), however, may have just cracked that barrier. The cover story in the March edition of the journal Advanced Optical Materials, explains how Chanda and fellow optical and nanotech experts were able to develop a larger swath of multilayer 3-D metamaterial operating in the visible spectral range. They accomplished this feat by using nanotransfer printing, which can potentially be engineered to modify surrounding refractive index needed for controlling propagation of light.

Such large-area fabrication of metamaterials following a simple printing technique will enable realization of novel devices based on engineered optical responses at the nanoscale,” said Chanda, an assistant professor at UCF.

By improving the technique, the team hopes to be able to create larger pieces of the material with engineered optical properties, which would make it practical to produce for real-life device applications. For example, the team could develop large-area metamaterial absorbers, which would enable fighter jets to remain invisible from detection systems.


How To Measure Risks From Nanomaterials In Contact With Cells

Scientists at the Center for Nanotechnology and Nanotoxicology at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) have discovered a fast, simple, and inexpensive method to measure the effective density of engineered nanoparticles in physiological fluids, thereby making it possible to accurately determine the amount of nanomaterials that come into contact with cells and tissue in culture. The new discovery will have a major impact on the hazard assessment of engineered nanoparticles, enabling risk assessors to perform accurate hazard rankings of nanomaterials using cellular systems. Furthermore, by measuring the composition of nanomaterial agglomerates in physiologic fluids, it will allow scientists to design more effective nano-based drug delivery systems for nanomedicine applications.
Thousands of consumer products containing engineered nanoparticles — microscopic particles found in everyday items from cosmetics and clothing to building materials — enter the market every year. Concerns about possible environmental health and safety issues of these nano-enabled products continue to grow with scientists struggling to come up with fast, cheap, and easy-to-use cellular screening systems to determine possible hazards of vast libraries of engineered nanomaterials. However, determining how much exposure to engineered nanoparticles could be unsafe for humans requires precise knowledge of the amount (dose) of nanomaterials interacting with cells and tissues such as lungs and skin

The biggest challenge we have in assessing possible health effects associated with nano exposures is deciding when something is hazardous and when it is not, based on the dose level. At low levels, the risks are probably miniscule,” said senior author Philip Demokritou, associate professor of aerosol physics in the Department of Environmental Health at HSPH. “The question is: At what dose level does nano-exposure become problematic? The same question applies to nano-based drugs when we test their efficiency using cellular systems. How much of the administered nano-drug will come in contact with cells and tissue? This will determine the effective dose needed for a given cellular response,” Demokritou said.


Cheap Batteries Last 3 Times Longer, Recharge in 10 minutes

Researchers at the University of Southernn California (USC) have developed a new lithium-ion battery design that uses porous silicon nanoparticles in place of the traditional graphite anodes to provide superior performance.

The new batteries — which could be used in anything from cellphones to hybrid cars — hold three times as much energy as comparable graphite-based designs and recharge within 10 minutes. The design, currently under a provisional patent, could be commercially available within two to three years.
On the left, a vial of the silicon nanoparticles; on the right, silicon nanoparticles viewed under magnification
It’s an exciting research. It opens the door for the design of the next generation lithium-ion batteries,” said Chongwu Zhou, professor at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, who led the team that developed the battery.

Zhou worked with USC graduate students Mingyuan Ge, Jiepeng Rong, Xin Fang and Anyi Zhang, as well as Yunhao Lu of Zhejiang University in China. Their research was published in Nano Research in January.


Contact Lens To See During Night

The first room-temperature light detector that can sense the full infrared spectrum has the potential to put heat vision technology into a contact lens. Unlike comparable mid- and far-infrared detectors currently on the market, the detector developed by University of Michigan engineering researchers doesn’t need bulky cooling equipment to work. Infrared vision may be best known for spotting people and animals in the dark and heat leaks in houses, but it can also help doctors monitor blood flow, identify chemicals in the environment and allow art historians to see Paul Gauguin’s sketches under layers of paint. Graphene, a single layer of carbon atoms, could sense the whole infrared spectrum — plus visible and ultraviolet light. But until now, it hasn’t been viable for infrared detection because it can’t capture enough light to generate a detectable electrical signal. With one-atom thickness, it only absorbs about 2.3 percent of the light that hits it. If the light can’t produce an electrical signal, graphene can’t be used as a sensor.
To overcome that hurdle, Zhong and Ted Norris, the Gerard A. Mourou Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, worked with graduate students to design a new way of generating the electrical signal.

We can make the entire design super-thin,” said Zhaohui Zhong, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering. “It can be stacked on a contact lens or integrated with a cell phone.
The challenge for the current generation of graphene-based detectors is that their sensitivity is typically very poor.”It’s a hundred to a thousand times lower than what a commercial device would require.” “Our work pioneered a new way to detect light“. “We envision that people will be able to adopt this same mechanism in other material and device platforms” Zhong said.

The device is already smaller than a pinky nail and is easily scaled down. Zhong suggests arrays of them as infrared cameras.


Watch Nanoparticles Grow

Danish scientists from Arhus University – Netherlands – , led by Dr. Dipanka Saha, have observed the growth of nanoparticles live. To obtain this result, the team used the DESY’s X-ray light source PETRA III, a German Synchrotron. The study shows how tungsten oxide nanoparticles are forming from solution. These particles are used for example for smart windows, which become opaque at the flick of a switch, and they are also used in particular solar cells.

Left: Structure of the ammonium metatungstate dissolved in water on atomic length scale. The octahedra consisting of the tungsten ion in the centre and the six surrounding oxygen ions partly share corners and edges. Right: Structure of the nanoparticles in the ordered crystalline phase. The octahedra exclusively share corners

The team around lead author Dr. Dipankar Saha from Århus University present their observations in the scientific journal “Angewandte Chemie – International Edition“.

Flexible E-readers In Your Pocket

Engineers would love to create flexible electronic devices, such as e-readers that could be folded to fit into a pocket. One approach involves designing circuits based on electronic fibers known as carbon nanotubes (CNTs) instead of rigid silicon chips.

But reliability is essential. Most silicon chips are based on a type of circuit design that allows them to function flawlessly even when the device experiences power fluctuations. However, it is much more challenging to do so with CNT circuits.

But now a team at Stanford has developed a process to create flexible chips that can tolerate power fluctuations in much the same way as silicon circuitry.

This is the first time anyone has designed flexible CNT circuits that have both high immunity to electrical noise and low power consumption, ” said Zhenan Bao, a professor of chemical engineering at Stanford.

In principle, CNTs should be ideal for making flexible electronic circuitry. These ultra-thin carbon filaments have the physical strength to take the wear and tear of bending and the electrical conductivity to perform any electronic task.

But until this recent work from the Stanford team, flexible CNT circuits didn’t have the reliability and power-efficiency of rigid silicon chips.

Huiliang (Evan) Wang, a graduate student in Bao’s lab, and Peng Wei, a previous postdoctoral scholar in Bao’s lab, were the lead authors of the paper. Bao’s team also included Yi Cui, an associate professor of materials science at Stanford, and Hye Ryoung Lee, a graduate student in his lab.
The Bao Lab reported its findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


How To Detect Infections At Extremely Low Cost

Detecting HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other deadly infectious diseases as early as possible helps to prevent their rapid spread and allows for more effective treatments. But current detection methods are cost-prohibitive in most areas of the world. Now a new nanotechnology method—employing common, everyday shrink wrap— may make highly sensitive, extremely low-cost diagnosis of infectious disease agents possible. The research team conducted by co-author Michelle Khine, a biomedical engineering professor at the University of California, Irvine (UC Irvine) found that the shrink wrap’s wrinkles significantly enhanced the intensity of the signals emitted by the biomarkers. The enhanced emission, Khine says, is due to the excitation of localized surface plasmons—coherent oscillations of the free electrons in the metal. When researchers shined a light on their wrinkled creation, the electromagnetic field was amplified within the nanoscale gaps between the shrink wrap’s folds, Khine said. This produced “hotspots”—areas characterized by sudden bursts of intense fluorescence signals from the biomarkers.

Using commodity shrink wrap and bulk manufacturing processes, we can make low-cost nanostructures to enable fluorescence enhancements greater than a thousand-fold, allowing for significantly lower limits of detection,” said Michelle Khine,. “If you have a solution with very few molecules that you are trying to detect—as in the case of infectious diseases — this platform will help amplify the signal so that a single molecule can be detected.The technique should work with measuring fluorescent markers in biological samples, but we have not yet tested bodily fluids,” said Khine, who cautions that the technique is far from ready for clinical use.

The findings have been described in a paper published in The Optical Society’s (OSA) journal Optical Materials Express.


Use Your Smartphone As A Movies Projector

Imagine that you are in a meeting with coworkers or at a gathering of friends. You pull out your cell phone to show a presentation or a video on YouTube. But you don’t use the tiny screen; your phone projects a bright, clear image onto a wall or a big screen. Such a technology may be on its way, thanks to a new light-bending silicon chip developed by researchers at Caltech.

The chip was developed by Ali Hajimiri, Thomas G. Myers Professor of Electrical Engineering, and researchers in his laboratory. The results were presented at the Optical Fiber Communication (OFC) conference in San Francisco on March 10.

Traditional projectors—like those used to project a film or classroom lecture notes—pass a beam of light through a tiny image, using lenses to map each point of the small picture to corresponding, yet expanded, points on a large screen. The Caltech chip eliminates the need for bulky and expensive lenses and bulbs and instead uses a so-called integrated optical phased array (OPA) to project the image electronically with only a single laser diode as light source and no mechanically moving parts.

Hajimiri and his colleagues were able to bypass traditional optics by manipulating the coherence of light — a property that allows the researchers to “bend” the light waves on the surface of the chip without lenses or the use of any mechanical movement. If two waves are coherent in the direction of propagation — meaning that the peaks and troughs of one wave are exactly aligned with those of the second wave—the waves combine, resulting in one wave, a beam with twice the amplitude and four times the energy as the initial wave, moving in the direction of the coherent waves.

By changing the relative timing of the waves, you can change the direction of the light beam

For example, if 10 people kneeling in line by a swimming pool slap the water at the exact same instant, they will make one big wave that travels directly away from them. But if the 10 separate slaps are staggered—each person hitting the water a half a second after the last — there will still be one big, combined wave, but with the wave bending to travel at an angle, says Hajimiri.


How To Triple Service Life Of Aircraft Engines

Researchers at University West in Sweden have started using nanoparticles in the heat-insulating surface layer that protects aircraft engines from heat. In tests, this increased the service life of the coating by 300%. This is something that interests the aircraft industry to a very great degree, and the hope is that motors with the new layers will be in production within two years.

To increase the service life of aircraft engines, a heat-insulating surface layer is sprayed on top of the metal components. Thanks to this extra layer, the engine is shielded from heat. The temperature can also be raised, which leads to increased efficiency, reduced emissions, and decreased fuel consumption.

The goal of the University West research group is to be able to control the structure of the surface layer in order to increase its service life and insulating capability. They have used different materials in their work.

The ceramic layer is subjected to great stress when the enormous changes in temperature make the material alternately expand and contract. Making the layer elastic is therefore important. Over the last few years, the researchers have focused on further refining the microstructure, all so that the layer will be of interest for the industry to use

The base is a ceramic powder, but we have also tested adding plastic to generate pores that make the material more elastic,” says Nicholas Curry, who has just presented his doctoral thesis on the subject.

We have tested the use of a layer that is formed from nanoparticles. The particles are so fine that we aren’t able to spray the powder directly onto a surface. Instead, we first mix the powder with a liquid that is then sprayed. This is called suspension plasma spray application“.


Ear: How To Tune In To A Single Voice

Even in a crowded room full of background noise, the human ear is remarkably adept at tuning in to a single voice — a feat that has proved remarkably difficult for computers to match. A new analysis of the underlying mechanisms, conducted by researchers at MIT, has provided insights that could ultimately lead to better machine hearing, and perhaps to better hearing aids as well.

Our ears’ selectivity, it turns out, arises from evolution’s precise tuning of a tiny membrane, inside the inner ear, called the tectorial membrane. The viscosity of this membrane — its firmness, or lack thereof — depends on the size and distribution of tiny pores, just a few tens of nanometers wide. This, in turn, provides mechanical filtering that helps to sort out specific sounds.
This optical microscope image depicts wave motion in a cross-section of the tectorial membrane, part of the inner ear. This membrane is a microscale gel, smaller in width than a single human hair, and it plays a key role in stimulating sensory receptors of the inner ear. Waves traveling on this membrane control our ability to separate sounds of varying pitch and intensity
The new findings are reported in the Biophysical Journal.

Solar Cells: Huge Efficiency Boost

In a new study, a team of physicists and chemists at Umeå University – Sweden – have joined forces to produce nano-engineered carbon nanotubes networks with novel properties.
For the first time, the researchers show that carbon nanotubes can be engineered into complex network architectures, and with controlled nano-scale dimensions inside a polymer matrix.
Carbon nanotubes are becoming increasingly attractive for photovoltaic solar cells as a replacement to silicon. Researchers at Umeå University have discovered that controlled placement of the carbon nanotubes into nano-structures produces a huge boost in electronic performance.

Carbon nanotubes, CNTs, are one dimensional nanoscale cylinders made of carbon atoms that possess very unique properties. For example, they have very high tensile strength and exceptional electron mobility, which make them very attractive for the next generation of organic and carbon-based electronic devices
We have found that the resulting nano networks possess exceptional ability to transport charges, up to 100 million times higher than previously measured carbon nanotube random networks produced by conventional methods,” says Dr David Barbero, leader of the project and assistant professor at the Department of Physics at Umeå University.

Their groundbreaking results are published in the prestigious journal Advanced Materials.


How to Observe Neurons In The Brain

The term a “brighter future” might be a cliché, but in the case of ultra-small probes for lighting up individual proteins, it is now most appropriate. Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have discovered surprising new rules for creating ultra-bright light-emitting crystals that are less than 10 nanometers in diameter. These ultra-tiny but ultra-bright nanoprobes should be a big asset for biological imaging, especially deep-tissue optical imaging of neurons in the brain.

Working at the Molecular Foundry, a DOE national nanoscience center hosted at Berkeley Lab, a multidisciplinary team of researchers led by James Schuck and Bruce Cohen, both with Berkeley Lab’s Materials Sciences Division, used advanced single-particle characterization and theoretical modeling to study what are known as “upconverting nanoparticles” or UCNPs. Upconversion is the process by which a molecule absorbs two or more photons at a lower energy and emits them at higher energies.

Researchers at Berkeley Lab’s Molecular Foundry created upconverting nanoparticles (UCNPs) from nanocrystals of sodium yttrium fluoride (NaYF4) doped with ytterbium and erbium that can be safely used to image single proteins in a cell without disrupting the protein’s activity

The widely accepted conventional wisdom for designing bright UCNPs has been that you want to use a high concentration of sensitizer ions and a relatively small concentration of emitter ions, since too many emitters will result in self-quenching that leads to lower brightness, says Schuck, who directs the Molecular Foundry’s Imaging and Manipulation of Nanostructures Facility.

Schuck and Cohen are the corresponding authors of a paper describing this research in Nature Nanotechnology.

Has The Milk Turned Sour?

A color-coded smart tag could tell consumers whether a carton of milk has turned sour or a can of green beans has spoiled without opening the containers, according to researchers. The tag, which would appear on the packaging, also could be used to determine if medications and other perishable products were still active or fresh, they said. This report on the color-changing food deterioration tags was presented today as part of the 247th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS). It is being held at the Dallas Convention Center.

The green smart tag on the bottle above indicates that the product is no longer fresh
This tag, which has a gel-like consistency, is really inexpensive and safe, and can be widely programmed to mimic almost all ambient-temperature deterioration processes in foods,” said Chao Zhang, Ph.D., the lead researcher of the study. Use of the tags could potentially solve the problem of knowing how fresh packaged, perishable foods remain over time, he added. And a real advantage, Zhang said, is that even when manufacturers, grocery-store owners and consumers do not know if the food has been unduly exposed to higher temperatures, which could cause unexpected spoilage, “the tag still gives a reliable indication of the quality of the product.”

Nanoparticles Attack Cervical Cancer

Infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV) is the main risk factor and a necessary cause of cervical cancer. Worldwide, around 275,000 women are estimated to have died from cervical cancer last year. It is rare for young women to die from cervical cancer; almost three-quarters of all cervical cancer deaths occur in women aged 50 and over. To underscore: cervical cancer death rates have decreased by 71% since the early 1970s.
One of the most promising technologies for the treatment of various cancers is nanotechnology, creating drugs that directly attack the cancer cells without damaging other tissues’ development. The Laboratory of Cellular Oncology at the Research Unit in Cell Differentiation and Cancer, of the Faculty of Higher Studies (FES) Zaragoza UNAM (National Autonomous University of Mexico) developed a therapy to attack cervical cancer tumors.

The treatment, which has been tested in animal models, consists of a nanostructured composition encapsulating a protein called interleukin-2 (IL -2), lethal to cancer cells

According to the researcher Rosalva Rangel Corona, head of the project, the antitumor effect of interleukin in cervical cancer is because their cells express receptors for interleukin-2 that “fit together ” like puzzle pieces with the protein to activate an antitumor response .

The scientist explains that the nanoparticle works as a bridge of antitumor activation between tumor cells and T lymphocytes. The nanoparticle has interleukin 2 on its surface, so when the protein is around it acts as a switch, a contact with the cancer cell to bind to the receptor and to carry out its biological action.

Furthermore, the nanoparticle concentrates interleukin 2 in the tumor site, which allows its accumulation near the tumor growth. It is not circulating in the blood stream, is “out there” in action.


Bigger DNA Cages Enclose Drugs

Scientists at the Harvard’s Wyss Institute have built a set of self-assembling DNA cages one-tenth as wide as a bacterium. The structures are some of the largest and most complex ever constructed solely from DNA. DNA is best known as a keeper of genetic information. But scientists in the emerging field of DNA nanotechnology are exploring ways to use it to build tiny structures for a variety of applications. . In the future, scientists could potentially coat the DNA cages to enclose their contents, packaging drugs for delivery to tissues. And, like a roomy closet, the cage could be modified with chemical hooks that could be used to hang other components such as proteins or gold nanoparticles. This could help scientists build a variety of technologies, including tiny power plants, miniscule factories that produce specialty chemicals, or high-sensitivity photonic sensors that diagnose disease by detecting molecules produced by abnormal tissue.

The five cage-shaped DNA polyhedra here have struts stabilizing their legs, and this innovation allowed a Wyss Institute team to build by far the largest and sturdiest DNA cages yet. The largest, a hexagonal prism (right), is one-tenth the size of an average bacterium
Bioengineers interested in advancing the field of nanotechnology need to devise manufacturing methods that build sturdy components in a highly robust manner, and develop self-assembly methods that enable formation of nanoscale devices with defined structures and functions,” said Wyss Institute Founding Director Don Ingber, M.D., Ph.D. “DNA cages and the methods for visualizing the process in solution represent major advances along this path.”

I see exciting possibilities for this technology,” said Peng Yin, Ph.D., a Core Faculty member at the Wyss Institute and Assistant Professor of Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School, and senior author of the study.

The findings have been published in the online edition of Science.

Purify Blood : A New Easy Cheap Method

A new technique for purifying blood using a nanofiber mesh could prove useful as a cheap, wearable alternative to kidney dialysis.
Kidney failure results in a build up of toxins and excess waste in the body. Dialysis is the most common treatment, performed daily either at home or in hospital. However, dialysis machines require electricity and careful maintenance, and are therefore more readily available in developed countries than poorer nations. Around one million people die each year worldwide from potentially preventable end-stage renal disease.

In addition to this, in the aftermath of disasters such as the Japanese earthquake and tsunami of 2011, dialysis patients are frequently left without treatment until normal hospital services are resumed. With this in mind, Mitsuhiro Ebara and co-workers at the International Center for Materials Nanoarchitectonics (MANA), National Institute for Materials Science in Ibaraki, Japan, have developed a way of removing toxins and waste from blood using a cheap, easy-to-produce nanofiber mesh1. The mesh could be incorporated into a blood purification product small enough to be worn on a patient’s arm, reducing the need for expensive, time-consuming dialysis.
The team made their nanofiber mesh using two components: a blood-compatible primary matrix polymer made from polyethylene-co-vinyl alchohol, or EVOH, and several different forms of zeolites – naturally occurring aluminosilicates. Zeolites have microporous structures capable of adsorbing toxins such as creatinine from blood.


Plasmonics: Using Light In Metals To Carry Information

A recently discovered technology called plasmonics marries the best aspects of optical and electronic data transfer. By crowding light into metal structures with dimensions far smaller than its wavelength, data can be transmitted at much higher frequencies such as terahertz frequencies, which lie between microwaves and infrared light on the spectrum of electromagnetic radiation that also includes everything from X-rays to visible light to gamma rays. Metals such as silver and gold are particularly promising plasmonic materials because they enhance this crowding effect.

Using an inexpensive inkjet printer, University of Utah electrical engineers produced microscopic structures that use light in metals to carry information. This new technique, which controls electrical conductivity within such microstructures, could be used to rapidly fabricate superfast components in electronic devices, make wireless technology faster or print magnetic materials.

High-speed Internet and other data-transfer techniques rely on light transported through optical fibers with very high bandwidth, which is a measure of how fast data can be transferred. Shrinking these fibers allows more data to be packed into less space, but there’s a catch: optical fibers hit a limit on how much data they can carry as light is squeezed into smaller and smaller spaces. In contrast, electronic circuits can be fashioned at much smaller sizes on silicon wafers. However, electronic data transfer operates at frequencies with much lower bandwidth, reducing the amount of data that can be carried.

Very little well-developed technology exists to create terahertz plasmonic devices, which have the potential to make wireless devices such as Bluetooth – which operates at 2.4 gigahertz frequency – 1,000 times faster than they are today,” says Ajay Nahata, a University of Utah professor of electrical and computer engineering and senior author of the new study.

The study has been published online in the journal Advanced Optical Materials.

How To Obtain Drinkable Water From Sea Water

Membranes made from graphene oxide could act as perfect molecular sieves when immersed in water, blocking all molecules or ions with a hydrated size larger than 9 Å. This new result, from researchers at the University of Manchester in the UK, means that the laminated nanostructures might be ideal for water filtration and desalination applications.
Graphene is a sheet of carbon just one atom thick in which the atoms are arranged in a honeycomb lattice. Graphene oxide is like ordinary graphene but is covered with molecules such as hydroxyl groups. Graphene-oxide sheets can easily be stacked on top of each other to form extremely thin but mechanically strong membranes. These membranes consist of millions of small flakes of graphene oxide with nanosized empty channels (or capillaries) between the flakes.

Water and small-sized ions and molecules permeate super fast in the graphene-oxide membrane, but larger species are blocked. The size of the membrane mesh can be tuned by adjusting the nanochannel size
According to the team, the membranes could be ideal for removing valuable salts and molecules from contaminated larger molecules – for example during oil spills. “More importantly, our work shows that if we were able to further control the capillary size below 9 Å, we should be able to use these membranes to filter and desalinate water,” says co-team-leader Rahul Nair.
Indeed, the team says that it is now busy looking at ways to control the mesh size of the graphene oxide and reduce it to about 6 Å so that the membranes can filter out even the smallest salts in sea water. “We might achieve this by preventing the graphene-oxide laminates from swelling when they are placed in water,” says Nair.
Our ultimate goal would be to make a filter device from the carbon-based material that allows you to obtain a glass of drinkable water from sea water using a hand-held mechanical pump,” adds team member Irina Grigorieva.

Hello Hydrogen, Bye Bye Gasoline

Range: 300 miles (480 km)
Top speed: 100 mph (160 km/h)
Lease terms: $500/month (360 euros); $3000 down (2150 euros)
Free fuel or in other term Free “gas” up

The Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell SUV will be the first mass-produced hydrogen car in the U.S. Next month Californians can buy it.
It shows as well that hydrogen electric car may win the competition against cars powered by electric batteries.

Because hydrogen fuel infrastructure is more or less non-existent, Hyundai’s rollout will be small. The car will be available at select dealers in Southern California, all within range of the company’s sources of hydrogen, which include a nearby waste water treatment plant. Local drivers will be able to “gasup for free at any of seven distribution stations. A fill-up takes less than 10 minutes and lasts for up to 300 miles. The company claims that the Tucson charges more quickly and has a longer range than traditional EVs. It’s also clean: The only exhaust is water vapor.


Infrared, A Renewable Energy

Physicists from Harvard University propose a device to capture energy from earth”s infrared emissions to outer space. When the sun sets on a remote desert outpost and solar panels shut down, what energy source will provide power through the night? A battery, perhaps, or an old diesel generator? Perhaps something strange and new.
Physicists at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) envision a device that would harvest energy from Earth’s infrared emissions into outer space. Heated by the sun, our planet is warm compared to the frigid vacuum beyond. Thanks to recent technological advances, the researchers say, that heat imbalance could soon be transformed into direct-current (DC) power, taking advantage of a vast and untapped energy source.

It’s not at all obvious, at first, how you would generate DC power by emitting infrared light in free space toward the cold,” says principal investigator Federico Capasso, the Robert L. Wallace Professor of Applied Physics and Vinton Hayes Senior Research Fellow in Electrical Engineering at Harvard SEAS. “To generate power by emitting, not by absorbing light, that’s weird. It makes sense physically once you think about it, but it’s highly counterintuitive. We’re talking about the use of physics at the nanoscale for a completely new application.”
Their analysis of the thermodynamics, practical concerns, and technological requirements have been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


Solar Power: Less Expensive, More Efficient

University of Cincinnati researchers are reporting early results on a way to make solar-powered panels in lights, calculators and roofs lighter, less expensive, more flexible (therefore less breakable) and more efficient. Fei Yu, a University of Cincinnati doctoral student in materials engineering, will present new findings on boosting the power conversion efficiency of polymer solar cells on March 3, at the American Physical Society Meeting in Denver. Yu is experimenting with adding a small fraction of graphene nanoflakes to polymer-blend bulk-heterojunction (BHJ) solar cells to improve performance and lower costs of solar energy.

There has been a lot of study on how to make plastic solar cells more efficient, so they can take the place of silicon solar cells in the future,” says Yu. “They can be made into thinner, lighter and more flexible panels. However, they’re currently not as efficient as silicon solar cells, so we’re examining how to increase that efficiency.”

Imagine accidentally kicking over a silicon solar-powered garden light, only to see the solar-powered cell crack. Polymers are carbon-based materials that are more flexible than the traditional, fragile silicon solar cells. Charge transport, though, has been a limiting factor for polymer solar cell performance.

Graphene, a natural form of carbon, is a relatively newly discovered material that’s less than a nanometer thin. “Because graphene is pure carbon, its charge conductivity is very high,” explains Yu. “We want to maximize the energy being absorbed by the solar cell, so we are increasing the ratio of the donor to acceptor and we’re using a very low fraction of graphene to achieve that.”


A Nanotechnology Corridor in New-York State

With the nanoscale programs at Columbia University and City University of New York , many see a “New York State Nanotechnology Corridor”. Anchored in New York City, traversing north along the Hudson River to Albany and heading west to Utica, Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo, such a corridor would parallel one of the greatest commercial successes in the history of New York state — the Erie Canal. Fortuitously, Utica is located at the very center of this proposed corridor.

It would surely bring heightened awareness of New York state’s nanotechnology initiatives through comparison to other nationally renowned research regions such as North Carolina’s Research Triangle, California’s Silicon Valley, and Massachusetts’ Boston Route 128. Colleges and universities along this corridor could join a collective state-wide pursuit of excellence in the field of nanotechnology, potentially leading to local and statewide educational and commercial benefits.
Let’s remind that New York state has established the SUNY College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE) at Albany. This college was pivotal in attracting multi-billion dollar investments from renowned nanotechnology-based companies around the globe for research and manufacturing in New York state.
Building on this remarkable success story, CNSE paved the way to establish “Nano Utica” and other sites with related missions at Canandaigua, Rochester and Buffalo. The remarkable multi-million state investment in “Nano Utica” was made possible by the cooperative leadership of SUNYIT and Mohawk EDGE. Clearly, this initiative has given great hope to this region when at the end of the last century, it faced an uncertain future.

3D Video Of Virus Entering Cell

Tiny and swift, viruses are hard to capture on video. Now researchers at Princeton University have achieved an unprecedented look at a virus-like particle as it tries to break into and infect a cell. The technique they developed could help scientists learn more about how to deliver drugs via nanoparticles — which are about the same size as viruses — as well as how to prevent viral infection from occurring.

The video reveals a virus-like particle zipping around in a rapid, erratic manner until it encounters a cell, bounces and skids along the surface, and either lifts off again or, in much less time than it takes to blink an eye, slips into the cell’s interior


The challenge in imaging these events is that viruses and nanoparticles are small and fast, while cells are relatively large and immobile,” said Kevin Welsher, a postdoctoral researcher in Princeton’s Department of Chemistry and first author on the study. “That has made it very hard to capture these interactions.”

The problem can be compared to shooting video of a hummingbird as it roams around a vast garden, said Haw Yang, associate professor of chemistry and Welsher’s adviser. Focus the camera on the fast-moving hummingbird, and the background will be blurred. Focus on the background, and the bird will be blurred.

The researchers solved the problem by using two cameras, one that locked onto the virus-like nanoparticle and followed it faithfully, and another that filmed the cell and surrounding environment.

Putting the two images together yielded a level of detail about the movement of nano-sized particles that has never before been achieved, Yang said.

The work was published in Nature Nanotechnology.

Drink Coffee To Fight Cancer

A team of researchers from the University of Groningen – Netherlands – and the Université de Bourgogne – France – stated that combining a caffeine-based compound with a small amount of gold could be used as an anticancer agent.
Angela Casini, Ewen Bodio, Michel Picquet and colleagues note that caffeine and certain caffeine-based compounds have recently been in the spotlight as possible anticancer treatments. But drinking gallons of coffee, sodas and energy drinks isn’t the solution. And the regular caffeine in these drinks would start to have negative effects on healthy cells, too, at the levels necessary to kill cancerous ones. Gold also can wipe out cancer cells, but, like caffeine, it can harm healthy cells. So, the research team put the two together into certain configurations to see whether the new caffeine-based gold compounds could selectively stop cancer cells from growing without hurting other cells. They made a series of seven new compounds, called caffeine-based gold (I) N-heterocyclic carbenes, in the laboratory and studied them. The scientists found that, at certain concentrations, one of the compounds of the series selectively killed human ovarian cancer cells without harming healthy cells. In addition, the compound targeted a type of DNA architecture, called “G-quadruplex,” that is associated with cancer.
What we need is to design precisely a compound which will present a maximum of efficiency to destroy cancerous cells without harming healthy tissues“, says Ewen Bodio, from the Université de Bourgogne, one of the co-authors of the study. “We did test in laboratory on tissues and cancerous cells. The next step will be the administration of the compound to mice. If the results are positive, then perhaps after 5 years we will try human tests“.

The findings are published in the ACS journal Inorganic Chemistry .

How To Create Complex Nanoparticles In One Step

Nanoparticle research is huge. With implications in many avenues of science, from biomedicine to laser research, the study of how to create nanoparticles with desirable properties is becoming increasingly important. Maria Benelmekki from the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST)- Japan – and researchers in Mukhles Sowwan’s Nanoparticles by Design Unit recently made a breakthrough in synthesizing biomedically relevant nanoparticles.
Hybrid nanoparticles with four and three multicomponent cores (Iron-Silver) embedded in a biocompatible shell (Silicon)
Nanoparticles can be used in medicine for imaging during diagnosis and treatment. Other applications include targeted drug delivery and wound healing. However, creating nanoparticles for use in biomedicine presents many challenges. Currently, nanoparticles are primarily made using chemicals, which is a problem when using them for medical purposes because these chemicals may be harmful to the patient. Additional issues are that the fabrication process takes several steps, the size of the particles is difficult to control and the particles can only survive in storage for a relatively short amount of time. Benelmekki and colleagues have created biocompatible ternary nanoparticles, meaning they consist of 3 parts that each exhibit a useful property, and have done it without the use of chemicals. The new method allows for easy manipulation of the size of the particles to tailor-make them for a variety of uses all in one step. The researchers have also developed a method that provides better stability for longer storage.

The findinds have been published in the journal Nanoscale.

NanoDiamonds To Fight Glaucoma

By 2020, nearly 80 million people are expected to have glaucoma, a disorder of the eye that, if left untreated, can damage the optic nerve and eventually lead to blindness. Now researchers from the UCLA School of Dentistry have created a drug delivery system that may have less severe side effects than traditional glaucoma medication and improve patients‘ ability to comply with their prescribed treatments. The scientists bound together glaucoma-fighting drugs with nanodiamonds and embedded them onto contact lenses. The drugs are released into the eye when they interact with the patient’s tears. The study, led by Dr. Dean Ho, professor of oral biology and medicine and co-director of the Jane and Jerry Weintraub Center for Reconstructive Biotechnology at the UCLA School of Dentistry, appears online in the peer-reviewed journal ACS Nano.

Even with the nanodiamonds embedded, the lenses still possessed favorable levels of optical clarity. And, although mechanical testing verified that they were stronger than normal lenses, there were no apparent changes to water content, meaning that the contact lenses’ comfort and permeability to oxygen would likely be preserved

Delivering timolol through exposure to tears may prevent premature drug release when the contact lenses are in storage and may serve as a smarter route toward drug delivery from a contact lens.” said Kangyi Zhang, co-first author of the study and a graduate student in Ho’s lab.
In addition to nanodiamonds’ promise as triggered drug-delivery agents for eye diseases, they can also make the contact lenses more durable during the course of insertion, use and removal, and more comfortable to wear,” said Ho.

Previous UCLA studies have shown that nanodiamonds could potentially be used to address other diseases and disorders, including cancer and osteonecrosis of the jaw.

Light Releases Chemotherapy Inside Cancer Cells

Researchers from the cancer nanotechnology and signal transduction and therapeutics programs of UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center (JCCC) have developed an innovative technique that can carry chemotherapy safely and release it inside cancer cells when triggered by two-photon laser in the infrared red wave length. Drs. Jeffrey Zink, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, and Fuyu Tamanoi, professor of microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics, and colleagues published their findings in the journal Small online ahead of print on February 20, 2014.
A light-activated drug delivery system is particularly promising, because it can accomplish spatial and temporal control of drug release. Finding ways to deliver and release anticancer drugs in a controlled manner that only hits the tumor can greatly reduce the amount of side effects from treatment, and also greatly increase the cancer-killing efficacy of the drugs. The difficulty of treating cancer often derives from the difficulties of getting anticancer chemotherapy drugs to tumor cells without damaging healthy tissue in the process. Many cancer patients experience treatment side effects that are the result of drug exposure to healthy tissues.
A major challenge in the development of light-activated drug delivery is to design a system that can respond to tissue-penetrating light. Drs. Tamanoi and Zink joined their diverse teams and collaborated with Dr. Jean-Olivier Durand at University of Montpellier, France, to develop a new type of microscopic particles (nanoparticles) that can absorb energy from tissue-penetrating light that releases drugs in cancer cells.

Another feature of the nanoparticles is that they are fluorescent and thus can be tracked in the body with molecular imaging techniques. This allows the researchers to track the progress of the nanoparticle into the cancer cell to insure that it is in its target before light activation.

We have a wonderful collaboration,” said Zink, “when the JCCC brings together totally diverse fields, in this case a physical chemist and a cell signaling scientist, we can do things that neither one could do alone.”
Our collaboration with scientists at Charles Gerhardt Institute (University of Montpellier) was important to the success of this two-photon activated technique,” said Tamanoi, “which provides controls over drug delivery to allow local treatment that dramatically reduces side effects.”


Implanted Nano Cyborgs For Monitoring Your Health

The debut of cyborgs who are part human and part machine may be a long way off, but researchers say they now may be getting closer. In a study published in ACS’ journal Nano Letters, they report development of a coating that makes nanoelectronics much more stable in conditions mimicking those in the human body. The advance could also aid in the development of very small implanted medical devices for monitoring health and disease.

Charles Lieber and colleagues note that nanoelectronic devices with nanowire components have unique abilities to probe and interface with living cells. They are much smaller than most implanted medical devices used today. For example, a pacemaker that regulates the heart is the size of a U.S. 50-cent coin, but nanoelectronics are so small that several hundred such devices would fit in the period at the end of this sentence. Laboratory versions made of silicon nanowires can detect disease biomarkers and even single virus cells, or record heart cells as they beat. Lieber’s team also has integrated nanoelectronics into living tissues in three dimensions — creating a “cyborg tissue.” One obstacle to the practical, long-term use of these devices is that they typically fall apart within weeks or days when implanted. In the current study, the researchers set out to make them much more stable.

They found that coating silicon nanowires with a metal oxide shell allowed nanowire devices to last for several months. This was in conditions that mimicked the temperature and composition of the inside of the human body. In preliminary studies, one shell material appears to extend the lifespan of nanoelectronics to about two years.


Fighting Cancer: Breakthrough In China

Nanoparticles capable of delivering drugs to specifically targeted cancer cells have been created by a group of researchers from China. The multifunctional ‘smartgold nanoshells could lead to more effective cancer treatments by overcoming a major limitation of modern chemotherapy techniques—the ability to target cancer cells specifically and leave healthy cells untouched.

Small peptides situated on the surface of the nanoshells are the key to the improved targeting ability, guiding the nanoshells to specific cancer cells and attaching to markers on the surface of the cells. The acidic environment of the cancer cells then triggers the offloading of the anticancer drugs.

The specific nanostructure of the gold nanoshells could also allow near-infrared light to be absorbed and converted into heat, opening up the possibility of using the nanoshells in targeted hyperthermia treatment — another form of cancer treatment whereby cancer cells are exposed to slightly higher temperatures than usual to destroy them. The researchers, from East China Normal University and Tongji University, used the gold nanoshells as a building block to which they attached the commonly used anticancer drug Doxorubicin (DOX) and a specific peptide known as A54. The gold nanoshells had diameters of around 200 nanometres— more than 50 times smaller than a red blood cell. When tested on human liver cancer cells, the uptake of the nanoshells that had the A45 peptide was three times greater than the uptake of the control nanoshells without the peptide. There was also a significantly reduced uptake of both types of nanoshell by normal healthy cells. The cancer cells were also treated with the gold nanoshells in a heated water bath and were shown to deliver a notable therapeutic effect compared to just the chemotherapy, demonstrating the potential of the hyperthermia treatment.

The therapeutic activity of most anticancer drugs is limited by their systematic toxicity to proliferating cells, including some normal cells. Overcoming this problem remains a great challenge for chemotherapy. In our study we placed a targeting peptide on the nanoshells, which have been demonstrated to be specific to live cancer cells, improving the targeting ability and drug delivery of the gold nanoshells. The next step of our research is to test the ‘smart’ gold nanoshells in vivo on a liver cancer mouse model. We will also examine how the size of the nanoshells changes their efficacy and how efficient the nanoshells are at converting near-infrared light into heat” said lead author of the study Dr Shunying Liu, from East China Normal University.
The first results of the nanoshells’ performance have been published in IOP Publishing’s journal Biomedical Materials.


Can A NanoSwitch Provoke A Macro Motion?

Researchers of the University of Twente‘s MESA+ research institute – Netherlands – have developed spiral ribbons made of molecules, that are able to convert light into complex macroscopic motion. Therefore, they managed to amplify molecular motion and translate it to the macroscopic world. The research, which was inspired by movement in plants, is published in the journal Nature Chemistry.

Over the past decades, chemists have constructed various molecular machines, including molecular tweezers and scissors, and even molecular nanocars. However, the motion of molecular machines is generally limited to the nanoworld only. Amplifying the motion of these systems in such a way that they would affect the macroscopic world consequently remains a major contemporary challenge.
Nathalie Katsonis

Researchers of the University of Twente’s MESA+ research institute led by principal researcher Nathalie Katsonis have risen up to this challenge. They developed spiral ribbons containing molecular nanoswitches. These spirals curl, twist, contract or expand under the influence of UV light, and might be used to perform work, for instance by shifting magnets.


How To Locate Blood Vessel Plaques Before Stroke

A team of researchers, led by scientists at Case Western Reserve University, has developed a multifunctional nanoparticle that enables magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to pinpoint blood vessel plaques caused by atherosclerosis. The technology is a step toward creating a non-invasive method of identifying plaques vulnerable to rupture–the cause of heart attack and stroke—in time for treatment.
Currently, doctors can identify only blood vessels that are narrowing due to plaque accumulation. A doctor makes an incision and slips a catheter inside a blood vessel in the arm, groin or neck. The catheter emits a dye that enables X-rays to show the narrowing.
However, Case Western Reserve researchers report online today in the journal Nano Letters that a nanoparticle built from a rod-shaped virus commonly found on tobacco locates and illuminates plaque in arteries more effectively and with a tiny fraction of the dye.
More importantly, the work shows that the tailored nanoparticles home in on plaque biomarkers. That opens the possibility that particles can be programmed to identify vulnerable plaques from stable, something untargeted dyes alone cannot.

From a chemist’s point of view, it’s still challenging to make nanoparticles that are not spherical, but non-spherical materials are advantageous for medical applications” said Nicole F. Steinmetz, assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Case Western Reserve. “Nature is way ahead of us. We’re harvesting nature’s methods to turn them into something useful in medicine.”

Hydrogen To Replace Lithium-Ion Battery

The novel concept developed by researchers at RMIT University – Australia -advances the potential for hydrogen to replace lithium as an energy source in battery-powered devices.

The proton flow battery concept eliminates the need for the production, storage and recovery of hydrogen gas, which currently limit the efficiency of conventional hydrogen-based electrical energy storage systems.

Lead researcher Associate Professor John Andrews, from RMIT‘s School of Aerospace, Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, said the novel concept combined the best aspects of hydrogen fuel cells and battery-based electrical power.

As only an inflow of water is needed in charge mode - and air in discharge mode – we have called our new system the ‘proton flow battery,” Associate Professor Andrews said.

Powering batteries with protons has the potential to be a much more economical device than using lithium ions, which have to be produced from relatively scarce mineral, brine or clay resources”. “Hydrogen has great potential as a clean power source and this research advances the possibilities for its widespread use in a range of applications – from consumer electronic devices to large electricity grid storage and electric vehicles“, he added.


Electronically Controlled Drugs Minimize Side Effects

Potential side effects of many of today’s therapeutic drugs can be downright frightening — just listen carefully to a drug commercial on TV. These effects often occur when a drug is active throughout the body, not just where and when it is needed. But scientists are reporting progress on a new tailored approach to deliver medicine in a much more targeted way. The study on these new electronically controlled drugs appears in the journal ACS Nano.
Graphene nanosheets in a thin film, with a small jolt of electricity, provide a promising new way to deliver drugs
Xinyan Tracy Cui, Associate Professor of Bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh, and colleagues note that in the lab, “smart” medical implants can now release drugs on demand when exposed to various cues, including ultraviolet light and electrical current. These advances are largely thanks to developments in nanomaterials that can be designed to carry drugs and then release them at specific times and dosages. Researchers have also experimented with loading anti-cancer drugs on thin, tiny sheets of graphene oxide (GO), which have a lot of traits that are useful in drug delivery.

Self-healing Polymers

Thanks to new dynamic materials developed at the University of Illinois, removable paint and self-healing plastics soon could be household products.
After the polymer is cut or torn, the researchers press the two pieces back together and let the sample sit for about a day to healno extra chemicals or catalysts required. The materials can heal at room temperature, but the process can be sped up by curing at slightly higher temperatures (37 degrees Celsius, or about body temperature). The polymer bonds back together on the molecular level nearly as strongly as before it was cut. In fact, tests found that some healed samples, stretched to their limits, tore in a new place rather than the healed spot, evidence that the samples had healed completely.

U. of I. materials science and engineering professor Jianjun Cheng, graduate student Hanze Ying and postdoctoral researcher Yanfeng Zhang published their work in the journal Nature Communications.

A close-up of an elastic polymer that was cut in two and healed overnight
The key advantage of using this material is that it’s catalyst-free and low-temperature, and can be healed multiple times,” Cheng said. “These are very nice materials for internal cracks. This can heal the crack before it causes major problems by propagating.”

Solar Panel: Dust Reduces Reflectivity Up to 50%

Soiling — the accumulation of dust and sand — on solar power reflectors and photovoltaic cells is one of the main efficiency drags for solar power plants, capable of reducing reflectivity up to 50 percent in 14 days. Though plants can perform manual cleaning and brushing with deionized water and detergent, this labor-intensive routine significantly raises operating and maintenance costs (O&M), which is reflected in the cost of solar energy for consumers.

Under the sponsorship of the Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy SunShot Concentrating Solar Power Program, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) is developing a low-cost, transparent, anti-soiling (or self-cleaning) coating for solar reflectors to optimize energy efficiency while lowering O&M costs and avoiding negative environmental impacts.
Solar power reflectors collect dust and sand, reducing their energy efficiency—a challenge ORNL researchers are tackling by developing a low-cost, anti-soiling coating

The coating— which is being designed by members of the Energy and Transportation Science Division, including Scott Hunter, Bart Smith, George Polyzos, and Daniel Schaeffer— is based on a superhydrophobic coating technology developed at ORNL that has been shown to effectively repel water, viscous liquids, and most solid particles. Unlike other superhydrophobic approaches that employ high-cost vacuum deposition and chemical etching to nano-engineer desired surfaces, ORNL’s coatings are deposited by conventional painting and spraying methods using a mixture of organics and particles. In addition to being low-cost, these methods can be deployed easily in the field during repairs and retro-fitting.


Lungs May Be Attacked By Nanoparticles

Nanoparticles are used in all kinds of applications — electronics, medicine, cosmetics, even environmental clean-ups. More than 2,800 commercially available applications are now based on nanoparticles, and by 2017, the field is expected to bring in nearly $50 billion worldwide.
But this influx of nanotechnology is not without risks, say researchers at Missouri University of Science and Technology.
There is an urgent need to investigate the potential impact of nanoparticles on health and the environment,” says Yue-Wern Huang, professor of biological sciences at Missouri S&T.
Huang and his colleagues have been systematically studying the effects of transition metal oxide nanoparticles on human lung cells. These nanoparticles are used extensively in optical and recording devices, water purification systems, cosmetics and skin care products, and targeted drug delivery, among other applications.

In their typical coarse powder form, the toxicity of these substances is not dramatic,” says Huang. “But as nanoparticles with diameters of only 16-80 nanometers, the situation changes significantly.
About 80 percent of the cells died in the presence of nanoparticles of copper oxide and zinc oxide,” says Huang. “These nanoparticles penetrated the cells and destroyed their membranes. The toxic effects are related to the nanoparticles’ surface electrical charge and available docking sites.”
Huang says that certain nanoparticles released metal ions — called ion dissolution — which also played a significant role in cell death.


Renewable Hydrogen From Water And Sunlight

Researchers at the Institute of Energy Technology (INTE) of the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya· BarcelonaTech (UPC), the University of Auckland (New Zealand), and King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (Saudi Arabia) have developed a system to produce hydrogen from water and sunlight in a way that is clean, renewable and more cost-effective than other methods. The scientists behind the project have fused the optical properties of three-dimensional photonic crystals (inverse opals of titanium dioxide, TiO2) and 2-3 nm gold nanoparticles to develop a highly active catalyst powder. The research paper has been published in Scientific Reports, the open-access journal of Nature.

This new photocatalyst produces more hydrogen than others developed so far by harnessing the properties of both photonic crystals and nanoparticles of a metal. According to Jordi Llorca, a researcher at the UPC’s Institute of Energy Technology, the process involves “tuning” the two materials to amplify the effect. “You have to choose the right photonic crystal and the right nanoparticles“, he adds.

The new catalyst has great potential for application in industrial processes. According to researcher Jordi Llorca, making the move from the laboratory to an industrial plant would mean designing a reactor to operate outdoors in the sun, and using a solar collector to capture more sunlight.

A conventional plant for the production of hydrogen from natural gas generates about 300 tons of hydrogen a day. With the new catalyst developed at the UPC, researchers have managed to produce 0.025 litres of hydrogen in one hour using one gram of catalyst. Assuming eight hours of sunlight a day, the scientists estimate that an area measuring 10 x 10 km would be needed to produce hydrogen on an industrial scale.
The researchers say they have managed to pass the milestone of converting 5% of solar energy into hydrogen at room temperature, the threshold at which the technology is considered feasible.

How To Extend The Range Of Electric Cars

Next-generation lithium-ion batteries made with iron oxide nanoparticles could extend the driving distance of electric cars.
Battery-powered cars offer many environmental benefits, but a car with a full tank of gasoline can travel further. By improving the energy capacity of lithium-ion batteries, a new electrode made from iron oxide nanoparticles could help electric vehicles to cover greater distances. Developed by Zhaolin Liu of the A*STAR Institute of Materials Research and Engineering, Singapore, and Aishui Yu of Fudan University, China, and co-workers, the electrode material is inexpensive, suitable for large-scale manufacturing and can store higher charge densities than the conventional electrodes used in lithium-ion batteries.

Electric vehicles could travel further when powered by a higher-capacity lithium-ion battery made with inexpensive iron oxide nanoparticles
During the 1st round of charging and discharging, the anodes showed an efficiency of 75–78%, depending on the current density. After ten more cycles, however, the efficiency improved to 98%, almost as high as commercial li-ion batteries.


Stretchable Electronics Are The Future Of Mobile Phones

According to the University of Delaware‘s Professor Bingqing Wei, stretchable electronics are the future of mobile electronics, leading giants such as IBM, Sony and Nokia to incorporate the technology into their products.
Beyond traditional electronics, potential stretchable applications include biomedical, wearable, portable and sensory devices, such as cyber skin for robotic devices and implantable electronics. All established classes of high-performance electronics exploit single-crystal inorganic materials, such as silicon or gallium arsenide, in forms (i.e., semiconductor wafers) that are fundamentally rigid and planar. The human body is, by contrast, soft and curvilinear. This mismatch in properties hinders the development of devices capable of intimate, conformal integration with biological tissues, for applications ranging from basic measurement of electrophysiological signals, to delivery of advanced therapies, to establishment of human-machine interfaces. One envisioned solution involves the use of organic electronic materials, whose flexible properties have generated interest in them for potential use in paper-like displays, solar cell, and other types of consumer electronic devices.

Advances in soft and stretchable substrates and elastomeric materials have given rise to an entirely new field,” says Wei, a mechanical engineering professor at UD.
But even if scientists can engineer stretchable electronics — what about their energy source?
Rechargeable and stretchable energy storage devices, also known as supercapacitors, are urgently needed to complement advances currently being made in flexible electronics,” explains Wei.

Ultra-Fast Computer Memory For Smartphones and Tablets

By using electric voltage instead of a flowing electric current, researchers from UCLA‘s Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science have made major improvements to an ultra-fast, high-capacity class of computer memory known as magnetoresistive random access memory, or MRAM.. The UCLA team’s improved memory, which they call MeRAM for magnetoelectric random access memory, has great potential to be used in future memory chips for almost all electronic applications, including smart-phones, tablets, computers and microprocessors, as well as for data storage, like the solid-state disks used in computers and large data centers.
The research team was led by principal investigator Kang L. Wang, UCLA‘s Raytheon Professor of Electrical Engineering, and included lead author Juan G. Alzate, an electrical engineering graduate student, and Pedram Khalili, a research associate in electrical engineering and project manager for the UCLA–DARPA research programs in non-volatile logic.

The ability to switch nanoscale magnets using voltages is an exciting and fast-growing area of research in magnetism,” Khalili said. “This work presents new insights into questions such as how to control the switching direction using voltage pulses, how to ensure that devices will work without needing external magnetic fields, and how to integrate them into high-density memory arrays“.


Carbon Nanotubes for Highly Energy-Efficient Computing

Energy efficiency is the most significant challenge standing in the way of continued miniaturization of electronic systems, and miniaturization is the principal driver of the semiconductor industry. “As we approach the ultimate limits of Moore’s Law , however, silicon will have to be replaced in order to miniaturize further,” said Jeffrey Bokor, deputy director for science at the Molecular Foundry at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Professor at UC-Berkeley.

A team of Stanford engineering professors, doctoral students, undergraduates, and high-school interns, led by Professors Subhasish Mitra  and H.-S. Philip Wong , took on the challenge and has produced a series of breakthroughs that represent the most advanced computing and storage elements yet created. Since nanotube transistors were demonstrated in 1998, researchers imagined a new age of highly efficient, advanced computing electronics. That promise, however, is yet to be realized due to substantial material imperfections inherent to nanotubes that left engineers wondering whether CNTs would ever prove viable. The Stanford design approach has two striking features in that it sacrifices virtually none of CNTs’ energy efficiency and it is also compatible with existing fabrication methods and infrastructure, pushing the technology a significant step toward commercializationThe first CNTs wowed the research community with their exceptional electrical, thermal and mechanical properties over a decade ago, but this recent work at Stanford has provided the first glimpse of their viability to complement silicon CMOS transistors,” said Larry Pileggi, Tanoto Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University..


Electric NanoGenerator To Harvest Wasted Energy

Scavenging energy in our living environment is a feasible approach for powering micro/nanodevices and mobile electronics due to their small size, lower power consumption, and special working environment. Nanomaterials have shown unique advantages for energy conversion, including solar cells,  The type of energy to be harvested depends on the applications. For mobile, implantable and personal electronics, solar energy may not be the best choice because solar is not vailable in many cases under which the electronic devices will be utilized. Alternatively, mechanical energy, including vibration, air flow, and human physical motion, is available almost everywhere and at all times, which is called random energy with irregular amplitude and frequencies. Nanogenerator (NG) is a technology that has been developed for harvesting this type of energy using well-aligned nanowire (NW) arrays and sophisticated fabrication procedures,

Pr. Zhong Lin Wang from Georgia Tech and his team present a simple, cost-effective, robust, and scalable approach for fabricating a nanogenerator that gives an output power strong enough to continuously drive a commercial liquid crystal display


Rna Nanoparticule To Shutdown Cancerous Genes

Using a technique known as “nucleic acid origami,” chemical engineers have built tiny particles made out of DNA and RNA that can deliver snippets of RNA directly to tumors, turning off genes expressed in cancer cells.To achieve this type of gene shutdown, known as RNA interference, many researchers have tried — with some success — to deliver RNA with particles made from polymers or lipids. However, those materials can pose safety risks and are difficult to target, says Daniel Anderson, an associate professor of health sciences and technology and chemical engineering, and a member of the David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT

Researchers successfully used this nanoparticle, made from several strands of DNA and RNA, to turn off a gene in tumor cells. 

When you think of metastatic cancer, you don’t want to just stop in the liver,” Anderson says. “You also want to get to more diverse sites.”


Expanding DNA Alphabet

Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute suggests that the replication process for DNA — the genetic instructions for living organisms that is composed of four bases (C, G, A and T) — is more open to unnatural letters than had previously been thought. An expanded "DNA alphabet" could carry more information than natural DNA, potentially coding for a much wider range of molecules and enabling a variety of powerful applications, from precise molecular probes and nanomachines to useful new life forms.

We now know that the efficient replication of our unnatural base pair isn't a fluke, and also that the replication process is more flexible than had been assumed,"" said Floyd E. Romesberg, associate professor at Scripps Research, principal developer of the new DNA bases, and a senior author of the new study. The Romesberg laboratory collaborated on the new study with the laboratory of co-senior author Andreas Marx at the University of Konstanz in Germany, and the laboratory of Tammy J. Dwyer at the University of San Diego.
Romesberg and his lab have been trying to find a way to extend the DNA alphabet since the late 1990s. In 2008, they developed the efficiently replicating bases NaM and 5SICS, which come together as a complementary base pair within the DNA helix, much as, in normal DNA, the base adenine (A) pairs with thymine (T), and cytosine (C) pairs with guanine (G).


Gene therapy to rejuvenate

Several studies have demonstrated that the average life of organisms, including that of mammals, can be lengthened by acting on different genes. Until now this has included permanent modifications in animal genes starting in the embryonic phase, something which is not intended to be carried out with humans. Researchers at CNIO and CBATEG now have proved it possible to prolong the life of mice using a treatment which acts directly on the genes, but is used in adult animals and is applied only once. This is achieved through gene therapy, a strategy never before used to fight the aging process.

The therapy demonstrated to be safe and effective in mice. Researchers worked with adult mice aged one year and older mice aged two. In both cases the gene therapy had a "rejuvenating" effect. The mice which were treated at one year of age on average lived 24% longer.

This research is led at the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO) by director Maria A. Blasco, in collaboration with Eduard Ayuso and Fátima Bosch, of the Centre for Animal Biotechnology and Gene Therapy (CBATEG) at the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona UAB, Spain.