Posts belonging to Category Nanoscopes

How To Monitor and Combat Diabetes With A Simple Patch

In the future, diabetics may be able to replace finger prick tests and injections with this non-invasive smart patch to keep their glucose levels in check.


The device is a type of patch which enables diabetic patients to monitor blood sugar levels via sweat without taking blood samples and control glucose levels by injecting medication“, says Kim Dae-Hyeong, researcher at the Institute for Basic Science (IBS), Seoul National University, South Korea.

After analyzing the patient’s sweat to sense glucose, the patch’s embedded sensors constantly test pH, humidity, and temperature – important factors for accurate blood sugar readings. The graphene-based patch is studded with micro-needles coated with medication that pierce the skin painlessly. When the patch senses above normal glucose levels a tiny heating element switches on which dissolves the medication coating the microneedles and releases it into the body. The prototype worked well in mice trials.

Diabetic patients can easily use our device because it does not cause any pain or stress them out. So they can monitor and manage blood glucose levels more often to prevent increasing it. Therefore, our device can greatly contribute to helping patients avoid complications of the disease“, comments Professor Kim Dae-Hyeong. Researchers want to lower the cost of production, while figuring out how to delivery enough medication to effectively treat humans, both major hurdles towards commercialization. The research was published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology in March.


Nanostructure of Humboldt Penguins Feather Makes Them Ice-Proof

Humboldt penguins live in places that dip below freezing in the winter, and despite getting wet, their feathers stay sleek and free of ice. Researchers from Beihang University in Beijing (China)  have now figured out what could make that possible. The key is in the microstructure of penguins’ feathers. Based on their findings, the scientists replicated the architecture in a nanofiber membrane that could be developed into an ice-proof material.

penguins ChinaThe range of Humboldt penguins extends from coastal Peru to the tip of southern Chile. Some of these areas can get frigid, and the water the birds swim in is part of a cold ocean current that sweeps up the coast from the Antarctic. Their feathers keep them both warm and ice-free. Scientists had suspected that penguin feathers’ ability to easily repel water explained why ice doesn’t accumulate on them: Water would slide off before freezing. But research has found that under high humidity or ultra-low temperatures, ice can stick to even superhydrophobic surfaces. So Jingming Wang and colleagues sought another explanation.

The researchers closely examined Humboldt penguin feathers using a scanning electron microscope. They found that the feathers were comprised of a network of barbs, wrinkled barbules and tiny interlocking hooks. In addition to being hydrophobic, this hierarchical architecture with grooved structures is anti-adhesive. Testing showed ice wouldn’t stick to it. Mimicking the feathers’ microstructure, the researchers developed an icephobic polyimide fiber membrane. They say it could potentially be used in applications such as electrical insulation.


Nanotechnology: The Brillant Future Of CubeSats

To understand why CubeSats could be the next big thing in the study of comets and asteroids, consider the story of Philae, the European Space Agency (ESA) probe that recently made history with the first-ever landing on the surface of a comet. The idea was to get close enough to the comet to analyze its composition in situ—what scientists call “ground truthing.” You can only learn so much about small bodies by studying them from Earth, so scientists built and launched the first spacecraft to sample a comet directly. Trouble is, Philae cost around $240 million, and we almost lost it. Harpoons designed to help the lander grab on to the comet in the low gravity failed to deploy. Another smidgeon of velocity in its bounce, and that $240 million would have been drifting uselessly in the comet’s wake. Philae was lucky; after another bounce it finally came to rest on the surface. But comet landings remain an inherently risky business. That’s where CubeSats—which can cost in the tens of thousands rather than the hundreds of millions of dollars—start to look appealing.
Because CubeSat is low-cost, one can afford to tolerate more risks,” says USC’s Joseph Wang, who has been working on CubeSat engineering for the past several years. In theory, low cost means that scientists can afford to explore more small bodies, more often. The challenge is designing small, light instruments with enough capability to do serious science.


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.

Nanodevice To Detect Cancer At Extremely Early Stage

Extremely early detection of cancers and other diseases is on the horizon with a supersensitive nanodevice being developed at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) in collaboration with The Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering (JSNN) in Greensboro, NC. The device is ready for packaging into a lunchbox-size unit that ultimately may use a cellphone app to provide test results.
Uah team
We are submitting grant applications with our collaborator Dr. Jianjun Wei, an associate professor at the JSNN, to the National Institutes of Health to fund our future integration work,” says Dr. Yongbin Lin, a research scientist at UAH‘s Nano and Micro Devices Center who has been working on the nanodevice at the core of the diagnostic unit for about five years. “In the future, we will do an integration of the system with everything inside a box. If we get funding support, I think that within three to five years it may be realized.” “The most significant aspect of the device medically is that it can detect trace levels of cancer biomarkers in the blood,” says UAH senior Molly Sanders of Huntsville.

The sensitivity of the equipment holds promise for finding cancer at a very early stage, even while it is at the small cluster of cells level, says Dr. Lin. “At that stage, it is easier to treat.”

Face Recognition Approaches One Hundred Percent Accuracy

A research team at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, led by Professor Xiaoou Tang, announced 99.15% face recognition accuracy achieved in Labeled Faces in the Wild (LFW) database (a database of face photographs designed for studying the problem of unconstrained face recognition).
The technology developed by Xiaoou Chen’s team is called DeepID, which is more accurate than visual identification.

face recognition
LFW is the most widely used face recognition benchmarks. Experimental results show that, if only the central region of the face is given, with the naked eye in the LFW person recognition rate is 97.52%

The three face recognition algorithms developed by Xiaoou Chen’s team now occupies the top three LFW recognition accuracy rate, followed by Facebook’s Deepface.

His lab has been based on the latest technological breakthroughs to produce a complete set of facial image processing system (SDK), including face detection, face alignment of key points, face recognition, expression recognition, gender recognition, age estimation

Xiaoou Tang plans to provide face recognition technology for free to Android, iOS and Windows Phone developers; with the help of this FreeFace-SDK, the developer can develop a variety of applications based on face recognition on the phone.


Nano Pixels To Produce Synthetic Retinas

A new discovery will make it possible to create pixels just a few hundred nanometres across that could pave the way for extremely high-resolution and low-energy thin, flexible displays for applications such as ‘smartglasses, synthetic retinas, and foldable screens. A team led by Oxford University scientists explored the link between the electrical and optical properties of phase change materials (materials that can change from an amorphous to a crystalline state). They found that by sandwiching a seven nanometre thick layer of a phase change material (GST) between two layers of a transparent electrode they could use a tiny current to ‘draw’ images within the sandwich ‘stack’.

Initially still images were created using an atomic force microscope but the team went on to demonstrate that such tiny ‘stacks‘ can be turned into prototype pixel-like devices. These ‘nano-pixels‘ – just 300 by 300 nanometres in size – can be electrically switchedon and offat will, creating the coloured dots that would form the building blocks of an extremely high-resolution display technology.

nano pix imageStill images drawn with the technology: at around 70 micrometres across each image is smaller than the width of a human hair.

Whilst the work is still in its early stages, realising its potential, the Oxford team has filed a patent on the discovery with the help of Isis Innovation, Oxford University‘s technology commercialisation company. Isis is now discussing the displays with companies who are interested in assessing the technology, and with investors.

A report of the research is published in this week’s Nature.

Nanotechnology: Food And Drug Administration Rules

Today, 3 final guidances and one draft guidance were issued by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) providing greater regulatory clarity for industry on the use of nanotechnology in FDA-regulated products.
One final guidance addresses the agency’s overall approach for all products that it regulates, while the two additional final guidances and the new draft guidance provide specific guidance for the areas of foods, cosmetics and food for animals, respectively.

Nanotechnology is an emerging technology that allows scientists to create, explore and manipulate materials on a scale measured in nanometers—particles so small that they cannot be seen with a regular microscope. The technology has a broad range of potential applications, such as improving the packaging of food and altering the look and feel of cosmetics.


Our goal remains to ensure transparent and predictable regulatory pathways, grounded in the best available science, in support of the responsible development of nanotechnology products,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D. “We are taking a prudent scientific approach to assess each product on its own merits and are not making broad, general assumptions about the safety of nanotechnology products.”

The 3 final guidance documents reflect the FDA’s current thinking on these issues after taking into account public comment received on the corresponding draft guidance documents previously issued (draft agency guidance in 2011; and draft cosmetics and foods guidances in 2012).

The FDA does not make a categorical judgment that nanotechnology is inherently safe or harmful, and will continue to consider the specific characteristics of individual products.
All 4 guidance documents encourage manufacturers to consult with the agency before taking their products to market. Consultations with the FDA, early in the product development process help to facilitate a mutual understanding about specific scientific and regulatory issues relevant to the nanotechnology product, and help address questions related to safety, effectiveness, public health impact and/or regulatory status of the product.

Super Powerful 3D Nano-Camera For 500$

A $500 nano-camera” that can operate at the speed of light has been developed by researchers in the MIT Media Lab. The three-dimensional camera, which was presented last week at Siggraph Asia in Hong Kong, could be used in medical imaging and collision-avoidance detectors for cars, and to improve the accuracy of motion tracking and gesture-recognition devices used in interactive gaming.

The camera is based on “Time of Flight” technology like that used in Microsoft’s recently launched second-generation Kinect device, in which the location of objects is calculated by how long it takes a light signal to reflect off a surface and return to the sensor. However, unlike existing devices based on this technology, the new camera is not fooled by rain, fog, or even translucent objects, says co-author Achuta Kadambi, a graduate student at MIT.

MIT students Ayush Bhandari, Refael Whyte and Achuta Kadambi have designed a “nano-camera” that can capture translucent objects, such as a glass vase, in 3-D

Using the current state of the art, such as the new Kinect, you cannot capture translucent objects in 3-D,” Kadambi says. “That is because the light that bounces off the transparent object and the background smear into one pixel on the camera. Using our technique you can generate 3-D models of translucent or near-transparent objects.”


Zoom And Observe Atoms Moving

A new microscope invented at Michigan State University (MSU) allows scientists to zoom in on the movements of atoms and molecules. Electron microscopes allow scientists to see the structure of microorganisms, cells, metals, crystals and other tiny structures that weren’t visible with light microscopes. But while these images have allowed scientists to make great discoveries, the relationship between structure and function could only be estimated because of static images. In the 1990s, researchers added a fourth dimension time – by using a laser to capture images of gaseous molecules as they were reacting.
Now scientists from MSU has brought these “molecular movies” down to the nanoscale level, where the properties of materials begin to change. The work has applications in nanoelectronic technologies and in clean-energy industries.

Michigan MicroscopeA new microscope invented at MSU allows scientists to zoom in on the movements of atoms and molecules
Implementing such a technology within an electron microscope setup allows one to examine crucial functions in nanoscale devices,” Chong-Yu Ruan, MSU associate professor of physics and astronomy said. “The goal is to explore the limits where specific physical, chemical and biological transformations can occur.”
Research team from MSU is one of the few in the world actively developing electron-based imaging technology on the femtosecond timescale. One femtosecond is one-millionth of a billionth of a second – a fundamental timescale that atoms take to perform specific tasks, such as mediating the traffic of electrical charges or participating in the chemical reactions.


Building A Nanoscope Like a LEGO

The world’s first low cost Atomic Force Microscope (AFM) or Nanoscope has been developed in Beijing – China – by a group of PhD students from UCL – United Kingdom -, Tsinghua University and Peking University – using Lego.

In the first event of its kind, LEGO2NANO brought together students, experienced makers and scientists to take on the challenge of building a cheap and effective AFM, a device able to probe objects only a millionth of a millimetre in size – far smaller than anything an optical microscope can observe.
Lego game AFM 2

Low-cost scientific instrumentation is not just useful in high-schools, it can be a huge enabler for hospitals and clinics in developing countries, too” notes Gabriel Aeppli, director of the London Centre for Nanotechnology at UCL, a key contributor to the event, “That’s why novel initiatives like LEGO2NANO are so important.”
Low-cost scientific instruments, using cheap consumer hardware and open-source software, are becoming increasingly popular: for example, many researchers now collect data using apps on mobile phones.
Designing these state-of-the-art and low cost technologies has become an objective of industry, academia and now also the maker community, groups of talented amateurs around the globe who like to develop DIY solutions.
It’s impressive to see the UCL students working closely with their Chinese counterparts. The event was not only interdisciplinary, it also crossed the boundary between science and maker cultures”, remarked Prof. Xiao Guo, Pro-Provost (China) of UCL.


Super-Resolution Microscope For NanoStructure

Researchers from Purdue University have found a way to see synthetic nanostructures and molecules using a new type of super-resolution optical microscopy that does not require fluorescent dyes, representing a practical tool for biomedical and nanotechnology research.

Microscope for nanostructureA new type of super-resolution optical microscopy takes a high-resolution image (at right) of graphite “nanoplatelets” about 100 nanometers wide. The imaging system, called saturated transient absorption microscopy, or STAM, uses a trio of laser beams and represents a practical tool for biomedical and nanotechnology research.

Super-resolution optical microscopy has opened a new window into the nanoscopic world,” said Ji-Xin Cheng, an associate professor of biomedical engineering and chemistry at Purdue University.”The diffraction limit represents the fundamental limit of optical imaging resolution,” Cheng said. “Stefan Hell at the Max Planck Institute and others have developed super-resolution imaging methods that require fluorescent labels. Here, we demonstrate a new scheme for breaking the diffraction limit in optical imaging of non-fluorescent species. Because it is label-free, the signal is directly from the object so that we can learn more about the nanostructure.