Articles from July 2011

Nanotech to clean water

Among many potential applications, carbon nanotubes are great candidate materials for cleaning polluted water. Many water pollutants have very high affinity for carbon nanotubes and pollutants could be removed from contaminated water by filters made of this nanomaterial, for example water soluble drugs which can hardly be separated from water by activated carbon.

These are carbon nanotubes, seen by scanning electron microscopy

Carbon nanotubes are an example of these new materials and consist of cylindrical molecules of carbon with diameters of a few nanometers — one nanometer is one millionth of a millimeter. Carbon nanotubes possess exceptional electronic, mechanical and chemical properties, for example they can be used to clean polluted water. Problems due to filters’ saturation could be reduced as carbon nanotubes have a very large surface area (e.g. 500 m2 per gram of nanotube) and consequently a very high capacity to retain pollutants. “Maintenance and wastes related to water depollution could thus be reduced,” says Thilo Hofmann, Vice Dean of the Faculty of Earth Sciences, Geography and Astronomy of the University of Vienna.


Powered by the air around us

Researchers have discovered a way to capture and harness energy transmitted by such sources as radio and television transmitters, cell phone networks and satellite communications systems. By scavenging this ambient energy from the air around us, the technique could provide a new way to power networks of wireless sensors, microprocessors and communications chips. “There is a large amount of electromagnetic energy all around us, but nobody has been able to tap into it,” said Manos Tentzeris, a professor in the Georgia Tech School of Electrical and Computer Engineering .

Rushi Vyas, Manos Tentzeris, Georgia Institute of Technology

Georgia Tech graduate student Rushi Vyas(front) holds a prototype energy-scavenging device, while professor Manos Tentzeris displays a miniaturized flexible antenna that was inkjet-printed on paper and could be used for broadband energy scavenging.

Source: Nanowerk

Nanoprocessor for nanocomputers

The world’s first programmable nanoprocessor has been developed and demonstrated by an interdisciplinary collaboration between teams of scientists and engineers working at The MITRE Corporation and Harvard University during the last months.

Ultra-tiny nanocircuits can be programmed

The groundbreaking prototype computer system has been described in a paper published  in the journal Nature. The system represents a significant step forward in the complexity of computer circuits that can be built from nanometer-scale (i.e., molecular scale) components. It also represents an advance because the ultra-tiny nanocircuits can be programmed electronically to perform a number of different basic arithmetic and logical functions.

Very little electric power use

The nanoprocessor operate using very little power because their component nanometer-scale wires contain transistor switches that are “nonvolatile.” Unlike transistors in conventional microcomputer circuits, once the nanowire transistors are programmed they remember without any additional expenditure of electrical power.“Because of their very small size and very low power requirements, these new nanoprocessor circuits are building blocks that can control and enable an entirely new class of much smaller, lighter weight electronic sensors and consumer electronics,” according to Shamik Das, lead engineer in MITRE’s Nanosystems Group and chief architect of the nanoprocessor.



Towards the first nanocomputer

Dr Ellenbogen, who has worked for nearly two decades toward the development of computers integrated on the nanometer scale, added that, “This new nanoprocessor represents a major milestone toward realizing the vision of a nanocomputer that was first articulated more than fifty years ago by physicist Richard Feynman.”


Frozen nanoparticles against brain cancer

Researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine have developed a technique that delivers gene therapy into human brain cancer cells using nanoparticles that can be freeze-dried and stored for up to three months prior to use.

The shelf-stable particles may obviate the need for virus-mediated gene therapy, which has been associated with safety concerns.

Source:  Biomaterials.

Cancer patient leaves hospital after new nanotech cure

Nanotchonologies saved life of an incurable cancer patient. Doctors have replaced the cancer-stricken windpipe of a patient with an organ made in a lab, a landmark achievement for regenerative medicine. The patient no longer has cancer and is expected to have a normal life expectancy, doctors said. A windpipe is a hollow tube made up of respiratory cells that sit atop a scaffold of various tissues, such as cartilage and muscle cells. As a first step, a team led by Alexander Seifalian of University College London used plastic materials and nanotechnology to make an artificial version of the scaffold in the lab. It was closely modeled on the shape and size of the Eritrean man’s windpipe.

“He was condemned to die,” said Paolo Macchiarini, a professor of regenerative surgery who carried out the procedure at Sweden’s Karolinska University Hospital. “We now plan to discharge him next day.”

Scout nano cells in the war against cancer

MIT-designed nanoparticles communicate with each other inside the body to target tumors more efficiently.

A team of researchers from MIT, the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute and the University of California at San Diego have designed a new type of delivery system in which a first wave of nanoparticles homes in on the tumor, then calls in a much larger second wave that dispenses the cancer drug. This communication between nanoparticles, enabled by the body’s own biochemistry, boosted drug delivery to tumors by more than 40-fold in a mouse study.

This pattern  is very similar  to scouts soldiers who, once they have discovered where the hostile forces are  located, call the command post in order to destroy the enemy.

New vaccination against hepatitis C using nano

The   european contorsium HCVAX reaches out to develop a vaccine against hepatitis C (HCV) based on nanotechnology. This is an important issue in Europe with  three per cent of the population affected.

With the help of innovative, biocompatible nanogels, part of the genetic information of the virus is brought into the body. The synthetic nanogels have a diameter of only a few nanometres and are composed of a biopolymer matrix. Immune cells will take up the nanogels with the genetic information and will produce harmless components of HCV. The immune cell then responds to those foreign structures and will generate memory cells: with this, the vaccination would be successful and from then on one would be protected against an infection with pathogen HCV.

Nano solar panels 100 times more efficient

Australian researchers have invented nanotech solar cells that are thin and flexible, which use one hundredth the materials of conventional solar cells. This demonstrates it is possible to produce efficient solar cells using very little material or energy.

This new kind of  solar cells can be used much like current solar cells to power electricity to bus shelters or small houses.

Printable, flexible solar cells  have been developed by University of Melbourne PhD student Brandon MacDonald in collaboration with his colleagues from University of Melbourne’s Bio21 Institute and the CSIRO’s Future Manufacturing Flagship.


New battery for electric cars

Using nanotechnologies, a research team at the M.I.T. in Cambridge, produced a new design in order to reduce the size and the cost of a complete battery system for electric cars, including all of its structural support and connectors, to about half the current levels.

That dramatic reduction could be the key to making electric vehicles fully competitive with conventional gas- or diesel-powered vehicles, the researchers say.One important characteristic of the new design is that it separates the two functions of the battery — storing energy until it is needed, and discharging that energy when it needs to be used — into separate physical structures. (In conventional batteries, the storage and discharge both take place in the same structure.) Separating these functions means that batteries can be designed more efficiently. The work was carried out by Mihai Duduta ’10 and graduate student Bryan Ho, under the leadership of professors of materials science W. Craig Carter and Yet-Ming Chiang, at the M.I.T.