Articles from October 2011

Stretchable artificial skin

Using carbon nanotubes bent to act as springs, Stanford University researchers have developed a stretchable, transparent skin-like sensor. The sensor can be stretched to more than twice its original length and bounce back perfectly to its original shape. It can sense pressure from a firm pinch to thousands of pounds. The sensor could have applications in prosthetic limbs, robotics and touch-sensitive computer displays.

 The sensor is stretchy in all directions and then rebounds to the original shape.

Imagine having skin so supple you could stretch it out to more than twice its normal length in any direction – repeatedly – yet it would always snap back completely wrinkle-free when you let go of it. You would certainly never need Botox.

 click on the image to see the video

Biosensor Nanotechnology Could Identify Presence Of Salmonella

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),  a promising new biosensor nanotechnology  could identify the presence of salmonella bacteria before contaminated food or animals reach the marketplace.

Research collaborators from the University of Pennsylvania and Alabama State University report encouraging early results toward the development of just such a tool. “The key aspect of our work is that we detect salmonella in a medium that closely resembles the complexity of the real-world applications for food safety surveillance,” explains Penn’s A.T. Charlie Johnson, Ph.D.
Carbon nanotubes are novel materials known for their unique atomic architecture. This endows them with remarkable electrical, mechanical, and physical properties. When combined with biological molecules, such as antibodies, carbon nanotubes have the potential to perform a range of new and useful functions in miniature biotechnology devices – from detecting breast cancer cells to the Penn-Alabama State team’s salmonella project.

New nanomaterial to steer electrical currents

Scientists at Northwestern University have developed a new nanomaterial that can “steerelectrical currents. The development could lead to a computer that can simply reconfigure its internal wiring and become an entirely different device, based on changing needs. As electronic devices are built smaller and smaller, the materials from which the circuits are constructed begin to lose their properties and begin to be controlled by quantum mechanical phenomena. Reaching this physical barrier, many scientists have begun building circuits into multiple dimensions, such as stacking components on top of one another.
The Northwestern team has taken a fundamentally different approach. They have made reconfigurable electronic materials: materials that can rearrange themselves to meet different computational needs at different times.

Our new steering technology allows use to direct current flow through a piece of continuous material,” said Bartosz A. Grzybowski, who led the research. “Like redirecting a river, streams of electrons can be steered in multiple directions through a block of the material — even multiple streams flowing in opposing directions at the same time.

Gene therapy without a needle

For the first time, researchers have found a way to inject a precise dose of a gene therapy agent directly into a single living cell without a needle.

The technique uses electricity to “shoot” bits of therapeutic biomolecules through a tiny channel and into a cell in a fraction of a second.

L. James Lee and his colleagues at Ohio State University describe the technique in the online edition of the journal Nature Nanotechnology, where they report successfully inserting specific doses of an anti-cancer gene into individual leukemia cells to kill them.

L. James Lee

They have dubbed the method “nanochannel electroporation,” or NEP.

NEP allows us to investigate how drugs and other biomolecules affect cell biology and genetic pathways at a level not achievable by any existing techniques,” said Lee, who is the Helen C. Kurtz Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and director of the NSF Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center for Affordable  Nanoengineering of Polymeric Biomedical Devices at Ohio State.

Studying bacteria communication for future nanoscale networks

Think the future of communication is 4G? Think again. Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology are working on communication solutions for networks at the nanoscale. Over the next four years, the team will study how bacteria communicate with each other on a molecular level to see if the same principles can be applied to how nanodevices will one day communicate to form nanoscale networks. If the team is successful, the applications for intelligent, communicative nanonetworks could be wide ranging and potentially life changing.

The nanoscale machines could potentially be injected into the blood, circulating in the body to detect viruses, bacteria and tumors,” said Akyildiz, principal investigator of the study. “All these illnesses—cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, asthma, whatever you can think of—they will be history over the years. And that’s just one application.”said Akyildiz, computer engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology and principal investigator of the study. “All these illnesses—cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, asthma, whatever you can think of—they will be history over the years. And that’s just one application.

Nano sensors to diagnose early stage cancer cells

Nicholas Fangan, an  MIT researcher, together with colleagues at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign — has come up with a simple, precise and reproducible technique that cuts the time and cost of fabricating  sensors to diagnose cancer.   The scientific team has developed an engraving technique that etches tiny, nano-sized patterns on metallic surfaces using a small, voltage-activated stamp made out of glass. Fang says the engravings, made of tiny dots smaller than one-hundredth the width of a human hair, act as optical antennae that can identify a single molecule by picking up on its specific wavelength: “If you are able to create an optical antenna with precise dimensions … you can use them to report traffic on the molecular scale” Fang says.

Advances in microchip technology will enable clinicians to perform tests for hundreds of diseases — sifting out specific molecules, such as early stage cancer cells — from just one drop of blood. Until now fabricating such “lab-on-a-chip” designs — tiny, integrated diagonistic sensor arrays on surfaces as small as a square centimeter — is a technically challenging, time-consuming and expensive feat.

Where to find public funding in nanotechnology?

In the last 11 years, governments around the world have invested more than US$67 billion in funding nanotechnology research. While some funding programs are mature and concentrating on translational research, others are still at an early stage requiring large purchases of infrastructure, from instruments to buildings and services.

Cientifica has been tracking public funding of nanotechnologies for ten years, and its unrivaled connections with academics and funding agencies make this report, the most accurate available.
The new report Global Funding of Nanotechnologies – 2011 also predicts government funding of nanotechnologies to 2015, using the latest information and taking the current economic climate into account.

The report contains detailed breakdown and analyses of funding in the major economies of the Americas, Asia, EMEA and RoW including:
– Method of Distribution
– Areas of Distribution
– Infrastructure Funding
– Timescale for Funding
– Size of Funding Investments


Super powerful artificial nano muscles

An international team of researchers has invented new artificial muscles strong enough to rotate objects a thousand times their own weight, but with the same flexibility of an elephant’s trunk or octopus limbs.

In a paper published online today on Science Express, the scientists from the University of British Columbia, the University of Wollongong in Australia, the University of Texas at Dallas and Hanyang University in Korea detail their innovation.

Using yarns of carbon nanotubes that are enormously strong, tough and highly flexible, the researchers developed artificial muscles that can rotate 250 degrees per millimeter of muscle length. This is more than a thousand times that of available artificial muscles composed of shape memory alloys, conducting organic polymers or ferroelectrics, a class of materials that can hold both positive and negative electric charges, even in the absence of voltage.

What’s amazing is that these barely visible yarns composed of fibers 10,000 times thinner than a human hair can move and rapidly rotate objects two thousand times their own weight,” says  Assoc. Prof. John Madden, UBC Dept. of Electrical and Computer Engineering.  “While not large enough to drive an arm or power a car, this new generation of artificial muscles – which are simple and inexpensive to make – could be used to make tiny valves, positioners, pumps, stirrers and flagella for use in drug discovery, precision assembly and perhaps even to propel tiny objects inside the bloodstream.”

The world’s first single molecule electric motor

Chemists at Tufts University have developed the world’s first single molecule electric motor, which may potentially create a new class of devices that could be used in applications ranging from medicine to engineering. The molecular motor was powered by electricity from a state of the art, low-temperature scanning tunneling microscope. The Tufts team plans to submit this miniature electric motor to the Guinness World Records. The research was published online Sept. 4 in Nature Nanotechnology.

The excitement is in the demonstration that you can provide electricity to a single molecule and get it to do something that’s not just random,” says team leader Charles Sykes, an associate professor of chemistry in the School of Arts and Sciences.


Designing the nano materials

Design rules will enable scientists to build desired nanomaterials for broad application of nanotechnology to address social challenges, bolstering industry and creating jobs.

Gold nanoparticles are assembled with DNA linkers into crystalline lattices.

Learning the rules for consistently arranging nanoparticles, like nature arranges atoms into molecules and materials, has been a goal of scientists for quite some time because doing so is essential to capitalize on nanotechnology’s potential for broad application. This challenge has now been met for a class of materials. The discovery is detailed in the Oct. 14, 2011 issue of the journal Science. Specifically, lead author Chad Mirkin of Northwestern University and his team developed rules that enable scientists to make any structure for almost any application.

New chinese nano solar cells

The development of new types of solar cells that are lighter and more flexible than conventional silicon-based designs will open up a range of new applications for photovoltaics. Dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSCs) offer these advantages as well as promising much lower fabrication costs. Cao Anyuan, Bian Zuqiang and colleagues from Peking University (PKU) have now expanded the range of possible applications of DSSCs by developing a single-wire design that could be assembled into large arrays. 


Dye-sensitized solar cells are thin-film devices that can be fabricated from inexpensive and widely available compounds using relatively straightforward electrochemical processes. The structure of a DSSC itself is also quite simple, consisting of an anode and cathode immersed in an electrolyte. The anode of DSSCs is typically made of a mixture of a dye to absorb light and generate free positive and negative charges, and titanium dioxide to act as a conduit that allows the charges to travel to their respective electrodes and produce an electrical current. 

Shining Big Apple

The new World Trade Center in New York is nearly set up and the City  just enjoyed more good news. New York has emerged victorious in its bid to secure a landmark private investment from five of the world’s leading technology firms that will bring USD 4.4 billion of private funds into developing the state’s nanotechnology sector, defeating bids from nations in Asia, Europe and the Middle East. It was a huge win for the Empire State, which has been struggling with an unemployment rate that has been stuck between 8 and 9 percent since early 2009. “These companies could have gone anywhere on the globe,” said New York’s governor Andrew Cuomo at the New York Open for Business Statewide Conference in Albany. 

The companies in the deal are: Intel, the world’s largest semiconductor manufacturer, based in Santa Clara, California; IBM, the technology giant based in Armonk, New York, which is America’s 7th most profitable company; Samsung, a multinational conglomerate corporation based in Seoul, Korea; GlobalFoundries, the world’s third largest independent semiconductor foundry, created by the divestiture of AMD‘s manufacturing arm, based in Milpitas, California; and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), the world’s first dedicated semiconductor foundry, based in Hsinchu, Taiwan.
New York seems to come back to its legendary optimism, full of energy and creativity.