Articles from January 2012

Hazard of Nanomaterials

Workers with existing allergic conditions could have worse reactions when exposed to nanoparticles ( Worse, nanomedecine portends the release of dangerous nanoparticles, nanorobots or nanoelectronic devices that will wreak havoc in the body ( For instance, scientists from Brown University say that nanoparticules of nickel  may trigger cancer (
When human lung epithelial cells are exposed to equivalent doses of nano-sized (left) or micro-sized (right) metallic nickel particles, activated HIF-1 alpha pathways (stained green) appear mostly with the nanoparticles.

 In a project funded by the Danish Environemntal Protection Agency (EPA), the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) and National Research Centre for the Working Environment have initiated the development of a  screening tool called NanoRiskCat (NRC) for the evaluation of exposure and hazard of nanomaterials contained in products for professional and private useAuthored by Steffen Foss Hansen and Anders Braun from DTU'Department of Environmental Engineering and Keld Alstrup-Jensen from the National Research Centre for the Working Environment Environmental Project, the 268-page report on the NanRiskCat screening tool can be downloaded as a PDF file from the Danish EPA's website.The project's aim was to identify, categorize and rank the possible exposure and hazards associated with a nanomaterial in a product.


New very efficient photovoltaic cells

By tweaking the smallest of parts, a trio of  engineers is hoping to dramatically increase the amount of sunlight that solar cells convert into electricity. The researchers from the University at Buffalo, Army Research Laboratory and Air Force Office of Scientific Research have developed a new, nanomaterials-based technology that has the potential to increase the efficiency of photovoltaic cells up to 45 percent.


Specifically, the scientists have shown that embedding charged quantum dots into solar cells can improve electrical output by enabling the cells to harvest infrared light, and by increasing the lifetime of photoelectrons. The technology can be applied to many different photovoltaic structures.

A new company the researchers founded, OPtoElectronic Nanodevices LLC. (OPEN LLC), is commercializing this technology.


Nano-scale repairs at affordable cost

 In the super-small world of nanostructures, a team of polymer scientists and engineers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst have discovered how to make nano-scale repairs to a damaged surface equivalent to spot-filling a scratched car fender rather than re-surfacing the entire part. The work builds on a theoretical prediction by chemical engineer and co-author Anna Balazs at the University of PittsburghTheir discovery is reported this week in the current issue of Nature Nanotechnology.

The new technique has many practical implications, especially that repairing a damaged surface with this method would require significantly smaller amounts of material, avoiding the need to coat entire surfaces when only a tiny fraction is cracked, says team leader and UMass Amherst polymer scientist Todd Emrick. "This is particularly important because even small fractures can then lead to structural failure but our technique provides a strong and effective repair. The need for rapid, efficient coating and repair mechanisms is pervasive today in everything from airplane wings to microelectronic materials to biological implant devices," he adds. 


4 Times more powerful batteries for electric cars


Dreamweaver International Inc, an US company based  in Greenville, South Carolina, has developed a new non woven battery separator made from a combination of nanofibers that provides 300% higher power. The technology allows  higher transmission of electricity in the battery, improving the power available in electric vehicles, power tools and other high power applications. 

The job of a battery separator is to be a perfect barrier between the electrodes, while also acting as a perfect window to the electrolyte. Because of the above attributes, the technology allows for thinner, lighter and smaller batteries.


Breast Cancer Cells Burned by a Non-Invasive Method


By shining infrared light on specially designed, gold-filled silicon wafers, scientists at The Methodist Hospital Research Institute (Houston, Texas) have successfully targeted and burned breast cancer cells. If the technology is shown to work in human clinical trials, it could provide patients a non-invasive alternative to surgical ablation, and could be used in conjunction with traditional cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy, to make those treatments more effective.

"Hollow gold nanoparticles can generate heat if they are hit with a near-infrared laser," said Research Institute Assistant Member Haifa Shen, M.D., Ph.D., the report's lead author. "Multiple investigators have tried to use gold nanoparticles for cancer treatment, but the efficiency has not been very good — they'd need a lot of gold nanoparticles to treat a tumor. "Instead, Shen and his colleagues turned to a technology developed by the study's principal investigator, Mauro Ferrari, Ph.D., to amplify the gold particles' response to infrared light.


"We developed a system based on Dr. Ferrari's multi-stage vector technology platform to treat cancers with heat," Shen said. "We found that heat generation was much more efficient when we loaded gold nanoparticles into porous silicon, the carrier of the multistage vectors."

The research is presented in the first issue of the new Advanced Healthcare Materials, a Wiley journal.


NanoEar a Million Times more Sensitive

How noisy is a walking flea? What sort of sound waves are caused by motile bacteria? Phycisists at the Nanosystems Initiative Munich (NIM) have managed for the first time to detect sound waves at such minuscule lengh scales. Their nanoear is a single gold nanoparticle that is kept in a state of levitation by a laser beam. Upon weak acoustic excitation the particle oscillates parallel to the direction of sound propagation. The scientists led by Dr. Adurey Lutich, who is member of Prof. Jochen Feldmann's group at LMU Munich, managed to detect such tiny displacements using a dark-field microscope and an ordinary video camera. The nanoear is capable of detecting sound levels of approximatively *60dB. Thus, it is about a million times more sensitive than the hearing threshold of the human ear, which by convention is set at 0 dB.

Trapped gold nanoparticle (left) acts as nanoear


The new method realized by the Munich physicists opens a new world to scientists: for the first time, otherwise imperceptibly weak motions – minuscule sound waves – can be visualized. The researchers developed the nanoear in two stages. “First, we validated the basic principle using a relatively strong sound source” group leader Andrey Lutich explains. “In the second step we were able to detect significantly weaker acoustic excitations.” The main element in both cases is a gold nanoparticle, 60 nm in diameter, which is kept in levitation by a so-called optical trap us­ing a red laser. Each of the experiments was done in a small water drop on a cover slide. 

A 5 millions times smaller hard drive

Scientists from IBM and the German Center for Free-Electron Laser Science (CFEL) have built the world's smallest magnetic data storage unit. It uses just twelve atoms per bit, the basic unit of information, and squeezes a whole byte (8 bit) into as few as 96 atoms. A modern hard drive, for comparison, still needs more than half a billion atoms per byte. The team present their work in the weekly journal Science (13 January 2012). CFEL is a joint venture of the research centre Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron DESY in Hamburg, the Max-Planck-Society (MPG) and the University of Hamburg "With CFEL the partners have established an innovative institution on the DESY campus, delivering top-level research across a broad spectrum of disciplines," says DESY research director Edgar Weckert.



 An illustration of I.B.M.'s technique for storing data on a single atom. An iron atom on a copper surface could store a single bit of binary data, with "0" or "1" indicated by the orientation of the atom's magnetic field. 



Nanoparticules will cure Alzheimer’s disease


In the images of fruit flies, clusters of neurons are all lit up, forming a brightly glowing network of highways within the brain. It's exactly what University at Buffalo researcher Shermali Gunawardena was hoping to see: It meant that ORMOSIL, a novel class of nanoparticles, had successfully penetrated the insects' brains. And even after long-term exposure, the cells and the flies themselves remained unharmed.

The particles, which are tagged with fluorescent proteins, hold promise as a potential vehicle for drug delivery. Each particle is a vessel, containing cavities that scientists could potentially fill with helpful chemical compounds or gene therapies to send to different parts of the human body. Gunawardena is particularly interested in using ORMOSIL — organically modified silica — to target problems within neurons that may be related to neurodegenerative disorders including Alzheimer's disease.

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Towards the nanocomputer

The narrowest conducting wires in silicon ever produced are shown to have the same electric current arrying capability as copper. This means electrical interconnects in silicon can be shrunk to the atomic-scale without losing their functionality – Ohm's law holds true at the atomic-scale. The University of New South Wales  (UNSW) researchers will use these wires to address individual atoms – a key step in realising a scalable nanocomputer."Interconnecting wiring of this scale will be vital for the development of future atomic-scale electronic circuits," says the lead author of the study, Bent Weber, a PhD student in the ARC Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology at UNSW, in Sydney, Australia, supervised by Dr Michelle Simmmons.

Driven by the semiconductor industry, computer chip components continuously shrink in size allowing ever smaller and more powerful computers,” Simmons says. Over the past 50 years this paradigm has established the microelectronics industry as one of the key drivers for global economic growth.  A major focus of the Centre of Excellence at UNSW is to push this technology to the next level to develop a silicon-based nanocomputer, where single atoms serve as the individual units of computation,” she says. “It will come down to the wire. We are on the threshold of making transistors out of individual atoms. But to build a practical quantum computer we have recognised that the interconnecting wiring and circuitry also needs to shrink to the atomic scale.”


The wires were made by precisely placing chains of phosphorus atoms within a silicon crystal, according to the study, which includes researchers from the University of Melbourne and Purdue University in the US.

Nanotechnology is cool

 Engineering researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Troy, New-York, USA) have developed a new method for creating advanced nanomaterials that could lead to highly efficient refrigerators and cooling systems requiring no refrigerants and no moving parts.


The key ingredients for this innovation are a dash of nanoscale sulfur and a normal, everyday microwave oven.  You do not need to spend more than 40$!


Special Massive Delivery to Kill Cancer


Honing chemotherapy delivery to cancer cells is a challenge for many researchers. Getting the cancer cells to take the chemotherapy "bait" is a greater challenge. But perhaps such a challenge has not been met with greater success than by the nanotechnology research team of Omid Farokhzad, MD, Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH)- Department of Anesthesiology Perioperative and Pain Medicine and Research.
In their latest study with researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Massachusetts General Hospital, the BWH team created a drug delivery system that is able to effectively deliver a tremendous amount of chemotherapeutic drugs to prostate cancer cells.


The process involved is akin to building and equipping a car with the finest features, adding a passenger (in this case the cancer drug), and sending it off to its destination (in this case the cancer cell).


Graphene May End The Overheating of Laptops

A new form of graphene created by researchers at The University of Texas at Austin could prevent laptops and other electronics from overheating, ultimately, overcoming one of the largest hurdles to building smaller and more powerful electronic devices. The research team, which includes colleagues at The University of Texas at Dallas, the University of California-Riverside and Xiamen University in China, published its findings online today in the Advance Online Publication of Nature Materials. The study will also appear in the print journal of Nature MaterialsLed by Professor Rodney S. Ruoff in the Cockrell School's Department of Mechanical Engineering and the Materials Science and Engineering Program, the research demonstrates for the first time that a type of graphene created by the University of Texas researchers is 60 percent more effective at managing and transferring heat than normal graphene.



"This demonstration brings graphene a step closer to being used as a conductor for managing heat in a variety of devices. The potential of this material, and its promise for the electronic industry, is very exciting," said Ruoff, a physical chemist and Cockrell Regents Family Chair, who has pioneered research on graphene-based materials for more than 12 years.