Articles from April 2012

20 genetic tests from a single drop of blood

A metal cube the size of a toaster, created at the University of Alberta (U of A) in Canada, is capable of performing the same genetic tests as most fully equipped modern laboratories—and in a fraction of the time.

 Plastic chip that can perform 20 genetic tests from a single drop of blood: a kind of a lab-on-a-chip

At its core is a small plastic chip developed with nanotechnology that holds the key to determining whether a patient is resistant to cancer drugs or has viruses like malaria. The chip can also pinpoint infectious diseases in a herd of cattle.


Microscope to observe directly nanoscale objects

A new x-ray microscope probes the inner intricacies of materials smaller than human cells and creates unparalleled high-resolution 3D images. By integrating unique automatic calibrations, scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory are able to capture and combine thousands of images with greater speed and precision than any other microscope. The direct observation of structures spanning 25 nanometers – or 25 billionths of a meter – will offer fundamental advances in many fields, including energy research, environmental sciences, biology, and national defense. This innovative full field transmission x-ray microscope (TXM), was developed at Brookhaven Lab’s National Synchrotron Light Source (NSLS). A paper published in the April 2012 Applied Physics Letters details the experimental system that rapidly combines 2D images taken from every angle to form digital 3D constructs.

This 3D reconstruction of a lithium-ion battery electrode, composed of 1,441 individual images captured and aligned by the TXM, reveals nano-scale structural details to help guide future energy research.

We can actually see the internal 3D structure of materials at the nanoscale,” said Brookhaven physicist Jun Wang, lead author of the paper and head of the team that first proposed this TXM. “The device works beautifully, and it overcomes several major obstacles for x-ray microscopes. We’re excited to see the way this technology will push research.”


Solar power from space

Collecting solar energy to convert to electricity is not a new concept. However, there are significant advantages to space solar power compared to ground solar power. Solar energy in space is seven times greater per unit area than on the ground. The collection of solar space energy is not disrupted by nightfall and inclement weather, thus avoiding the need for expensive energy storage. You can see the findings from The National Space Society (NSS)   pusblished a few months ago, a ground-breaking space solar power study conducted by the  International Academy of Astronautics (IAA).


With space solar power technology, energy can be collected from space and transmitted wirelessly anywhere in the world,” said Mark Hopkins, the leading Executive Officer of the National Space Society. “This technology could be the answer to our energy crisis. We look forward to sharing the results of the IAA’s study, and exploring the potential that space solar power has for creating thousands of green energy jobs,” he added.


Nanotechnology Based Cancer Vaccine

Using a novel nanotechnology-based approach the californian company Medistem Inc. in San Diego,  has disclosed  a new approach to stimulating the immune system to kill tumor cells. Medistem and a team of collaborators demonstrated that nanoparticles could be used to deliver molecules found on tumors to specific cells of the immune system called “dendritic cells.” These nanoparticle-loaded dendritic cells were then able to stimulate other cells of the immune system to directly kill tumors in the test tube and also in mice bearing prostate cancer.

Cellular therapy is a clinical reality, for example, the company Dendreon developed the first therapeutic FDA-approved cancer vaccine Sipuleucel-T (Provenge) that is currently being used for treatment of patients with hormone-resistant prostate cancer. The data we published today provides ways of optimizing treatments such as Provenge,” said Dr. Vladimir Bogin, President and Chairman of Medistem. “By using nanotechnology to specifically educate dendritic cells to activate the immune system in patients, it may be possible to develop more effective ways of treating cancer by leveraging the body’s own resources.

Source:  PLGA nanoparticle-mediated delivery of tumor antigenic peptides elicits effective immune responses. International Journal of Nanomedicine, 7: 1475, 2012 

Highly Conductive Nanofibers

Researchers from CNRS  and the Université de Strasbourg – France , headed by Nicolas Giuseppone  and Bernard Doudin, have succeeded in making highly conductive plastic fibers that are only several nanometers thick. These nanowires, for which CNRS has filed a patent, "self-assemble” when triggered by a flash of light.


 Inexpensive and easy to handle, unlike carbon nanotubes (3), they combine the advantages of the two materials currently used to conduct electric current: metals and plastic organic polymers (4). In fact, their remarkable electrical properties are similar to those of metals.


Nanodots make electronic memory 100 times faster

A team of researchers from Taiwan and the University of California, Berkeley, has harnessed nanodots to create a new electronic memory technology that can write and erase data 10-100 times faster than today's mainstream charge-storage memory products. The new system uses a layer of non-conducting material embedded with discrete (non-overlapping) silicon nanodots, each approximately 3 nanometers across.


"The metal-gate structure is a mainstream technology on the path toward nanoscale complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) memory technology," said co-author Jia-Min Shieh, researcher, National Nano Device Laboratories, Hsinchu, Taiwan. "Our system uses numerous, discrete silicon nanodots for charge storage and removal. These charges can enter (data write) and leave (data erase) the numerous discrete nanodots in a quick and simple way."


Nanoparticles May Cause DNA Damage

Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass) have provided the first evidence that engineered nanoparticles are able to accumulate within plants and damage their DNA. In a recent paper, the team led by NIST chemist Bryant C. Nelson showed that under laboratory conditions, cupric oxide nanoparticles have the capacity to enter plant root cells and generate many mutagenic DNA base lesions.


The team tested the human-made, ultrafine particles between 1 and 100 nanometers in size on a human food crop, the radish, and two species of common groundcovers used by grazing animals, perennial and annual ryegrass. This research is part of NIST's work to help characterize the potential environmental, health and safety (EHS) risks of nanomaterials, and develop methods for identifying and measuring them.


Nano electronics: the paradox of the toaster

It seems like an ordinary morning at first, but when you go to the kitchen for breakfast, something is wrong. Your toast is burned but the toaster is coldThis is a new phenomenon we’re observing, exclusively at the nanoscale, and it is completely contrary to our intuition and knowledge of Joule heating at larger scales—for example, in things like your toaster,” says Baloch, who conducted the research while a graduate student at the University of Maryland. “The nanotube’s electrons are bouncing off of something, but not its atoms. Somehow, the atoms of the neighboring materials—the silicon nitride substrate—are vibrating and getting hot instead.

We now know that silicon nitride can absorb energy from a current-carrying nanotube in this way, but we would like to test other materials, such as semiconductors and other insulators,” Cumings explains.  “If we can really understand how this phenomenon works, we could start engineering a new generation of nanoelectronics with integrated thermal management.”


Fighting brain tumors

Nanoresearchers at the Methodist Neurological Institute and Rice University   have developed a way to selectively kill brain cancer cells by using a tiny syringe to deliver a combination of chemotherapy drugs directly in the cells.
"Without our nano-delivery system, we know that current drug delivery would be highly toxic to patients if we tried to deliver all three of these drugs at once," said David Baskin, M.D., neurosurgeon at the Methodist Neurological Institute, who began his nanomedicine research in 2004 with the late Nobel laureate and Rice chemist Richard Smalley. "But delivered in combination using these nano-syringes, our research demonstrated extreme lethality, with at least a three-fold increase in the number of dead cancer cells following treatment. The nano-syringes selectively deliver these drugs only to cancer cells, and appear not to be toxic to normal neurons and other non-cancerous brain cells." 

In a study published online April 15 in Nature Medicine, a second  team led by Sam Gambhir, MD, PhD, professor and chair of radiology, showed that the minuscule nanoparticles engineered in his lab homed in on and highlighted brain tumors, precisely delineating their boundaries and greatly easing their complete removal. The new technique could someday help improve the prognosis of patients with deadly brain cancers

Human brain scans. Like special-forces troops laser-tagging targets for a bomber pilot, tiny particules that can be imaged three different ways at once have enabled Stanford Univeristy School of Medicine to remove brain tumors from mice with unprecedented accuracy.

"With brain tumors, surgeons don't have the luxury of removing large amounts of surrounding normal brain tissue to be sure no cancer cells are left," said Gambhir, who is the Virginia and D.K. Ludwig Professor for Clinical Investigation in Cancer Research and director of the Molecular Imaging Program at Stanford. "You clearly have to leave as much of the healthy brain intact as you possibly can."


30 times more cancer cells killed using nanobubbles

Using light-harvesting nanoparticles to convert laser energy into “plasmonic nanobubbles,” researchers at Rice University,in Houston, USA,  the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) are developing new methods to inject drugs and genetic payloads directly into cancer cells. In tests on drug-resistant cancer cells, the researchers found that delivering chemotherapy drugs with nanobubbles was up to 30 times more deadly to cancer cells than traditional drug treatment and required less than one-tenth the clinical dose.


We are delivering cancer drugs or other genetic cargo at the single-cell level,” said Rice’s Dmitri Lapotko, a biologist and physicist whose plasmonic nanobubble technique is the subject of four new peer-reviewed studies, including one due later this month in the journal Biomaterials and another published April 3 in the journal PLoS ONE. “By avoiding healthy cells and delivering the drugs directly inside cancer cells, we can simultaneously increase drug efficacy while lowering the dosage,” he said.


Nanowires forests to capture the sun

University of California, San Diego electrical engineers are building a forest of tiny nanowire trees in order to cleanly capture solar energy without using fossil fuels and harvest it for hydrogen fuel generation. Deli Wang, professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the UC San Diego  Jacobs School of Engineering says that current technology uses fossil fuels to convert/separate hydrogen. The new method will not produce any greenhouse gases.

Electronic microscopic image of a nanoforest, or “3D branched nanowire array.” Green tint added for contrast. Image credit: Wang Research Group, UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering.

Their "3D branched nanowire array" uses a process called photoelectrochemical water-splitting to produce hydrogen gas. The arrays are made of zinc-oxide and silicon which are cheap abundant elements.

Why use nanowire forests? Wang says there are two reasons. The first reason is because forests tend to absorb solar energy while flat deserts and oceans tend to reflect it. When the light gets trapped in the forest the energy is used to separate the water into its constituents, hydrogen and oxygen. The technology is similar to a retinal photoreceptor cells in the human eye.


Razor With blades from nanotechnology

The extremely sharp blades, finely crafted with nanotechnology, provide a super-close, clean shave every time. The digital LCD panel indicates when it's time to recharge and clean. Just rinse under running water. Runs on one included lithium-ion battery. The first Panasonic electric shaver to feature four blades, will be exclusively sold through The Sharper Image. The addition of the fourth blade provides a broader cutting surface, allowing more whiskers to be cut on the first pass. 

Extra-sharp Nanotech razor blades on independently floating shaver heads are designed to provide a close shave, reaching hair growing in any direction.
The floating heads closely follow facial contours, while the specially-calibrated blades are honed at a 30-degree angle to produce a clean, efficient cut.