Articles from June 2012

Paintable Battery/Solar Cells Combination

Researchers from Rice University have developed paintable lithium-ion battery. Any surface can be painted with the new product,  and the batteries were easily charged with a small solar cell. Scientists foresee the possibility of integrating paintable batteries with recently reported paintable solar cells to create an energy-harvesting combination that would be hard to beat

"This means traditional packaging for batteries has given way to a much more flexible approach that allows all kinds of new design and integration possibilities for storage devices," said Ajayan, Rice's Benjamin M. and Mary Greenwood Anderson Professor in Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science. "There has been lot of interest in recent times in creating power sources with an improved form factor, and this is a big step forward in that direction."This rechargeable battery created in the lab of Rice consists of spray-painted layers, each representing the components in a traditional battery


Drugs Factories Inside the Body

Scientists are reporting an advance toward treating disease with minute capsules containing not drugsbut the DNA and other biological machinery for making the drug. In an article in ACS’ journal Nano Letters, they describe engineering micro- and nano-sized capsules that contain the genetically coded instructions, plus the read-out gear and assembly line for protein synthesis that can be switched on with an external signal.

   Daniel Anderson’s group from M.I.T., author of the article (,  developed an artificial, remotely activated nanoparticle system containing DNA and the other “parts” necessary to make proteins, which are the workhorses of the human cell and are often used as drugs. They describe the nanoscale production units, which are tiny spheres encapsulating protein-making machinery like that found in living cells. The resulting nanoparticles produced active proteins on demand when the researchers shined a laser light on them. The nanoparticles even worked when they were injected into mice, which are stand-ins for humans in the laboratory, producing proteins when a laser was shone onto the animals. This innovation “may find utility in the localized delivery of therapeutics,” say the researchers.


1 Meter long Carbon Nanotube

At the right temperature, with the right catalyst, there's no reason a perfect single-walled carbon nanotube 50,000 times thinner than a human hair can't be grown a meter long.


Defects in nanotubes heal very quickly in a very small zone at or near the iron catalyst before they ever get into the tube wall, according to calculations by theoretical physicists at Rice University, Hong Kong Polytechnic University and Tsinghua University. Courtesy of Feng Ding/Rice/Hong Kong Polytechnic.

The  study of  the self-healing mechanism that could make such extraordinary growth possible, is important to scientists who see high-quality carbon nanotubes as critical to advanced materials and, if they can be woven into long cables, power distribution over the grid of the future.



Very Cheap Solar Cells

Researchers from North Carolina State University have found a way to create much slimmer thin-film solar cells without sacrificing the cells’ ability to absorb solar energy. Making the cells thinner should significantly decrease manufacturing costs for the technology. “We were able to create solar cells using a ‘nanoscale sandwich’ design with an ultra-thin ‘active’ layer,” says Dr. Linyou Cao, an assistant professor of materials science and engineering at NC State and co-author of a paper describing the research. “For example, we created a solar cell with an active layer of amorphous silicon that is only 70 nanometers (nm) thick. This is a significant improvement, because typical thin-film solar cells currently on the market that also use amorphous silicon have active layers between 300 and 500 nm thick.” The “active” layer in thin-film solar cells is the layer of material that actually absorbs solar energy for conversion into electricity or chemical fuel.

The active layer (blue line) is sandwiched between layers of dielectric material.

The technique we’ve developed is very important because it can be generally applied to many other solar cell materials, such as cadmium telluride, copper indium gallium selenide, and organic materials,” Cao adds.



From Firefly To Nanotechnology

What do fireflies, nanorods and Christmas lights have in common? Someday, consumers may be able to purchase multicolor strings of light that don’t need electricity or batteries to glow. Scientists in Syracuse University's College of Arts and Sciences found a new way to harness the natural light produced by fireflies (called bioluminescence) using nanoscience. Their breakthrough produces a system that is 20 to 30 times more efficient than those produced during previous experiments.
t’s all about the size and structure of the custom, quantum nanorods, which are produced in the laboratory by Mathew Maye, assistant professor of chemistry in SU’s College of Arts and Sciences; and Rabeka Alam, a chemistry Ph.D. candidate. Maye is also a member of the Syracuse Biomaterials Institute.

Firefly light is one of nature’s best examples of bioluminescence,” Maye says. “The light is extremely bright and efficient. We’ve found a new way to harness biology for nonbiological applications by manipulating the interface between the biological and nonbiological components.


Cheaper Solar Cells = More Surfaces = More Energy

"If you could make  cheaper and more efficient, then you could think about putting them on a much wider variety of surfaces," said Hanley, professor and head of chemistry at the University of Illinois at Chicago."There's only a certain amount of energy that falls from the sun per square meter. You can't increase that amount of energy, but you can make it less expensive to capture it," he said.

"If you can do everything from the gaseous deposition stage, you might make the process less expensive,” Hanley said. “You also may make a novel material that has a better efficiency."Hanley and his coworkers will evaluate the electrical properties of these new films and study how they respond to light. He thinks that using different chemicals for nanoparticle-embedded solar films could create new products some two to three times more efficient than products now on the market, making solar energy more competitive.Working with Igor Bolotin, research assistant professor of chemistry, and graduate students Mike Majeski and Doug Pleticha, Hanley developed a method for depositing metal chalcogenide  by cluster beam deposition. Following parallel research, the american company Magnolia Solar is already very near to launch into the market much cheaper solar cells.. See our article


New Molecular Machines To Understand Alzheimer’s

Enabling bioengineers to design new molecular machines for nanotechnology applications is one of the possible outcomes of a study by University of Montreal researchers that was published in Nature Structural and Molecular Biology today.  The scientists have developed a new approach to visualize how proteins assemble, which may also significantly aid our understanding of diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, which are caused by errors in assembly.

Alzheimer's and Parkinson's,are caused by errors in assembly. Here shown are two different assembly stages (purple and red) of the protein ubiquitin and the fluorescent probe used to visualize these stage (tryptophan: see yellow). 

In order to survive, all creatures, from bacteria to humans, monitor and transform their environments using small protein nanomachines made of thousands of atoms,” explained the senior author of the study, Prof. Stephen Michnick of the university's department of biochemistry. “For example, in our sinuses, there are complex receptor proteins that are activated in the presence of different odor molecules. Some of those scents warn us of danger; others tell us that food is nearby.” Proteins are made of long linear chains of amino acids, which have evolved over millions of years to self-assemble extremely rapidly – often within thousandths of a split secondinto a working nanomachine. “One of the main challenges for biochemists is to understand how these linear chains assemble into their correct structure given an astronomically large number of other possible forms,” Michnick said.


From Fruit Peel To Nanoparticules, an eco-friendly process

From food waste, like fruit peel,  you can produce nanotechnology devices at a good price.  Let's' take pomegranates: the fruit extract is a rich source of highly potent antioxidants and a research team from the University of Patna in India has exploited the skin of pomegranates as a reducing agent for making silver nanoparticles. Their approach to these widely researched and technologically invaluable nanoparticles represents a more environmentally benign method than the use of "chemical" reducing agents and industrial solvents

The process also precludes the need to heat the reaction mixture as it proceeds at ambient temperature.. The result is a simple and eco-friendly biosynthesis of silver nanoparticles using Pomegranate peel extract as the reducing agent. The reaction process was simple for the formation of highly stable silver nanoparticles at room temperature by using the biowaste of the fruit. 


Source: Biosynthesis of silver nanoparticles from biowaste pomegranate peels  by Naheed Ahmad, Seema Sharma

Nanopores to Detect DNA Damage, Prevent Mutation

Scientists from the University of Utah have adapted the “nanopore” method to find DNA damage that can lead to mutations and disease. Indeed sequencing DNA – decipher genetic blueprints – is faster and cheaper by passing strands of the genetic material through molecule-sized poresStrands of DNA are made of “nucleotide bases” known as A, T, G and C. Some stretches of DNA strands are genes.The new method looks for places where a base is missing, known as an “abasic site,” one of the most frequent forms of damage in the 3-billion-base human genome or genetic blueprint. This kind of DNA damage happens 18,000 times a day in a typical cell as we are exposed to everything from sunlight to car exhaust. Most of the damage is repaired, but sometimes it leads to a gene mutation and ultimately disease.


We’re using this technique and synthetic organic chemistry to be able to see a damage site as it flies through the nanopore,” says Henry White, distinguished professor and chair of chemistry at the University of Utah and senior coauthor of the new study.



Nanoparticles To Cure Myeloma

One of the difficulties doctors face in treating multiple myeloma (MM) comes from the fact that cancer cells of this type start to develop resistance to the leading chemotherapeutic treatment, doxorubicin, when they adhere to tissue in bone marrow. Now researchers from the University of Notre Dame have engineered nanoparticles that show great promise for the treatment of the MM, an incurable cancer of the plasma cells in bone marrow.

The nanoparticles are coated with a special peptide that targets a specific receptor on the outside of multiple myeloma cells. These receptors cause the cells to adhere to bone marrow tissue and turn on the drug resistance mechanisms. But through the use of the newly developed peptide, the nanoparticles are able to bind to the receptors instead and prevent the cancer cells from adhering to the bone marrow in the first place.

Our research on mice shows that the nanoparticle formulation reduces the toxic effect doxorubicin has on other tissues, such as the kidneys and liver,” says Tanyel Kiziltepe , a research assistant professor with the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and AD&T at Notre Dame University.


Carbon Nanotubes for Highly Energy-Efficient Computing

Energy efficiency is the most significant challenge standing in the way of continued miniaturization of electronic systems, and miniaturization is the principal driver of the semiconductor industry. “As we approach the ultimate limits of Moore’s Law , however, silicon will have to be replaced in order to miniaturize further,” said Jeffrey Bokor, deputy director for science at the Molecular Foundry at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Professor at UC-Berkeley.

A team of Stanford engineering professors, doctoral students, undergraduates, and high-school interns, led by Professors Subhasish Mitra  and H.-S. Philip Wong , took on the challenge and has produced a series of breakthroughs that represent the most advanced computing and storage elements yet created. Since nanotube transistors were demonstrated in 1998, researchers imagined a new age of highly efficient, advanced computing electronics. That promise, however, is yet to be realized due to substantial material imperfections inherent to nanotubes that left engineers wondering whether CNTs would ever prove viable. The Stanford design approach has two striking features in that it sacrifices virtually none of CNTs’ energy efficiency and it is also compatible with existing fabrication methods and infrastructure, pushing the technology a significant step toward commercializationThe first CNTs wowed the research community with their exceptional electrical, thermal and mechanical properties over a decade ago, but this recent work at Stanford has provided the first glimpse of their viability to complement silicon CMOS transistors,” said Larry Pileggi, Tanoto Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University..


Electric NanoGenerator To Harvest Wasted Energy

Scavenging energy in our living environment is a feasible approach for powering micro/nanodevices and mobile electronics due to their small size, lower power consumption, and special working environment. Nanomaterials have shown unique advantages for energy conversion, including solar cells,  The type of energy to be harvested depends on the applications. For mobile, implantable and personal electronics, solar energy may not be the best choice because solar is not vailable in many cases under which the electronic devices will be utilized. Alternatively, mechanical energy, including vibration, air flow, and human physical motion, is available almost everywhere and at all times, which is called random energy with irregular amplitude and frequencies. Nanogenerator (NG) is a technology that has been developed for harvesting this type of energy using well-aligned nanowire (NW) arrays and sophisticated fabrication procedures,

Pr. Zhong Lin Wang from Georgia Tech and his team present a simple, cost-effective, robust, and scalable approach for fabricating a nanogenerator that gives an output power strong enough to continuously drive a commercial liquid crystal display