Articles from September 2012

Next Generation of Lithium-Ion Batteries For Electric Cars

Sometimes even batteries can use a boost of energy, according to the focus of a Kansas State University graduate student’s research. Steven Arnold Klankowski, a doctoral candidate in chemistry, La Crescent, Minn., is working under Jun Li, professor of chemistry, to develop new materials that could be used in future lithium-ion batteries. The materials look to improve the energy storage capacity of batteries so that laptops, cellphones, electric cars and other mobile devices will last longer between charges. Additionally, lithium-ion batteries that can store energy and deliver power more rapidly will be a more viable alternative power source for vehicles and machines powered by alternative energy, Klankowski said. For example, solar- and wind-powered technologies could switch to the battery in the evening when there is a lack of wind or sunlight to produce energy.

"The battery market is moving very fast these days as everyone is trying to get an advantage for their electric vehicles and cellphones," said Klankowski, who also has a background in materials engineering. "As our devices get smarter, so must our methods to supply greater amounts of portable electrical energy to power these devices."


A Computer Chip That Can Assemble Itself

Eric Furst is intent on advancing the science of the super-small, and not even Earth’s gravity can hold him back. From his office in University of Delaware’s Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Furst has directed astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) in some of the first nanoscience experiments in space. Furst’s focus is colloids — otherwise known as emulsions or suspensions — materials that are part solid and part liquid. You know them as paint, glue, egg whites, gels, milk, even blood. He is exploring colloids at the nanoscale to reveal their physics. Ultimately, his goal is to identify how nano-“building blocks” of various shapes and chemistries can be directed to “self-assemble” into specific structures with desired functions. Such “smart materials” could endow a robot, for example, with the dexterity to be able to pick up an item as fragile as an egg.

With the basic principles of directed self-assembly decoded on the ISS, his team is creating materials from more complex nano-building blocks — doublets he calls “smashed spheres,” and titania ellipsoids, shaped like rice, but 10,000 times smaller. With these infinitesimal components, Furst’s lab already has created novel functional nanomaterials for use in optical communication systems and as thermal coatings, with the support of the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation.
The sky’s the limit!” Furst says.

Biolab On a Chip

MIT team finds way to manipulate and measure magnetic particles without contact, potentially enabling multiple medical tests on a tiny device. If you throw a ball underwater, you’ll find that the smaller it is, the faster it moves: A larger cross-section greatly increases the water’s resistance. Now, a team of MIT researchers has figured out a way to use this basic principle, on a microscopic scale, to carry out biomedical tests that could eventually lead to fast, compact and versatile medical-testing devices.

Click this link to enjoy the video demonstration

The results, based on work by graduate student Elizabeth Rapoport and assistant professor Geoffrey Beach, of MIT’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering (DMSE), are described in a paper published in the journal Lab on a Chip. MIT graduate student Daniel Montana ’11 also contributed to the research as an undergraduate.

Breast Cancer: Earlier, Life-saving Diagnosis

Malignant cells that leave a primary tumor, travel the bloodstream and grow out of control in new locations cause the vast majority of cancer deaths. After a breast cancer cell enters the bloodstream, it most often stops in the liver, spleen or lungs and begins overexpressing surface molecules called integrins. Integrins act as a glue between the cancer cell and the lining of a blood vessel that feeds the organ. A team of scientists, engineers and students across five disciplines from Case Western Reserve University in Ohio – USA – built nanochains that home in on metastases before they’ve grown into new tissues, and, through magnetic resonance imaging, detect their locations. Images of the precise location and extent of metastases could be used to guide surgery or ablation, or the same technology used to find the cancer could be used to deliver cancer-killing drugs directly to the cells before a tumor forms, the researchers suggest. The work is described in this week’s online issue of the American Chemical Society journal ACS Nano.
Micrometastases can’t be seen with the naked eye, but you have to catch them at this stage – see the exact spots they’re located and see them all,” said Efstathios Karathanasis, assistant professor of biomedical engineering and radiology, and senior author. “Even if you miss only one, you prolong survival, but one metastasis can still kill.

Electronics without Current

Researchers at Tampere University of Technology, Finland, will explore paths toward a completely new way of designing and making logic circuits that consume no current and can be written and read with light. The key idea behind the project is the so-called quantum dot cellular automaton (QCA). In QCAs, pieces of semiconductor so small that single electronic charges can be measured and manipulated are arranged into domino like cells. Like dominos, these cells can be arranged so that the position of the charges in one cell affects the position of the charges in the next cell, which allows making logical circuits out of these “quantum dominos”. But, no charge flows from one cell to the next, i.e. no current. This, plus the extremely small size of QCAs, means that they could be used to make electronic circuits at densities and speeds not possible now. However, realisation of the dots and cells and making electrical connections to them has been a huge challenge.
Professors Donald Lupo from Department of Electronics, Mircea Guina and Tapio Niemi from Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC), and Nikolai Tkachenko and Helge Lemmetyinen from Department of Chemistry and Bioengineering, want to investigate a completely new approach. They want to attach tailor-made molecules, optical nanoantennas, to the quantum dots, which can inject a charge into a dot or enable charge transfer between the dots when light of the right wavelength shines on them.
Laser light is emitted from the end of a cadmium sulfide nanowire.

Simultaneously, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have made an important advance in this frontier of photonics, fashioning the first all-optical photonic switch out of cadmium sulfide nanowires. Moreover, they combined these photonic switches into a logic gate, a fundamental component of computer chips that process information. The research was conducted by associate professor Ritesh Agarwal and graduate student Brian Piccione of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering in Penn’s School of Engineering and Applied Science. Post-doctoral fellows Chang-Hee Cho and Lambert van Vugt, also of the Materials Science Department, contributed to the study.

Nanomaterials in a Heart Beat

Heart disease is the leading cause of death. Once damaged by heart attack, cardiac muscle has very little capacity for self-repair and at present there are no clinical treatments available to repair damaged cardiac muscle tissue. Over the last 10 years, there has been tremendous interest in developing a cell-based therapy to address this problem. Since the use of a patient’s own heart cells is not a viable clinical option, many researchers are working to try to find an alternative source of cells that could be used for cardiac tissue repair. Stem cell scientists have capitalised on the electrical properties of a widely used nanomaterial to develop cells which may allow the regeneration of cardiac cells. The breakthrough has been led by a team of scientists at the Regenerative Medicine Institute (REMEDI) at the National University of Ireland Galway in conjunction with Trinity College Dublin.

The electrical properties of the nanomaterial triggered a response in the mesenchymal (adult) stem cells, which we sourced from human bone marrow. In effect, they became electrified, which made them morph into more cardiac-like cells”, explains Valerie Barron of REMEDI at National University of Ireland Galway. “This is a totally new approach and provides a ready-source of tailored cells, which have the potential to be used as a new clinical therapy. Excitingly, this symbiotic strategy lays the foundation stone for other electroactive tissue repair applications, and can be readily exploited for other clinically challenging areas such as in the brain and the spinal cord.


Revolutionary Ultrathin, Flat Lens

Applied physicists at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) have created an ultrathin, flat lens that focuses light without imparting the distortions of conventional lenses. At a mere 60 nanometers thick, the flat lens is essentially two-dimensional, yet its focusing power approaches the ultimate physical limit set by the laws of diffraction.
Operating at telecom wavelengths (i.e., the range commonly used in fiber-optic communications), the new device is completely scalable, from near-infrared to terahertz wavelengths, and simple to manufacture. The results have been published online in the journal Nano Letters.

A new ultrathin, flat lens focuses light without imparting the optical distortions of conventional lenses.

Our flat lens opens up a new type of technology,” says principal investigator Federico Capasso, Robert L. Wallace Professor of Applied Physics and Vinton Hayes Senior Research Fellow in Electrical Engineering at SEAS. “We’re presenting a new way of making lenses. Instead of creating phase delays as light propagates through the thickness of the material, you can create an instantaneous phase shift right at the surface of the lens. It’s extremely exciting.
This breakthrough could lead to smart phones as thin as a credit card. “In the future we can potentially replace all the bulk components in the majority of optical systems with just flat surfaces,” says lead author Francesco Aieta, a visiting graduate student from the Università Politecnica delle Marche in Italy. “It certainly captures the imagination.”


Non-Invasive Treatment For Deep Cancer

PhotoDynamic therapy (PDT) as a non-invasive treatment of cancer is limited by the penetration depth of visible light needed for its activation. A Bioengineering team from the National University of Singapore – NUS – led by Associate Professor Zhang Yong has invented a novel method which will pave the way for PDT to treat deep-seated cancer as well. The researchers also revealed how they have been able to control gene expression – the release of certain proteins in our body – using their nanoparticles which could convert NIR (Near Infrared) light to UV light (visible light needed for effective activation).
NIR is a safe light as opposed to UV light, which could cause damage to cells. NIR can also penetrate deeper into tissues to target tumours.

Near Infrared Light -NIR-, besides being non-toxic, is able to penetrate deeper into our tissues. When NIR reaches the desired places in the body of the patient, the nanoparticles which we have invented, are able to convert the NIR back to UV light (upconversion) to effectively activate the genes in the way desired – by controlling the amount of proteins expressed each time, when this should take place, as well as how long it should take place” explains Prof Zhang.


Google Glass Project Announces Nanocomputer’s Era

If you venture into a coffee shop in the coming months and see someone with a pair of futuristic glasses that look like a prop from Star Trek, don’t worry. It’s probably just a Google employee testing the company’s new augmented reality glasses. Instead, Glass looks like only the headband of a pair of glasses — the part that hooks on your ears and lies along your eyebrow line — with a small, transparent block positioned above and to the right of your right eye. That, of course, is a screen, and the Google Glass is actually a fairly full-blown computer.

click and enjoy the video demonstration

Or maybe like a smartphone that you never have to take out of your pocket. Inside the right earpiece — that is, the horizontal support that goes over your ear — Google has packed memory, a processor, a camera, speaker and microphone, a step toward the nanocomputer, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi antennas, accelerometer, gyroscope, compass and a battery. All inside the earpiece. Google has said that eventually, Glass will have a cellular radio, so it can get online; at this point, it hooks up wirelessly with your phone for an online connection. The tiny screen is completely invisible when you’re talking or driving or reading. You just forget about it completely. There’s nothing at all between your eyes and whatever, or whomever, you’re looking at. And yet when you do focus on the screen, shifting your gaze up and to the right, that tiny half-inch display is surprisingly immersive. It’s as though you’re looking at a big laptop screen or something.
Have a look on competitors (Apple, Microsoft, DARPA) similar projects on

28 Nanometer Processor Soon On The Market

The french company Kalray, based at Orsay in Paris suburbs, have announced the availability of first samples of the 28 nanometer (nm) MPPA 256 processor targeting embedded applications among them Imaging and signal processing, especially in the new augmented reality devices ( . This resulted from the 28nm development and production partnership established with Guc and TSMC, two foundry services providers.
First products to be ramped in volume will be processors for signal processing in an imaging application. Product qualification is scheduled for completion in Nov 2012.

The first MPPA 256 processor integrates 256 processors onto a single silicon chip. Nanometer is a metric unit of length equal to one billionth of a meter.

Created in 2008, KALRAY is a fabless semiconductor and software company that develops, markets & sells a new generation of manycore processors for Imaging, Telecommunication infrastructures, Data Security & Network Appliances embedded applications.
KALRAY ’s technology is called MPPA for Multi-Purpose Processor Array and has solved the major two challenges of multi-core processing: the energy efficiency as well as the software scalability.

Led by Joël Monnier, former vice president of STMicroelectronics, KALRAY employs 55 engineers and is backed by French investment funds, local funds, private investors, and OSEO, a French public-sector institution who finances innovative projects.

Invisible QR Codes

An invisible quick response (QR) code has been created by researchers in an attempt to increase security on printed documents and reduce the possibility of counterfeiting, a problem which costs governments and private industries billions of dollars each year. A team from the University of South Dakota and South Dakota School of Mines and Technology believe the new style of QR code could also be used to authenticate virtually any solid object.
The QR code is made of tiny nanoparticles that have been combined with blue and green fluorescence ink, which is invisible until illuminated with laser light. It is generated using computer-aided design (CAD) and printed onto a surface using an aerosol jet printer. The development process can be viewed in this video.

Enjoy the video:


How To Boost Hydrogen Production

Nanometer-scale structures consisting of cheap metal and oxide spheres were recently demonstrated as an excellent catalyst for a hydrogen-production reaction powered only by sunlight. The study was completed by Ming-Yong Han and his colleagues of the A*STAR Institute of Materials Research and Engineering, Singapore, working in collaboration with a team of researchers from Singapore and France. Hydrogen is crucial for the oil-refining industry and the production of essential chemicals such as the ammonia used in fertilizers. It may be also the future of the electric car. Since producing hydrogen is costly, scientists have long searched for alternative, energy-efficient methods to separate hydrogen atoms from abundant sources such as water.

Our work provides insight into mechanisms that will be useful for the future development of high-performance photocatalysts,” says Han. Indeed, Han and his co-workers were able to improve the efficiency of the hydrogen production even further: they increased the area of the metal-oxide interface by using larger gold nanoparticles.
The Janus particles were 100 times more efficient as a catalyst for hydrogen production than bare gold nanoparticles. Moreover, they were over one-and-a-half times better than another common type of plasmonic nanoparticle, core-shell particles, in which the oxide material forms a coating around the metal nanoparticle.