Articles from August 2015



Nanotechnology Extends Our Lives

It has been speculated since long by futurists that nanotechnology will revolutionize virtually every field of our lives, medicine making no exception. Nanotechnology focuses on the engineering of materials and devices at a nanoscale, by using building blocks of atoms and molecules. Medical nanotechnology may be able to extend our lives in two ways. It can repair our bodies at the cellular level, reverse aging and providing a certain version of the fountain of youth, and it can help the medical community to eradicate life-threatening diseases such as stroke, heart attack, HIV or cancer.

By curing life-threatening disease, nanotech can extend the average lifespan far beyond the remarkable achievements of the last century. For instance, the nanotechnology applications in healthcare are likely to minimize the number of deaths from conditions such as heart disease and cancer over the next decade or so. There are already many research programs in place working on these techniques. Curing cancer could finally become reality, thanks to medical nanotech. Targeted chemotherapy methods based on nanotech use nanoparticle to deliver chemotherapy drugs.

gold nanoparticle structureA separate nanoparticle is used to guide the drug carrier directly to the cancer tumor. Gold nanorods can also be introduced in circulation through the bloodstream. Once they accumulate at the tumor site, they would concentrate the heat from an infrared light, heating up the tumor to a level where its cells die with minimal damage to the surrounding healthy cells.

This heat could also be used in order to increase the level of a stress related protein present on the tumor’s surface. Then a drug carrying liposome nanoparticles can be attached to amino acids that bind to this protein. This way, the accumulation of the liposome chemotherapy drug is speeded up by the increased level of protein at the tumor.

Magnetic nanoparticles attaching to cancer cells present in the bloodstream could also allow the removal of cancer cells before they establish new tumors.

Individual research programs like those mentioned above are in place at various private companies and universities. Similar research projects are in place for studying ways of fighting heart disease, another major killer in our time. For example, researchers at the University of Santa Barbara have designed a nanoparticle able to deliver drugs to the wall arteries plaqueExtending the average lifespan by repairing cells is another area of interest for medical nanotech. This is perhaps the most exciting application. Our bodies can be repaired at the cellular level by nanorobots. Such technologies are being under development already at various private companies and universities.

For instance, nanorobots might repair our DNA in our cells when it get damaged by toxins in our bodies or radiation. The Nanomedicine Center for Nucleoprotein Machines is studying protein-based biological machines (nano-robots) able to repair damage in our bodies and assist in DNA replication.

The Nanofactory Collorabation is an international group focused on developing the techniques for nanoscale precise manufacturing, The ability to work at this scale will allow manufacturing of unique materials and devices that will feature improved and novel properties.

Medical nanotech is also behind the new non-drug therapy called hyperthermia, which comes with the advantage of being non-toxic and with no harmful side effects. A 3D printer at nano-scale is able to manufacture new cancer drugs just by drag-and-dropping DNA. And the list of examples may continue for long. All these revolutionary medical advances are possible thanks to the emerging field of nanotechnology. They will change our lives forever.

Source: http://www.sciencetimes.com/

After Graphene, New 2D Materials To Play With

Dozens of new two-dimensional materials similar to graphene are now available, thanks to research from the University of Manchester (U.K.) scientists. These 2D crystals are capable of delivering designer materials with revolutionary new properties. The problem has been that the vast majority of these atomically thin 2D crystals are unstable in air, so react and decompose before their properties can be determined and their potential applications investigated.  By protecting the new reactive crystals with more stable 2D materials, such as , via computer control in a specially designed inert gas chamber environments, these materials can be successfully isolated to a single atomic layer for the first time.
2D materials

The team created devices to stablise 2D materials

Combining a range of 2D materials in thin stacks give scientists the opportunity to control the properties of the materials, which can allow ‘materials-to-order’ to meet the demands of industry.  High-frequency electronics for satellite communications, and light weight batteries for mobile energy storage are just two of the application areas that could benefit from this research. The breakthrough could allow for many more atomically thin materials to be studied separately as well as serve as building blocks for multilayer devices with such tailored properties.

The team, led by Dr Roman Gorbachev, used their unique fabrication method on two particular two-dimensional crystals that have generated intense scientific interest in the past 12 months but are unstable in air: black phosphorus and niobium diselenide. The technique the team have pioneered allows the unique characteristics and excellent electronic properties of these air-sensitive 2D crystals to be revealed for the first time.

The isolation of graphene in 2004 by a University of Manchester team lead by Sir Andre Geim and Sir Kostya Novoselov led to the discovery of a range of 2D materials, each with specific properties and qualities. Dr Gorbachev said: “This is an important breakthrough in the area of 2D materials research, as it allows us to dramatically increase the variety of materials that we can experiment with using our expanding 2D crystal toolbox”. The more materials we have to play with, the greater potential there is for creating applications that could revolutionise the way we live.” Sir Andre Geim added.

Writing in NanoLetters, the University of Manchester team demonstrate how tailored fabrication methods can make these previously inaccessible materials useful.

Source: http://www.manchester.ac.uk/

3D Printed Nano Fish Remove Toxins From Your Body

Nanoengineers at the University of California, San Diego used an innovative 3D printing technology they developed to manufacture multipurpose fish-shaped microrobots — called microfish — that swim around efficiently in liquids, are chemically powered by hydrogen peroxide and magnetically controlled. These proof-of-concept synthetic microfish will inspire a new generation of “smartmicrorobots that have diverse capabilities such as detoxification, sensing and directed drug delivery, researchers said.

3D nanofish3D-printed microfish contain functional nanoparticles that enable them to be self-propelled, chemically powered and magnetically steered. The microfish are also capable of removing and sensing toxins.
The technique used to fabricate the microfish provides numerous improvements over other methods traditionally employed to create microrobots with various locomotion mechanisms, such as microjet engines, microdrillers and microrockets. Most of these microrobots are incapable of performing more sophisticated tasks because they feature simple designs — such as spherical or cylindrical structures — and are made of homogeneous inorganic materials. In this new study, researchers demonstrated a simple way to create more complex microrobots.

By combining Professor Shaochen Chen’s 3D printing technology with Joseph Wang’s expertise in microrobots, the team from the NanoEngineering Department at the UC San Diego was able to custom-build microfish that can do more than simply swim around when placed in a solution containing hydrogen peroxide. Nanoengineers were able to easily add functional nanoparticles into certain parts of the microfish bodies. They installed platinum nanoparticles in the tails, which react with hydrogen peroxide to propel the microfish forward, and magnetic iron oxide nanoparticles in the heads, which allowed them to be steered with magnets.Schematic illustration of the process of functionalizing the microfish. Platinum nanoparticles are first loaded into the tail of the fish for propulsion via reaction with hydrogen peroxide. Next, iron oxide nanoparticles are loaded into the head of the fish for magnetic control.

We have developed an entirely new method to engineer nature-inspired microscopic swimmers that have complex geometric structures and are smaller than the width of a human hair. With this method, we can easily integrate different functions inside these tiny robotic swimmers for a broad spectrum of applications,” said the co-first author Wei Zhu, a nanoengineering Ph.D. student in Chen’s research group at the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego.
The research, led by Professors Shaochen Chen and Joseph Wang of the NanoEngineering Department at the UC San Diego, was published in the journal Advanced Materials.

Source: http://www.jacobsschool.ucsd.edu/

How To Repair Your Teeth Naturally

A trip to the dentist is something many people dread. If they spot a cavity, the usual course of action is an anaesthetic injection followed by the decay being drilled out and replaced with a filling.

smiling-girl
But the problem with that is, once you start in that cycle – fillings don’t last forever – so the fillings will need to be repaired and replaced. And you’re really in that cycle of repair and replacement for the rest of the tooth’s life,” says Dr. Rebecca Moazzez, clinical senior lecturer at  King’s College London.

But a new prototype dental treatment could help break this cycle, reversing the damage that could lead to cavities. British company Reminova have hit upon a way to speed up the process by which teeth naturally repair themselves.

Trying to supercharge a natural process, whereby this process called re-mineralisation that happens in your mouth all the time, and we’ve just found a way to make that a much faster process. Driving healthy calcium and phosphate minerals into your enamel, and through a natural process it will bind on and add to the enamel that’s there“,  explains Jeff Wright, CEO of  Reminova.

The patient’s tooth is first cleaned, and minerals applied to the lesion. A tiny electrical pulse is then applied which pushes the mineral ions into the cavity, triggering remineralisation from the deepest part of the lesion. It takes about as long as having a filling. But with no injections or drilling, the makers say, it’s completely painless. Dentists say it could be a useful tool – though tooth brushing and cleaning are still the best way to prevent cavities. Stopping decay in children’s teeth at an early age is also vital they say.

If you can prevent decay in children then they will become adults with no fillings, so that is a very key market… Also, if children have a better experience of going to the dentist, so they haven’t had necessary drilling and injections for routine fillings, then they’ll be much more positive in later life and probably become much more regular patients“, says Dr. Barry Quinn, consultant at King’s  College London.  Reminova are now looking for further investment before moving into clinical trials and turning their prototype into a device ready for dental surgeries.

Source; http://www.reuters.com/
A
ND
https://kclpure.kcl.ac.uk/

Biodegradable Nanoparticles For Harmless Pesticides

In this lab at North Carolina State University the future of keeping crops free of harmful bacteria is taking shape – albeit a very small shape. Researcher Alexander Richter is designing a new type of nanoparticle with lignin, an organic polymer found in almost all plants and trees, at its core. Currently, silver based nanoparticles are used in a wide range of pesticides to treat crops, but while silver has strong anti-microbial properties, its use is controversial.

nanoparticle

Their post-application activity when released into the environment was actually seen as a potential concern by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. This is because the particles may stay active after the application, they may translocate after the application, they may kill good bacteria in the environment, which is undesired” says Alexander Tichter.

Dr. Orlin Velev, Professor of  chemical and biomolecular engineering adds: “So the problem is how do you potentially remove that danger from engineered nanomaterials?” The answer was to use less silver and replace the metallic core with lignin, making the newly engineered particles biodegradable but still an effective weapon in tackling dangerous bacteria like e-coli.
Our idea, or our approach, was to see if we can, if this is the problem, we replace the metallic core, which doesn’t participate in microbial action, with a biodegradable core. And by doing so, we could actually make the nanoparticles keep their functionality but make them degradable while also reducing the amount of the silver core in the nanoparticle system“, explains Richter.  And that equates to safer fruits and vegetables that are treated with less with chemicals as they grow.
“We believe that this can lead to a new generation of agricultural treatment products, that they’re going to be more efficient, that they’re going to use less chemicals, and that they’re going to be more friendly toward the environment” says Dr. Yelev.
The team has started a company to take their research to the next level with the hopes of perfecting the technology, scaling it up, and preparing it for commercialization.

Source:  http://www.reuters.com/

How To Kill Intractable Pain

A team of scientists at Kyoto University‘s Institute for Integrated Cell-Material Sciences (iCeMS) in Japan, has developed a novel technique using tiny gold rods to target pain receptors.

Gold nanorods are tiny rods that are 1-100 nanometers wide and long. In comparison, a human hair is 100,000 nanometers wide. The team coated gold nanorods with a special type of protein that transports fat within the body known as a lipoprotein. This allowed the nanorods to bind efficiently to nerve cell membranes bearing a pain receptor called TRPV1 (transient receptor potential vanilloid type 1). Near-infrared light was then applied to the nanorod-coated pain receptors. The nanorods heated up, activating the pain receptors to allow an influx of calcium ions through the membrane. Prolonged activation of TRPV1 is known to subsequently lead to their desensitization, bringing pain relief. Importantly, heating the gold nanorods enabled safe activation of the TRPV1 pain receptors alone, without affecting the membrane in which they lie.

Previous studies had shown that magnetic nanoparticles (tiny particles in the nano-range made out of magnetic materials) are also able to activate TRPV1 receptors by applying a magnetic field. The target cells in this method, however, require genetic modification for it to work. Using lipoprotein-coated gold nanorods does not require genetic modification of the target cells. Also, the nanorods were found to have at least 1,000 times greater efficiency than magnetic nanoparticles in heat generation and in activating TRPV1 receptors.

pain killerThe gold nanorods can be retained in the body for a prolonged period,” says Tatsuya Murakami, the principal investigator of this study. “Local injection of our gold nanorods might enable repetitive and on-demand treatment for people experiencing intractable pain because prior genetic engineering of the target cells is unnecessary.”

The study was published in Angewandte Chemie International Edition on August 6th, 2015.

Source: http://www.icems.kyoto-u.ac.jp/

Black Phosphorus Instead Of Silicon

Silicon Valley in Northern California got its nickname from the multitude of computer chip manufacturers that sprung up in the surrounding area in the 1980’s.  Despite its ubiquity as a chip building material, silicon may be facing some competition from a new version of an old substance.

Researchers working at the Institute for Basic Science (IBS) Center for Integrated Nanostructure Physics at Sungkyunkwan University (SKKU) in South Korea, led in part by Director Young Hee Lee, have created a high performance transistor using black phosphorus (BP) which has revealed some fascinating results.

Transistors are made up of materials with semiconducting properties, which come in two varieties: n-type (excess electrons) and p-type (excess holes). With the BP crystal, researchers have discovered that they can change its thickness and/or the contact metals and that will determine if it is high performance n-type, p-type, or ambipolar (function as both n- or p-type) material.

Atomic structure of black phosphorus monolayer

Sibplicon has to be extrinsically doped (inserting another element into its crystal structure) to make it n-type or p-type in order for it to work in a semiconductor chip.   The BP crystals can operate as both n-type and p-type or something in between, but don’t require extrinsic doping.  This means that instead of having to fabricate a silicon-arsenic crystal sandwiched between silicon-boron crystals, a transistor can have a single, lightweight, pure black phosphorus logic chip — no doping required.

Additionally, changing the metals used to connect the chip to the circuit has an influence on whether BP will be n- or p-type.  Instead of doping to make an n- and p-type material, both n- and p-type BP can be put all together on one chip just by changing its thickness and the contact metal used.

Source: http://www.ibs.re.kr/

How To Remove Greenhouse Gas From the Air

Finding a technology to shift carbon dioxide (CO2), the most abundant anthropogenic greenhouse gas, from a climate change problem to a valuable commodity has long been a dream of many scientists and government officials. Now, a team of chemists says they have developed a technology to economically convert atmospheric CO2 directly into highly valued carbon nanofibers for industrial and consumer products.

carbon nanofibers

We have found a way to use atmospheric CO2 to produce high-yield carbon nanofibers,” says Stuart Licht, Ph.D., who leads a research team at George Washington University. “Such nanofibers are used to make strong carbon composites, such as those used in the Boeing Dreamliner, as well as in high-end sports equipment, wind turbine blades and a host of other products.

Previously, the researchers had made fertilizer and cement without emitting CO2, which they reported. Now, the team, which includes postdoctoral fellow Jiawen Ren, Ph.D., and graduate student Jessica Stuart, says their research could shift COfrom a global-warming problem to a feed stock for the manufacture of in-demand carbon nanofibers.

Licht calls his approach “diamonds from the sky.” That refers to carbon being the material that diamonds are made of, and also hints at the high value of the products, such as the carbon nanofibers that can be made from atmospheric carbon and oxygen.

A press conference on this topic will be held Wednesday, Aug. 19, at 9:30 a.m. Eastern time in the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center. Reporters may check-in at Room 153B in person, or watch live on YouTube. To ask questions online, sign in with a Google account.
Source: http://www.acs.org/
AND
http://home.gwu.edu/

How To Stay Dry Underwater For Months

Imagine staying dry underwater for months. Now Northwestern University engineers have examined a wide variety of surfaces that can do just that — and, better yet, they know why. The research team is the first to identify the ideal “roughness” needed in the texture of a surface to keep it dry for a long period of time when submerged in water. The valleys in the surface roughness typically need to be less than one micron in width, the researchers found. That’s really small — less than one millionth of a meter — but these nanoscopic valleys have macroscopic impact. Understanding how the surfaces deflect water so well means the valuable feature could be reproduced in other materials on a mass scale, potentially saving billions of dollars in a variety of industries, from antifouling surfaces for shipping to pipe coatings resulting in lower drag. That’s science and engineering, not serendipity, at work for the benefit of the economy.

Dry underwater

The trick is to use rough surfaces of the right chemistry and size to promote vapor formation, which we can use to our advantage,” said Neelesh A. Patankar, a professor of mechanical engineering in the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, who led the research. “When the valleys are less than one micron wide, pockets of water vapor or gas accumulate in them by underwater evaporation or effervescence, just like a drop of water evaporates without having to boil it. These gas pockets deflect water, keeping the surface dry,” he said.

In a study published today (Aug. 18) by the journal Scientific Reports, Patankar and his co-authors explain and demonstrate the nanoscale mechanics behind the phenomenon of staying dry underwater.

-Source: http://www.northwestern.edu/

Colon Cancer: 4 Coffees a Day Divide By 2 Death Rate

Colon cancer patients who were heavy coffee drinkers had a far lower risk of dying or having their cancer return than those who did not drink coffee, with significant benefits starting at two to three cups a day, a new study found. Patients who drank four cups of caffeinated coffee or more a day had half the rate of recurrence or death than noncoffee drinkers. But, the researchers caution, cancer patients should not start ordering extra tall coffees. The study, the first to report such findings, does not prove a cause-and-effect relationship between coffee drinking and a lower risk of colon cancer recurrence. As other experts note, there may be differences between heavy coffee drinkers and abstainers that the research was not able to account for.

In recent years, many studies have pointed to coffee’s health benefits, suggesting coffee may protect against Type 2 diabetes, reduce overall deaths and perhaps even help protect against dementia. Other studies have suggested coffee may reduce the risks of certain cancers, including colon cancer. The benefits are generally attributed to coffee’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. But as with many studies about diet, proving a link between coffee consumption and protection against cancer recurrence is difficult.

cup of coffee

Think about it: People who drink a lot of coffee tend to be high stress, high pressure, intense and compulsive,” said Dr. Alfred Neugut, a professor of cancer research, medicine and epidemiology at Columbia University and a director of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital’s Cancer Prevention Center. “If they have cancer, they’re going to be more obsessive about following all the rules and doing all the things they’re supposed to do. So it may be that coffee itself is playing a physiological role, but it may also be a surrogate marker for you being a compulsive health-conscious good behaver.”

 

Source: http://jco.ascopubs.org/
AND
http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/

Graphene Nanoribbons Boost Electronics

Graphene, an atom-thick material with extraordinary properties, is a promising candidate for the next generation of dramatically faster, more energy-efficient electronics. However, scientists have struggled to fabricate the material into ultra-narrow strips, called nanoribbons, that could enable the use of graphene in high-performance semiconductor electronics.

Now, University of Wisconsin-Madison engineers have discovered a way to grow graphene nanoribbons with desirable semiconducting properties directly on a conventional germanium semiconductor wafer. This advance could allow manufacturers to easily use graphene nanoribbons in hybrid integrated circuits, which promise to significantly boost the performance of next-generation electronic devices. The technology could also have specific uses in industrial and military applications, such as sensors that detect specific chemical and biological species and photonic devices that manipulate light.

In a paper published Aug. 10 in the journal Nature Communications, Michael Arnold, an associate professor of materials science and engineering at UW-Madison, Ph.D. student Robert Jacobberger, and their collaborators describe their new approach to producing graphene nanoribbons. Importantly, their technique can easily be scaled for mass production and is compatible with the prevailing infrastructure used in semiconductor processing.

graphene nanoribbonsProgressively zoomed-in images of graphene nanoribbons grown on germanium. The ribbons automatically align perpendicularly and naturally grow in what is known as the armchair edge configuration.

 

 

Graphene nanoribbons that can be grown directly on the surface of a semiconductor like germanium are more compatible with planar processing that’s used in the semiconductor industry, and so there would be less of a barrier to integrating these really excellent materials into electronics in the future,” Arnold says.

Source: http://news.wisc.edu/

Solar Power: Nanorods-based Perovskite Module

Research teams from the Universiti Malaysia Pahang and University of Rome ‘Tor Vergata’, Italy, have jointly developed a nanorod-based perovskite solar module. The scientists claimed that it is the world’s first such solar module, as the perovskite solar modules are not only more efficient but also showed remarkable and improved shelf life.

perovskite solar panelThe nanostructuring of the photoelectrode, the researchers say, brings about great improvement in stability compared with those cells without a scaffold layer. The nanorod-based solar modules retained their original efficiency values even after 2,500 hours of shelf-life investigation.

At the same time, devices employing a conventional TiO2 nanoparticle material showed nearly 60 percent of original performance, and planar devices employing a compact TiO2 layer showed under 5 percent of original performance. The three types of electron transport layers were measured under similar experimental conditions.

The team have determined that the peculiar conformation of nanorods facilitated a stable perovskite phase due to their inherent stability and macroporous nature.

Rajan Jose, the team leader from University Malaysia Pahang is a professor of physics in the Faculty of Industrial Science & Technology and has been working on nanomaterials for energy applications since 2008. He calls the findings a significant milestone in the field of nanotechnology.

According to Rajan, his team has solved a technology bottleneck for large-scale application of the technology by applying “precise laser treatment and via interfacial engineering”.

The team has  published the findings in the  online edition of ACS Nano,  titled Vertical TiO2 Nanorods as a Medium for Stable and High-Efficiency Perovskite Solar Modules.

Source: http://www.greentechlead.com/