Articles from July 2016

NanoTechnology Intellectual Property Worth $81 Million Stolen

Judicial authorities from Taiwan said that they have charged five men who allegedly stole intellectual property from a Tainan nanotechnology company and set up competing nanotechnology plants in China with breaching the Trade Secrets Act (營業秘密法). The Second Special Police Corp, under the National Police Agency, announced details of the investigation yesterday, saying it is the first investigation and prosecution under the act since it was implemented in 2013.

Police said that they detained three former Hsin Fang Nano Technology Co (新芳奈米科技) employees, including a former plant manager surnamed Chen (陳) and a production section chief surnamed Yu (尤), along with two other business associates.


The estimated financial loss to our company is about NT$2.6 billion [US$81.08 million]. We urge the government to crack down on intellectual property theft against Taiwanese businesses,” chairman Chang Jen-hung (張仁鴻) said.

Hsin Fang is a grinding mill machine manufacturer, which are used to produce ultra-fine nanopowders for use in pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, consumer electronics, health food, anti-radiation coating, military weapons and in other industrial applications.

Company officials said their nanopowder grinding mill, which incorporates an innovative “dry cryo-nanonization grinding system,” received a top award at a nanotechnology exhibition in Tokyo in 2012, and honors at other industry fairs in Taiwan and other countries. The investigation in 2014 followed reports that Chen, Yu and other former employees, backed by business associates, started a new company in Yunlin CountyUnicat Nano Advanced Materials & Devices Technology Co (環美凱特). Unicat Nano later moved to Chongqing, China, setting up nanotechnology businesses that, according to investigators, were based on intellectual property stolen from Hsin Fang by Chen, Yu and other former employees.


How To Replace Air Conditionning And Save Electricity Bill

A team of researchers from Institut Teknologi Maju (ITMA), Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) has succeeded in inventing a new system, known as Nanotechnology for Encapsulation of Phase Change Material (NPCM) that can bring down room temperature in buildings, thus minimising the use of air-conditioning or heating systems, and saving electricity bill.

skyscraper in the desertHead of research team, Prof. Dr. Mohd Zobir Hussein said the encapsulation technology could change material at nano-sized regime which is good for use as thermal energy storage media. “This NPCM method is the first of its kind in Malaysia that can absorb, store and release thermal heat when the surrounding temperature where the material is located is above or below melting temperature. These properties allow the phase change material to store the thermal energy when it melts and releases the energy when it solidifies,” he said.

If it is used as passive or active building component, it can help in controlling the internal building temperature fluctuations which will result in thermal-comfort buildings. This will reduce dependency of building occupants to air conditioning or heating systems and electricity consumption, indirectly reducing carbon dioxide emissionNPCM can be incorporated into cement or paint as active insulation materials and apply to the ceilings or walls of the buildings,” told Dr. Mohd Zobir Hussein  at a Press Conference during 2016 ITMA Innovation Day. He also said if it is incorporated into building components, it will not give any adverse effect to the structure integrity of the buildings.


Teeth: nanoparticles increase the efficiency of bacterial killing more than 5,000-fold

The bacteria that live in dental plaque and contribute to tooth decay often resist traditional antimicrobial treatment, as they can “hide within a sticky biofilm matrix, a glue-like polymer scaffold.

A new strategy conceived by University of Pennsylvania researchers took a more sophisticated approach. Instead of simply applying an antimicrobial to the teeth, they took advantage of the pH-sensitive and enzyme-like properties of iron-containing nanoparticles to catalyze the activity of hydrogen peroxide, a commonly used natural antiseptic. The activated hydrogen peroxide produced free radicals that were able to simultaneously degrade the biofilm matrix and kill the bacteria within, significantly reducing plaque and preventing the tooth decay, or cavities, in an animal model.

Beautiful woman smile. Dental health care clinic.Even using a very low concentration of hydrogen peroxide, the process was incredibly effective at disrupting the biofilm,” said Hyun (Michel) Koo, a professor in the Penn School of Dental Medicine’s Department of Orthodontics  and the senior author of the study, which was published in the journal Biomaterials. “Adding nanoparticles increased the efficiency of bacterial killing more than 5,000-fold.”



Remote-Controlled NanoRobots Move Like A Bacterium In The Body

For the past few years, scientists around the world have been studying ways to use miniature robots to better treat a variety of diseases. The robots are designed to enter the human body, where they can deliver drugs at specific locations or perform precise operations like clearing clogged-up arteries. By replacing invasive, often complicated surgery, they could optimize medicine.

medical robots

Scientist Selman Sakar from Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland  teamed up with Hen-Wei Huang and Bradley Nelson at ETHZ to develop a simple and versatile method for building such bio-inspired robots and equipping them with advanced features. They also created a platform for testing several robot designs and studying different modes of locomotion. Their work, published in Nature Communications, produced complex reconfigurable microrobots that can be manufactured with high throughput. They built an integrated manipulation platform that can remotely control the robots’ mobility with electromagnetic fields, and cause them to shape-shift using heat.

Unlike conventional robots, these microrobots are soft, flexible, and motor-less. They are made of a biocompatible hydrogel and magnetic nanoparticles. These nanoparticles have two functions. They give the microrobots their shape during the manufacturing process, and make them move and swim when an electromagnetic field is applied.

Building one of these nanorobots involves several steps. First, the nanoparticles are placed inside layers of a biocompatible hydrogel. Then an electromagnetic field is applied to orientate the nanoparticles at different parts of the robot, followed by a polymerization step to “solidify” the hydrogel. After this, the robot is placed in water where it folds in specific ways depending on the orientation of the nanoparticles inside the gel, to form the final overall 3D architecture of the nanorobot.

Once the final shape is achieved, an electromagnetic field is used to make the robot swim. Then, when heated, the robot changes shape and “unfolds”. This fabrication approach allowed the researchers to build microrobots that mimic the bacterium that causes African trypanosomiasis, otherwise known as sleeping sickness. This particular bacterium uses a flagellum for propulsion, but hides it away once inside a person’s bloodstream as a survival mechanism.

The researchers tested different microrobot designs to come up with one that imitates this behavior. The prototype robot presented in this work has a bacterium-like flagellum that enables it to swim. When heated with a laser, the flagellum wraps around the robot’s body and is “hidden”.


How To Hide An Object

Researchers from Queen Mary University of London (QMUL)’s School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science, worked with UK industry to demonstrate for the first time a practical cloaking device that allows curved surfaces to appear flat to electromagnetic waves.

While the research might not lead to the invisibility cloak made famous in J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter novels quite yet, this practical demonstration could result in a step-change in how antennas are tethered to their platform. It could allow for antennas in different shapes and sizes to be attached in awkward places and a wide variety of materials.
cloak in actionCo-author, Professor Yang Hao from  QMUL’s School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science, said: “The design is based upon transformation optics, a concept behind the idea of the invisibility cloak. Previous research has shown this technique working at one frequency. However, we can demonstrate that it works at a greater range of frequencies making it more useful for other engineering applications, such as nano-antennas and the aerospace industry.”

The researchers coated a curved surface, similar to the size of a tennis ball with a nanocomposite medium, which has seven distinct layers (called graded index nanocomposite) where the electric property of each layer varies depending on the position. The effect is to ‘cloak’ the object: such a structure can hide an object that would ordinarily have caused the wave to be scattered.

First author Dr Luigi La Spada also from QMUL’s School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science, said: “The study and manipulation of surface waves is the key to develop technological and industrial solutions in the design of real-life platforms, for different application fieldsWe demonstrated a practical possibility to use nanocomposites to control surface wave propagation through advanced additive manufacturing. Perhaps most importantly, the approach used can be applied to other physical phenomena that are described by wave equations, such as acoustics. For this reason, we believe that this work has a great industrial impact.”


Stamp Hard Disk For NanoComputer Contains All Books Ever Written

Every day, modern society creates more than a billion gigabytes of new data. To store all this data, it is increasingly important that each single bit occupies as little space as possible. A team of scientists at the Kavli Institute of Nanoscience at Delft University (Netherlands) managed to bring this reduction to the ultimate limit: they built a memory of 1 kilobyte (8,000 bits), where each bit is represented by the position of one single chlorine atom.
In 1959, physicist Richard Feynman challenged his colleagues to engineer the world at the smallest possible scale. In his famous lecture There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom, he speculated that if we had a platform allowing us to arrange individual atoms in an exact orderly pattern, it would be possible to store one piece of information per atom. To honor the visionary Feynman, Otte and his team now coded a section of Feynman’s lecture on an area 100 nanometers wide
Hard disk for nanocomputer

In theory, this storage density would allow all books ever created by humans to be written on a single post stamp”, says lead-scientist Sander Otte. They reached a storage density of 500 Terabits per square inch (Tbpsi), 500 times better than the best commercial hard disk currently available. His team reports on this memory in Nature Nanotechnology on Monday July 18.


Fighting Cancer: Targeting A Molecule In The Blood Vessels

Even as researchers design more-potent new cancer therapies, they face a major challenge in making sure the drugs affect tumors specifically without also harming normal cells. This obstacle has thwarted many promising treatments.

Now, researchers from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and Weill Cornell Medicine have devised an innovative strategy for addressing this problem. Rather than aiming directly at cancer cells, they are focusing on targeting a molecule in the blood vessels that feed tumors and using nanotechnology to deliver tiny particles that will stick to the target and unleash their payload of cancer drugs.

coverThis image depicts the protein P-selectin (red) in the blood vessels (green) in a metastatic lung tumor

We know that cancer cells in the blood can come into contact with P-selectin on blood vessel walls to stop them from circulating and to begin the formation of metastatic tumors,” said Dr. Daniel Heller, a molecular pharmacologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering and an assistant professor of pharmacology a at the Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences. “So in effect, we’re hacking into the metastatic process in order to intercept the cells and destroy the cancer.”

The target, a protein called P-selectin, serves as a kind of molecular Velcro for cancer treatments. It is especially prevalent in blood vessels that nourish cancer itself — including metastatic tumors, which cause roughly 90 percent of cancer deaths and are especially hard to treat.

The ability to target drugs to metastatic tumors would greatly improve their effectiveness and be a major advance for cancer treatments,” said lead author Dr. Yosi Shamay, a research fellow in Dr. Heller’s laboratory at Memorial Sloan Kettering.
Dr. Heller’s laboratory investigates the use of nanoparticles — tiny objects with diameters one thousandth that of a human hair — to carry drugs to tumors. The drugs are encapsulated within the nanoparticles, which must home in on a target within or near tumors to deliver the therapies effectively.
Dr. Shamay made the nanoparticles out of a very abundant and cheap substance called fucoidan, which is extracted from brown algae that grows in the ocean. Fucoidan has a natural affinity for P-selectin, so the nanoparticle is simple to make and adapt.

It’s difficult to develop a nanoparticle-based treatment that is effective and safe in lots of people,” Dr. Heller said. “You usually have to load both the drug and another component to the nanoparticle to enable the nanoparticle to bind to the correct spot — and any new element carries the potential to be toxic. But in this case, the nanoparticle itself is made of material that naturally attaches to the target”.

The researchers described this method in a study published June 29 and featured on the cover of Science Translational Medicine.


How To Save The Bees

It’s a global phenomenon that worries beekeepers and environmentalistshoney bee colonies dying at an alarming rate. Here in Poland, bee population has halved in the past 15 years. A disease called nosemosis is one cause.


Nosemosis is a very serious disease which shortens the bees’ lifespan. Infected worker bees live for a very short time in the summer, about 8 to 12 days, while they normally live 36 days. So the productivity of the whole bee family decreases and bees also have problems with passing the winter“, says Aneta Ptaszinska from the Maria-Curie Sklodowska University in Lublin (UMCS – Poland).

Nosema disease, or nosemosis is a honey bee gut disease caused by microscopic fungi that spread through food or water. When consumed it attacks the insects’ intestines, causing them to constantly search for food and eventually die in the process. Some studies blame pesticides for having a negative influence on the bees’ immune system, which then cannot fight off the fungi. But Ptaszynska says a new drug developed by her team strengthens the immune system to help beat the disease.

On one hand they decrease the level of Nosemosis, we can clearly observe a decrease in the number of spores in the intestines of bees given the extracts. On the other hand, they increase the level of enzymes responsible for the immunological reaction of the insects, enzymes which recognize pathogens, foreign bodies. We assume that in this way the extracts help the bees overcome this disease“, comments Dr. Ptaszinska.  She adds that the floral extract is safe for human consumption, and is effective in more than 90 percent of cases. Bees are vital for the world’s food supply, pollinating the vegetables and fruits we eat and those eaten by the animals we then consume. The drug is undergoing patenting procedures, and the team hopes that it creates enough buzz to find the right partners for production and distribution soon.


How To Turn CO2 Into Rock

An international team of scientists have found a potentially viable way to remove anthropogenic (caused or influenced by humans) carbon dioxide emissions from the atmosphereturn it into rock.

The study, published today in Science, has shown for the first time that the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) can be permanently and rapidly locked away from the atmosphere, by injecting it into volcanic bedrock. The CO2 reacts with the surrounding rock, forming environmentally benign minerals.


Measures to tackle the problem of increasing greenhouse gas emissions and resultant climate change are numerous. One approach is Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), where CO2 is physically removed from the atmosphere and trapped underground. Geoengineers have long explored the possibility of sealing CO2 gas in voids underground, such as in abandoned oil and gas reservoirs, but these are susceptible to leakage. So attention has now turned to the mineralisation of carbon to permanently dispose of CO2.

Until now it was thought that this process would take several hundreds to thousands of years and is therefore not a practical option. But the current study – led by Columbia University, University of Iceland, University of Toulouse and Reykjavik Energy – has demonstrated that it can take as little as two years.

Lead author Dr Juerg Matter, Associate Professor in Geoengineering at the University of Southampton, says: “Our results show that between 95 and 98 per cent of the injected CO2 was mineralised over the period of less than two years, which is amazingly fast.”

Carbonate minerals do not leak out of the ground, thus our newly developed method results in permanent and environmentally friendly storage of CO2 emissions,” adds Dr Matter, who is also a member of the University’s Southampton Marine and Maritime Institute and Adjunct Senior Scientist at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory Columbia University. “On the other hand, basalt is one of the most common rock type on Earth, potentially providing one of the largest CO2 storage capacity.

Storing CO2 as carbonate minerals significantly enhances storage security which should improve public acceptance of Carbon Capture and Storage as a climate change mitigation technology,” says Dr Matter. “The overall scale of our study was relatively small. So, the obvious next step for CarbFix is to upscale CO2 storage in basalt. This is currently happening at Reykjavik Energy’s Hellisheidi geothermal power plant, where up to 5,000 tonnes of CO2 per year are captured and stored in a basaltic reservoir.”


3D Nano-structured Porous Electrodes Boost Batteries

Battery-life is increasingly the sticking point of technological progress.The latest electric vehicles can practically drive themselve, but only for so long. Outback energy woes look like they could be solved by solar and home energy storage, if the available batteries can be improved. And what about the Pokemon GO players, cutting hunting trips short due to the battery-sapping requirements of the app?

The solution could come from Sunshine Coast nanotechnology company Nano Nouvelle, which is developing a three-dimensional, nano-structured, porous electrode that it says will help overcome the limitations of today’s batteries.The company announced today that its ‘Nanodenanomaterials were being tested and trialled by two unnamed US specialist battery manufacturers.


CEO Stephanie Moroz said she hoped the profile of the trials would lead to wider adoption.“As Tesla proved with its Roadster EV sportscar, this sort of low-volume, high-margin starting point can provide a high visibility platform to demonstrate the benefits of innovative technology, which can accelerate its adoption by mass market manufacturers.”

Nano Nouvelle’s core technology, the Nanode uses tin as the electrode material, which has a much higher energy density than the current graphite technology. However, until now tin’s commercial use had been limited due to its tendency to swell during charging and subsequently lose energy.

This issue is overcome by the Nanode’s structure, made up of thin films of active material spread over a 3D and porous network of fibres, rather than stacked on a flat copper foil.

This enables the electrode structure to deal with the volume expansion of the tin while retaining dimensional stability at the electrode level. The result is batteries that can store the same amount of energy in a smaller volume, compared to commercial lithium ion batteries.

Moroz said she believed the nanotechnology could be easily incorporated into the existing battery manufacturing process. Moroz said she believed the nanotechnology could be easily incorporated into the existing battery manufacturing process.

We’re looking to make it plug and play for battery manufacturers,” she said.


One Molecule Plays David Against The Goliath Of Aging

Are pomegranates really the superfood we’ve been led to believe will counteract the aging process? Up to now, scientific proof has been fairly weak. And some controversial marketing tactics have led to skepticism as well. A team of scientists from Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland and the company Amazentis wanted to explore the issue by taking a closer look at the secrets of this plump pink fruit. They discovered that a molecule in pomegranates, transformed by microbes in the gut, enables muscle cells to protect themselves against one of the major causes of aging. In nematodes and rodents, the effect is nothing short of amazing. Human clinical trials are currently underway, but these initial findings have already been published in the journal Nature Medicine. 


As we age, our cells increasingly struggle to recycle their powerhouses. Called mitochondria, these inner compartments are no longer able to carry out their vital function, thus accumulate in the cell. This degradation affects the health of many tissues, including muscles, which gradually weaken over the years. A buildup of dysfunctional mitochondria is also suspected of playing a role in other diseases of aging, such as Parkinson’s disease.
The scientists identified a molecule that, all by itself, managed to re-establish the cell’s ability to recycle the components of the defective mitochondria: urolithin A. “It’s the only known molecule that can relaunch the mitochondrial clean-up process, otherwise known as mitophagy,” says Patrick Aebischer, co-author on the study. “It’s a completely natural substance, and its effect is powerful and measurable.”

The team started out by testing their hypothesis on the usual suspect: the nematode C. elegans. It’s a favorite test subject among aging experts, because after just 8-10 days it’s already considered elderly. The lifespan of worms exposed to urolithin A increased by more than 45% compared with the control group.

These initial encouraging results led the team to test the molecule on animals that have more in common with humans. In the rodent studies, like with C. elegans, a significant reduction in the number of mitochondria was observed, indicating that a robust cellular recycling process was taking place. Older mice, around two years of age, showed 42% better endurance while running than equally old mice in the control group.

According to study co-author Johan Auwerx, it would be surprising if urolithin A weren’t effective in humans. “Species that are evolutionarily quite distant, such as C elegans and the rat, react to the same substance in the same way. That’s a good indication that we’re touching here on an essential mechanism in living organisms.”

Urolithin A’s function is the product of tens of millions of years of parallel evolution between plants, bacteria and animals. According to Chris Rinsch, co-author and CEO of Amazentis, this evolutionary process explains the molecule’s effectiveness: “Precursors to urolithin A are found not only in pomegranates, but also in smaller amounts in many nuts and berries. Yet for it to be produced in our intestines, the bacteria must be able to break down what we’re eating. When, via digestion, a substance is produced that is of benefit to us, natural selection favors both the bacteria involved and their host. Our objective is to follow strict clinical validations, so that everyone can benefit from the result of these millions of years of evolution.”



Nanocomputer: How To Grow Atomically Thin Transistors

In an advance that helps pave the way for next-generation electronics and computing technologies—and possibly paper-thin gadgets —scientists with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) developed a way to chemically assemble transistors and circuits that are only a few atoms thick. What’s more, their method yields functional structures at a scale large enough to begin thinking about real-world applications and commercial scalability“This is a big step toward a scalable and repeatable way to build atomically thin electronics or pack more computing power in a smaller area,” says Xiang Zhang*, a senior scientist in Berkeley Lab’s Materials Sciences Division who led the study.

Their work is part of a new wave of research aimed at keeping pace with Moore’s Law, which holds that the number of transistors in an integrated circuit doubles approximately every two years. In order to keep this pace, scientists predict that integrated electronics will soon require transistors that measure less than ten nanometers in length (nanocomputer). Transistors are electronic switches, so they need to be able to turn on and off, which is a characteristic of semiconductors. However, at the nanometer scale, silicon transistors likely won’t be a good option. That’s because silicon is a bulk material, and as electronics made from silicon become smaller and smaller, their performance as switches dramatically decreases, which is a major roadblock for future electronics.

Researchers have looked to two-dimensional crystals that are only one molecule thick as alternative materials to keep up with Moore’s Law. These crystals aren’t subject to the constraints of silicon. In this vein, the Berkeley Lab scientists developed a way to seed a single-layered semiconductor, in this case the TMDC molybdenum disulfide (MoS2), into channels lithographically etched within a sheet of conducting graphene. The two atomic sheets meet to form nanometer-scale junctions that enable graphene to efficiently inject current into the MoS2. These junctions make atomically thin transistors.

assembly of 2D crystals
This schematic shows the chemical assembly of two-dimensional crystals. Graphene is first etched into channels and the TMDC molybdenum disulfide (MoS2) begins to nucleate around the edges and within the channel. On the edges, MoS2 slightly overlaps on top of the graphene. Finally, further growth results in MoS2 completely filling the channels.

This approach allows for the chemical assembly of electronic circuits, using two-dimensional materials, which show improved performance compared to using traditional metals to inject current into TMDCs,” says Mervin Zhao, a lead author and Ph.D. student in Zhang’s group at Berkeley Lab and UC Berkeley.

Optical and electron microscopy images, and spectroscopic mapping, confirmed various aspects related to the successful formation and functionality of the two-dimensional transistors. In addition, the scientists demonstrated the applicability of the structure by assembling it into the logic circuitry of an inverter. This further underscores the technology’s ability to lay the foundation for a chemically assembled atomic computer or nanocomputer, the scientists say. “Both of these two-dimensional crystals have been synthesized in the wafer scale in a way that is compatible with current semiconductor manufacturing. By integrating our technique with other growth systems, it’s possible that future computing can be done completely with atomically thin crystals,” says Zhao.

*Zhang also holds the Ernest S. Kuh Endowed Chair at the University of California (UC) Berkeley and is a member of the Kavli Energy NanoSciences Institute at Berkeley. Other scientists who contributed to the research include Mervin Zhao, Yu Ye, Yang Xia, Hanyu Zhu, Siqi Wang, and Yuan Wang from UC Berkeley as well as Yimo Han and David Muller from Cornell University.