NanoCar Race

The NanoCar Race is an event in which molecular machines compete on a nano-sized racetrack. These “NanoCars” or molecule-cars can have real wheels, an actual chassis…and are propelled by the energy of electric pulses! Nothing is visible to the naked eye, however a unique microscope located in Toulouse (France) will make it possible to follow the race. A genuine scientific prowess and international human adventure, the race is a one-off event, and will be broadcast live on the web, as well as at the Quai des Savoirs, science center in Toulouse.


The NanoCar race takes place on a very small scale, that of molecules and atoms: the nano scale…as in nanometer! A nanometer is a billionth of a meter, or 0.000000001 meters or 10 -9 m. In short, it is 500,000 times thinner then a line drawn by a ball point pen; 30,000 times thinner than the width of a hair; 100 times smaller than a DNA molecule; 4 atoms of silicon lined up next to one another.

A very powerful microscope is necessary to observe molecules and atoms: the scanning tunneling microscope (STM) makes this possible, and it is also responsible for propelling the NanoCars. The scanning tunneling microscope was invented in 1981 by Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer, and earned them the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1986. The tunnel effect is a phenomenon in quantum mechanics: using a tip and an electric current, the microscope will use this phenomenon to determine the electric conductance between the tip and the surface, in other words the amount of current that is passing through.

nanocar in movement Screening provides an electronic map of the surface and of each atom or molecule placed on it.At the CNRS‘s Centre d’élaboration de matériaux et d’études structurales (CEMES) in Toulouse, it is the one of a kind STM microscope that makes the race possible: the equivalent of four scanning tunneling microscopes, this device is the only one able to simultaneously and independently map four sections of the track in real time, thanks to its four tungsten tips.


How To Eradicate Undetectable HIV Cells

French researchers have identified a marker that makes it possible to differentiate “dormantHIVinfected cells from healthy cells. This discovery will make it possible to isolate and analyze reservoir cells which, by silently hosting the virus, are responsible for its persistence even among patients receiving antiviral treatment, whose viral load is undetectable. It offers new therapeutic strategies for targeting infected cells. This research is part of the ANRS strategic program “Réservoirs du VIH”.

HIV detection

Since 1996, there has been consensus among the scientific community that a cure for HIV will involve targetingreservoir cells” that host the virus in the organisms of patients undergoing triple therapy. HIV can remain hidden in these reservoirs, in latent form, for several decades, eluding the immune system’s response and antiviral treatments, without any viral protein being expressed. But if treatment ceases, the virus massively proliferates and the disease progresses again. Patients must therefore receive treatment for life. To envisage eliminating this dormant virus, a first stage consists in distinguishing the HIV-infected reservoir cells from their healthy counterpart cells, which resemble them to a very large degree. This is what has been achieved by a team of researchers, who have identified a marker of reservoir cells: a protein present only on the surface of infected cells.

Hypothesizing that HIV might leave a mark on the surface of its host cell, researchers from the Institut de génétique humaine (CNRS/Montpellier University) first worked in vitro on an infection model developed in their laboratory. After comparing infected cells and healthy cells, they noticed one particular protein, coded by a gene among the hundred of those expressed in a specific way by infected cells. Present only on the surface of the infected cells, the CD32a protein thus met, in vitro, the criteria of a reservoir cell marker. This was then confirmed by experiments on clinical samples. By studying blood samples from 12 patients living with HIV and receiving treatment, the researchers isolated the cells expressing the marker and observed that almost all were HIV carriers. In vitro, the activation of these cells induced a production of viruses capable of reinfecting healthy cells whereas their elimination entailed a significant delay in viral production.

The findings are the result of a collaboration between the CNRS, Montpellier University, Inserm, the Institut Pasteur, the Henri-Mondor AP-HP hospital in Créteil, the Gui de Chauliac hospital (CHU de Montpellier) and the VRI (Vaccine Research Institute), and is published in the journal Nature on March 15, 2017. A patent owned by the CNRS has been filed for the diagnostic and therapeutic use of the identified marker.


Less Than One Percent of Nanotubes Pass The Pulmonary Barrier

Having perfected an isotope labeling method allowing extremely sensitive detection
of carbon nanotubes in living organisms, CEA and CNRS  researchers have looked at what happens to nanotubes after one year inside
an animal.
Studies in mice revealed that a very small  percentage (0.75%of  the  initial  quantity of  nanotubes  inhaled  crossed  the pulmonary epithelial barrier  and translocated to the  liverspleen,  and  bone  marrow.

Although  these  results  cannot  be  extrapolated  to  humans,  this  work
highlights  the importance  of  developing  ultrasensitive  methods  for 
  the  behavior of nanoparticles in animals.


Carbon  nanotubes  are  highly  specific  nanoparticles  with  outstanding mechanical and electronic properties that make them suitable for use in a wide
range of applications, from structural materials to certain electronic components.
Their many present and future uses explain why research teams around the world
are now focusing on their impact on human health and the environment.

The findings  have been published in the journal ACSNano.
CEA and CNRS are located in Paris, France.


How To Close Deep Wounds In A Few Seconds

A significant breakthrough could revolutionize surgical practice and regenerative medicine. A team led by Ludwik Leibler from the Laboratoire Matière Molle et Chimie (CNRS/ESPCI Paris Tech) and Didier Letourneur from the Laboratoire Recherche Vasculaire Translationnelle (INSERM/Université Paris Diderot and Université Paris 13) – France -, has just demonstrated that the principle of adhesion by aqueous solutions of nanoparticles can be used in vivo to repair soft-tissue organs and tissues.

This easy-to-use gluing method has been tested on rats. When applied to skin, it closes deep wounds in a few seconds and provides aesthetic, high quality healing. It has also been shown to successfully repair organs that are difficult to suture, such as the liver. Finally, this solution has made it possible to attach a medical device to a beating heart, demonstrating the method’s potential for delivering drugs and strengthening tissues.
This work has been published on the website of the journal Angewandte Chemie.

Nano-Machines Mimic Human Muscle

Nature manufactures numerous machines known as “molecular”. Highly complex assemblies of proteins, they are involved in essential functions of living beings such as the transport of ions, the synthesis of ATP (the “energy molecule”), and cell division. Our muscles are thus controlled by the coordinated movement of these thousands of protein nano-machines, which only function individually over distances of the order of a nanometer. However, when combined in their thousands, such nano-machines amplify this telescopic movement until they reach our scale and do so in a perfectly coordinated manner.
For the first time, an assembly of thousands of nano-machines capable of producing a coordinated contraction movement extending up to around ten micrometers – thereby amplifying the movement by a factor of 10,000, like the movements of muscular fibers, has been synthesized by a CNRS team from the Institut Charles Sadron – France.

This discovery opens up perspectives for a multitude of applications in robotics, in nanotechnology for the storage of information, in the medical field for the synthesis of artificial muscles or in the design of other materials incorporating nano-machines (endowed with novel mechanical properties).

Detection device 1000 times more powerfull

Imitating the antennas of the silkmoth to design a system for detecting explosives with unparalleled performance. Made up of a silicon microcantilever bearing nearly 500,000 aligned titanium dioxide nanotubes, this device is capable of detecting concentrations of trinitrotoluene (TNT) of around 800 ppq (1) (i.e. 800 molecules of explosive per 10^15 molecules of air), thereby improving one thousand-fold the detection limit attainable until now. This innovative concept could also be used to detect drugs, toxic agents and traces of organic pollutants. This work was published on May 29 2012 in the journal Angewandte Chemie.


Research and development work is still necessary before an easy-to-use device based on these  nanostructured levers can be obtained. Let's remind that earlier this year a team from Nederlands used the Cricket to build nanostructured  ultra sensitive antennas.
Research is led  by a team from the "Nanomatériaux pour Systèmes sous Sollicitations Extrêmes" unit (CNRS / Institut Franco-Allemand de Recherches de Saint-Louis), in collaboration with the Laboratoire des Matériaux, Surfaces et Procédés pour la Catalyse (CNRS / Université de Strasbourg), FRANCE.


6 Tbits USB Key

The development of a new combination of polymers associating sugars with oil-based  macromolecules makes it possible to design ultra-thin films capable of self-organization with a 5-nanometer resolution. This opens up new horizons for increasing the capacity of hard discs and the speed of microprocessors. The result of a French-American collaboration spearheaded by the Centre de Recherches sur les Macromolécules Végétales (CNRS- Paris, France),  this work has led to the filing of two patents. This new class of thin films based on hybrid copolymers could give rise to numerous applications in flexible eclectronics, in areas as diverse as nanolithography, biosensors and photovoltaic cells.

This new generation of material is made from an abundant, renewable and biodegradable resource: sugar. Scientists envisage numerous applications in flexible electronics:  miniaturization of circuit lithography, six-fold increase in information storage capacity (flash memories – USB keys – no longer limited to 1 Tbit of data but 6 Tbit), enhanced performance of photovoltaic cells, biosensors,