How To Detect Cancer With a Urine Test

Researchers centered at Nagoya University (Japan) develop a nanowire device able to detect microscopic levels of urinary markers potentially implicated in cancerCells communicate with each other through a number of different mechanisms. Some of these mechanisms are well-known: in animals, for example, predatory threats can drive the release of norepinephrine, a hormone that travels through the bloodstream and triggers heart and muscle cells to initiate a “fight-or-flight” response. A far less familiar mode of cellular transport is the extracellular vesicle (EV). EVs can be thought of as small “chunks” of a cell that are able to pinch off and circulate throughout the body to deliver messenger cargo to other cells. These messengers have become increasingly recognized as crucial mediators of cell-to-cell communication.

In a new study reported in Science Advances, researchers centered at Nagoya University have developed a novel medical device that can efficiently capture these EVs, and potentially use them to screen for cancer.


EVs are potentially useful as clinical markers. The composition of the molecules contained in an EV may provide a diagnostic signature for certain diseases,” lead author Takao Yasui explains. “The ongoing challenge for physicians in any field is to find a non-invasive diagnostic tool that allows them to monitor their patients on a regular basis–for example, a simple urine test.”

Among the many molecules EVs have been found to harbor are microRNAs, which are short pieces of ribonucleic acid that play diverse roles in normal cellular biology. Critically, the presence of certain microRNAs in urine might serve as a red flag for serious conditions such as bladder and prostate cancer. While this important cargo could therefore theoretically aid physicians in cancer diagnoses, there are still many technological hurdles that need to be overcome. One such hurdle: finding a feasible method to capture EVs in sufficient quantities to analyze them in a routine clinical setting.

The content of EVs in urine is extremely low, at less than 0.01% of the total fluid volume. This is a major barrier to their diagnostic utility,” Yasui notes. “Our solution was to embed zinc oxide nanowires into a specialized polymer to create a material that we believed would be highly efficient at capturing these vesicles. Our findings suggest that the device is indeed quite efficient. We obtained a collection rate of over 99%, surpassing ultracentrifugation as well as other methods that are currently being used in the field.


Nanowire Inks For Printable Electronics

By suspending tiny metal nanoparticles in liquids, Duke University scientists are brewing up conductive ink-jet printer “inks” to print inexpensive, customizable circuit patterns on just about any surfacePrinted electronics, which are already being used on a wide scale in devices such as the anti-theft radio frequency identification (RFID) tags you might find on the back of new DVDs, currently have one major drawback: for the circuits to work, they first have to be heated to melt all the nanoparticles together into a single conductive wire, making it impossible to print circuits on inexpensive plastics or paper. A new study by Duke researchers shows that tweaking the shape of the nanoparticles in the ink might just eliminate the need for heat.

By comparing the conductivity of films made from different shapes of silver nanostructures, the researchers found that electrons zip through films made of silver nanowires much easier than films made from other shapes, like nanospheres or microflakes. In fact, electrons flowed so easily through the nanowire films that they could function in printed circuits without the need to melt them all together.


The nanowires had a 4,000 times higher conductivity than the more commonly used silver nanoparticles that you would find in printed antennas for RFID tags,” said Benjamin Wiley, assistant professor of chemistry at Duke. “So if you use nanowires, then you don’t have to heat the printed circuits up to such high temperature and you can use cheaper plastics or paper.”

There is really nothing else I can think of besides these silver nanowires that you can just print and it’s simply conductive, without any post-processing,” Wiley added.

These types of printed electronics could have applications far beyond solar cells; researchers envision using the technology to make solar cells, printed displays, LEDS, touchscreens, amplifiers, batteries and even some implantable bio-electronic devices. The results appeared online Dec. 16 in ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces.


How To Increase Photovoltaic Efficiency

Researchers from the The Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) have built tiny “match-headwires that act as built-in light concentrators, enhancing solar cell efficiency.

Crystal growth on a nano/microscale level results in the formation of “match-head”-like, three-dimensional structures that enhance light absorption and photovoltaic efficiency. Match-head semiconductor nanowires focus incident light for greater overall efficiency. The match heads are naturally formed during the wire-growth process, which can be applied to various materials and structures for photonic and optoelectronic devices. This is the first large structure grown on a nanowire tip and it creates a completely new architecture for harnessing energy.

match-head(Left) Silicon wires with match heads and (right) light absorption profile of a single match-head wire at 587 nm absorption

Enhanced light absorption and efficient, photogenerated carrier collection are essential characteristics of highly efficient solar cells. Nanowires with embedded radial junctions are promising building blocks for highly efficient photovoltaics because of their ability to achieve these two characteristics. The new technology in this highlight provides a novel method for enhancing optical absorption and photovoltaic efficiency with crystal growth. Controlled silicon crystal growth on the tops of silicon wires creates a match-head structure. The match head acts as a light concentrator. Light absorptance was increased by 36% and photovoltaic efficiency was increased by 20%. Because the match-head crystal is naturally grown and minimizes surface energy, this technique is applicable for a wide range of materials and device architectures to boost performance. The ability to control the shape of the nanostructure is essential for manufacturing next-generation semiconductor devices, such as photodetectors and light emitters.


How To Remove All Nanomaterials From Water

Nano implies small—and that’s great for use in medical devices, beauty products and smartphones—but it’s also a problem. The tiny nanoparticles, nanowires, nanotubes and other nanomaterials that make up our technology eventually find their way into water. The Environmental Protection Agency says more 1,300 commercial products use some kind of nanomaterial. And we just don’t know the full impact on health and the environment.

Michigan Technological

Look at plastic,” says Yoke Khin Yap, a professor of physics at Michigan Technological University. “These materials changed the world over the past decades—but can we clean up all the plastic in the ocean? We struggle to clean up meter-scale plastics, so what happens when we need to clean on the nano-scale?”

That challenge is the focus of a new study co-authored by Yap, recently published in the American Chemical Society’s journal Applied Materials and Interfaces. Yap and his team found a novel—and very simple—way to remove nearly 100 percent of nanomaterials from water.


Yarns that store and release electrical power

Wearable electronic devices for health and fitness monitoring are a rapidly growing area of consumer electronics; one of their biggest limitations is the capacity of their tiny batteries to deliver enough power to transmit data. Now, researchers at MIT and in Canada have found a promising new approach to delivering the short but intense bursts of power needed by such small devices. The key is a new approach to making supercapacitors — devices that can store and release electrical power in such bursts, which are needed for brief transmissions of data from wearable devices such as heart-rate monitors, computers, or smartphones, the researchers say. They may also be useful for other applications where high power is needed in small volumes, such as autonomous microrobots.

The new approach uses yarns, made from nanowires of the element niobium, as the electrodes in tiny supercapacitors (which are essentially pairs of electrically conducting fibers with an insulator between). The concept is described in a paper in the journal ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces by MIT professor of mechanical engineering Ian W. Hunter, doctoral student Seyed M. Mirvakili, and three others at the University of British Columbia.

Nanotechnology researchers have been working to increase the performance of supercapacitors for the past decade. Among nanomaterials, carbon-based nanoparticles — such as carbon nanotubes and graphene — have shown promising results, but they suffer from relatively low electrical conductivity, Mirvakili says.

In this new work, he and his colleagues have shown that desirable characteristics for such devices, such as high power density, are not unique to carbon-based nanoparticles, and that niobium nanowire yarn is a promising an alternative.

MIT-Nanowires-1Yarn made of niobium nanowires, seen here in a scanning electron microscope image (background), can be used to make very efficient supercapacitors, MIT researchers have found. Adding a coating of a conductive polymer to the yarn (shown in pink, inset) further increases the capacitor’s charge capacity. Positive and negative ions in the material are depicted as blue and red spheres.

Imagine you’ve got some kind of wearable health-monitoring system,” Hunter says, “and it needs to broadcast data, for example using Wi-Fi, over a long distance.” At the moment, the coin-sized batteries used in many small electronic devices have very limited ability to deliver a lot of power at once, which is what such data transmissions need.

Long-distance Wi-Fi requires a fair amount of power,” says Hunter, the George N. Hatsopoulos Professor in Thermodynamics in MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, “but it may not be needed for very long.” Small batteries are generally poorly suited for such power needs, he adds.

We know it’s a problem experienced by a number of companies in the health-monitoring or exercise-monitoring space. So an alternative is to go to a combination of a battery and a capacitor,” Hunter says: the battery for long-term, low-power functions, and the capacitor for short bursts of high power. Such a combination should be able to either increase the range of the device, or — perhaps more important in the marketplace — to significantly reduce size requirements.


Silicon Valley Made in Sweden

A production facility for start-ups in the field of nanotechnology may be built in the Science Village in Lund, a world-class research and innovation village that is also home to ESS, the European Spallation Source.
The project originates from the successful research into nanowires at Lund University, which has resulted in nanotechnology companies like Glo AB and Sol Voltaics AB. Glo was forced to move to Silicon Valley, however, to launch large-scale mass production.

The infrastructure would be intended for companies and researchers in the whole of Sweden who want to develop products with industry standards without needing to invest in expensive equipment themselves.
nano industry
With this new facility, we want to create the conditions to enable new companies to develop from the R&D phase to full production, without needing to leave Sweden,” says Lars Samuelson, Professor of Nanophysics at Lund University.

Samuelson sees more business opportunities for nanowires. In addition to Glo’s light-emitting diodes and Sol Voltaicssolar cells, Lars Samuelson believes there is potential for new companies focused on applications within electronics, UV light-emitting diodes and biomedicine.

Alongside this project, Lund University is working to extend the Lund Nano Lab which is a pure research laboratory for research on nanowires. This is run by Lund University, whereas the industrial facility is a project outside the University. Together, these two initiatives constitute a way of generating the whole value chain from research to market.


How To Produce Warmth? Focus On People !

Scientists have developed a novel nanowire coating for clothes that can both generate heat and trap the heat from our bodies better than regular clothes.The technology could help us reduce our reliance on conventional energy sources, researchers said. Yi Cui from Stanford University and colleagues note that nearly half of global energy consumption goes towards heating buildings and homes. But this comfort comes with a considerable environmental cost. Scientists and policymakers have tried to improve insulation to keep fuel-generated warmth inside. Cui’s team wanted to take a different approach and focus on people.

warm cloth

Heat-based images show a conventional cloth glove (top) lets warmth escape while a nanowire glove traps it.

The researchers developed lightweight, breathable mesh materials that are flexible enough to coat normal clothes. When compared to regular clothing material, nanowire cloth trapped body heat far more effectively. They can also be actively warmed with an electricity source.

Scientists calculated that their thermal textiles could save about 1,000 kilowatt hours per person every year.


Implanted Nano Cyborgs For Monitoring Your Health

The debut of cyborgs who are part human and part machine may be a long way off, but researchers say they now may be getting closer. In a study published in ACS’ journal Nano Letters, they report development of a coating that makes nanoelectronics much more stable in conditions mimicking those in the human body. The advance could also aid in the development of very small implanted medical devices for monitoring health and disease.

Charles Lieber and colleagues note that nanoelectronic devices with nanowire components have unique abilities to probe and interface with living cells. They are much smaller than most implanted medical devices used today. For example, a pacemaker that regulates the heart is the size of a U.S. 50-cent coin, but nanoelectronics are so small that several hundred such devices would fit in the period at the end of this sentence. Laboratory versions made of silicon nanowires can detect disease biomarkers and even single virus cells, or record heart cells as they beat. Lieber’s team also has integrated nanoelectronics into living tissues in three dimensions — creating a “cyborg tissue.” One obstacle to the practical, long-term use of these devices is that they typically fall apart within weeks or days when implanted. In the current study, the researchers set out to make them much more stable.

They found that coating silicon nanowires with a metal oxide shell allowed nanowire devices to last for several months. This was in conditions that mimicked the temperature and composition of the inside of the human body. In preliminary studies, one shell material appears to extend the lifespan of nanoelectronics to about two years.


Nanowires concentrate15 Times Sun Light Intensity

Scientists from the Nano-Science Center at the Niels Bohr Institut, Denmark and the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland, have shown that a single nanowire can concentrate the sunlight up to 15 times of the normal sun light intensity. The results are surprising and the potential for developing a new type of highly efficient solar cells is great.

Due to some unique physical light absorption properties of nanowires, the limit of how much energy we can utilize from the sun’s rays is higher than previous believed. These results demonstrate the great potential of development of nanowire-based solar cells, says PhD Peter Krogstrup on the surprising discovery that is described in the journal Nature Photonics.

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


How to make grow nanowires

Nanowires — microscopic fibers that can be “grown” in the lab — are a hot research topic today, with a variety of potential applications including light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and sensors. Now, a team of MIT researchers has found a way of precisely controlling the width and composition of these tiny strands as they grow, making it possible to grow complex structures that are optimally designed for particular applications.

Nanowires fabricated using the new techniques developed by Silvija Gradečak and her team can have varying widths, profiles and composition along their lengths, as illustrated here, where different colors are used to indicate compositional variations. 

Silvija Gradečak, professor of materials science and engineering at the Massachusetts  Insitute of Technology, and her team,  were able to control and vary both the size and composition of individual wires as they grew. Nanowires are grown by using “seed” particles, metal nanoparticles that determine the size and composition of the nanowire. By adjusting the amount of gases used in growing the nanowires, Gradečak was  able to control the size and composition of the seed particles and, therefore, the nanowires as they grew. “We’re able to control both of these properties simultaneously,” she says.

The results are described in a new paper authored by Silvija Gradečak and her team, published in the journal Nano Letters.

How to Weld Nanowires With Light

One area of intensive research at the nanoscale is the creation of electrically conductive meshes made of metal nanowires. Promising exceptional electrical throughput, low cost and easy processing, engineers foresee a day when such meshes are common in new generations of touch-screens, video displays, light-emitting diodes and thin-film solar cells.At the heart of the technique is the physics of plasmonics, the interaction of light and metal in which the light flows across the surface of the metal in waves, like water on the beach.

When two nanowires lie crisscrossed, we know that light will generate plasmon waves at the place where the two nanowires meet, creating a hot spot. The beauty is that the hot spots exist only when the nanowires touch, not after they have fused. The welding stops itself. It’s self-limiting,” explained Mark Brongersma, an associate professor of materials science engineering at Stanford and an expert in plasmonics. Brongersma is one of the study’s senior authors.
The rest of the wires and, just as importantly, the underlying material are unaffected,” noted Michael McGehee, a materials engineer and also senior author of the paper. “This ability to heat with precision greatly increases the control, speed and energy efficiency of nanoscale welding.”