NanoRobots With Grippers Travel Through the Bloodstream To Capture Cancer Cells

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used in a variety of applications, including microscopic actuators and grippers for surgical robots, light-powered micro-mirrors for optical telecommunications systems, and more efficient solar cells and photodetectors.

nanorobotsThis is a new area of science,” said Balaji Panchapakesan, associate professor of mechanical engineering at WPI and lead author of a paper about the new material published in Scientific Reports, an open access journal from the publishers of Nature. “Very few materials are able to convert photons directly into mechanical motion. In this paper, we present the first semiconductor nanocomposite material known to do so. It is a fascinating material that is also distinguished by its high strength and its enhanced optical absorption when placed under mechanical stress.”

Tiny grippers and actuators made with this material could be used on Mars rovers to capture fine dust particles.” Panchapakesan noted. “They could travel through the bloodstream on tiny robots to capture cancer cells or take minute tissue samples. The material could be used to make micro-actuators for rotating mirrors in optical telecommunications systems; they would operate strictly with light, and would require no other power source.”

Like other semiconductor materials, molybdenum disulfide, the material described in the Scientific Report paper, is characterized by the way electrons are arranged and move about within its atoms.


Smart Windows Control Light and Heat, Save Energy

View, previously Soladigm, is a Californian company working on the development of energy-saving smart windows based on electrochromism that can control light and heat while maintaining view and reducing glareView smart nanotechnology glass is now installed  in 250 commercial buildings.


Solar radiation and glare are reduced when the View glass is tinted, creating a comfortable indoor climate for occupants. By admitting natural daylight and rejecting unwanted solar glare, View Dynamic Glass significantly reduces annual energy costs. Control View Dynamic Glass from anywhere, create schedules, track energy efficiency and manage entire buildings with our mobile app.
View Dynamic Glass uses a proprietary electrochromic process to create smart glass in a world-class manufacturing facility. The best talent, equipment, and processes from the semiconductor, flat panel and solar industries produce dynamic glass in sizes up to 6 feet by 10 feet in many custom configurations. The factory combines leading-edge glass manufacturing with high technology processes and controls to deliver products that save energy, minimize heat and glare and allow occupants to enjoy the view to the outdoors. View Dynamic Glass is specified by architects for product performance, durability and energy savings.


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.


Bionic Particles To Turn Sunlight Into Fuel

Inspired by fictional cyborgs like Terminator, a team of researchers at the University of Michigan and the University of Pittsburgh has made the first bionic particles from semiconductors and proteins. These particles recreate the heart of the process that allows plants to turn sunlight into fuel.

Human endeavors to transform the energy of sunlight into biofuels using either artificial materials or whole organisms have low efficiency,” said Nicholas Kotov, the Florence B. Cejka Professor of Engineering at the University of Michigan, who led the experiment. A bionic approach could change that. The bionic particles blend the strengths of inorganic materials, which can readily convert light energy to electron energy, with biological molecules whose chemical functions have been highly developed through evolution. The team first designed the particles to combine cadmium telluride, a semiconductor commonly used in solar cells, with cytochrome C, a protein used by plants to transport electrons in photosynthesis. With this combination, the semiconductor can turn a ray from the sun into an electron, and the cytochrome C can pull that electron away for use in chemical reactions that could clean up pollution or produce fuel, for instance. U-M‘s Sharon Glotzer, the Stuart W. Churchill Professor of Chemical Engineering, who led the simulations, compares the self-assembly to the way that the surfaces of living cells form, using attractive forces that are strong at small scales but weaken as the structure grows. Kotov’s group confirmed that the semiconductor particles and proteins naturally assemble into larger particles, roughly 100 nanometers (0.0001 millimeters) in diameter.

We merged biological and inorganic in a way that leverages the attributes of both to get something better than either alone,” Glotzer said. Powered by electrons from the cytochrome C, the enzyme could remove oxygen from nitrate molecules. Like the structures that accomplish photosynthesis in plants, the bionic particles took a beating from handling the energy. Nature constantly renews these working parts in plants, and through self-assembly, the particles may also be able to renew themselves.

Recycling Rare Earth Elements

Scientists from the Fujian Institute of Research (China) have investigated the interaction and related mechanism between nanomaterials like self-supported flowerlike nano-Mg(OH)2 and low-concentration Rare Earth Elements (REE) wastewater. Treatment of wastewater containing low-concentration yet highly-expensive rare earth elements (REEs) is one of the vital issues in the REEs separation and refining industry. Many of today’s technologies, from hybrid car batteries to flat-screen televisions, rely on rare earth elements (REEs) that are in short supply. The new method is described in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.
Recycling REEs from wastewater not only saves rare earth resources and protects the environment, but also brings considerable economic benefits,” the researchers state. “The pilot-scale experiment indicated that the self-supported flower-like nano-Mg(OH)2 had great potential to recycle REEs from industrial wastewater.


Graphene Is The Solar Cells Future

Semiconductors grown on graphene at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) may be an important research breakthrough. At the centre of the research efforts are Professor Helge Weman, Professor Bjørn-Ove Fimland and post-doctoral fellow Dong-Chul Kim. The team is now working on translating the results of their basic research into an initial prototype. “Solar cell and LED technology will be the initial areas to see new products using semiconductors grown on graphene,” Dr Weman believes.

Under-priced fossil-fuel energy is the primary contributor to global warming. Sunlight is an alternative source with enormous potential, but solar energy will have to become less expensive and more efficient. Semiconductor nanowires based on graphene may just finally tip the scales in favour of solar energy.
graphene solar cells
If semiconductor nanowires grown on graphene are used in solar cells, the same amount of sunlight can be converted to energy using one-tenth the volume of materials used in thin-film solar cells. And that means we’ve cut down on even more material by growing the semiconductors on graphene instead of on a thick semiconductor substrate. New research also shows that graphene has additional unique properties that enhance the efficiency of a solar cell,” Dr Weman explains.“We are pioneers in that we are using graphene for something other than basic research. We may already have our first prototype in place by the end of 2013, but we don’t wish to reveal what it is yet,” Dr Weman says. “The field we are working with – using graphene as a replacement for silicon and other semiconductor substrates in electronics and solar cells – entails many new opportunities“.


Revolutionary Method To Convert Sunlight into Energy

A new method of harvesting the Sun’s energy is emerging, thanks to scientists at UC Santa Barbara‘s Departments of Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, and Materials. Though still in its infancy, the research promises to convert sunlight into energy using a process based on metals that are more robust than many of the semiconductors used in conventional methods.
When nanostructures, such as nanorods, of certain metals are exposed to visible light, the conduction electrons of the metal can be caused to oscillate collectively, absorbing a great deal of the light,” said Martin Moskovits, professor of chemistry at UCSB.. “This excitation is called a surface plasmon.
It is the first radically new and potentially workable alternative to semiconductor-based solar conversion devices to be developed in the past 70 years or so,” said Moskovits.

How to Extend Tenfold Integrated Circuit Battery Life

Researchers at Rochester Institute of Technology, international semiconductor consortium SEMATECH and Texas State University have demonstrated that use of new methods and materials for building integrated circuits can reduce power—extending battery life to 10 times longer for mobile applications compared to conventional transistors.
nano integrated circuits
“The tunneling field effect transistors have not yet demonstrated a sufficiently large drive current to make it a practical replacement for current transistor technology,” says Sean Rommel, an associate professor of electrical and microelectronic engineering. “But this work conclusively established the largest tunneling current ever experimentally demonstrated”, providing a practical basis for low-voltage transistor technologies.


The Smallest Transistor Ever to Be Built

Silicon’s crown is under threat: The semiconductor’s days as the king of microchips for computers and smart devices could be numbered, thanks to the development of the smallest transistor ever to be built from a rival material, indium gallium arsenide.

A cross-section transmission electron micrograph of the fabricated transistor. The central inverted V is the gate. The two molybdenum contacts on either side are the source and drain of the transistor. The channel is the indium gallium arsenide light color layer under the source, drain and gate.

The compound transistor, built by a team in MIT’s Microsystems Technology Laboratories, performs well despite being just 22 nanometers (billionths of a meter) in length. This makes it a promising candidate to eventually replace silicon in computing devices, says co-developer Jesús del Alamo, the Donner Professor of Science in MIT’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS), who built the transistor with EECS graduate student Jianqian Lin and Dimitri Antoniadis, the Ray and Maria Stata Professor of Electrical Engineering.

Machines Fabrication At Nanoscale

The fabrication of many objects, machines, and devices around us rely on the controlled deformation of metals by industrial processes such as bending, shearing, and stamping. Is this technology transferrable to nanoscale? Can we build similarly complex devices and machines with very small dimensions? Scientists from Aalto University in Finland and the University of Washington in the US have just demonstrated this to be possible. By combining ion processing and nanolithography they have managed to create complex three-dimensional structures at nanoscale. The discovery follows from a quest for understanding the irregular folding of metallic thin films after being processed by reactive ion etching.

We were puzzled by the strong-width-dependent curvatures in the metallic strips. Usually initially-strained bilayer metals do not curl up this way, explains Khattiya Chalapat from Aalto University.

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.

Graphene Change Radically The Semiconductor Industry

Norwegian University of Science and Technologie -NTNU- researchers have patented and are commercializing GaAs nanowires grown on graphene, a hybrid material with competitive properties. Semiconductors grown on graphene are expected to become the basis for new types of device systems, and could fundamentally change the semiconductor industry. The technology underpinning their approach has recently been described in a publication in the American research journal Nano Letters.

The new patented hybrid material offers excellent optoelectronic properties, says Professor Helge Weman, a professor at NTNU‘s Department of Electronics and Telecommunications, and CTO and co-founder of the company created to commercialize the research, CrayoNano AS. “We have managed to combine low cost, transparency and flexibility in our new electrode,” he adds.