Posts Tagged ‘Nanotechnology’

Posted: January 5, 2013 by Wildcat in Uncategorized
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The concept of e-noses – electronic devices which mimic the olfactory systems of mammals and insects – is very intriguing to researchers involved in building better, cheaper and smaller sensor devices (read more: “Nanotechnology electronic noses”). Less well known is the fact that equivalent artificial sensors for taste – electronic tongues – are capable of recognizing dissolved substances (see for instance: “Electronic tongue identifies cava wines”). Conventional electronic tongues utilize pattern recognition for analysis using arrays of synthetic materials such as polymers, artificial membranes and semiconductors, for applications in the food and beverage industries. “Even with current technological advances, e-tongue approaches still cannot mimic the biological features of the human tongue with regard to identifying elusive analytes in complex mixtures, such as food and beverage products,” Tai Hyun Park, a professor in the School of Chemical and Biological Engineering at Seoul National University, tells Nanowerk. Park, together with Professor Jyongsik Jang and their collaborators, have now developed a human bitter-taste receptor as a nanobioelectronic tongue. Reporting their work in a recent issue of Nano Letters (“Human Taste Receptor-Functionalized Field Effect Transistor as a Human-Like Nanobioelectronic Tongue”), they utilized a human taste receptor as a sensing element for mimicking the human taste system and selective detection. (via Researchers develop a human-like nanobioelectronic tongue)

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1. Super Condoms Using a simple nano-fabrication technique called electro-spinning, researchers have successfully manufactured a fabric woven from sperm-blocking fibers knitted together with anti-HIV drug delivery fibers. The result is a female condom that prevents pregnancy, guards against HIV transmission, and then evaporates within hours or days depending on how it’s manufactured. It’s the world’s perfect condom, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has just given the researchers $1 million to manufacture them for a mass market.

2. Molecule Printers We already have 3D printers that can print out everything from toys to skin. And now a research group has figured out how to output the results of a CAD program to a printer that will build functional molecules piece-by-piece. This is an ideal way to create personalized medicine.

3. Stretchable Gold Why should circuit boards be brittle and stiff? Now they don’t have to be, because scientists have invented stretchable gold that can be printed onto rubber circuit boards. With circuits made of stretchable gold, you can bend and torque your devices as much as you want, or have a squeezy computer.

4. Artificial Muscles Carbon nanotubes are used in a lot of nanoscale devices and applications, and turning into an artificial muscle is just another of its amazing properties. When a carbon nanotube is dipped into charged solution, it absorbs ions, expanding and coiling up. And when it releases those ions, it uncoils in the other direction, stretching out. This motion — coiling and expanding, then uncoiling and stretching — emulates the action of a muscle. It means we’ve got a molecular outboard motor that can drive other molecules around. Coming soon to your blood vessels or oil spills everywhere!

5. Stain-repellant Fabric Coating Materials scientists working at the nano-scale with fabric aren’t just interested in condoms. They’re also making the next generation of water-resistant, unstainable clothing. This isn’t just cotton that is easy to wash. It actually “shrugs off” stains because it’s made of several nano-layers of positively and negatively charged films that actively repel everything from water to acids. Deadly chemicals might actually jump off your clothing.

6. Microscopic Drug Delivery Capsules One of the big problems with cancer treatment is that doctors want to deliver medicines to the precise region of your body where the cancer is active. Now, using nanoscale drug capsules, they can. Basically, the drugs are placed inside these nanoscopic capsules, which are attracted to the specific form of cancer the patient is suffering from. Once in range of the cancerous cells, the capsules unleash their medicine — leaving the cancer blighted, but the rest of your body unharmed. Eventually, we could even inject nanoscale machines into your body that would act as tiny pharmaceutical labs, using your body’s natural resources (from enzymes to proteins) to manufacture and deliver drugs.

7. Plastic that Bleeds and Heals Itself Self-healing materials, from concrete that fills in its own cracks to ship hulls that knit back together, are becoming commonplace in the nanofabrication era. One of the most uncanny examples of a self-healing material is a plastic that “bleeds” when it rips, using the extruded “blood” to repair damage and become whole again.

8. Electricity-Generating Viruses A team of researchers have figured out how to engineer viruses to convert pressure into electrical energy. Paint these viruses onto the bottom of your shoes and you could power up your smart phone. Or paint a dance floor with them and power your whole club.

8 Incredible Nanotechnologies that Actually Exist Today

Posted: November 13, 2012 by Wildcat in Uncategorized
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A new type of synthetic “skin” is the first material that can both sense subtle pressure and heal itself when torn or cut. The advance, described in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, could lead to smarter prosthetics or resilient personal electronics that repair themselves. In the last decade, there have been major advances in synthetic skin, says Zhenan Bao, the study’s principal investigator and a chemical engineering professor at Stanford University, but even the most effective self-healing materials had major drawbacks. Some had to be exposed to high temperatures, making them impractical for day-to-day use. Others could heal at room temperature, but repairing a cut changed their mechanical or chemical structure, so they could heal themselves only once. Most important, no self-healing material was a good bulk conductor of electricity, a crucial property. “To interface this kind of material with the digital world, ideally you want it to be conductive,” says Benjamin Chee-Keong Tee, a researcher on the project. (via Futurity.org – Self-healing plastic ‘skin’ feels touch)

Posted: September 14, 2012 by Wildcat in Uncategorized
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Scientists working to identify materials that could one day replace silicon in faster computers may have found one. In the journal Advanced Functional Materials, a research team reports they have synthesized nanowires made from vanadium oxide and lead. And these nanowires perform a rare trick: when exposed to an applied voltage near room temperature, the wires transform from insulators that are resistant to carrying electricity to metals that more readily conduct electricity. Each of these two states—insulator and metal—could stand for a 0 or 1 in the binary code that computers use to encode information, or for the “on” and “off” states that the machines use to make calculations. (via Futurity.org – Radical nanowires: Has silicon met its match?)

Posted: September 10, 2012 by Wildcat in Uncategorized
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Researchers at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) and Northwestern University have devised a simple, inexpensive system based on nanoparticles, a kind of nano-velcro, to detect and trap mercury dumped in lakes and rivers. The particles are covered with tiny hairs that can grab onto toxic heavy metals such as mercury and cadmium. This technology makes it possible to easily and inexpensively test for these substances in water and, more importantly, in the fish that we eat. Their new method can measure methyl mercury, the most common form of mercury pollution, at unprecedentedly small attomolar concentrations. The technology is simple to use: a strip of glass covered with a film of “hairy”nanoparticles is dipped into the water. When an ion — a positively charged particle, such as a methyl mercury or cadmium ion — gets in between two hairs, the hairs close up, trapping the pollutant. A voltage-measuring device reveals the result; the more ions there are trapped in the nano-velcro, the more electricity it will conduct. So to calculate the number of trapped particles, all one needs to do is measure the voltage across the nanostructure. By varying the length of the nano-hairs, the scientists can target a particular kind of pollutant. “The procedure is empirical,” explains EPFL’s Francesco Stellacci. Methyl mercury, fortunately, has properties that make it extremely easy to trap without accidentally trapping other substances at the same time; thus the results are very reliable. The reading glass strip could costs less than 10 dollars, while the measurement device will cost only a few hundreds of dollars. The analysis can be done in the field, so the results are immediately available. “With a conventional method, you have to send samples to the laboratory, and the analysis equipment costs several million dollars,” notes Stellacci. (via Nano-velcro used for fast, inexpensive testing of mercury levels | KurzweilAI)

Posted: July 31, 2012 by Wildcat in Uncategorized
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Just as radio antennas amplify the signals of our mobile phones and televisions, the same principle can apply to light. For the first time, researchers from CNRS and Aix Marseille Université have succeeded in producing a nanoantenna from short strands of DNA, two gold nanoparticles and a small fluorescent molecule that captures and emits light. This easy-to-handle optical antenna is described in an article published in Nature Communications on 17 July 2012. This work could in the longer term lead to the development of more efficient light-emitting diodes, more compact solar cells or even be used in quantum cryptography. (via Bio-inspired nanoantennas for light emission)

Posted: July 27, 2012 by Wildcat in Uncategorized
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Scientists have taken a new approach to creating coatings that heal themselves when they are damaged. The research could potentially have applications in scratch-resistant phones and cars that do not need to be cleaned. “Functional” coatings that repel water and dirt have previously been dogged by relatively short lifetimes. But the journal Advanced Materials reports that researchers have worked out how to increase their longevity. A major stumblingblock when applying these layers is that the smallest scratch can remove them, eradicating their special properties. It damages the nano-sized molecular groups that repel water and dirt, for example. But this problem could be overcome by making a coating with self-healing properties. Such self-healing materials mimic living organisms that can repair their tissues. Now, Prof Bert de With of the Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands and his colleagues have discovered a nano-structure solution to the problem. (via BBC News – Coating heals itself after damage)