10 Unconventional Uses Of Nanotechnology ~ “Great Things from Small Things” ~ An Irish Blessing for 2015


1-Ceramics New-Featherweight-Champion-Nano-Ceramics_heroIt’s hard to envision the future without the presence of nanotechnologies. Manipulating matter at an atomic and sub-molecular level has paved the way for major breakthroughs in chemistry, biology, and medicine. Yet, the unfolding applications of nanotechnology are far broader and more diverse than what we’ve imagined.

 

10. FILM MAKING

Without the invention of the scanning tunneling microscope (STM) in the 1980s, the field of nanotechnology might have remained science fiction. With its atomic precision the STM has enabled physicists to study the structure of matter in a way that was impossible with conventional microscopes.

The astonishing potential of STM was demonstrated by researchers at IBM when they created A Boy and His Atom, which was the world’s smallest animated film. It was produced by moving individual atoms on a copper surface.

The 90-second movie depicts a boy made of carbon monoxide molecules playing with a ball, dancing, and bouncing on a trampoline. Consisting of 202 frames, the animation takes action in a space as tiny as 1/1000 the size of a single human hair. To make the movie, researchers utilized a unique feature that comes with the STM: an electrically charged and extremely sharp stylus with a tip made of one atom. The stylus is capable of sensing the exact positions of the carbon molecules on the animation surface (which is the sheet of copper in this case). Therefore, it can be used to create images of the molecules as well as move them into new positions.

A BOY AND HIS ATOM: THE WORLD’S SMALLEST MOVIE

9. Oil Recovery

9 Oil
The global expenditure for oil exploration has risen exponentially during the past decade. However, efficiency in oil recovery has remained a major issue. When petroleum companies shut down an oil well, less than half of the oil in the reservoir is extracted. The rest is left behind because it is trapped in the rock where it is too expensive to recover. Luckily, with help from nanotechnology, scientists in China have discovered a way to work around this.

The solution is enhancing an existing drilling technique. The original technique involves injecting water into the rock pores where oil is located. This displaces the oil and forces it out. However, this method reveals its limitation as soon as the oil in the easily reached pores has been extracted. By then, water begins emerging from the well instead of oil.

To prevent this, Chinese researchers Peng and Ming Yuan Li have come up with the idea of infusing the water with nanoparticles that can plug the passages between the rock pores. This method is intended to make the water take narrower paths into the pores that contain oil and force the oil out. With successful field studies conducted in China, this method has proven highly efficient in recovering the 50 percent of the black gold that otherwise remains out of reach.

8 High-Resolution Displays

8 High res
The images on computer screens are presented via tiny dots called pixels. Regardless of their sizes and shapes, the number of pixels on a screen has remained a determining factor of image quality. With traditional displays, however, more pixels meant larger and bulkier screens—an obvious limitation.

While companies were busy selling their colossal screens to consumers, scientists from Oxford University have discovered a way to create pixels that are just a few hundred nanometers across. This was achieved by exploiting the properties of a phase-change material called GST (a material found in thermal management products). In the experiment, the scientists used seven-nanometer-thick layers of GST sandwiched between transparent electrodes. Each layer—just 300 by 300 nanometers in size—acts as a pixel that can be electrically switched on and off. By passing electrical current through layers, the scientists were able to produce images with fair quality and contrast.

The nano-pixels will serve a variety of purposes where the conventional pixels have become impractical. For instance, their tiny size and thickness will make them a great choice for technologies such as smart glasses, foldable screens, and synthetic retinas. Another advantage of nano-pixel displays is their lower energy consumption. Unlike the existing displays that constantly refresh all pixels to form images, the GST-layer-based displays only refresh the part of the display that actually changes, saving power.seo-speed-of-light

7 Color-Changing Paint

7 paint
While experimenting on strings of gold nanoparticles, scientists at the University of California have stumbled upon an astonishing observation. They’ve noticed that the color of gold changes when a string of its particles is stretched or retracted, producing what one of the scientists described as a beautiful bright blue that morphs into purple and then red. The finding has inspired the scientists to create sensors out of gold nanoparticles that change colors when pressure is applied to them.

To produce the sensors, gold nanoparticles have to be added to a flexible polymer film. When the film is pressed, it stretches and causes particles to separate and the color to change. Pressing lightly turns the sensor purple while pressing harder turns it red. The scientists noticed this intriguing property not only in gold particles but also in silver where the particles change into yellow when stretched.

The sensors could serve a variety of purposes. For instance, they could be incorporated into furniture, such as couches or beds, to assess sitting or sleeping positions. Despite being made of gold, the sensor is tiny enough to overcome the cost issue.

6 Phone Charging

6 Smart phone
Whether it’s an iPhone, Samsung, or different type of phone, every smartphone that leaves the factory comes with two notorious downsides: battery life and the time it takes to recharge. While the first is still a universal problem, scientists from the city of Ramat Gan in Israel have managed to tackle the second problem by creating a battery that requires only 30 seconds to recharge.

The breakthrough was attributed to a project related to Alzheimer’s disease that was carried out by researchers from the University of Tel Aviv. The researchers discovered that the peptide molecules that shorten the brain’s neurons and cause disease have a very high capacitance (the ability to preserve electric charges). This finding has contributed to the foundation of StoreDot, a company that focuses on nanotechnologies that target consumer products. With help from researchers, StoreDot has developed NanoDots—technology that harnesses the peptides’ properties to improve the battery life of smartphones. The company demonstrated a prototype of its battery in Microsoft’s ThinkNext event. Using a Samsung Galaxy S3 phone, the battery was charged from zero to full in less than a minute.

5 Sophisticated Drug Delivery

5 Medicine
Treatments for diseases such as cancer can be prohibitively expensive and, in some cases, too late. Fortunately, several medical firms from around the world are researching cheap and effective ways of treating illnesses. Among them is Immusoft, a company that aims to revolutionize how medicines are delivered to our bodies.

Instead of spending billions of dollars on drugs and therapy programs, Immusoft believes that we can engineer our bodies to produce drugs by themselves. With help from the immune system, cells of a patient can be altered to receive new genetic information that allows them to make their own medicine. The genetic information can be delivered via nano-sized capsules injected into the body.

Cancer Nano 5-promisingnewThe new method hasn’t been tested out on a human patient yet. Nevertheless, Immusoft and other institutions have reported successful experiments conducted on mice. If proven effective on humans, the method will significantly reduce the treatment and therapy costs of cardiovascular diseases and various other illnesses.

4 Molecular Communication

4 Molecules
There are circumstances in which electromagnetic waves, the soul of global telecommunication, become unusable. Think of an electromagnetic pulse that could render communication satellites, and every form of technology relying on them, useless. We are quite familiar with such terrifying scenarios from doomsday movies. Furthermore, this issue has been contemplated for years by researchers from the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom and the York University in Canada before ultimately coming up with an unexpected solution.

The researchers observed how some animal species, particularly insects, employ pheromones to communicate across long distances. After collecting the data, they were able to develop a communication method in which messages are encoded in the molecules of evaporated alcohol. The researchers successfully demonstrated the new technique using rubbing alcohol as a signaling chemical and “O Canada” as their first message.

Two devices were employed with this method including a transmitter to encode and send the message and a receiver to decode and display it. The method works by keying in a text message on the transmitter using Arduino Uno (an open-source microcontroller) that comes with an LCD screen and buttons. The controller then converts the text input into a binary sequence which is read by an electronic sprayer containing the alcohol. Once the binary message is read, the sprayer converts it into a controlled set of sprays where “1” represents a spray and “0” equals no spray. The alcohol in the air is then detected by the receiver which consists of a chemical sensor and a microcontroller. The receiver reads and converts the binary data back to text before displaying it on a screen.

The researchers were able to send and receive the “O Canada” message across several feet of open space. As a result, a number of scientists have expressed confidence in the method. They believe it might be helpful in environments such as underground tunnels or pipelines where electromagnetic waves become useless.

3 Computer Storage

3 Computer
During the past few decades, computers have grown exponentially in both processing power and storage capacity. This phenomenon was accurately predicted by James Moore around 50 years ago and later became widely known as Moore’s Law. However, many scientists—including the physicist Michio Kaku—believe that Moore’s Law is falling apart. This is due to the fact that computer power cannot keep up with the exponential rise of the existing manufacturing technologies.

Though Kaku was emphasizing processing power, the same concept applies to storage capacity. Luckily, it’s not the end of the road. A team of researchers from RMIT University in Melbourne are now exploring the alternatives. Led by Dr. Sharath Sriram, the team is on the verge of developing storage devices that mimic the way the human brain stores information. The researchers took the first step and built a nano film that is chemically designed to preserve electric charges in on and off states. The film, which is 10,000 times thinner than a human hair, might become the cornerstone for developing memory devices that replicate the neural networks of the brain.

2 Nano Art

2 Art
The promising development of nanotechnology has earned a great deal of admiration from the scientific community. Nevertheless, breakthroughs in nanotechnology are no longer confined to medicine, biology, and engineering. Nano art is an emerging field that allows us to view the tiny world under the microscope from an entirely new perspective.

As its name implies, nano art is a combination of art and nanoscience practiced by a small number of scientists and artists. Among them is John Hart, a mechanical engineer from the University of Michigan, who made a nano portrait of President Barack Obama. The portrait, which was named Nanobama, was created to honor the President when he was a candidate during the 2008 presidential elections. Each face in Nanobama measures just half a millimeter across and is entirely sculpted from 150 nanotubes. To produce the portraits, Hart first created a line drawing of the iconic “Hope” poster. He then printed the drawing on a glass plate coated with the nanoparticles needed to grow nanotubes. Using a high-temperature furnace, it was only a matter of time before the portrait was ready for a photo shoot.

1 Record Breaking

1 Book
Humanity has always sought to build the strongest, fastest, and largest things. But, when it comes to building the smallest, nanotechnology emerges on the stage. Among the tiniest things ever created using nanotechnology is a book called Teeny Ted From Turnip which is currently regarded as the world’s smallest printed book. Produced in the Nano Imaging Laboratory at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada, the book measures just 70 micrometers by 100 micrometers and is made of letters carved on 30 crystalline silicon pages.

The book’s story, written by Malcolm Douglas Chaplin, features Teeny Ted and his triumph at the turnip contest at the annual county fair. Over 100 copies of the book have been published. But to buy one of them you will need a deep pocket—a single book costs over $15,000. An electron microscope will also be required to read it, adding even more to the cost.

We at Genesis Nanotechnology, Inc. would like to take this opportunity wish all of our Readers, Subscribers, Business Partners and Associates a most Blessed and Prosperous New Year!

It truly has been an amazing year for us. Every day the ‘World of Small Things’ has delivered new learning opportunities, a renewed sense of ‘wonderment’ in the unseen world around us and the opportunity to build new relationships with an ever expanding horizon of commercial opportunity.

And so .. a “Irish” Blessing for ALL of you for 2015

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

All the Best,

Bruce W. Hoy

CEO, Managing Partner

Genesis Nanotechnology, Inc.

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Silk Substrate For Bio-Compatible Flexible Solar Cells


Silky Substrate id38571Wearable electronic textiles are not too far off (see for instance: Nanotechnology e-textiles for biomonitoring and wearable electronics) and these textile-embedded electronics will have an equally flexible and embedded energy supply (read more: Graphene yarns facilitate energy storage textiles). Ideally, these textiles will even charge themselves with integrated solar cells.

The most common flexible substrates used for flexible solar cells so far have been synthetic polymers such as polyethylene terephthalate (commonly known as PET) and polyethylene naphthalate (PEN). However, if organic solar cells are to be applied onto clothes and other soft surfaces – some of which come into direct contact with skin – they are required to be human-compatible, non-toxic and non-irritable.

One possible solution for such a substrate could be silk. “The natural silk fibroin – extracted from the silkworm (Bombyx mori) cocoon – is a promising alternative material due to its good biocompatibility, biodegradability, non-toxicity, non-irritability and advantageous mechanical properties, as well as high optical transmittance (90-95%) of films,” Baoquan Sun, a professor in Materials Science at Soochow University in Suzhou, PR China, tells Nanowerk. “Furthermore, the biodegradable and mechanical properties of silk fibroin substrates can be tailored by controlling the fabrication process, such that they match the desired requirements for some specific application.”

Sun and his team, together with researchers from the National Engineering Laboratory for Modern Silk, also at Soochow University, integrated a biocompatible silk fibroin with a mesh of silver nanowires to achieve a flexible, transparent, and biodegradable substrate for efficient plastic solar cells. They have reported their findings in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces (“Highly Flexible and Lightweight Organic Solar Cells on Biocompatible Silk Fibroin”).

silkworm cocoon picture and the scheme of plastic solar cell with silk fibroin film as substrate

The figure shows the silkworm cocoon picture and the scheme of plastic solar cell with silk fibroin film as substrate. The device can be flexible and compatible with human skin. Here, PEDOT:PSS, PTB7 and PCBM stand for poly(3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene), polystyrene sulfonate thieno[3,4-b]thiophene/benzodithiophene and [6,6]-phenyl-C71-butyric acid methyl ester, respectively. (Image: Sun group, Soochow University))

“Our flexible substrate can achieve a conductivity of ∼11.0 Ω/sq and a transmittance of ∼80% in the visible light range, which is much better than the commercialized flexible substrate such as indium tin oxide coated PET and indium tin oxide coated polyethylene naphthalate,” says Sun. “The power conversion efficiency of 6.6% is relatively high on the silk fibroin substrate.” He points out that, even after extremely rigid bending, the devices retain a stable conductivity that is superior to traditional flexible ITO-PEN substrates. He also notes that the conductivity of bent silver nanowire silk fibroin substrates can be recovered via a ‘self-healing’ process. In order to form a continuous conductive film on transparent films, silver nanowire mesh is usually fabricated by directly spin- or spray-coating onto a transparent substrate. The resulting film is rough due to the random distribution of silver nanowire piling on the substrate. “This roughness is a disadvantage because substrate flatness is critical to fabricating the ∼100-nm-thick active layer of the plastic solar cell,” explains Sun. “Additionally, the deposited silver nanowire displayed poor adhesion properties on the substrate.” To resolve this problem, the researchers first deposited silver nanowires on a flat model substrate instead of being directly deposited onto the substrate. Then, the aqueous silk fibroin solution was coated onto the silver nanowire-covered substrate. This work illustrates another step towards fully biocompatible plastic solar cells that one day might be integrated with objects and devices of everyday use and even with living tissue for some futuristic bionic applications.

From . @Nanowerk

Nanex offers invisible nanocoating technology


Nanex medium_122914Textiles and nonwovens become water and oil resistant while retaining their original properties.

Belgium-based Nanex Co. offers biodegradable and eco-friendly formulas featuring “invisible” nanotechnology coatings that can be applied to natural and manmade technical textiles and nonwovens, making them resistant to oil and water while allowing them to retain their original properties.

AquaShield is a super hydrophobic water repellent spray in the company’s nanotechnology product line that protects all absorbent surfaces, including textiles, leathers, wood and stone. It contains nanopolymers that bond on a molecular level with any absorbent surface and form a protection layer with highly hydrophobic properties, causing any fluid in contact with the treated surface to bead and roll off.

Nanex medium_122914

Any fluid in contact with a surface treated with AquaShield simply rolls off. The formula is easy to use and can be applied with a brush, roller or spray gun. The full range of properties is obtained after 24 hours. Photo: Nanex

The coating also has a high penetration capacity, providing protection below the surface, and provides immediate and long-term protection, decreases cleaning time and frequency, offers UV protection and protects against acid rain and pollution.

Source: Nanex

Nano Filter Cleans Dirty Industry


Nano Filters hjgjgfAbstract:
Prototypes of nano-cellulose based filters with high purification capacity towards environmentally hazardous contaminants from industrial effluents eg. process industries, have been developed by researchers at Luleå University of Technology. The research, conducted in collaboration with Imperial College in the UK has reached a breakthrough with the prototypes and they will now be tested on a few industries in Europe.

The bio-based filter of nano-cellulose is to be used for the first time in real-life situations and tested within a process industry and in municipal wastewater treatment in Spain. Other industries have also shown interest in this technology and representatives of the mining industry have contacted me and I have even received requests from a large retail chain in the UK, says Aji Mathew Associate Professor, Division of Materials Science at Luleå University.

Researchers have combined a cheap residue from the cellulose industry, with functional nano-cellulose to prepare adsorbent sheets with high filtration capacity. The sheets have since been constructed to different prototypes, called cartridges, to be tested. They have high capacity and can filter out heavy metal ions from industrial waters, dyes residues from the printing industry and nitrates from municipal water. Next year, larger sheets with a layer of nano-cellulose can be produced and formed into cartridges, with higher capacity.

nanotechfilt

– Each such membrane can be tailored to have different removal capability depending on the kind of pollutant, viz., copper, iron, silver, dyes, nitrates and the like, she says.

Behind the research, which is funded mainly by the EU, is a consortium of research institutes, universities, small businesses and process industries. It is coordinated by Luleå University led by Aji Mathew. She thinks that the next step is to seek more money from the EU to scale up this technology to industrial level.

– Alfa Laval is very interested in this and in the beginning of 2015, I go in with a second application to the EU framework program Horizon 2020 with goals for full-scale demonstrations of this technology, she says.

Two of Aji Mathews graduate students Peng Liu and Zoheb Karim are also deeply involved in research on nano-filters.

– I focus on how these membranes can filter out heavy metals by measuring different materials such as nanocrystals and nano-fibers to determine their capacity to absorb and my colleague focuses on how to produce membranes, says Peng Liu PhD student in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Luleå University of Technology.

MIT: New Ultrastiff, Ultralight Material Developed


Nanostructured material based on repeating microscopic units has record-breaking stiffness at low density.

David L. Chandler | MIT News Office

MIT GR 01_MITnews_UltraLight_0What’s the difference between the Eiffel Tower and the Washington Monument?

Both structures soar to impressive heights, and each was the world’s tallest building when completed. But the Washington Monument is a massive stone structure, while the Eiffel Tower achieves similar strength using a lattice of steel beams and struts that is mostly open air, gaining its strength from the geometric arrangement of those elements.

Now engineers at MIT and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) have devised a way to translate that airy, yet remarkably strong, structure down to the microscale — designing a system that could be fabricated from a variety of materials, such as metals or polymers, and that may set new records for stiffness for a given weight.

The new design is described in the journal Science by MIT’s Nicholas Fang; former postdoc Howon Lee, now an assistant professor at Rutgers University; visiting research fellow Qi “Kevin” Ge; LLNL’s Christopher Spadaccini and Xiaoyu “Rayne” Zheng; and eight others.

The design is based on the use of microlattices with nanoscale features, combining great stiffness and strength with ultralow density, the authors say. The actual production of such materials is made possible by a high-precision 3-D printing process called projection microstereolithography, as a result of the joint research collaboration between the Fang and Spadaccini groups since 2008.

Normally, Fang explains, stiffness and strength declines with the density of any material; that’s why when bone density decreases, fractures become more likely. But using the right mathematically determined structures to distribute and direct the loads — the way the arrangement of vertical, horizontal, and diagonal beams do in a structure like the Eiffel Tower — the lighter structure can maintain its strength.

A pleasant surprise

The geometric basis for such microstructures was determined more than a decade ago, Fang says, but it took years to transfer that mathematical understanding “to something we can print, using a digital projection — to convert this solid model on paper to something we can hold in our hand.” The result was “a pleasant surprise to us,” he adds, performing even better than anticipated.

“We found that for a material as light and sparse as aerogel [a kind of glass foam], we see a mechanical stiffness that’s comparable to that of solid rubber, and 400 times stronger than a counterpart of similar density. Such samples can easily withstand a load of more than 160,000 times their own weight,” says Fang, the Brit and Alex d’Arbeloff Career Development Associate Professor in Engineering Design. So far, the researchers at MIT and LLNL have tested the process using three engineering materials — metal, ceramic, and polymer — and all showed the same properties of being stiff at light weight.

“This material is among the lightest in the world,” LLNL’s Spadaccini says. “However, because of its microarchitected layout, it performs with four orders of magnitude higher stiffness than unstructured materials, like aerogels, at a comparable density.”

Light material, heavy loads

This approach could be useful anywhere there’s a need for a combination of high stiffness (for load bearing), high strength, and light weight — such as in structures to be deployed in space, where every bit of weight adds significantly to the cost of launch. But Fang says there may also be applications at smaller scale, such as in batteries for portable devices, where reduced weight is also highly desirable.

Another property of these materials is that they conduct sound and elastic waves very uniformly, meaning they could lead to new acoustic metamaterials, Fang says, that could help control how waves bend over a curved surface.

Others have suggested similar structural principles over the years, such as a proposal last year by researchers at MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms (CBA) for materials that could be cut out as flat panels and assembled into tiny unit cells to make larger structures. But that concept would require assembly by robotic systems that have yet to be developed, says Fang, who has discussed this work with CBA researchers. This technique, he says, uses 3-D printing technology that can be implemented now.

Martin Wegener, a professor of mechanical engineering at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany who was not involved in this research, says, “Achieving metamaterials that are ultralight in weight, yet stiffer than you would expect from usual scaling laws for elastic solids, is of obvious technological interest. The paper makes an interesting contribution in this direction.”

The work was supported by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and LLNL.

Nanotechnology to Outer Space: Top Ten Tech Innovations of 2014


Monash U width170_logo-1365118389Technology at Monash University

Don’t be mesmerised by cool apps and flashy new gizmos – the top technology inventions of the year are ones that will have a lasting effect.

Monash II image-20141216-24300-le835aMost are advances in fields that are already changing us. Some will have immediate impact; others are portents of transformations that may take decades to complete. In this vein, and in no particular order, here are what I consider to be ten of the best technological innovations from 2014.

1. DNA Nanobots injected into cockroaches

Nanotechnology is a growing research field that manipulates materials on a molecular scale. One prospect is to transform medicine by injecting nanobots into the body where they perform functions such as treating disease.

Researchers injected DNA into cockroaches. Tom Spinker/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND

In February, an Israeli team described devices they made from DNA and injected into cockroaches. By performing a kind of origami, the DNA nanobots assembled themselves and were able to control a molecule that targeted specific cells, so demonstrating their potential to carry out medical functions such as attacking cancers.

2. Nanotubes in chloroplasts created super plants

Nanotubes are large carbon molecules that form tubes with unusual thermal and electrical properties. In March, a team from MIT and CalTech published a method for inserting nanotubes into plant chloroplasts. The novel combination boosted photosynthesis and plant growth by several hundred percent.

Applications are still years away, but besides increasing plant growth and production, there are extraordinary possibilities: tapping plants for electrical power, building self-repairing materials and erecting buildings from materials that generate their own power.

3. Scallop-shaped robots swam through blood

Researchers at Germany’s Max Planck Institute developed tiny robots that could swim through the bloodstream, repairing tissue damage or transporting medicine.

The challenge they faced was blood’s viscosity: it not only impeded movement but also varied according to speed. They solved the problem by designing robots in the shape of scallops powered by an external magnetic field. These robots provide a starting point for many kinds of medical devices of the future.

4. A microchip helped a paralysed man regain the use of his arm

Implants are revolutionising the treatment of many medical conditions. In April, researchers at Ohio State University reported success in using a microchip implant to help a paralysed man regain use of his arm.

Ten years in development, the device, known as Neurobridge, stimulates muscles according to brain patterns. The innovation raises hopes for many disabled people. It showed that by plugging into our brainwaves we may one day control all manner of devices by thought alone.

5. Nose cells helped repair a severed spinal cord

Biotechnology is producing new cures for medical conditions long thought to be permanent. A medical team at Wroclaw Medical University cultured nerve cells taken from a patient’s nose and surgically inserted them into his spinal cord.

The transplanted cells stimulated severed nerve fibres to grow and rejoin, thus bridging a damaged section of the spinal column and allowing the patient to walk again. This innovation showed that damage to the nervous system can be reversed.

6. Unmanned drones: the future of delivery services

Unmanned flying drones are taking on a rapidly growing number of roles, especially in surveillance and monitoring. Following Chinese experiments last year to test drones as a delivery system for parcels, 2014 saw rapid expansion of serious business interest.

Don McCullough/Flickr, CC BY

In August, Google used a drone to deliver chocolates to a farm in Outback Queensland. By year’s end, Amazon, DHL and many others were scrambling to establish unmanned delivery services in several countries.

7. A swarm of self-assembling mini-robots

Robots are already important tools in many industries, but put them into swarms and they can do so much more. In August the journal Science reported work at Harvard in which 1,000 mini-robots, the largest swarm so far, was able to assemble itself into programmed shapes.

There is still a long way to go, but it raised the potential for structures that self-assemble, which would revolutionise construction.

8. 3D printers pushed the boundaries

3D printing is now an established technology, but developments this year expanded its capabilities and applications. At the one extreme a team in Amsterdam began a project to build an entire house using 3D printing.

3D printing at work. Jonathan Juursema/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA

Meanwhile researchers at Princeton developed a 3D printer that could print with five different materials, incorporating dot-emitting diodes, and demonstrated it by making contact lenses. This raises many possibilities, from wearable video to monitoring the health of pilots.

9. The next frontier in space exploration

Events this year highlighted the international character of solar system exploration in coming decades. Following a ten-year flight, European Space Agency’s probe Rosetta went into orbit around the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

Artist impression of the Rosetta spacecraft with comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. ESA/ATG medialab

On November 12, it released the probe Philae which became the first spacecraft to land on a comet.

Meanwhile, Mars exploration moved forward. India’s Mangalyaan spacecraft went into orbit around Mars in September and in December, NASA successfully launched the new Orion spacecraft, a first step in preparing for manned exploration of Mars.

10. Green power and clean water

Necessity is the mother of invention, so the greater the need, the more important the invention. A worldwide need is the 780 million people around the world who lack access to clean water supplies. The challenge for inventors is to meet the World Health Organisation criteria for practical systems: accessible, simple and cheap.

One notable innovation this year was a portable new system called Sunflower developed in Switzerland. Easily transportable, it used sunlight to generate electricity, and at the same time provided heating, refrigeration for food and purified water. [See the Website Here: http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn26284-sunflower-solar-harvester-provides-power-and-water.html#.VKLqRMCecA%5D

What of next year? We can be sure that growing fields such as automation and nanotechnology will continue to surprise us. The US Patents Office granted more than 300,000 patents during 2013, nearly 30,000 more than 2012. If patents provide a reliable indicator, then new inventions are appearing faster than ever.

Northwestern University: New Non-invasive Method Detects Alzheimer’s Disease Early


Alz new-non-invasive-method-can-detect-alzheimers-disease-early-tn-headerNo methods currently exist for the early detection of Alzheimer’s disease, which affects one out of nine people over the age of 65. Now, an interdisciplinary team of Northwestern University scientists and engineers has developed a noninvasive MRI approach that can detect the disease in a living animal. And it can do so at the earliest stages of the disease, well before typical Alzheimer’s symptoms appear.

Led by neuroscientist William L. Klein and materials scientist Vinayak P. Dravid, the research team developed an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) probe that pairs a magnetic nanostructure (MNS) with an antibody that seeks out the amyloid beta brain toxins responsible for onset of the disease. The accumulated toxins, because of the associated magnetic nanostructures, show up as dark areas in MRI scans of the brain.
Alz new-non-invasive-method-can-detect-alzheimers-disease-early-tn-header
Fluorescent amyloid beta oligomers (green), bound to cultured hippocampal neurons, were detected with greater than 90 percent accuracy by the magnetic nanostructure probe (red). (Adapted from Viola et al., Nature Nanotechnology, 2014.)
This ability to detect the molecular toxins may one day enable scientists to both spot trouble early and better design drugs or therapies to combat and monitor the disease. And, while not the focus of the study, early evidence suggests the MRI probe improves memory, too, by binding to the toxins to render them “handcuffed” to do further damage.
“We have a new brain imaging method that can detect the toxin that leads to Alzheimer’s disease,” said Klein, who first identified the amyloid beta oligomer in 1998. He is a professor of neurobiology in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.
“Using MRI, we can see the toxins attached to neurons in the brain,” Klein said. “We expect to use this tool to detect this disease early and to help identify drugs that can effectively eliminate the toxin and improve health.”
With the successful demonstration of the MRI probe, Northwestern researchers now have established the molecular basis for the cause, detection by non-invasive MR imaging and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. Dravid introduced this magnetic nanostructure MRI contrast enhancement approach for Alzheimer’s following his earlier work utilizing MNS as smart nanotechnology carriers for targeted cancer diagnostics and therapy. (A MNS is typically 10 to 15 nanometers in diameter; one nanometer is one billionth of a meter.)
Details of the new Alzheimer’s disease diagnostic are published today (Dec. 22) by the journal Nature Nanotechnology. Klein and Dravid are co-corresponding authors.
The emotional and economic impacts of Alzheimer’s disease are devastating. This year, the direct cost of the disease in the United States is more than $200 billion, according to the Alzheimer’s Association’s “2014 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures.” By the year 2050, that cost is expected to be $1.1 trillion as baby boomers age. And these figures do not account for the lost time of caregivers.
This new MRI probe technology is detecting something different from conventional technology: toxic amyloid beta oligomers instead of plaques, which occur at a stage of Alzheimer’s when therapeutic intervention would be very late. Amyloid beta oligomers now are widely believed to be the culprit in the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and subsequent memory loss.
In a diseased brain, the mobile amyloid beta oligomers attack the synapses of neurons, destroying memory and ultimately resulting in neuron death. As time progresses, the amyloid beta builds up and starts to stick together, forming the amyloid plaques that current probes target. Oligomers may appear more than a decade before plaques are detected.
“Non-invasive imaging by MRI of amyloid beta oligomers is a giant step forward towards diagnosis of this debilitating disease in its earliest form,” said Dravid, the Abraham Harris Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science.
There is a major need for what the Northwestern research team is doing — identifying and detecting the correct biomarker for new drug discovery. Despite extraordinary efforts, no effective drugs exist yet for Alzheimer’s disease.
“This MRI method could be used to determine how well a new drug is working,” Dravid said. “If a drug is effective, you would expect the amyloid beta signal to go down.”
The nontoxic MRI probe was delivered intranasally to mouse models with Alzheimer’s disease and control animals without the disease. In animals with Alzheimer’s, the toxins’ presence can be seen clearly in the hippocampus in MRI scans of the brain. No dark areas, however, were seen in the hippocampus of the control group.
The ability to detect amyloid beta oligomers, Klein said, is important for two reasons:  amyloid beta oligomers are the toxins that damage neurons, and the oligomers are the first sign of trouble in the disease process, appearing before any other pathology.
Klein, Dravid and their colleagues also observed that the behavior of animals with Alzheimer’s improved even after receiving a single dose of the MRI probe.
“While preliminary, the data suggests the probe could be used not only as a diagnostic tool but also as a therapeutic,” said Kirsten L. Viola, a co-first author of the study and a research manager in Klein’s laboratory.
Along with the studies in live animals, the research team also studied human brain tissue from Northwestern’s Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease Center. The samples were from individuals who died from Alzheimer’s and those who did not have the disease. After introducing the MRI probe, the researchers saw large dark areas in the Alzheimer brains, indicating the presence of amyloid beta oligomers.

Vets Using Nanotechnology To Help Pets’ Healing: “Nano-Fibers”


mastiff-02Modern medicine is evolving quickly.

Now, with the introduction of bioengineering, doctors can have tissue made for their patients and veterinarians are having great success using nanotechnology in our pets.

“The part that I focus on is tissue engineering, where we are basically focusing and building or engineering new tissue for the body,” Dr. Johnson said.

Their nanotechnology is an integral part of regenerative medicine.

“We’ve all seen regeneration. We’ve all had cuts on our hands, right? And those cuts heal. So, our body is capable of healing, but we have to provide the right environment,” Dr. Johnson said.

Enter nanofibers. (Follow the Link Below to Watch the Video Clip)

http://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/video?autoStart=true&topVideoCatNo=default&clipId=10972203

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It takes a hundred of the microscopic fibers laid side-by-side to be as wide as a human hair. Weave them together, and they provide a framework for healing.

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“Great Things from Small Things”

“Cells and tissue can’t move across open space, they have to crawl on something, and this is really the key aspect to having a scaffold is it allows those cells to have a highway to move on to refill that wound, regenerate that native tissue,” Dr. Johnson said.

“You can’t do that synthetically. I mean, we can’t do that without the help of what someone like Dr. Johnson’s doing with nanofibers,” Dr. Mike Hutchinson said.

Dr. Hutchinson, of Animal General in Cranberry, uses nanofibers in combination with stem cells to speed up the healing.

“They will do a lot of good for as long as they stay, but we would like to keep them there longer in that damaged environment. So, they have made some nanowhiskers, if you will, that we mix with the stem cells before we inject them in, and they will hold them there. They will give them something to grow on or to hug to and keep them there longer,” Dr. Hutchinson said.

Panzer was the first dog in the United States to receive the nanofiber treatment. In April, he was recovering from a knee injury when he suffered a setback.

“He was healing well. We were doing cage rest, leash walking. Everything was going great and then, I took him for a little walk down to the mailbox, and he slipped on a piece of ice and pulled his ligament completely,” Sharon Germain said.

Dr. Hutchinson told Sharon about nanotechnology and stem cells to help repair the torn ACL.

“When Dr. Mike first introduced it to me, I just sat there wide-eyed going, ‘Really?’ And I said, ‘Anything to just help things heal better and make him feel better.’ I was on board immediately,” Germain said.

They did the surgery right away.

“I have used it in 15 dog joints where we are injecting it right into the dog joints with the stem cells. And we have used it on skin and we have also used it in some muscle — actually in a police dog to try to repair a damaged muscle on a service dog,” Dr. Hutchinson said.

Seven months later?

“It’s amazing, and seeing is believing,” Germain said. “It does your heart good when you see this.”

In a matter of months, Panzer regained complete range of motion in the knee and is back to being a healthy, rambunctious dog.

For Sharon, it’s still staggering that it is medically possible.

“It’s almost like being in the Jetson years of life. You are seeing tomorrow’s technology today,” Germain said.

“Tissue engineering is here. Regenerative medicine is here, and we are finally moving from the hype of stem cells to the results of stem cells. You’re going to see a lot of the benefit coming in the next years,” Dr. Johnson said.

And for Dr. Hutchinson?

“Talking to people who told me this was fairy dust or this is voodoo, they said haven’t seen it. They just haven’t seen it. They haven’t read about it. They aren’t picking up the literature that is being published in Germany or Japan or China or Australia or in Israel and they are saying it’s not in a journal here so it doesn’t exist,” Dr. Hutchinson said.

Here’s another big advantage to using nanofibers.

They are engineered to dissolve after a specified amount of time, and are processed like lactic acid, which leaves nothing but the patient’s own tissue behind.

Dr. Jed Johnson has a PhD in engineering and his firm engineers body tissue.

Combating Cancer with Nanotechnology


Cancer Nano 5-promisingnew*** The concept of nanotechnology originated from Richard Feynman’s lecture There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom; however the term itself wasn’t coined until 1974 by Japanese professor Norio Taniguchi.  It wasn’t until the mid-1980s that nanotechnology began to flourish; due in part to research conducted by Kim Eric Drexler, Gerd Binnig, Heinrich Rohrer, Harry Kroto, Richard Smalley and Robert Curl, all of whom significantly advanced the field. 

In the early 2000s nanotechnology began to garner increased scientific, political and commercial attention that led to both progress and controversy.  The commercialization of nanotechnology in the early 2000s provided us with products like Silver Nano, nanoparticle-based transparent sunscreen and carbon nano-tubes which are used in a multitude of applications, such as stain-resistance in clothes. ***

A research team at Cornell University have been combining the use of nanoparticles and infrared heat to specifically target colorectal cancer cells.  The nanoparticles are comprised of a gold core sandwiched between two pieces of iron-oxide which form a shape that resembles a dumbbell, and antibodies attached to the nanoparticles cause it to seek out a molecule that is only found in colorectal cancer cells.  The iron-oxide is utilized in the nanoparticle because researches believe they will be able to use its magnetic properties to track the patients’ cancer treatment via magnetic resonance.  Once attached to the cancerous cells, low-energy infrared light is used to apply heat. This is amplified by the nanoparticles, killing the cancer cell whilst sparing surrounding healthy tissue.  This method has the possibility of greatly reducing or even eliminating the need for the high doses of toxic chemicals or radiation currently used in cancer treatment.  The results have shown a three-fold increase in cancerous cell death and a substantial, although not complete, reduction of tumor size after 30 days.Advances-in-nanotechnology-can-improve-food-safety-and-prep_strict_xxl

TREATING CANCER USING NANOTUBES:

Electron Microscope view of thick Carbon Nanotubes. Photo Credit: Leonhardt, Leibniz Institute.

Stanford and the CARBIO partnership in the EU have been developing a treatment process that utilises carbon nanotubes modified with an RNA sequence to hunt down and attack cancer cells.  At first these nanotubes triggered an immune response and were rejected by the human body; amazingly enough this was easily countered by adding in a string of DNA in the same fashion as the RNA. Unfortunately the method did not fully address the destruction of cancer cells and as such is still a work in progress – however the nanotubes do have the ability to deliver other molecules, such as chemotherapy drugs. Researchers at MIT have developed a method of attack against breast cancer tumors using nanotubes to deliver doxorubicin, an anti-cancer drug. The strand of RNA then “turns off” one of the genes the cancer cells use to resist doxorubicin, making it more effective. So far this method has been extremely successful in shrinking breast cancer tumors in mice, and the researchers believe it could be adapted to treat other forms of cancer.

REALITY OF NANOTECHNOLOGY TREATMENTS:

Though this research is still in its infancy, it is not a matter of “if” but rather “when”. The successful use of nanotechnology in cancer treatment will be a breakthrough for biomedical healthcare research.  Nanoparticles would provide the option of treating a person with a single high-potency dose of anticancer drugs that would specifically target only cancer cells.  This process would allow patients to receive treatment quickly and with drastically reduced side effects compared to traditional chemotherapy.  Whilst human trials have not yet begun, there is a real possibility that the severe ailments that coincide with chemotherapy like hair loss, digestive problems and mouth ulcers would be greatly reduced.

Additional Reading:

Graphene nanotechnology makes Desalination 100 times More Efficient


Graphene Desal shutterstock_233104066-660x487Engineers at Lockheed-Martin recently developed and patented a molecular filtration membrane called Perforene which can desalinate seawater using only 1/100th the energy of the best existing desalination systems.

Perforene is made from graphene, the exciting new nanomaterial which comes in the form of one-atom thick sheets of carbon atoms. Like an overzealous nanotechnology, graphene seems to photobomb itself in as the solution to numerous environmental problems such as, storing electricity, removing air pollution, advanced photovoltaics, high strength materials and now desalinating water.

Under a microscope, this material looks like a mesh net with holes as small as one hundred nanometer. These holes are small enough to block the chlorine and sodium ions in salt water but large enough to allow pure water molecules to pass through.

The material was invented by Lockheed engineer. In an interview with Reuters, Stetson said that this new material is 1000 times stronger than steel and 500 times thinner than the best existing reverse osmosis desalination filter.

He said, “The energy that’s required and the pressure that’s required to filter salt is approximately 100 times less.”

Why desalinating water is not energy efficient

Desalination typically uses at least 3 kilowatt-hours per cubic meter. To put this into familiar terms, filling a 2 liter bottle with desalinated water consumes the same amount of energy as running a 15-watt compact fluorescent light for 24 minutes.

The energy required to purify two liters of freshwater would only run the same light for less than two minutes.

This may not seem like a lot of energy, but it adds up.

According to information published by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the world’s desalination plants consume approximately 360 million kilowatt-hours each day. Because of their gluttonous energy consumption, desalination plants are nearly always collocated with electrical power generating stations.

Nuclear power is often used. But in a bit of political doublespeak, the desalination plants are said to generate electricity. Electricity “generated” by existing desalination plants is only the excess energy produced by the collocated power plant that hasn’t been consumed.Desal-Hadera--Israel-2

If unconsumed energy is the same things as producing energy, Lockheed-Martin’s desalination technology might become one of the most important sources of energy and water in the Middle East.  The company is seeking commercialization partners and hopes begin manufacturing this amazing new material in 2015.

– See more at: http://www.greenprophet.com/2014/12/graphene-nanotechnology-makes-desalination-100-times-more-efficient/#sthash.vWxgaCkz.dpuf