America’s National Laboratories – 75 Breakthroughs We’ve Made that You May Not have Read About


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America’s National Laboratories have been changing and improving the lives of millions of people for more than 75 years. Born at a time when the world faced a dire threat, the laboratories came together to advance science, safeguard the nation and protect our freedoms for generations to come. This network of Department of Energy Laboratories has grown into 17 facilities, working together as engines of prosperity and invention. As this list of breakthroughs attests, Laboratory discoveries have spawned industries, saved lives, generated new products, fired the imagination and helped to reveal the secrets of the universe. Rooted in the need to serve the public good and support the global community, the National Laboratories have put an American stamp on the last century of science. With equal ingenuity and tenacity, they are now engaged in innovating the future.

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75 Breakthroughs

At America’s National Laboratories, we’ve …

Advanced supercomputing

The National Labs operate some of the most significant high performance computing resources available, including 32 of the 500 fastest supercomputers in the world. These systems, working at quadrillions of operations per second, model and simulate complex, dynamic systems – such as the nuclear deterrent – that would be too expensive, impractical or impossible to physically demonstrate. Supercomputers are changing the way scientists explore the evolution of our universe, climate change, biological systems, weather forecasting and even renewable energy.

Decoded DNA 

In 1990, the National Labs joined with the National Institutes of Health and other laboratories to kick off the Human Genome Project, an international collaboration to identify and map all of the genes of the human genome.

Brought the web to the United States 

National Lab scientists, seeking to share particle physics information, were first to install a web server in North America, kick-starting the development of the worldwide web as we know it.

Put eyes in the sky 

Vela satellites, first launched in 1963 to detect potential nuclear detonations, transformed the nascent U.S. space program. The satellites featured optical sensors and data processing, logic and power subsystems designed and created by National Labs.

Revolutionized medical diagnostics and treatment 

Researchers at the National Labs helped to develop the field of nuclear medicine, producing radioisotopes to diagnose and treat disease, designing imaging technology to detect cancer and developing software to target tumors while sparing healthy tissue.

Powered NASA spacecraft 

The National Labs built the enclosure for the radioisotope thermoelectric generators that fuel crafts such as Cassini and have begun producing plutonium-238 for future NASA missions.

Harnessed the power of the atom 

National Lab scientists and engineers have led the world in developing safe, efficient and emissions-free nuclear power. Starting with the first nuclear reactor to generate electricity, National Labs have been the innovation engine behind the peaceful use of nuclear energy. Today’s labs are supporting the next generation of nuclear power that will be available for the nation and world.

Brought safe water to millions 

Removing arsenic from drinking water is a global priority. A long-lasting particle engineered at a National Lab can now do exactly that, making contaminated water safe to drink. Another technology developed at a National Lab uses ultraviolet light to kill water-borne bacteria that cause dysentery, thus reducing child mortality in the developing world.

Filled the Protein Data Bank 

National Lab X-ray facilities have contributed a large portion of more than 100,000 protein structures in the Protein Data Bank. A protein’s structure reveals how it functions, helping scientists understand how living things work and develop treatments for disease. Almost all new medications that hit the market start with these data bank structures.

Invented new materials 

National Labs provide the theory, tools and techniques that offer industry revolutionary materials such as strong, lighter-weight metals and alloys that save fuel and maintenance costs and enable cleaner, more efficient engines.

Found life’s mystery messenger 

National Lab scientists discovered how genetic instructions are carried to the cell’s protein manufacturing center, where all of life’s processes begin. Subsequent light source research on the genetic courier, called messenger RNA, has revealed how the information is transcribed and how mistakes can cause cancer and birth defects.

Mapped the universe — and the dark side of the moon

Credit for producing 3D maps of the sky — and 400 million celestial objects — goes to National Lab scientists, who also developed a camera that mapped the entire surface of the moon.

Shed light on photosynthesis 

Ever wonder how plants turn sunlight into energy? National Lab scientists determined the path of carbon through photosynthesis, and today use X-ray laser technology to reveal how each step in the process is triggered by a single particle of light. This work helps scientists explore new ways to get sustainable energy from the sun.

Solved cultural mysteries 

The works of ancient mathematician Archimedes — written over by medieval monks and lost for millennia — were revealed to modern eyes thanks to the X-ray vision and light-source technology at National Labs. These studies also have revealed secrets of masterpiece paintings, ancient Greek vases and other priceless cultural artifacts.

Revolutionized accelerators 

A National Lab built and operated the first large-scale accelerator based on superconducting radio frequency technology. This more efficient technology now powers research machines for exploring the heart of matter, examining the properties of materials and providing unique information about the building blocks of life.

Los Alamos 1200px-Los_Alamos_aerial_viewRevealed the secrets of matter 

Protons and neutrons were once thought to be indivisible. National Lab scientists discovered that protons and neutrons were made of even smaller parts, called quarks. Over time, experimenters identified six kinds of quarks, three types of neutrinos and the Higgs particle, changing our view of how the material world works.

Confirmed the Big Bang and discovered dark energy

National Lab detectors aboard a NASA satellite revealed the birth of galaxies in the echoes of the Big Bang. Dark energy — the mysterious something that makes up three-quarters of the universe and causes it to expand at an accelerating rate — also was discovered by National Lab cosmologists.

Discovered 22 elements 

The periodic table would be smaller without the National Labs. To date the National Labs have discovered: technetium, promethium, astatine, neptunium, plutonium, americium, curium, berkelium, californium, einsteinium, fermium, mendelevium, nobelium, lawrencium, rutherfordium, dubnium, seaborgium, flerovium, moscovium, livermorium, tennessine and oganesson.

Made refrigerators cool 

Next-generation refrigerators will likely put the freeze on harmful chemical coolants in favor of an environmentally friendly alloy, thanks to National Lab scientists.

Got the lead out 

Removing hazardous lead-based solders from the environment is a reality thanks to a lead-free alloy of tin-silver-copper developed at a National Lab. The lead-free solder has been licensed by more than 60 companies worldwide.

Invented a magic sponge to clean up oil spills

National Lab scientists used a nano technique to invent a new sponge that can absorb 90 times its own weight in oil from water. It can be wrung out to collect the oil and reused hundreds of times — and it can collect oil that has sunk below the surface, something previous technology couldn’t do.

Added the punch to additive manufacturing 

High-pressure gas atomization processing pioneered at a National Lab made possible the production of titanium and other metal-alloy powders used in additive manufacturing and powder metallurgy.

 

Created inexpensive catalysts 

Low-cost catalysts are key to efficient biomass refining. National Lab scientists created catalysts that are inexpensive and stable for biomass conversion. ANL_H_White

Created high-tech coatings to reduce friction 

National Lab scientists created ways to reduce wear and tear in machines from table fans to car engines all the way up to giant wind turbines, such as a diamond-like film that rebuilds itself as soon as it begins to break down — so that engines last longer and need fewer oil additives.

Put the jolt in the Volt 

Chevy’s Volt would not be able to cruise on battery power were it not for the advanced cathode technology that emerged from a National Lab. The same technology is sparking a revival of America’s battery manufacturing industry.

Cemented a new material 

National Lab scientists have developed a novel and versatile material that blends properties of ceramic and concrete to form a non-porous product that can do everything from seal oil w ells to insulate walls with extra fire protection. It even sets in cold weather.

Pioneered efficient power lines 

New kinds of power lines made from superconductors can carry electric current with no energy loss. Now deployed by National Lab scientists, these prototypes could usher in a new era of ultra-efficient power transmission.

Made early universe quark soup 

National Lab scientists used a particle collider to recreate the primordial soup of subatomic building blocks that last existed shortly after the Big Bang. The research is expanding scientists’ understanding of matter at extreme temperatures and densities.

Oak Ridge NL DWKcxYZXkAEY9NVLevitated trains with magnets 

Say goodbye to traffic jams. National Lab scientists developed a technology that uses the attractive and repulsive forces of magnets to levitate and propel trains. Maglev trains now ferry commuters in Japan and China and will be operational in other countries soon.

Developed efficient burners 

National Lab researchers developed cleaner-combusting oil burners, saving consumers more than $25 billion in fuel costs and keeping more than 160 megatons of carbon dioxide out of Earth’s atmosphere.

Improved automotive steel

A company with National Lab roots is pioneering a metal that weighs significantly less than regular steel, retains steel’s strength and malleability and can be fabricated without major modifications to the automotive manufacturing infrastructure.

Looked inside weapons

National Lab researchers created a device that could identify the contents of suspicious chemical and explosive munitions and containers, while minimizing risk to the people involved. The technology, which quickly identifies the chemical makeup of weapons, has been used to verify treaties around the world.

Pioneered nuclear safety modeling 

National Lab scientists began developing the Reactor Excursion and Leak Analysis Program (RELAP) to model nuclear reactor coolant and core behavior. Today, RELAP is used throughout the world and has been licensed for both nuclear and non-nuclear applications, including modeling of jet aircraft engines and fossil-fuel power plant components.

Identified good and bad cholesterol 

The battle against heart disease received a boost in the 1960s when National Lab research unveiled the good and bad sides of cholesterol. Today, diagnostic tests that detect both types of cholesterol save lives.

Unmasked a dinosaur killer 

Natural history’s greatest whodunit was solved in 1980 when a team of National Lab scientists pinned the dinosaurs’ abrupt extinction on an asteroid collision with Earth. Case closed.

Pitted cool roofs against carbon dioxide 

National Lab researchers and policy experts led the way in analyzing and implementing cool roofing materials, which reflect sunlight, lower surface temperature and slash cooling costs.

Squeezed fuel from microbes 

In a milestone that brings advanced biofuels one step closer to America’s gas tanks, National Lab scientists helped develop a microbe that can produce fuel directly from biomass.

Tamed hydrogen with nanoparticles 

To replace gasoline, hydrogen must be safely stored and easy to use, which has proven elusive. National Lab researchers have now designed a new pliable material using nanoparticles that can rapidly absorb and release hydrogen without ill effects, a major step in making fuel-cell powered cars a commercial reality.

Exposed the risk 

You can sleep easier thanks to National Lab research that quantified the health risk posed by radon gas in parts of the country. Subsequent EPA standards, coupled with radon detection and mitigation measures pioneered by a National Lab research team, prevent the naturally occurring gas from seeping into basements, saving thousands of lives every year.

Created a pocket-sized DNA sampler 

A tool that identifies the microbes in air, water and soil samples is fast becoming a workhorse in public health, medical and environmental cleanup projects. Developed by National Lab scientists, the credit-card-sized device pinpoints diseases that kill coral reefs and catalogs airborne bacteria over U.S. cities. It also was used to quickly categorize the oil-eating bacteria in the plumes of the Deepwater Horizon spill.

Fabricated the smallest machines

The world’s smallest synthetic motors — as well as radios, scales and switches that are 100,000 times finer than a human hair — were engineered at a National Lab. These and other forays into nanotechnology could lead to life-saving pharmaceuticals and more powerful computers.

Preserved the sounds of yesteryear 

National Lab scientists engineered a high-tech way to digitally reconstruct aging

sound recordings that are too fragile to play, such as Edison wax cylinders from the late 1800s. Archivists estimate that many of the millions of recordings in the world’s sound archives, including the U.S. Library of Congress, could benefit from the technology.

Exposed explosives 

A credit-card sized detector developed by National Lab scientists can screen for more than 30 kinds of explosives in just minutes. The detector, called ELITE, requires no po wer and is widely used by the military, law enforcement and security personnel.

Toughened airplanes 

A National Lab and industry technique for strengthening metal by bombarding it with laser pulses has saved the aircraft industry hundreds of millions of dollars in engine and aircraft maintenance expenses.

Simulated reality 

Trains, planes and automobiles — and thousands of other objects — are safer, stronger and better-designed thanks to computer simulation software, DYNA 3D, developed by National Lab researchers.

Detected the neutrino 

Starting with the Nobel-Prize winning discovery of the neutrino in 1956 by Fred Reines and Clyde Cowan Jr., National Lab researchers have made numerous contributions to neutrino physics and astrophysics.

Discovered gamma ray bursts

Sensors developed at the National Labs and placed aboard Vela satellites were used in the discovery of gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) in 1973. GRBs are extremely energetic explosions from distant galaxies. Scientists believe that most of these bursts consist of a narrow beam of intense radiation released when a rapidly rotating, high-mass star collapses to form a neutron star, a quark star or a black hole.

Created the first 100-Tesla magnetic field 

National Lab scientists achieved a 100.75-Tesla magnetic pulse in March 2012, setting a world record. The pulse was nearly 2 million times more powerful than Earth’s magnetic field. The 100-Tesla multi-shot magnet can be used over and over again without being destroyed by the force of the field it creates, and produces the most powerful non-destructive magnetic field in the world.

Froze smoke for hot uses 

National Labs researchers perfected aerogels, known as frozen smoke. They are one of the lightest solids ever made and have the highest heat resistance of any material tested. They also are fireproof and extraordinarily strong — able to support more than a thousand times their own weight. As a result of their heat resistance, aerogels are outstanding candidates for insulation in buildings, vehicles, filters and appliances.

Invented the cell sorter 

During the 1960s, a National Lab physicist invented a “cell sorter” — a novel device that works much like an ink jet printer, guiding a tiny flow of cell-containing droplets so cells of interest can be deflected for counting and study. Cell sorters are a vital tool for studying the biochemistry behind many diseases, including cancer and AIDS.

Ushered a domestic energy renaissance 

National Lab research jump-started the shale gas revolution by pointing the way to key technologies and methodologies for cost efficient extraction. An estimated $220 million in research and development expenditures on unconventional gas R&D from 1976 to 1992 have resulted in an estimated $100 billion in annual economic activity from shale gas production alone.

Enabled space exploration 

National Labs invented Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS), the backbone of the device that allowed the Curiosity Rover to analyze material from Mars. Lab researchers also found the right combination of materials to make high-efficiency solar cells for spacecraft.

Sharply curtailed power plant air emissions 

National Lab scientists introduced some 20 innovative technologies — such as low nitrogen oxide (NOx) burners, flue gas desulfurization (scrubbers) and fluidized bed combustion — through the Clean Coal Technology Development Program that have deeply penetrated the marketplace, substantially controlled harmful power plant emissions and benefited energy production and air quality.

Made wind power mainstream 

Increasing wind turbine efficiency with high efficiency airfoils has reduced the cost of wind power by more than 80 percent over the last 30 years. Now deployed in wind farms nationwide, these turbines owe their existence to National Lab research.

Engineered smart windows 

National Lab scientists have created highly insulated windows that change color to modulate interior temperatures and lighting. If broadly installed, they could save about 5 percent of the nation’s total energy budget.

Delivered troops safely 

National Lab researchers have developed computer models that effectively manage the complex logistical tasks of deploying troops and equipment to distant destinations.

Channeled chips and hips 

Integrated circuits and artificial hips owe their success to a National Lab discovery that revealed how to change a material by injecting it with charged atoms, called ions. Ion channeling is now standard practice in industry and science.

Made 3D printing bigger and better 

A large-scale additive manufacturing platform developed by a National Lab and an industry partner printed 3D components 10 times larger and 200 times faster than previous processes. So far, the system has produced a 3D-printed sports car, SUV, house, excavator and aviation components.

Purified vaccines

National Lab researchers adapted nuclear separations technology to develop a zonal centrifuge used to purify vaccines, which reduces or eliminates unwanted side effects. Commercial centrifuges based on the invention produce vaccines for millions of people.

Built a better building 

A National Lab has built one of the world’s most energy efficient office buildings. The facility, operating as a living laboratory at a lab site, uses 50 percent less energy than required by commercial codes and only consumes energy produced by renewable power on or near the building.

Improved airport security 

Weapons, explosives, plastic devices and other concealed tools of terrorists are easier to detect thanks to technology developed at a National Lab and now installed in airports worldwide.

Improved grid resiliency 

A National Lab created an advanced battery that can store large amounts of energy from intermittent renewable sources — such as wind and solar — onto the power grid, while also smoothing over temporary disruptions to the grid. Several companies have licensed the technology and offer it as a commercial product.

Solved a diesel dilemma 

A National Lab insight into how catalysts behave paved the way for a new, “lean-burn” diesel engine that met emissions standards and improved fuel efficiency by 25 percent over conventional engines.

Harvested energy from air 

A miniature device — commercialized by private industry after a National Lab breakthrough — generates enough power from small temperature changes to power wireless sensors or radio frequency transmitters at remote sites, such as dams, bridges and pipelines.

Gone grid friendly 

Regulating the energy use of household appliances — especially at peak times — could slash energy demand and avoid blackouts. A National Lab appliance-control device senses grid stress and responds instantly to turn off machines and reduce end-use demand, balancing the system so that the power stays on.

Put the digital in DVDs 

The optical digital recording technology behind music, video and data storage originated at a National Lab nearly 40 years ago.

Locked nuclear waste in glass 

Disposal of U.S. Cold War waste is safer thanks to National Lab scientists who developed and deployed a process to lock it into glass to keep it from leaching into the environment.

Cleaned up anthrax 

Scientists at a National Lab developed a non-toxic foam that neutralizes chemical and biological agents. This foam was used to clean up congressional office buildings and mail rooms exposed to anthrax in 2001.

Removed radiation from Fukushima seawater 

After a tsunami damaged the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in 2011, massive amounts of seawater cooled the reactor. A molecular sieve engineered by National Lab scientists was used to extract radioactive cesium from tens of millions of gallons of seawater.11

Sped up Ebola detection 

In 2014, researchers from a National Lab modeled the Liberian blood sample transport system and made recommendations to diagnose patients quicker. This minimized the amount of time people were waiting together, reducing the spread of Ebola.

Prevented unauthorized use of a nuclear weapon 

In 1960, National Lab scientists invented coded electromechanical locks for all U.S. nuclear weapons. The switch blocks the arming signal until it receives the proper presidential authorization code.

Launched the LED lighting revolution 

In the 1990s, scientists at a National Lab saw the need for energy-efficient solid-state lighting and worked with industry to develop white LEDs. Today, white LEDs are about 30 percent efficient, with the potential to reach 70 percent to 80 percent efficiency. Fluorescent lighting is about 20 percent efficient and incandescent bulbs are 5 percent.

Mastered the art of artificial photosynthesis 

National Lab scientists engineered and synthesized multi-layer semiconductor structures in devices that directly convert sunlight to chemical energy in hydrogen by splitting water at efficiencies greater than 15 percent. This direct conversion of sunlight to fuels paves the way for use of solar energy in applications beyond the electrical grid.

Advanced fusion technology

From the first fusion test reactor to briefly produce power at the megawatt scale, and the world’s largest and most energetic laser creating extreme conditions mimicking the Big Bang, the interiors of planets and stars and thermonuclear weapons, to the international experiment to generate industrial levels of fusion energy from burning plasmas, fusion science and applications are advancing because of the National Labs.

Made the first molecular movie 

National Lab scientists have used ultrafast X-rays to capture the first molecular movies in quadrillionths-of-a-second frames. These movies detail the intricate structural dances of molecules as they undergo chemical reactions.

DOE imagesThe National Laboratory System: Protecting America Through Science and Technology

For more than 75 years, the Department of Energy’s National Laboratories have solved important problems in science, energy and national security. This expertise keeps our nation at the forefront of science and technology in a rapidly changing world. Partnering with industry and academia, the laboratories also drive innovation to advance economic competitiveness and     ensure our nation’s future prosperity.

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Stanford University: Solving the “Storage Problem” for Renewable Energies: A New Cost Effective Re-Chargeable Aluminum Battery


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One of the biggest missing links in renewable energy is affordable and high performance energy storage, but a new type of battery developed at Stanford University could be the solution.

Solar energy generation works great when the sun is shining [duh…like taking a Space Mission to the Sun .. but only at night! :-)] and wind energy is awesome when it’s windy (double duh…), but neither is very helpful for the grid after dark and when the air is still. That’s long been one of the arguments against renewable energy, even if there are plenty of arguments for developing additional solar and wind energy installations without large-scale energy storage solutions in place. However, if low-cost and high performance batteries were readily available, it could go a long way toward a more sustainable and cleaner grid, and a pair of Stanford engineers have developed what could be a viable option for grid-scale energy storage.

With three relatively abundant and low-cost materials, namely aluminum, graphite, and urea, Stanford chemistry Professor Hongjie Dai and doctoral candidate Michael Angell have created a rechargeable battery that is nonflammable, very efficient, and has a long lifecycle.

“So essentially, what you have is a battery made with some of the cheapest and most abundant materials you can find on Earth. And it actually has good performance. Who would have thought you could take graphite, aluminum, urea, and actually make a battery that can cycle for a pretty long time?” – Dai

A previous version of this rechargeable aluminum battery was found to be efficient and to have a long life, but it also employed an expensive electrolyte, whereas the latest iteration of the aluminum battery uses urea as the base for the electrolyte, which is already produced in large quantities for fertilizer and other uses (it’s also a component of urine, but while a pee-based home battery might seem like just the ticket, it’s probably not going to happen any time soon).

According to Stanford, the new development marks the first time urea has been used in a battery, and because urea isn’t flammable (as lithium-ion batteries are), this makes it a great choice for home energy storage, where safety is of utmost importance. And the fact that the new battery is also efficient and affordable makes it a serious contender when it comes to large-scale energy storage applications as well.

“I would feel safe if my backup battery in my house is made of urea with little chance of causing fire.” – Dai

According to Angell, using the new battery as grid storage “is the main goal,” thanks to the high efficiency and long life cycle, coupled with the low cost of its components. By one metric of efficiency, called Coulombic efficiency, which measures the relationship between the unit of charge put into the battery and the output charge, the new battery is rated at 99.7%, which is high.WEF solarpowersavemoney-628x330

In order to meet the needs of a grid-scale energy storage system, a battery would need to last at least a decade, and while the current urea-based aluminum ion batteries have been able to last through about 1500 charge cycles, the team is still looking into improving its lifetime in its goal of developing a commercial version.

The team has published some of its results in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, under the title “High Coulombic efficiency aluminum-ion battery using an AlCl3-urea ionic liquid analog electrolyte.”

 

PNL Battery Storage Systems 042016 rd1604_batteriesGrid-scale energy storage to manage our electricity supply would benefit from batteries that can withstand repeated cycling of discharging and charging. Current lithium-ion batteries have lifetimes of only 1,000-3,000 cycles. Now a team of researchers from Stanford University, Taiwan, and China have made a research prototype of an inexpensive, safe aluminum-ion battery that can withstand 7,500 cycles. In the aluminum-ion battery, one electrode is made from affordable aluminum, and the other is composed of carbon in the form of graphite.

Read: A step towards new, faster-charging, and safer batteries

 

Flying drones could soon re-charge whilst airborne with new (old) technology: Inductive Coupling


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Scientists have demonstrated a highly efficient method for wirelessly transferring power to a drone while it is flying.

The breakthrough could in theory allow flying drones to stay airborne indefinitely – simply hovering over a ground support vehicle to recharge – opening up new potential industrial applications.

The technology uses inductive coupling, a concept initially demonstrated by inventor Nikola Tesla over 100 years ago. Two copper coils are tuned into one another, using electronics, which enables the wireless exchange of power at a certain frequency. Scientists have been experimenting with this technology for decades, but have not yet been able to wirelessly power flying technology.

Now, scientists from Imperial College London have removed the battery from an off-the-shelf mini- and demonstrated that they can wirelessly transfer power to it via inductive coupling. They believe their demonstration is the first to show how this wireless charging method can be efficiently done with a flying object like a drone, potentially paving the way for wider use of the technology.

To demonstrate their approach the researchers bought an off-the-shelf quadcopter drone, around 12 centimetres in diameter, and altered its electronics and removed its battery. They made a copper foil ring, which is a receiving antennae that encircles the drone’s casing. On the ground, a transmitter device made out of a circuit board is connected to electronics and a power source, creating a .

The drone’s electronics are tuned or calibrated at the frequency of the magnetic field. When it flies into the magnetic field an alternating current (AC) voltage is induced in the receiving antenna and the drone’s electronics convert it efficiently into a direct current (DC) voltage to power it.

The technology is still in its experimental stage. The drone can only currently fly ten centimetres above the magnetic field transmission source. The team estimate they are one year away from a commercially available product. When commercialised they believe their breakthrough could have a range of advantages in the development of commercial drone technology and other devices.

The use of small drones for commercial purposes, in surveillance, for reconnaissance missions, and search and rescue operations are rapidly growing. However, the distance that a drone can travel and the duration it can stay in the air is limited by the availability of power and re-charging requirements. Wireless power transfer technology may solve this, say the team.

Dr Samer Aldhaher, a researcher from the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at Imperial College London, said: “There are a number of scenarios where wirelessly transferring power could improve drone technology. One option could see a ground support vehicle being used as a mobile charging station, where drones could hover over it and recharge, never having to leave the air.”

Wirelessly transferring power could have also applications in other areas such as sensors, healthcare devices and further afield, on interplanetary missions.

Professor Paul Mitcheson, from the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at Imperial College London, explains: “Imagine using a drone to wirelessly transmit power to sensors on things such as bridges to monitor their structural integrity. This would cut out humans having to reach these difficult to access places to re-charge them.

“Another application could include implantable miniature diagnostic medical devices, wirelessly powered from a source external to the body. This could enable new types of medical implants to be safely recharged, and reduce the battery size to make these implants less invasive.

“In the future, we may also be able to use drones to re-charge science equipment on Mars, increasing the lifetime of these billion dollar missions.

“We have already made valuable progress with this technology and now we are looking to take it to the next level.”

The next stage will see team exploring collaborations with potential industrial partners.

Explore further: Drone safety: User-centric control software improves pilot performance and safety

 

Progress Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative: Update


3D rendered Molecule (Abstract) with Clipping PathThis document provides an overview of progress on the implementation and coordination of the 2011 NNI Environmental, Health, and Safety (EHS) Research Strategy that was developed by the Nanoscale Science, Engineering, and Technology Subcommittee’s Nanotechnology Environmental and Health Implications (NEHI) Working Group.

 

Consistent with the adaptive management process described in this strategy, the NEHI Working Group has made significant progress through the use of various evaluation tools to understand the current status of nanotechnology-related EHS (nanoEHS) research and the Federal nanoEHS research investment.

Most notably, the participating agencies reported to the NEHI Working Group examples of ongoing, completed, and anticipated EHS research (from FY 2009 through FY 2012) relevant to implementation of the 2011 NNI EHS Research Strategy.

These examples, described in this document, demonstrate the breadth of activities in all six core research areas of the 2011 NNI EHS Research Strategy: Nanomaterial Measurement Infrastructure, Human Exposure Assessment, Human Health, Environment, Risk Assessment and Risk Management Methods, and Informatics and Modeling. Overall, coordination and implementation of the 2011 NNI EHS Strategy across the NEHI agencies has enabled:

  • Development of comprehensive measurement tools that consider the full life cycles of engineered nanomaterials (ENMs) in various media.
  • Collection of exposure assessment data and resources to inform workplace exposure control strategies for key classes of ENMs.
  • Enhanced understanding of the modes of interaction between ENMs and physiological systems relevant to human biology.
  • Improved assessment of transport and transformations of ENMs in various environmental media, biological systems, and over full life cycles.
  • Development of principles for establishing robust risk assessment and risk management practices for ENMs and nanotechnology-enabled products that incorporate ENMs, as well as approaches for identifying, characterizing, and communicating risks to all stakeholders.
  • Coordination of efforts to enhance data quality, modeling, and simulation capabilities for nanotechnology, towards building a collaborative nanoinformatics infrastructure.

Extensive collaboration and coordination among the NEHI agencies as well as with international organizations is evident by the numerous research examples and by other activities such as co-sponsored workshops and interagency agreements described in this review document. These examples and activities are a small subset of the extensive research efforts at the NEHI agencies. This document addresses the NEHI Working Group’s broader efforts in coordination, implementation, and social outreach in nanoEHS, as identified in the 2011 NNI EHS Research Strategy. As the NNI agencies sustain a robust budget for EHS research, Federal agencies will continue to invest in tools and share information essential to assess and manage potential risks of current and anticipated ENMs and nanotechnology-enabled products throughout their life cycles. The agencies will also continue to engage with the stakeholder community to establish a broad EHS knowledge base in support of regulatory decision making and responsible development of nanotechnology.

 

A Look at Water Markets Worldwide


water droplet id34951xThe world market for water and waste water amounted to $533 Billion US$ in 2011. The markets are expected to expand further with high growth rates to $674 Billion US$ by 2015.The market figures are for the whole value chain. The regions, technology and consumer segments differ, as well as profit potentials for single markets and companies.

 Surfer at Peahi Bay on Maui, Hawaii

2011 revenues were in excess of US$530 Billion. Broken down by sector:

  • Services 60 %,
  • Equipment 26 %,
  • Chemicals 2 %,
  • Others 12 %.
  • Bottled and Bulk Water Market exceeds $90 Billion USD
  • Water treatment segment has an especially high growth rate.

The drinking water market worldwide is dominated by communal companies, which belong fully or partially to the states, as well as by big multinational corporations. This sector of supply is dominated by about 20,000 companies worldwide. A further concentration into big corporations is expected also in the process of privatization due to high investments and operating costs.

Drinking water markets provide very limited profit potentials (less than 12%), on the other hand it is a long-lasting market with small year fluctuations. Companies and public institutions, that combine drinking water with other utilities like waste water and energy, are fully capable to gain a higher return of more than 15%. The highest growth rates are expected in Asia, especially in China because the state has launched public programs to improve the drinking water situation in the next 5 years.
 

The public drinking water supply has grown with an average annual rate of 9% and high investment in this field is expected. The World Bank has granted an investment of over $450 Billion US$ for the next 10 years. For over one third of the world population, especially Africa, South America and part of Asia, the drinking water is both a quality and supply shortage problem.

Water markets are local markets but to be successful as an international company, a company will need to serve and work in most important markets worldwide. Over the next 50 years – despite the risks cited, there is a sharp increase in the demand for efficient irrigation technologies, seawater desalination and sewage treatment facilities, technical equipment (e.g. pumps, compressors and fittings), filter systems and disinfection procedures.

New technologies and converging technologies (especially in domestic and residential markets) hold the greatest potential for successful disruption in the marketplace.

In the field of waste water, i.e. clarification of waste water, the situation has improved slightly. Worldwide, 14% of all waste water in the year 2013 was purified. At the bottom of this development list are South America and Africa with less than 2% waste water purification.

The most influential factors are population development, increasing demand for food (and thus demand for water), urbanization, germination, pesticides, nitrates and above all resistance to antibiotics in surface water in the industrialized countries.

 
Goals of the Report

 
The study provides a foundation to gain information about trends, opportunities and risks and to evaluate initial situation and further development as well, identifies and evaluates the growth and profit opportunities within the segments of technologies/markets and value chain. It deals with the following technology sectors:

  • Drinking water, water desalination
  • Water treatment/water purification
  • Treatment of waste water in industry and municipality
  • Energy in the water industry
  • Automation, E-Technique and Services in Water Market
  • Emerging membrane technology
  • Emerging desalination

The Helmut Kaiser Consultancy has completed a study that researches and valuates the development of the world markets, single consumer sectors and technology segments. The highest growth rates are in sectors mineral and bottled water, this markets are expected to double from 2015. In this sector 8 companies are dominating worldwide with a market share of 20%. The global market for table water will show a stable high growth rate, because of the many looming challenges for public drinking water most notably, low quality and serious supply shortages.

The report is arranged by sectors and can be obtained either completely, or each sector separately. The markets are presented by countries and regions, as well as by market segments. The report also provides an analysis and profiles, (as well as presentation) of the leading water companies (more than 1500) that are quoted on the stock exchange and their factors of success and technology portfolio. This recent study has been completed to help identify the profitable markets and develop a strategy for future strategic market participation.

For more information: The Helmut Kaiser Consultancy Group (www.hkc22.com )

 

 

*** A Note from Genesis Nanotechnology ***

We believe and are firmly committed to our Strategic Vision of how “Nanotechnology” will play an ever increasing role in Water Treatment, Water Filtration, Wastewater Remediation and Desalinization.

If you would like to talk to us about what we are currently developing with our Research Partners OR would like to discuss YOUR ideas, strategies or research with us, please feel free to contact us with your Contact & Profile Information.

Simply go to our website and complete the ‘Contact Form’: http://genesisnanotech.com/contacts/

We look forward to hearing from you!- Team GNT – “Great Things from Small Things!”

Our “One Picture” Business Summary

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Exclusive: The miracle cure – scientists turn human skin into stem cells


p1stemcells

Human skin cells have been turned into stem cells which have the potential to develop into fully-formed embryos, simply by bathing them in weak citric acid for half an hour, a leading scientist has told The Independent on Sunday.

The demonstration that the technique, which was pioneered on mouse cells, also works on human skin cells raises the prospect of new treatments for incurable illnesses, from Parkinson’s to heart disease, based on regenerating diseased organs in situ from a patient’s own stem cells.

Although there is no intention to create human embryos from skin cells, scientists believe that it could, theoretically, be possible to do so given that entire mouse embryos have already been effectively created from the re-engineered blood cells of laboratory mice.

Creating the mouse embryos was the final proof the scientists needed to demonstrate that the stem cells were “pluripotent”, and so capable of developing into any specialised tissue of an adult animal, including the “germ cells” that make sperm and eggs.

Pluripotent stem cells could usher in a new age of medicine based on regenerating diseased organs or tissues with injections of tissue material engineered from a patient’s own skin or blood, which would pose few problems in terms of tissue rejection.

However, the technique also has the potential to be misused for cloning babies, although stem cell scientists believe there are formidable technical, legal and ethical obstacles that would make this effectively impossible.

A team of Japanese and American scientists converted human skin cells into stem cells using the same simple approach that had astonished scientists around the world last month when they announced that they had converted blood cells of mice into stem cells by bathing them in a weak solution of citric acid for 30 minutes.

The scientist who instigated the research programme more than a decade ago said that he now has overwhelming evidence that the same technique can be used to create embryonic-like stem cells from human skin cells.

Charles Vacanti, a tissue engineer at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, said that the same team of researchers has generated stem cells from human dermal fibroblasts – skin cells – which came from a commercial source of human tissues sold for research purposes.

“The process was very similar to the one we used on mouse cells, but we used human dermal fibroblasts that we purchased commercially,” Dr Vacanti said. “I can confirm that stem cells were made when we treated these human cells. They do the same thing [as the mouse cells].

“They revert back to stem cells, and we believe the stem cells are not a contamination in the sample that we were inadvertently sent by the company, but that they are being made, although we still have to do the final tests to prove this,” he added.

“We have strong evidence that we have now made human stem cells by the same technique used on mouse cells and it suggests that there is probably a parallel process going on. I’m 98 per cent comfortable with the results so far.”

Detailed genetic tests and further experiments will be needed to prove beyond any doubt that the cells are true stem cells, although Dr Vacanti emphasised that he will not be carrying out the same experiments on the human stem cells that led to the creation of mouse embryos from mouse stem cells.

“My interest is to demonstrate the biological process, to grow your own perfect embryonic stem cells in order to repair your own damaged tissues – but without making an embryo,” Dr Vacanti said.

“In order to repair tissues you need embryonic stem cells, but the irony is that in order to show that you don’t need an embryo you have to sometimes create an embryo – in mice at least.”

Asked whether it would be possible in theory to follow on from the mouse research to show that skin cells could be turned into viable human embryos – effectively a clone of the donor of the skin samples – Dr Vacanti said: “This is an offshoot, an unintended consequence, so the answer is ‘yes’ …. This would be the natural conclusion, but I won’t be the one that does it.”

Robert Lanza, a stem cell expert at Advanced Cell Technology in Massachusetts, said that if the technique has been made to work on human cells as Dr Vacanti has described, then it could be a “paradigm changer” in terms of using stem cells for therapeutic purposes.

However, the development also raises serious questions about its possible unauthorised use for cloning babies,

“Because of the ease of the methodology, this research could have serious ethical ramifications,” Dr Lanza said. “If the cells are truly totipotent [able to develop into any cell type], then this technology could be used to clone organisms… and perhaps even humans.”

Haruko Obokata has stunned the world

Haruko Obokata has stunned the world Of mice and men

Haruko Obokata, a young post-doctoral researcher now at the Riken Centre for Developmental Biology in Kobe, Japan, startled the world two weeks ago when she explained how she created embryonic stem cells from the blood of mice by simply bathing the murine blood cells in a weak solution of citric acid for half an hour.

Dr Obokata began the research in 2008 in the United States after being recruited to work in the laboratory of Charles Vacanti, a colourful and engaging scientist at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, who first had the idea of creating stem cells from blood or skin cells by subjecting them to some kind of traumatic stress.

Dr Vacanti, along with his pathologist brother Martin, had previously published studies indicating that stem cells are spontaneously created when ordinary tissue is stressed by either mechanical injury or by rising acidity.

He believed this was the body’s natural repair mechanism, when damaged adult cells revert to an embryonic state which we call “stem cells”. His initial studies, published more than 10 years ago, were met with ridicule. On one occasion, Dr Vacanti was heckled at a scientific conference. “People said we were nuts. They said it was heresy, that we should withdraw our scientific papers,” Dr Vacanti said.

However, Dr Obokata’s painstaking research, now published in the journal Nature after unusually severe scrutiny by peer reviewers, appears to have proved Dr Vacanti right. Making embryonic stem cells from human skin or blood could not be any easier.

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A Google Glass app for instant medical diagnostics (w/video)


(Nanowerk Spotlight)  By Michael Berger. Copyright © Nanowerk

2x2-logo-sm.jpgThe integration of consumer electronics with advanced imaging and analytical platforms holds great promises for medical point-of-care diagnostics and environmental rapid field testing for pollutants and viruses. For instance, in a recent Nanowerk Spotlight we reported on the use of smartphones to detect single nanoparticles and viruses.

In this work, a research group led by Aydogan Ozcan, a professor in the Electrical and Bioengineering Department at UCLA and Associate Director of the California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI), created a field-portable fluorescence microscopy platform installed on a smartphone for imaging of individual nanoparticles as well as viruses using a light-weight and compact opto-mechanical attachment to the existing camera module of the cellphone.

“This technology allows Google Glass wearers to use the hands-free camera on the device to send images of diagnostic tests that screen for conditions such as HIV or prostate cancer,” Ozcan explains to Nanowerk. “Without relying on any additional devices, Google Glass users can upload these images and receive accurate analysis of health conditions in as little as eight seconds.”

     Labeled Google Glass and demonstration of imaging a rapid diagnostic test

Labeled Google Glass and demonstration of imaging a rapid diagnostic test (RDT). (a) Front-profile view of the Google Glass with various hardware components36 labeled. (b) Example of using the Glass for taking an image of an RDT as part of our RDT reader application. (Reprinted with permission from American Chemical Society) (click image to enlarge)

This is the first biomedical sensing application created through Google Glass. This breakthrough technology takes advantage of gains in both immunochromatographic rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) and wearable computers (such as Google Glass). The team reported their findings in  the February 27, 2014 online edition of ACS Nano (“Immunochromatographic Diagnostic Test Analysis Using Google Glass”).

Over the past decade, RDTs – which are in general based on light scattering off surface-functionalized metallic nanoparticles – have emerged as a quick and cost-effective method to screen various diseases and have provided various advantages for tackling public health problems including more effective tracking/monitoring of chronic conditions, infectious diseases and widespread medical testing by minimally trained medical personnel or community healthcare workers.

The new Google Glass-based diagnostic technology could improve individual tracking of dangerous conditions or diseases, public health monitoring and rapid response in disaster relief areas or quarantine zones. This is how it works: The user takes a photo of the RDT device through the camera system in Google Glass. Using a Quick Response (QR) code identifier, which is custom-designed and attached to each RDT cassette, this custom-written Glass application is capable of automatically finding and identifying the type of the RDT of interest, along with other information (e.g., patient data) that can be linked to the same QR code.

The data is transmitted to a central server which has been set up for fast and high-throughput evaluation of test results coming from multiple devices simultaneously. The data is processed automatically and to create a quantitative diagnostic result, which is then returned to the Google Glass user.

Here is how it looks through the screen of Google Glass during imaging and quantification of a diagnostic test.

This is the first biomedical sensing application on Google Glass.
Achieved a few parts per billion level of sensitivity with Glass.

“We also developed a centralized database and Web interface for visualizing uploaded data in the form of geo-tagged map data, which can be quite useful for short- and long-term spatiotemporal tracking of the evolution,” says Ozcan. “This web portal allows users to view test results, maps charting the geographical spread of various diseases and conditions, and the cumulative data from all the tests they have submitted over time.” He also points out that the precision of the Google Glass camera system permits quantified reading of the results to a few-parts-per-billion level of sensitivity – far greater than that of the naked eye – thus eliminating the potential for human error in interpreting results, which is a particular concern if the user is a health care worker who routinely deals with many different types of tests.

         rapid diagnostic test imaging and processing workflow done by the Google Glass application

Block diagram of the rapid diagnostic test (RDT) imaging and processing workflow (a, c) done by the Google Glass application (red dashed frame) and server processes (green dashed frame). In this case, a single RDT is analyzed. (Reprinted with permission from American Chemical Society) (click image to enlarge)

The team tested their Google Glass-based RDT reader platform through commercially available human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and prostate-specific antigen (PSA) rapid tests. The researchers took images of tests under normal, indoor, fluorescent-lit room conditions. They submitted more than 400 images of the two tests, and the RDT reader and server platform were able to read the images 99.6 percent of the time. Ozcan notes that, for wide-scale deployment and use of this Google Glass application, the sales price of Glass should be cost-effective enough to compete with mobile phones and low enough to enter developing markets.

“We are quite hopeful on this end as Google is very well aware of all these emerging opportunities.”

Read more: A Google Glass app for instant medical diagnostics (w/video) http://www.nanowerk.com/spotlight/spotid=34615.php#ixzz2vIsTVapx

ACS Nano article:    http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/n…
Created by Ozcan Research Lab at UCLA:

NanoHybrids Inc. Launches its First Product Line of Imaging Contrast Agents


1x2 logo sm(Nanowerk News) NanoHybrids Corporation, a provider of nanotechnology-based contrast agents announced the launch of its new website and premium product line of gold nanoparticles specially designed to improve imaging results. The company’s initial technology platform was developed in collaboration with researchers from the Biomedical Engineering Department at The University of Texas at Austin and M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.                     
“Frustrated by inconsistent imaging results due to highly variable shape, size and other properties of commercially available gold nanoparticle contrast agents, our team has developed highly monodisperse gold nanorods and nanospheres that will help scientists obtain consistent and better quality data. We also have a policy of ‘no proprietary coatings’ which means that unlike some companies in this space, we offer full transparency on surface chemistry, making it easier for our customers to modify and use these particles depending on their application,” says Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer Dr. Kimberly Homan.
NanoHybrids’ offerings include an exclusive line of silica-coated gold nanorods that are quickly gaining popularity as contrast agents in photoacoustic (optoacoustic) imaging. As opposed to current preclinical imaging contrast agents on the market, NanoHybrids’ silica-coated nanorods resist melting and shape distortion even when subjected to extreme heat via focused laser beams. In addition to providing this enhanced thermodynamic stability, the silica-coating also facilitates better heat transfer to the surrounding fluid, thus dramatically increasing signal strength. Overall, these benefits make the company’s silica-coated gold nanorods an excellent contrast agent for not only in vitro and in vivo photoacoustic imaging but also many other applications involving continuous or pulsed lasers.
The founders at NanoHybrids have decades of experience in biomedical imaging and have been pioneering the development of contrast agents alongside custom designed imaging systems. “Our products have been developed by imaging researchers, for researchers. As scientists ourselves, we understand the challenges involved when working with gold nanoparticles in imaging and strive to provide the highest possible level of quality and technical support,” says Homan.
About NanoHybrids
NanoHybrids Inc. is an Austin-based company focused on commercializing nanotechnology solutions that can enhance the non-invasive detection and molecular profiling of cancer, atherosclerosis and other diseases. The company’s current product line comprises of nano-sized agents that enhance contrast in pre-clinical biomedical imaging techniques by interacting specifically with diseased cells and allowing for selective real-time imaging of functional biology.
Website: http://www.nanohybrids.net
Product Applications: nanohybrids.net/pages/applications
Products: nanohybrids.net/collections/all-products
Source: NanoHybrids (press release)

Read more: NanoHybrids Inc. Launches its First Product Line of Imaging Contrast Agents

Designing the Next Wave of Computer Chips with Nanomaterials


Nanomaterials for Chips

PALO ALTO, Calif. — Not long after Gordon E. Moore proposed in 1965 that the number of transistors that could be etched on a silicon chip would continue to double approximately every 18 months, critics began predicting that the era of “Moore’s Law” would draw to a close.

More than ever recently, industry pundits have been warning that the progress of the semiconductor industry is grinding to a halt — and that the theory of Dr. Moore, an Intel co-founder, has run its course.

If so, that will have a dramatic impact on the computer world. The innovation that has led to personal computers, music players and smartphones is directly related to the plunging cost of transistors, which are now braided by the billions onto fingernail slivers of silicon — computer chips — that may sell for as little as a few dollars each.

But Moore’s Law is not dead; it is just evolving, according to more optimistic scientists and engineers. Their contention is that it will be possible to create circuits that are closer to the scale of individual molecules by using a new class of nanomaterials — metals, ceramics, polymeric or composite materials that can be organized from the “bottom up,” rather than the top down.

For instance, semiconductor designers are developing chemical processes that can make it possible to “self assemble” circuits by causing the materials to form patterns of ultrathin wires on a semiconductor wafer. Combining these patterns of nanowires with conventional chip-making techniques, the scientists believe, will lead to a new class of computer chips, keeping Moore’s Law alive while reducing the cost of making chips in the future.

“The key is self assembly,” said Chandrasekhar Narayan, director of science and technology at IBM’s Almaden Research Center in San Jose, Calif. “You use the forces of nature to do your work for you. Brute force doesn’t work any more; you have to work with nature and let things happen by themselves.”

To do this, semiconductor manufacturers will have to move from the silicon era to what might be called the era of computational materials. Researchers here in Silicon Valley, using powerful new supercomputers to simulate their predictions, are leading the way. While semiconductor chips are no longer made here, the new classes of materials being developed in this area are likely to reshape the computing world over the next decade.

“Materials are very important to our human societies,” said Shoucheng Zhang, a Stanford University physicist who recently led a group of researchers to design a tin alloy that has superconductinglike properties at room temperature. “Entire eras are named after materials — the stone age, the iron age and now we have the silicon age. In the past they have been discovered serendipitously. Once we have the power to predict materials, I think it’s transformative.”

Pushing this research forward is economics — specifically, the staggering cost semiconductor manufacturers are expecting to pay for their next-generation factories. In the chip-making industry this has been referred to as “Moore’s Second Law.”

Two years from now new factories for making microprocessor chips will cost from $8 to $10 billion, according to a recent Gartner report — more than twice as much as the current generation. That amount could rise to between $15 and $20 billion by the end of the decade, equivalent to the gross domestic product of a small nation.

The stunning expenditures that soon will be required mean that the risk of error for chip companies is immense. So rather than investing in expensive conventional technologies that might fail, researchers are looking to these new self-assembling materials.

In December, researchers at Sandia National Laboratories in Livermore, Calif., published a Science paper describing advances in a new class of materials called “metal-organic frameworks” or MOFs. These are crystalline ensembles of metal ions and organic molecules. They have been simulated with high-performance computers, and then verified experimentally.

What the scientists have proven is that they can create conductive thin films, which could be used in a range of applications, including photovoltaics, sensors and electronic materials.

The scientists said that they now see paths for moving beyond the conductive materials, toward creating semiconductors as well.

According to Mark D. Allendorf, a Sandia chemist, there are very few things that you can do with conventional semiconductorsto change the behavior of a material. With MOFs he envisions a future in which molecules can be precisely ordered to create materials with specific behaviors.

“One of the reasons that Sandia is well positioned is that we have huge supercomputers,” he said. They have been able to simulate matrixes of 600 atoms, large enough for the computer to serve as an effective test tube.

In November, scientists at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, writing in the journal Physical Review Letters, described a new form of tin that, at only a single molecule thick, has been predicted to conduct electricity with 100 percent efficiency at room temperature. Until now these kinds of efficiencies have only been found in materials known as superconductors, and then only at temperatures near absolute zero.

The material would be an example of a new class of materials called “topological insulators” that are highly conductive along a surface or edge, but insulating on their interior. In this case the researchers have proposed a structure with fluorine atoms added to a single layer of tin atoms.

The scientists, led by Dr. Zhang, named the new material stanene, combining the Latin name for tin — stannum — with the suffix used for graphene, another material based on a sheet of carbon atoms a single molecule thick.

The promise of such a material is that it might be easily used in conjunction with today’s chip-making processes to both increase the speed and lower the power consumption of future generations of semiconductors.

The theoretical prediction of the material must still be verified, and Dr. Zhang said that research is now taking place in Germany and China, as well as a laboratory at U.C.L.A.

It is quite possible that the computational materials revolution may offer a path toward cheaper technologies for the next generation of computer chips.

That is IBM’s bet. The company is now experimenting with exotic polymers that automatically form into an ultrafine web and can be used to form circuit patterns onto silicon wafers.

Dr. Narayan is cautiously optimistic, saying there is a good chance that bottoms-up self-assembly techniques will eliminate the need to invest in new lithographic machines, costing $500 million, that use X-rays to etch smaller circuits. .

“The answer is possibly yes,” he said, in describing a lower cost path to denser computer chips.

New Technique Targets Specific Areas of Cancer Cells with Different Drugs


Human BodyRelease Date: 01.06.14 Filed under

Releases

Researchers have developed a technique for creating nanoparticles that carry two different cancer-killing drugs into the body and deliver those drugs to separate parts of the cancer cell where they will be most effective. The technique was developed by researchers at North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“In testing on laboratory mice, our technique resulted in significant improvement in breast cancer tumor reduction as compared to conventional treatment techniques,” says Dr. Zhen Gu, senior author of a paper on the research and an assistant professor in the joint biomedical engineering program at NC State and UNC-Chapel Hill.

Image shows the structure of the nanoparticle (right), and how the nanoparticles home in on a tumor and shrink it (left). Click to enlarge.

 

“Cancer cells can develop resistance to chemotherapy drugs, but are less likely to develop resistance when multiple drugs are delivered simultaneously,” Gu says. “However, different drugs target different parts of the cancer cell. For example, the protein drug TRAIL is most effective against the cell membrane, while doxorubicin (Dox) is most effective when delivered to the nucleus. We’ve come up with a sequential and site-specific delivery technique that first delivers TRAIL to cancer cell membranes and then penetrates the membrane to deliver Dox to the nucleus.”

Gu’s research team developed nanoparticles with an outer shell made of hyaluronic acid (HA) woven together with TRAIL. The HA interacts with receptors on cancer cell membranes, which “grab” the nanoparticle. Enzymes in the cancer cell environment break down the HA, releasing TRAIL onto the cell membrane and ultimately triggering cell death.

When the HA shell breaks down, it also reveals the core of the nanoparticle, which is made of Dox that is embedded with peptides that allow the core to penetrate into the cancer cell. The cancer cell encases the core in a protective bubble called an endosome, but the peptides on the core cause the endosome to begin breaking apart. This spills the Dox into the cell where it can penetrate the nucleus and trigger cell death.

“We designed this drug delivery vehicle using a ‘programmed’ strategy,” says Tianyue Jiang, a lead author in Dr. Gu’s lab. “Different drugs can be released at the right time in their right places,” adds Dr. Ran Mo, a postdoctoral researcher in Gu’s lab and the other lead author.

“This research is our first proof of concept, and we will continue to optimize the technique to make it even more efficient,” Gu says. “The early results are very promising, and we think this could be scaled up for large-scale manufacturing.”

The paper, “Gel–Liposome-Mediated Co-Delivery of Anticancer Membrane-Associated Proteins and Small-Molecule Drugs for Enhanced Therapeutic Efficacy,” is published online in Advanced Functional Materials. Co-authors of the paper are Adriano Bellotti, an undergraduate at NC State, and Dr. Jianping Zhou, a professor at China Pharmaceutical University.

-shipman-

Note to Editors: The study abstract follows.

“Gel–Liposome-Mediated Co-Delivery of Anticancer Membrane-Associated Proteins and Small-Molecule Drugs for Enhanced Therapeutic Efficacy”

Authors: Tianyue Jiang, Ran Mo, and Zhen Gu, North Carolina State University and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Adriano Bellotti, North Carolina State University; Jianping Zhou, China Pharmaceutical University.

Published: online Jan. 2, 2014, Advanced Functional Materials

Abstract: A programmed drug-delivery system that can transport different anticancer therapeutics to their distinct targets holds vast promise for cancer treatment. Herein, a core–shell-based “nanodepot” consisting of a liposomal core and a crosslinked-gel shell (designated Gelipo) is developed for the sequential and site-specific delivery (SSSD) of tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) and doxorubicin (Dox). As a small-molecule drug intercalating the nuclear DNA, Dox is loaded in the aqueous core of the liposome, while TRAIL, acting on the death receptor (DR) on the plasma membrane, is encapsulated in the outer shell made of crosslinked hyaluronic acid (HA). The degradation of the HA shell by HAase that is concentrated in the tumor environment results in the rapid extracellular release of TRAIL and subsequent internalization of the liposomes. The parallel activity of TRAIL and Dox show synergistic anticancer efficacy. The half-maximal inhibitory concentration (IC50) of TRAIL and Dox co-loaded Gelipo (TRAIL/Dox-Gelipo) toward human breast cancer (MDA-MB-231) cells is 83 ng mL–1 (Dox concentration), which presents a 5.9-fold increase in the cytotoxicity compared to 569 ng mL–1 of Dox-loaded Gelipo (Dox-Gelipo). Moreover, with the programmed choreography, Gelipo significantly improves the inhibition of the tumor growth in the MDA-MB-231 xenograft tumor animal model.