Nanotechnology is the ability to create and manipulate atoms and molecules on the smallest of scales. Will this emerging science revolutionize the world we live in?
Materials scientists figure out ways to make things stronger, cheaper, or better. A favorite technique is nano-self-assembly. Just mix together the right ingredients and "presto", you get a wonder material. Another great development would be for the material to be self-repairing.
MIT scientist, Michael Strano, and his team have created a material made up of seven different compounds including carbon nanotubes, phospholipids, and proteins. Under the right conditions they spontaneously assemble themselves into a light-harvesting structure that produces an electric current. The assembly breaks apart when a surfactant (think soapy solution) is added but reassemble when it is removed. These new self-healing solar cells are already about double the efficiency of today’s best solar cells but could potentially be many times more efficient.
Courtesy Yutaka Tsutano
I have been waiting for the new iPod Touch. I want a display screen so sharp, it looks like a photograph. The "retina display" creates an image out of pixels that are only 78 nanometers. How small is that? Well, more than 300 of these pixels are packed in each inch. Supposedly this is the limit for human perception, or as some fanboys might say, "It doesn't get any better than this!"
University of Michigan researchers can do better, though, Their paper in Nature Communications titled, Plasmonic nanoresonators for high-resolution colour filtering and spectral imaging explains how pixels of only 10 microns can be produced.
Such pixel densities could make the technology useful in projection displays, as well as wearable, bendable or extremely compact displays, according to the researchers.
The resonators are kind of like a light filter. Two nano thin layers of metal selectively allow light to pass through small sets of slits. The slit spacing determines which wavelength of light makes it through the slits.
Red light emanates from slits set around 360 nanometers apart; green from those about 270 nanometers apart, and blue from those approximately 225 nanometers apart. The differently spaced gratings essentially catch different wavelengths of light and resonantly transmit through the stacks. LinuxForDevices.com
These displays are simpler, use fewer parts, are more efficient, and should be cheaper to make. I am not going to wait, though.
Cleaning up oil spills costs big money. BP says the Gulf cleanup cost is $8 Billion. Hoping that next time we can do it better, faster, and cheaper, Wendy Schmidt has offered $1.4 Million in prizes to inspire a new generation of innovative solutions.
A $1 Million Prize will be awarded to the team that demonstrates the ability to recover oil on the sea surface at the highest oil recovery rate (ORR) and the highest Recovery Efficiency (RE).
If you are interested click here for the competition rules.
MIT may have a jump on the competition with their Seaswarm project. Last week they showed off what looked like a solar powered treadmill that lapped up spilled oil. Using GPS and wireless communication, a swarm of these devices autonomously coordinate their movements.
"We envisioned something that would move as a rolling carpet along the water and seamlessly absorb a surface spill," said MIT researcher Assaf Biderman. "This led to the design of a novel marine vehicle -- a simple and lightweight conveyor belt that rolls on the surface of the ocean, adjusting to the waves." Computerworld
They estimate that 5000 of their robotic sea-swarm vehicles could clean up a Gulf sized spill in a month.
Courtesy Martin Labar
Clean, safe drinking is desperately needed throughout the world. Usually filters "filter out" bacteria by having openings too small to get through. Trouble is, though, that the tiny holes get plugged up, stopping the flow of water. Stanford researchers have now developed a filter about 80,000 times faster than filters that trap bacteria.
The filter was made by dipping plain cotton cloth (from Walmart) in a mixture of silver nanowires and carbon nanotubes (for a few minutes). By charging the filter with 20 volts of electricity, over 98 percent of Escherichia coli bacteria were killed as they passed through. Even in remote or primitive areas, the electricity could be supplied by a small solar panel, or a couple 12-volt car batteries, or be generated from a stationary bicycle or by a hand-cranked device.
Cui said the next steps in the research are to try the filter on different types of bacteria and to run tests using several successive filters.
"With one filter, we can kill 98 percent of the bacteria," Cui said. "For drinking water, you don't want any live bacteria in the water, so we will have to use multiple filter stages."
Deathstalker scorpion venom, combined with nanoscale particles of iron oxide, can slow the spread of BRAIN CANCER.
What is there not to love in that sentence? You've got scorpion venom, nano stuff, brain cancer...heck, I was hooked at the word Deathstalker.
Just so you know - the formal science way of saying the same thing is “Chlorotoxin Labeled Magnetic Nanovectors for Targeted Gene Delivery to Glioma”. You can find the article here.
Courtesy Ester Inbar
The air around us is not as clean as it could be. Scientists are looking for ways to remove toxins, like nitrogen oxide, from the air we breathe. One of the main sources of nitrogen oxide is automobile traffic. A solution to this problem might be found under our very wheels.
How does it work? Concrete pavers are coated with nanoscale particles of titanium dioxide (TiO2). Kicked off with the energy from sunlight, TiO2 converts nasties, like nitrogen oxides, into much less harmful nitrates via a chemical reaction. Nanoscale particles have lots of surface area where a chemical reaction can occur. Also good? It seems that this coating remains stable. Tests conducted almost two years later show no change.
My favorite part of this article...they did not stop there. They asked "What about the nitrates we are introducing into the system? Where's that going?" Rain sweeps the nitrates off the road, into ditches and on to waste water treatment facilities.
I haven't been feeling well lately, so I checked out heavy metal poisoning. Like you wouldn't do the same.
Courtesy US Army Corps of Engineers
Turns out I've got the symptoms; headache and a bunch of other vague stuff.
But never fear...Science (and Nanotechnology) is here!
Researchers in Switzerland have figured out a way to use tiny nano-size magnets to attract and remove undesirable substances from blood, like heavy metals and overdosed steroids. Best part is that the process takes only minutes.
Blood goes in. Add the nanomagnets. Nanomagnets attract the "bad stuff" using linker molecules (works like it sounds - molecules that link things - in this case, they link nanomagnets to specific toxins or pathogens). Use a bigger magnet to collect all the nanomagnets with yucky stuff attached.
And VOILA! Clean blood.
What do you know, just reading about nanomagnets made my headache clear up. Go Science!
Learn more here...http://www.nanowerk.com/spotlight/spotid=17353.php
Courtesy Dr Thomas Szkopek If you look at my posts about graphene you will understand why I think graphene is a super material. One chemically converted graphene product of interest (CCG) is graphene oxide (GO). Graphene oxide, an insulating version of graphene, is expected to be used for all kinds of material and electronic applications. Graphene oxide is also biodegradable. Bacteria from the genus Shewanella easily convert GO to harmless graphene.
A new paper in ACSNano from the lab of Rice chemist James Tour demonstrates an environmentally friendly way to make bulk quantities of graphene oxide (GO). Scientists have been making GO since the 19th century, but the new process eliminates the need for explosive or toxic ingredients.
The researchers suggested the water-soluble product could find use in polymers, ceramics and metals, as thin films for electronics, as drug-delivery devices and for hydrogen storage, as well as for oil and gas recovery. Science Dailey
Graphene oxide gets green EurekaAlert
A lot of blood is shed every day. Many lives are being saved when that shed blood is replaced. Donated blood is only good for a few weeks. Also there is the worry about contamination (HIV, Aids, etc.). What the world needs is a way to manufacture and deliver blood as needed.
Our Defense Department's research division (DARPA) wants a a self-contained system that could turn out 100 units of universal blood a week for eight weeks. The system needs to withstand war front conditions and be not much bigger than a refrigerator.
That task and $1.95 million was assigned to Arteriocyte less than two years ago. (see Popular Mechanics, Dec 2008 - Bringing Stem Cells to War: Meet the Blood Pharmers). The technology, called Nanex, uses a nanofiber-based structure that mimics bone marrow in which blood cells multiply, according to the company. (cnet News)
This week an initial shipment of their pharmed blood product was sent to the Food and Drug Administration for an independent evaluation. If approved, their cost of $5000 per unit of manufactured blood will need to be reduced.
Still, given the price tag of transporting and storing donated blood, Darpa’s betting that a unit of pharmed blood will make financial sense once it costs less than $1,000. Wired
Courtesy Andrej Salov
This month University of Minnesota researchers have developed a technique to better capture solar energy using 'quantum dots,' a type of nanoparticle. Researcher William Tisdale said, while
“This work is a necessary but not sufficient step for building very high-efficiency solar cells. It provides a motivation for researchers to work on quantum dots and solar cells based on quantum dots.”
The technology could improve solar energy efficiency from 30 to 66 percent! That's incredible. Furthermore, the improvements may also cut manufacturing costs (and carbon footprints) by removing the need for high temperature processing. The ramifications for nanotechnology and clean energy abound.