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Nanotechnology

By applying electrical pulses to the new nanomaterial, a sea of small negatively charged i...

By now, we’re all fairly used to electronic devices such as smartphones, which can act as a mobile phone, computer, camera and navigation unit all at once. These devices, while multi-functional, still use different hard-wired electrical circuits for their different functions. Thanks to research being carried out at Chicago’s Northwestern University, however, all those functions may one day be able to utilize the same physical piece of electronic material – the electrical current would simply be “steered” through it differently, depending on what was needed. This means that a single section of the material could act as a resistor, rectifier, diode or transistor, as instructed by a computer.  Read More

Each nanochannel electroporation device incorporates two reservoirs joined by a nanoscale ...

One of the key processes in gene therapy involves taking cells from the patient, injecting a therapeutic genetic material into them, then reintroducing them to the patient’s body and letting them go to work. Unfortunately, getting that material into the cells can be tricky. While larger cells can actually be punctured with a fine needle, most human cells are too small for that approach to be possible. There are also methods of inserting random amounts of material into bulk quantities of cells, but these are inexact. Now, however, scientists at Ohio State University are reporting success with a process known as “nanochannel electroporation” (NEP), in which therapeutic biomolecules are electrically shot into cells.  Read More

Scientists have created a tiny artificial muscle, that could be used in motors to propel n...

We've been hearing a lot lately about the possibility of treating medical conditions using nanobots - tiny robots that would be injected into a patient's bloodstream, where they would proceed to travel to their targets, not unlike the microscopic submarine in the movie Fantastic Voyage ... except nanobots wouldn't be crewed by tiny shrunken-down humans. One challenge that still needs to be met, however, is figuring out a way of propelling the devices. Well, we may now be closer to a solution. Yesterday, development of a new type of nanoscale artificial muscle was announced, which works like the muscles in an elephant's trunk. These could conceivably be used in nanobots, to whip them along using a rotating flagellum - a tiny sperm-like tail, in other words.  Read More

A new 'invisibility cloak' utilizes the same effect that causes mirages to appear (Image: ...

You have no doubt seen mirages on the distant surfaces of hot highways before, looking like pools of water shimmering on the asphalt. Such illusions are caused by hot air above the road, which refracts light waves coming down into it from the cooler air above – in other words, the supposed “water” is actually the sky, its image being bent toward you by the low-lying hot air. Well, scientists at the University of Texas at Dallas have put the same principle to work in the lab, and created an invisibility cloak that can be easily switched on and off.  Read More

One of the diamond cavities carved by the NIST team

With sizes typically measured in micrometers, Micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) devices are already being used in applications such as super-accurate sensors, energy-harvesting devices, and electronic signal amplifiers. Given how difficult it would be to replace such systems' moving parts as they wear out, it would be ideal if those parts could be made from as hard a material as possible. Well, while most MEMS are presently made chiefly of silicon, researchers from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) are now on their way to making them from diamonds.  Read More

Researchers at the University of Toronto have set a new efficiency record for colloidal qu...

Advancing solar technology is a trade-off between the efficiency of the cells themselves and the cost of producing and installing them. Quantum dot solar cells, which use nanoscale semiconductors to produce electricity, promise low-cost production and, because they can be sprayed or painted on, big benefits in terms of installation. In the efficiency stakes quantum cells don't score as well as silicon-based or CIGS solar cells, but a new efficiency record for colloidal quantum dot solar cells represents a big step towards narrowing the gap. This breakthrough isn't about the quantum dots though, it's about the wrapping.  Read More

A new study suggests that exposure to titanium oxide nanoparticles causes rainbow trout to...

In just the past few years, nanotechnology has brought technological advances in almost every field imaginable – patches that regenerate heart tissue, water-powered batteries and better biofuels are just a few examples. As with just about any new technology, however, concerns have been raised regarding its safety. We’ve never experienced anything quite like it before, so how far should we trust it? According to a recent study conducted at the University of Plymouth, the answer to that question might be “Not very far.” In tests on rainbow trout, titanium oxide nanoparticles were found to cause damage to the brain and other parts of the central nervous system.  Read More

A simulation of a magnetic nanocontact shows how it causes spin waves to spread like rings...

The microwave technology used in applications such as mobile phones and wireless networks may be on its way to being replaced - with parts that are smaller, less expensive, and that consume less resources. Instead of microwaves, devices of the future may use spin waves, which are nanoscale magnetic waves. For almost ten years, it has been theorized that spin waves could be propagated using magnetic nanocontacts. Recently, scientists from the University of Gothenburg and the Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden, became the first people to demonstrate that the theory meshes with observable phenomena.  Read More

The molecular motor (yellow dot with black arms) sits on a copper surface (orange) and is ...

Remember back in the old days, when nano-scale motors were a clunky 500 nanometers across? That record was subsequently broken with a 200-nanometer model, but has now been broken again, by a motor that’s just one nanometer wide. By comparison, the width of a human hair is about 60,000 nanometers. The new motor, created by scientists at Tufts University in Massachusetts, is reportedly the first one ever to consist of a single molecule.  Read More

Carbon nanotube-reinforced polyurethane could make for lighter and more durable wind turbi...

In the effort to capture more energy from the wind, the blades of wind turbines have become bigger and bigger to the point where the diameter of the rotors can be over 100 m (328 ft). Although larger blades cover a larger area, they are also heavier, which means more wind is needed to turn the rotor. The ideal combination would be blades that are not only bigger, but also lighter and more durable. A researcher at Case Western Reserve University has built a prototype blade from materials that could provide just such a winning combination.  Read More

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