Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Better Tools

In our quest to better understand the properties of nanoscale materials (which differ from their larger macroscale cousins) scientists are developing new tools such as the one used to create the image above.

"This image of an early moment in the simulated mixing of two fluids was created by researchers using a powerful new algorithm they developed to extract features and patterns from massive data sets. In the image, blue and red spheres and the lines between them represent the branching of pockets of fluid."

"A powerful computing tool that allows scientists to extract features and patterns from enormously large and complex sets of raw data has been developed by scientists at University of California, Davis, and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The tool - a set of problem-solving calculations known as an algorithm - is compact enough to run on computers with as little as two gigabytes of memory."

Credit: Attila Gyulassi/UC Davis copyright UC Regent

Click on the title to read the whole article at Nanotechnology Now

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Giving Science Back it's Voice

In today’s inaugural speech, President Obama gives us hope that science and technology won’t be strangled by special interests nor it’s voice hushed by our leaders in government for political gain.

“The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act — not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories.”

Why mention this on a nanotechnology blog? Simple, really; every one of the areas mentioned above will be enabled by nanoscale technologies.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Picture of the day

VLS Silicon Nanowire

High-crystalline silicon and other semiconducting nanowires are key building blocks for electronic devices, light emitting devices, field emission sources and sensors. Pictured is a crystalline silicon nanowire grown by the vapour-liquid-solid mechanism (VLS). VLS growth is so named because the constituents in gas form precipitate through a liquid catalyst onto a solid crystallin surface. Thermal-vapour-growth from solid precursors, usually in a high temperature furnace, is the most common way to obtain a bulk production of nanowires.

Source: K.B.K. Teo

Original post by Ryan Munden at

Nanomedicine Today

To get excited about the potential of nanomedicine (AKA: nanobiotechnology) all one need do is read the headlines at sites like Nanotechnology Now.

Here are a few since January 1st:

  • Nano "Tractor Beam" Traps DNA
  • Revolutionize the utility of adult stem cells through nanotechnology
  • Tiny capsules deliver
  • Wireless microgrippers grab living cells
  • Tool Gives a Glimpse of Biomolecules in Motion
  • New guidelines open up the potential of molecular diagnostics
  • Lab-in-a-Cartridge for Fast and Accurate Detection of Cancer and Infectious Diseases
  • Nanotubes Sniff Out Cancer Agents in Living Cells
  • Artificial Antibody Delivers Nanoparticles to Tumors
  • Toxin-Nanoparticle Combo Inhibits Brain Cancer Invasion While Imaging Tumors
  • Microfluidic Devices Capture and Analyze Single Cancer Cells
  • Biodegradable Nanoprobe Images New Blood Vessel Growth
  • Polymer Nanoparticle for Oral Anticancer Drug Delivery
  • A fantastic voyage brought to life
  • Synthetic HDL: A New Weapon to Fight Cholesterol Problems (as illustrated, next)

“The researchers successfully designed synthetic HDL and show that their nanoparticle version is capable of irreversibly binding cholesterol. The synthetic HDL, based on gold nanoparticles, is similar in size to HDL and mimics HDL's general surface composition.”

Now, more than ever, nanobiotechnologies are looking increasingly promising for applications in screening, diagnosis, monitoring and treatment of today’s more pernicious diseases. While I was cautiously optimistic back in the 1990’s and into the ‘00’s, I am now certain that nanobio will enable many lifesaving technologies in the next decade. Some of which may do more than just detect and cure; they may even help extend our productive life spans, giving each of us several more decades (or more) of good health and vitality.

There is also good news on the “safety” front:

  • Nanotech Safety High on Congress' Priority List
My advice? If you have time only for visits to just two sites per day, consider time spent at Nanotechnology Now and Responsible Nanotechnology a must.

Want to learn more about nanotechnology in general? Here are a few sites that offer information essential to understanding nanoscale technologies:

What is Nanotechnology? --
Howard Lovy’s Nanobot --
Wikipedia --
Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies --

And by all means read the books you see listed on the right column on this blog.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Memo to Pres. Obama: Advanced Nanotechnology - What, When, and Why

"Nanotechnology is the engineering of functional systems at the molecular scale. In its advanced form, which should be achieved within the next decade or two, the technology will allow a revolution in manufacturing—building powerful products with atomic precision from the bottom up—and could fundamentally alter our ability to confront challenging issues such as climate change.

Some experts confidently predict that once exponential general-purpose molecular manufacturing is achieved, our worries about global warming and climate change will be over. A relatively simple solution like tiny balloons fitted with adjustable mirrors could, they say, give us all the control we will need to moderate warming and create preferred climate conditions."

Mike Treder
Executive Director
Center for Responsible Nanotechnology

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Bristles hugging a polystyrene sphere

“From the structure of DNA to nautical rope to distant spiral galaxies, helical forms are as abundant as they are useful in nature and manufacturing alike. Researchers at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) have discovered a way to synthesize and control the formation of nanobristles, akin to tiny hairs, into helical clusters and have further demonstrated the fabrication of such highly ordered clusters, built from similar coiled building blocks, over multiple scales and areas.

The finding has potential use in energy and information storage, photonics, adhesion, capture and release systems, and as an enhancement for the mixing and transport of particles. Lead authors Joanna Aizenberg, Gordon McKay Professor of Materials Science at SEAS and the Susan S. and Kenneth L. Wallach Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, and L Mahadevan, Lola England de Valpine Professor of Applied Mathematics at SEAS, reported the research in the January 9 issue of Science.”

Credit: Courtesy of Aizenberg lab at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

Click title to read entire article at Nanotechnology Now

Self Assembling Cubes

Nanobiotechnology is forecast to be one of the nanosciences that will make near-term and dramatic changes to how we detect and treat disease, and therefore to society.

The Institute for NanoBioTechnology at Johns Hopkins University is one of the rapidly growing number of first-class research organizations that is at the forefront of nanobio.

“The Gracias Lab at Johns Hopkins University develops minimally invasive microscale and nanoscale tools and devices for medicine. They trigger specially prepared 2d surfaces to assemble into 3d objects.”

Click on the title to go to the video.

Thanks to:

Martin Rietveld
Web Director
Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Picture of the day

A microfabricated gold ring for Aharonov-Bohm type experiments, which test the modulation of quantum-interference contributions of electrons due to the presence of a magnetic field. Dimensions are: 70 nm wide, 20 nm thick with a diameter of about 800 nm.

Source: Christian Schönenberger

Original post by Ryan Munden at

Monday, January 5, 2009

In My Opinion

In the late 1980’s, I became aware that science effects society at an ever-growing pace. As a 20-year observer of the nanospace and the daily news thereof, I know that nanotechnologies will be those that are responsible for the lion’s share of radical change; you cannot read about the significant number of advances in the nanosciences and come to any other conclusion. "Nano" is not a fad.

I also know this: the more rapid the growth in the number of new/advanced technologies the sooner we must start preparing for subsequent changes in society; changes real and imagined, and in most cases, difficult to predict. Given the exponential growth in our understanding of the nanoscale and the likelihood that many of our new insights will turn into commercial products and services, the time for discussion and preparation is now.

No informed person doubts that developments at the nanoscale will be significant. We debate the time-frame, the magnitude and the possibilities, but not the likelihood for large-scale change. The least-speculative views suggest that we're in for changes of an order that justifies--if not demands--our undivided attention. Will we be ready?

Zinc Oxide Microtrumpet

Prismatic zinc oxide microtubes have been fabricated by vapor transport. Room-temperature ultraviolet lasing action has been demonstrated in these microtube arrays. The ZnO microtubes, mainly appearing in a tapped bell-mouthed shape, form natural laser cavities along the length direction. The hexagon diagonal and length of the microtube vary from 1 um to 20 um and 10 um to a few hundred um respectively. Under 355nm optical excitation, lasing action is observed at room-temperature around 393nm. Multi-longitudinal modes are also observed with significantly narrowed emission linewidth.

Source: Sun Xiao Wei

Original post by Ryan Munden at

Nanotechnology: Ethics and Society

In her latest book Nanotechnology: Ethics and Society Dr. Deb Bennett-Woods talks about the ethics of dealing with rapidly changing technologies, in specific, those enabled by our greater understanding of the nanoscale. Depending on who is talking, nanotechnology means many different things. What everyone can agree on is that a) nanotechnology (whatever it is) will enable a huge number of new technologies and consumer products, and b) we need to prepare now.

Another in a growing chorus of knowledgeable persons and organizations, Dr. Bennett-Woods brings her expertise to bear in an exceedingly complex topic: ethics of scientific discovery and the subsequent technologies and products.

As part of her research, Dr. Bennett-Woods asked that I say a few words, which you see, above. Click image to see larger version.

From the book: Nanotechnology promises to be the next great human technological revolution, but such change often comes at the price of unforeseen consequences. Nanotechnology: Ethics and Society explores several of the practical and ethical dilemmas presented by this technological leap.

Nanotechnology: Ethics and Society
By Deb Bennett-Woods
Published by CRC Press, 2008
ISBN 1420053523, 9781420053524
312 pages

Learn more about Deb Bennett-Woods, Director and Associate Professor, Rueckert-Hartman College for Health Professions at Regis University

Foresight Institute Prize in Communication

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Picture of the day

Interfacing semiconducting nanostructures with conducting or insulating substrates to attain a three-dimensional (3D) integrated platform is highly desirable for advanced nanoscale electronics and optoelectronics applications. As such, the assembly and synthesis of these nanostructures, which demonstrate multiple dimensionality, using a bottom-up approach would be useful. In this example, 1D ZnO nanowires about 80nm in diameter grow vertically out of the junctions of 80nm thick ZnO nanowalls.

Source: Hou Tee Ng

Original post by Ryan Munden at

Solar Power Game-Changer

Over the years I have been, perhaps, overly enthusiastic regarding practical applications of nanoscale technologies. Given the huge number of announcements and the abundant zealous fervor accompanying discoveries of nanoscale material properties, it seemed that "game changing" technologies were just around the corner. Well, they’ve been around the corner for the last 10 years.

Now, however, comes an announcement from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) regarding solar energy, titled "’Near Perfect’ Absorption of Sunlight, From All Angles."

What does that mean? I’ll let them tell it: "By developing a new antireflective coating that boosts the amount of sunlight captured by solar panels and allows those panels to absorb the entire solar spectrum from nearly any angle, the research team has moved academia and industry closer to realizing high-efficiency, cost-effective solar power."

The words to watch here are "closer to realizing," so don’t count your chickens just yet. While it looks promising, and their statement "After a silicon surface was treated with (the) new nanoengineered reflective coating … the material absorbed 96.21 percent of sunlight shone upon it" could portend a game changing technology, I’m not going to step out on a limb until someone coughs up the bucks to turn this cool lab technology into a real-world cost-effective application. It does look promising. Game changing? Who knows. I’ll let the market decide.

Friday, January 2, 2009

100 Years

Old friend and Access Nanotechnology colleague Jack Uldrich is spreading the "Jump the Curve" message via YouTube, which I believe is a very smart move. Prior to this move to video you could read a lot of Jack’s very well considered and insightful words on the Internet. NOW you can hear him speak his mind; a much more enlightening medium, in my opinion.

One clear message that I have picked up is Jack’s reminder that in the next 25 years we will likely experience as much or more change (advances) in technologies than we did in the past 100 years. We’re talking exponential rate of change, especially in our understanding of the nanoscale; that’s a doubling each and every 6 – 18 months. "The year 2025 will be as different from today as today is from 1900." That alone should make you stand up and take notice.

Sign up for his Channel; I just did.

Neil Gordon Goes to Market

Old friend and Access Nanotechnology colleague Neil Gordon, formerly of the Canadian NanoBusiness Alliance, is now at the helm of a company that will soon have an actual nanotechnology-enabled product. Neil’s new company, Early Warning, is in the sensor business. Biohazard Early Warning System, that is.

Neil’s background in the development and commercialization of diverse high technology products in information technology, aerospace and defense, engineering-construction, and nanotechnology sectors will serve him well in his new position as President and Chief Executive Officer.

His focus has shifted from nanotechnology to the application of nanotechnology in preventing the transmission of biohazards. Why? Biohazards kill 18.4 million and sicken over 1 billion people each year.

Expect to see their water testing product line in the winter of 2008/09.

From their site: "Early Warning has an exclusive license from NASA to commercialize its revolutionary nanotechnology-based biosensor developed for space applications. The biosensor works when a single strand of nucleic acid comes into contact with a matching strand of nucleic acid attached to the end of an ultra-conductive nanotube. The matching strands form a double helix that generates an electrical signal which is used to determine the presence of specific microorganisms in the sample. Because of their tiny size, millions of nanotubes can fit on a single biosensor chip allowing identification of very low levels."

Personally, I have very high expectations of success for both Neil, Early Warning, and their nanotechnology-enabled products.

He's Back!

"...where my nano obsession began back in 2001, when I helped launch one of the first nanotech magazines and Website. Small Times has asked me to return as a contributing editor and blogger" says Howard Lovy, most recently holding forth at his blog, Nanobot.

Howard will be a once-again-welcome voice at an excellent resource for both new and old nanotechnologistas. His interpretation of the nanospace and subsequent writings continue to be a must-read for stakeholders.

Along with his wit and wisdom, I look forward to reading more of Howard’s insightful analysis and commentary.

Nano Trees

3-dimensional Si composite nanostructure, taken with a scanning electron microscope, by Ghim Wei Ho.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Nano Today Cover Competition

Spiraling pine tree-like PbS nanowires are evidence of nanowire growth driven by screw dislocations without the help of metal catalysts. Screw dislocation drives the rapid growth of the nanowire tree trunk and causes the lattice of the trunks to twist (called "Eshelby Twist") and their epitaxial branches to spiral. See Science 2008, 320, 1060.Matthew J. Bierman, University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA

In the Blink of an Eye

Drexler's original definition of nanotechnology was "the ability to
construct shapes, devices and machines with atomic precision and to
combine them into a wide range of products inexpensively." Since then,
however, nanotechnology has come quite a ways from this purely
theoretical understanding, according to Rocky Rawstern, editor of
Nanotechnology Now.

Says Rawstern, "I have seen Mercedes-Benz using nanoparticle paint
that helps prevent wear and other companies make [nanotech] golf balls
that reduce slice, nanopowder aluminum for better rockets, stainless-
steel metal for injection-molding, nanosilver particles for anti-
bacterial and disinfectant agents, fullerenes (nanoparticles of
tungsten disulfide) as lubricants, and the list goes on."

According to Rawstern, there are several contemporary definitions of
nanotechnology, of which at least three were "created by different
groups, each with their own agenda."

"Nanotechnology has evolved via a terminology drift and purposeful
misapplication to mean anything smaller than microtechnology," says
Rawstern, "but without referring to mechanisms that have been
purposefully built from nanoscale components, as was originally
intended. This 'evolved' version of the term is more properly
labeled "nanoscale bulk technology,' while the original meaning is now
labeled "molecular nanotechnology' or 'molecular manufacturing (MM).'"

In addition to Drexler's theoretical definition is a working format is
maintained by the National Nanotechnology Initiative, a federal
research and development program established to coordinate nanoscale
science, engineering and technology, which includes:
  • development of research and technology at the atomic, molecular or macromolecular levels, in the length scale of approximately 1 nm to 100 nm range
  • creation and use of structures, devices and systems that have novel properties and functions because of their small and/or intermediate size
  • ability to control or manipulate on the atomic scale
According to Rawstern, the third definition comes from "the nano-
charlatans of the world, who have hijacked the term and are using it
to promote products that are neither nanoscale mechanisms nor
nanoscale materials" by any industry definition.

"Read the news most any day and you will find one or more nano-posers
promoting their wares, none of which are "nanotechnology' in any
meaningful sense of the term," he says. "Their definition: anything we
can slap the label nanotechnology on and get away with."

Inner Space

If Rawstern sounds a little irked, it's not because the field of
nanotechnology is expanding at an exponential rate (some analysts
predict the nanomaterials market will reach $1.4 billion in 2008);
rather, the financial and resource investment necessary to adequately
fund successful nanotech research is too great to squander on

Yet for all this hype, Rawstern says, this technology remains on the
drawing board, not purposefully pursued by any known entity, but
promoted by several. "It has yet to be proven, primarily because there
has been no substantial investment in developing a proof of concept,"
he adds.

What's To Come

The intermarriage of nanotechnology and imaging promises to be a long and prosperous one, with glimpses of additional advances, from imaging to interventional techniques, coming as fast as research allows. Sitharaman, for one, hopes his work will lead to cellular-level diagnosis of treatment efficacy and possibly even spur development of future medicine delivery systems.

"The rational leap of this technology should be to attach antibodies and peptides to these contrast agents to treat diseases," says Sitharaman. "You can attach different kinds of molecules to the fullerene for a more specific sequencing approach. Since they show such high relaxivity rates, we should hopefully be able to look at individual cells."

Of a similar mind is Rawstern, who also believes nanotechnology will expand its presence into the field of drug delivery systems, aided by imaging advances.

"In the next five years, I expect to see human trials on gold nanoshells come to a conclusion regarding their viability," says Rawstern. "They represent a potential end to the scourge of many cancers and an end to the suffering of thousands, if not millions, in the coming decade. Nanosuspension technology, which makes poorly soluble drugs with increased absorption rates, also looks promising. There are many more possibilities; more than anyone would have guessed only 10 years ago."

"No informed person doubts that developments at the nanoscale will be significant," says Rawstern. "We debate the time-frame, the magnitude and the possibilities, but not the likelihood for large-scale change. The least-speculative views suggest that we're in for changes of an order that justifies – if not demands – our undivided attention. Will we be ready?"

Tomorrow's Kitchen & Bath

Nanotechnology is another major force that will change the shape of
things to come in kitchens and baths. "In the near term, we’ll see
lighter materials, improved energy efficiency in lighting, and energy
storage devices for those who find themselves off the grid or wish to
employ backup devices,” reports Rocky Rawstern, Editor of
Nanotechnology Now.

Over the next few years, lightweight insulation will reshape kitchen
appliances, and organic light-emitting diodes will be widely used.
Within a decade or more, Rawstern claims, most surfaces will be coated
with antibacterial materials, thereby making disinfecting kitchens and
baths a thing of the past.

According to Rawstern, we’ll also enjoy a host of new materials that are lighter, stronger, and have properties we can only imagine, such as self-cleaning surfaces and embedded sensors.

The Twinkie Guide to Nanotechnology

This is the most well reasoned presentation on current and future nanotechnologies that I have seen. Well worth the time to view and consider, and should be mandatory viewing for all stakeholders (that’s you and I and everybody).

Dr. Andrew Maynard is Chief Science Advisor to the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Dr. Maynard's bio: