Printed electronics has its origins in conductive patterns printed as part of conventional electronics, forming flexible keyboards, antennas and so on. Then came fully printed testers on batteries, electronic skin patches and other devices made entirely by printing, including batteries and displays. A clear next step has been to modernise static print with the e-reader and the talking poster with animated, light emitting display and solar power. These are partly or almost wholly printed, with a clear roadmap to making them lower cost and more reliable and flexible by using printing more fully in their manufacture in future. However, we now see printed electronics and electrics certain to penetrate far more applications than anyone realised.
There is a need for the larger nanotechnology community synthesizing, applying or characterizing nanomaterials to have a methodology to evaluate the risk and to apply adequate protection measures to limit human exposure. Researchers in Switzerland have now taken the initiative and presented a practical, user-friendly procedure for a university-wide safety and health management of nanomaterials, developed as a multi-stakeholder effort (government, accident insurance, researchers and experts for occupational safety and health). The procedure consists of two parts: Using a decision tree, nano-labs are sorted into three hazard classes, which corresponds to analogue approaches applied to other hazard types (biohazard, radioprotection or chemistry). A list of required prevention/protection measures (safety barriers) for each hazard level is then provided.
Controlled-release drug delivery techniques use various responsive materials and stimuli such as an implanted heat source or electronic chip to trigger the drug release from the implanted reservoir. Among many actively controlled stimuli for pulsatile drug delivery, the electrical signal would be the best source because it is portable and does not need large or special equipment to trigger it. The signal can also be easily and on-demand controllable, and long cycles are possible. Furthermore, when a sensor or microchip system is combined, the feedback and remote control outside the body is possible. Researchers have now developed a new drug delivery device for pulsatile and on-demand drug release based on electrically actuatable nanoporous membranes made of polypyrrole.
Their use in large-scale commercial applications requires cobalt nanoparticles with well-defined size and shape to be prepared in large quantities. Accurate tuning of the nanoparticle size and shape requires understanding of the mechanisms involved in particle nucleation and growth. In spite of extensive ongoing research, these mechanisms are still not fully understood owing to their complexity and interplay. Moreover, the current small-scale synthesis methods, such as the hot-injection method, can be difficult to scale to industrially relevant levels. In order to find more suitable methods for synthesizing cobalt nanoparticles, Finnish researchers revisited a widely studied hot-injection synthesis of monodisperse cobalt nanoparticles and show that the particle nucleation differs from what is expected for a hot-injection synthesis.
Nanotechnology-enabled fabrication of solar cells with conventional nanoparticle-based thin-films has a drawback in that the diffusion length of the charge carriers is too short to get charge separation, although the nanoparticles themselves provide copious surface areas; whereas photovoltaic devices fabricated by aligned or partially aligned nanowire array configurations have exhibited enhanced performance owing to improved carrier collection, reduced optical reflection, and efficient absorption. While the nanowire-based approach indeed increases the diffusion length of carriers it also reduces the available surface area. However, being able to fully capture the promising surface and transport properties of nanoscale materials in practical devices or systems relies on the capability of effectively translating the extraordinary characteristics of nanoparticles or nanowires into larger-scale, three-dimensional (3D) structures. Researchers now have come up with a promising approach to address this problem by growing uniformly distributed and high density nanorods into high-aspect ratio nanochannels.
An important consideration for practical graphene applications is the fact that the physical characteristics of graphene are strongly dependent on the number of atomic planes, i.e. the properties of few-layer graphene are different from those of single layer graphene. Unfortunately, the one-atom thickness of graphene and its optical transparency make graphene identification and counting the number of atomic planes in few-layer graphene extremely challenging. This complicates the development of industrial-scale applications that would require the handling of large wafers with graphene. Current techniques for counting the number of atomic planes in few-layer graphene samples are either destructive, too complicated, or too slow. Researchers at UC Riverside have now developed a large-scale graphene recognition and quality control technique for industrial applications.
Electrically small antennas (ESA) find use in a wide variety of communications platforms - e.g. mobile phones an other handheld devices, RFID, aerospace and defense systems - but their construction requires advances in printing as well as a robust antenna design so that their operating frequency, size, and system impedance could be easily varied. Researchers have now demonstrated the conformal printing of electrically small antennas on spherical shapes with a key performance metric (radiation quality factor or Q) that very closely approaches the fundamental limit dictated by physics. This fundamental design approach enables specification of both operating frequency and size, while achieving near-optimal bandwidth at several frequencies of interest for wireless communications.
Spinal cord injury in humans remains a devastating and incurable disorder. Rapid progress in tissue engineering, especially electrospinning techniques that lead to micro- and nanofibrous flexible tubular scaffolds for nerve cell regeneration, may lead to promising therapies for spinal cord injuries. have now demonstrated the repair of a chronically injured spinal cord by attempting to replace the fluid-filled cyst found in these lesions with a neuroprosthetics conducive to tissue reconstruction and axonal regeneration. They managed, for the first time, to obtain a consistent regeneration of the nervous tissue in chronicized injuries at the spinal cord by using a nanostructured composite scaffold with no cells in it.