For the visionary goals of nanotechnology, functional and perhaps autonomous molecular motors will play an essential part, just like electric motors can be found in many appliances today. These nanomachines could perform functions similar to the biological molecular motors found in living cells, things like transporting and assembling molecules, or facilitating chemical reactions by pumping protons through membranes. Although applications of molecular motors are still in the future, the results of early-day studies are already spectacular: well-designed molecules or supramolecules show different kinds of motion - fueled by different driving forces such as light, heat, or chemical reactions - resulting in molecular shuttles, molecular elevators and rotating motors. A team of researchers is now proposing a conceptually new design of molecular motor based on electric field actuation and electric current detection of the rotational motion of a molecular dipole embedded in a three-terminal single-molecule device.
Global warming, caused by a build-up of greenhouse gases, in particular carbon dioxide, in the atmosphere, has led to numerous proposals on how to capture and store CO2 in order to mitigate the damaging emissions from fossil fuels. Today we take a look at carbon sequestration and subsequent storage in geological formations (geosequestration) - a proposal that is already being tested on a large scale. The idea behind coal-bed geosequestration is that you inject a huge amount of carbon dioxide into deep unmined coal seams. Due to strong adsorption forces, the carbon dioxide will be adsorbed in coal. It will not be desorbed and gradually transform to solid rocks. Moreover the technology is already developed and in use for oil and gas mining. However, the fundamental problem is so-called adsorption-induced deformation of coal or any other porous material.
One of the many fascinating concepts in nanotechnology is the vision of molecular electronics where researchers are investigating nanostructured materials to build electronics from individual molecules. If realized, the shift in size from even the most densely packed computer chip today would be staggering. Molecular electronics aims at the fundamental understanding of charge transport through molecules and is motivated by the vision of molecular circuits to enable miniscule, powerful and energy efficient computers. A research team in Germany has now demonstrated that rigidly wired molecules can emit light under voltage bias. This result is important for fundamental science but it also adds to the molecular electronics vision an optoelectronic component, i.e. the development of optoelectronic components on the basis of single molecules.
Scientists have shown that two pH response moieties - a pH solubility switch and a pH labile group - can be incorporated into the backbone of polymers which can then be formulated into dual responsive nanoparticles encapsulating small hydrophobic molecules and larger protein payloads. As nanoparticles they function akin to an AND logic gate. The beta-aminoester backbone moiety provides a pH triggered solubility switch, only when this switch is 'ON' does the ketal moiety also turn 'ON' to undergo rapid acid catalyzed hydrolysis. This system seems to be a promising vehicle for the administration of hydrophilic and hydrophobic payloads into target areas of the human body.
Since 2009, NT-MDT Co. has been holding a contest of scientific art images obtained by atomic force microscopes (AFM). Each month, researchers from around the world submit their AFM scans to the dedicated ProIMAGE contest site where they are then subject to online voting by site visitors. According to NT-MDT, a simple gender analysis of monthly winners shows that a) the percentage of women has been rising for two years, and b) women attract more votes originating from social networks. Of course, these observations are more trivia than hard scientific facts. Nevertheless, they appear to reveal a phenomenon of higher online communication skills among female scientists. It remains to be seen to what degree social networks a la Facebook and LinkedIn will change the way the scientific community interacts and communicates.
The workhorse of current nanofabrication processes, electron beam lithography (EBL), has good resolution but has good resolution, it is difficult to precisely control the pattern size at the sub-20 nm scale due to the proximity effect and the large beam spot. A more recent nanolithographic strategy, the molecular ruler (MR) method, shows great promise it can precisely control the size of the gap at the nanoscale. Although EBL and MR have been combined before in attempting high-resolution nanofabrication in the sub-20nm regime, the results were always less than optimal because the electron beam irradiation damage to the MR influenced the formation of nanogaps. Researchers in Japan have now developed a post-EBL process, which does not damage MR molecular layers, and fabricated nanogap structures at the expected positions with high product yield.
Friends of the Earth have just published a new report titled 'Nanotechnology, climate and energy: over-heated promises and hot air?' As usual, the 'good cop, bad cop' team that writes this kind of document was at its best again. On one hand, there is a lot of really good information in this report, well researched and referenced, and it provides a very useful overview of what's going on in nanotechnology research and development in the climate/renewables fields - albeit with a very negative spin on it. On the other hand, there seems to be a monkey sitting on each FoE editor's shoulder that constantly whispers 'Are you kidding me? Boooring! Too positive! Too balanced! Not scary enough! Traitor - think of all the drowning polar bears!' We look at some of the misconceptions in FoE's report.
A multi-disciplinary research team has introduced a novel label-free optofluidic-nanoplasmonic biosensor and demonstrated direct detection of live viruses from biological media at medically relevant concentrations with little to no sample preparation. This novel platform can be easily adapted for point-of-care diagnostics to detect a broad range of viral pathogens in resource-limited clinical settings at the far corners of the world, in defense and homeland security applications as well as in civilian settings such as airports or other public spaces. This work is the first demonstration of detection of intact viruses using extraordinary light transmission phenomena in plasmonic nanohole arrays.