With missing data about the large scale impact of nanotechnology, life cycle assessments of potential nanoproducts should form an integral part of nanotechnology research at early stages of decision making as it can help in the screening of different process alternatives. So far, however, life cycle studies of emerging nanotechnologies have been susceptible to huge uncertainties due to issues of data quality and the rapidly evolving nature of the production processes. A recent paper investigates the suitability of the U.S. regulatory system as a comprehensive package addressing multiple types and uses of engineered nanomaterials over their life cycle.
For a long time, scientists have been fascinated by the dramatic changes in color used by marine creatures like squids and octopuses, but they never quite understood the mechanism responsible for this. Only recently they found out that a neurotransmitter, acetylcholine, sets in motion a cascade of events that culminate in the addition of phosphate groups to a family of unique proteins called reflectins. Having begun to unravel the natural mechanisms behind these amazing abilities, researchers are trying to use this knowledge to make artificial camouflage coatings. New work addresses the challenge of making something appear and disappear when visualized with standard infrared detection equipment.
Semiconductor fabs are large, complex industrial sites with costs for a single facility approaching $10B. In this article we discuss the possibility of putting the entire functionality of such a fab onto a single silicon chip. We demonstrate a path forward where, for certain applications, especially at the nanometer scale, one might consider using a single chip approach for building devices, both integrated circuits and nano-electromechanical systems. Such methods could mean shorter device development and fabrication times with a significant potential for cost savings.
With the semiconductor industry still on the path of Moore's law, researchers have already been toying with single-molecule electronics and molecular memory to push miniaturization of electronics to its limit. However, with electrical gadgets and devices getting increasingly smaller and functionally more powerful, the current density flowing through the copper and gold conductors in these devices has been exponentially increasing. Therefore, electrical conductors with higher current density tolerance are in huge demand and recent research has addressed this issue.
In addition to manipulating the charge or spin of electrons, another way to control electric current is by using the 'valley' degree of freedom of electrons. This novel concept is based on utilizing the wave quantum number of an electron in a crystalline material. Researchers now report the first demonstration of the generation, transport and detection of valley-polarized electrons in bulk diamond - a result which opens up new opportunities for quantum control in electronic devices.
Microbial fuel cells are a prime example of environmental biotechnology that turns the treatment of organic wastes into a source of electricity. In microbial fuel cells, the naturally occurring decomposing pathways of electrogenic bacteria are used to both clean water and produce electricity by oxidizing biological compounds from wastewater and other liquid wastes, even urine. Researchers have now demonstrated a sustainable and practical design for a micro-sized microbial fuel cell.
Nanowires are considered a major building block for future nanotechnology devices, with great potential for applications in transistors, solar cells, lasers, sensors, etc. Now, for the first time, nanotechnology researchers have utilized nanowires as a 'storage' device for biochemical species such as ATP. The team demonstrated that their nano-storage wire structure can be deposited onto virtually any substrate to build nanostorage devices for the real-time controlled release of biochemical molecules upon the application of electrical stimuli.
Assessing the potential effects of nanomaterials on environment and human health consists of two distinct aspects: To what degree are nanoparticles released from products; and how and to what degree do the released nanoparticles affect organisms? The first aspect is centered on a field called exposure science, the study of human contact to agents - such as chemicals or microbes - found in their surroundings. A new study looks at the release of nanosilver from consumer products for children. The core finding is that the release of silver from nanosilver-containing products depends heavily on how the product is used. The total amount of silver released by a consumer product is likely to be very low and, for the products tested, happened only in the beginning of product life.