The discussion about the health scare caused by the Magic-Nano sealing spray (which, as it turned out, was neither magic nor nano - see this article) has barely ebbed when questions about another nano consumer product arise. This time, it is not a health scare but rather the opposite - alleged health benefits of nanoparticles.
A potential solution to overcoming the fundamental scaling limits of silicon-based electronic circuitry is the use of a single molecular layer that self-organizes between two electrodes: so-called molecular electronics. Nature itself is highly efficient in using self-organized structures for electronic transport (photosynthesis in plants, nerve cells, etc.), and now similar self-organization of organic molecules is used to make electronic devices. Electric transport through single molecules has been studied extensively by both academic and industrial research groups. It has been demonstrated that the size of a diode, an element used in electronic circuitry, can be reduced reproducibly below 1.5 nm. Transport data, however, typically differ by many orders of magnitude and the fabrication hurdle is reliability and yield. Researchers in The Netherlands now have demonstrated a technology to manufacture reproducible molecular diodes with high yields (>95 %) with unprecedented lateral dimensions.
Carbon nanotubes are attractive materials as the building block of quantum-dot based nanodevices. In particular, single-wall carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs) are interesting because they become metallic and semiconducting, depending on how they are rolled up from the graphene sheet, and they could be applied to various devices such as ultrasmall field-effect transistors, single-electron devices, quantum computing devices, and light-emitting devices. A research group at the Japanese Institute of Physical and Chemical Research (RIKEN) has made extensive experimental efforts to apply SWCNTs to single-electron devices and quantum computing devices (spin qubit) with a single quantum dot as a basic structure.
The use of nanoparticles in sunscreens is one of the most common uses of nanotechnology in consumer products. Well over 300 sunscreens on the market today contain zinc oxide or titanium oxide nanoparticles.
Researchers in Japan have synthesized novel silica fibers. Unlike any previously reported one-dimensional silica nano- and microstructures, the novel fibers display a triangular cross-section, which is not typical for amorphous materials. These prism-like silica fibers open up a new morphological type of silicon-based materials which may have highly promising potentials. They may be of significant interest for optoelectronic applications and the improvement of SnO2 chemical sensors and catalysts.
The fabrication of ultrafine structures beyond the limits of conventional lithography is a topic of tremendous importance and is expected to play a significant role in the realization of futuristic nanotechnology. It is also equally important to develop functional material systems of ultrafine dimensions in order to achieve this goal. An important step towards realization of nanodevices is self-organized nanopatterning of functional structures. A new technique, which might be called chemical lithography, enables the regular assembly of optically active nanoparticles on a silicon surface.
The just released 2007 National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) budget request is $1.28 billion, slightly less than the 2006 estimated spend of $1.30 billion. The 2007 numbers would bring the overall NNI investment since its inception in 2001 to $6.6 billion. The lion share of this amount, $2 billion or 30.3%, went to the Department of Defense (DoD). In 2006, the DoD's share even reached 33.5% of the entire NNI budget.
Nanoribbons, which are attracting much attention due to their well-defined geometry and perfect crystallinity, require complex and expensive equipment to faricate. Researchers in China have succeeded in fabricating a single nanoribbon sensor and demonstrated its use as a potential in situ monitor to track blood glucose levels, suitable for potential use by diabetics.