A commentary by Steffen Foss Hansen and Anders Baun in this week's Nature Nanotechnology pointedly asks "when will governments and regulatory agencies stop asking for more reports and reviews, and start taking regulatory action?" The two scientists take issue with yet another scientific opinion on nanosilver that has been requested by the European Commission in late 2011: "SCENIHR - Request for a scientific opinion on Nanosilver: safety, health and environmental effects and role in antimicrobial resistance". Specifically, the EC wants SCENIHR to answer four questions under the general heading of 'Nanosilver: safety, health and environmental effects, and role in antimicrobial resistance'. These questions, however, have already been addressed by no less than 18 review articles in scientific journals.
Over the past few years, touchscreens have become ubiquitous in the world of mobile electronic devices. A next generation of touch sensing devices will be vastly more advanced and lead to ultrasensitive artificial skins. Another, novel model for advanced man-machine interactive systems could be based on moisture detectors. Here, actual touch is no longer necessary for a positioning interface to react; rather, the distribution of water molecules that exists around all humid surfaces, such as a human finger, would be sufficient to trigger a response. Researchers in China have now demonstrate such a flexible touchless positioning interface based on the spatial mapping of moisture distribution.
Breath analysis of exhaled breath condensate has been increasingly recognized as a promising diagnostic method to link specific gaseous components in human breath to medical conditions and exposure to chemical compounds. Sampling breath is also much less invasive than testing blood, can be done very quickly, and creates as good as no biohazard waste. Studies have shown that exhaled breath from a flu patient contains influenza viruses but, although the use of silicon nanowire (SiNW) sensors for virus detection is not new, so far no studies have been conducted to apply silicon nanowire technology to the diagnosis of flu. Now, new research suggests that a SiNW sensor device, when calibrated by virus standards and exhaled breath condensate controls, can be reliably applied to the diagnosis of flu in a clinical setting with two orders of magnitude less time compared to the gold standard method RT-qPCR.
Graphene is undoubtedly emerging as the most promising nanomaterial because of its unique combination of superb properties, which opens a way for its exploitation in a wide spectrum of applications. However, it has to overcome a number of obstacles before we can realize its full potential for practical applications. One of the greatest challenges being faced today in commercializing graphene is how to produce high quality material, on a large scale at low cost, and in a reproducible manner. The major hurdle in manufacturing graphene on an industrial scale is the process complexity and the associated high cost of its production, which results in expensive product. In the present article, an attempt has been made to carry out an extensive survey and analysis of global patents pertaining to the various processes of graphene synthesis.
Many nanotechnology projects require some form of nanopatterning technique for fabricating the devices, structures and surfaces required in fields ranging from electronics to photonics, security, biotechnology and medicine. Although they may not be visible to the naked eye, the nanometer-sized trenches, ridges, curves and grooves of these patterns and surfaces have a very visible impact. Researchers have developed a wide range of nanopatterning techniques, from top-down methods such as nanoimprint, e-beam or UV lithography to bottom-up techniques such as transfer nanolithography or nanopositioning on DNA or protein scaffolds. A novel technique uses a biofunctionalization approach based on resist-less electron-beam-induced deposition of carbon-containing nanofeatures, that has been developed into a universal biofunctionalization platform. This unique ability can be exploited for biological experiments, where cells respond to the nanoscale density of activating molecules such as antibodies.
The future of electronics will be flexible. Not only will you be able to roll up your iPads and smart phones like a piece of paper, electronic devices will be invisibly embedded in the textiles you wear from baby diapers to doctors' surgical gloves. To realize such devices, equally flexible power sources need to be integrated with the electronic devices. Textile yarns are an obvious choice. Researchers are already pushing ahead with electronic textiles (e-textiles), for instance by coating regular cotton yarns with single-walled and multi-walled carbon nanotubes and polyelectrolytes, thus making cotton fibers conductive. Addressing the power source issue, researchers have now found a simple way to provide cotton with a new function - storing energy.
Quantum rings show unique electronic, magnetic and optical properties. These unique properties make them attractive for various applications such as magnetic memory and systems for future quantum computers. To be used in practical applications, however,the quantum rings need to be fabricated in a controlled fashion. So far, the fabrication of laterally ordered quantum rings has not been reported. Now, though, researchers have demonstrated a fabrication method to obtain large scale ordered quantum rings. The quantum rings can be simply created by partially capping quantum dots. The key to fabricating ordered quantum rings is to create ordered quantum dots.
A researcher team at the California NanoSystems Institute and the University of California, Los Angeles, have found that the crystal structure of silver nanoparticles is an important determinant of their toxicity to aquatic life. The study comes amid growing concern that the proliferation of nanotechnology will result in the inadvertent release of nanomaterials into the environment. Release of silver nanoparticles is a particular concern given that over 30% of the roughly 800 nano-enabled products currently on the market contain silver nanoparticles. Prior to this study, the environmental toxicity of silver nanoparticles was thought to result mainly from release of silver ions. Nel and his team have now found that defects on the surface of silver nanoparticles can catalyze the production of reactive oxygen species that damage biomolecules within cells. This new mechanism of toxicity may be applicable to non-aquatic organisms, and extend beyond silver nanoparticles.