There is a growing body of research on using carbon nanotubes (CNTs) and other nanomaterials in neural engineering. Scientists are already exploring the feasibility of using CNTs to probe neural activity. With this research comes the need to develop a unified approach when assessing the toxicity of CNT in neurons. However, a complex picture emerges from the reported data: is it feasible to develop CNT-based devices as drug delivery vectors? Ultimately, are soluble CNT neurotoxic, and, if yes, to what degree? Given the often conflicting results of research reports on the biocompatibility of soluble CNT when administered to neurons in the central nervous system, a review article helps to clarify which aspects (technical or methodological) of these studies may be responsible for their heterogeneous conclusions.
Energy generation and storage is an important issue at the nanoscale. For tiny devices such as nano- and micro-electromechanical systems, autonomous power sources are crucial for practical applications. Progress is being made in designing and fabricating nanoscale power generators. But, as with the large, macroscale systems of future smart grids, there might be times when powered nanodevices need to bridge a slump in power generation/harvesting or they might be designed to run on stored energy altogether for a limited period of time. Researchers in China are now proposing that the high energy density and power density of carbon nanotubes makes them promising materials for the storage of mechanical energy. The team provides a structural model towards mechanical energy storage for nanodevices and also demonstrates a method to characterize and manipulate ultralong CNTs.
Blood platelets are the structural and chemical foundation of blood clotting and they play a vital role in minor injuries when coagulation prevents the loss of blood at the injury site. If the proper function of these platelets gets disturbed, blood clotting can lead to thrombosis, which is a leading cause of death and disability in the developed world. In view of the rapid development of nanotechnology, the impact of the newly engineered nanomaterials as an additional thrombosis risk factor is not yet known but should not be underestimated. In fact, it has been reported that carbon nanotubes induce platelet aggregation and potentiate arterial thrombosis in animal model. However, a mechanism of thrombogenic effects of carbon nanotubes was not known. Researchers have now shown that show the molecular mechanism of carbon nanotubes' induced platelets activation.
Current production methods for carbon nanotubes (CNTs) result in units with different diameter, length, chirality and electronic properties, all packed together in bundles, and often blended with some amount of amorphous carbon. Often, these mixtures are of little practical use since many advanced applications, especially for nanoelectronics, are sensitively dependent on the structures. Separation of nanotubes according to desired properties is still proving to be a challenging task, especially single-walled carbon nanotube (SWCNT) sorting. The composition of SWCNTs of different types is very similar, but the chemical properties are not. Conventional separation techniques are efficient in separation of carbon nanotubes, but there are many drawbacks. Researchers in Asia have now developed a simple way to realize the separation of single-walled carbon nanotubes via the interaction difference between chemicals and carbon nanotubes.
Apart from making graphene, graphene oxide itself itself is a fascinating material that has many intriguing properties. Researchers have now developed a graphene-based conductive glue that can function as a metal-free solder for creating mechanical and electrical connections in organic optoelectronic devices. As a proof-of-concept, they fabricated polymer tandem solar cells - multi-junction photovoltaic devices, in which two sub-cells are stacked to achieve higher overall solar absorption - by a direct 'gluing' process. The water-based sticky interconnect and the associated adhesive lamination process could transform the serial layer-by-layer fabrication of tandem devices into a parallel mode, in which the subcells can be independently fabricated and adjusted to balance their photocurrents for achieving high efficiency.
Groundbreaking research has shown a quantum atom has been tracked inside a living human cell and may lead to improvements in the testing and development of new drugs. Researchers conducted studies that confirm that non-invasive quantum measurement is possible on nanodiamonds containing a single nitrogen-vacancy (NV) spin moving within living cells. Studying the quantum properties of a single NV defect within a diamond nanocrystal, the researchers demonstrate a new technique which enables the orientation of a nanoparticle to be determined to an accuracy of less than one degree in an acquisition time of 89 milliseconds. This new technique offers biologists an extra degree of freedom when studying the translational motion of nanoparticles. Monitoring the coherence from a single electron spin paves the ways for nanoscale bio-magnetometry allowing scientists to probe changes in the cell's electromagnetic environment.
There is a general perception that nanotechnologies will have a significant impact on developing 'green' and 'clean' technologies with considerable environmental benefits. However, the environmental footprint created by today's nanomanufacturing technologies are conflicting with the general perception that nanotechnology environmentally benign. It actually appears that certain nanomaterial production technologies are quite dirty and also have a considerable energy footprint. Determining the full environmental impact of nanomaterials requires a full life cycle assessment. A recent paper takes a look at the material and energy intensity of fullerene production. It finds that the embodied energy of all fullerenes are an order of magnitude higher than most common chemicals.
Many strategies to develop stretchable electronics rely on engineering new constructs from existing materials, e.g. ultrathin, stretchable silicon structures. Another approach is to fabricate ultrathin CMOS circuits on stretchable materials such as polymers. Nanotechnology allows a novel route to materials and structures that can be used to develop human-friendly devices with realistic functions and abilities that would not be feasible by mere extension of conventional technology. New research suggests devices that can act as part of human skin or clothing, and can therefore be used ubiquitously. Such devices could eventually find a wide range of applications in recreation, virtual reality, robotics and health care.