Nanotechnology Spotlight – Latest Articles

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Novel, fast DNA nanopore detector features integrated tunneling electrodes

nanoporeResearchers worldwide are working on fast and low-cost strategies to sequence DNA, that is, to read off the content of our genome. Particularly promising for future genome sequencing are devices that measure single molecules. In this respect, the creation of nanochannels or nanopores in thin membranes has attracted much interest due to the potential to isolate and sense single DNA molecules while they translocate through the highly confined channels. Particularly interesting are techniques that can offer fast and low cost readout of long DNA molecules without the need of DNA labelling or amplification. In very interesting work performed at Imperial College London, researchers have now successfully developed a protocol for the fabrication of a solid state nanopore aligned to a tunneling junction.

Dec 13th, 2010

Another nanotechnology step towards 'Fantastic Voyage'

fantastic_voyageOff-targeting remains a key challenge of researchers working on nanoparticle drug delivery - the majority of intravenously administered therapeutic nanoparticles are also reaching normal tissues, resulting in considerable adverse side effects. Another challenge of nanoparticle drug delivery includes the limited penetration depth of particles into the tumors. While extensive efforts have been devoted for designing therapeutic nanoparticles, a new study - echoing the journey through the human body in Fantastic Voyage - represents the first example of coupling such drug nanocarriers with self-propelled nanoshuttles. The ability of synthetic nanomotors to carry 'cargo' has already been demonstrated; but not in connection to common drug-loaded particles. In a new study, researchers demonstrate that catalytic nanoshuttles can readily pickup common biocompatible and biodegradable drug-loaded particles and liposomes and transport them over predefined routes towards predetermined destination.

Dec 10th, 2010

Can nanoparticles end up in the brain?

brainThe use of minute particles as drug carriers for targeted therapy has been studied and discussed for more than 20 years. A selective accumulation of active substances in target tissues has been demonstrated for certain so-called nanocarrier systems that are administered bound to pharmaceutical drugs. Great expectations are placed on nanocarrier systems that can overcome natural barriers such as the blood-brain barrier (BBB) and transport the medication directly to the desired tissue and thus heal neurological diseases that were formerly incurable. The BBB represents the border between the circulating blood and the fluid in the central nervous system. It functions to protect the sensitive nerve cells from foreign substances and infections from the blood. Whether nanoparticles enter the central nervous system unintentionally and induce health problems is also being debated.

Dec 8th, 2010

Nanorattles are promising as effective drug delivery system

nanorattleSilica nanomaterials have shown great promise for delivering anticancer and other water-insoluble drugs into human cancer cells. The high surface area, tunable pore diameter, and uniform mesoporous structure of the mesoporous silicas offer a unique advantage for loading and releasing large quantities of biomedical agents. These properties are beneficial for designing stimuli-response drug release and allow mesoporous silica nanoparticles (MSN) to be loaded with a drug. Especially MSNs with hollow and rattle structure show particularly higher drug loading efficiency because the interstitial hollow space can selectively and efficiently accommodate drug molecules. In what represents a significant progress of in vivo cancer therapy with mesoporous silica nanomaterials, researchers have demonstrated that silica nanorattles show advantages for in vivo enhancement of therapy efficacy and reducing the systematic toxicity of antitumor drugs.

Dec 7th, 2010

Nanoscopic patterning of nonplanar surfaces

nanopatterningProjection photolithography is mostly limited to flat surfaces. However, many emerging areas of micro- and nanotechnology applications, be it in optics, imaging, sensors or bioengineering, increasingly require the fabrication of microscopic and nanoscopic patterns on nonplanar surfaces. Contact printing and imprinting methods can cope with certain curved surfaces but appear to be restricted to those having a constant magnitude of curvature and a large radius of curvature relative to the arc length at least in one dimension. Researchers have now demonstrated that hexagonal noncontiguously packed (HNCP) colloidal crystals trapped at the air-water interface can be directly transferred onto solid substrates to give HNCP and distorted HNCP patterns. This bottom-up method uses self-assembled nanoparticle arrays and is not limited to flat surfaces at all.

Dec 6th, 2010

Dip-pen nanolithography as EBL alternative for fabricating graphene devices

nanolithographyDip-Pen Nanolithography (DPN) is a scanning probe lithography technique in which the tip of an atomic force microscope (AFM) is used to deliver molecules to a surface, allowing nanostructured surface patterning on scales of under 100 nm. This direct-write technique offers high-resolution patterning capabilities for a number of molecular and biomolecular 'inks' on a variety of substrates, such as metals, semiconductors, and monolayer functionalized surfaces. It's becoming a work-horse tool for the scientist interested in fabricating and studying soft- and hard-matter on the sub-100nm length scale. Using DPN for fabricating graphene devices has not been previously shown. Researchers at Stanford University have now evaluated DPN as an alternative to conventional electron-beam lithography (EBL) for tailoring such devices.

Dec 3rd, 2010

An electric motor made from a single molecule

single_molecule_motorFor 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.

Dec 2nd, 2010

Atomistic model contributes to safety of geosequestration processes

greenhouse_gasGlobal 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.

Nov 30th, 2010