To what degree nanoparticles are uptaken by plants and what their effect is on plant development is an important issue in determining the environmental impact of nanomaterials. Previously we have covered several research projects that have begun to explore nanotechnology's impact on major food crops and some of them have demonstrated quite a negative impact. But some research results also show a possible positive effect, like a recent study that demonstrates that carbon nanotubes (CNTs) can dramatically accelerate the germination and growth of tomato seeds. Work like this contributes to an important body of interdisciplinary research where nanotechnology, plant biology and biotechnology converge to open new perspectives for solving some of the important challenges of our times such as increased food and biofuel production.
Here is the book you all have been waiting for: Nano-Society - Pushing the boundaries of technology. Written by Nanowerk's Michael Berger, this book puts a spotlight on some of the scientists who are pushing the boundaries of technology and it gives examples of their work and how they are advancing knowledge one little step at a time. Nano-Society is the latest addition to RSC Publishing's Nanoscience and Nanotechnology series. Edited by Sir Harry Kroto, Paul O'Brien, and Harold Craighead, the series provides a comprehensive source of information on research associated with nanostructured materials and miniaturized lab-on-a-chip technologies. The book covers 122 very specific research projects that are happening in laboratories around the world and provides commentaries from the scientists in their own words.
Sand. Shrubs. Burst tires. More sand. The last thing you would expect as you drive along the Red Sea near Mecca is to encounter an ultramodern science city. Yet there it is. Appearing after an 80 kilometer drive from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia's second-largest city, the 36 square kilometer campus of King Abdullah University for Science and Technology (KAUST) appears like a Fata Morgana out of the desert sand. Yesterday, September 23rd, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia officially opened the country's most modern and ambitious university near the old fishing village of Thuwal. Nanowerk was invited to attend the spectacular opening ceremony. Much more than a future elite university, the vision behind KAUST is to create the nucleus of a modern society, free from the strict religious dictates of a conservative Islamic culture, and laying the foundation for a science and technology based society of future generations.
Bionanotechnology researchers are experimenting with techniques for attaching DNA nanoarrays to cell surfaces for various reasons: to label cell surfaces with functionalized micrometer-sized patches; to deliver materials such as nanoparticles or carbon nanotubes to cell surfaces; to deliver nucleic acids into the cell for gene silencing; or to engineer microtissues of cell/cell networks by using self-hybridizing properties of single stranded DNA molecules. A team of scientists in California has now successfully attached self-assembled DNA structures to cancer cells using two different methods. This is one of the first illustrations of the biomedical relevance of DNA arrays.
In developing next generation data storage devices, researchers are employing a variety of nanotechnology fabrication and patterning techniques such as electron-beam lithography, photolithography, microcontact printing, nanoimprinting and scanning probe microscope-based lithography. A decade ago, IBM for instance introduced the Millipede Project, a thermomechanical AFM-based nanopatterning technique that was aimed at data storage systems. While this system required an AFM tip heated to 350 degrees centigrade, researchers in Korea have now demonstrated that the writing, reading, and erasure of nanoscopic indentations on a polymeric film can be achieved by using an AFM tip at room temperature - no heating required.
The batteries that power our everyday devices, from laptop computers, to mobile phones, watches, toys and flashlights, are a major source of pollution. The average household in the Western world uses about 20 batteries a year, resulting in hundreds of thousands of tons of discarded batteries that end up in landfills. When the battery casing corrodes, toxic heavy metals like mercury and cadmium can leak out and pollute soil and ground water. Researchers have been working on non-metal batteries but so far the performance of the used materials has not been good enough for commercial applications. One way to improve the performance of nonmetal-based energy storage devices is to use composite electrode materials of conductive polymers, deposited as thin layers on a suitable large surface area substrate. Researchers have now developed a novel polypyrrole-cellulose composite electrode material that is mechanically robust, lightweight, and flexible.
A hallmark of the Mission: Impossible series shows secret agent Phelps receiving his instructions on a tape that then self-destructs and goes up in a cloud of smoke. Existing self-erasing media are much less dramatic, of course. Most of these materials rely on photochromic molecules. One prominent example is an experimental printing technology with reusable paper developed by Xerox and PARC. While writing with light can be both rapid and accurate, photochromic 'inks' are not necessarily optimal for transforming light-intensity patterns into color variations, because they have relatively low extinction coefficients, are prone to photobleaching, and usually offer only two colors corresponding to the two states of photoisomerizing molecules. Researchers at Northwestern University have now developed a new concept that can be used to produce self-erasing pictures. In contrast to previous techniques, their method allows for multicolored pictures.
The interest in exploring the use of noble metal nanoparticles for diagnostic and therapeutic imaging stems from the drawbacks of current in vivo probes. Fluorescent probes, such as fluorescent dyes and proteins, are not photostable and therefore are useful only for a limited time during the probing event. Besides imaging agents, especially gold nanoparticles are also intensely researched as target-specific vehicles for drug delivery. Due to its inert chemical properties, gold has been widely considered as one of the most stable and biocompatible materials. But studies of the biocompatibility and toxicity of gold nanoparticles in various types of cells have yielded inconclusive results: some studies show a toxic effect and high-dependence of toxicity on nanoparticle size and surface functional groups, while other studies report no significant cytotoxicity. Many of these studies did not use purified gold nanoparticles, or examine any other chemicals present in the gold nanoparticle solutions, or well characterize the physical properties, leading to these inconclusive results. Researchers have now synthesized and characterized stable, nearly monodisperse, and highly purified gold nanoparticles, and utilized them to study cleavage-stage embryos in real-time and to probe their effects on embryonic development at the single-nanoparticle level in real time.