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Nanotechnology Spotlight – Latest Articles

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Showing Spotlights 1241 - 1248 of 2140 in category (newest first):


Achieving ultralow nanoscale wear of one atom per micrometer

afm_tipMany nanotechnology applications are plagued by very poor wear resistance of device components at the nanoscale. Gears, bearings, and liquid lubricants can reduce friction in the macroscopic world, but the origins of friction for small devices such as micro- or nanoelectromechanical systems require other solutions. Despite the unprecedented accuracy by which these devices are nowadays designed and fabricated, their enormous surface-volume ratio leads to severe friction and wear issues, which dramatically reduce their applicability and lifetime. Although there is a significant amount of research work going on in the area of nanoscale friction, at present there is much less research conducted on nanoscale wear. Researchers have now demonstrated extremely low wear rates at the nanoscale, representing a technological breakthrough for numerous applications in emerging fields such as nanolithography, nanometrology, and nanomanufacturing.

Posted: Feb 15th, 2010

Questionable safety practices in nanotechnology labs around the world

Lab_safetyThe discussion about nanotechnology related safety issues so far has focused mainly on three areas - consumers getting exposed to products containing nanomaterials; nanomaterials getting released into the environment and potentially entering the food chain; and industrial workers being exposed to nanomaterials during the production process. There is an increasing number of reports and research papers dealing with these issues. Interestingly, while surveys of nanotechnology safety practices have concentrated on industrial settings, the safety issues of a significant number of people working with nanomaterials have not been addressed in a concerted matter - the researchers at university and private research laboratories who are doing all the early stage research and development. According to a survey conducted by a Spanish research group, it appears that the nanotechnology research community is not exactly at the forefront when it comes to following, not to mention setting, standards for safe practices for handling nanomaterials.

Posted: Feb 11th, 2010

Magnetic liquid marbles as an alternative to microchannel-based fluidics

liquid_marbleIn contrast with microchannel-based fluidics, the manipulation of discrete droplets without using microfluidic channels is a new field. Here, a liquid droplet is not confined to a closed channel and there is no risk of being adsorbed on a channel wall. A liquid marble, a liquid encapsulated by non-wetting powder, could be a new microfluidic device, which is especially useful for handling single liquid droplet. One of the challenges for using liquid marbles as microfluidic devices is the communication between the liquid droplet and the external devices/materials. Researchers in Australia have been trying to develop 'field-responsive smart liquid marbles' which can be opened and closed reversibly on demand, such that the liquid in the marble can be easily taken and other liquid can also be added into the marble easily. The mechanically robust magnetic liquid marble, prepared by coating a water droplet with highly hydrophobic magnetite nanoparticles, can be actuated magnetically.

Posted: Feb 10th, 2010

Spinning kilometers-long, multi-layered carbon nanotube yarns

Carbon_nanotube_yarnMaterials engineers are keen to exploit the outstanding mechanical properties of carbon nanotubes for applications in fibers, composites, fabrics and other larger-scale structures and devices. The ability to fabricate continuous, multifunctional yarns represents an important step in this direction. The development of a continuous, weavable multilayered CNT yarn with superior mechanical, structural, surface, and electrical properties would open the way for a wide range of structural and functional applications, including composites, intelligent fabrics, catalyst supports, and sensors. Researchers in China now demonstrate the fabrication of a novel continuous yarn of CNTs with a multiple-layer structure by a CVD spinning process. The yarn consists of multiple monolayers of CNTs concentrically assembled in seamless tubules along the yarn axis.

Posted: Feb 9th, 2010

A practical example of solving environmental problems utilizing nanotechnology

carbon_nanotube_spongeCarbon nanotubes are 'strange' nanostructures in a sense that they have both high mechanical strength and extreme flexibility. Deforming a carbon nanotube into any shape would not easily break the structure, and it recovers to original morphology in perfect manner. Researchers in China are exploiting this phenomenon by making CNT sponges consisting of a large amount of interconnected nanotubes, thus showing a combination of useful properties such as high porosity, super elasticity, robustness, and little weight. The nanotube sponges not only show exciting properties as a porous material but they also are very promising to be used practically in a short time. The production method is simple and scalable, the cost is low, and the sponges can find immediate use in many fields related to water purification.

Posted: Feb 8th, 2010

Graphene-inspired bismuth telluride atomic layers could revolutionize cooling and topological insulator applications

bismuth_telluride_atomic_layerBismuth telluride and its alloys are unique materials. They are the best thermoelectric materials known today, and they are as important to the thermoelectric industry - for cooling and energy generation applications - as silicon is important to the electronic industry. It has been predicted theoretically that structuring bismuth telluride into crystalline ultra-thin films (with the thickness of few nanometers) would lead to a drastic improvement of the thermoelectric figure of merit, which defines the efficiency of the thermoelectric energy conversion. The improvement comes as a result of the strong quantum confinement of charge carriers and reduction of the thermal conductivity. In addition to their thermoelectric applications, bismuth telluride thin films recently attracted attention as promising topological insulators - a newly discovered class of materials with unusual properties. Researchers have now succeeded in 'graphene-inspired' mechanical exfoliation of atomically-thin crystals of bismuth telluride.

Posted: Feb 5th, 2010

Electricity-generating silicone implants to power electronic devices

Materials that can produce electricity are at the core of piezoelectric research and the vision of self-powering machines and devices. Nanotechnology researchers are even pursuing nanopiezotronics devices that have the potential of converting biological mechanical energy, acoustic/ultrasonic vibration energy, and biofluid hydraulic energy into electricity, demonstrating a new pathway for self-powering of wireless nanodevices and nanosystems. In addition to miniaturizing piezoelectric devices down to the nanoscale, nanotechnology is also contributing to making next-generation devices more effective. Piezoelectric ceramics for instance generate electrical charge or voltage when they experience stress/strain, and thus are highly efficient at converting mechanical energy into electrical energy. However, ceramics are rigid, which greatly limits the applicability of the energy harvesting. Researchers have now demonstrated that high performance piezoelectric ceramics can be transferred in a scalable process onto rubber or plastic, rendering them flexible without any sacrifice in energy conversion efficiency.

Posted: Feb 3rd, 2010

Plasmonic nanobubbles combine diagnosis and treatment in one theranostic method

plasmonic_nanobubblesMultifunctional nanoparticles are at the core of a growing field called theranostics that develops technologies physicians can use to diagnose and treat diseases in a single procedure. The major promise of theranostics is to bring together key stages of a medical treatment, such as the diagnosis and therapy, and thus to make a treatment shorter, safer and more efficient. Theranostic approaches require adequate tools with a high multi-functionality and selectivity. The initial phase of the development of theranostics has already revealed the two general challenges: lack of multifunctional methods and agents, and the lack of selectivity and specificity of available agents - that ultimately requires cell and molecular levels. Researchers have now developed a novel method based on gold nanoparticle-generated transient photothermal vapor nanobubbles, a structure they refer to as plasmonic nanobubbles.

Posted: Feb 1st, 2010