Nanotechnology Spotlight – Latest Articles

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European strategy for nanotechnology and the nanotechnology Action Plan

European_nanotechnologyEurope is a key player in nanotechnology and, about on the same level as the U.S., invests hundreds of millions of dollars, or rather euros, into nanotechnology research and development projects. Whereas the U.S. National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) in was established in 2001 to coordinate Federal nanotechnology research and development, the European Union's slowly grinding bureaucratic mills came up with a comparable program only three years later. In May 2004, the European Commission adopted the Communication Towards a European Strategy for Nanotechnology. It seeks to bring the discussion on nanoscience and nanotechnology to an institutional level and proposes an integrated and responsible strategy for Europe. Since then, the EU has issued updates on how they are doing with two implementation reports, the last one issued just a few days ago.

Nov 19th, 2009

How quality control of everyday products with AFM creates competitive advantages

afm_imageMany of today's high-tech products rely on nano-level functional structures, and in products such as mobile phones, integrated circuits and glasses they have already become commonplace. But with increasing demands on products and their quality, tiny structures and the ability to evaluate them are also becoming decisive factors for the production of everyday products. The experience of a ball-point pen maker shows how atomic force microscopy enables highly accurate quality control during manufacturing, eliminating entire production steps in the process. Everyone has had to contend with scratchy or messy ball-point pens, but not everyone knows that often this malfunction is the result of a manufacturing error: smooth writing depends largely on the roughness of the sphere at the tip of the pen. Its roughness needs to lie in a well-defined interval: too rough, and the pen leaks; too smooth, and it scratches and fails to transport enough ink. The roughness of this little sphere thus becomes the decisive quality indicator of the entire writing apparatus.

Nov 18th, 2009

Dude, nobody told me I was a nanotechnology consumer!

consumerMost products today are defined as 'nanotechnology product' because they contain nanoparticles in some form or other. For instance, many antimicrobial coatings contain silver in nanoscale form; food products and cosmetics contain nanoparticles; drug formulations are made with nanoscale ingredients; and some products are partially made with composite materials containing nanomaterials (e.g. carbon nanotubes or carbon nanofibers) to mechanically strengthen the material. Two researchers from the Norwegian National Institute for Consumer Research (SIFO), Harald Throne-Holst and Pal Strandbakken, argue that consumer rights in the nanotechnology age are not self-evident but rather have to be strengthened, partly redefined and certainly revived in order to empower and protect consumers.

Nov 17th, 2009

Remote-controlled nanocomposite for on-demand drug delivery inside the body

nanogelQuite a number of serious medical conditions, such as cancer, diabetes and chronic pain, require medications that cannot be taken orally, but must be dosed intermittently, on an as-needed basis, and over a long period of time. By combining magnetism with nanotechnology, researchers have now created a small implantable device that encapsulates the drug in a specially engineered membrane, embedded with magnetic iron oxide nanoparticles. The application of an external, alternating magnetic field heats the magnetic nanoparticles, causing the gels in the membrane to warm and temporarily collapse. This collapse opens up pores that allow the drug to pass through and into the body. When the magnetic field is turned off, the membranes cool and the gels re-expand, closing the pores and halting drug delivery. No implanted electronics are required.

Nov 16th, 2009

Pushing the envelope in atomic force microscopy

afmOver the past decade, Atomic Force/Scanning Probe Microscopy (AFM/SPM) has emerged as the leading tool for investigations at the nanoscale - doing everything from imaging, to compositional differentiation, to explorations of molecular forces. But aside from some interesting tweaks, add-ons and repackaging, the field has seen no fundamentally new instruments for several years. For the extremely high-resolution AFM/SPMs, there has literally been no completely new microscope for well over a decade. Enter the new Cypher AFM. Cypher was designed from the ground up with a host of new features and unmatched performance enabled by its revolutionary new design.

Nov 12th, 2009

Sharper and faster nanodarts kill more bacteria

A newly published antibacterial activity mechanism study demonstrates how a single walled carbon nanotube (SWCNT) kills bacteria by the physical puncture of bacterial membranes. The nanotubes would constantly attack the bacteria in solution, degrading the bacterial cell integrity and causing the cell death. This work elucidates several factors controlling the antibacterial activity of pristine SWCNTs and provides an insight in their toxicity mechanism. With regard to carbon nanotubes, in early toxicological studies, researchers obtained confounding results - in some studies nanotubes were toxic; in others, they were not. The apparent contradictions were actually a result of the materials that the researchers were using.

Nov 10th, 2009

Multifunctional nanotechnology device for integrated, cell-based nanotherapy

One of the promises of medical nanotechnology is a drug-delivery nanodevice that can image, target, and deliver drugs to a specific cancer location inside the body and monitor and if necessary adjust the drug release at the target location. Researchers in Taiwan have now designed a nanodevice that comes pretty close to this vision. They have successfully demonstrated that our multifunctional drug-delivery nanodevice - a polymer core/single-crystal iron oxide shell nanostructure bonded to a quantum dot - can image, target, and deliver drugs via remote control. The device shows outstanding release and retention characteristics via an external on/off manipulation of a high-frequency magnetic field. Furthermore, the quantum dot bonded to the nanodevice provides optical information for in situ monitoring of the drug release.

Nov 9th, 2009

Industrial nanotechnology processes getting closer

New research reported this week has now established an industrially relevant process for assembling carbon nanotubes that allows them to efficiently be made into fibers, coatings and films - the basic forms of material that can be used in engineering applications. The most common of processing nanotubes into neat fibers - apart from 'dry' methods where they are spun directly into ropes and yarns - are 'wet' methods where CNTs are dispersed into a liquid and solution-spun into fiber. Currently, these processes yield fibers whose properties are not sufficiently close to optimal. Successful carbon nanotube assembly begins with control of dispersion and phase behavior and requires a scientific understanding of flow, colloidal interactions and solvent removal.

Nov 5th, 2009