In recent years, there has been growing interest, and progress, in the design and fabrication of carbon nanotube (CNT) macrostructures for effective utilization of their remarkable properties at the macroscale. Realization of such highly concentrated CNT macrostructures in a stiff/elastic environment able to impose compression on individual CNTs and CNT/CNT junctions, could dramatically improve their network connectivity, transport property, and durability, and perhaps lead to novel organic/inorganic hybrids with unprecedented multifunctional properties. In a new study, researchers have effectively addressed this challenge and proposed a new concept - a highly concentrated, 3D macrostructure of individual multiwalled CNTs in a ceramic environment - that dramatically improves not only the transport property and network connectivity of the MWCNT 3D macrostructure but also the strain tolerance of the ceramic material.
There is currently no clear evidence that engineered nanoparticles pose a significant threat to the environment. Nonetheless, major gaps in our knowledge exist. The present dossier illustrates the problems in the field of environmental analytics, presents the current state of knowledge on the fate and behavior of ENPs in various environmental compartments and provides an overview of the preliminary results from ecotoxicological research and from model calculations of exposure assessments. At present, ecotoxicological research focuses primarily on controlled laboratory studies involving cell cultures or model organisms. One of the major critiques here is the use of unrealistically high dosages1 Overall, no definitive conclusions can be drawn on whether environmental damage can be expected or not.
Nanotechnology products, processes and applications have the potential to make important contributions to environmental and climate protection by helping save raw materials, energy and water as well as by reducing greenhouse gases and problematic wastes. Great hopes are being placed on nano-technologically optimized products and processes that are currently under development in the energy production and storage sectors. Emphasis is often placed on the sustainable potential of nanotechnology, but this in fact represents a poorly documented expectation. Determining a product's actual effect on the environment - both positive and negative - requires considering the entire life cycle from the production of the base materials to disposal at the end of its useful life. Not every 'nano-product' is a priori environmentally friendly or sustainable, and the production of nanomaterials often requires large amounts of energy, water and environmentally problematic chemicals.
Understanding the health and environmental impact of nanomaterials is vital to the sustainable and responsible development of nanotechnology. Currently, small animal experiments are the 'gold standard' for nanomaterial toxicity testing. However, a detailed understanding often requires dozens of animals and can take many months to complete. Dr. Andre Nel and his coworkers at the California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI) and the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) are taking a fundamentally different approach to nanomaterial toxicity testing. Nel believes that, under the right circumstances, resource-intensive animal experiments can be replaced or adjusted with comparatively simple in vitro assays. This article explores his approach and its implications for nanomaterial design and development.
A commentary by Steffen Foss Hansen and Anders Baun in this week's Nature Nanotechnology pointedly asks "when will governments and regulatory agencies stop asking for more reports and reviews, and start taking regulatory action?" The two scientists take issue with yet another scientific opinion on nanosilver that has been requested by the European Commission in late 2011: "SCENIHR - Request for a scientific opinion on Nanosilver: safety, health and environmental effects and role in antimicrobial resistance". Specifically, the EC wants SCENIHR to answer four questions under the general heading of 'Nanosilver: safety, health and environmental effects, and role in antimicrobial resistance'. These questions, however, have already been addressed by no less than 18 review articles in scientific journals.
Over the past few years, touchscreens have become ubiquitous in the world of mobile electronic devices. A next generation of touch sensing devices will be vastly more advanced and lead to ultrasensitive artificial skins. Another, novel model for advanced man-machine interactive systems could be based on moisture detectors. Here, actual touch is no longer necessary for a positioning interface to react; rather, the distribution of water molecules that exists around all humid surfaces, such as a human finger, would be sufficient to trigger a response. Researchers in China have now demonstrate such a flexible touchless positioning interface based on the spatial mapping of moisture distribution.
Breath analysis of exhaled breath condensate has been increasingly recognized as a promising diagnostic method to link specific gaseous components in human breath to medical conditions and exposure to chemical compounds. Sampling breath is also much less invasive than testing blood, can be done very quickly, and creates as good as no biohazard waste. Studies have shown that exhaled breath from a flu patient contains influenza viruses but, although the use of silicon nanowire (SiNW) sensors for virus detection is not new, so far no studies have been conducted to apply silicon nanowire technology to the diagnosis of flu. Now, new research suggests that a SiNW sensor device, when calibrated by virus standards and exhaled breath condensate controls, can be reliably applied to the diagnosis of flu in a clinical setting with two orders of magnitude less time compared to the gold standard method RT-qPCR.
Graphene is undoubtedly emerging as the most promising nanomaterial because of its unique combination of superb properties, which opens a way for its exploitation in a wide spectrum of applications. However, it has to overcome a number of obstacles before we can realize its full potential for practical applications. One of the greatest challenges being faced today in commercializing graphene is how to produce high quality material, on a large scale at low cost, and in a reproducible manner. The major hurdle in manufacturing graphene on an industrial scale is the process complexity and the associated high cost of its production, which results in expensive product. In the present article, an attempt has been made to carry out an extensive survey and analysis of global patents pertaining to the various processes of graphene synthesis.