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Nanotechnology tools for neuroscience and brain activity mapping

brainA comprehensive understanding of the brain remains an elusive, distant frontier. To arrive at a general theory of brain function would be an historic event, comparable to inferring quantum theory from huge sets of complex spectra and inferring evolutionary theory from vast biological field work. The proposed Brain Activity Map is a project that will tap the hive mind of experts to make headway in the understanding of the field. Engineers and nanotechnologists will be needed to help build ever smaller devices for measuring the activity of individual neurons and, later, to control how those neurons function. Recent developments in nanoscale analysis tools and in the design and synthesis of nanomaterials have generated optical, electrical, and chemical methods that can readily be adapted for use in neuroscience.

Mar 27th, 2013

Probing the resolution limits of electron-beam lithography

nanofabricated_structureThe boundaries of electron beam lithography (EBL), the workhorse of current nanofabrication processes, is constantly being pushed further down into the single nanometer range by researchers' efforts to overcome the various limitations of EBL resolution - spot size, electron scattering, secondary-electron range, resist development, and mechanical stability of the resist. A team of scientists has now achieved the EBL fabrication of 2 nm feature size and 10 nm periodic dense structures, which are the highest resolution patterns ever achieved with common resists. The minimum feature size, 2 nm, is composed of roughly 10 atoms wide, and with just a few atoms of standard deviation.

Mar 26th, 2013

'Taking a photo' of DNA helices with an Environmental Scanning Electronic Microscope

Color_diffraction_patternApplications and studies in DNA-based biophysics, biochemistry and biotechnology rely on accurate imaging with high temporal and spatial resolution towards the mesoscopic and single-molecule levels. This, in turn, relies on the ability to immobilize and stretch portions of DNA on a substrate without damaging it. Researchers in Italy have now reported a noninvasive, all-optical, holographic technique for permanently aligning liquid crystalline DNA filaments in a microperiodic template realized in soft-composite materials.

Mar 25th, 2013

Experimental graphene earphones outperform most commercial headsets

earphonesResearchers have exploited the extraordinary electrical and mechanical properties of graphene to create a very efficient electrical/sound transducer. This experimental graphene loudspeaker, without any optimized acoustic design, is simple to make and already performs comparably to or better than similar sized commercial counterparts, and with much lower power consumption. Most speakers available today reproduce sound via a mechanical diaphragm, which is displaced oscillatorily during operation. A wide-band audio speaker typically requires significant damping to broaden the response. Even without optimization, the graphene speaker is able to produce frequency response across the whole audible region, comparable or superior to performance of conventional-design commercial counterparts.

Mar 21st, 2013

Nanotechnology in the pulp and paper industry

nanocelluloseDuring the past few decades, nanotechnology has had tremendous advances in several areas of research and development. Every week we are witnesses to hundreds of articles and scientific publications reporting new pathways for nanoparticle/nanofiber production, modification and use in modern and high-tech applications. In this respect, the pulp and paper industry has not been absent of this development, which has motivated massive research about nanocellulose. This wonderful material, which is synthesized naturally in wood, is composed of nanofibrils with widths usually less than 20 nm, high aspect ratio and remarkable strength.

Mar 20th, 2013

Novel electron beam lithography technique works with plant viruses

nanofabricationPlant viruses have recently become the focus of intense research in the field of nanotechnology due to their promising applications as biotemplates for bottom-up nanofabrication. In order to build nanoscale devices based on plant viruses it is necessary to incorporate the virus with standard micro- and nanofabrication techniques - something that still remains a considerable challenge. In new work, researchers have now shown that TMV particles are compatible with electron beam lithography (EBL) processes and can be integrated in nanostructures made of positive and also of negative EBL tone resists.

Mar 19th, 2013

Plasmonic smart dust to probe local chemical reactions

plasmonic_smartdustConventional probing methods for localized surface properties often rely on ultra-high vacuum conditions. Consequently, approaches such as scanning tunneling microscopy have difficulties to resolve surface changes under realistic reaction conditions. Tip-enhanced Raman spectroscopy can investigate arbitrary substrates and more diverse reaction environments but suffers from weak Raman scattering signals. Also, the fabrication of robust, reproducible, and highly enhancing tips is still challenging. Researchers have now presented a novel platform for the optical detection of localized chemical reactions on surfaces that can help overcome these difficulties by offering a sensitive, reliable, and easy-to-implement technique to probe local chemical reactions while they occur under diverse environmental conditions.

Mar 18th, 2013

D-carbon - a new carbon allotrope with extremely high gas adsorption and mechanical properties

D-carbonCarbon is the fourth-most-abundant element in the universe and, depending on the arrangements of carbon atoms, takes on a wide variety of forms, called allotropes. Carbon allotropes exhibit unique properties of strength and electrical conductivity. Solid carbon at room temperature has two classical structures: diamond and graphite. In 1985 the discovery of the existence of a third and new carbon allotrope containing sixty perfectly symmetrically arranged carbon atoms (C60) meant a major breakthrough and opened a novel field of carbon nanochemistry. Then, in 1991, carbon nanotubes were discovered and graphene in 2004. Now, a research group in China has designed a novel carbon allotrope they've named D-carbon.

Mar 15th, 2013