About 25 micrometers wide and 100 micrometers tall these “flowers,” created by scientists at Harvard, are made from barium carbonate and silica. Through a complex chemical process, the researchers can induce these tiny flower-like structures to self-assemble. By controlling the environmental temperature different shapes and sizes can be coaxed to spontaneously form.
This method of manufacturing nano-scale structures has implications for the nano-industry in the long run. But for now, I would really love to order a custom made nano-bouquet for my girlfriend, accompanied by a false color image, as the bouquet would be next to invisible to the naked eye.
Story via extremetech.com
Engineers at the University of California have developed a “nanosponge” that can safely remove a variety of dangerous toxins from the bloodstream. Unlike other antitoxin platforms, this technology is not limited to a single type of threat. These nanoscale sponges can “soak up” MRSA, E. coli and other antibiotic-resistant bacteria, as well as venom from snakes and bees. Studies performed on mice show that 89% of the test subjects inoculated with the sponges survived a lethal dose of MRSA. Those injected after exposure to a lethal dose still had a high survival rate of 44% .
The nanosponges are made of a biocompatible polymer core. In order to evade the immune system and remain in circulation in the bloodstream, the sponges are wrapped in red blood cell membranes. A single red blood cell membrane can generate thousands of nanosponges. The nanosponges work by outnumbering red blood cells, serving as “decoys” for the bacteria and toxins.
Ever curse the fact that you have to wait hours to sober up after a night at the bar? Now, you can sober up almost instantly – that is, if you’re a mouse. Researchers at MIT have created an injection of alcohol-digesting enzymes in nanoscale “pills” that can quickly reduce the blood alcohol of mice.
Until now, scientists have struggled with using enzymes as medicine, since it’s difficult to create stable versions with a controlled size and arrangement. Enzymes are a type of protein that act as a catalyst to specific biological processes. In biological washing powder, for example, enzymes are used to catalyse (speed up) the breakdown of fats and proteins, letting us wash our clothes at lower temperatures and still sustain good results.
This effective new method of delivering enzymes might someday lead to medicines that could take humans from drunk to sober within a matter of minutes. Perhaps bars might offer these injections as a complimentary service to patrons. Whether it will cure a hangover remains to be seen.
For the full research report click here.
Gumboot chiton is a marine snail with an appetite for algae growing on rocks. Grazing on rocks would destroy the teeth of others, but not the gumboot chiton. This snail produces the hardest biomineral yet discovered to deal with its punishing eating habits.
This mineral, called magnetite, has inspired a new type of solar cell and a new type of lithium battery. By understanding how the snail produces this mineral, researchers could develop similar ways to make nano-materials at room temperature. This will allow researchers to develop low-cost, high-efficiency microscopic structures.
Dr. Kisailus, of Riverside’s Bourne College of Engineering in California, believes that understanding the gumboot chiton will lead to solar cells that can capture and convert more sunlight into electricity, as well to more efficient batteries. “If we can reduce the size of particles in batteries, which at present, are massive on a nano-scale, this will reduce their recharge time and increase their power efficiency”.
Via Elements Science
If you’ve turned to plastic Christmas trees because the real ones leave piles of needles behind, science is working to bring live conifers back into your holidays. A $1.3 million project in the US is trying to find which individual trees hold onto their needles most tenaciously. A team headed by plant pathologist Gary Chastagner is subjecting thousands of branch samples to a “rub test” and then meticulously counting the number of needles that fall off. By comparing shedding versus non-shedding pines, the team hopes to find the piece of RNA responsible for needle loss – and to develop an easy field test for identifying that trees that lack the offending nucleotide.
Genetic testing aside, the story of the commercial Christmas tree in the US is an interesting one. A tradition introduced by German immigrants, Christmas trees were mostly gathered from wild or semi-wild conditions until the 1970s. Unfortunately, harvesting all the young conifers from a forest has the side effect of letting understory shrubs and weeds to go wild. Competing for light against these quick-growing plants, pine tree saplings grew tall and spindly – a shape that’s not particularly festive. Christmas tree farms sprung up to provide the perfectly conical trees that no longer existed in the wild. Hypernature at its most festive.
No, those aren’t plastic trinkets or beads from a craft store. They’re diatoms, a group of single-celled algae, and unlike almost all of our current technologies, they can rapidly and reliably synthesize nanoscale structures. Diatoms produce incredibly complex silica shells that are riddled with a regular pattern of pores. As can be seen above, diatoms come in an incredible variety of shapes – around 100,000 species in all. Strong, easy and quick-growing, and virtually unlimited, diatoms are drawing the attention of scientists who are interested in nanotechnology.
As with many nanotechnologies, research into the use of diatoms is in its infancy. These microscopic algae have been studied for their ability of synthesize novel electrical devices, including new ways to detect pollution. A chemical process that converts their silica shells into silicon creates ready-made nano electronics. Since biologically active molecules attach to the pores in their shells, they may eventually function as a “lab on a chip” for detecting antibodies, traces of diseases, and other chemicals in the body. Diatoms also show promise in the fields of optics. Solar energy cells with diatom-based coatings capture three times more electrons that standard coatings. Genetic manipulation might refine the diatom’s natural precision engineering to create bespoke parts for nanosensors and nanoscale machines from diatoms. Further proof that guided growth is the future of manufacturing.
The Namib desert gets less than a half an inch of rain per year, yet the stenocara beetle manages to survive in these punishing conditions. The beetle’s secret lies in an array of microscopic bumps and valleys on its shell. The bumps are hydrophilic (water-attracting) and the valleys are hydrophobic (water-repelling). During foggy days, tiny water droplets accumulate on the hydrophilic bumps. Once a droplet is big enough, it tumbles off the bump down into a hydrophobic trough, which funnels the water to the beetle’s mouth. Now, a company called NBD Nano is hoping to mimic stenocara’s shell to create the world’s first self-filling water bottles.
NBD Nano co-founder Deckard Sorenson says that “We see this being applicable to anything from marathon runners to people in third-world countries, because we realize that water is such a large issue in the world today, and we want to try to alleviate those problems with a cost-efficient solution.” According to him, this technology could harvest three liters per square meter per hour in an area with 75% humidity. Unfortunately, the self-filling water bottle is still years from being realized, if ever. For those of you who are impatient for a solution to the world’s water crisis, GrabCAD is holding a contest to design devices that harvest water from the air.
Story via BoingBoing. Image via GrabCAD.
Imagine how much easier the job of window cleaners would be if they could simply scale walls like Spider-Man instead of using elevators, ladders and other gear. Ever since the first Spider-Man comic appeared children and adults alike have been dreaming of these particular talents. Thanks to “gecko-tape”, these dreams are no longer science fiction. Luckily, this new method of scaling walls doesn’t involve being bit by a radioactive spider.
As the NANO Supermarket opens discussions on the ethics, purpose and usability of nanotechnology, Frederik De Wilde is researching its artistic possibilities. De Wilde is a guest professor at the Transmedia program at the LUCA School of Arts in Brussels and artist in residence at the University of Hasselt. For a few years he has used nanotechnology to generate “super-black” artworks.
One technique is to ‘grow’ carbon nanotubes on a silicon wafer. When a photon approaches the surface it slips in between the nanotubes, and cannot be reflected. Because colors are generated through the reflection of photons, the surface of De Wilde’s artworks appear to be blacker than black. When applied to a complex 3D object it appears to be just a silhouette, because no reflections, highlights or shadows can be seen. The works of De Wilde are reminiscent of Anish Kapoor’s Descent into Limbo shown at De Pont in Tilburg, Netherlands.
Frederik De Wilde takes part in a selection for the TED2013 programme with his talk. Good luck with this.