When doctors perform an MRI, they administer a contrast agent: a chemical that, when injected into the bloodstream or ingested by the patient just before the MRI, improves the clarity of structures or organs in the resulting image. Researchers in Illinois have turned contrast agent technology “inside out” to develop a scalable new way of building multipurpose agents using nanoparticles.
Photocatalysis is a promising route to convert solar energy into chemical fuels, or to split water into molecular hydrogen. But viable photocatalysts, or promoters, for these applications are scarce. A team of chemists in California has come up with a model to explain this promoting effect that could shift the focus in the search for substitutes of the metals, and help identify better promoters for photocatalysis in the near future.
A team led by researchers from the Univ. of California, Los Angeles has developed a new process to control molecular growth within the "building block" components of inorganic materials. The method, which uses nanoparticles to organize the components during a critical phase of the manufacturing process, could lead to innovative new materials, such as self-lubricating bearings for engines.
Scientists at Ames Laboratory have developed a nanoparticle that is able to perform two processing functions at once for the production of green diesel, an alternative fuel created from the hydrogenation of oils from renewable feedstocks like algae. The method is a departure from the established process of producing biodiesel, which is accomplished by reacting fats and oils with alcohols.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers have devised a novel cancer treatment that destroys tumor cells by first disarming their defenses, then hitting them with a lethal dose of DNA damage. In studies with mice, the research team showed that this one-two punch, which relies on a nanoparticle that carries two drugs and releases them at different times, dramatically shrinks lung and breast tumors.
A newly developed pressure sensor could help car manufacturers design safer automobiles and even help Little League players hold their bats with a better grip, scientists report. The study describing their high-resolution sensor, which can be painted onto surfaces or built into gloves, appears in Nano Letters.
Medical nanoparticles need to be eventually eliminated from the body after they complete their task. Researchers have developed a new method to analyze and characterize this process of nanoparticle “disassembly”, as a necessary step in translating nanoparticles into clinical use. The technique involves the use of Förster resonance energy transfer, or FRET, as a sort of molecular ruler to measure distance at small scales.
Graphene oxide nanoparticles are an oxidized form of graphene, a single layer of carbon atoms prized for its strength, conductivity and flexibility. In a first-of-its-kind study of how a material some think could transform the electronics industry moves in water, researchers have found that these graphene oxide nanoparticles are very mobile in lakes or streams and therefore likely to cause negative environmental impacts if released.
Counterfeit or adulterated olive oil has been a persistent presence on the market, in part because the oil is difficult to track. An invisible label, developed by researchers in Switzerland, could perform this task. The tag consists of tiny magnetic DNA particles encapsulated in a silica casing and mixed with the oil. Just a few grams of the new substance are enough to tag the entire olive oil production of Italy.
A team at Purdue Univ. has used gold nanoparticles to target and bind to fragments of genetic material known as BRCA1 messenger RNA splice variants, which can indicate the presence and stage of breast cancer. The number of these synthetic DNA “tails” in a cell can be determined in a living cell by examining the specific signal that light produces when it interacts with the gold nanoparticles.
Physicist Wei Chen at Univ. of Texas at Arlington’s Center for Security Advances Via Applied Nanotechnology was testing a copper-cysteamine complex created in his laboratory when he discovered unexplained decreases in its luminescence, or light emitting power, over a time-lapse exposure to x-rays. Further testing work revealed that the “Cu-Cy” nanoparticles, when combined with x-ray exposure, significantly slowed tumor growth in studies.
Scientists at Rice Univ. have created a nanoscale detector that checks for and reports on the presence of hydrogen sulfide in crude oil and natural gas while they’re still in the ground. The nanoreporter is based on nanometer-sized carbon material developed by a consortium of Rice labs led by chemist James Tour, R&D’s 2013 Scientist of the Year.
Nanotechnology has unlocked new pathways for targeted drug delivery, including the use of nanocarriers that can transport cargoes of small-molecule therapeutics to specific locations in the body. Researchers have recently demonstrated that processing can have significant influence on the size of nanocarriers for targeted drug delivery. It was previously assumed that once a nanocarrier is created, it maintains its size and shape anywhere.
The unique properties of engineered nanoparticles have created intense interest in their environmental behavior. Due to the increased use of nanotechnology in consumer products, industrial applications and health care technology, nanoparticles are more likely to enter the environment. For this reason, it’s not only important to know the type, size and distribution of nanoparticles, but it’s also crucial to understand their impact.
A house window that doubles as a solar panel could be on the horizon, thanks to recent quantum dot work by Los Alamos National Laboratory researchers in collaboration with scientists from Univ. of Milano-Bicocca, Italy. Their project demonstrates that superior light-emitting properties of quantum dots can be applied in solar energy by helping more efficiently harvest sunlight.
Thousands of consumer products contain nanoparticles added by manufacturers to improve texture, kill microbes or enhance shelf life, among other purposes. However, several studies have shown that some of these engineered nanoparticles can be toxic to cells. A new study from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Harvard School of Public Health suggests that certain nanoparticles can also harm DNA.
New research shows that nanostructures could enable more light to be directed into the active layer of solar cells, increasing their efficiency. Prof. Martina Schmid of Freie Univ. in Berlin has measured how irregularly distributed silver particles influence the absorption of light. Nanoparticles interact with one another via their electromagnetic near-fields, so that local “hot spots” arise where light is concentrated especially strongly.
A combined computational and experimental study of self-assembled silver-based structures known as superlattices has revealed an unusual and unexpected behavior: arrays of gear-like molecular-scale machines that rotate in unison when pressure is applied to them.
Scientists at Rice Univ. have mixed very low concentrations of diamond nanoparticles with mineral oil to test the nanofluid’s thermal conductivity and how temperature would affect its viscosity. They found it to be much better than nanofluids that contain higher amounts of oxide, nitride or carbide ceramics, metals, semiconductors, carbon nanotubes and other composite materials. In short, it is the best nanofluid for heat transfer.
Researchers in the U.K. have developed a new antibacterial material which has potential for cutting hospital acquired infections. The combination of two simple dyes with nanoscopic particles of gold is deadly to bacteria when activated by light, even under modest indoor lighting. And in a first for this type of substance, it also shows impressive antibacterial properties in total darkness.
Phosphorus can be found in fertilizers, drinks and detergents, and it accumulates in waterways, polluting them. For this reason, researchers in Germany have developed a new platform for recovering this valuable but harmful element from water. They have attached bonding sites for phosphorus to particles so that they fish the phosphate anions out of the water and carry them “piggyback”. The particles can be applied using a magnet.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology engineers have coaxed bacterial cells to produce biofilms that can incorporate non-living materials, such as gold nanoparticles and quantum dots. These “living materials” combine the advantages of live cells, which respond to their environment and produce complex biological molecules, with the benefits of nonliving materials, which add functions such as conducting electricity or emitting light.
Researchers have succeeded for the first time to produce uniform antimony nanocrystals. Tested as components of laboratory batteries, these are able to store a large number of both lithium and sodium ions. These nanomaterials operate with high rate and may eventually be used as alternative anode materials in future high-energy-density batteries.
The term a “brighter future” might be a cliché, but in the case of ultra-small probes for lighting up individual proteins, it is now most appropriate. Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have discovered surprising new rules for creating ultra-bright light-emitting crystals that are less than 10 nm in diameter.
Researchers at the Harvard Univ. School of Engineering and Applied Sciences are giving man-made materials structural color. Producing structural color is not easy, though; it often requires a material’s molecules to be in a very specific crystalline pattern, like the natural structure of an opal, which reflects a wide array of colors.