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Tiny “LEGO brick”-style studs make solar panels a quarter more efficient

October 18, 2013 9:39 am | News | Comments

In new research, scientists have demonstrated that the efficiency of all solar panel designs could be improved by up to 22% by covering their surface with aluminium studs that bend and trap light inside the absorbing layer. At the microscopic level, the studs make the surface of the solar panels look similar to the interlocking building bricks played with by children across the world.

Finding blood clots before they wreak havoc

October 16, 2013 7:53 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Life-threatening blood clots can form in anyone who sits on a plane for a long time, is confined to bed while recovering from surgery, or takes certain medications. There is no fast and easy way to diagnose these clots, which often remain undetected until they break free and cause a stroke or heart attack. However, new technology from Massachusetts Institute of Technology may soon change that.

Scientists create a super antioxidant

October 15, 2013 7:48 am | News | Comments

Scientists at Rice Univ. are enhancing the natural antioxidant properties of an element found in a car’s catalytic converter to make it useful for medical applications. The team created small, uniform spheres of cerium oxide and gave them a thin coating of fatty oleic acid to make them biocompatible.

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Cells prefer nanodiscs over nanorods

October 7, 2013 3:14 pm | News | Comments

For years scientists have been working to fundamentally understand how nanoparticles move throughout the human body. One big unanswered question is how the shape of nanoparticles affects their entry into cells. Now researchers have discovered that under typical culture conditions, mammalian cells prefer disc-shaped nanoparticles over those shaped like rods.

Nanoparticle vaccine offers better protection

September 26, 2013 7:39 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Many viruses infect humans through mucosal surfaces. To help fight these viruses, scientists are working on vaccines that can establish a defense at mucosal surfaces. Vaccines can be delivered to the lungs via an aerosol spray, but are often cleared away before they can provoke an immune response. To overcome that, engineers have developed a new type of nanoparticle that protects the vaccine long enough to generate a strong immune response.

“Sticky tape” for water droplets mimics rose petal

September 17, 2013 2:05 pm | News | Comments

A new nanostructured material with applications that could include reducing condensation in airplane cabins and enabling certain medical tests without the need for high tech laboratories has been developed by researchers in Australia. The newly discovered material uses “raspberry” particles, which emulate the structure of some rose petals and can trap tiny water droplets.

Accidental nanoparticle discovery could impact nanomanufacturing

September 10, 2013 8:32 am | News | Comments

A nanoparticle shaped like a spiky ball, with magnetic properties, has been uncovered in a new method of synthesizing carbon nanotubes by physicists in the U.K. The nanoparticles were discovered on the rough surfaces of a reactor designed to grow carbon nanotubes and are described as sea urchins because of their characteristic spiny appearance.

New nanoparticles to make solar cells cheaper to manufacture

August 29, 2013 4:43 pm | News | Comments

Researchers in Canada have found that abundant materials in the Earth's crust can be used to make inexpensive and easily manufactured nanoparticle-based solar cells. The team has designed nanoparticles that absorb light and conduct electricity from two very common elements: phosphorus and zinc. These are much more plentiful than scarce cadmium, and safer than lead.

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Size matters as nanocrystals go through phases

August 27, 2013 7:52 am | News | Comments

Understanding what happens to a material as it undergoes phase transformations is of fundamental scientific interest. For metal nanocrystals, assumptions about the size-dependence of phase transformations were made that now need re-evaluating. A team of researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has demonstrated that as metal nanocrystals go through phase transformations, size can make a bigger difference than previously believed.

Study: Toxic nanoparticles might be entering human food supply

August 23, 2013 9:13 am | by Diamond Dixon, Univ. of Missouri | News | Comments

Over the last few years, the use of nanomaterials for water treatment, food packaging, pesticides, cosmetics and other industries has increased. A growing concern is that these particles could pose a potential health risk has prompted a large number of studies, including recent work at the Univ. of Missouri that showed the retention of silver nanoparticles in pear skin, even after repeated washing.

The gold standard for cell penetration

August 23, 2013 7:40 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Cells are very good at protecting their precious contents. As a result, it’s very difficult to penetrate their membrane walls without damaging or destroying the cell. One effective way of doing so, discovered in 2008, is to use nanoparticles of pure gold, coated with a thin layer of a special polymer. But nobody knew exactly why this combination worked so well, or how it made it through the cell wall, until now.

Researchers examine dynamics of nanoscale liquid metal particles

August 15, 2013 2:31 pm | News | Comments

The evolution of fluid drops deposited on solid substrates has been a focus of large research effort for decades, and most recently it has focused on nanoscale properties. Two New Jersey Institute of Technology researchers are the first to demonstrate that simulations based on continuum fluid mechanics can explain the nanoscale dynamics of liquid metal particles on a substrate.

Researchers use nanoparticles to fight cancer

August 15, 2013 7:30 am | News | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. of Georgia are developing a new treatment technique that uses nanoparticles to reprogram immune cells so they are able to recognize and attack cancer. The human body operates under a constant state of martial law. Chief among the enforcers charged with maintaining order is the immune system. The immune system is good at its job, but it's not perfect.

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Size matters in nanocrystals’ ability to release gases

August 7, 2013 8:20 am | by David Salisbury, Vanderbilt Univ. | News | Comments

Nanocrystals can grab specific molecules and particles out the air, hold on to them and then release them. But progress in utilizing adsorption and desorption has been hindered by limitations in existing methods for measuring the physical and chemical changes that take place in individual nanocrystals. A newly developed system may solve this by directly measuring the manner in which nanocrystals adsorb and release hydrogen and other gases.

Scientist measure and control the temperature inside living cells

August 5, 2013 6:26 pm | News | Comments

Using imperfections in diamonds as nanoscale thermometers, and gold nanoparticles implanted in cells as laser-induced heating mechanisms, a team of researchers working on DARPA’s Quantum-Assisted Sensing and Readout program recently demonstrated sub-degree temperature measurement and control at the nanometer scale inside living cells.

Tiny silicon crystals could be safe for deep-tissue imaging

August 1, 2013 7:58 am | News | Comments

Tiny silicon crystals caused no health problems in monkeys three months after large doses were injected, marking a step forward in the quest to bring such materials into clinics as biomedical imaging agents, according to a new study. The findings suggest that the silicon nanocrystals, known as quantum dots, may be a safe tool for diagnostic imaging in humans.

As good as gold

July 25, 2013 8:07 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Using gold nanoparticles, Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers have devised a new way to turn blood clotting on and off. The particles, which are controlled by infrared laser light, could help doctors control blood clotting in patients undergoing surgery, or promote wound healing.

Scientists catalog size-based grain changes in nanoscale metal particles

July 22, 2013 12:10 pm | News | Comments

The properties of nanomaterials could be easier to predict in the future thanks to work by researchers who have studied metal they have ground metal continuously finer powders. They have prepared a detailed catalogue of how the structure of the metal grains changes depending on grain size, and have discovered that the crystal lattices initially shrink, but expand again below a certain threshold grain size.

Steering stem cells with magnets

July 16, 2013 2:43 pm | News | Comments

By feeding stem cells tiny particles made of magnetized iron oxide, scientists at Emory Univ. and Georgia Tech have used magnets to attract the cells to a particular location in the body after intravenous injection. The method could become a tool for directing stem cells’ healing powers to treat conditions such as heart disease or vascular disease.

Researchers image individual atoms in a living catalytic reaction

July 12, 2013 2:42 pm | News | Comments

When studying the reactions at the catalyst surface, scientists usually have to look into idealized systems under vacuum conditions rather than examining the reality of industrial catalytic processes in a gas environment. However, new electron microscopy technology developed at the York JEOL Nanocentre in the U.K. is allowing researchers to observe and analyze single atoms and nanoparticles in dynamic in situ experiments for the first time.

Putting more science into the art of making nanocrystals

July 11, 2013 8:05 am | by Steven Powell, University of South Carolina | News | Comments

Andrew Greytak, a chemist at the University of South Carolina, is leading a research team that’s making the process of synthesizing quantum dots much more systematic. His group recently detailed an effective new method for purifying cadmium selenide nanocrystals with well-defined surface properties. The advance required the adoption of gel-permeation chromatography.

Nanoparticles, “pH phoresis” could improve cancer drug delivery

July 9, 2013 7:45 am | News | Comments

Researchers have developed a concept to potentially improve delivery of drugs for cancer treatment using nanoparticles that concentrate and expand in the presence of higher acidity found in tumor cells. The concept involves using nanoparticles made of "weak polybases," compounds that expand when transported into environments mimicking tumor cells, which have a higher acidity than surrounding tissues.

Materials scientists reveal organizing principles for design of nanoscopic materials

July 3, 2013 8:57 am | News | Comments

The ultimate dream come true for material scientists is to have the ability to make materials that can take on properties and behaviors to best suit our needs. But scientists first must truly understand the properties of cluster assembly through the individual cluster. Now, material scientists will have greater insight into the organizing principles that allow for the design of nanoscopic materials with specific band gap energy.

Nanoparticles, made to order

July 2, 2013 8:03 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

A new coating technology developed at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, combined with a novel nanoparticle-manufacturing technology developed at the Univ. of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, may offer scientists a way to quickly mass-produce tailored nanoparticles that are specially coated for specific applications, including medicines and electronics.

Silver could promote colonization of bacteria on medical devices

July 1, 2013 7:59 am | News | Comments

Biomaterials are susceptible to microbial colonization, which is why silver is often added to reduce the adhesion rate of bacteria. However, a recent study by researchers in Portugal suggests that—in one material—increasing levels of silver may indirectly promote bacterial adhesion instead of decrease it.

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