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The Lead

Strength in numbers

March 4, 2015 4:37 pm | by Sonia Fernandez, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara | News | Comments

When scientists develop a full quantum computer, the world of computing will undergo a revolution of sophistication, speed and energy efficiency that will make even our beefiest conventional machines seem like Stone Age clunkers by comparison. But, before that happens, quantum physicists will have to create circuitry that takes advantage of the marvelous computing prowess promised by the quantum bit.

Experiment and theory unite in debate over microbial nanowires

March 4, 2015 11:12 am | by Janet Lathrop, Univ. of Massachusetts, Amherst | News | Comments

Scientific debate has been hot lately about whether microbial nanowires, the specialized...

Energy-generating cloth could replace batteries in wearable devices

March 4, 2015 10:25 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

From light-up shoes to smart watches, wearable electronics are gaining traction among consumers...

Black phosphorous: A new wonder material for improving optical communication

March 3, 2015 9:18 am | by Lacey Nygard, Univ. of Minnesota | News | Comments

Phosphorus, a highly reactive element commonly found in match heads, tracer bullets and...

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Pens filled with high-tech inks for DIY sensors

March 3, 2015 9:06 am | by Ioana Patringenaru, Jacobs School of Engineering | Videos | Comments

A new simple tool developed by nanoengineers at the Univ. of California, San Diego, is opening the door to an era when anyone will be able to build sensors, anywhere. The team developed high-tech bio-inks that react with several chemicals, including glucose. They filled off-the-shelf ballpoint pens with the inks and were able to draw sensors to measure glucose directly on the skin and sensors to measure pollution on leaves.

Glass coating for improved battery performance

March 3, 2015 8:57 am | by Sean Nealon, Univ. of California, Riverside | News | Comments

Lithium-sulfur batteries have been a hot topic in battery research because of their ability to produce up to 10 times more energy than conventional batteries, which means they hold great promise for applications in energy-demanding electric vehicles. However, there have been fundamental road blocks to commercializing these sulfur batteries.

Nanodevice defeats drug resistance

March 3, 2015 7:30 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Chemotherapy often shrinks tumors at first, but as cancer cells become resistant to drug treatment, tumors can grow back. A new nanodevice developed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers can help overcome that by first blocking the gene that confers drug resistance, then launching a new chemotherapy attack against the disarmed tumors.

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How to best harness solar power

March 2, 2015 10:48 am | by Dawn Fuller, Univ. of Cincinnati | News | Comments

A research partnership is reporting advances on how to make solar cells stronger, lighter, more flexible and less expensive when compared with the current silicon or germanium technology on the market. The researchers discovered how a blend of conjugated polymers resulted in structural and electronic changes that increased efficiency three-fold, by incorporating graphene in the active layer of the carbon-based materials.

Moving molecule writes letters

February 27, 2015 11:55 am | by Andreas Battenberg, TUM | News | Comments

On the search for high-performance materials for applications such as gas storage, thermal insulators or dynamic nanosystems it’s essential to understand the thermal behavior of matter down to the molecular level. Classical thermodynamics average over time and over a large number of molecules. Within a 3-D space single molecules can adopt an almost infinite number of states, making the assessment of individual species nearly impossible.

Electrochemical “fingers” unlock battery’s inner potential

February 27, 2015 8:18 am | by Justin Eure, Brookhaven National Laboratory | Videos | Comments

Lithium-ion batteries unleash electricity as electrochemical reactions spread through active materials. Manipulating this complex process and driving the reactions into the energy-rich heart of each part of these active materials is crucial to optimizing the power output and ultimate energy capacity of these batteries. Now, scientists have mapped these atomic-scale reaction pathways and linked them to the battery’s rate of discharge.

X-ray microscope for nanoscale imaging

February 26, 2015 8:29 am | by Chelsea Whyte, Brookhaven National Laboratory | News | Comments

Delivering the capability to image nanostructures and chemical reactions down to nanometer resolution requires a new class of x-ray microscope that can perform precision microscopy experiments using ultra-bright x-rays from the National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS-II) at Brookhaven National Laboratory.

Optical nanoantennas set the stage for a NEMS lab-on-a-chip revolution

February 24, 2015 11:19 am | by Jason Socrates Bardi, American Institute of Physics | News | Comments

Newly developed tiny antennas, likened to spotlights on the nanoscale, offer the potential to measure food safety, identify pollutants in the air and even quickly diagnose and treat cancer. The new antennas are cubic in shape. They do a better job than previous spherical ones at directing an ultra-narrow beam of light where it is needed, with little or no loss due to heating and scattering.

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Ultra-thin nanowires can trap electron “twisters”

February 24, 2015 11:11 am | by Phil Sneiderman, Johns Hopkins Univ. | News | Comments

Superconductor materials are prized for their ability to carry an electric current without resistance, but this valuable trait can be crippled or lost when electrons swirl into tiny tornado-like formations called vortices. These disruptive mini-twisters often form in the presence of magnetic fields, such as those produced by electric motors.

Building tailor-made DNA nanotubes step-by-step

February 24, 2015 8:10 am | by McGill Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers at McGill Univ. have developed a new, low-cost method to build DNA nanotubes block-by-block, a breakthrough that could help pave the way for scaffolds made from DNA strands to be used in applications such as optical and electronic devices or smart drug delivery systems. Many researchers, including the McGill team, have previously constructed nanotubes using a method that relies on spontaneous assembly of DNA in solution.

Perfect colors, captured with ultra-thin lens

February 20, 2015 7:50 am | by Caroline Perry, Harvard Univ. | News | Comments

Most lenses are, by definition, curved. After all, they are named for their resemblance to lentils, and a glass lens made flat is just a window with no special powers. But a new type of lens created at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences turns conventional optics on its head.

Shape-shifting groups of nanorods release heat differently

February 19, 2015 9:11 am | by Justin H.S. Breaux, Argonne National Laboratory | News | Comments

Researchers have revealed previously unobserved behaviors that show how details of the transfer of heat at the nanoscale cause nanoparticles to change shape in ensembles.

Novel solid-state nanomaterial platform enables terahertz photonics

February 17, 2015 11:11 am | by Jason Socrates Bardi, American Institute of Physics | News | Comments

Compact, sensitive and fast nanodetectors are considered to be somewhat of a "Holy Grail" sought by many researchers around the world. And now a team of scientists in Italy and France has been inspired by nanomaterials and has created a novel solid-state technology platform that opens the door to the use of terahertz photonics in a wide range of applications.

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UV light sensor for improved fire detection

February 17, 2015 8:02 am | by Amy Sutton, Univ. of Surrey | News | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. of Surrey’s Advanced Technology Institute manipulated zinc oxide, producing nanowires from this readily available material to create an ultraviolet (UV) light detector that is 10,000 times more sensitive to UV light than a traditional zinc oxide detector. Currently, photoelectric smoke sensors detect larger smoke particles found in dense smoke, but are not as sensitive to small particles of smoke.

Making a better wound dressing

February 13, 2015 10:18 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

With a low price tag and mild flavor, tilapia has become a staple dinnertime fish for many Americans. Now it could have another use: helping to heal our wounds. In ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, scientists have shown that a protein found in this fish can promote skin repair in rats without an immune reaction, suggesting possible future use for human patients.

Bacterial armor holds clues for self-assembling nanostructures

February 13, 2015 8:35 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Imagine thousands of copies of a single protein organizing into a coat of chainmail armor that protects the wearer from harsh and ever-changing environmental conditions. That is the case for many microorganisms. In a new study, researchers with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have uncovered key details in this natural process that can be used for the self-assembly of nanomaterials into complex 2- and 3-D structures.

Nanotubes self-organize and wiggle

February 10, 2015 1:41 pm | by Siv Schwink, Univ. of Illinois | News | Comments

The second law of thermodynamics tells us that all systems evolve toward a state of maximum entropy, wherein all energy is dissipated as heat, and no available energy remains to do work. Since the mid-20th century, research has pointed to an extension of the second law for nonequilibrium systems.

Microfluidics enables production of shape-controllable microgels

February 10, 2015 10:41 am | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

A new, relatively simple process makes it possible to create biocompatible particles called shape-controllable microgels that could be custom designed for specific roles such as drug delivery vehicles, tissue engineering building blocks and biomedical research. The particles are made of two distinctly different materials: polymers called polyNIPAAm and sodium alginate, used in drug delivery.

Battery startup promises safe lithium batteries

February 10, 2015 9:53 am | by Julie Chao, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory battery scientist Nitash Balsara has worked for many years trying to find a way to improve the safety of lithium-ion batteries. Now he believes he has found the answer in a most unlikely material: a class of compounds that has mainly been used for industrial lubrication.

Buckyballs offer environmental benefits

February 10, 2015 9:25 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Treated buckyballs not only remove valuable but potentially toxic metal particles from water and other liquids, but also reserve them for future use, according to scientists at Rice Univ. The Rice lab of chemist Andrew Barron has discovered that carbon-60 fullerenes (buckyballs) that have gone through the chemical process known as hydroxylation aggregate into pearl-like strings as they bind to and separate metals from solutions.

New design tool for metamaterials

February 10, 2015 8:33 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Metamaterials offer tantalizing future prospects such as high-resolution optical microscopes and superfast optical computers. To realize the vast potential of metamaterials, however, scientists will need to hone their understanding of the fundamental physics behind them. This will require accurately predicting nonlinear optical properties.

Nano-antioxidants prove their potential

February 10, 2015 8:23 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Injectable nanoparticles that could protect an injured person from further damage due to oxidative stress have proven to be astoundingly effective in tests to study their mechanism. A team of scientists designed methods to validate their 2012 discovery that combined polyethylene glycol-hydrophilic carbon clusters could quickly stem the process of overoxidation that can cause damage in the minutes and hours after an injury.

Using disorder to control light on a nanoscale

February 5, 2015 9:52 am | by Matthew Chin, Univ. of California, Los Angeles | News | Comments

A breakthrough by a team of researchers could lead to the more precise transfer of information in computer chips, as well as new types of optical materials for light emission and lasers. The researchers were able to control light at tiny lengths around 500 nm, smaller than the light’s own wavelength, by using random crystal lattice structures to counteract light diffraction.

Noncommittal material could make for hypersensitive magnetic direction detector

February 4, 2015 11:07 am | by Mark Esser, NIST | News | Comments

While the mysterious, unseen forces magnets project are now (mostly) well understood, they can still occasionally surprise us. For instance, thin films of cobalt have been observed to spontaneously switch their poles: something that typically doesn’t happen in the absence of an external magnetic field. Physicists at NIST and the Univ. of Maryland have measured this phenomenon on the largest scale yet.

Penta-graphene: A new structural variant of carbon, discovered

February 4, 2015 8:17 am | by Brian McNeill, Virginia Commonwealth Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers at Virginia Commonwealth Univ. and universities in China and Japan have discovered a new structural variant of carbon called "penta-graphene", a very thin sheet of pure carbon that has a unique structure inspired by a pentagonal pattern of tiles found paving the streets of Cairo.

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