January 29, 2015

The nanomedicines of the future will build on quantum chemistry

Quantum chemical calculations have been used to solve big mysteries in space. Soon the same calculations may be used to produce tomorrow’s cancer drugs.

Some years ago research scientists at the University of Oslo were able to show that the chemical bonding in the magnetic fields of small, compact stars, so-called white dwarf stars, is different from that on Earth. Their calculations pointed to a completely new bonding mechanism between two hydrogen atoms. The news attracted great attention in the media. The discovery, which in fact was made before astrophysicists themselves observed the first hydrogen molecules in white dwarf stars, was made by UiO’s Centre for Theoretical and Computational Chemistry. They based their work on accurate quantum chemical calculations of what happens when atoms and molecules are exposed to extreme conditions.

Nanoscale Mirrored Cavities Amplify, Connect Quantum Memories

Advance could lead to quantum computing and the secure transfer of information over long-distance fiber optic networks

The idea of computing systems based on controlling atomic spins just got a boost from new research performed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory. By constructing tiny "mirrors" to trap light around impurity atoms in diamond crystals, the team dramatically increased the efficiency with which photons transmit information about those atoms' electronic spin states, which can be used to store quantum information. Such spin-photon interfaces are thought to be essential for connecting distant quantum memories, which could open the door to quantum computers and long-distance cryptographic systems.

Quantum computer as detector shows space is not squeezed

Ever since Einstein proposed his special theory of relativity in 1905, physics and cosmology have been based on the assumption that space looks the same in all directions – that it’s not squeezed in one direction relative to another.

A new experiment by UC Berkeley physicists used partially entangled atoms — identical to the qubits in a quantum computer — to demonstrate more precisely than ever before that this is true, to one part in a billion billion.

Holes in valence bands of nanodiamonds discovered

Researchers hope that their properties might be altered to permit nanodiamonds to be used as catalysts for generating hydrogen from sunlight

Nanodiamonds are tiny crystals only a few nanometres in size. While they possess the crystalline structure of diamonds, their properties diverge considerably from those of their big brothers, because their surfaces play a dominant role in comparison to their extremely small volumes. Suspended in aqueous solutions, they could function as taxis for active substances in biomedical applications, for example, or be used as catalysts for splitting water.

Researchers Produce Two Biofuels from a Single Algae

A common algae commercially grown to make fish food holds promise as a source for both biodiesel and jet fuel, according to a new study published in the journal Energy & Fuels.

The researchers, led by Greg O’Neil of Western Washington University and Chris Reddy of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, exploited an unusual and untapped class of chemical compounds in the algae to synthesize two different fuel products, in parallel, a from a single algae.

January 28, 2015

Stomach Acid-Powered Micromotors Get Their First Test in a Living Animal

 From left: Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) image of the micromotors and corresponding
energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDX) data of elemental zinc in the micromotors.

(January 28, 2015)  Researchers at the University of California, San Diego have shown that a micromotor fueled by stomach acid can take a bubble-powered ride inside a mouse. These tiny motors, each about one-fifth the width of a human hair, may someday offer a safer and more efficient way to deliver drugs or diagnose tumors.

The experiment is the first to show that these micromotors can operate safely in a living animal, said Professors Joseph Wang and Liangfang Zhang of the NanoEngineering Department at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering.

Wang, Zhang and others have experimented with different designs and fuel systems for micromotors that can travel in water, blood and other body fluids in the lab. “But this is the first example of loading and releasing a cargo in vivo,” said Wang. “We thought it was the logical extension of the work we have done, to see if these motors might be able to swim in stomach acid.”

Stomach acid reacts with the zinc body of the motors to generate a stream of hydrogen microbubbles that propel the motors forward. In their study published in the journal ACS Nano, the researchers report that the motors lodged themselves firmly in the stomach lining of mice. As the zinc motors are dissolved by the acid, they disappear within a few days leaving no toxic chemical traces.

“This initial work verifies that this motor can function in a real animal and is safe to use,” said Zhang.

In the experiment, the mice ingested tiny drops of solution containing hundreds of the micromotors. The motors become active as soon as they hit the stomach acid and zoom toward the stomach lining at a speed of 60 micrometers per second. They can self-propel like this for up to 10 minutes.

This propulsive burst improved how well the cone-shaped motors were able to penetrate and stick in the mucous layer covering the stomach wall, explained Zhang. “It’s the motor that can punch into this viscous layer and stay there, which is an advantage over more passive delivery systems,” he said.

journal reference (ACS) >>

Is artificial photosynthesis the next big thing in alternative energy?

(January 28, 2015)  William & Mary chemist William McNamara is taking a “bio-inspired” approach to the world’s energy crisis by turning to nature’s very own chemical power plant: photosynthesis.

McNamara and his students are working on creating cleaner, more efficient and more cost-effective ways to harvest energy by mimicking the way plants use sunlight to create their own energy.

January 27, 2015

Carbon nanoballs can greatly contribute to sustainable energy supply

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology have discovered that the insulation plastic used in high-voltage cables can withstand a 26 per cent higher voltage if nanometer-sized carbon balls are added. This could result in enormous efficiency gains in the power grids of the future, which are needed to achieve a sustainable energy system.

The renewable energy sources of tomorrow will often be found far away from the end user. Wind turbines, for example, are most effective when placed out at sea. Solar energy will have the greatest impact on the European energy system if focus is on transport of solar power from North Africa and Southern Europe to Northern Europe.

The Laser Pulse that Gets Shorter All by Itself

Ultrashort laser pulses have become an indispensable tool for atomic and molecular research. A new technology makes creating short infrared pulses easy and cheap.

In a marathon, everyone starts at roughly the same place at roughly the same time. But the faster runners will gradually increase their lead, and in the end, the distribution of runners on the street will be very broad. Something similar happens to a pulse of light sent through a medium. The pulse is a combination of different colours (or different wavelengths), and when they are sent through a medium like glass, they travel at slightly different speeds. This leads to a dispersion effect: the pulse becomes longer and longer.

New Pathway to Valleytronics

A potential avenue to quantum computing currently generating quite the buzz in the high-tech industry is “valleytronics,” in which information is coded based on the wavelike motion of electrons moving through certain two-dimensional (2D) semiconductors. Now, a promising new pathway to valleytronic technology has been uncovered by researchers with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab).

Researchers Identify Natural Plant Compounds That Work Against Insects

Each year millions of deaths result from diseases transmitted by insects.  Insects are also responsible for major economic losses, worth billions of dollars annually, by damaging crops and stored agricultural products.

Many currently available insecticides present environmental and health risks.  Further, insects develop resistance to existing insecticides, complicating pest-control strategies.  The need to develop novel effective insecticides is therefore urgent.

ORNL researchers tune friction in ionic solids at the nanoscale

Friction impacts motion, hence the need to control friction forces. Currently, this is accomplished by mechanistic means or lubrication, but experiments conducted by researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory have uncovered a way of controlling friction on ionic surfaces at the nanoscale using electrical stimulation and ambient water vapor.

January 26, 2015

Researchers at Penn, Berkeley and Illinois Use Oxides to Flip Graphene Conductivity

Graphene, a one-atom thick lattice of carbon atoms, is often touted as a revolutionary material that will take the place of silicon at the heart of electronics. The unmatched speed at which it can move electrons, plus its essentially two-dimensional form factor, make it an attractive alternative, but several hurdles to its adoption remain.

Entanglement on a Chip: Breakthrough Promises Secure Communications and Faster Computers

Unlike Bilbo’s magic ring, which entangles human hearts, engineers have created a new micro-ring that entangles individual particles of light, an important first step in a whole host of new technologies.
Entanglement – the instantaneous connection between two particles no matter their distance apart – is one of the most intriguing and promising phenomena in all of physics. Properly harnessed, entangled photons could revolutionize computing, communications, and cyber security.

Nanoshuttle Wear and Tear: It’s the Mileage, Not the Age

As nanomachine design rapidly advances, researchers are moving from wondering if the nanomachine works to how long it will work. This is an especially important question as there are so many potential applications, for instance, for medical uses, including drug delivery, early diagnosis, disease monitoring, instrumentation, and surgery. In a new study led by Henry Hess, associate professor of biomedical engineering at Columbia Engineering, researchers observed a molecular shuttle powered by kinesin motor proteins and found it to degrade when operating, marking the first time, they say, that degradation has been studied in detail in an active, autonomous nanomachine.

Got Bees? Got Vitamin A? Got Malaria?

Research shows loss of pollinators increases risk of malnutrition and disease

A new study shows that more than half the people in some developing countries could become newly at risk for malnutrition if crop-pollinating animals — like bees — continue to decline.

January 23, 2015

The latest fashion: Graphene edges can be tailor-made

Rice University theory shows it should be possible to tune material’s properties

Theoretical physicists at Rice University are living on the edge as they study the astounding properties of graphene. In a new study, they figure out how researchers can fracture graphene nanoribbons to get the edges they need for applications.


The brain’s alphabet is a mix of rate and precise timing of electrical pulses: the observation was made by researchers at the International School for Advanced Studies (SISSA) of Trieste and the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT) of Rovereto, and has been published in the international journal Current Biology. The study shows that the nervous system features a “multichannel” language that makes up the neural code, or the alphabet that processes information in the brain.

Telomere extension turns back aging clock in cultured human cells, study finds

Researchers delivered a modified RNA that encodes a telomere-extending protein to cultured human cells. Cell proliferation capacity was dramatically increased, yielding large numbers of cells for study.

A new procedure can quickly and efficiently increase the length of human telomeres, the protective caps on the ends of chromosomes that are linked to aging and disease, according to scientists at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

Warming Seas Decrease Sea Turtle Basking

Green sea turtles may stop basking on beaches around the world within a century due to rising sea temperatures, a new study suggests.

Basking on sun-warmed beaches helps the threatened turtles regulate their body temperatures and may aid their immune systems and digestion.

January 22, 2015

Scientists set quantum speed limit

University of California, Berkeley, scientists have proved a fundamental relationship between energy and time that sets a “quantum speed limit” on processes ranging from quantum computing and tunneling to optical switching.

The energy-time uncertainty relationship is the flip side of the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, which sets limits on how precisely you can measure position and speed, and has been the bedrock of quantum mechanics for nearly 100 years. It has become so well-known that it has infected literature and popular culture with the idea that the act of observing affects what we observe.

Fine motor skills for robotic hands

Neuroscientists at the German Primate Center can predict grip movements of the hand by measuring brain cell activity

Tying shoelaces, stirring coffee, writing letters, playing the piano. From the usual daily routine to demanding activities: Our hands are used more frequently than any other body part. Through our highly developed fine motor skills, we are able to perform grasping movements with variable precision and power distribution. This ability is a fundamental characteristic of the hand of primates.


Spherical gold particles are able to ‘drill’ a nano-diameter tunnel in ceramic material when heated. This is an easy and attractive way to equip chips with nanopores for DNA analysis, for example. Nanotechnologists of the University of Twente published their results in Nano Letters.

Laser-generated surface structures create extremely water-repellent metals

Super-hydrophobic properties could lead to applications in solar panels, sanitation and as rust-free metals

Scientists at the University of Rochester have used lasers to transform metals into extremely water repellent, or super-hydrophobic, materials without the need for temporary coatings.

January 21, 2015

Self-Assembled Nanotextures Create Antireflective Surface on Silicon Solar Cells

Nanostructured surface textures—with shapes inspired by the structure of moths' eyes—prevent the reflection of light off silicon, improving conversion of sunlight to electricity

Reducing the amount of sunlight that bounces off the surface of solar cells helps maximize the conversion of the sun's rays to electricity, so manufacturers use coatings to cut down on reflections. Now scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory show that etching a nanoscale texture onto the silicon material itself creates an antireflective surface that works as well as state-of-the-art thin-film multilayer coatings.

The path to artificial photosynthesis

HZB researchers describe efficient manganese catalyst capable of converting light to chemical energy

Scientists at the Helmholtz Center for Materials and Energy (HZB) in collaboration with the School of Chemistry and ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science at Monash University, Australia, have precisely characterized a manganese catalyst’s electronic states. The catalyst is capable of converting light to chemical energy.

Sequestration on shaky ground

Study finds a natural impediment to the long-term sequestration of carbon dioxide.

Carbon sequestration promises to address greenhouse-gas emissions by capturing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and injecting it deep below the Earth’s surface, where it would permanently solidify into rock. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that current carbon-sequestration technologies may eliminate up to 90 percent of carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants.

Climate Change Threatens 30 Years of Sea Turtle Conservation Success

A new University of Central Florida study is sounding the alarm about climate change and its potential impact on more than 30 years of conservation efforts to keep sea turtles around for the next generation.

Climate change is causing sea-level rise, and how coastal communities react to that rise could have dire consequences for sea turtles and other wildlife that rely on an unobstructed beach for survival.  That’s the conclusion of a University of Central Florida study recently published in Chelonian Conservation and Biology.

Twitter Can Predict Rates of Coronary Heart Disease, According to Penn Research

Twitter has broken news stories, launched and ended careers, started social movements and toppled governments, all by being an easy, direct and immediate way for people to share what’s on their minds. Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania have now shown that the social media platform has another use: Twitter can serve as a dashboard indicator of a community’s psychological well being and can predict rates of heart disease.

USC neuroscientists lead global ENIGMA consortium to crack brain’s genetic code

Global research alliance ENIGMA finds 8 common gene mutations leading to brain age in over 30,000 brain scans that may one day unlock mysteries of Alzheimer’s, autism and other neurological disorders

January 20, 2015

One nanoparticle, six types of medical imaging

Tomorrow’s doctors could use this technology to obtain a super-clear picture of patients’ organs and tissues

It’s technology so advanced that the machine capable of using it doesn’t yet exist.
Using two biocompatible parts, University at Buffalo researchers and their colleagues have designed a nanoparticle that can be detected by six medical imaging techniques:

Atoms can be in two places at the same time

Researchers of the University of Bonn have shown that Caesium atoms do not follow well-defined paths

Can a penalty kick simultaneously score a goal and miss? For very small objects, at least, this is possible: according to the predictions of quantum mechanics, microscopic objects can take different paths at the same time. The world of macroscopic objects follows other rules: the football always moves in a definite direction. But is this always correct? Physicists of the University of Bonn have constructed an experiment designed to possibly falsify this thesis. Their first experiment shows that Caesium atoms can indeed take two paths at the same time.

Portable stimulator being tested on Parkinson patients

Researchers at the Sahlgrenska Academy have shown that a weak electric “noise” can improve balance and motor skills in patients with Parkinson’s disease. In cooperation with NASA, the research team has now developed a portable prototype that will be used in long-term studies of Parkinson’s patients in their home environment.

Wearable Sensor Smooths Path to Long-Term EKG, EMG Monitoring

Researchers from North Carolina State University have developed a new, wearable sensor that uses silver nanowires to monitor electrophysiological signals, such as electrocardiography (EKG) or electromyography (EMG). The new sensor is as accurate as the “wet electrode” sensors used in hospitals, but can be used for long-term monitoring and is more accurate than existing sensors when a patient is moving.

Long-term monitoring of electrophysiological signals can be used to track patient health or assist in medical research, and may also be used in the development of new powered prosthetics that respond to a patient’s muscular signals

Hydrogels deliver on blood-vessel growth

Rice researchers introduce improved injectable scaffold to promote healing

Rice University scientists have found the balance necessary to aid healing with high-tech hydrogel.

Rice chemist Jeffrey Hartgerink, lead author Vivek Kumar and their colleagues have created a new version of the hydrogel that can be injected into an internal wound and help it heal while slowly degrading as it is replaced by natural tissue.

Graphene enables all-electrical control of energy flow from light emitters

First signatures of graphene plasmons at telecommunications wavelength revealed

At the heart of lasers, displays and other light-emitting devices lies the emission of photons. Electrically controlled modulation of this emission is of great importance in applications such as optical communication, sensors and displays. Moreover, electrical control of the light emission pathways opens up the possibility of novel types of nano-photonics devices, based on active plasmonics.

January 19, 2015

A bioinspired multi-modal flying and walking robot

With the aim to extend the versatility and adaptability of robots in complex environments, a novel multi-modal flying and walking robot is presented. The robot consists of a flying wing with adaptive morphology that can perform both long distance flight and walking in cluttered environments for local exploration. The robotʼs design is inspired by the common vampire bat Desmodus rotundus, which can perform aerial and terrestrial locomotion with limited trade-offs. Wings' adaptive morphology allows the robot to modify the shape of its body in order to increase its efficiency during terrestrial locomotion. Furthermore, aerial and terrestrial capabilities are powered by a single locomotor apparatus, therefore it reduces the total complexity and weight of this multi-modal robot.

New Laser for Computer Chips

An international team of scientists constructs the first germanium-tin semiconductor laser for silicon chips (Nature Photonics, DOI: 10.1038/NPHOTON.2014.321)

Scientists from Forschungszentrum Jülich and the Paul Scherrer Institute in Switzerland in cooperation with international partners have presented the first semiconductor consisting solely of elements of main group IV. As a consequence, the germanium-tin (GeSn) laser can be applied directly onto a silicon chip and thus creates a new basis for transmitting data on computer chips via light: this transfer is faster than is possible with copper wires and requires only a fraction of the energy. The results have been published in the journal Nature Photonics.


Components with highly sensitive surfaces are used in automotive, semiconductor and display technologies as well as for complex optical lens systems. During the production process, these parts are transferred in between many process steps. Each pick-up and release with conventional gripping systems involves the risk of either contamination of the surfaces with residues from transportation adhesives, or damaging due to mechanical gripping. Suction cup systems diminish residues, but fail in a vacuum or on rough surfaces. Researchers at the INM enhanced the Gecko adhesion principle such that adhesion can be switched on and off in vacuum.

The researchers from the INM will be presenting their new Gecomer® technology at the International Nanotechnology Exhibition and Conference nano tech 2015, Tokyo, Japan.

Cellulose with Braille for cells

Artificial implants such as pacemakers often cause complications because the body identifies them as foreign objects. Researchers at ETH Zurich have now demonstrated a simple method to fabricate cellulose-sheaths for implants, whose micro-structured surface makes them especially biocompatible.

Optic fiber for recording the temperature in extreme industrial environments

Summary: Optic fiber is normally used in the field of telecommunications to transmit information using light, but a group of researchers at the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M) has developed a technique that makes it possible to use optic fiber as a thermometer in extreme industrial environments.

Preserved fossil represents oldest record of parental care in group of prehistoric reptiles

A fossil specimen discovered by a farmer in China represents the oldest record of post-natal parental care, dating back to the Middle Jurassic.

The tendency for adults to care for their offspring beyond birth is a key feature of the reproductive biology of living archosaurs – birds and crocodilians – with the latter protecting their young from potential predators and birds, not only providing protection but also provision of food.

A voyage from the Earth’s crust to its mantle and back

Uranium isotopes leave a distinct ‘fingerprint’ in the sources of volcanic rocks, making it possible to gauge their age and origin. Geologists have gained a new understanding of how the Earth’s crust is recycled back into its interior based on these uranium isotopes.

Snapshot of cosmic burst of radio waves

KOSMOS A strange phenomenon has been observed by astronomers right as it was happening – a ‘fast radio burst’. The eruption is described as an extremely short, sharp flash of radio waves from an unknown source in the universe. The results have been published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

January 16, 2015

How does a machine smell? Better than it did

Scientists have come up with a way of creating sensors which could allow machines to smell more accurately than humans.

Every odour has its own specific pattern which our noses are able to identify. Using a combination of proteins coupled to transistors, for the first time machines are able to differentiate smells that are mirror images of each other, so called chiral molecules, something that has not been possible before. The human nose can distinguish between some of these molecules and the different forms of the same molecule of carvone, for example, can smell either like spearmint or caraway. Previous machines would not have been able to distinguish between the two.


The University of Twente improves the effectiveness of a catalyst for nitrate removal

One way of removing harmful nitrate from drinking water is to catalyse its conversion to nitrogen. This process suffers from the drawback that it often produces ammonia. By using palladium nanoparticles as a catalyst, and by carefully controlling their size, this drawback can be eliminated. It was research conducted by Yingnan Zhao of the University of Twente’s MESA+ Institute for Nanotechnology that led to this discovery.

How does a machine smell? Better than it did

(January 16, 2015)  Scientists have come up with a way of creating sensors which could allow machines to smell more accurately than humans.

Every odour has its own specific pattern which our noses are able to identify. Using a combination of proteins coupled to transistors, for the first time machines are able to differentiate smells that are mirror images of each other, so called chiral molecules, something that has not been possible before. The human nose can distinguish between some of these molecules and the different forms of the same molecule of carvone, for example, can smell either like spearmint or caraway. Previous machines would not have been able to distinguish between the two.

Is it possible to reset our biological clocks?

Imagine being able to easily get over all of the discomfort and problems of jet lag or night-shift work. Science is not quite there, but recent work by Marc Cuesta, Nicolas Cermakian and Diane B. Boivin from the Douglas Mental Health University Institute and McGill University has opened new therapeutic avenues for improving the synchronization of the body's different biological clocks.