Toshiba unveils MEMS tool for biotech use

TOKYO - Toshiba Corp. has developed a MEMS-based technology for injecting nanoparticles in cells. The technology is said to have advantages over conventional techniques that use laser beams, including the ability to simultaneously manipulate numerous cells.

The MEMS component produces subtle vibrations that cause nanoparticles in a liquid to adhere to cell surfaces. Continuous vibration gets converted to thermal energy that affects cell surfaces, resulting in injection of nanoparticles into the cells.

Toshiba has fabricated a nanoparticle manipulator with a water-repellent MEMS-based diaphragm. It tested the technology by placing a water droplet containing yeast cells and nanoparticles on a vibrating diaphragm. Vibrations caused the nanoparticles to adhere to cells, and once immobile, heat up, affecting the cell surface.
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Toshiba said it expected applications to include medical analytical tools for studying and manipulating cells. The company unveiled the technology at the 2005 IEEE International Electron Devices Meeting in December in Washington, D.C.

300 volunteers in Pacific Northwest to test energy-monitoring technology

RICHLAND, Wash. - About 300 volunteers on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, in Yakima, Wash., and in Gresham, Ore., will test equipment that is expected to make the electrical grid more reliable while offsetting huge investments in new transmission and distribution equipment.

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory said that it launched a regional initiative in January to test and speed adoption of GridWise, its collection of smart technologies designed to make the power grid more resilient and efficient. GridWise uses miniaturized sensors, software and advanced analytical tools to monitor energy use in home appliances. The technology can sense when the grid is being strained, and shut down appliances to avoid outages.

The year-long study is funded primarily by the Department of Energy. Utilities, appliance manufacturers and technology companies also are supporting the effort to demonstrate the devices and assess the resulting consumer response.

Gold nanoparticles show potential for Alzheimer’s treatment

SANTIAGO, Chile and BARCELONA, Spain - Chemists at the University of Chile in Santiago and the University of Barcelona in Spain have identified a new approach for the possible treatment of Alzheimer’s disease that they say has the potential to destroy beta-amyloid fibrils and plaque, which are hypothesized to contribute to the mental decline of Alzheimer’s patients. The researchers say the new technique could halt or slow the disease’s progress without harming healthy brain cells.

Using test tube studies, the scientists attached gold nanoparticles to a group of beta-amyloid fibrils, incubated the resulting mixture for several days and then exposed it to weak microwave fields for several hours. The energy levels of the fields were six times smaller than that of conventional cell phones and unlikely to harm healthy cells, the researchers said.

The fibrils dissolved and remained dissolved for at least one week after being irradiated, indicating that the treatment was not only effective at breaking up the fibrils but also resulted in a lower tendency of the proteins to re-aggregate, according to the researchers. The research appeared in the Jan. 11 issue of Nano Letters.

UCLA-Bologna team’s nanomotor relies on sunlight for power

LOS ANGELES and BOLOGNA, Italy - Chemists at Italy’s University of Bologna, University of California, Los Angeles, and the California NanoSystems Institute have designed and constructed a nanomotor that does not consume fuels. Instead, their nanomotor is powered only by sunlight.

The nanomotor is a multi-component molecular-scale system called rotaxane, a mechanically interlocked molecule consisting of one or more rings trapped on a rod by bulky stoppers at either end. It was designed, assembled and run by the research groups at UCLA and the University of Bologna.

The nanomotor system operates in a fashion that is analogous to a four-stroke engine: light excitation and subsequent transfers of an electron (“combustion”); displacement of the ring along the rod (“piston displacement”); removal of the electron (“exhaust removal”); and relocation of the piston. A full cycle is carried out in less than one-thousandth of a second. Image courtesy of UCLA
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It works continuously without any external interference, and operates without consuming or generating chemical fuels or waste, said Fraser Stoddart, UCLA’s Fred Kavli Professor of NanoSystems Sciences and the director of the institute. The research was published Jan. 31 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Nanomix, Pitt use detectors to spot gene mutations linked to diseases

PITTSBURGH and EMERYVILLE, Calif. - Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and at sensor maker Nanomix have developed devices made of carbon nanotubes that can find mutations in genes causing hereditary diseases. The researchers used nanotubes’ electrical properties to find a particular mutation in the gene that causes hereditary hemochromatosis, a disease in which too much iron accumulates in body tissues.

“The size compatibility between the detector and the detected species - DNA molecules in this case - makes this approach very attractive for further development of label-free electronic methods,” said Alexander Star, an assistant professor of chemistry at Pitt.

Label-free electronic detection of DNA has several advantages over state-of-the-art optical techniques, including cost, time, and simplicity, they said. They reported their findings in the Jan. 16 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

DNA self-assembling properties used to mass-produce nanostructures

DURHAM, N.C. - Duke University scientists have used the self-assembling properties of DNA to mass-produce nanometer-scale structures in the shape of grids on which patterns of molecules can be specified. They said the achievement represents a step toward mass-producing electronic or optical circuits at a scale 10 times smaller than the smallest circuits now being manufactured.

Instead of using silicon as the platform for tiny circuits, Duke researchers used DNA strands to create grids. The smallest features on these square DNA lattices are approximately 5 to 10 nanometers, according to the scientists, compared with about 65 nanometers in silicon circuits created using photolithography.

Duke University scientists demonstrated that they could mass-produce grids with infinitesimal patterns by making batches of trillions of separate grids showing the letters “D,” “N” and “A.” Image courtesy of Duke University
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To demonstrate their ability to mass-produce grids, the scientists created batches of trillions of separate grids with the letters “D,” “N” and “A” written with a protein that can be seen through atomic force microscopy. They were able to create the grids by using the binding properties of DNA to ensure that large numbers of DNA strands would assemble themselves in specified patterns. Their work appeared in the Jan. 23 issue of Angewandte Chemie.

Nanoparticle catalyst offers cleaner manufacturing method

BETHLEHEM, Pa. and CARDIFF, Wales - Materials scientists in the United States and chemists in Wales have uncovered secrets of the “nanoworld” that promise to lead to cleaner methods of producing, among other things, flavorings and perfumes. The researchers reported their results Jan. 20 in the journal Science.

Christopher Kiely of Lehigh University in Pennsylvania determined the structure of a type of gold-palladium nanoparticle, which is the active component of a new environmentally friendly catalyst that promotes the oxidation of primary alcohols to aldehydes. The catalyst system was developed by a group headed by Graham Hutchings at Cardiff University in Wales.

The chemical, pharmaceutical and perfume industries rely on expensive and environmentally harsh oxidation reactions to manufacture products such as vanilla. The new catalyst, consisting of gold-palladium nanoparticles dispersed on a titanium oxide support, allows this reaction to take place using oxygen under mild solvent-free conditions.