‘Pseudo element’ may change electronics, disease treatment

A discovery by a University of Missouri-Columbia ( research team allows scientists to manipulate a molecule discovered 50 years ago to exhibit metal-like properties, creating a new, “pseudo” element.

The molecule, consisting of 12 boron atoms and 12 hydrogen atoms, is known as a “boron cage.” It is extremely stable-and difficult to change or manipulate, so the discovery sat dormant until a scientific team recently found a way to modify it. Attaching different compounds to the cages gives them the properties of many different metals; the result is a large, new family of nano-sized compounds.

Pseudo-metallic closomer structure. (Image courtesy of University of Missouri-Columbia)
Click here to enlarge image

Potential applications of this discovery are abundant, especially in medicine. “All living organisms are essentially a grand concert of chemical reactions involving the transfer of electrons between molecules and metals,” says researcher Mark Lee. “The electron transfer properties of this new family of molecules span the entire range of those found within living systems. Because of this, these pseudo-metals may be tuned for use as specific probes in living systems to detect or treat disease at the earliest state.”

Because of the compounds’ flexibility, they also have potential ramifications for nanotechnology and various kinds of electronics.

NEC’s new bioplastic is super heat conductor

Japanese conglomerate NEC Corp. says it has developed a corn-based bioplastic that conducts heat faster than stainless steel. The company aims to mass-produce the material starting in April 2008 for use in mobile phones and other portable devices. NEC predicts the material will help make laptops and mobile phones thinner and lighter by eliminating the need for heat-releasing sheets and fans.

Microfluidics technology holds promise for drug formulation

MFIC Corp.’s ( microfluidics reaction technology (MRT) program is working to advance the manufacturing of nanosuspensions “bottom up” by chemical reactions or physical processes such as crystallization-an approach that promises the ability to produce uniform, optimally sized nanoparticles more efficiently and cost-effectively.

While conventional “top-down” processes reduce particle sizes to the nano level through wet-milling, homogenization, micronization, and other techniques, MRT works by pumping liquid reactants through a coaxial feed system within a reaction chamber, which is based on impinging jet principals. MFIC says its engineers have been able to produce nanosuspensions for several drugs, and that the technology may enable development of drugs, vaccines, and drug delivery systems that cannot now be produced.

Nanowire to improve future hard-disk drives

Researchers at Germany’s University of Hamburg have embedded a U-shaped magnetic nanowire into a silicon chip and have used nanopulses’ polarized electric current to move magnetic regions along the wire at 110 meters per second-a hundred times faster than was previously possible. The breakthrough could dramatically increase the capacity, speed, and reliability of computer hard drives-but commercialization depends on defect-free wires, and so commercialization is expected to be a long way off.

NanoDynamics launches direct-access IP portfolio

NanoDynamics Inc.’s new TechBank is a forum within its NDInnovations group Web portal (http://innovations.nanody providing information on the company’s IP available for sale, licensing, partnering, or joint development. Interested parties have the opportunity to work directly with NanoDynamics experts. The offerings fall into four stages of development:

  • Developed: Ready for scale-up and commercialization and are protected by issued patents;
  • Intermediate: Secured through published or applied patents, and prototypes have been demonstrated;
  • Nascent: These technologies have an IP disclosure and a prototype has been developed, but patents have not yet been filed; and
  • Theoretical: These technologies have an IP disclosure or patent, but prototypes do not yet exist.

NIST nano center accepting research proposals

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg, Md., says its newly established Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology (CNST,
eleases/cnst050107.html) is accepting proposals for nanotechnology-related research projects. The center is a resource for university, industry, government, and other researchers. About half of its 16,000-sq-ft nanofabrication facility is devoted to class 100 cleanroom space; it includes more than 30 state-of-the-art tools such as photolithography, ion beam, and etching equipment capable of creating, measuring, and inspecting devices with dimensions as small as 10nm. The center accepts both proprietary and non-proprietary research proposals; the latter may qualify for a partial waiver of use fees.