Cilia Are Minuscule Wonders, and Scientists Are Finally Figuring Out How to Mimic Them

A new cilia-covered chip could revolutionize portable medical diagnosis

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#biotech, #engineering, #health, #nanotechnology, #technology

Nanotechnology Offers New Ways to Fight an Endless Pandemic

A wave of funding focuses on antiviral nanomaterials as COVID countermeasures

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#health, #nanotechnology

A Big Bet on Nanotechnology Has Paid Off

The National Nanotechnology Initiative promised a lot. It has delivered more

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#nanotechnology, #technology

The Kavli Prize Presents: Understanding Atoms [Sponsored]

Gerd Binnig shared the Kavli Prize in Nanoscience in 2016 for inventing the atomic force microscope. What transformative impact has this invention had on nanoscience?

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#nanotechnology, #technology

Nanofabricated ‘tetrakaidecahedrons’ could out-bulletproof kevlar

Researchers at MIT and Caltech have created a nano-engineered material that could be tougher than the likes of kevlar or steel. Made of interconnected carbon “tetrakaidecahedrons,” the material absorbed the impact of microscopic bullets in spectacular fashion.

The study, led by MIT’s Carlos Portela, aimed to find out whether nanoarchitected materials — that is, designed and fabricated at the scale of nanometers — could be a viable path towards ultra-tough blast shields, body armor, and other protective surfaces.

The idea of tetrakaidecahedron-based materials, however, isn’t a new one. The complex 14-sided class of polyhedron (there are about 1.5 billion possible variations) was proposed by Lord Kelvin in the 19th century as theoretically one of the most efficient possible for filling space with duplicates of itself.

If many such polyhedra can be packed into a small space and interconnected, Portela and his colleagues wondered, would they act as an efficient shock absorber? Such materials had been tested with slow deformations but not powerful impacts like you would expect from a bullet or micrometeoroid.

To find out, they assembled blocks of the material by means of nanolithography techniques, baking the resulting structure until it was pure carbon. Then they shot these carbon structures with 14-micron-wide silicon oxide bullets traveling well above the speed of sound (though at these scales, the comparison is a bit quaint).

Close-up of silicon oxide 'bullet' embedded in the carbon material

Image Credits: MIT/Caltech

The carbon structures, especially denser ones, absorbed the impact extremely well, stopping the particle dead — and crucially, deforming but not shattering.

“We show the material can absorb a lot of energy because of this shock compaction mechanism of struts at the nanoscale versus something that’s fully dense and monolithic, not nano-architected,” said Portela in a news release describing the discovery. “The same amount of mass of our material would be much more efficient at stopping a projectile than the same amount of mass of Kevlar.”

Interestingly, the researchers found they were able to model the impact and damage best by using methods generally used to describe meteors impacting a planet’s surface.

This is just an initial lab result, so soldiers won’t be wearing tetrakaidecahedronal flak jackets any time soon, but the experiment definitely shows the promise of this approach. If the team is able to find a way to manufacture the material at scale, it could be useful in all kinds of industries.

The study was published in the journal Nature Materials.

#caltech, #mit, #nanotechnology, #tc

Materials Zone raises $6M for its materials discovery platform

Materials Zone, a Tel Aviv-based startup that uses AI to speed up materials research, today announced that it has raised a $6 million seed funding round led by Insight Partners, with participation from crowdfunding platform OurCrowd.

The company’s platform consists of a number of different tools, but at the core is a database that takes in data from scientific instruments, manufacturing facilities, lab equipment, external databases, published articles, Excel sheets and more, and then parses it and standardizes it. Simply having this database, the company argues, is a boon for researchers, who can then also visualize it as needed.

Image Credits: Materials Zone

“In order to develop new technologies and physical products, companies must first understand the materials that comprise those products, as well as those materials’ properties,” said Materials Zone founder and CEO Dr. Assaf Anderson. “Understanding the science of materials has therefore become a driving force behind innovation. However, the data behind materials R&D and production has traditionally been poorly managed, unstructured, and underutilized, often leading to redundant experiments, limited capacity to build on past experience, and an inability to effectively collaborate, which inevitably wastes countless dollars and man-hours.”

Image Credits: Materials Zone

Before founding Materials Zone, Anderson spent time at the Bar Ilan University’s Institute for Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials, where he was the head of the Combinatorial Materials lab.

Assaf Anderson, Ph.D., founder and CEO of Materials Zone

Assaf Anderson, PhD, founder/CEO of Materials Zone. Image Credits: Materials Zone

“As a materials scientist, I have experienced R&D challenges firsthand, thereby gaining an understanding of how R&D can be improved,” Anderson said. “We developed our platform with our years of experience in mind, leveraging innovative AI/ML technologies to create a unique solution for these problems.”

He noted that in order to, for example, develop a new photovoltaic transparent window, it would take thousands of experiments to find the right core materials and their parameters. The promise of Materials Zone is that it can make this process faster and cheaper by aggregating and standardizing all of this data and then offer data and workflow management tools to work with it. Meanwhile, the company’s analytical and machine learning tools can help researchers interpret this data.


#artificial-intelligence, #insight-partners, #machine-learning, #materials-science, #materials-zone, #ml, #nanotechnology, #ourcrowd, #recent-funding, #science, #science-and-technology, #startups, #tel-aviv

Curran Biotech’s new nanocoating could prevent indoor transmission of COVID-19

A new nanocoating from Curran Biotech could dramatically improve air filtration to prevent the spread of COVID-19 indoors.

Their Capture Coating technology acts as a supplement to any household or commercial HVAC system by bonding to the filter fibers, giving them greater hydrophobic properties. This combined effect prevents virus-carrying droplets from traveling through the filter fibers, which, without the treatment, only prevent some viral transmission.

“’Capture Coating’ is designed to mitigate and significantly decrease viral transmission of COVID-19 through specified air filtration media by forming a breathable, flexible, non-leaching, water-repellent barrier against aqueous respiratory droplets that act as virion carriers that can potentially be recirculated through conventional air-filters,” wrote Curran Biotech founder and University of Houston physics professor Shay Curran in an email. Despite the molecular complexity of the coating, the product itself can simply be sprayed onto an HVAC system’s filter.

This new droplet-targeting coating is an improvement over current filtration methods, which typically only target dry molecules. Not only do those methods often have at least some potential of viral droplet transmission, but current solutions to improve them aren’t always energy efficient.

“In the world where energy management is very important, that means recycling the same air in the building with the risk of cross contamination,” wrote Curran. “Taking outside air is one way to dilute the air, but that means we also lose a huge amount in terms of energy, and still don’t solve the problem of taking the virus away from places where people congregate.”

Indoor air ventilation remains an important tool in mitigating the spread of COVID-19 across schools, small businesses, and other public buildings, but updating old HVAC systems to the recommended CDC standards can be costly. Curran hopes that his company’s approach can help address this issue, as the Capture Coating requires only a simple spray, rather than a completely new system of filters. “That really means for a few dollars when used on a standard issue MERV8, you can have huge indoor protection and stop its spread throughout the building,” he wrote.

Because of the nature of the nanocoating, Curran’s technology can help prevent viral droplet transmission long after the end of the COVID-19 pandemic. The hydrophobic qualities of the coating prevent respiratory droplets from actions like sneezing or coughing from passing through the filter, while the HVAC system itself retains its normal capabilities for dry molecule filtration. With the Capture Coating, common droplet-transmitting viruses like the flu or cold will also be filtered out of circulation.

Similarly, the nanocoating would work in preventing transmission of any variant of the COVID-19 virus, as all of those variants also undergo droplet transmission. “It does not mean we get away from taking precautions such as hand washing, wearing masks etc, but it does mean we can work indoors far more safely,” wrote Curran.

So far, Curran Biotech’s Capture Coating technology is in use in 11 states, and will soon be announcing partnerships with distributors and filter companies to directly provide consumers with coated filters. Curran wrote that the company has also had successful trials of the technology in New York City, and hopes to expand use of the product even further across businesses and institutions around the country.

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#biotech, #covid, #covid-19, #health, #houston, #materials-science, #nanotechnology, #science, #startup, #tc, #transmission

Popeye would approve: Spinach could hold key to renewable fuel cell catalysts

Popeye reaches for a can of spinach in a still from an unidentified <em>Popeye</em> film, c. 1945. Scientists at American University believe the leafy green has the potential to help power future fuel cells.

Enlarge / Popeye reaches for a can of spinach in a still from an unidentified Popeye film, c. 1945. Scientists at American University believe the leafy green has the potential to help power future fuel cells. (credit: Paramount Pictures/Courtesy of Getty Image)

When it comes to making efficient fuel cells, it’s all about the catalyst. A good catalyst will result in faster, more efficient chemical reactions and, thus, increased energy output. Today’s fuel cells typically rely on platinum-based catalysts. But scientists at American University believe that spinach—considered a “superfood” because it is so packed with nutrients—would make an excellent renewable carbon-rich catalyst, based on their proof-of-principle experiments described in a recent paper published in the journal ACS Omega. Popeye would definitely approve.

The notion of exploiting the photosynthetic properties of spinach has been around for about 40 years now. Spinach is plentiful, cheap, easy to grow, and rich in iron and nitrogen. Many (many!) years ago, as a budding young science writer, I attended a conference talk by physicist Elias Greenbaum (then with Oak Ridge National Labs) about his spinach-related research. Specifically, he was interested in the protein-based “reaction centers” in spinach leaves that are the basic mechanism for photosynthesis—the chemical process by which plants convert carbon dioxide into oxygen and carbohydrates.

There are two types of reaction centers. One type, known as photosystem 1 (PS1), converts carbon dioxide into sugar; the other, photosystem 2 (PS2), splits water to produce oxygen. Most of the scientific interest is in PS1, which acts like a tiny photosensitive battery, absorbing energy from sunlight and emitting electrons with nearly 100-percent efficiency. In essence, energy from sunlight converts water into an oxygen molecule, a positively charged hydrogen ion, and a free electron. These three molecules then combine to form a sugar molecule. PS1s are capable of generating a light-induced flow of electricity in fractions of a second.

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#catalysts, #chemistry, #electrochemistry, #fuel-cells, #nanotechnology, #physics, #renewable-energy, #science, #tech

America Is Going to Decapitate Huawei

The United States’ technological dominance gives it an immense power. But how long will that last?

#5g-wireless-communications, #cadence-design-systems-inc, #china, #computer-chips, #huawei-technologies-co-ltd, #nanotechnology, #regulation-and-deregulation-of-industry, #taiwan, #united-states-international-relations

This tiny reproduction of Girl With a Pearl Earring is “painted” with light

An illustration of how millions of nanopillars were used to control both the color and intensity of incident light, projecting a faithful reproduction of Johannes Vermeer's <em>Girl With a Pearl Earring</em>.

Enlarge / An illustration of how millions of nanopillars were used to control both the color and intensity of incident light, projecting a faithful reproduction of Johannes Vermeer’s Girl With a Pearl Earring. (credit: T. Xu/Nanjing University)

Scientists have fabricated tiny “nanopillars” capable of transmitting specific colors of light, at specific intensities, which hold promise for improved optical communication and anti-counterfeit measures for currency. For proof of concept, they decided to digitally reproduce Dutch master Johannes Vermeer’s famous painting Girl With a Pearl Earring—just painted in light instead of pigment. They discussed their work in a recent paper published in the journal Optica.

“The quality of the reproduction, capturing the subtle color gradations and shadow details, is simply remarkable,” said co-author Amit Agrawal, a researcher with the National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST). “This work quite elegantly bridges the fields of art and nanotechnology.”

Nature abounds with examples of structural color. The bright colors in butterfly wings don’t come from any pigment molecules but from how the wings are structured, for instance. The scales of chitin (a polysaccharide common to insects) are arranged like roof tiles. Essentially, they form a diffraction grating, except photonic crystals only produce certain colors, or wavelengths, of light while a diffraction grating will produce the entire spectrum, much like a prism 

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#biomimicry, #gaming-culture, #materials-science, #meta-materials, #nanopillars, #nanotechnology, #optics, #painting-with-light, #physics, #science

IBM Research develops new macromolecule that could counter antibiotic resistance

There are other persistent, grave health crises brewing besides the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic: Antibiotic resistance is one, and the troubling trend is that it’s on the rise, leading to an increase in so-called ‘superbugs’ that are difficult to treat. IBM Research, working in partnership with Singapore’s Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology, has developed a synthetic macromolecule polymer that can potentially be used to significantly increase the effectiveness of existing antibiotics, rendering them able to fight off emerging superbugs.

In a new paper published in academic journal Advanced Science, the IBM researchers detail their work in creating a polymer that can be combined with course of antibiotics that are used to treat non-resistant strains of infections, in does equal or even lower to those that are found to be effective in treating the varieties of the infections that lack the ability to overcome antibiotics.

The macromolecule works by essentially hitching itself to the enzymes that bacteria modify when they are treated using antibiotics, but not completely eliminated. That’s a big reason why you’re always told to take the entire course of an antibiotic when it’s prescribed: If it isn’t completely wiped out, it can rebound and develop resistance to the treatment used when it comes back.

The IBM polymer basically shorts out the protective measures developed by the bacteria when to counter the effects of the antibiotic, returning (or potentially even slightly improving) their efficacy.

This is still relatively early research that’s been done in the highly controlled environment of the lab, and would require a lot more development and testing, including proper clinical trials involving human patients before it actually becomes anything to be used in the real world. But these lab-based results provide a very promising basis upon which to build that work, having shown demonstrated efficacy with real multidrug-resistant bacterial infections.

#antibiotic-resistance, #articles, #bacteria, #biotech, #health, #ibm, #medicine, #nanotechnology, #science, #tc, #veterinary-medicine