Category Archives: nanotechnology

The Future Of Nanotechnology In Cancer Treatments

Nanotechnology in general is the study of creating machines under the size of 100 nanometers and the idea, created by Richard P. Feynman in 1959 has progressed from condensing an entire encyclopedia onto the head of a pin into something truly life changing. In more recent times, many impressive new advances are being made in nanotechnology in the field of medicine, allowing doctors to diagnose cancer earlier through advanced imaging and being able to more effectively treat it with more effectively and safer. With these advances being made, one wonders, will nanotech bring about the cure for cancer?

For years now, oncologists have only been able to view cancerous cells or sites using fairly conventional methods, either using a biopsy, ultrasound, MRI etc. These have been very effective in the detection of cancer; however with the introduction of nanotech in the field of oncology, doctors’ options for cancer detection have been broadened and improved. It is known that the ability to detect cancerous cells or cells in the precancerous stage relies on the ability to monitor slight changes in molecular composition of the affected cells. Many feel that because of its advanced abilities, nanotechnology can be used to do this more precisely than ever before. The devices used are small enough to infiltrate various parts of the human anatomy which were once off limits unless you were on an operating table. Once inside, they can effectively track various toxicity levels, PH levels and other signs of cancerous cells, enabling the oncologist monitoring the results to act sooner, meaning a higher rate of survival. Nanotechnology doesn’t just stop at detection but is being developed to assist in the treatment of cancer as well.

Nanotechnology’s versatility is what is key in the treatment of cancer. These devices can be put into the body loaded with targeting information and powerful cancer treating drugs. The targeting information enables these devices to find the specific cells infected followed by that area being doused with drugs in hope of killing off the cancerous or pre-cancerous cells. Another hope is giving these devices the ability to release their treatment at specific times (possibly sequentially or simultaneously at different locations) to be even more efficient in cancer treatment. Another way they are hoping to utilize nanotechnology is through the use of infrared heat. When nanoshells are in specific cancerous cells, the addition of infrared light creates a temperature increase which is deadly to these cells without causing harm to surrounding cells that do not contain these nanoshells. Another device that is being used for treatment delivery is known as a dendrimer. This has been successful due to the large surface area, enabling researchers to attach lethal amounts of cancer fighting agents while still being small enough to infiltrate cell structures. Despite these breakthroughs for treatment, scientists want more.

The ultimate goal with nanotechnology in oncology is for there to be a single device that does it all. A single device that is able to find, identify, track and eliminate cancerous and precancerous cells in the body. With advances in nanotechnology occurring daily, this technology is truly advancing to new heights. Even though this super device isn’t here yet, oncologists and treatment specialists are still welcoming what they have due to its efficiency and effectiveness as an alternative diagnostic and treatment tool for cancer and know that it is here to stay. As of right now nanotechnology isn’t a cure, but it is a significant step forward in the fight against cancer that will without a doubt save lives and make cancer prevention, detection and eradication more effective than ever before.

Michael Blumreich is a contributor for the aptly named Notebook Review Site, He’s currently a university student and lover of all things tech.

New Nano-Beads Laced With Venom Slow Cancer Spread

They’re not quite as efficient as Borg technology. But new “nanoprobes” made by combining scorpion venom with tiny metal beads are giving the fight against cancer a big performance boost.

Previous work had shown that chlorotoxin, a chemical derived from the giant Israeli scorpion, affects a protein on the outside of brain tumor cells called MMP-2. This protein is thought to help the cancer cells spread.

Chlorotoxin binds to MMP-2 like a key fitting in a lock. When the chemical latches on, both it and the protein get sucked into the cell.

Fewer MMP-2 sites on a cell surface make it harder for the cancer cell to travel to new regions in the brain.

In a new study, scientists chemically bonded iron oxide nanoparticles with a lab-made version of chlorotoxin to create tiny nanoprobes, each carrying up to 20 chlorotoxin molecules.

“So when a tumor cell uptakes a single nanoparticle, it is absorbing quite a few chlorotoxin molecules at once,” said study leader Miqin Zhang of the University of Washington.

The researchers found that the nanoprobes can halt the spread of brain tumors in mice by 98 percent, compared to 45 percent with the scorpion venom alone.

A company called Transmolecular Inc. is already testing chlorotoxin by itself as a brain cancer therapy for humans.


Nanocapacitors with Big-Energy Storage

The ultimate electronic energy-storage device would store plenty of energy but also charge up rapidly and provide powerful bursts when needed. Sadly, today’s devices can only do one or the other: capacitors provide high power, while batteries offer high storage.

Now researchers at the University of Maryland have developed a kind of capacitor that brings these qualities together. The research is in its early stages, and the device will have to be scaled up to be practical, but initial results show that it can store 100 times more energy than previous devices of its kind. Ultimately, such devices could store surges of energy from renewable sources, like wind, and feed that energy to the electrical grid when needed. They could also power electric cars that recharge in the amount of time that it takes to fill a gas tank, instead of the six to eight hours that it takes them to recharge today.

There are many different kinds of batteries and capacitors, but in general, batteries can store large amounts of energy yet tend to charge up slowly and wear out quickly. Capacitors, meanwhile, have longer lifetimes and can rapidly discharge, but they store far less total energy. Electrochemists and engineers have been working to solve this energy-storage problem by boosting batteries’ power and increasing capacitors’ storage capacity.


MIT scientists charged up

MIT scientists have developed a battery technology that might one day allow people to charge their cellphones in 10 seconds or a drained plug-in car battery in mere minutes – reshaping the way such gadgets are integrated into our lives.

Scientists tweaked a lithium-ion battery by, in essence, creating access to the equivalent of on-ramps so that ions can easily enter an energy highway within the material. The advance allows the batteries to charge in seconds and discharge about 100 times faster than current lithium-ion batteries, according to Gerbrand Ceder, a materials science professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who led the work published in today’s issue of the journal Nature.

“If we made a cellphone battery that could charge in 30 seconds, I think people would change their lifestyles. . . . You might settle for a smaller battery, and you could almost stand by and sip your coffee and it’s done,” Ceder said. “That becomes a behavior modifier, and that’s why I’m excited about it.”

Ceder began the research to solve a mystery: Lithium-ion batteries store lots of energy, but charge and discharge relatively slowly, as positively charged ions slowly migrate across the battery material to create a current. In earlier research, Ceder’s laboratory found that lithium ions can actually move quickly through the battery material, suggesting that something else was slowing their commute across the battery to a crawl.


Knowing when to fold

Folding paper into shapes such as a crane or a butterfly is challenging enough for most people. Now imagine trying to fold something that’s about a hundred times thinner than a human hair and then putting it to use as an electronic device.

A team of researchers led by George Barbastathis, associate professor of mechanical engineering, is developing the basic principles of “nano-origami,” a new technique that allows engineers to fold nanoscale materials into simple 3-D structures. The tiny folded materials could be used as motors and capacitors, potentially leading to better computer memory storage, faster microprocessors and new nanophotonic devices.

Traditional micro- and nano-fabrication techniques such as X-ray lithography and nano-imprinting work beautifully for two-dimensional structures, and are commonly used to build microprocessors and other micro-electrical-mechanical (MEMS) devices. However, they cannot create 3-D structures.


Nanoscale Electronic Devices Could Soon Become A Reality

The tendency in electronic devices is all about getting smaller and smaller and smaller. It’s just the way these things need to be. However, they also have to be very efficient and we have nanotechnology and carbon nanotubes to make them like this. In order to develop smaller and more efficient electronics, scientists want to develop the next generation of devices based on carbon nanotubes using a technique called “chemical vapor deposition”, but it’s very hard to manipulate these structures and to bring them to a useful state.

A new vision is needed to complete the next-gen electronics and thanks to a breakthrough from scientists at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, our future devices could be built from carbon nanotubes. The team of scientists led by professor Yongfeng Lu and postdoctoral researcher Yunshen Zhou, used a technique based on the so-called “optical near-field effects” and they managed to control the growth of carbon nanotubes. The researchers linked individually self-aligned carbon nanotubes with sharp-tipped electrodes, a process which is very different from previous techniques where the carbon nanotubes were manipulated after growth.

“With our method, there’s no requirement for expensive instrumentation and no requirement for tedious processes. It’s a one-step process. We call it ’self-aligning growth.’ The carbon nanotubes ‘know’ where to start growth. In previous efforts, they could only manipulate carbon nanotubes one piece at a time, so they had to align the carbon nanotubes one by one. For our approach using optical near-field effects, all locations with sharp tips can accommodate carbon nanotube growth. That means we can make multiple carbon nanotubes at a time and all of them will be self-aligned,” said professor Lu.


TR10: Paper Diagnostics

Diagnostic tools that are cheap to make, simple to use, and rugged enough for rural areas could save thousands of lives in poor parts of the world. To make such devices, Harvard University professor George Whitesides is coupling advanced microfluidics with one of humankind’s oldest technologies: paper. The result is a versatile, disposable test that can check a tiny amount of urine or blood for evidence of infectious diseases or chronic conditions.

The finished devices are squares of paper roughly the size of postage stamps. The edge of a square is dipped into a urine sample or pressed against a drop of blood, and the liquid moves through channels into testing wells. Depending on the chemicals present, different reactions occur in the wells, turning the paper blue, red, yellow, or green. A reference key is used to interpret the results.


Levitation At Microscopic Scale Could Lead To Nanomechanical Devices Based On Quantum Levitation

Magicians have long created the illusion of levitating objects in the air. Now researchers have actually levitated an object, suspending it without the need for external support. Working at the molecular level, the researchers relied on the tendency of certain combinations of molecules to repel each other at close contact, effectively suspending one surface above another by a microscopic distance.

Researchers from Harvard University and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have measured, for the first time, a repulsive quantum mechanical force that could be harnessed and tailored for a wide range of new nanotechnology applications.

The study, led by Federico Capasso, Robert L. Wallace Professor of Applied Physics at Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS), will be published as the January 8 cover story of Nature.

The discovery builds on previous work related to what is called the Casimir force. While long considered only of theoretical interest, physicists discovered that this attractive force, caused by quantum fluctuations of the energy associated with Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, becomes significant when the space between two metallic surfaces, such as two mirrors facing one another, measures less than about 100 nanometers.


Sophisticated nano-structures assembled with magnets

By manipulating the magnetization of a liquid solution, the researchers have for the first time coaxed magnetic and non-magnetic materials to form intricate nano-structures. The resulting structures can be “fixed,” meaning they can be permanently linked together. This raises the possibility of using these structures as basic building blocks for such diverse applications as advanced optics, cloaking devices, data storage and bioengineering.

Changing the levels of magnetization of the fluid controls how the particles are attracted to or repelled by each other. By appropriately tuning these interactions, the magnetic and non-magnetic particles form around each other much like a snowflake forms around a microscopic dust particle.

“We have demonstrated that subtle changes in the magnetization of a fluid can create an environment where a mixture of different particles will self-assemble into complex superstructures,” said Randall Erb, fourth-year graduate student. He performed these experiments in conjunction with another graduate student Hui Son, in the laboratory of Benjamin Yellen, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials science and lead member of the research team.


Nanotechnology – A Boon For Medical Science

Nanotechnology, or more affectionately nicknamed as nanotech, is a field of research that deals with controlling matter on an atomic or molecular level. This has multiple applications that range anywhere from electronics, to energy production, to engineering, to physics, and even to medicine. In the field of medicine alone, nanotech is giving rise to tools and possible applications that are now being streamlined to focus on finding and eradicating cancer cells. This is a particularly timely issue because cancer is now the foremost killing disease of the modern times. As humankind evolves into the new millennia, it seems that cancer cells are evolving as well. As such, there are still no known medicines or medical procedures that can prevent or cure the occurrence of any type of cancer.