14 December 2012

High Tech Date Rape: The World Warps Strange

As women have become more educated, more sophisticated and worldly wise, they have come to demand more wealth, accomplishment, and sophistication from their men. These increased demands have proven burdensome to the majority of men, who have been put at a relative disadvantage in terms of education and work, due to affirmative action and other government mandates. In addition, most men do not find it within themselves to be classy dressers, suave charmers, or masters of smooth seduction.

In the old days, a smooth serenade, or a moving poetry recitation, might have worked -- even if the man were struggling above his pay grade, so to speak. But the modern woman does not give in so easily, as her more sentimental forerunners might have done. And besides, most modern men are neither musically talented nor poetically gifted.

Due to these and other disadvantages, many men have been driven to the use of date rape drugs, including copious quantities of alcohol. But there is nothing particularly memorable or satisfying about taking advantage of a woman lost in a deep stupour. In addition, the legal penalties can be severe and lasting.

A safer and more sophisticated approach to taking control of an inauspicious mismatch, involves the use of conversational trance induction -- or hypnosis. This is a very effective approach, but it requires a certain amount of training, in addition to innate talents of empathetic sensing and projection, along with exquisite control of one's voice and body language. Only a relative few men can be masters of these techniques.

This brings us to a rapidly developing field of neuroscience known as transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). With TMS, one can place an electro-magnetic coil over a particular area of the forehead of an attractive but dismissive woman, instantly turning rejection into ready compliance. TMS is capable of disrupting the normal inhibitory and behavioural control and decision-making of the pre-frontal cortex (PDF) and associated regions.

Yes, I can already hear you asking: "How can I get her to hold still long enough to place the coil over the exact location required to get her to submit?"

Now, thanks to clever scientists in Spain, you don't have to. Utilising advanced theories of meta-materials, these Barcelona physicists have devised a way to turn materials formerly thought of as "invisibility cloaks" into devices capable of projecting electromagnetic fields over a distance.

You may begin to see the potential. Concealed within the obscure physics are the makings of an electromagnetic field projector, with the potential to initiate limited behavioural control over a distance.
Beyond energy transmission, the researchers suggest the ability of the shell to concentrate magnetic fields into a small space could enhance the accuracy of magnetic sensors. This could extend the reach of a medical research technique called transcranial magnetic stimulation, in which parts of the brain can be temporarily activated or deactivated by magnetic fields. _PhysicsWorld
Of course, the implications of this type of remote brain control go far beyond the trivial example of "date rape." In fact, this type of control over the impulses and inhibitions of other people -- even large groups of people simultaneously -- is exactly the tool that politicians, advertising companies, community organisers, religious prophets, college professors, and other shady characters have longed for since the coming of homo sapiens.

In the age of meta-materials and other counter-intuitive technologies, the world is beginning to warp strangely odd. And yet, none of us are given a pass to sit out these developments and await a later, safer, less startling technological environment. It would likely be a long wait, regardless.

New technologies work out of sight, out of mind, beyond our conceptual grasp, for the most part. And even in the face of widespread economic disaster, such technologies -- and even stranger ones -- will continue to be developed somewhere, by some organised group or another.

It sounds as if we will need to become more dangerous than ever just to live in the coming world -- but in a good way, of course.

H/T NextBigFuture

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23 August 2012

A Revolution Made of Wood?

Nanocrystalline cellulose (NCC), which is produced by processing wood pulp, is being hailed as the latest wonder material. Japan-based Pioneer Electronics is applying it to the next generation of flexible electronic displays. IBM is using it to create components for computers. Even the US army is getting in on the act, using it to make lightweight body armour and ballistic glass.

To ramp up production, the US opened its first NCC factory in Madison, Wisconsin, on 26 July, marking the rise of what the US National Science Foundation predicts will become a $600 billion industry by 2020.

...NCC will replace metal and plastic car parts and could make nonorganic plastics obsolete in the not-too-distant future, says Phil Jones, director of new ventures and disruptive technologies at the French mineral processing company IMERYS. "Anyone who makes a car or a plastic bag will want to get in on this," he says. _NS
A new "miracle material," nanocrystalline cellulose (NCC), offers incredible commercial and technological opportunity, yet it can be made out of waste sawdust, twigs, and tree branches. It is a true "garbage to gold" story.
[Nanocrystalline cellulose is] transparent but it also has eight times the tensile strength of stainless steel due to its tightly packed array of microscopic needle-like crystals. Even better, it's incredibly cheap.

"It is the natural, renewable version of a carbon nanotube at a fraction of the price," says Jeff Youngblood of Purdue University's NanoForestry Institute in West Lafayette, Indiana. _New Scientist
By replacing more expensive materials such as plastics, steel, ballistic glass, body armour, etc.... NCC will impact economies in unanticipated ways.

But this is exactly the kind of substitution of cheap and abundant materials in place of more expensive and rare materials, which Julian Simon discusses in his free online book: Ultimate Resource II.

And it is this type of innovation and substitution which makes most prophecies of resource scarcity doom obsolete.
Production of NCC starts with "purified" wood, which has had compounds such as lignin and hemicellulose removed. It is then milled into a pulp and hydrolysed in acid to remove impurities before being separated and concentrated as crystals into a thick paste that can be applied to surfaces as a laminate or processed into strands, forming nanofibrils. These are hard, dense and tough, and can be forced into different shapes and sizes. When freeze-dried, the material is lightweight, absorbent and good at insulating.

"The beauty of this material is that it is so abundant we don't have to make it," says Youngblood. "We don't even have to use entire trees; nanocellulose is only 2 nanometres long. If we wanted we could use twigs and branches or even sawdust. We are turning waste into gold." _NewScientist

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05 July 2012

IBM's Nano Approach to Killing Drug Resistant Bacteria

Chemists at IBM Research have been working to create "ninja polymers" that can target MRSA-infected cells in the human body and destroy their harmful payload.

Bacteria such as methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) are resistant to commonly-used antibiotics. IBM has drawing upon its experiences with semiconductor technology to create antibiotic-free bacteria killers. While they were researching ways to etch silicon wafers at a smaller scale than currently possible, they found some materials that could produce an electrostatic charge when chained together to form a polymer.

When these "ninja polymers" are introduced to the bloodstream, they self-assemble into biocompatible nanostructures that are electrostatically drawn to infected cells while not affecting healthy ones. When the reach those cells, they destroy the bacteria and then biodegrade with no side effects or accumulation within the body. Because the attack is physical, rather than chemical, the bacteria are les likely to be able to build up resistance to it.

These sticky nanostructures work in a very different way to antibiotics, according topolymer chemist Jim Hedrick. "They try to mimic what the immune system does: the polymer attaches to the bacteria's membrane and then facilitates destabilisation of the membrane. It falls apart, everything falls out and there's little opportunity for it to develop resistance to these polymers."

In addition to being useful vehicles for the delivery of drugs, these polymers could also be added to every day cleaning solutions. The research team believes that they could be used to replace the widespread distribution of antimicrobial agents found in hand gels, antibacterial wipes, toothpaste and even socks. _Wired

An earlier description of this research

There are a number of physical approaches to attacking drug-resistant bacteria, which are less likely to induce bacterial resistance -- including metal ions such as silver and titanium.

Nanotechnological materials research is likely to discover large numbers of other physical approaches to destroying drug resistant bacteria before they can spread.

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09 June 2010

A Remarkable Scientific Quick-Clean Solution to Oil Slicks

An engineering professor at the University of Pittsburgh has devised a novel quick filtering approach to cleaning up surface oil slicks -- such as the one in the Gulf of Mexico. It involves a cotton filter that has been coated with a chemical polymer that allows the passage of water, but blocks the passage of oils.
The researcher reports that the filter was successfully tested off the coast of Louisiana and shown to simultaneously clean water and preserve the oil.

Di Gao, an assistant professor and William Kepler Whiteford Faculty Fellow in the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering in Pitt's Swanson School of Engineering, created his filter as a possible method to help manage the spreading oil slick that resulted from the April 20 explosion of BP's "Deepwater Horizon" drilling platform. Gao has submitted his idea through the Deepwater Horizon Response Web site managed by the consortium of companies and government agencies overseeing the disaster response.

Gao's filter hinges on a polymer that is both hydrophilic -- it bonds with the hydrogen molecules in water -- and oleophobic, meaning that it repels oil. When the polymer is applied to an ordinary cotton filter, it allows water to pass through but not oil. The filter is produced by submerging the cotton in a liquid solution containing the polymer then drying it in an oven or in open air, Gao explained.
For the massive slick off the U.S. Gulf Coast, Gao envisions large, trough-shaped filters that could be dragged through the water to capture surface oil. The oil could be recovered and stored and the filter reused. Current cleanup methods range from giant containment booms and absorbent skimmers to controlled fires and chemical dispersants with questionable effects on human health and the environment. _SD

Gao has several other inventions to his credit which will be useful in real world situations. Researchers such as Gao are a saving counterpoint to the uselessness of academics in other departments, such as the social and political sciences, and in queer and ethnic studies.

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13 January 2010

List of 50 Top Nanotechnology and Materials Science Sites

This useful list is taken from "Masters In Health Informatics Blog":

Top Nanotech and Materials Science Websites

Technology is providing interesting opportunities to advance our knowledge of science and improve our lives. Indeed, technology is shrinking down to the nanoscale, putting objects and devices at up to one billionth of a meter in size. That is amazing, and it means that scientists are working on projects at a scale so small that they are working with molecules and even atoms in some cases. Nanotechnology is providing the potential for a number of new discoveries and breakthroughs, including in materials. New materials are being discovered regularly, including biomaterials that have some amazing potential. Here are some of the top nanotech and biomaterial blogs around.


Learn about what is happening in the world of the smallest machines. Interesting breakthroughs and fascinating science.
  1. Soft Machines: This blog focuses on thoughts related to the future of nanotechnology, looking at where we are and where we might be going.
  2. Responsible Nanotechnology: A look at developing nanotech in a way that is more socially responsible.
  3. blog nano: Looks at what is happening in the world of nanotechnology.
  4. Next Big Future: A look at what our future could look like, with the help of nanotech.
  5. The Foresight Institute: This blog looks at explaining the transformative technology that is nanotech.
  6. Nanotechnology Today: The latest information and news related to nanotechnology and more.
  7. Nanotechnology Development Blog: Learn about how nanotech is developing and read about the latest breakthroughs.
  8. Nanotechnology Now: News and information related to nanotechnology and related developments.
  9. Nanotechnology News and Information: Just what it sounds like, this blog features the latest in news on nanotech, as well as jobs in the field.
  10. Nanotech Buzz: Get the latest news and happenings in the world of nanotechnology.
  11. Nanotechnology Law Blog: An interesting look at legal issues surrounding nanotechnology.

Quantum Computing and Mechanics

One of the most interesting and exciting applications of nanotechnology is for use with quantum computing. Learn about the advancements made in this area, and how they relate to nanotech and biomaterials. Besides, to understand things at the nanoscale, it helps to have a knowledge of quantum mechanics.
  1. Michael Nielsen: This blog looks at computer development, including quantum computing, from one of the pioneers in the field.
  2. Shtetl-Optimized: An interesting look at items related to science and the theory behind quantum computing.
  3. The Quantum Pontiff: A look at all things quantum, especially in terms of theory and research on quantum computing.
  4. in theory: Delve into the world of quantum theory, and how it can lead to interesting new possibilities.
  5. Computational Complexity: A look at computational learning, including theory about computation, and sometimes looking at quantum computing.
  6. Quantum Mechanics Demystified: Attempting to make quantum mechanics a little more understandable.

Materials Science

Learn about the science behind developing new materials and the interesting possibilities provided by these advancements.

  1. Engineering World: A look at materials science from the perspective of an engineer.
  2. OSU Materials: Learn about materials science and education from Ohio State University.
  3. Materials Science News: Updates and more from the materials science blog at Science Daily.
  4. Gold Innovations: An interesting look at how gold can be used to advance technology. Applying a material we know about for new purposes.
  5. Materials Today: Looks at the latest technology advances in the field of materials science.
  6. DMSE News and Events: This is the blog of the MIT Department of Materials Science and Engineering. Lots of news and interesting accomplishments.
  7. MRS: Fun & Newsworthy: The Materials Research Society has a fun blog related to materials and science. Some of the items take a look at science fiction, while other items look at the advancements of science.


These materials are those made from the building blocks of life. Read about some of the interesting advancements in biomaterials.
  1. Biomaterials, Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News: Get the latest news in biomaterials development and science.
  2. Biomaterials News Feed: Pulls in different bits of news from around the Internet about what is happening in biomaterials science. Also includes videos and old lectures.
  3. Biotech Blog: Get the latest in biotechnology news, and in what is happening with biomaterials.
  4. helpBIOTECH: Explore biotechnology and materials, and what it means for the future.
  5. Kush Tripathi’s Blog on Biomedical: Get a look at biomedicine and the materials and applications that come with the territory.
  6. Intute Blog – biomaterials: A look at different subjects related to biomaterials.
  7. The Biotech Ethics Blog: Consider the questions of ethics brought up by biotechnology and research into biomaterials.

Devices and Applications

Find out more about nanotech and biomaterials can do for a number of different fields. A look at the applications of nanotechnology and biomaterials.
  1. Medical Device Link: How new devices based on new technology can improve the filed of medicine.
  2. Nanotech – The Circuits Blog: This blog from CNET News focuses on nanotechnology used in many of our devices.
  3. Nanotechnology Made Clear: This blog focuses on the applications of nanotechnology, and how it can be used in devices and for technological advancement.
  4. Window for Devices: News and information about new gadgets and gizmos.
  5. Medical Devices, Biotechnology, Bioengineering and the Like: A look at the news revolving around devices and biotech, and including commentary on recent happenings.


Understanding the fundamentals of physics can be important to these new and exciting fields of science. Here are some solid physics blogs, many of which offer posts and insights into nanotech and biomaterials.
  1. PhysOrg.com: Covers a number of interesting physics subjects, and features plenty of information on nanotech and biomaterials.
  2. Not Even Wrong: A physics blog that looks at many aspects of science and technology.
  3. Andrew Jaffe: Leaves on the Line: An interesting physics blog addressing different areas of physics — and life.
  4. APS Physics News Ticker: Get information on the latest physics discoveries, including new materials and nanotechnology.
  5. Resonaances: An interesting blog following the latest happenings in particle theory.
  6. Cocktail Party Physics: A fun look at physics and how the whole thing works.
  7. Uncertain Principles: Explores different principles of fundamental physics, and connects it to politics and culture.
  8. EMPG Blog: Considering mathematical physics, and the latest science discoveries.


Chemistry plays a big role in biomaterials and nanotechnology. Without a firm grasp of chemistry, it becomes difficult to create new materials and understand nanotech.
  1. Chemistry Blog: Keep with the latest chemistry news, and see interesting insights and experiments from a chemistry teacher.
  2. Useful Chemistry: Putting chemistry to good use for a number of applications in a number of fields.
  3. The Culture of Chemistry: Learn about what goes on in chemistry, and how it benefits the world.
  4. Chemistry World Blog: A look at the latest news and information, as well as breakthroughs and advancements, in chemistry.
  5. Anne Marie’s Chemistry Blog: A look at what is happening in chemistry, as well as insight into how useful chemistry can be.
  6. The Sceptical Chymist: This blog is written by the editor of Nature Chemistry, and features interesting stories about chemistry, including those on how it helps nanotech and biomaterials.

The above list is wholly copied from the linked source.

I have found a large number of websites that provide fascinating lists of "top websites" on various topics. Most of these "lists websites" are concerned with finding careers in one area of healthcare or another.

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12 March 2009

Cars Will Heal Their Own Scratches and Scrapes

University of Southern Mississippi University scientists have developed a new coating material that can heal scratches within an hour when exposed to UV light.
The key ingredient of the new material created by polymer scientist Marek Urban and his doctoral student Biswajit Ghosh is a dash of a precursor to chitosan, a structural element in the shells of crabs, shrimp, insects and fungi. To the chitosan precursor, the scientists added oxetane, a ringed molecule that can be broken without much energy. Then they incorporated this new OXE-CHI molecule into polyurethane, the material that might need repair.

Scratching the new material breaks the oxetane rings, exposing a reactive end hungry to bind to something, explains Urban, of the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg. UV light then cleaves the chitosan component, which in turn binds to the reactive ends made by the scratch.

Test scratches made with a razor blade healed after less than an hour of exposure to a 120 watt florescent UV lamp, a little more power than you’d get from sitting in the sun, the researchers report. _ScienceNews
Several approaches have been taken to self-healing materials, and as humans begin to colonise more treacherous environments -- such as outer space, the sea bottom, the open seas, and polar environments -- it will become more important for their habitats and transport vehicles to be able to heal any breaches, perforations, or structural fatigue.

Our brave new future of rising hazard requires better materials. Anything less would be uncivilised.


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17 March 2008

Foam Metals: Lighter than Water and More Uses than You Can Imagine

Scientists are just beginning to find uses for foam metals: metals that are 90% air bubbles, many of which will float on water. One interesting new use was discovered by University of Quebec at Montreal researchers: producing hydrogen from water.
Metafoam Technologies Inc. proudly announces that its metal foam electrodes have yielded promising results for hydrogen production....Metafoam's nickel foams used as porous electrodes in water electrolysis have shown exciting results thanks to their high surface area. Actually, Metafoam's material has reached roughness factors 2 to 25 times higher than standard porous meshes and competing metal foams.____Source__via__NextEnergy
Metal foams can be made to possess a wide range of properties.
Metal foams are a new class of material, as yet imperfectly characterised, but with alluring properties.

They are light and stiff, they have good energy-absorbing characteristics (making them good for crash-protection and packaging) and they have attractive heat-transfer properties (used to cool electronic equipment and as heat exchangers in engines).

Some have open cells (Figure 1), very much like polymer foams but with the characteristics of metals (ductility, electrical conductivity, weld ability, and so forth).

Others have closed cells, like metallic cork.

And they are visually appealing, suggesting use in industrial design.

There are currently some 12 producers marketing a range of metal foams, mostly based on aluminum, but other metals – copper, nickel, stainless steel and titanium – can be foamed and are available on order.

The most promising applications for metal foams appear to be as cores for light-stiff sandwich panels; as stiffeners to inhibit buckling in light shell structures; as energy absorbing units, both inside and outside of motor vehicles and trains; as efficient heat exchanges to cool high powered electronics (by blowing air through the open cells of the aluminum foam, like that of Figure 1, attached to the heat source) and as light cores for shell casting. Several industrial designers have seen potential in exploiting the reflectivity and light-filtering of open cell foams, and the interesting textures of those with closed cells.___Source

The uses for metal foams listed in the above paragraph are clearly already out of date, given the entry of metal foams into the catalysis and electrode business. Many more uses for these interesting materials are waiting to be found.

We at Al Fin have been looking for suitable materials for building "Seasteads"--floating cities on the ocean. Such materials would need to be lightweight but strong, and resistant to corrosive forces common on the sea. It is easy to visualize many areas of seastead construction that might involve the use of closed cell metal foams.

As better forms of molecular manufacturing come on line, we should expect better metal foams, with custom designed surface area ratios, and complex mixes of materials for specific purposes, to be created.

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09 January 2008

Safe, Reversible Natural Feeling Penis Enlargement Using Advanced Shape Memory Polymers

There is never a shortage of advertisements or spam for "penis enlargement" methods. If someone actually invented a safe, inexpensive, natural feeling method that worked--how much money could they make?
Engineers are always searching for materials that display unconventional properties able to satisfy the severe requirements for implantation in the body....The mechanical properties of these polymers make them extremely attractive for many biomedical applications. These so-called shape-memory polymers can be temporarily stretched or compressed into forms several times larger or smaller than their final shape.

Then heat, light or the local chemical environment triggers a transformation into their permanent shape....“My lab studies how altering the chemistry and structure of the polymers affects their chemical, biological and mechanical properties,” said Ken Gall, a professor in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering, who described his research in this area during two presentations at the Materials Research Society’s fall meeting.

...the warmth of the body triggers the polymer’s expansion into its permanent shape, resulting in natural deployment without auxiliary devices. This work was published in the journal Biomaterials earlier this year.

Particular attention must be paid to the biofunctionality, biostability and biocompatibility of these materials, which come into contact with tissue and body fluids, according to a Georgia Institute of Technology press release. Also, polymers more closely resemble soft biological tissue and can be designed to gradually dissolve in the body.

Although the polymers in the article above were designed for other purposes, one can easily see how they could be customised for use in small-to-large, soft-to-hard tissue augmentation.

Future developments would require the development of a reversible bio-polymer, that would change shapes and sizes based upon remote control signals. Of course, if the remote control gets lost behind the cushions inside the sofa at an inopportune time, you may have difficulty sustaining the mood in your partner until you can dig it out.


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20 April 2007

Hardness: When Nothing Else Will Do

Our modern technological lifestyle is dependent upon tools and materials that are very hard. Therefore it is not surprising that materials scientists are focusing on the design of very hard materials.
Diamond powder is used for oil drills and machines that build roads and cut holes in mountains. Diamond cannot be used, however, to cut steel without ruining the diamond blade.

Cubic boron nitride is a diamond substitute used to cut steel; it is made synthetically under very high-temperature, high-pressure conditions, and is even more expensive than diamond, Kaner said.

....At low applied forces, the hardness of rhenium diboride is equivalent to cubic boron nitride, the second-hardest material known, Kaner said. At higher applied forces, rhenium diboride is a little bit below that.

"Our material is hard enough to scratch diamond, and much harder than osmium diboride,” he said.

While other super-hard materials, including diamond and cubic boron nitride, are made under expensive, high-pressure conditions, "our material is made in a simple process without applying pressure,” Kaner said.

With humans likely to expand their domain into outerspace and undersea, stronger and harder materials are mandatory. If humans are ever forced underground for an extended stay--by an inconvenient asteroid, comet, or ice age--stronger and harder materials will likewise be required.

Hat tip Advanced Nanotechnology Blog. You may want to make Advanced Nano one of your daily web stops.


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18 April 2007

Substituting Less Expensive Metals For More: Zinc

The economics of materials dictates that if a manufacturer can use a less expensive material in place of one more expensive, he will do so. Zinc is an inexpensive metal that can be substituted for more expensive metals like copper. For example, modern US pennies have been 97.5% zinc and only 2.5% copper for 25 years.

Scientists at the US Department of Energy Ames (Iowa) Laboratory are discovering many more uses for Zinc, that in the long run will have significant economic impact.
Drs. Paul Canfield and Sergey Bud'ko and their Iowa State University Department of Physics and Astronomy graduate student, Shuang Jia, have discovered a new family of zinc compounds that can be tuned, or manipulated, to take on some of the physical properties and behavior of other materials, ranging from plain old copper to more exotic elements like palladium, to even more complex electronic and magnetic compounds that are on, as Canfield said, "the hairy edge" of becoming magnetic (or even superconducting).

Their versatility makes the new zinc compounds ideal for basic research efforts to observe and learn more about the origins of phenomena such as magnetism. Basic research is the building block. Once scientists understand how these materials work, products and/or processes can follow.

In addition, zinc is very cheap. In 1982, the U.S.Mint switched the composition of the penny to 97.5 percent zinc and only 2.5 percent copper. In a similar manner, this class of compounds is over 85 percent zinc. If technological applications can be found, these compounds will literally only cost pennies to make.

Many people believe that the various "peaks:" "peak oil", "peak uranium", "peak energy", "peak materials", are recent phenomena. Better informed persons understand that anticipated exhaustion of resources is as old as technology itself. Humans passed "peak whale oil" over a century ago, and still somehow have muddled through to
the 21st century. Humans tend to substitute materials for function. Everything is driven by practical economics.

Most of the experimentation over the centuries and millenia has taken place behind closed doors for reasons of industrial or military secrecy. But in the modern internet world, with a public's unquenchable thirst for news and knowledge, even preliminary findings and goals of basic science are presented to the general public.


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28 March 2007

The Nano Domain

Korean researchers aim to break the 10 nanometer barrier for circuit design, using carbon nanotubes to etch the circuits.
Leading the project are Prof. Choi Hee-cheul of Pohang University of Science and Technology and Kim Hyun-tak of the Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI).

Choi employed carbon nanotubes to successfully etch circuits that are thinner than 10 nanometers on the face of silicon wafers. One nanometer is equal to one billionth of a meter.

``As far as we know, we broke a 10-nanometer barrier for the first time in history. We could make the breakthrough after finding unique surface chemical reactions of carbon nanotubes,'' Choi said.

``We hope this carbon nanotube-based technology will help crank out 10-nanometer memory chips. Toward that end, we are currently cooperating with U.S. venture start-ups,'' he said.

The findings were featured in Nature Nanotechnology this week.

Researchers at the University of Massachusetts School of Medicine are designing nanoscale protein traps for catching and disabling deadly viruses in the body--such as HIV.
The next stage of their research would be to mix engineered red blood cells and normal immune cells in a dish and see whether they can trap HIV. Dr. Turner speculated that someday it might be possible to give HIV patients transfusions of engineered blood cells. The cells would lure the virus away from T cells, allowing a patient’s immune system to recover. And since red blood cells survive only a few months before being destroyed in the spleen, the trapped viruses would gradually disappear from the patient’s body.

....even if the virus was not completely destroyed in a patient, driving down the numbers would have significant benefits. It would keep the immune system from collapsing, which is what AIDS drugs are designed to do now. But traps might end up being cheaper.

Dr. Finberg is also exploring other ways to trap viruses. “We did it with red blood cells, but they didn’t have to be red blood cells,” he said. “Another way to do it would be to pull them out with beads.”

Scientists at the Universities of Heidelberg and Bayreuth in Germany, are designing 14 nanometer sized grains of boron-nitride that are 85% as hard as diamond. These nanograins, when mass-produced, should provide an economical material for industrial cutting, drilling, grinding, and other applications. When molecular assembly comes into its own, this material may provide a useful substitute for diamondoid nano-assemblies for some uses.

Drexlerian molecular assemblers are probably decades away. Nanotechnology engineers and scientists have still not learned enough from biological molecular assembly, to understand enough of the potentials and limitations of molecular fabrication. Between where we are, and the time of abundant Drexlerian nano-assemblers, will be a time of exciting discovery. We do need to grow out of our narcissism, psychological neoteny, superstitious natures, and hyper-emotionalism, before we will be ready for the granting of our every wish.

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