April 06, 2007

Magnetically assembled Nanotube-Tipped Probe Developed

Improved cell by cell analysis is made possible as well as injecting drugs into active cells one at time. This development could be combined with improved versions of surgical microbots to achieve something very similar to the vision of nanobot cellular repair nanomedicine.

Drexel University College of Engineering researchers have successfully developed carbon nanotube-tipped pipettes that could become key to cell biology in-situ DNA sequencing and organelle-targeted drug delivery. This development makes it possible to perform injections or probe the fluid, not just inside a cell, but in specific regions inside the cell, maybe even specific organelles. The probe has the possibility of transferring fluids through the carbon nanotube (CNT) into and out of the pipette, thereby bridging the gap between existing microscale technologies and nanoscale interactions.

“The pipettes enable DNA to be examined inside a living cell without removing the cell from the living tissue,” he said. “This avoids culturing and/or damaging the tissue.” And the probes can aid in identifying separate drug reactions in cells. “Instead of flooding an entire cell with a drug under investigation, the drug interaction and effects with specific regions of the cell can be investigated,” he said. “Since the CNT tips have diameters smaller than some cells, small amounts of drugs can be injected to specific regions organelles within a cell.”

The Drexel researchers describe nanotube probes strong enough to pierce the wall of canine kidney cell membranes. They observed negligible cell deformation, even after removing the probe from the cell 20 minutes later. With this capability, carbon nanotube-tipped pipettes could become vital to in-situ DNA sequencing and organelle-targeted drug delivery.

The team’s method uses magnetic CNTs and an external magnetic field to align the nanotubes and assemble the probes. Joshua Freedman, a NSF IGERT Fellow working with Drs. Fontecchio and Friedman, injected a solution of magnetic CNTs and optical glue into a glass pipette and used magnet CNT by polymerizing the optical glue with UV light. They demonstrated that the resulting carbon nanotube-tipped pipette was mechanically robust to perform cell injection and could transfer fluid into the pipette

Supreme ruling will boost nuclear power

One step closer to being able to turn on and off the decay of a nuclear isomer

Researchers at Livermore studied an isomer of Thorium-229. This isomer is unique in that its excitation energy is near optical energies, implying that one day scientists may be able to transition Th229 nuclei between the ground and isomeric states using a table-top laser.

"This would then be the first time human control would be exerted over nuclear levels," said Peter Beiersdorfer, an LLNL physicist and co-author of a paper that appears in the April 6 issue of Physical Review Letters. "This only works if the laser is tuned to exactly the correct energy."

The next step will be to use a laser or a synchrotron tuned to the exact energy of the spacing between the two levels and observe the transition from the ground state to the isomeric state.

Once laser excitation has proven possible, helping an excited level decay (and thus give off energy) can be tackled. "But for building a more precise clock than we have today, or building a quantum computer, excitation may be all that’s needed," Beiersdofer said.

This could lead to new science and technology breakthroughs. Among them are: a quantum many-body study; a clock with unparallel precision for general relativity tests; a superb qubit (a quantum bit) for quantum computing; testing the effects of the chemical environment on nuclear decay rates

Universal law predicts income and wealth distribution in society

According to a recent study, the uneven distribution of wealth in a society appears to be a universal law (Gibbs distribution for the poorer 90% and pareto distribution for the top 10%) that holds true for economies in many different societies, from ancient Egypt to modern Japan and the U.S. This distribution may reflect a simple natural law analogous to a 100-year-old theory describing the distribution of energy in a gas.

“While the distribution of the richest 10% does indeed follow a different behavior (power law) than the rest (Gibbs or log-normal), one need not assume different dynamics at work in the two cases,” Chatterjee explained to PhysOrg.com. “In fact, both types of distributions can arise from the same model. In the case of the random savings model, the agents having the highest savings fractions will have a higher probability of ending up in the richest 10% of the population, while in the random thrift model, the agents with higher thrift value generally tend to be the richest.

Aside from these general models, the scientists also discovered some interesting details within their results. When comparing wealth (i.e. one’s net worth) with income, they found that wealth is much more unequally distributed than income (wealth models always have lower Pareto exponents, for any society). Also, while most of the data for the models is based on individuals, data from companies also seemed to follow the same models.

April 05, 2007

MIT Technology Review Geordie Rose Interview

MIT Technology Review Jason Pontin (JP) interviews Geordie Rose (GR) of Dwave Systems about the Quantum computer The interview gets more interesting around page 4. The first three screens review the old controversy, which will be irrelevant based on targets being hit in 2008.

JP: The plan is to demonstrate a 1,024-qubit machine in 2008?

GR: Yes, by mid 2008. But prior to that, we're going to have an online system for people to use, for which they can program applications.

JP: That seems implausibly rapid. How will you do it?

GR: Well, there are three things that need to be done.

The first is that the design that you are using for the processor, specifically the input-output systems, need to be scalable, not just in principle but in practice. Most of the proposals that have been put forward for quantum-computing architectures, in fact all of them so far, are not scalable in that sense. In our case, we believe we've found a path to real scalability in the hardware. The primary thing that needs to be overcome is this issue of how do you get information into and out of the chip. We think we've found a way around that problem.

The second thing is how you build it, and that's a fabrication issue. Part of the reason why we picked the approach that we picked is that the circuits that we're using as the basis for these things can be designed, built, and tested using standard semiconductor procedures. So we don't need to invent any new fabrication technology except for getting the process running in the first place.

The third thing, which is probably the most difficult question to answer, is this: given that we can build it and send information in and out of it, will it in fact continue to operate as a quantum computer? That's a point that we simply cannot answer at the present time because no one has been able to model systems at that level with any predictive capability whatsoever. It's too complicated. That's a question that can only be answered empirically. So our philosophy is, do a new processor every month. Say we have 12 generations per year, something doesn't appear to be working; we can fix it through iterative redesign.

Solar powered Fleabots created

An autonomous robotic flea has been developed that is capable of jumping nearly 30 times its height, thanks to what is arguably the world's smallest rubber band.

Tiny micro electromechanical systems (MEMS) motors stretch a diminutive nine-micron-thick, two-millimeter-long rubber band in order to allow a microbot to catapult itself through the air like a flea.
Credit: Sarah Bergbreiter, UC Berkeley.

The idea is that stretching a silicone rubber band just nine microns thick can enable these microrobotic devices to move by catapulting themselves into the air. Early tests show that the solar-powered bots can store enough energy to make a 7-millimeter robot jump 200 millimeters high and they would cover 400 millimeters on the ground horizontally at the same time. This flealike ballistic jumping would enable these sensors to be mobile, covering relatively large distances and overcoming obstacles that would normally be a major problem for micrometer-sized bots.

But generating this movement still requires more energy than the robot is capable of scavenging from its environment through its solar cells. This is often the case with autonomous robots, which is why storing the energy is necessary.

Nanoscale power generator improved over a thousand fold

About a year ago, Zhong Lin Wang of Georgia Tech in the US discovered that, when he disturbed zinc oxide nanowires, they gave off a tiny electrical current, a phenomenon called piezoelectricity. At the time, he had to use the tip of an atomic force microscope – a $250,000 instrument – to create about one-billionth of a watt of power.

Wang has improved his design at least a thousand-fold. Using gold nanoparticle as seeds, he grew a small forest of 1-micron-high zinc oxide wires on a conductive substrate 2 millimetres square.

Then he placed a saw-toothed electrode on top, which is designed to make contact with as many nanowires as possible. Finally, by rattling the whole thing with ultrasound, he found that he could generate a few microwatts of electricity. The movement of the top electrode disturbs the nanowires, providing a potential power source for anything that moves.

The generator suffers from a few key limitations, however. First, growing uniform nanowires is difficult – they are usually of slightly different height or diameter. As a result, in a generator containing many thousands of nanowires, only a few hundred or so successfully generate electricity when shaken, as they do not all make contact with the electrode.

So there is another tenfold or better improvement to be gained by getting all of the nanowires to make contact. Being able to pack the nanowires more efficiently could also increase the power generation.

Wang says: "I have full confidence that within three years we will have something that is useful commercially."

April 04, 2007

Researchers Fine Tune Nanotube/Nylon Composite Using Carbon Spacers

More progress on making stronger materials. Stronger materials means existing products can have the same strength but be lighter. Light weight can mean greater fuel efficiency. With enough strength entirely new applications become possible, such as space elevators.

Physorg.com brings word of carbon nanotube composites A team of University of Pennsylvania and Rice University researchers have added a significant new step to the creation of materials fortified by single-walled carbon nanotubes, or SWNTs, resulting in a nylon polymer composite with greater strength and toughness and opening the door for researchers to broadly improve the mechanical properties of such composites at the molecular level.

The carbon spacers act as linking segments, covalently bonding the nanotubes and nylon chains, improving both the toughness of the material and the strength. Previous attempts to create a carbon nanotube/nylon composite had resulted in a brittle material, a problem solved by the addition of these carbon spacers.

The resulting nanocomposites with the covalent bond exhibit as much as 160 percent higher modulus, 160 percent higher strength and 140 percent higher toughness.

"Nanotechnology is providing new composite materials with tunable mechanical properties," said Karen I. Winey, professor of materials science and engineering and also chemical and biomolecular engineering at Penn. "By adding covalently bonded carbon spacers to the filler-matrix interface in these composite, we have significantly improved their mechanical properties and perhaps demonstrated a broadly applicable approach to nanocomposite design."

California considering bill to lift nuclear power plant ban

A legislator from Southern California has introduced a bill to lift the state's ban on new nuclear power plants. The bill would give a boost to plans by investors to bring nuclear power to the heart of the San Joaquin Valley.

Update: Contact your california state assembly representative to indicate your support for this bill

Those who support the bill:
Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, R-Irvine. (introduced the bill)
"I think we need to at least advance the discussion," he said. "And if we're not ready to do it this year, I'm prepared to bring this bill back again and again."

"The entire Southern California area is really in a precarious position in terms of energy consumption and energy needs," said . "And it's only going to get worse before it gets better."

John Hutson, the Fresno Nuclear Energy Group's chief executive
Terry Caldwell, mayor of Victorville (population 100,000) in San Bernardino County

The Fresno Nuclear Energy Group LLC, which formed last year, signed a letter of intent with UniStar Nuclear Development LLC, a subsidiary of Constellation Energy in Baltimore, to design, build and operate a plant. Their preliminary plan calls for a single reactor generating 1,600 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 1.2 million homes. The Fresno firm is hoping to build the nuclear power plant next to a large sewage treatment plant and use its wastewater to cool the reactor.

Those who are against the bill:
The chairs of both the Assembly Committee on Natural Resources and the Utilities and Commerce Committee argue that there are plenty of other environment-friendly methods of generating electricity, such as geothermal, wind and solar power.

Less against:
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, has softened her previously hard-line stance against nuclear power.

Polling trends indicates shift to support for nuclear power:
July, 2006 poll by the Public Policy Institute of California, 39 percent of Californians surveyed said they supported the building of additional nuclear power plants, while 52 percent opposed the idea.
In 2005, the results were 33 percent in support and 59 percent opposed.

Opinions have shifted even more dramatically among likely voters. Last summer, that group was split down the middle at 46 percent on each side of the issue. In 2005, the result was 37 percent in support and 55 percent opposed.

April 03, 2007

Rapid Manufacturing state of the Art 2007

Open the future talked about a color 3D printer that has an impressive video and costs about $40,000.

$18,900 for a competing 3D printing system

The prototyping, and rapid manufacturing and 3D fabrication state of the art is surveyed here:

Rapid manufacturing is researched at many universities

Currently Rapid Manufacturing (RM) is the technique of creating production-grade parts directly for end-use with rapid prototyping equipment. It can provide speed and lifetime cost benefits over traditional manufacturing techniques, such as injection molding, for some products. Rapid manufacturing, also known as layered or direct digital manufacturing, best serves those customers who need custom or short-run production parts.

One Million dollar rapid manufacturing systems from companies like Optomec can sinter all kinds of metals and rapidly produce working electronics.

Complex metal prototyping including titanium (metal parts produced like those shown above). Using electron beam melting (EBM) technology will allow many manufacturers of medical devices the ability to reduce or eliminate non-digital technologies in the process of taking a design to a fully functional metal part.

3D Systems of Rock Hill, SC, plans to introduce a compact office modeler, the V-Flash, this summer. The 25 X 26 X 27-inch V-Flash desktop modeler will weigh about 100 lbs and have a maximum build volume of 7 X 9 inches and 8 inches tall with standard power requirements. It will be priced at $9,900. (Comparable to sterolithography)

A comparison of different rapid prototyping processes and products is made here

SLA (Stereolithography Apparatus) – Process using photosensitive resins cured by a laser that traces the parts cross sectional geometry layer by layer. SLA produces accurate models with a variety of material choices.

SLS (Selective Laser Sintering) – Process using a CO2 laser to sinter or fuse a powder material. The laser traces the parts cross sectional geometry layer by layer. SLS creates accurate and durable parts but finish out of machine is relatively poor.

FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) – Process using molten plastics or wax extruded by a nozzle that traces the parts cross sectional geometry layer by layer. FDM creates tough parts that are ideal for functional usage.

ZCorp (Z-Corp Three-Dimensional Printing) – Ink-jet based process that prints the parts cross sectional geometry on layers of powder spread on top of each other. This process enables models to be built quickly and affordably. Models may also be printed in color.

PJET (Polyjet) – This process is similar to stereolithography in that parts are made with a photosensitive resin. The difference is in how the resin is applied and cured to build the part.

Evolutionary progress would be to bring down the costs and revamp the processes of the more expensive equipment. The revolutionary approach is molecular manufacturing.

Bringing the costs down of the $1 million systems by 100 to 1000 times is not an inconceivable standard revolution, even without molecular manufacturing. Various laser sintering systems etc..

Instead of carbon dioxide lasers, solid state and fiber lasers using less expensive materials

100-3000 watts for the lasers for most industrial lasers. The Industrial laser market is examined here

Inkjets for organs including heart valves are progressing to general treatment for people in a few years.

some rapid manufacturing and prototyping sites:
Rapid Prototyping service bureau

Native protein nanolithography to work with fragile proteins

From Nanowerk a spotlight report on native protein nanolithography (NPNL) that allows the fabrication of bioactive protein nanoarrays down to a resolution of 50 nm in a fast and versatile manner without the need of vacuum or ambient atmosphere conditions – but under conditions of a physiological solution. This allow for nanopatterning of more fragile proteins.

The original paper is here at Nature Nanotechnology.

Fabrication of rewritable protein nanoarrays on SAMs by native protein nanolithography. (Image: Ali Tinazli)

NPNL serves requirements in nanobiotechnology, where physiological ambient conditions, such as in aqueous solution, are highly desirable for ensuring the preservation of biological functionality during and after array fabrication."
This new technique enables the fabrication of rewritable protein nanoarrays, allowing a previously unobtainable flexibility in nanolithography and experimentation in biosensing and single-molecule studies.
The researchers also demonstrated that this erase-and-write (i.e. 'displacement' and 'replacement') technique allows a more complex lateral organization of protein assemblies in multiplexed arrays, consisting of a series of different proteins and protein complexes in a unique orientation.

This system can be helpful in making protein assembly lines.

Synthetic Biology Approach to Biofuel

From MIT Technology Review: unlike the conventional genetic engineering currently used in the manufacture of antibiotics and protein drugs such as insulin, synthetic biology involves hacking the entire metabolic system--changing the structure of some proteins, altering the expression of others, and adding in genes from other organisms--to create an efficient microbial machine.

Amyris Biotechnology previous took artemisinin, a potent malaria drug derived from the sweet wormwood tree. By tinkering with yeast's metabolic processes, Keasling and his colleagues were able to boost its production of an artemisinin precursor a million-fold. After just two years of work, they are close to meeting their final goal for the drug--producing it in industrial quantities at prices affordable to developing nations. Now, having created microbial factories that can cheaply churn out carbon-based molecules, the group has turned its attention to biofuels.

Rather than trying to find better ways to make ethanol--the aim of most new biofuel efforts--the researchers chose to create entirely novel biofuels, guided by their own ideas about what a fuel might look like if designed from scratch. (Look in the Merck Index and pick the ideal compound). The researchers selected several candidate compounds based on their energy content (ethanol has only 70 percent the energy of gasoline), their volatility (an ideal fuel shouldn't evaporate too fast), and their solubility in water (unlike ethanol, a water-insoluble fuel could be piped around the country like petroleum. Amyris scientists are now designing metabolic pathways that yield these compounds and tinkering with them to make production as efficient as possible.

This is a powerful pre-molecular nanotechnology approach. Greater protein engineering capabilities can lead to full blown molecular nanotechnology.

April 02, 2007

Stem Cell breakthrough regrows Heart Valve

British scientists say they have succeeded in growing part of a human heart from stem cells in a medical research first with far-reaching implications. The researchers say it could mean replacement tissue for transplants could become available as quickly as three years, The (London) Guardian reported Monday. Reaching that level, however, will depend on the outcome of animal trials scheduled for this year, the newspaper said.

Yacoub was quoted as saying the latest work had brought forward the goal of growing a whole, beating human heart. The World Health Organization said 15 million people died of cardiovascular disease in 2005. By 2010, it is estimated that 600,000 people worldwide will need replacement heart valves.

Other recent stem cell news:
Heart attack patients who received an new intravenous adult stem cell therapy, Provacel(TM) also showed improved results.

Super wealthy changing Technology investment

Design for optical light frequency invisibility shell

Purdue University engineers, following mathematical guidelines devised in 2006 by physicists in the United Kingdom, have created a theoretical design, to make something invisible to one visible light frequency, that uses an array of tiny needles radiating outward from a central spoke.

Creating the tiny needles would require the same sort of equipment already used to fabricate nanotech devices. The needles in the theoretical design are about as wide as 10 nanometers, or billionths of a meter, and as long as hundreds of nanometers. They would be arranged in layers emanating from a central spoke in a cylindrical shape. A single nanometer is roughly the size of 20 hydrogen atoms strung together.

These two images (Cloak off, top. Cloak on, bottom) were taken from corresponding videos depicting scientific simulations performed at Purdue to show how objects might be "cloaked" to render them invisible. The new findings demonstrate how to cloak objects for any single wavelength, not for the entire frequency range of the visible spectrum. But the research represent a step toward creating an optical cloaking device that might work one day for all wavelengths of visible light. The videos show how light interacts with an uncloaked and cloaked object. When uncloaked, as depicted in the first image, light waves strike the object and bounce backward. As depicted in the second image, a cloaking device designed using nanotechnology guides light around anything placed inside this cloak. Credit: Birck Nanotechnology Center, Purdue University

Leonhardt says in his commentary that creating a cloak for rendering total invisibility in the entire visible spectrum would require "further advances in optical metamaterials, new combinations of nanotechnology with highly abstract ideas ..."

Garbage power

MIT Technology Review indicates plasma burning of garbage generates 6 times the energy consumed. There's enough energy in U.S. munici­pal and other waste to replace as much as a quarter of the gasoline the country uses, says ­Daniel Cohn, cofounder of IET and senior research scientist at the MIT center.

Previously this site covered microbial fuel cells. Waste water fuel cells can produce 18 watts per 260 gallons of water and achieved a charge efficiency of more than 70 percent.

Lesser developed countries discharge approximately (the equivalent of) 100 trillion gallons (380×10**9 m³) of untreated sewage per annum. This could potentially generate 7 Terawatts of power for them and clean up their waste water.

These kinds of approaches plus a lot more nuclear power and shifting to more electrical transportation (hybrids and all electric.)can be used to blunt peak oil.

April 01, 2007

Support Clean Air Bills to save thousands of lives and billions of dollars

New anti-air pollutions bills that are going before congress. The Clean Air Planning Act would save thousands of lives each year. For instance, EPA estimated that the previous bill, when compared to “Clear Skies” in 2010, would mean 10,000 fewer premature deaths, 15,000 fewer trips to the emergency room and 1 million fewer work days missed due to chronic illness. EPA’s analysis shows that in 2010 under the Clean Air Planning Act these and other benefits yield a cost-to-benefit ratio of greater than 10-to-1.
Clean Air Planning Act

Cap and Trade bill (2007)

Contact your Senator and your member of the House of Representatives to indicate your support for these bills.

Here are tips to making a good phone call to your representative or Senator

Tips on writing a good letter to your Representative or Senator

Clean energy group comment
and news coverage

Analysis of the prior version of the bill would save $65 billion in health costs in 5 years and $140 billion in 15 years.

Scaling up nuclear power and thorium energy would be the second wave to the new bills and could be used to eliminate coal power completely.

The bill passed in 2005 Clean Air interstate (CAIR) Seems to have avoided gutting the Clean Air Act of 1990 the way the Bush administration would have done with the Clear skies bill. But only improved things a bit in 29 states in terms of emissions.

comments on it
Sierra Club pdf on the CAIR

EPA analysis of the different proposals from 2003-2005. (pdf)

Congressional Research Service compared Bush vs Jeffords vs Carper Bills (pdf)

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