May 30, 2009

Another Graphene Sheet Production Method and Ion Beam Etching of Graphene

1. Graphene Sheets from worm-like graphite

Tsinghua University researchers have made high quality graphene sheets have been prepared by a facile liquid phase exfoliation of worm-like graphite (WEG). This approach combining with the advances in large scale industry manufacturing of WEG could potentially lead to the development of new and more effective graphene products.

Supplemental information is here

2. Etching of Graphene Devices with a Helium Ion Beam

We report on the etching of graphene devices with a helium ion beam, including in situ electrical measurement during lithography. The etching process can be used to nanostructure and electrically isolate different regions in a graphene device, as demonstrated by etching a channel in a suspended graphene device with etched gaps down to about 10nm. Graphene devices on SiO2 substrates etch with lower He ion doses and are found to have a residual conductivity after etching, which we attribute to contamination by hydrocarbons.

The full pdf copy of the ion beam etching of graphene.

Schematic of a graphene device. Inset: Photograph of the microscope chamber
with installed chip.

May 28, 2009

Google Wave and More from the Google I/O Developers Conference

RNA and DNA Engineered to Count While in Living Cells

Researchers are focusing on designing small biological circuit components to accomplish specific tasks.

Journal Science abstract.

Supplemental material.

To demonstrate their concept, the team built circuits that count up to three cellular events, but in theory, the counters could go much higher.

The first counter, dubbed the RTC (Riboregulated Transcriptional Cascade) Counter, consists of a series of genes, each of which produces a protein that activates the next gene in the sequence.

With the first stimulus -- for example, an influx of sugar into the cell -- the cell produces the first protein in the sequence, an RNA polymerase (an enzyme that controls transcription of another gene). During the second influx, the first RNA polymerase initiates production of the second protein, a different RNA polymerase.

The number of steps in the sequence is, in theory, limited only by the number of distinct bacterial RNA polymerases. "Our goal is to use a library of these genes to create larger and larger cascades," said Lu.

The counter's timescale is minutes or hours, making it suitable for keeping track of cell divisions. Such a counter would be potentially useful in studies of aging.

The RTC Counter can be "reset" to start counting the same series over again, but it has no way to "remember" what it has counted. The team's second counter, called the DIC (DNA Invertase Cascade) Counter, can encode digital memory, storing a series of "bits" of information.

The process relies on an enzyme known as invertase, which chops out a specific section of double-stranded DNA, flips it over and re-inserts it, altering the sequence in a predictable way.

The DIC Counter consists of a series of DNA sequences. Each sequence includes a gene for a different invertase enzyme. When the first activation occurs, the first invertase gene is transcribed and assembled. It then binds the DNA and flips it over, ending its own transcription and setting up the gene for the second invertase to be transcribed next.

When the second stimulus is received, the cycle repeats: The second invertase is produced, then flips the DNA, setting up the third invertase gene for transcription. The output of the system can be determined when an output gene, such as the gene for green fluorescent protein, is inserted into the cascade and is produced after a certain number of inputs or by sequencing the cell's DNA.

This circuit could in theory go up to 100 steps (the number of different invertases that have been identified). Because it tracks a specific sequence of stimuli, such a counter could be useful for studying the unfolding of events that occur during embryonic development, said Lu.

Other potential applications include programming cells to act as environmental sensors for pollutants such as arsenic. Engineers would also be able to specify the length of time an input needs to be present to be counted, and the length of time that can fall between two inputs so they are counted as two events instead of one.

They could also design the cells to die after a certain number of cell divisions or night-day cycles.

New Projectors Will Enable Large Displays and More Usefulness from Small Computers and Smartphones

Light Blue Optics : Holographic Displays
Light Blue Optics (LBO) holographic laser projection technology creates very bright, high-resolution images that remain in focus at all distances from the pico projector. This novel display technology will enable a new generation of highly efficient, low-cost miniature projection systems with applications across a range of high-volume markets.

Light Blue Optics is also developing technology to let the device sense when a user touches different parts of the projected image, turning the surface into a touch screen.

Advantages of Holographic Laser Projection
Low Speckle Contrast: One of the huge advantages of LBO’s technology is the ability to substantially reduce laser speckle, a phenomenon that makes the image “sparkle” due to scattering of coherent light from an optically rough projection surface and subsequent interference at the retina. The ability to reduce speckle is important because, not only do users find the artifact very unpleasant, it also severely impacts the perceived image quality and effective resolution.

High Brightness and Efficiency: It has previously been shown15 that, due to the phase-modulating approach to image formation, a holographic display can project significantly brighter images than imaging and scanned-beam systems when displaying video and photo content. In addition, because the image pixels are formed using an expanded beam which has an extremely wide projection angle, it is possible to make a holographic laser projection system much brighter than a scanned-beam display for the equivalent laser safety classification.

LBO believes it can bring this truly disruptive display technology to market in 2009.

Microvision: Laser Pico projector
Later in 2009, Microvision, based in Redmond, WA, plans to launch a laser-based micro-projector. Using solid-state lasers and MEMS-based mirrors allows the technology to be miniaturized further. Laser projectors also promise to deliver more-vibrant and -colorful images. Microvision's micro-projector can also refocus automatically.

Microvision mockup

Pico-projectors that are available now

MIT Technology Review has pico-projector coverage

Aiptek V10+

This micro-projector works with a range of portable gadgets: cell phones, DVDs, and video cameras. It comes with speakers and two gigabytes of built-in memory, which can be extended up to eight gigabytes with its internal SD/MMC memory card slot. This allows images or a presentation to be loaded onto one single handheld device. The built-in memory allows a user to share content by recording it directly from another device while also projecting it. The V10+ supports AVI, ASF, MEPG4, and JPEG file formats and displays images with a resolution of 640 X 480.

3M MPro110

This projector is designed more for business users who don't want to lug around a heavy projector. It's particularly good for PowerPoint presentations and can cast a 125-centimeter image from just 1.2 meters away, with a resolution of 640 x 480. Unlike other micro-projectors, the MPro110 comes with its own miniature tripod, which is handy if you don't want to balance the device on books or hold it. On the downside, it doesn't come with speakers or an audio-out socket.

Adapt Pico Projector

The Pico Projector, made by Taipei-based Adapt, features a Video/VGA cable input and no speakers, so it also seems that it is aimed at professional or business users. Under the hood, however, the Pico packs more punch than its competitors, offering 17 lumens--the perceived intensity of light--compared with the 10 lumens offered by the other two projectors. As a result, the image appears much clearer in lighter conditions, or at least requires less-dark conditions for viewing. The Pico will display 125-centimeter-wide images at a 640 x 480 resolution, features one gigabyte of built-in memory, and will run for about an hour on its lithium-ion batteries.

Virtual Keyboards Exist Now but are Pricy

I-tech's virtual laser keyboard cost about $150

Another virtual keyboard idea is to use the camera on a phone to capture finger movements and convert them to keys on keyboard displayed on the phone.

Carbon Atomic Chains from Graphene

Optimized geometries of carbon atomic chains constrained by two GNRs with various types of edges. (a) a 8-sp-atom chain bridging two GNRs with 5-7 edges,
(b) a 9-sp-atom chain bridging two GNRs with zigzag edges, (c) a 10-sp-atom chain bridging two GNRs with armchair edges, (d) a 12-sp-atom chain bridging two GNRs with armchair edges. The unit for bond length is Å.

Physics Letters has an article on carbon atomic chains being produced from graphene.

Stable and rigid carbon atomic chains were experimentally realized by removing carbon atoms row by row from graphene through the controlled energetic electron irradiation inside a transmission electron microscope. The observed structural dynamics of carbon atomic chains such as formation, migration, and breakage were well explained by density-functional theory calculations. The method we reported here is promising to investigate all-carbon-based devices with the carbon atomic chains as the conducting channel, which can be regarded as the ultimate basic component of molecular devices

4 pages of supplemental material.

Nanowerk has coverage

"Our approach to realize freestanding carbon atomic chains employs energetic electron irradiation inside a transmission electron microscope," Kazu Suenaga explains to Nanowerk. "A graphene nanoribbon was continuously thinned from its two open ends by removing carbon atomic rows. This thinning process stops when the number of carbon atomic rows becomes two or one. This way we could reproducibly fabricate single and double freestanding carbon atoms chains."

Suenaga, who heads the Nanoscale Characterization Team at the AIST Carbon Center in Japan, points out that these chains show a remarkably good stability with a length up to a few nanometers even under the irradiation of energetic 120 keV electron beams.

Although the potential applications of a carbon atomic chain are still unclear, such an ideal one-dimensional carbon chain can be regarded as an ultimate basic component for electronic devices.

Suenaga mentions that the chains definitely show a quantum transport and one can therefore anticipate to integrate a million of the carbon chain devices just by patterning a single graphene layer. "This can be a real merit as opposed to the case of nanotubes, because the integration of nanotube devices on a substrate has turned out to be quite difficult," he says.

The researchers expect excellent electronic transport properties for cumulenes (.C=C=C=C.) and we can therefore assume that carbon atomic chains can serve as outstanding sensors, since the electronic transport properties should be significantly affected by dopants and absorbent (such as some chemical or biological species).

Carbon atomic chains may also find possible applications in logical devices, such as switches or bi-stable memory. According to Suenaga, the change of contact of such carbon chains with graphene has recently been proposed as a mechanism for the atomic-scale switches

Superconductor Improvements: Critical Current and Critical Temperature

1. Superconductor Meissner Transition found at 242 K reports efforts to increase the Tc of the 233K superconductive material, announced in March 2009, have been successful. Producing a new world record near 242K (-24F, -31C), the host compound has the formula (Tl4Ba)Ba4Ca2Cu10Oy and is believed to have a 9212/2212C intergrowth structure.

The chemical formula is written (Tl4Ba)Ba4 to indicate an extra barium atom is being substituted into a thallium atomic site. The purpose behind this 20% substitution is to hole-dope the insulating layer. Potential heavy metal dopants with oxidation states lower than +3 included mercury, cadmium and barium. However, both mercury and cadmium create a topological defect in the structure due to their affinity for other atomic sites. This left barium as the best candidate for doping.

2. Enhanced critical current densities in MgB2 by mixing relatively impure boron powders

S K Chen (Universiti Putra Malaysia) and J L MacManus-Driscoll (University of Cambridge)

Polycrystalline MgB2 samples were prepared from 99.98% purity Mg powder and different mixtures of relatively impure boron (99% pure crystalline boron and 95–97% amorphous boron) precursor powders. At both 6 and 20 K, for the mixed boron samples a doubling in Jc was observed over the highest values for single precursor samples. It is shown that the enhanced Jc results from the mixing effect of using different reaction rates of the different boron precursor powders. The work represents a cost-effective means of significantly improving current carrying performance in MgB2 conductors.

By use of two different boron precursor powders (99% pure crystalline B and 95–97% amorphous boron), MgB2 samples were fabricated with enhanced Jc(B) behaviors by more than a factor of two over samples made from the single precursors. Grain size bimodality and associated disorder were enhanced in the mixed powders, leading to enhanced pinning effective to at least 4.5 T at 6 K and to around 3 T at 20 K. Compared to expensive, high purity amorphous boron, only a small compromise in Jc is observed by use of the optimum powder mixture. The work represents a very practical, simple and cost-effective means of improving current carrying performance in MgB2. With further pinning additions to the powders (e.g. addition of nanoparticles) and optimization of heat treatments, yet further enhancement in Jc(B) is expected.

Carnival of Space 104: 2nd Anniversary

Carnival of Space 104 is up at Mangs Bat page

Cosmic log looks at the past and future of new space like Spacex

Flysinger looks at Herschel space telescope and the Planck observatory

The Herschel spacecraft that was launched by ESA earlier this week is super-cool. Literally. This advanced telescope for far-infrared and millimeter-wave observations has a supply of liquid helium on board to keep its sensors cooled below 2 K (less than 2 degrees above absolute zero).

Herschel was launched with a companion spacecraft called Planck, which is a microwave observatory designed to study tiny fluctuations in the cosmic microwave background radiation (CMB), allowing scientists to infer the structure of the early universe as early as 380,000 years after the Big Bang (that's only about 0.003% of the estimated age of the universe, 13.5 to 14 billion years).

Out of the Cradle offers up an EVA interview with Paul Eckert about the 6th Space Investment Summit.

Check out the Carnival of Space 104 at Mangs Bat page for a lot more

Superconducting Computer Chip Breakthrough

Artist view of the implantation of gallium ions (animated in blue) into germanium wafers followed by a reconstruction of the lattice using short-term flash-lamp annealing and, finally, of the observation of superconductivity at low temperatures. Other than in normal conductors, superconductivity is caused by the formation of electron pairs with anti-parallel momentum and spin (animated in red).

Scientists at the Forschungszentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (FZD) research center were now able to produce superconducting germanium for the first time. Furthermore, they could unravel a few of the mysteries which come along with superconducting semiconductors. Their findings are published - marked as editor's choice - in the recent issue of "Physical Review Letters".

At the FZD, germanium samples were doped with about six gallium atoms per 100 germanium atoms. With these experiments, the scientists could prove indeed that the doped germanium layer of only sixty nanometers thickness became superconducting, and not just the clusters of foreign atoms which could easily form during extreme doping .

As the germanium lattice is heavily damaged by ion implantation, it has to be repaired afterwards. For such purposes, a flash-lamp annealing facility has been developed at the FZD. Its application allows for a repair of the destroyed crystal lattice by rapidly heating the sample surface (within few milliseconds) while the distribution of the dopant atoms is kept almost the same.

From a scientific point of view, the new material is very promising. It exhibits a surprisingly high critical magnetic field with respect to the temperature where the substance becomes superconducting. For many materials, superconductivity occurs only at very low temperatures, slightly above the absolute zero point of -273 degrees Celsius or 0 Kelvin. The gallium doped germanium samples become superconducting at about 0.5 Kelvin; however, the FZD researchers expect the temperature to increase further by changing various parameters during ion implantation or annealing.

Physicists have been dreaming about superconducting semiconductors for a long time, but saw only few chances for the semiconductor germanium to become superconducting at all. Germanium used to be the material for the first generation of transistors; however, it was soon replaced by silicon, the current material for microelectronics. Recently, the "old" semiconductor material germanium has aroused more and more interest, as it allows, compared to silicon, for more rapid circuits. Experts even believe germanium to be rediscovered for micro- and nanoelectronics. The reason for such a renaissance lies in the fact that miniaturization in microelectronics industry using silicon is coming to an end. Today, extremely thin oxide layers are needed for transistors, down to a level where silicon oxide does not work well any more. Germanium as a new material for chips would come along with two big advantages: it would enable both faster processes and further miniaturization in micro- and nanoelectronics. Superconducting germanium could thus help to realize circuits for novel computers.

Abstract: Superconducting State in a Gallium-Doped Germanium Layer at Low Temperatures

We demonstrate that the third elemental group-IV semiconductor, germanium, exhibits superconductivity at ambient pressure. Using advanced doping and annealing techniques of state-of-the-art semiconductor processing, we have fabricated a highly Ga-doped Ge (Ge:Ga) layer in near-intrinsic Ge. Depending on the detailed annealing conditions, we demonstrate that superconductivity can be generated and tailored in the doped semiconducting Ge host at temperatures as high as 0.5 K. Critical-field measurements reveal the quasi-two-dimensional character of superconductivity in the ~60 nm thick Ge:Ga layer. The Cooper-pair density in Ge:Ga appears to be exceptionally low.

Next Big Future at the Singularity University July 16, 2009

The Singularity University plans to offer a 9 week course this summer from 27 June - 29 Aug 2009, at NASA Research Park at Moffet Field. In March, the Singularity University had received preliminary applications from 1300 potential students for 40 slots.

On Thursday, July 16th (11:30-12:30), Brian Wang of Next Big Future will speak on the "Latest Developments in Nanotechnology".

This talk will cover the latest in self assembly, DNA nanotechnology, but also stuff with graphene, carbon nanotubes, particles, drug delivery, Reprap and other desktop fabrication systems.

This talk will not be covering theory or projected future results, but rather what has actually been done in the lab (or fielded in actual products, in a few cases) as of today. It is one of 7 core lectures in the Nanotech Track and is intended to provide an overview of the most current results in nanotechnology from the forefront of research in labs all over the world. This will be a presentation of the leading edge of “what can already be done today".

Ralph Merkle and Robert Freitas are co-Chairs of the Nanotechnology Track (one of ten tracks) of the Singularity University.

There will also be specific talks prior to this one covering MEMS (1 hour), self-assembly (1 hour), Diamond Mechano Synthesis (DMS) (1 hour), and molecular machinery (1 hour), but specific areas in these topics will also be in the overview of latest developments where they have made important progress.

May 27, 2009

Senator Lamar Alexander Calls for 100 Nuclear Reactors Built in USA by 2030

Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today told participants at the Tennessee Valley Corridor National Summit that “the United States should build 100 new nuclear power plants during the next 20 years” to put America on the path to clean energy independence.

He said, “One year ago, I came to Oak Ridge to propose a new ‘Manhattan Project’ to put America on the path to clean energy independence. The project would focus on seven ‘grand challenges’: plug-in electric cars and trucks, carbon capture from coal plants, making solar power cost-competitive, recycling used nuclear fuel, advanced biofuels from crops we don’t eat, green buildings and, finally, fusion.

“Today I am in Oak Ridge to propose that the United States build 100 new nuclear power plants during the next 20 years while scientists and engineers figure out these grand challenges. This would double America’s nuclear plants which today produce 20 percent of all our electricity, but 70 percent of our pollution-free, carbon-free electricity.

"Right now there are 17 proposals for 26 new reactors in licensing hearings before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. That’s a start. But I think we need to go well beyond that. I propose that from the years 2010 to 2030 we build 100 new nuclear reactors to match the ones we already have operating.

Making 100 traditional light water nuclear reactors in the United States by 2030 would be possible by green lighting the Idaho National Labs Strategic plan and working flat out and reducing some of the regulatory delays.

It would be easier to reach the goal of doubling the power from nuclear by developing factory mass produced nuclear reactors.

Liquid Fluoride thorium Reactors are one possible approach.

Pebble bed reactors could also be cranked out in factories and mass produced.

The 11 best nuclear fission and nuclear fusion technologies to develop are listed here.

New Pictures of Helion Energy Fusion Plans

Helion Energy has built a one third scale fusion system and believes a full scale prototype can be buit for $20 million a commercial system for $100 million. One of the reasons that they believe their costs can be lower is because smaller generators in general cost less.

Torulf has created graphic animations and images of the Helion Energy fusion reactor.

The Helion Energy Field Reversed Configuration (FRC) System is actively discussed at Talk Polywell.

Japanese scientists create transgenic monkeys

UPDATE: MIT Technology Review has coverage and the above pictures of the glow in the dark monkeys.

The Nature journal abstract is here

Eight pages of supplemental information is here

Japanese scientists have created the world's first transgenic primates, breeding monkeys with a gene that made the animals' skin glow a fluorescent green. This can lead to better animal models of human diseases for better and faster pre-clinical work. It can also lead to transhuman people and genetic enhancement of humans. It is germline genetic engineering of animals that are closer to human than previous animals.

In a study published in the British journal Nature, a team led by Erika Sasaki of the Central Institute for Experimental Animals at Keio University reported on experiments on common marmosets (Callithrix jacchus), a small monkey native to Brazil.

They introduced a foreign gene, tucked inside a virus, into marmoset embryos that were then nurtured in a bath of sucrose.

The gene codes for green fluorescent protein (GFP), a substance that was originally isolated from a jellyfish and is now commonly used as a biotech marker. An animal tagged with GFP glows green when exposed to ultraviolet light, proving that a key gene sequence has been switched on.

The transgenic embryos were then implanted in the uterus of seven surrogate mother marmosets.

Three of recipients miscarried. The other four gave birth to five offspring, all of which carried the GFP gene.

In two of these five, the GFP gene had been incorporated into the reproductive cells. A second generation of marmosets was then derived from one of the two.

It could eventually lead to lab monkeys that replicate some of humanity's most devastating diseases, providing a new model for exploring how these disorders are caused and how they may be cured.

"Great advances in pre-clinical research can be expected using these models," the team said.

But other voices warned of a potential ethics storm, brewed by fears that technology used on our closest animal relatives could be turned to create genetically-engineered humans.

Energy Information Administration Projections to 2030 Assume that China Will Not Meet Nuclear Targets

The 2009 Energy Information Administration Projections to 2030 have been released.

The highest energy growth case has China at 274 billion kilowatt hours for 2020 and 426 billion kilowatt hours for 2030. China is increasing its nuclear build targets to 75 gigawatts for 2020 and 104 nuclear reactors for 2030. The 2030 reactors would mostly be larger 1.7GWe versions of the AP1000. A previous target for 2030 was 160 gigawatts when the 2020 target was still 50-60 gigwatts. A more recent target for 2030 was to generate 16% of China's total power needs which would be aboutr 250 GWe.

If China is able to achieve the 75 gigawatt target for 2020 then it would seem that the 2030 target would be about 200 gigawatts. In 2007, nuclear power in China provided 62.86 billion kWh - 2.3% of total, and there is now 8.6 GWe (net) installed.

Using the same capacity factors as China currently has the 75 GWe for 2020 would achieve 548 billion kWh. The USA was able to achieve 806 billion kwh from 101 GWe using 91.8% utilization. If China was able to achieve that level of utilization then 75 GWe would produce 598 billion kWh.

If China in 2030 was able to achieve its 250 GWe target that would be more than double the current USA nuclear power and achieving over 2000 billion kWh. This would be over 1500 billion kWh higher than the high projection from the IEA for 2030.

The IEA projections for Russia are also far lower than what Russia is planning to build.

China, Russia, India, Brazil and South Korea seem likely to have far higher nuclear reactor build than the IEA projection.

Also, there is the possibility that success with uranium hydride Hyperion Power Generation, China's plan for factory mass produced High Temperature Pebble reactors or IEC nuclear fusion would vastly increase the amount of power from nuclear energy.

Russia is looking to double its current nuclear power generation to 51 GWe by 2020.

Goldman Sachs slides on nuclear power. H/T Dan Yurman at Idaho Samizdat.

EIA 2009 Outlook:

Non-OECD Asia leads the world in installing new nuclear capacity in the IEO2009 reference case, accounting for 54 percent of the projected net increment in nuclear capacity worldwide (or 72 gigawatts of the total 132-gigawatt increase). China, in particular, has expansive plans for nuclear power, with a net 47 gigawatts of additional capacity projected to be installed by 2030. Currently, 11 nuclear power plants are under construction in China, including 6 for which construction was
started in 2008. [International Atomic Energy Association is the March 2009 source fir EIAWith generation from coal, natural gas, and renewable energy sources also expected to continue increasing rapidly, however, the nuclear share of total generation in China increases only from 2 percent in 2006 to 5 percent in 2030.

China has 12 nuclear plants under construction now and will have 12 more starting by the end of 2009. China's People's Daily reported Feb 2009 that 22 new nuclear reactors were already under construction. (20 of the 22 apply CPR-1000, the China-developed second-generation technology.) The 47 net GWe of new nuclear power in China for 2030 is a massively low estimate.

Technology Roundup

1. Unity Semiconductor, a Silicon Valley start‐up that will serve the semiconductor data storage memory market as a designer, developer and manufacturer of non‐volatile memory (NVM) ICs, has announced a breakthrough technology called CMOx, which is based on the use of conductive metal oxides in the semiconductor process that allows for ionic motion.

Unity said the next-generation NVM technology yields products with 4x the density and 5-10x the write speed of today's NAND flash.

Unity Semiconductor has several unique business concepts. Key among these is the separation of the processing of the front‐end‐of‐line (FEOL) CMOS base wafer from the back‐end‐of‐line (BEOL) memory layer processing. No new process technology is needed in the CMOS base wafer, which can be fabricated at a CMOS logic foundry with existing production capability and capacity. But unlike all other dense memory technologies, CMOx allows use of an FEOL process that trails the BEOL process by several generations. For example, Unity can fabricate a competitive 64Gb memory using a trailing edge CMOS (90 nm) process.

The initial CMOxTM 64 Gb‐device is expected to clock up to 100 MHz and to have a maximum data rate of 200 MB/sec. Sustained write speeds of 60 MB/s are expected, with sustained read speeds of 100 MB/s.

Unity Semiconductor is a well‐funded start‐up with nearly $65M invested, to date, by top‐tier venture capital firms and a major hard‐disk drive (HDD) manufacturer.

2. Gene therapy and stem cells work together. NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell researchers discuss a combined approach to maximize benefits and minimize risks of stem cell therapy.

The best chance of circumventing these issues (tumors, side effects, stem cells going where you do not want them) is genetic modification of the stem cells prior to actually transplanting them, Dr. Crystal says. Theoretically, this is similar to how gene therapy is used to treat cancer, but with important improvements.

"Instead of gene therapy being done in the patient, as is the case in cancer, it's being done in the cells in a laboratory before doctors use them for therapy so that they still have control of these cells," Dr. Crystal explains.

Therapists would rig certain genes to respond to a "remote control" signal. For instance, giving a certain drug could prompt a "suicide" gene to kill a budding tumor.

But gene therapy also needs to be carefully done and, ideally, two independent gene-manipulation systems would be used to ensure that stem cells remain firmly in the control of clinicians.

3. From Sweden, stem cells unlock other therapies.

New treatments for the devastating Parkinson's disease and ALS are in clinical studies in Sweden, thanks to breaking new stem cell research. A first-in-human study was just initiated for Parkinson's disease patients with the drug product, sNN0031, from the Swedish company NeuroNova. The drug, which is administered into the fluid-filled cavities of the brain, has shown long lasting recovery and formation of new cells in animal models of Parkinson's disease. Last year, a treatment for ALS entered the clinical trial phase.

4. Wings which redirect air to waggle sideways could cut airline fuel bills by 20% according to research funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and Airbus in the UK.

The new approach, which promises to dramatically reduce mid-flight drag, uses tiny air powered jets which redirect the air, making it flow sideways back and forth over the wing.

The jets work by the Helmholtz resonance principle - when air is forced into a cavity the pressure increases, which forces air out and sucks it back in again, causing an oscillation – the same phenomenon that happen when blowing over a bottle.

“The truth is we’re not exactly sure why this technology reduces drag but with the pressure of climate change we can’t afford to wait around to find out. So we are pushing ahead with prototypes and have a separate three year project to look more carefully at the physics behind it.”

If successful this technology could also have a major impact on the aerodynamic design and fuel consumptions of cars, boats and trains.

Engineers have known for some time that tiny ridges known as ‘riblets’ - like those found on sharks bodies - can reduce skin-friction drag, (a major portion of mid-flight drag), by around 5%. But the new micro-jet system being developed by Dr Lockerby and his colleagues could reduce skin friction drag by up to 40%.

5. HRL Laboratories, LLC, reached another milestone in the Carbon Electronics for RF Applications, or CERA program, which seeks to exploit the unique physical characteristics of graphene carbon to create electronic components that will enable unprecedented capabilities in high-bandwidth communications, imaging and radar systems.

The team has continued to optimize material synthesis and device processing and recently demonstrated epitaxial graphene FETs on a two-inch wafer scale. "They have world-record field effect mobility of ~6000 cm^2/Vs, which is six to eight times higher than current state-of-the-art silicon n-MOSFETs (metal-oxide semiconductor field effect transistors)." The epitaxial graphene transistors also show excellent I-V saturation behaviors with the highest reported Ion/Ioff ratio of 19.

Moon is confident the process and technology will continue to progress to meet the program's final Phase 1 metric: >10,000 cm^2/Vs Hall mobility. "The results and rate of progress validate our technical approach," he said. "We are confident that we will soon meet the extremely challenging graphene transistor Phase I metrics."

6. 'Blue brain' project to build a functional model of the mammalian brain Spain is to use a nanotechnology microscope for brain studies as part of the Blue Brain project. The initiative is CSIC researcher Javier de Felipe's brainchild, and researchers at the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid's School of Computing are developing a series of tools to analyse and interpret microscope data.

The use of this microscope signifies a major technological advance. On one hand, electron microscopes provide a limited detail level for brain cells studies. On the other, the nanotech microscope outputs samples of brain tissue in just two hours, something that, using other technologies, it would take two technicians a year to do.

Bayer Starts Building 200ton/year carbon nanotube plant and Nanocomp gets More Stimulus Funding

Bayer has begun construction of a carbon nanotube factory with a capacity of 200 tons/year. They are investing 22 million euro in the plant. They have had a plant with 60 ton/year capacity since 2007.

A mid-2008 nextbigfuture look at carbon nanotube production.

Nanocomp Technologies, Inc., [they make large sheets of carbon nanotubes] a developer of energy saving performance materials and component products from carbon nanotubes (CNTs), announced that it has been awarded a research contract to further develop nanotechnology-based products for use in aerospace applications. The contract comes on the heels of Nanocomp’s recent receipt of two awards by the Department of Defense under its Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.

The high thermal and electrical conductivity of CNTs, combined with their extreme strength to weight ratio, make the Company’s materials attractive for use in aerospace engineering. As such, Nanocomp will use this funding to advance the suitability of nanotube-based material for a number of aerospace applications, ranging from thermal management and electromagnetic shielding to electrical and power generation system enhancements.


A previous interview at Nextbigfuture with Peter ANtoinnette, President of Nanocomp Technologies.

Nanocomp also was appointed to Senator Shaheen's (D-NH) Small Business Advisory Council.

Nanofountain Pen Can Place Nanodiamonds with 1000 Times Higher Resolution and inject Single Cells with Functionalized Nanodiamonds

Nanofountain pen can use functionalized nanodiamonds for many applications. The placement of nanodiamonds is one thousand times more precise than previous methods.

Nanodiamonds are rapidly emerging as promising carriers for next-generation therapeutics and drug delivery. However, developing future nanoscale devices and arrays that harness these nanoparticles will require unrealized spatial control. Furthermore, single-cell in vitro transfection methods lack an instrument that simultaneously offers the advantages of having nanoscale dimensions and control and continuous delivery via microfluidic components. To address this, two modes of controlled delivery of functionalized diamond nanoparticles are demonstrated using a broadly applicable nanofountain probe, a tool for direct-write nanopatterning with sub-100-nm resolution and direct in vitro single-cell injection. This study demonstrates the versatility of the nanofountain probe as a tool for high-fidelity delivery of functionalized nanodiamonds and other agents in nanomanufacturing and single-cell biological studies. These initial demonstrations of controlled delivery open the door to future studies examining the nanofountain probe's potential in delivering specific doses of DNA, viruses, and other therapeutically relevant biomolecules.

Chemistry world has coverage of this work.

Researchers in the US have created a 'fountain pen' probe that can pattern nanodiamonds at high resolution and inject them into single cells. The probe could be used as a research and development tool for creating nanodiamond devices and exploring the effect of single cells carrying medical drugs.

Horacio Espinosa and others at Northwestern University in Evanston, US, have created a tool that they say offers more control over nanodiamond placement. It consists of the probe of an atomic force microscope that has been modified to house a reservoir filled with an 'ink' of nanodiamonds in solution. 'It's just like a fountain pen,' said Owen Loh, a member of the group.

Such nanofountain probes have been employed for placement of nanoparticles before, but never with nanodiamonds. In one mode, the Northwestern group's probe can pattern nanodiamonds onto a substrate with a resolution better than 100nm, three orders of magnitude finer than previously achievable. Loh told Chemistry World this ability could help seed the growth of nanodiamond thin films. In the past, nanodiamond thin films have been shown, for example, to prevent the re-growth of tumours when combined with anti-cancer drugs and implanted into the human body.

In a second mode, the probe can inject nanodiamonds into single cells. Until now it had only been possible to test nanodiamond drug delivery on populations of cells, and Loh said that the potential for more precise application will help scientists understand how drug-laden cells interact with their neighbours.

The group is presently collaborating with biologists and focusing on how to exploit the benefits of single-cell injection. 'The key part is that [both modes] are in the same tool, so researchers only need to familiarise themselves with one tool,' Loh added.

3 pages of supporting information.

May 26, 2009

Beyond Cloud Computing, Global Computers and World Operating Systems

*TFLOPS is the actual teraflops from the software cores, not the peak values from CPU/GPU/PS3 specs. Please see our main FAQ, FLOPS FAQ, PS3 FAQ, NVIDIA GPU FAQ, or ATI GPU FAQ for more details on specific platforms. Active means those that have returned within 10-50 days depending upon the type of processor.

Folding@home the largest distributed computing effort has 8.3 petaflops of computing power in active utilization.

This effort represents one of the larger current "World Computers" -400,000 active for folding@home, 30,000 GPGPUs provide 68% of the processing and 36,600 Playstations 3 represent 25% of the rest of the processing power.

The number of machines with GPGPU co-processing or that will have cell processors will increase as a percentage.

AMD Fusion which combines standard processors with a GPGPU is currently expected inthe second half of 2011.

Intel Larrabee chip is expected for 2010 and should have 1-2 teraflops of performance.

The Nvidia and AMD GPGPUs will be shifting to 40 nm processes (in 2009) and then to 32 nm (2010-2011). The new chips faster and more energy efficient. Nvidia has taped out 40nm GPGPUs

Participation continues to grow and if by 2011 almost all of about 1 million active participating computers had 1 teraflops of performance then the combined power would be 1 exaflop.

There are 100 million GPGPU from NVidia.

The power of GPGPU. The same processing power in ten times less space.

There are over 1 billion personal computers and annual sales are about 300-400 million worldwide each year.

Conflicker is a computer virus that infected 12 million computers and something like it could theoretically utilize the computing power of those millions of infected computers. A World operating system would need to be able dynamically bring in computers like such software but in a well behaved way that also dynamically releases resources according to the settings and wishes of the computer owner.

Cloud computing provides a platform for running scalable applications on large grids of computers, but not all applications are suitable to run on cloud computers.

Cloud computing will likely evolve to become a more flexible, powerful and stable global scale operating systems.

Cloud computing technical discussion "cloud server operating system is a stripped down version of standard installations without a need for direct hard drive interfaces or other peripherals."

VMWare has a vision for enabling data and IT centers to enable cloud functionality.

There is a discussion of the own nothing cloud - public clouds and private clouds at CNET.

Well behaved global operating systems would have the security and reliability to allow computers to cleanly move in and out of different clouds and for each system to be cleanly and dynamically partitioned.

By 2015-2020, such World computing systems could have as many as a billion or so computing devices in participation at various points. The 2015 system could have zettaflops under its command.

May 24, 2009

Scientists Identify a Key Protein That May Explain The Anti-Aging and Anti-Cancer Benefits of Dietary Restriction

High nutrients activate HIF-1 through the TOR-S6K pathway, which leads to increased ER stress and shortened lifespan. Other regulators such as PHA-4, SKN-1, AAK-2, DAF-16 and HSF-1 may function in parallel to HIF-1 to modulate DR-induced longevity phenotypes.

A protein that plays a key role in tumor formation, oxygen metabolism and inflammation is involved in a pathway that extends lifespan by dietary restriction.

The finding, which appears in the May 22, 2009 edition of the on-line journal PLoS Genetics, provides a new understanding of how dietary restriction contributes to longevity and cancer prevention and gives scientists new targets for developing and testing drugs that could extend the healthy years of life.

The protein is HIF-1 (hypoxia-inducible factor 1). It helps cells survive by turning on when oxygen levels are low. HIF-1 is also active in some forms of human cancer. HIF-1 overexpression is frequently detected in solid tumors; inhibition of HIF-1 has been proved to be an efficient way to prevent cancer growth. Now, scientists at the Buck Institute for Age Research have shown that HIF-1 is also a key player in dietary restriction. HIF-1 is involved in a molecular pathway known to regulate cell growth and metabolism in response to nutrients and growth factors.

Previous studies on HIF-1 have mainly focused on its roles in oxygen metabolism and tumor development, said Buck faculty member Pankaj Kapahi, PhD, lead author of the study. Kapahi says the study encourages the investigation of HIF-1 in nutrient sensing pathways. The data in this study also points to HIF-1 as a likely target for regulating the protective effects of dietary restriction in mammals, said Kapahi. Dietary restriction is one of the most robust methods for extending lifespan and delaying age-related disease among various species.

Kapahi says the molecular mechanisms involved in how dietary restriction slows cancer and extends lifespan have been largely unknown. This study gets us closer to understanding that process and gives us better targets for both designing and testing drugs which could mimic the effects of dietary restriction in humans, said Kapahi.

The research involved nematode worms that were genetically altered to both under and over-express HIF-1. The animals, which are the most-often used model to study aging, were fed different diets. Animals that were designed to over-express HIF-1 did not get the benefit of lifespan extension even though their diets were restricted. Animals that under-expressed HIF-1 lived longer, even when they had a nutrient-rich diet. Furthermore, it was found that the lifespan extension resulting from dietary restriction required activity in signaling pathways in the endoplasmic reticulum, the part of the cell involved in processing and the proper folding of proteins. This finding supports the theory that aging stems from the effects of misfolded proteins and opens up a rich area of investigation to examine the mechanisms by which stress in the endoplasmic reticulum affects lifespan.

(A) Survival curves of N2 animals fed with E. coli at different concentrations (1.0×10**8 to 1.0×10**12 cfu/ml) during adulthood. Mean lifespan was 12.2 days for 1.0×10**12 cfu/ml, 14.0 days for 1.0×10**11 cfu/ml, 18.9 days for 1.0×10**10 cfu/ml, 21.2 days for 1.0×10**9 cfu/ml, and 18.0 days for 1.0×10**8 cfu/ml. (B) Heat stress resistance of adults after maintenance under different nutrient conditions. Mean survival was 9.5 hours for 1.0×10**12 cfu/ml, 10.9 hours for 1.0×10**11 cfu/ml, 14.3 hours for 1.0×10**10 cfu/ml, 15.9 hours for 1.0×10**9 cfu/ml, and 13.8 hours for 1.0×10**8 cfu/ml. (C) Egg production after maintenance under different nutrient conditions. Average brood sizes were 203±37 for 1.0×1012 cfu/ml, 254±30 for 1.0×10**11 cfu/ml, 234±60 for 1.0×10**10 cfu/ml, 178±32 for 1.0×10**9 cfu/ml, and 61±15 for 1.0×1**08 cfu/ml. Fifteen animals were scored for each food concentration.

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