Interesting tech developments in nanotech, nanostructured materials, etc.
Ken Novak's Weblog
Wednesday, April 28, 2004
Printer Writes Micro 3D Objects: "University of Illinois researchers have come up with a new type of quick-setting three-dimensional ink that works a bit like a microscopic tube of toothpaste. The researchers' printer robotically deposits a continuous, elastic-like ink filament into a liquid rather than putting ink drops onto a surface.
The filament hardens in the liquid rapidly enough to allow for printing three-dimensional structures that have features like unsupported spanning elements. The process yields complete three-dimensional structures in about five minutes, and provides resolutions that are close to two orders of magnitude finer than existing methods, according to the researchers. The researchers' prototype has nozzles that vary in diameter from five microns to 0.5 microns. A micron is one thousandth of a millimeter.
Because the resolution is so high, the process has the potential to produce templates for structured materials, like photonic band gap materials used to control light, microfluidic devices used for biological and chemical testing, and bioscaffolds for tissue engineering." 11:08:26 PM
Nano-Hive: Nanospace Simulator:
"Nano-Hive is a modular simulator used for modeling the physical world at a nanometer scale. The intended purpose of the simulator is to act as a tool for the study and development of nanotech entities." Version 1
is for a single-user desktop, version 2 is planned to be distributed, possibly using Globus. 8:59:02 AM
Saturday, April 24, 2004
Nanosys filing for IPO, changing product plans:
"One minor shift is that the company no longer expects its initial products to be biosensors .. Instead, the company is working with the government on biosensor applications. Nanosys has also added nonvolatile memory to the markets it seeks to penetrate, according to its recent filing. Given the subtle shifts, [analyst] Sanchez said, the most likely initial product would be solar cells
Thiemo Lang, a portfolio manager with mutual fund firm Activest, said the IPO might be a bit early. This will be very interesting to follow, he said. I think they see that the stock market is quite favorable for them. Lang created the Activest Lux NanoTech mutual fund in 2002. " 9:42:49 AM
Material grabs more sun: "Most photovoltaic materials absorb a relatively narrow range of light energy [from one band gap].. Researchers from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the University of California, and MIT have engineered a single material that contains three bandgaps and is capable of capturing more than 50 percent of the sun's energy. The researchers made the material by forcing oxygen into a zinc-manganese-tellurium crystal. The oxygen split the crystal's band gap and formed a third one of its own. ..
It will take to three years to assess the technical feasibility of the multiband solar cell, according to the researchers. The work appeared in the December 12, 2003 issue of Physical Review Letters". See also here. 9:13:15 AM
Thursday, April 22, 2004
From the Higgs Boson Particle to Leadbelly
: "Physicists from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory are using the same methods to search for the elusive Higgs Boson particle and to digitally restore audio recordings from the past." By imaging the the old disk recordings, smoothing out the physical scratches and defects, and then simulating a stylus on the smoothed virtual disk, the sound improvement is dramatic. "Berkeley Lab signed an agreement with the Library of Congress to digitize the many thousands of early blues or jazz recordings it has in its archives." Follow link to excellent example of before and after. 4:22:59 PM
Wednesday, April 14, 2004
Fiber Spun from Nanotube Smoke: "Researchers from the University of Cambridge in England have developed a relatively simple way to manufacture continuous fibers of carbon nanotubes. .. The relatively simple method promises to make it possible to more cheaply produce carbon nanotubes in bulk. It could also eventually produce fiber that rivals carbon fiber in strength, but that is more flexible. Carbon nanotube fibers are able to twist, opening the way to flexible materials, multistrand threads and threads made from a mix of materials.
The researchers spun continuous, twisted fibers directly from the furnace where carbon nanotubes were produced. The researchers injected a liquid mix of ethanol, ferrocene and thiophene into a flow of hydrogen gas in a furnace heated to between 1,050 and 1,200 degrees Celsius to produce nanotube aerogel, or elastic smoke. The keys were closely controlling conditions and drawing the nanotube aerogel continuously using a rotating spindle. Existing nanotube fiber methods use previously formed nanotubes. In theory, the method can produce nanotube fiber of any length, according to the researchers. They have also developed a related technique for coating objects with layers of carbon nanotubes.
The method could be used to synthesize carbon nanotubes in bulk within two years and to make practical fibers in 5 to 10 years, according to the researchers." 10:12:16 PM
Tuesday, April 13, 2004
Economist on nanotech hazards:
Brief review of several people active in the field. "The public outcry over genetically modified foods offers several lessons for those working and investing in nanotechnology/" 3:59:13 PM
Friday, April 02, 2004
Nanowrapping cell enzymes: "To increase [a cell's] enzyme's longevity and versatility, a team at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash., has caged single enzymes to create a new class of catalysts called SENs, or single enzyme nanoparticles. The nanostructure protects the catalyst, allowing it to remain active for five months instead of hours. "The principal concept can be used with many water-soluble enzymes," said Jungbae Kim of PNNL..
Kim and Grate modified a common protein-splitting enzyme called alpha-chymotrypsin. They modified the enzyme surface to make it soluble, then added vinyl reagents to induce the growth of molecular threads, or polymers, from the enzyme surface. A second polymerization step cross-linked silicon chains, forming a basketball-netlike structure a few nanometers thick. What results are SENs that appear in electron microscopic images as hollow enzyme-containing nanostructures about 8 nanometers across. Kim and Grate found that by using less reactive forms of vinyl they could vary the thickness of the nano-netting by half. Thick or thin, the porous netting preserves the shape of the enzyme inside yet allows its active site to interact with a substrate. SENs are also amenable to storage; they have been refrigerated for five months, losing little of their activity.
Among the uses Kim noted for SENs is the breakdown toxic waste--a single treatment could last months. Stabilized enzymes are also a prerequisite for many types of biosensors. And they may be of interest for coating surfaces, with application ranging from medicine (protecting implants from protein plaques) to shipping (keeping barnacles off hulls)." 10:07:44 PM
Thursday, April 01, 2004
'Nanorings' could boost computer memory
: "Purdue chemist Alexander Wei
may have come up with a surprisingly simple and cheap solution to the shrinking data storage problem. Wei's research team has found a way to create tiny magnetic rings from particles made of cobalt. The rings are much less than 100 nanometers across an important threshold for the size-conscious computer industry and can store magnetic information at room temperature. Best of all, these "nanorings" form all on their own, a process commonly known as self-assembly." 2:13:10 PM
"the impression that VCs are falling all over themselves to get in on the nano action isn't really true. Government money, though, is a totally different story -- DARPA, NIST ATP, SBIR, the whole alphabet soup. It's really not the private sector that's boosting the industry right now. It's government spending. And that's a fairly normal phenomenon for an industry in its early phase. The government props it up, encourages it, gets R&D moving in the lab, helps it along into the startup phase, and then the Darwinian world of business kicks in.
Even there, though, startups can live to see another day primarily through government grants. And right now, the military is where the money is at. Shop your nanomaterial around and tell a VC that your superstrong, superlight nano-enhanced polymer would be useful for garage doors, and you might be shown the door. But go to DARPA and say it can help reinforce tank or aircraft or cockpit doors and can stop a speeding bullet, and you might have an easier time getting some dough.
The difference now, though, is that public relations people have taken over the business of nanotechnology, and so there's a perception that VCs just can't seem to stop blindly throwing their money at anything with the n-word as a prefix. That's what creates buzz and gets nano names in the news during evening drive times." 2:05:35 PM