nanotechnology

Ancient Roman Nanotechnology —- The Lycurgus Cup

In the 1950’s the British Museum acquired one of the most amazing archaeological finds from Ancient Rome.  The Lycurgus Cup is a beautiful 1,600 year old goblet crafted from glass by the Ancient Romans.  The cup depicts the punishment of Lycurgus, a mythical king who was ensnared in vines for committing evil acts against the Greek god Dionysus.  The craftsmanship and artwork of the cup are certainly amazing on their own. During the age of the Roman Empire the Romans were master glassmakers, producing some of the finest pieces of glassware in history.   However the Lycurgus cup has one incredible property that goes far beyond traditional glassmaking.  When exposed to light, the cup turns from jade green into a bright, glowing red color.  For decades historians, archaeologists, and scientists had no idea why this occurred or how the Romans made the cup with such light changing properties.  Then in 1990 a small fragment of the cup was examined by scientists under a microscope.  What they discovered is truly amazing.

The Lycurgus cup is not only made of glass, but is impregnated with thousands of small particles of gold and silver.  Each of the gold and silver particles are less than 50 nano-meters in diameter, less than one-one thousandth the size of a grain of table salt.  When the cup is hit with light, electrons belonging to the metal flecks vibrate in ways that alter the color depending on the observer’s position.  What is even more amazing is that the addition of the particles to the glass was no accident or coincidence.  The Romans would have had to have known the exact mixture and density of particles needed to give the cup light changing properties.  This would have been done without the aid of a microscope, without the knowledge of atomic theory, and 1,300 years before Newton’s Theory of Colors.

Today the Lycurgus Cup has profound affects on modern nanotechnology.  After studying the cup, researchers and engineers are looking to adapt the technology for modern purposes.  A researcher from the University of Illinois named Gong Gang Liu is currently working on a device which uses the same technology to diagnose disease.  Another application of the technology is a possible device which can detect dangerous materials being smuggled onto airplanes by terrorists.  

The legacy of Ancient Rome continues.  Arena’s, baths, arches, and  nanotechnology. 

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Further proof that science is super awesome: two mesmerizing gifs and one beautiful photo of a special new metal, recently created by scientists at the University of Rochester, that’s so extraordinarily hydrophobic that water droplets actually bounce off its surface.

Previously layers of chemicals have been used create surfaces that repel water. This metal has been laser-etched creating a hydrophobic nanostructure on the metal itself. Because they’ve physically altered the actual surface of the metal, the water-repellent properties will not wear off, unlike those chemical coatings.

Their research paper says they made the metals using a “powerful and precise laser-patterning technique that creates an intricate pattern of micro- and nanoscale structures to give the metals their new properties.” According to Chunlei Guo, professor of optics at Rochester the effect is amazing:

"The material is so strongly water-repellent, the water actually gets bounced off. Then it lands on the surface again, gets bounced off again, and then it will just roll off from the surface."

There are all sorts of possible applications for this awesome innovation, including making airplane surfaces that repel water, which means they’ll never get icy, non-stick pans, and waterproof just about anything.

"They are also thinking of applying the technique to create 100-percent efficient water recollection systems in underdeveloped countries and the creation of latrines in areas where water is not abundant enough to allow for effective cleaning."

Click here to learn more about this amazing breakthrough, including videos demonstrating the laser etching technique and possible applications for the altered hydrophobic materials.

[via Sploid and the University of Rochester]

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Engineered DNA Make Nano-Machines

Engineers have built simple folding machines the size of molecules out of snips of synthetic and natural DNA. The nano-machines, like the opening and closing hinges shown above, can repeatedly perform the task for which they are designed.

Mechanical engineers at The Ohio State University built these objects using the long-understood principles of human-sized machine design. They say this approach to building 3-D constructs out of DNA is different from other groups, which are instead trying to build complex, static shapes or mimicking the structure of biological systems.

Keep reading

How Nanotechnology Could Reengineer Us

from Keithly:

Nanotechnology is an important new area of research that promises significant advances in electronics, materials, biotechnology, alternative energy sources, and dozens of other applications. The graphic below illustrates, at a personal level, the potential impact on each of us. And where electrical measurement is required, Keithley instrumentation is being used in an expanding list of nanotechnology research and development settings.

[source]

Watch Droplets Bounce Off Amazing New Water-Repellent Metal

Scientists have used lasers to create a water-repelling metal surface that acts like a trampoline for water droplets.

Researchers at the University of Rochester, who published an article in the Journal of Applied Physics this week, used lasers to etch micro- and nanoscale structures into a metal surface that make it almost completely water-repellent, or hydrophobic.”

See the full video at timemagazine.

Tiny, Logical Robots Injected into Cockroaches

Nanotechnology just got a little bit smarter.

At the Institute of Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials at Israel’s Bar-Ilan University, Ido Bachelet led a team of scientists in building tiny robots that can respond to chemical cues and operate inside a living animal. More than that, they can operate as logic gates, essentially acting as real computers.

That gives the nanobots — on the order of nanometers, or one-billionth of a meter — the ability to follow specific instructions, making them programmable. Such tiny robots could do everything from target tumors to repair tissue damage.

The experimenters used a technique called “DNA origami” to make the robots. DNA comes in a double-helix shape, making long strings. And like yarn, the strings can be linked together to make different shapes. In this case, the researchers knitted together DNA into a kind of folded box with a lid, a robot called an “E” for “effector.” The “lid” opened when certain molecules bumped into it.

Bacteria can’t cling to ‘repulsive’ new surface

Bacteria can’t stick to a new type of nanoscale surface that could prove useful in food processing, medical, and shipping industries.

The technology uses an electrochemical process called anodization to create nanoscale pores that change the electrical charge and surface energy of a metal surface, which in turn exerts a repulsive force on bacterial cells and prevents attachment and biofilm formation.

Whereas a sheet of paper is about 100,000 nanometers thick, these pores can be as small as just 15 nanometers.

When the researchers applied the anodization process to aluminum, it created a nanoporous surface called alumina, which proved effective in preventing surrogates of two well-known pathogens, Escherichia coli O157:H7 and Listeria monocytogenes, from attaching, according to the study in Biofouling.

Continue Reading.

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Paper Art Could Make Better Blood Tests, Architecture

We’re being swamped this week with news of ancient paper-folding art being used in the name of science. This one includes cutting, too. 

Yesterday’s post highlighted how the complex paper-folding method called origami is helping scientists visualize and communicate the way DNA fits inside the cell’s nucleus.

Now, University of Pennsylvania researchers reveal that a related art called kiragami, which involves cutting along with folding, could open up new worlds in architecture, nanotechnology and other fields. 

Keep reading

Researchers Print LEDs on a Contact Lens Using Quantum Dots

From the team that brought you the Bionic Ear:

For the contact lens to actually work, it would require an external energy source, making it impractical as a real-world device. …the real point …was to show that it’s possible to produce electronic devices into complex shapes using equally complex materials.

“This shows that we can use 3D printing to create complex electronics including semiconductors,” said Michael McAlpine, an assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering… “We were able to 3D print an entire device, in this case an LED.”

The LED was made out of …quantum dots, nanocrystals that have been fashioned out of semiconductor materials and possess distinct optoelectronic properties, most notably fluorescence…

“We used the quantum dots… as an ink,” McAlpine said. “We were able to generate two different colors, orange and green.”

…the researchers built a hybrid 3D printer that is a combination of off-the-shelf parts and others a bit more exotic.

While the researchers concede that the 3D printing of electronics in this way is not applicable for a lot of electronics manufacturing… it may make sense for bespoke applications such as those needed for medical devices.

Trying to print a cellphone is probably not the way to go,” McAlpine said. “It is customization that gives the power to 3D printing.”

In this case, the researchers scanned the lens and then fed the geometry into the printer so it that it could print an LED that conformed to the shape of the lens.

The challenge for the researchers was how to bring together different materials that may be mechanically, chemically or thermally incompatible.

…”it is not trivial to pattern a thin and uniform coating of nanoparticles and polymers without the involvement of conventional microfabrication techniques, yet the thickness and uniformity of the printed films are two of the critical parameters that determine the performance and yield of the printed active device,” said Yong Lin Kong, a researcher who worked on both the bionic ear and contact lens projects.

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Nanotechnology on the Runway

The clothes we wear allow us to express ourselves, influenced by our moods and tastes. Fashion brand CuteCircuit goes one step further, allowing technology to help make a statement in our next fashion choice.

Most of the clothes designed at CuteCircuit have thousands of micro LEDs sewn into the fabric, which allow one garment to have different colours and patterns on it. As co-founder of CuteCircuit Francesca Rosella states:

"We are living in a digital future, so we do not need to sell 10,000 skirts. We could sell 500 skirts, but then could sell thousands of patterns that you download to your skirt."

These ‘smart textiles’ have the potential to evolve into even more drastic creations, especially with constant advancements in nanotechnology. One already impressive piece made by CuteCircuit is the “Kinetic Dress” (2010). This Victorian-style evening dress has sensors in the fabric which communicate to the electroluminescent embroidery when the wearer is moving. The faster the movement, the brighter the embroidery; it is translating movement into art and fashion.

If you would like to learn more about the different projects at CuteCircuit, check out this video: http://vimeo.com/104636495

-Anna Paluch

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Viral Membrane Protects Medical Nanorobots From Immune System

Scientists say they have developed a cloaking device to spirit medical nanorobots of the future past immune systems into diseased cells. Their innovation comes from stealing a powerful weapon viruses wield to infect their hosts.

Some viruses wrap themselves in a protective membrane to avoid detection by their host’s immune system and enter cells they are trying to infect. A team at Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering have been able to construct their own version of a viral membrane.

Keep reading

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Next Nature: NANO Supermarket introduces new line of products

The NANO Supermarket presents speculative & probable nanotechnology products from the next ten years, to discuss desirable and unwanted futures.

During the next Dutch Design Week, the supermarket staff from Next Nature (they are also the inventors of the in-vitro meat cuisine) will introduce a new line of items and goods:

Among the fresh items are the Healing Game, the videogame that keeps you healthy and PastaMarine, the high protein pasta that everyone can cultivate at home. Other newcomers include the allergy sensitive cutlery, the spray to bake food, the genetically modified rose that increases the libido and more!

Come visit the NANO Supermarket to discover all the products and experience the impact of nanotechnology on everyday life.

NANO Supermarket @ Dutch Design Week Location: 18 Septemberplein in Eindhoven Dates: 18 – 26 October 2014 – 10:00-18:00

Be sure to check the new collection and buy some nano socks, cloud cryons, coating cola or keratin ink.

[NANO supermarket] [next nature]

Our scientists carved these dome-capped nano-towers into a silicon disk to mimic a well-known antireflective surface: the eyes of common moths. Why? Well, next-gen solar cells need structures that minimize reflections and absorb the sun’s rays, and nature happens to be a brilliant architect.

Moths’ compound eyes have textured patterns made of many tiny posts, each smaller than the wavelengths of light. This structure improves moths’ nighttime vision, and also prevents the “deer in the headlights” reflecting glow that might allow predators to detect them.

Read the full story and learn about how this research could transform photovoltaic technology. 

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Blacker than black? This guy certainly says so. ‘Meet the Artist behind “Blacker Than Black” - the darkest colour ever created’. 

Sounds weird, but artist Frederik de Wilde has produced a colour that completely absorbs all available light to create the world’s darkest fabricated colour. His works utilise nanotechnology and carbon nanotubes to produce striking sculptural forms that he says ‘provide a shakeup at the intersection between chemistry, physics and artistry that could change everything’. 

Not sure about all that, but producing colours outside our established colour spectrum certainly opens the door to a great many design possibilities in the future. 

Find more at: The Creators Project

youtube

Blood Scrubbing Nano Magnets

SciShow explains a new breakthrough in our battle against pathogens: nano magnets that clean the blood! 

20 January 2015

Temporary Tattoo Testing

This temporary tattoo may be the future of glucose testing for people with diabetes. Made from a tiny network of electrodes printed on temporary tattoo paper, the stick-on gizmo measures glucose level in the fluid between skin cells. A very mild electrical current applied to the skin for ten minutes forces sodium ions to migrate toward the tattoo’s electrodes. These ions carry glucose that is measured using a sensor built into the tattoo. Lasting a day, the device could also be used to detect other important metabolites in the body or deliver medicine through the skin. The researchers say that this will mean people with diabetes won’t have to go through the unpleasant process of using a tiny needle to extract a small blood sample. In the future, the tattoo will send the data directly to the patient’s doctor or store it in the cloud.

Written by Nick Kennedy

Image by Jacobs School of Engineering
University of California, San Diego, USA
Originally published under a Creative Commons Licence (BY 4.0)
Research published in Analytical Chemistry, January 2015

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