Archive for the ‘nanotechnology’ category

Apr 16, 2021

Unlocking the Next Generation of Computer Technology: New Nanoscale Device for Spintronics

Posted by in categories: computing, nanotechnology, particle physics

Spin waves could unlock the next generation of computer technology, a new component allows physicists to control them.

Researchers at Aalto University have developed a new device for spintronics. The results have been published in the journal Nature Communications, and mark a step towards the goal of using spintronics to make computer chips and devices for data processing and communication technology that are small and powerful.

Traditional electronics uses electrical charge to carry out computations that power most of our day-to-day technology. However, engineers are unable to make electronics do calculations faster, as moving charge creates heat, and we’re at the limits of how small and fast chips can get before overheating. Because electronics can’t be made smaller, there are concerns that computers won’t be able to get more powerful and cheaper at the same rate they have been for the past 7 decades. This is where spintronics comes in.

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Apr 16, 2021

Transparent nanolayers pave the way for production of silicon solar cells with more than 26% efficiency

Posted by in categories: climatology, nanotechnology, solar power, sustainability

There is no cheaper way to generate electricity today than with the sun. Power plants are currently under construction in sunny locations that will supply solar electricity for less than 2 cents per kilowatt hour. Solar cells available on the market based on crystalline silicon make this possible with efficiencies of up to 23 percent. Therefore they hold a global market share of around 95 percent. With even higher efficiencies of more than 26 percent, costs could fall further. An international working group led by photovoltaics researchers from Forschungszentrum Jülich now plan to reach this goal with a nanostructured, transparent material for the front of solar cells and a sophisticated design. The scientists report on their success of many years of research in the renowned scientific journal Nature Energy.

Silicon have been steadily improved over the past decades and have already reached a very high level of development. However, the disturbing effect of recombination still occurs after the absorption of sunlight and the photovoltaic generation of electrical charge carriers. In this process, negative and positive charge carriers that have already been generated combine and cancel each other out before they could be used for the flow of . This effect can be countered by special materials that have a special property—passivation.

“Our nanostructured layers offer precisely this desired passivation,” says Malte Köhler, former Ph.D. student and first author from the Jülich Institute for Energy and Climate Research (IEK-5), who has since received his doctorate. In addition, the ultra-thin layers are transparent—so the incidence of light is hardly reduced—and exhibit high electrical conductivity.

Apr 16, 2021

Majorana-based quantum computation gets a handy new platform

Posted by in categories: nanotechnology, particle physics, quantum physics

Majorana modes are, however, notoriously elusive. In part, this is because it is hard to create the conditions required to generate them in an experimental setting. Many theoretical proposals have predicted MZMs should be present in quasi-2D materials, which consist of a small number of 2D layers stacked on top of each other. However, all previous proposals required heterostructures – that is, structures where the stacked layers have differing material composition and structure. Practically, these heterostructures are difficult if not downright impossible to grow.

To make matters worse, Majorana modes can only be observed indirectly. Like detectives trying to catch a culprit with only circumstantial evidence, physicists have a hard time ruling out alternative explanations for the phenomena they observe. This has led to high-profile premature claims of Majorana discovery, including Microsoft Quantum Lab’s recent retraction of a Nature paper in which they purported to observe MZMs in nanowires.

In their new work, Zhang and his coauthor show that Majorana modes should be present in a much simpler setting: thin films of an iron-based superconducting material. Like previous proposals, the system they study is quasi-2D, but crucially all layers are of the same kind. The iron-based thin films naturally accommodate Majorana fermions that are helical – left or right-handed – and move along the edges of the system in their preferred direction. This is due to a special “time-reversal” symmetry, wherein interchanging the left-moving and right-moving quasiparticles makes it look like time is propagating backwards in the system.

Apr 14, 2021

Superbug killer: New nanotech destroys bacteria and fungal cells

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, nanotechnology

The material is one of the thinnest antimicrobial coatings developed to date and is effective against a broad range of drug-resistant bacteria and fungal cells, while leaving human cells unharmed.

Importantly, the BP also began to self-degrade in that time and was entirely disintegrated within 24 hours—an important feature that shows the material would not accumulate in the body.

The identified the optimum levels of BP that have a deadly antimicrobial effect while leaving human cells healthy and whole.

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Apr 13, 2021

Topological insulator metamaterial with giant circular photogalvanic effect

Posted by in categories: biological, chemistry, food, nanotechnology, physics, space

Topological insulators have notable manifestations of electronic properties. The helicity-dependent photocurrents in such devices are underpinned by spin momentum-locking of surface Dirac electrons that are weak and easily overshadowed by bulk contributions. In a new report now published on Science Advances, X. Sun and a research team in photonic technologies, physics and photonic metamaterials in Singapore and the U.K. showed how the chiral response of materials could be enhanced via nanostructuring. The tight confinement of electromagnetic fields in the resonant nanostructures enhanced the photoexcitation of spin-polarized surface states of a topological insulator to allow an 11-fold increase of the circular photogalvanic effect and a previously unobserved photocurrent dichroism at room temperature. Using this method, Sun et al. controlled the spin transport in topological materials via structural design, a hitherto unrecognized ability of metamaterials. The work bridges the gap between nanophotonics and spin electronics to provide opportunities to develop polarization-sensitive photodetectors.


Chirality is a ubiquitous and fascinating natural phenomenon in nature, describing the difference of an object from its mirror image. The process manifests in a variety of scales and forms from galaxies to nanotubes and from organic molecules to inorganic compounds. Chirality can be detected at the atomic and molecular level in fundamental sciences, including chemistry, biology and crystallography, as well as in practice, such as in the food and pharmaceutical industry. To detect chirality, scientists can use interactions with electromagnetic fields, although the process can be hindered by a large mismatch between the wavelength of light and the size of most molecules at nanoscale dimensions. Designer metamaterials with structural features comparable to the wavelength of light can provide an independent approach to devise optical properties on demand to enhance the light-matter interaction to create and enhance the optical chirality of metamaterials. In this work, Sun et al.

Apr 13, 2021

Smallest nanotube jet engine

Posted by in categories: energy, nanotechnology, transportation

The ‘engine’ is actually a nanotube, powered by an enzyme-triggered biocatalytic reaction using urea as fuel. The reaction creates an internal flow that extends out into the fluid, causing an open cavity to form. This results in thrust, propelling the nanotube along.

Samuel Sánchez was one of the lead researchers from the previous record holders where their nanotube jet engine measured 600nm across and weighed 1 femtogram (10^−15 kg).

Xing Ma and Samuel Sánchez recognise both Ana C. Hortelao (Spain) and Albert Miguel-López (Spain) contribution to the research as well as the support from their affiliated institutions:

Apr 3, 2021

Century-old problem solved with first-ever 3D atomic imaging of an amorphous solid

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, chemistry, nanotechnology

Glass, rubber and plastics all belong to a class of matter called amorphous solids. And in spite of how common they are in our everyday lives, amorphous solids have long posed a challenge to scientists.

Since the 1910s, scientists have been able to map in 3D the atomic structures of crystals, the other major class of solids, which has led to myriad advances in physics, chemistry, biology, , geology, nanoscience, drug discovery and more. But because aren’t assembled in rigid, repetitive atomic structures like crystals are, they have defied researchers’ ability to determine their with the same level of precision.

Until now, that is.

Apr 1, 2021

Diamond battery powered by nuclear waste runs for 28,000 years

Posted by in categories: mobile phones, nanotechnology, nuclear energy

Would you use one in your phone though?

A U.S. startup combined radioactive isotopes from nuclear waste with ultra-slim layers of nanodiamonds to assemble a ridiculous battery that allegedly can last 28000 years.

According to the California startup in question, called NDB (Nano Diamond Battery), their product is a “high-power diamond-based alpha, beta, and neutron voltaic battery.”

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Mar 29, 2021

Scientists use lipid nanoparticles to precisely target gene editing to the liver

Posted by in categories: bioengineering, biotech/medical, genetics, nanotechnology

The genome editing technology CRISPR has emerged as a powerful new tool that can change the way we treat disease. The challenge when altering the genetics of our cells, however, is how to do it safely, effectively, and specifically targeted to the gene, tissue and organ that needs treatment. Scientists at Tufts University and the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT have developed unique nanoparticles comprised of lipids—fat molecules—that can package and deliver gene editing machinery specifically to the liver. In a study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, they have shown that they can use the lipid nanoparticles (LNPs) to efficiently deliver the CRISPR machinery into the liver of mice, resulting in specific genome editing and the reduction of blood cholesterol levels by as much as 57%—a reduction that can last for at least several months with just one shot.

The problem of high cholesterol plagues more than 29 million Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The condition is complex and can originate from multiple as well as nutritional and lifestyle choices, so it is not easy to treat. The Tufts and Broad researchers, however, have modified one gene that could provide a protective effect against elevated cholesterol if it can be shut down by gene editing.

The gene that the researchers focused on codes for the angiopoietin-like 3 enzyme (Angptl3). That enzyme tamps down the activity of other enzymes—lipases—that help break down cholesterol. If researchers can knock out the Angptl3 gene, they can let the lipases do their work and reduce levels of cholesterol in the blood. It turns out that some lucky people have a natural mutation in their Angptl3 gene, leading to consistently low levels of triglycerides and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, commonly called “bad” cholesterol, in their bloodstream without any known clinical downsides.

Mar 29, 2021

Roundworms ‘read’ wavelengths in the environment to avoid dangerous bacteria that secrete colorful toxins

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, nanotechnology

Roundworms don’t have eyes or the light-absorbing molecules required to see. Yet, new research shows they can somehow sense color. The study, published in the journal Science, suggests worms use this ability to assess the risk of feasting on potentially dangerous bacteria that secrete blue toxins. The researchers pinpointed two genes that contribute to this spectral sensitivity and are conserved across many organisms, including humans.

“It’s amazing to me that a —with neither eyes nor the molecular machinery used by eyes to detect colors—can identify and avoid a toxic bacterium based, in part, on its ,” says H. Robert Horvitz, the David H. Koch Professor of Biology at MIT, a member of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research and the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, and the co-senior author of the study. “One of the joys of being a biologist is the opportunity to discover things about nature that no one has ever imagined before.”

The roundworm in question, Caenorhabditis elegans, is only about a millimeter long. Despite their minute stature and simple nervous system, these nematodes display a complex repertoire of behaviors. They can smell, taste, sense touch, react to temperature, and even escape or change their feeding patterns in response to bright, . Although researchers once thought that these bury themselves deep in soil, it’s becoming increasingly clear that C. elegans prefers compost heaps above ground that offer some sun exposure. As a result, roundworms may have a need for light-and color-sensing capabilities after all.

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