Nano Bugle

A window into applied science supported by INL

Alternative to platinum advances fuel-cell technology

Brown University researchers have demonstrated that a unique core-shell nanoparticle is a cheaper, more active and longer-lasting fuel-cell catalyst than commercially available platinum products.
Image Credit: Mike Cohea, Brown University.

Creating catalysts that can operate efficiently and last a long time is a big barrier to taking fuel-cell technology from the lab bench to the assembly line. The precious metal platinum has been the choice for many researchers, but platinum has two major downsides: It is expensive, and it breaks down over time in fuel-cell reactions.

In a new study, chemists at Brown University report a promising advance. They have created a unique core and shell nanoparticle that uses far less platinum yet performs more efficiently and lasts longer than commercially available pure-platinum catalysts at the cathode end of fuel-cell reactions.

The chemistry known as oxygen reduction reaction takes place at the fuel cell’s cathode, creating water as its only waste, rather than the global-warming carbon dioxide produced by internal combustion systems. The cathode is also where up to 40 percent of a fuel cell’s efficiency is lost, so “this is a crucial step in making fuel cells a more competitive technology with internal combustion engines and batteries,” said Shouheng Sun, professor of chemistry at Brown and co-author of the paper in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

You can read the full article here.


May 28, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Perfectly Non-Reflecting Coating

Research scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Mechanics of Materials IWM in Freiburg have developed a non-reflective transparent polymer. This new nanocoating ensures a perfectly non-reflecting view and can be used in applications such as displays and visors.

Whereas conventional methods apply the anti-reflective coating in a separate step after production, the Fraunhofer scientists have found a way of reducing light reflection during actual manufacture of the part or component.

The viscose polymer is injected into a mold, coated with the optically effective nanostructure that is then transferred directly to the component.which reproduces the optically effective surface structure.

This principle is based in the perfectly non-reflecting moth’s eye: they have tiny protuberances smaller than the wavelength of light. This nanostructure creates a gentle transition between the refractive indices of the air and the cornea. As a result, the reflection of light is reduced and the moth remains undetected.

The hybrid coating has further advantages: the components are scratch-proof and easy to clean.

For more information, click here.

May 27, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Nano-membranes for extra-fine filters and scaffolds

Nanotube-infused microdevices, with forests of carbon nanotubes grown inside pores, can act as filters or as a carrier for improved catalysts. (Source: Rice U.)

Researchers from University of Oulu, Finland, University of Szeged, Hungary and Rice University, USA have found a way to make carbon nanotube membranes that could find wide application as extra-fine air filters and as scaffolds for catalysts that speed chemical reactions.

The devices were created by chemical vapor deposition (CVD) of silicon dioxide templates, with laser-created holes; after 30min in the furnace the holes fill up with carbon nanotubes.

The resulting material can be doped with catalytic materials or used as filters, which would stop any particles larger than the diameter of the tubes from passing through. When the CNTs are functionalized with catalytic chemicals, particles entering on one side of the filter come out the end in a different form.

As a filter, the CNT-enabled membrane achieved 99% extraction of <1μm particles, removing about 100× more nanoparticles from laboratory air than the material used in high-efficiency particulate-absorbing (HEPA) filters. The filters permeability depends strongly on how long the nanotubes are allowed to grow, which determines their length and density.

The Results of the work were published in the journal ACS Nano and has as title: “Three-dimensional carbon nanotube scaffolds as particulate filters and catalyst support membranes”.

May 20, 2010 Posted by | Nano News | Leave a comment

Can a body grow its own spare parts?


Nanoscientist Molly Stevens. Photograph: Andy Hall for the Observer

Robin McKie, wrote a really great article published in The Observer, Sunday 16 May 2010

«The human body has tremendous capacity to repair itself after disease or injury. Skin will grow over wounds, while cells in our blood supply are constantly being manufactured in our bone marrow. But there is a limit to the body’s ability to replace lost tissue. Cartilage cells are notoriously poor at regrowing after injury, for example. As a result, accidents and illnesses – including cancers – often leave individuals with disfiguring wounds or life-threatening damage to tissue. The aim of Molly Stevens, a nanoscience researcher at Imperial College, London, and founder of the biotech firm Reprogen, is a simple but ambitious one. Working with a team of chemists, cell biologists, surgeons, material scientists and engineers, she is developing techniques that will help the body repair itself when it suffers damage. This is the science of regenerative medicine».

You can read the full article here.

May 18, 2010 Posted by | Nano News, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Learning Nanotechnology with videogames

Aimed at the gaming generations, NanoMission™ is an engaging learning experience which educates players about basic concepts in nanoscience through real world practical applications from microelectronics to drug delivery.

NanoMission is a serious game series made by PlayGen for Cientifica in order to teach the player about the world nanotechnology..

It consists in a series of several related games that can be downloaded and run independently of one another. There is no required order of play for the game modules and the player may play them in any order the player wishes. Each module is different and covers different topics related to nanotechnology.

Until now, there are four downloadable modules available, each teaching different concepts related to nanotechnology. The gameplay varies greatly between the different modules in the series offering a wide variety of gameplay.

Nano Medicine: How nanotechnology can be used to help fight disease.

Nano Medicine: Fighting Lung Cancer with  Nanoparticles.

Nano Scale: What the nano scale is like from a first person point of view & how it differs from normal scale.

Nano Imaging: Imaging at nano scale. Use of atomic force microscope, electron microscopes and scanning tunnelling microscope.

May 17, 2010 Posted by | Educational & Teaching Resources, Nano Kids | 1 Comment

50 Forward Thinking Nanotech Blogs

Nanotechnology outreach is a clear goal of the Nanobugle team. We are always enthusiastic about fostering Nanosciences by highlighting the major scientific breakthroughs and stressing the importance of the Entrepreneurship initiatives that continuously emerge around Nanotechnology.  Another important mission of our team is to encourage students to be passionate about Nanotechnology. We are convinced that a  talented and motivated workforce of researchers, entrepreneurs and academics is essential to make a better world.

Recently Nanobugle was included in the list of the 50 Forward Thinking Nanotech Blogs announced by the Becoming a Computer Technician’s blog. We really appreciate it because this online publication shares our passion for a better world based on innovation and technology development.

Hopefully our work will help us to climb further up  in the list.

May 14, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A thin layer of glass makes “sub-wavelength” lasers more practical




Laser precision: Graduate student Olesya Bondarenko inspects the sputter deposition tool used to apply a layer of aluminum to the sub-wavelength microlasers.
Credit: Erik Jepsen/Calit2 UC San Diego

Scientists have created the smallest ever laser capable of operating at room temperature. The device is less than one cubic micron–less than the wavelength of the light it emits. It is the first sub-wavelength laser that doesn’t require cryogenic cooling.

Yeshaiahu Fainman, head of the Ultrafast and Nanoscale Optics Group at the University of California, San Diego, who led the work, says it should be possible to pack the microlasers close together without interference between devices. This paves the way for, among other things, faster optical communications devices that use sub-wavelength lasers in dense arrays.


“This is very exciting work, and introduces important advances in the new field of nanolasers,” says Naomi Halas, the Stanley C. Moore Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Rice University, and director of the University’s Laboratory for Nanophotonics. “Making use of metallic layers and clever design geometries has allowed this group to begin to build refinements into these structures that will expand how these devices are used in communications systems.”

In a paper published in the journal Nature Photonics, the UCSD group shows that its laser can produce emissions with a wavelength of 1.43 microns at room temperature. The group has received funding from the National Science Foundation as well as DARPA’s Nanoscale Architectures for Coherent Hyper-Optic Sources program.

You can read the full article here.

May 12, 2010 Posted by | Nano News | Leave a comment

First images of atomic spin captured

The different shape and appearance of these individual cobalt atoms is caused by the different spin directions.
Image Credit: Saw-Wai Hla, Ohio University.


Though scientists argue that the emerging technology of spintronics may trump conventional electronics for building the next generation of faster, smaller, more efficient computers and high-tech devices, no one has actually seen the spin – a quantum mechanical property of electrons – in individual atoms until now.

In a study published as an Advance Online Publication in the journal Nature Nanotechnology on Sunday, physicists at Ohio University and the University of Hamburg in Germany present the first images of spin in action.

The researchers used a custom-built microscope with an iron-coated tip to manipulate cobalt atoms on a plate of manganese. Through scanning tunneling microscopy, the team repositioned individual cobalt atoms on a surface that changed the direction of the electrons’ spin. Images captured by the scientists showed that the atoms appeared as a single protrusion if the spin direction was upward, and as double protrusions with equal heights when the spin direction was downward.

The study suggests that scientists can observe and manipulate spin, a finding that may impact future development of nanoscale magnetic storage, quantum computers and spintronic devices.

“Different directions in spin can mean different states for data storage,” said Saw-Wai Hla, an associate professor of physics and astronomy in Ohio University’s Nanoscale and Quantum Phenomena Institute and one of the primary investigators on the study. “The memory devices of current computers involve tens of thousands of atoms. In the future, we may be able to use one atom and change the power of the computer by the thousands.”

You can read the full article here:

May 10, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Nanoscience research could prove a breakthrough in electronics

A new discovery that uses biology to engineer the assembly of nanoscale materials could have a wide array of applications in medicine, electronics and energy.

A team from the Department of NanoEngineering at UC San Diego, is aiming to solve the complex problem of how to place trillions of unique and functional nanostructures at precise locations in an efficient (and cheap) way.

The study examined ways of combining the advantages of bottom-up self-assembly and top-down lithography to pattern sub-10nm components over large areas.

Through the key approach of using biomolecules, such as DNA, proteins and gold nanoparticles, the team hope to engineer the orientation and placement of nanoscale materials into the desired device architectures that are reproducible in high yields and at low cost.

The breakthrough means that nanostructured materials could be used for fabricating a range of products, including multiplex sensors, photovoltaics, optical circuits and consumer electronics.

For more information you can read the full article in Nature Nanotechnology (doi: 10.1038/nnano.2009.450) or read the highlights in Materials Today (Volume 13, Issue 3, Page 11)

Gold nanoparticles (image from Georgia Tech.)

May 6, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Enzyme in white blood cells can break down carbon nanotubes


The picture by Kagan et al. is  a molecular modelling that demonstrates possible nanotube interaction sites on hMPO.

An EU-funded study of carbon nanotubes by scientists in Ireland, Sweden and the US has shown that these extraordinarily strong molecules can be broken down into carbon and water by an enzyme found in white blood cells. The discovery, published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, offers hope that this new material may be exploited safely in medicine and industry.

The findings are an outcome of the NANOMMUNE (‘Comprehensive assessment of hazardous effects of engineered nanomaterials on the immune system’) project, financed with EUR 3.36 million under the NMP (‘Nanosciences, nanotechnologies, materials and new production’) Theme of the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7).

Carbon nanotubes are cylindrical, engineered carbon molecules that are lighter and stronger than steel and have unique electrical properties. They are used in several areas of industry, for example in the manufacture of silicon chips, electronics and sporting goods. Carbon nanotubes are produced in large quantities, which has implications for occupational health, and are also being used in the development of new drugs and other medical applications. Their behaviour in living organisms is, therefore, an intensive area of study. NANOMMUNE researchers are seeking to fill the gaps in our knowledge of the potentially hazardous effects of engineered nanomaterials on the human immune system.

“Previous studies have shown that carbon nanotubes could be used for introducing drugs or other substances into human cells,” explained Dr Bengt Fadeel of the Institute of Environmental Medicine at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute. “The problem has been not knowing how to control the breakdown of the nanotubes, which can cause unwanted toxicity and tissue damage. Our study now shows how they can be broken down biologically into harmless components.” You can read the full article here.

NANOMMUNE is coordinated by Dr Fadeel and comprises 13 research groups in Europe and the US.

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May 3, 2010 Posted by | Nano News | 1 Comment