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April 12, 2006, 11:38 PM CT

Motor To Single-molecule Car

Motor To Single-molecule Car
In follow-on work to last year's groundbreaking invention of the world's first single-molecule car, chemists at Rice University have produced the first motorized version of their tiny nanocar.

The research is published in the April 13 issue of the journal Organic Letters.

"We want to construct things from the bottom up, one molecule at a time, in much the same way that biological cells use enzymes to assemble proteins and other supermolecules," said lead researcher James M. Tour, the Chao Professor of Chemistry, professor of mechanical engineering and materials science and professor of computer science. "Everything that's produced through biology - from the tallest redwood to largest whale - is built one molecule at a time. Nanocars and other synthetic transporters may prove to be a suitable alternative for bottom-up systems where biological methods aren't practical".

The motorized model of the nanocar is powered by light. Its rotating motor, a molecular framework that was developed by Ben L. Feringa at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, was modified by Tour's group so that it would attach in-line with the nanocar's chassis. When light strikes the motor, it rotates in one direction, pushing the car along like a paddlewheel.

The first nanocar research paper, published the journal Nano Letters last October, was the most-accessed article from all American Chemical Society journals in 2005. That paper was co-authored by Kevin Kelly, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering.........

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April 10, 2006, 7:09 PM CT

Nano-technology To Kill Cancer Cells

Nano-technology To Kill Cancer Cells
Research studies, based at the University of Pennsylvania, demonstrate that biodegradable nano-particles containing two potent cancer-fighting drugs are effective in killing human breast tumors. The unique properties of the hollow shell nano-particles, known as polymersomes, allow them to deliver two distinct drugs, paclitaxel, the leading cancer drug known by brand names such as Taxol, and doxorubicin directly to tumors implanted in mice. Their findings, presented online in the journal Molecular Pharamaceutics, illustrate the broad clinical potential of polymersomes.

"The system provides a number of advantages over other Trojan horse-style drug delivery system, and should prove a useful tool in fighting a number of diseases," said Dennis Discher, a professor in Penn's School of Engineering and Applied Science and a member of Penn newly established Institute for Translational Medicine and Therapeutics. "Here we show that drug-delivering polymersomes will break down in the acidic environment of the cancer cells, allowing us to target these drugs within tumor cells."

One key feature of molecular mechanism involves putting pores in the cancer cell membranes and has been simulated with supercomputers by Michael F. Klein and Goundla Srinivas of Penn's Department of Chemistry. While cell membranes and liposomes (vesicles often used for drug-delivery) are created from a double layer of fatty molecules called phospholipids, a polymersome is comprised of two layers of synthetic polymers. The individual polymers are degradable and considerably larger than individual phospholipids but have many of the same chemical features. This results in a structure that looks like a very small cell or virus.........

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April 6, 2006, 11:10 PM CT

Nanopore To Revolutionize Genome Sequencing

Nanopore To Revolutionize Genome Sequencing

A team led by physicists at the University of California, San Diego has shown the feasibility of a fast, inexpensive technique to sequence DNA as it passes through tiny pores. The advance brings personalized, genome-based medicine closer to reality.

The paper, published in the recent issue of the journal Nano Letters, describes a method to sequence a human genome in a matter of hours at a potentially low cost, by measuring the electrical perturbations generated by a single strand of DNA as it passes through a pore more than a thousand times smaller than the diameter of a human hair. Because sequencing a person's genome would take several months and millions of dollars with current DNA sequencing technology, the researchers say that the new method has the potential to usher in a revolution in medicine.

"Current DNA sequencing methods are too slow and expensive for it to be realistic to sequence people's genomes to tailor medical treatments for each individual," said Massimiliano Di Ventra, an associate professor of physics at UCSD who directed the project. "The practical implementation of our approach could make the dream of personalizing medicine according to a person's unique genetic makeup a reality".

The physicists used mathematical calculations and computer modeling of the motions and electrical fluctuations of DNA molecules to determine how to distinguish each of the four different bases (A, G, C, T) that constitute a strand of DNA. They based their calculations on a pore about a nanometer in diameter made from silicon nitride-a material that is easy to work with and commonly used in nanostructures-surrounded by two pairs of tiny gold electrodes. The electrodes would record the electrical current perpendicular to the DNA strand as the DNA passed through the pore. Because each DNA base is structurally and chemically different, each base creates its own distinct electronic signature.........

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April 6, 2006, 10:48 PM CT

Wireless Sensor Networks Gives Assurance

Wireless Sensor Networks Gives Assurance Broken gas line, Balboa Boulevard, Los Angeles, California, 1994 Northridge earthquake (photograph by M. Rymer)
An earthquake strikes a large city, wrecking roads and bridges, stranding rush-hour commuters, trapping office workers inside high-rise buildings.

As director of the city's transportation authority, you have minutes to make a momentous decision. What is the safest, fastest route that rescue teams can take to travel to hard-hit areas of the city? Which bridges, even if damaged, can still support traffic loads?

Questions like these are increasingly on the minds of structural engineers and emergency personnel as the world prepares to mark the 100th anniversary of the Great San Francisco Earthquake of April 18, 1906.

The answers to the questions, says Yunfeng Zhang, can be provided by sensors - networks of tiny sensors with built-in computer chips that are attached to a bridge to monitor its safety and performance.

Sensors deployed strategically on a bridge, says Zhang, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Lehigh University, can provide a high-resolution, multi-dimensional picture of the health of a structure, giving engineers vital information about a bridge's performance and, in the aftermath of a catastrophe, its ability to carry traffic.

To be useful in the event of an earthquake or other emergency, says Zhang, sensor data must be transmitted in real time, virtually without delay, to remote processing centers for interpretation and then to decision-makers.........

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April 6, 2006, 10:19 PM CT

Vulnerabilities of Rapidly Growing Internet Phone

Vulnerabilities of Rapidly Growing Internet Phone
The National Science Foundation (NSF) has issued four awards totaling $600,000 to the University of North Texas (UNT) to lead a multi-university collaboration to develop a geographically distributed, secure test bed to analyze vulnerabilities in Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)--an increasingly popular technology that turns audio signals into digital data that can be transmitted over the Internet.

The three-year project will investigate voice spam prevention (VoIP phone systems can be spammed like email), attacks on networks and Internet resources that render them unavailable (denial of service), quality of service, and 911 service dependability. The unique test bed will also be used to discover security holes arising from operating VoIP with conventional phone networks.

"Proactively securing the next-generation infrastructure for voice communications is critical for us all," said UNT's Ram Dantu, who leads the project. "Our research will identify vulnerabilities in the technology and establish solutions--before damage is done".

VoIP allows users with a computer and a standard Internet connection to make toll-free calls anywhere in the world. It also handles video and instant messaging. Companies such as Vonage and AT&T are aggressively deploying the technology, and one study predicts some 24 million U.S. households will be using VoIP by 2008. Government agencies are already implementing strategies to use VoIP-based systems.........

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April 5, 2006, 11:21 PM CT

Monitoring Plant Health

Monitoring Plant Health
Green fingered amateur gardeners often talk to their plants; now the plants can talk back. Researchers have developed a system that picks up the subtle cues of plant communication helping plant growers to monitor the crop's state of health and will result in optimal environmentally-friendly growing conditions.

Funded under the European Commission's FET (Future and Emerging Technologies) initiative of the IST programme, the PLANTS project sought to develop a unique system that linked plants, technology and people to continuously assess the state of crop health. Using sensors, transmitters and specialist software, the system monitors the state of the crop on a plant-by-plant basis, in near real-time.

Dr Anthony Morrissey at Tyndall National Institute (Ireland) led the project which included partners from University College Cork (Ireland), Computer Technology Institute (CTI, Greece) and Eden Project Ltd (UK).

"You could almost walk away from the crop and let it grow on its own," says Dr Fiona Tooke of the Eden Project, a unique public education facility in the UK's Cornwall region that gathers all the planet's major agricultural systems under a series of spectacular, and immense, plastic domes that function as high tech glasshouses. Eden joined the PLANTS project to help promote, and disseminate the ideas and philosophy behind the project.........

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April 4, 2006, 0:13 AM CT

Confirming Neutrino Oscillation

Confirming Neutrino Oscillation The NuMI beam line is the business end of Fermilab's neutrino "gun."
Credit: Peter Ginter, Fermilab
By sending a high-intensity beam of subatomic particles known as neutrinos from a laboratory in Batavia, Ill., to a particle detector located deep in a mine in Soudan, Minn., researchers have confirmed the neutrinos really do "oscillate," changing from one kind to another as they fly along.

The payoff could be a deeper understanding of the ghostly neutrino particles, which can traverse the entire Earth without interacting with matter. Ultimately, in fact, these elusive particles may help us understand the origins of the neutrons, protons and electrons that make up all the matter in the world around us.

Such oscillations have been observed in earlier experiments. But new experiments from the Main Injector Neutrino Oscillation Search (MINOS) based at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory will eventually examine the effect in much greater detail, and under controlled conditions.

"Using a man-made beam of neutrinos, MINOS is a great tool to study the properties of neutrinos in a laboratory-controlled environment," said Stanford University professor Stan Wojcicki, spokesperson for the experiment.

Their first result corroborates earlier observations of muon neutrino disappearance, made by the Japanese Super-Kamiokande and K2K experiments.........

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March 30, 2006, 4:04 PM CT

Bridging Semiconductor Chips And Nerve Cells

Bridging Semiconductor Chips And Nerve Cells

Hybrid neuroelectronic devices will be the basis for future information technology relying on the plasticity of networks formed by mammalian neurons in culture. Microelectronic implants interfaced with neurons in the nervous tissue will become sophisticated neuroprostheses able to rescue impairments of the human nervous system.

The present project deals with the fundamental aspect of electronic interfacing of microstructured silicon chips to rat neurons in culture. Its focus is the optimization of electrical coupling in both directions, from excited mammalian neurons to transistors and from stimulation areas on the chip to the cells. This will be achieved with the expression of mutated sodium channels lacking inactivation in the neurons and with the induction of channels accumulation at the neuron-silicon interface. The use of highly integrated CMOS(Complementary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor) chips is envisaged.........

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March 29, 2006, 10:04 PM CT

Properties Of Most Popular Conducting Plastic

Properties Of Most Popular Conducting Plastic
Steadily increasing the length of a purified conducting polymer vastly improves its ability to conduct electricity, report researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, whose work appeared March 22 in the Journal of the American Chemical Society. Their study of regioregular polythiophenes (RRPs) establishes benchmark properties for these materials that suggest how to optimize their use for a new generation of diverse materials, including solar panels, transistors in radio frequency identification tags, and light-weight, flexible, organic light-emitting displays.

"We found that by growing very pure, single RRP chains made of uniform small units, we dramatically increased the ability of these polymers to conduct electricity," said Richard D. McCullough, who initially discovered RRPs in 1992. "This work establishes basic properties that researchers everywhere need to know to create new, better conducting plastics. In fact, designing materials based on these results could completely revolutionize the printable electronics industry".

"Our results are very significant, since they cast new light on the mechanism by which polymers conduct electricity," said Tomasz Kowalewski, associate professor of chemistry and senior author on the study.

Unlike plastics that insulate, or prevent, the flow of electrical charges, conducting plastics actually facilitate current through their nanostructure. Conducting plastics are the subject of intense research, given that they could offer light-weight, flexible, energy-saving alternatives for materials used in solar panels and screen displays. And because they can be dissolved in solution, affixed to a variety of templates like silicon and manufactured on an industrial scale, RRPs are considered among the most promising conducting plastics in nanotech research today, according to McCullough, dean of the Mellon College of Science and professor of chemistry.........

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March 25, 2006, 11:33 AM CT

A Gadget For The Heart

A Gadget For The Heart

HeartWare is developing a family of implantable mechanical circulatory assist devices or "blood pumps", aimed at treating patients with congestive heart failure. Heart failure is one of the leading causes of death in the developed world, affecting over 10 million people globally.

HeartWare's lead product, the HVAD, is the smallest full-output "third generation" circulatory assist device in development. Having completed extensive pre-clinical studies, the HVAD will begin human clinical trials in early 2006. HeartWare's "next generation" device - the MVAD or Miniaturized VAD - is expected to begin clinical trials in approximately two years. The MVAD is one tenth the size of the HVAD. Small size is a key competitive advantage as it facilitates a relatively fast surgical implantation procedure, enhances patient quality of life, and expands the range of patients who might be implanted with the device.

HeartWare listed on the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX: HTW) on 31 January 2005, raising A$32.4 million (US$24.95 million). The Company's Corporate Head Office is in Sydney, Australia and its Operations Centre is in Miami, USA.........

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